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Thursday, November 29, 2012

humble beginnings: part 2

Here is the scrapbook layout that started with my recent post about Dad's birthplace...

...and on the facing page is the story of Dad's birth:

"Della was at work in the box office of the Star Theater, which she and Greg owned and operated, when she went into labor. She went home and later that night she gave birth. One week later she returned to work with baby Aldo in tow."

The three snapshots were likely taken on the occasion of Dad's baptism. The wonderful portrait was probably done around his first birthday...the baby shoes have a real sole, but are clearly not worn yet, so he was probably just beginning to walk; and he's sporting a nice haircut. I think he looks like my brother's son, Danny...this photo reminds me of a favorite picture of him as a baby. Although that little half-smile is reminiscent of my Grandpa. Oh how I love these old photographs!

Did you notice Dad's unusual middle name, Giacinto? It means "hyacinth." Dad once told me that they chose my name, Cynthia, because it sounded like hyacinth. (I looked it up once a long time ago..."Cynthia" actually originated as Kynthia, another name for the Greek goddess of the moon, Artemis). I like Dad's etymology better. It's like I was, in a way, named after him! How cool is that?

I love mixing it up and playing with papers, ink, stickers, embossing powder, chipboard, paper punches, silk flowers, brads...and my computer too! They call it Hybrid Scrapbooking. I just do whatever it takes to get me there.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

a flat tire for erin

If my art - and this blog - is going to be about Life, then I must include its challenges as well as its joys. That means writing the backstory with each image.

I posted this image last week on Erin's Facebook wall in response to her Black Friday post, which read simply this:

Thinking of all the miserable ingrates today that are scrambling for stupid crap that will never make them happy...all I want for Christmas is my health back, for the pain to stop. I'll never want anything so much as long as I live :(

I debated whether to share it here on my blog, but with Erin's blessing, here I sit at my keyboard.

The pain Erin speaks of is caused by IC - Interstitial Cystitis, with which she was diagnosed in August. I won't trouble you with any details, but you can imagine what her life has been like since then. On a side note, Erin is no stranger to painful challenges in her life, so she is already somewhat of a learned philosopher at the ripe old age of 21, thus meeting this situation with considerable experience under her belt.

For anyone who has experienced a painful and/or potentially life-altering physical condition - yourself or that of a loved one - you probably already know the words to this song. 

We - her family and friends - continue to support Erin on this journey, doing what we can to help her deal with the myriad of issues that crop up. Often that means just listening to her work things out in her own mind/heart. These are treasured, if bittersweet, times together indeed. Truth be told, I think that I have learned more from her than she has from me.

Erin is learning to navigate the world of medical specialists and surgical procedures, therapies and diets, etc., and the complexities of medical insurance - all necessary life skills. A well-informed, responsible patient, she comes to the table with her homework done, thoroughly researching every medical term, medication and its potential side effects, usually before she's even seen the doctor. She actually told the doctors that she had IC! She has also learned much from the experiences of other sufferers, mainly via the internet. She, in turn, lends her support to others, sharing her experience - and wisdom - with others via her Tumblr.

But she is learning so much more...in a nutshell: what really matters in life...and what doesn't.

I don't know where all this is going, but when do we really know that in this life? For now the situation is like a good trail: challenging terrain, full of twists and turns, seemingly impossible steep, rocky climbs, and heart-stopping descents...and if you lift up your eyes every now and then, you are blessed with some awesome scenery along the way.

And - for Erin - maybe a little insight into Life. (Seriously...it's how I ride.)

Now, for anyone interested in the genesis of the first image, there's this:

  1. While I was searching online for the exact wording of a favorite half-remembered quote on adversity, I stumbled across the one above. I quickly forgot the one I was looking for.
  2. I then searched my hard drive for an appropriate bike photo...and found the one above, from our trip to Fruita, on the Utah border. This photo was taken by my husband Bob, with a little Nikon point-&-shoot camera, just moments before we got separated and I got lost. Out in the middle of nowhere. In the hot sun. With not a soul around. I digress.
  3. I cropped the photo down to just the bike tire on the right, then cloned away the distracting shadows. Then just some tinkering with color, light, textures, adjustment layers, etc. until it looked like I wanted and said what I wanted it to say. I actually started with one of Kim Klassen's wonderful tutorials, but it took on a life of its own and ended with probably way too many layers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

gratitude: for emily

I think a lot about the concept of gratitude. I have for a long time. 

