Category Archives: Nail’s Pace

Scattered Reflections

mirrorAlong my walking path this week I came to scatterings from a looking glass. Clearly, objects in the mirror were closer than they appeared. And somehow they collided.

In any case, I thought about those verses from 1 Corinthians 13, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror…” and how, for now, we only know in part.

This can especially be true in environments where we might feel like we’ve dropped in from another planet – like, for me, this past Sunday in preschool Sunday school.

At the art table, a 4-year-old sitting next to me was working on a picture. He turned to look at the art of the 4-year-old next to him, then turned back to me. With a nod toward his little colleague’s artwork, he asked, “Is that scribble scrabble?”

I didn’t know what to say – mainly because I didn’t know what was contained in his use of the term scribble scrabble. I figured it was something he had picked up at home, but I wasn’t sure the weight his family (and therefore this 4-year-old) gave to the term. Was it a negative or positive assessment? Should I embrace it or steer away? I tried to steer away.

“He’s drawing a pretty picture,” I said.

“Well,” the kid responded, “it looks like scribble scrabble to me.”

At that table a little earlier, a little girl told me she was drawing hearts. They were a kind of heart that a 4-year-old would draw – indentions at the top, but with rounded rather than sharp lines that meet at the bottom. The girl across the table from her was also drawing hearts, and in a desire to offer instructional assistance to her preschool colleague, she rushed over with marker in hand to show her how it’s done.

I had an instinct to protect the first girl’s art as one that was her own expression, though I appreciated the desire to help someone else get her heart right. That is a good instinct as well. All of our hearts are a work in progress, and we need lots of help getting them right. But … sometimes it’s more important to work on our own heart than try to fix someone else’s.

At the puzzle table, I have drawn different conclusions. With art, you can lean toward allowing someone’s personal expression to override correction and assistance. With puzzles, however, it’s about getting it right.

I figured out this much on my own: you cannot pretend that a puzzle piece fits where it does not belong. So, if a child has put a piece where it doesn’t belong, I’m not going to say, “Yes, you have gotten that right,” or “Just put the pieces wherever you want. It’s your puzzle.”

That’d be weird.

Art vs. puzzles – I notice they provide formats for early instruction of grace vs. truth. Grace is love, acceptance. Truth is reality, structure. We might prefer one over the other but need both (as modeled by Jesus “who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14)

I’m not a parent, and I’m not a teacher. I’m in the marketing and communication field. So I come at these tasks from that perspective. It’s as if I’m serving little 4-year-old clients, and it’s as if their time in this classroom is a “user test” of the church. They are becoming familiar with church – the buildings, the hallways, the stairwells, the chairs and tables, also the people and the stories from the Bible about God and His son Jesus.

Hopefully they are associating church with good things and not bad things, and this is a place they will want to stay connected to or to return later on.

I remember things from my childhood church experiences, but I’m more likely to remember chairs, stairwells and hallways than actual lessons. On a visit some months ago, I walked through and recognized the old preschool hallway, including the wooden door that opens at the top, stays shut at the bottom, so a parent can hand a child over. Though I remember very little in specifics, I associated the hallway with good feelings.

I suppose those were the early days of my journey toward grace and truth, and the balance between the two, but I don’t see it clearly. I’ve only got a little bit of the picture, fragments of memory. Even so, just as you can trust an uncertain future to a certain God, you can see the same in the days gone by and know for sure He was there all along, walking beside you the whole way.

Be not afraid, y’all.

The Path Ahead, the Voice Behind

fork1I get to these places quite often it seems – to these forks in the road. “Good morning to you too, Universe,” I might like to say whenever cutlery crosses my path. “I see there’s a message here somewhere.” But I usually keep walking in the way I was headed.

Still, I know that there is change afoot. I can see it, feel it, sense it. Every time I see a fork in the road, I know there is a turn to take – even if I don’t know which way to turn.

fork2I can hardly reflect on forks in a road without considering my primary walking verse, the one I have thought of many times when I put one foot in front of the other, uncertain of the path ahead:

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:20-21 (NIV)

fromhere-postNo surprise — I used a variation of that verse in one of my Nail’s Pace pieces.

Pretty much anytime, it’d be nice to know which way to turn.

Some days I find my navigational skills are lacking. So I watch for the teachers who know more than I do. And I listen for that voice behind me.

Sunday the sermon was on Elijah and how he was having a bad day during some difficulties with Jezebel. I noticed this verse again from 1 Kings 19: “The Lord said to him, ‘Go back the way you came…’”

I have wondered before if that direction was just a bit of instruction for Elijah that day, or if, within that text, there is an idea that has broader application.

This is something I do over and over on my morning walks. I go down one direction for a while, then I go back the way I came and end up right back where I started. Even so, I am changed for the experience, at least a little bit. For one thing, I’m 45 minutes older, yet I have more energy and often more motivation than when I began.

There’s another application too to this idea of going back the way you came. God set “eternity in the human heart,” Ecclesiastes says. There is within a need to repent, return, restore… a call to turn around and go back, come home, be whole.

knifeSometimes, or all times, life is tough, and the cross we bear cuts like a knife.

It was always this way. Our need for reassurance is no different now than when Moses told Joshua, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

So He’s there. Always. Whether you turn to the left or the right, you can know that you are never alone, even if you don’t know what is being stirred by the steps you take.20151001_074241_resized

Be not afraid, y’all.

Messages that Stick

During the group time for my preschool class this past Sunday, our director was explaining to the children that 12-year-old Jesus had been left behind at the temple, and His family had traveled toward home without realizing He wasn’t with them. At some point in the story, one of the 4-year-olds asked, “Is this true?”

Ah, the age-old question asked by a young voice. Is what we read in the Bible true? Or more to the point, is it true for us?

There’s an old joke about a Presbyterian minister who took a wrong step at the top of a staircase. He tumbled downward, and when he was at the bottom, he got up and said, “Thank goodness that’s over.”

I have a similar feeling about 2015. Looking at the before-and-after pictures, it’s hard not to wonder if I misread some verses. For starters, can I really get up, pick up my mat and walk? Will I really increase my strength and soar on wings like eagles? Should I really fear not?

A few stresses here and there, and you can loosen your grip on things that sure sounded right at the time. Or maybe it’s more like Scott Peck described: Life is difficult. You can’t get to a certain age and read all the Facebook posts of illness and struggle without seeing that there are bumpy roads everywhere.

Anyway, back in Sunday school, our director, Donna, didn’t miss a beat. She explained that yes, the story is true, and the reason we know it is true is because it is in the Bible. Good teaching moment. She’s awesome that way. I am lucky to be in her class for all these teaching moments.

Moving along here… I gave Donna one of my hand-crafted magnets for Christmas, based on a verse from the Bible. Teacher gift, you know? And getting to the point, this is how I’m telling you about The Nail’s Pace Collection, Phase III. Refrigerator magnets. With messages that stick.

I make notes from time to time about the issues I puzzle through. Over a couple of years, as I was trying to figure out how to be a copywriter with an interest in art, I wrote down this phrase a few times: “paint the messages.” What messages these would be and how to paint them… well, that took a good long while to answer until I started creating The Nail’s Pace Collection. And now the magnets.

Way back when, the first phrase I wanted to paint was “Go forth and fear not.” I’d once heard a speaker use those words in a way that was memorable, and I thought that would be a good message. But those attempts didn’t work out, and I discarded them.

Over time, I came up with a new way of saying that phrase, something that sounded more like me: “Be Not Afraid, Y’all.” And that’s what I’ve put on one of my magnets.

Then I thought about another possible message. Since I have these heart stamps, shouldn’t I say something about love?

Everybody likes love, right? Pretty. Big. Deal. So, in the same style of “Be Not Afraid, Y’all,” I came up with “Loveth One Another, Y’all.”

Oh, and I have one more, sort of in keeping with the phrase “Go forth and fear not.” But I said it this way: “Go out today and be beautifully brave.”20160116_083419_resized

So, those are my messages. Hope they stick.

You can get more info right here: http://minnielamberth.com/artprojects

What to Do with an Old Barn Photo

barnscene2My sisters remember my grandfather’s barn. I don’t. Roscoe and Inez died before I was born, and I never visited their house in Fort Payne. When they lived there, Roscoe was a dairy farmer. He kept his cows in the barn.

On a trip last May to visit old family sites, we pulled over to see the old place. “It’s Roscoe’s barn,” they said. “It’s still there.”

We took a few quick photos on our smartphones. This one was mine.

For months, this photo was just one of the images taking up a little memory in my gallery. What can you do with something like that anyway – a poor-quality picture of a barn in a field with power lines in the scene, and a whole lot of road at the bottom? My sisters did not have much sentimental attachment to the electrical supply and asphalt, as far as I know. Just the barn.

In case, here’s what I did with it. Christmas was upon us, and I was giving some hand-crafted gifts to family members. And I remembered that barn. So I transferred the photo to a canvas panel (twice) and gave the pieces to my sisters. It was really easy, and here are the steps I took:

barn4Step 1: Crop the photo. As I mentioned, the image from my smartphone was of a wide shot with a lot of “non-barn” detail.” I used the default Paint program that comes in Windows to crop the image. Also, I reversed the photo. You need a mirror image so that it looks like it’s supposed to when transferred.