Since I was eight years old, as a matter of fact, when I first read about Pollyanna's Glad Game. Who'd have thought that a children's book could hold so much sway in a person's life? Ask my girls. It is a game I have played with them since their childhood.

Then there's Dennis Prager, whose daily radio show I faithfully podcast, not the least of which because of his weekly Happiness Hour. Dennis says that one cannot be happy without gratitude. I already knew that! (yeah, I too often quote Dennis Prager as well.)

And then there's Emily, who has taught me more about life in her 20 years - than I could ever have imagined - mainly about faith and hope and love and courage...and gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Because it's not about Turkey. Or Football. Or Shopping.
(seriously...how did we ever come to this point!?)

* * *

Emily, this post is for you.
Enjoy your Candy Cane Chocolate Fudge Chunk ice cream.


Here's how this image came about:

I made a still life photo a little while ago, not really sure just where I was going with it. I arranged a few of the acorns I picked up beneath a little oak tree next to the bank where I work, then added a few strands of ornamental grass, cut from our garden. I played with the image,  first in Lightroom and then in Photoshop - intermittently over the course of a few weeks - just like painting... adjusting the lighting, contrast, color, etc. and then adding a few texture layers. I borrowed the quote from an email Kelly shared with me yesterday...she always kindly forwards e-newsletters from the Center for Great Apes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

humble beginnings

mouse over to see the original

1720 West 34th Avenue
Denver, Colorado

This is the house where Dad was born, almost 88 years ago.

As you know, I am finishing Dad's genealogy scrapbook. I had originally planned to just use a small black & white "snapshot" version of this photo, to document Dad's birthplace in a layout about his birth. But as I collected and scanned old photos, I was inexplicably pulled back to this, my own, photo. And then, over the course of a few days, the oft-used phrase humble beginnings kept whispering to me, "use me for a layout about Dad's humble beginnings..."

Oh boy, here we go again: despite my own best intentions, my art tells me what to do and leads me off in a direction I hadn't planned. I have learned to listen.


Dad's story is the classic American Dream. Born of immigrant parents, who, while not dirt-poor, had very little materially. They lived simply and honorably, scrimped and saved every penny...in order to give their son the best that they could offer: faith in God above, loving and devoted parents, a quality education...a good start in life.

Aldo grew up and become a distinguished attorney; he married and raised a family...and with Mom at his side, passed on the values of his parents: he lived simply and honorably, scrimped and saved, giving his children the best that he could offer: faith in God above, loving and devoted parents, a quality education...a good start in life.


When you "mouse over to see the original," you will see the original photograph I took in February, 2005, while on a genealogy research excursion with Dad into what was once called "Little Italy" (also known as Lower North Denver). At Dad's request, I took my camera and drove him around the neighborhood, documenting some of the landmarks of his childhood.

Dad's parents - Greg and Della - rented this little house from Della's mother, Carmela Libonati, who lived in the big house next door; they lived there for a just few short years before eventually moving to a home of their own.


I really had fun photo editing this image. Sure, the subject matter is the house, but the subject itself is fond memories of lives lived, of a bygone era. Not my own, but Dad's. I wanted, above all, to convey a feeling, not just document a place. 

I knew I needed to remove or minimize details of contemporary life, so I erased the wires and neutralized the colors; then I applied a couple Rad Lab filters to get that "misty memories" feel. I initially tried simply converting it to black & white, but it didn't convey the emotions I felt. I probably spent most of my time fine-tuning the colors until it felt just right. I did seek help from one of Kim Klassen's inspiring video tutorial "recipes," from her blog. I believe it was entitled "Dream Processing." And of course, because I can never follow any recipe accurately, I changed it up a bit here and there, as Kim herself expects her students to do.

Can't wait to share the scrapbook layout...