Step 2: I inserted the image into a Word document. I was going to transfer the photo to a 5×7 canvas, so I adjusted the image size to 5×7. I printed the document on my ink jet printer. (I don’t know what happens with laser printers; I didn’t try it.)

barn2Step 3: I cut out the image to fit the canvas panel.

I mention this to make a point. When I first started experimenting with mixed media, I wasn’t sure how best to cut the tissue paper and cardstock that I was using in my pieces. I tried several methods that seemed like they’d be “artist-y” – such as an X-acto knife and a paper cutter, when one day I hit on the process that works best. Scissors. I use scissors now.

Do not discount how hard it is sometimes to recognize the obvious.

barn4Step 4: I covered the image completely with sponge brush and Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium. I placed the coated image face down on the canvas panel.

Instructions say to burnish; I don’t have a burnisher. I pressed down and smoothed across the canvas panel to make sure the paper was securely affixed with no bubbles.

barn5Step 5: Wait 24 hours.

Step 6: Take a sponge and water and remove the paper.

The image (reversed back) stays on the canvas panel. barn6

After it dries, you may need to repeat. I have to do this a couple of times to remove all the remaining paper.

barn7Step 7: When the paper is removed, let dry completely. You can paint over the piece if you want, or just cover with Mod Podge Matte or Gloss.

When it dries, you’re done. Unless you want to put it in a frame, and then you’re done.

barn8framed

 

How I Learned to See

When my Aunt Minnie passed away in 1995, I received some of her belongings – among them, a handwritten class prophecy that she had prepared for her high school graduation in 1924.

prophetIn her script, she used an interesting creative setup. She wrote, “Since this is an age of doing things rather than thinking them, I am going to use our most modern invention, the radio, instead of gazing into a crystal ball or the dying embers of the fire.” From there, she wittily envisioned radio broadcasts that gave news of classmates’ future lives. I can still hear the humorous timing in her words even at that young age so long ago.

She wrote, “Station S.I.C.K. is broadcasting the results of a successful operation performed by Dr. Roger Stevenson – and stating that the funeral service of the patient would be conducted by Rev. Paul Farmer.” If those are your classmates, that’s funny.

She writes, “Next I get a station across the waters. England it is. A powerful drug has been discovered by Sadie Gross – which leaves no trace in the body of its victim when used as a poison.” She goes one way, then boom, the unexpected joke.

Later she writes, “Thirwell Nolen, Old Sugar, is coaching football and walking off with all state honors. Having defeated Sidney Lanier 3 years, he is now trying to schedule a match with the Lumber Yard.” Funny stuff, and great timing.

There’s more right until the end where she writes the inspirational send-off: “Jewell Nolen and Evelyn Harris are authors of renown in classical literature and bid fair to keep our class of ’24 being so that from their heights the stars will see us and the earth will prove herself our friend, and we shall meet with kinship of understanding hearts on our way.

“As for the prophet, I’ll just say as Corinne did in the Jr. play – ‘Just keep your eyes open and you’ll see what you’ll see.’”

That last line is the one that is most memorable to me, and I have thought of it often and wondered what I would see if I kept my eyes open. That’s what I’m thinking about today, and I was probably thinking of that line when I wrote this brief blog in 2013:

I hope I live a good long while, with sound body and mind, a happy heart and provision to keep me sustained. But when the day comes to pull the covers around me one last time, it might not be too hard to turn my brain back in.

“Here,” I might say. “I tried to figure some things out, but I’m not sure how well I did. You’ll find a few areas in there that are still pretty perplexed.” When I turn my heart back in, I hope I’ll be able to say, “Careful with this one… it got broken in a few places. But lots of people are in there, and I’m pretty sure it grew larger as the days passed.” Oh, about those hands and feet, I’ll probably have to admit, “I’m sure they could have done more. But I did spend a lot of time trying to dig back up those talents I had buried. So there’s that.”

When the day comes to pull the covers around me one last time, I won’t be sorry to turn back in the memories of sorrow and pain, whether close up or far away. But I’m confident of this. When I turn back in my eyes, I’ll be able to say, “It was just like You said. I saw the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Some verses stand out, they seem more noticeable, like this one: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV)

It’s a good verse year-round, but seems particularly fitting in this season of Advent – a time of expectant waiting. The prophecies foretold these days. Something good is coming; keep going. Or, said another way: Keep your eyes open, and you will see what you see.

kimsthreeI have noticed how my creative endeavors have been based on learning to see. A few years back, when I was painting my Lambscapes – mini-portraits of children – I had to learn to see the specifics of the head and face. As I experimented with the artworks, I soon realized that if I didn’t study the original image but instead went about my merry way painting without regard to accuracy, I would miss the big picture. Or, to be more specific, the little picture on the canvas. The head would be the wrong size, the eyes in the wrong place, the nose too long – all of which matters greatly in a mini-portrait. It’s important to pay attention so that, through your effort, others can see as you have seen.

NPCreating The Nail’s Pace Collection has also about seeing but less in the final artwork and more about seeing the pieces of debris as I pass by. I have more than a decade of experience picking up these discarded, misplaced pieces, and I have an advantage because I look down when I walk. This is a time for thinking, reflecting, and so I look down. It’s how I think.

Others might look up as they think and reflect. You’ve seen how this goes. They throw their eyes up, pat their finger on their upper lip and say, “Now, let me see… I was a senior in college that year, and… (or whatever).” Or some squeeze their eyes shut so they can concentrate: “Twelve times thirteen is… wait, three times two is six… (or whatever).”

And some look down, as I do, working through the puzzles in my mind. That’s how I see things on the ground. This is also what happens. The more I see these pieces, the more I’m likely to see them — because my eyes get used to the sight.

dimesBut I don’t always see the full picture right way. On one of my morning walks, I found what I’ve been looking for, and I didn’t even know it. I thought I was seeing twenty cents, but I later realized I’d found a new pair a’ dimes. How about that? Or maybe an old pair a’ dimes that needs adjustment? Sort of gives new perspective to the thought, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

New ways of seeing things, new paradigms… these are good things to find on a morning walk, good ways to pursue change. This season and each day is the time to go out, expectant and waiting, confident that you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Be not afraid, y’all.

Until next time,

Minnie

P.S. Christmas shopping? You can find pieces from the Nail’s Pace Collection in my booth at Amy’s Antique and Flea Mall (enter the front door, take a left, go three rows, turn right) or at Alabama Street Makers Market in Alex City. Or just ask me, and I’ll get them too you.

The Evolution of an Idea

Nails PaceFor an idea to come to fruition, one thing it needs is a font. So I asked my advertising friend and colleague, Slats Slaton, if he wouldn’t mind helping me with typography for The Nail’s Pace Collection. He didn’t, and a short time later, he delivered. Now I’ve got myself a font. Big day.

This is one step among a series of steps in the evolution of an idea.

Speaking of… Slats is the one who told me about the phrase, “This is not it, but…” It seems that when he and another colleague discussed creative ideas, they’d get a germ of a thought and give it voice with the caveat, “This is not it, but…”

When you say this phrase, it’s as if you’re saying, “I’m thinking of this direction. I know it’s not finessed, so don’t knock it down with reality-based concerns. Just see where we could go with it.” It’s a little like you’re opening a package while cautioning people not to focus on the packing tape and bubble wrap until you can get down to the essence of what’s inside.

20150211_070348I started the “This is not it, but” process on The Nail’s Pace Collection last February – which was when I first tried to glue found objects on a canvas in a way that conveyed an inspirational message. In that first attempt, I used the objects themselves to spell out the message. Interesting, but limiting in what could be said. This was not quite it. Back to the gluing board.

crossroadOne day I had an idea to glue roadway rocks and dirt on a canvas with some found objects placed like a cross. I called it Cross Road, but I didn’t know how anyone would know that I called it Cross Road.

Later, I figured out how to put words with the piece so that people would know that I called it Cross Road.

crossroad3

I forget the exact order of my ideas – there were other attempts in the middle – but then one day I had an idea for a phrase that I wanted to use – “I may have a screw loose, but God loves me just as I am.” I had picked up a lot of screws along curbs and sidewalks, and I wanted to see if I could create a stick figure made out of screws.

Yes I could. By then, this was July. My experiment was on a black background. But I didn’t 20150719_200653_resizedstop there. I wanted to see what I could do to make the piece better overall.

godlovesmeThat’s when I came to the idea about adding other elements, including scripture underneath, a heart in the middle and acrylic paint.

Then once I had the idea about that heart walk1in the middle, I went back to the original message, a verse from Ephesians 5, “Walk in the Way of Love,” now with different elements.

Then in September, I got to thinking about something else. What if I made the heart purple? I made a note about that one day in church.

20151023_103148Someone wounded in battle in the military would receive a purple heart, right? Well, in a sense, we’re all wounded. Life is tough. There are many battles, and we all have scars. So I was wondering what if I made the heart purple.

I could certainly try that, but if I did, what I would I say? What would the message be? I had to think through that a good bit, and I finally landed on the verse from Isaiah 53: “By his wounds, we are healed.”

byhiswoundsSo that’s pretty much the Nail’s Pace. Walk in the way of love. When you come to a cross road, take it. Even when you’re on that road, there’s a lot you won’t be able to figure out or fix, or tighten screws that are loose. You can’t heal your heart on your own. You get there by trusting in those nail-scarred hands that call to you and care for you.

Be not afraid, y’all.

Of vocations and hurricanes

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” Frederick Buechner says. That’s one of the oft-quoted quotes of this theologian and author of 36 books, and it’s a conclusion he draws in reflections about vocation:

“Like ‘duty,’ ‘law,’ ‘religion,’ the word ‘vocation’ has a dull ring to it, but in terms of what it means, it is really not dull at all. Vocare, to call, of course, and a person’s vocation is a person’s calling. It is the work that they are called to in this world, the thing that they are summoned to spend their life doing,” he writes.

auntminnieMy Aunt Minnie helped me find my vocation, though it was only in her passing that she began that process. She died 20 years ago last night. She was 87 years old and alone inside the home on Hillabee Road in Alex City where my father’s family set up housekeeping in the early 20th century. I do not know the cause of Aunt Minnie’s death – not precisely. She was small and frail, with crippling arthritis in hands and feet, and had had some health issues, including surgery to repair an aneurysm of the heart.

But there was something else going on that night that makes me wonder about the stress she might have been feeling. Hurricane Opal, a category 4 hurricane, had made landfall in the Florida panhandle and was making its treacherous way up through Alabama. I remember listening to the frightening sounds of the storm outside my own door in Montgomery. I could not sleep; I could only listen. I had no electricity, but I did have a battery-powered radio. So I listened to the storm and the news of the storm. At midnight, all became calm. I turned off the radio and went to sleep.

The next morning, I checked on everyone I could think of – my closest relations and friends. My mother was in Texas at the time visiting my sister Jane and her family; they weren’t even involved in the storm. So all were safe, all was well. But that night I got a call from Aunt Betty.

You can’t imagine what a sudden transition this call was for me. At the time, I had not grown into a person who received and distributed family information. My mother was the priest of family information; all requests, petitions and concerns went through her, and she passed them along to me. That was how things happened. If my mother was out of town, the next logical person would be my sister Anne, the eldest. The problem was, Aunt Betty couldn’t remember Anne’s last name to call “information” (an Old School term for Google). So it was left to me and my memorable name. I received the call from Aunt Betty with the news that Aunt Minnie had died during the night. I then had to call my mother and tell the others.

I’ve told this story before. With Aunt Minnie’s passing, as the bearer of her name, I received a portion of her cash. The summary is that her gift enabled me to have the courage to leave a position in state government, where I did not belong, to begin the process of transitioning to self-employment as a marketing copywriter. Also, I found the time and conviction to write the novel that would become Life with Strings Attached.

boothOn October 1, I marked my 15th anniversary as an independent writer, my vocation. I also made another transition. I became operator of half a booth at Amy’s Antique and Flea Mall (849 N. Eastern Blvd.) where I am selling pieces in “The Nail’s Pace Collection.” I placed a good number there last Friday, and I’ll be adding more and more. Who knows? Given all the pennies and nickels I pick up, I may create a new series called “The Coin Collection.”

I’m also exploring a new set of pieces. I’ve figured out a bit about transferring photos to canvas, overpainting with oil, and then adding words with gel pen. That took a lot of figuring, but as a copywriter, I should tell you, figuring out the words I wanted to say took just as much time as anything else. I finally settled on something I most needed to hear, and that’s how I came to this “Walk in peace” piece.

walkinpeaceAnyway, back to Aunt Minnie. At her funeral that Saturday, the preacher of her church, Dr. Hallmark at First Baptist, talked about what it was like to visit Aunt Minnie in her home. He described her hands, and how they were misshapen from arthritis. He said he never shook her hand, thinking that might cause pain or injury. Instead, he held out his hand to her, palm up, and she put her hand in his, and they shook gently that way.

The preacher said he thought that’s probably how Jesus did it. When He came to take Aunt Minnie home, He held out His hand, and she placed hers in His, and He took her to be with Him.

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)

What I Learned about Problem Solving

20150821_084112_resizedBy profession, I am a copywriter. I help my clients communicate their messages to their audiences – online or offline.

I’ve been at this work long enough that the media formats for my words-for-hire have changed. For example, these days, instead of writing a brochure, I’m more likely to write website content. Instead of writing a letter, I’m more likely to write a blog. Instead of a TV spot, an online video script. And so forth.

Sometimes messages change formats. That’s sort of what I’ve done with my found-objects, mixed-media projects. While, by day, I primarily write messages for others, I have this other area of diversification where I can create a few messages of my own.

The Big Idea

I love my work as a copywriter, and I was wondering how to make this work stronger and better, less prone to fluctuations in workload, more consistent in its growth. I was puzzling over these issues on my morning walks, with a continuing prayer, “Help me figure out what to do.”

In the middle of these prayers – “Help me figure out what to do” – sometimes I would notice a nail or a screw along the curb, and I’d think, “I better pick that up. It could hurt someone’s tire.” So I’d pick it up, then I’d get back to, “Help me figure out what to do.”

One day someone suggested that there was a story in the discards I picked up, so I started looking for that story. In this search, I came to the idea that I could create art with these pieces. The term “mixed media” did not come to me instinctively, by the way. I don’t remember the history of my search terms (Google does, ask them). But I was many searches into my research when I realized that’s what I’m talking about: mixed media.

Once I found that term, there were many more pieces of the puzzle to unravel – size, materials, tone, process… and glue. I have learned a lot about glue.

One day, for example, I discovered I do not like the odor of Mod Podge, the craft adhesive I use in every piece. It seemed to me that an area of diversification would be quite limited if I found the smells repellent. As I was puzzling over this issue, I remembered: I have a backyard. It’s right past that backdoor. So now I take the Mod Podge out there when needed, affix and apply, and come back inside. The odor is more tolerable in the greater air exchange of the great outdoors.

One day I came to the conclusion: I do not like glue on my hands. I don’t like pulling that glue off my fingers when I’m done with my pieces. Then I remembered: when I work in the church kitchen on Wednesday evenings, I wear gloves. So I went by the U.S. Foods store on Atlanta Highway and bought a box of kitchen gloves. Now I can wear gloves while working with glue – at least until I get frustrated with trying to place a piece “just so.” Then I yank off the gloves in frustration. Even then I spend less time with glue on my hands. And the gloves are reusable. This is not about containing the spread of glue germs, after all. It’s about reducing time spent with glue on my hands.

The pieces themselves present a set of problems to be solved. They begin like so: I wonder if I can…? What if I try…? How do I…? And I work to resolve those issues. My mind stays engaged, on the search, and an engaged and searching mind is a good thing. At some point, one of those questions was, “How do I package the pieces?” So I found out about plastic bags, figured out the ties – but you know what the hardest part of this was? Punching those dang holes in those plastic bags. Tough work, but I got through it.

The Other Part of the Idea

I am a storyteller by inclination. I am creating a way that art can tell stories, and I can tell stories about art. That’s a good fit for an area of diversification. Even so, I am a copywriter by profession.

Almost all of my work as a copywriter has come from a personal connection – through either someone I know or someone who knows someone I know. Having worked in an advertising and public relations community, I do connect with people who need copywriters within my professional circles – and sometimes outside those circles.

That’s what came to me on those problem-solving morning walks. Art connects. Stories connect. Connections grow opportunity. So on each piece, I put a label on the back that says: “The Nail’s Pace Collection. Hand-Crafted, Found-Objects Art Created by Minnie Lamberth. Get the rest of the story at http://minnielamberth.com.”

Soon I noticed something different on my morning walks. Now as I was walking and praying “Help me figure out what to do,” whenever I saw a nail or screw, I would sense that God was with me and showing me another piece of the puzzle. That’s a good feeling.

walk1Now I’ve come to Series II of the Nail’s Pace Collection. I like these pieces. Hope you will too.

Find out what I’ve got available and how to order here: http://minnielamberth.com/artprojects

20150814_141936_resizedSeries I is better for small easels, given their unequal weight. With Series II, I figured out how to add a rope-type ribbon for hanging. Believe me, that took a while – increasing my knowledge of glue and eliminating my momentary curiosity about thumb tacks. Ouch. Take a look here: http://minnielamberth.com/artprojects

Until next time,

Minnie

P.S. I figured out how to ship. I’m not sure how well “A Screw Loose” will travel. But I’m pretty sure the others can make the journey. Get the details here: http://minnielamberth.com/artprojects

The Connections of Creative Pursuits

wellingtonI’ve liked all the stories I’ve written about people I met at church. Of course I did. It’s not like I’d tell you I liked 73% of them so you’d have to guess which ones fell below my standard. Nope. I liked all of them.

My most recent “most favorite story” was about Jane Ferguson. This one distinguished itself in a way where, unlike any of the others, her story kept crossing over into my own territory. For example, when she told me that she had grown up in Webster’s Chapel – a small community between Anniston and Gadsden – I told her I had been in that area only a couple of weeks before. In Wellington.

“That’s where we got our mail,” Jane said.

That’s about all there is to Wellington, actually – a post office. No businesses, not even a gas station. Just some houses, that post office, and a small church with a cemetery. That’s what my sisters and I had gone to see – Union United Methodist Church and the cemetery where our great-great-grandparents, our great-grandmother and some other greats are buried.

After Jane and Barney married, they moved to Alexander City, where I grew up. Their daughters were born in Old Russell Hospital, the same hospital where I was born. This facility that I do not remember was called “Old Russell Hospital” because that was the hospital before the next Russell Hospital was built and the old one was torn down. I remember my mother telling me, “You were born in Old Russell Hospital,” as if that were the first line of my biography. But I know now our stories are begun by others before we arrive. And their people become our people.

My arrival was between the DOBs for Jane’s daughters’ – Renee, me, Rhonda. And one other connection. Barney is buried in Alabama Heritage cemetery in Montgomery, just a short distance from my mother’s final resting place. Also, my mother’s name was Jane, as is one of my sister’s. In any case, once you start creative pursuits, you can hardly help but connect them to everything else.

Stories. Art. Family. Rocks. And about all of that…

motherMy mother was born in old St. Margaret’s hospital in Montgomery on July 8, 1923, though she only lived in this area for a short time. Her parents, Roscoe and Inez, had grown up in Fort Payne, but they were here because Roscoe was the superintendent for a sand and gravel operation near Millbrook. This was an enterprise owned by my great grandfather; it was a supplier to work he did in bridge construction.

I had asked Mother about these early days, and she happened to mention a story — just something that came to mind. She said that Roscoe and Inez had a car. Two girls from Fort Payne were attending the school now known as Huntingdon, my alma mater, and on Sunday afternoons, Roscoe and Inez would take them for a drive. Mother was a baby, and one of the girls was holding her during one of these drives when, at an intersection, Roscoe ran into another vehicle. The girl must have gotten jostled because she threw Mother out of the car.

Oh, the 1920s. What a fun time that would have been.

In any case, Mother must have seen the horror unfold on my face as I heard this story. I was probably picturing a scene sort of like in Back to the Future, where the family in the photograph starts to disappear because something happened in the past, and they don’t exist anymore.

“She didn’t mean to,” Mother explained. “It was just from the reaction. It didn’t hurt anybody.”

Okay then. As long as she didn’t mean to throw my mother out of the car. Because otherwise I was about to be upset.

The sand and gravel operation was later sold as part of a business settlement, and my mother’s family moved to Ensley outside Birmingham for a time, and then on to Fort Payne. Roscoe became a dairy farmer on Valley Head Road, on land that belonged to Inez’s family.

I did not meet these grandparents. They died in 1957. That February Inez had a heart attack during surgery for a brain tumor in a Chattanooga hospital. Later that year, Roscoe had a sawmill accident in Fort Payne. In August, he collapsed while recuperating at our home in Alex City.

When you’re not born yet and you hear these stories as past facts, you wouldn’t necessarily recognize the enormous emotional impact these events might have had. I just knew something disappeared before I was here. And I knew that a lot of family pieces in the house were explained as “That came from Momma.” “That came from Daddy.” This is why Chapter 3 of Life with Strings Attached, my novel, begins:

“There were always people who were missing, whose absence left a hole or set certain things into motion, and you wonder in what way the world may have changed, or stayed the same, had that absence never occurred. In our house, the evidence of people unseen was kept in the living room, which meant a different set of operating rules. I could enter if I was looking for Pumpkin or walking through to the front door, but I was not to dawdle or bump into anything. A denied object becomes an irresistible force, to be sure.”

The reason I was thinking about these things lately is because someone asked about the rocks I use in my art projects. I explained that they come from the debris that settles at the curbs — they’re the overflow from the concrete and asphalt that create the curbs and roads. As I considered this source, I realized that they are just sort of like the things you’d be working with if you were, say, running a sand and gravel operation. As my grandfather had done when my mother was born.

That’s another nice thing about creative pursuits. You can not only bring new life to discarded things, but also connect it to the lives that came before you.

inezroscoe2The day my sisters and I drove to Wellington, our first stop was in Fort Payne. Driving through town and beyond — where Gault Avenue becomes Old Valley Head Road — we saw the home where our grandparents had lived. My sisters recognized the barn where Roscoe had kept his cows. I did not. But we stopped for a photo at a little road perpendicular to the home, and I stepped from the car.

After taking a couple of pictures, I noticed a metal washer underneath the driver’s door. I reached down to pick it up. “Look what I found,” I said as I returned to the car.

“Even in Fort Payne,” one sister said.

“Yes, even here.”

When you start making connections to stories, families and art, you see things in a new way any old place you go.

fromhere

 

Of Rocks and Walls

bestill2I was telling one of my Sunday preschool colleagues about my new art projects, showing some pictures and explaining, “I wanted to see if I could glue rocks on a canvas.”

She said, “If you’re a person who says, ‘I wanted to see if I could glue rocks on a canvas,’ you’re definitely in the right department.”

Maybe so. I do learn a lot from this class of 4-year-olds.

This past Sunday, our director was out, and I was the substitute “runner of the show.” I was telling one of the kids – he’s probably 5 by now – that we would be talking about Joshua crossing a river. He said, “I thought Joshua had the wall.”

I said the Bible is a big book and there are several stories about Joshua. This was one where he crossed a river on dry land, that God separated the waters and enabled him to do that. The little boy said, “I thought that was Moses.” I explained that God did the same thing for Joshua, separated the river. And just as I walked to another activity area, I heard him say to himself, “It was a sea.”

In any case, whoever it was that wanted people to be able to learn the Bible on their own – Gutenberg? Martin Luther? – they’ll be glad to know the program is working.

This week, we are in fact talking about Joshua and the wall. Walls are significant – building up the ones that are broken down, removing the ones that shouldn’t be in place. I think about things like that. One part of scripture I read on my own for a number of years goes like this:

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58:11-12 (NIV)

lamberth_layout1copy2Oh, to be a repairer of broken walls. The first time I tried that – the first project I created out of broken pieces – was my novel, Life with Strings Attached. Published in 2005 and written over the nine years before that, the topic is a southern childhood in a southern neighborhood; it’s set in 1972 with an undercurrent of social changes taking place. My soundbite was this: “There are two themes. One is a girl and her dog because my narrator, a seven-year-old in a small southern town, is trying to keep a watchful eye on her beagle Pumpkin. Two is a girl and her God because at the same time she’s sensing an early call to God’s service and is wondering how to express it.”

Among the issues I faced in the pursuit of this novel – before I could write about a southern childhood and a southern family, I had to repair something pretty significant: the memory of my actual father. He let us down. I knew I wouldn’t enjoy writing about those experiences, so I reinvented him. I wrote about what he would have been like had he not let us down. In other words, I reframed my memories into a creation that I liked better, and my novel became a sweet and funny story that I enjoyed sharing.

I should mention, however, there were a couple of things about my father that have been useful. He was a good storyteller, for example, and his sisters were funny. Annie, Minnie and Lena. I think it was when Lena died that a family friend told me how funny they were. This friend had lived in Alex City next door to Annie for a time, and she said that when Lena came home from Dallas and Minnie came home from Tallahassee, and she saw that they were at Annie’s duplex apartment, she said, “I could not get over there fast enough. It was like a carnival, they were so funny. And they played off of each other.”

I can imagine. For my sisters and me, our mother was our best audience; there’s never been a better one for us. We could play off of each other and make her laugh. Good memories.

But continuing this other point – the image on my website header is of a rock wall at Callaway Gardens. My mother did a watercolor of that rock wall, and I have it now. It’s in my office. Also, I was at Callaway Gardens with growing-up friends the weekend she passed away. That’s just one of the ways I connect to rocks, to walls and to broken pieces.

When Daddy died at the age of 79, a man I did not know came up to me and said, “Minnie, your daddy was the first man I met in first grade.” Mr. Cox explained that Daddy pointed to his forehead and said, “Rooster.” Then he pointed to his nose and said, “Pullet.” Then he pointed to his chin and said, “Chicken.” Then Daddy pointed back to his nose and asked, “What’s that?”

“Well,” Mr. Cox said, “I said ‘pullet’ and your daddy pulled my nose.”

That was a delightful story, a gift in fact, and I wrote him a note later thanking him for telling me.

In any case, here’s what I’m getting to: Daddy’s name was Walls. That was his mother’s maiden name. He was a broken man, true, but memories don’t have to stay there. New things can always come from broken things. Like Isaiah said:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

Daddy2Southerners are gracious, especially at funerals. When Daddy died and people came to say goodbye, they didn’t talk about how he had disappointed them. They talked about his humor, his charm. They remembered who he’d been when he was young. They mourned and were comforted by the memory of the boy they’d known.

I guess the point here is: we often look at others as the adults they are, or were, sometimes as the ones who’ve disappointed us. At whatever age, however, I think God looks at us as children, with the chance for redemption. Where we mess up and see no hope, He still sees hope and a chance for new life.

Oh, to find new life in broken things. That’d be nice. In the meantime, I’ll pick up discards and debris and, as I’m able, turn those pieces into something a little sweeter and funnier.