Monday, May 28, 2012

Stain (Memorial Day 2012)

my father, circa 1968
Today I remember you.
Or what there was of you.
The same stories you told me
about coming home from Nam
to be there when I was born.
Stories about getting on the 'chopper
and then me falling asleep on your chest.
And excuses for why you disappeared.
I see your photo now and then
the tears come, but just a little.
I choke them back.
The war changed you.
All smiles before,
all drunkenness after.
And I, left behind,
then found again,
then left behind,
then found again.
Years would pass with
no sign of you.
No sign except
my own reflection,
my roundish nose,
my one crookish eye,
my smile.
Today is not the only day
I think about you.
But today I am forced to
bring you out of the old suitcase
of memory
and trace my finger over
the writing on the backs of these photographs
of a young G.I.
The only handwriting of yours that I have ever seen.
The last trace of you
that I have.
The only physical things.
These photographs of a lost boy,
a lost man,
a lost father.
Gone forever from me,
but the stain of your memory
remains there in my own reflection.
My nose is yours,
my crooked left eye,
my cheeky smile;
my broken heart.

J. Valentine
my father, second from left, circa 1968

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Messy Middle

Below is a poem that is currently on SARK's call line. Read by her.  I call it when i need someone to tell me that I really matter. When I need someone to give me a virtual hug. When I need a cheerful voice of affirmation and I can't think of anyone to call that I'd like to burden with more of my life "stuff". SARK doesn't mind. I'm grateful that today her inbox had room for my message of thanks back her. If you'd like to call it, here is the number~ 415-546-3742. Her website is ,for more inspiration, free printable things, wallpaper, workshops and books.

Life has become so much more full, since we've become full time caretakers of our little full of joy and smiles and song and fumbling for what works; full of so many shifts that were sudden and stressful and rewarding and a whole mixture of joy and sadnesses as well. Susan Kennedy calls it "the messy middle", where most of us spend a lot of our time living.
I find myself blaming myself for the way my youngest daughter E. has "turned out" so far,even though I know in my heart that I have been the best mother I could be. Wondering where it was that I went wrong. She is 19 now. Watching her destroy herself again and again when I've spent so many years doing my utmost to build her up and foster her dreams, is so difficult. For me it is akin to watching a terrible car crash coming that I am helpless to prevent. For my husband and I, it is a feeling of fresh grief and loss, mixed with hope and fervent prayer that she will one day find her way. And a feeling of exhaustion from trying to juggle my work, his work, new baby, homekeeping, our relationship and two other boys (ages 7 and 17) that need us too.
I can say that I am proud of E.'s selflessness when it comes to doing what is best for this precious and happy go lucky little fellow. She knows his best place is here with us until she "sorts out her life." I am grateful for that. And so incredibly grateful for this~

And grateful for SARK (Susan Arial Rainbow Kennedy) and her message line, and for introducing me to a now favorite poem that resonates so deeply with me.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

—Naomi Shihab Nye from Words Under Words: Selected Poems

Blessings to You and Yours,
Jennifer Valentine

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New Assemblage Jewelry and the First Casualty of the Simplicity Project

Just a peek into what I've been creating lately...working on cuffs and lots of creamy pearly rhinestone infused things...maybe because so many weddings seem happen in the spring and early summer months...and over this past year, I've been so inspired by an amazing wedding blog called "Ruffled".
When you visit, be sure you have some time to look and be inspired by all of the amazing DIY  weddings. Some serious creativity and l.o.v.e. over well as creative wedding photography that will delight and amaze you! I get it delivered to my mailbox each morning and it is a sweet way to start the day with a peek at people in love. They also celebrate same sex marriages, which I find extremely refreshing and poignant to see.
victorian, button, black, sacredcake, cuff
Antique Assemblage Cuff in the SHOP
Custom Vintage Assemblage Bridal Comb
Custom Bridal comb in Silver, pearls and rhinestones
bridal, fern, shabby, earrings, etsy
Shabby Chic fern and pearl earrings

OK, so in my last post, I spoke of an attempt at re-simplifying my life. Letting go of extraneous stuff...and stuff I am keeping from a woman that no longer exists. I figure, if I really want to remember certain things like these~
Steve Madden Mary Janes Circa 1998ish
Things like these very outdated, almost vintage Square toed Steve Madden Mary Jane heels that I bought so long ago and have worn only a handful of times. I am so not a "shoe" person. Really. I am a very conservative shoe person. I wear only Mary Janes. I only have a few pair now...but really only because I now have to wear very good shoes due to the fact that my feet have chosen not to function properly anymore. Heels of any kind are no more. 
These shoes are a part of a woman that does not exist any more. She hasn't existed for many years...and neither have her heel wearing feet, but still, there was that know? I know you know.
So as a symbolic gesture, these go first. Because believe me, these shoes are extremely difficult for me to part with. Silly isn't it? They're just shoes. Outdated shoes. They hold no power over me...yet I have had them in the "to go" pile sooooo many times, and taken them out and put them away sooooo many times. This time is it.
Even as I write, I'm thinking of how I can salvage them! Bookends? Doorstops? Planters? Decoupage? Paint?
Remember in my last post when I talked of having the 100 things already down pat in the mid nineties and I didn't even know it? Well, these shoes were a part of my 100 things. I've carried these shoes all over the country. They are more than just shoes. They were a part of me. They were apart of my identity. A regular resident in closets here and there, from Florida to Washington to Florida to Washington and finally to Michigan.
If I can let go of these shoes, I can let go of more.
I'm doin' it.
I'll put the photo in my journal for old times sake.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Free Ephemera Giveaway, and an antique Blue Bird Etching from 1876

Fresh from my burgeoning  paper hoard, an antique etching of blue birds from a catalog from 1876. Yes, the date is absolutely correct...can you believe it? It is so old it is bound at the top with string.This would be so amazing in a frame, or reproduced for a collage. Just click on the image, choose save on your computer. It was scanned at a very high resolution, so it can be made quite large. I hope you love it as much as I do. I have a "thing" for birds...

So, In the spirit of the Simplicity Project, I'd like to talk just a bit about my paper hoard. Going through it yesterday, I realized I have more old paper and ephemera than a person really needs.
I think I have devised a creative way to slim down my collection.

I have an unreasonably huge assortment of old photos, book covers, journals, sheet music, game cards, advertisements, old stamps and other paper items that I've been adding to over the years that I'd love to share. I  need to share. If you'd like a very large envelope stuffed with wonderful ephemera, send $11.00 to me via the Paypal button below. That will cover cost of shipping and the large brown envelope. I will be sure to stuff your envelope with great things for collage, and encaustic work, and know that my wonderful collection will go to good use! Let me know in the message at checkout if you'd like more vintage magazines, handwriting, old photos, vintage envelopes, more stamps, more sheet music, advertisements, words for cutting and pasting, etc. and I will create a custom envelope for you, to your liking. Thank you for helping me with this. I just couldn't put all of this wonderful old ephemera in the recycle bin! Please let people know about this offer. I have so much to share!(click button below to go to checkout)


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Really Noticing, and Thoughts on Simplicity and Enough-ness

natural decor dried hydrangeas antique books display
antique books from my mother, antique creamer, hydrangeas
Today I took just a few minutes in an exercise I call "purposeful noticing". I do this when I find myself sinking into the cavern that sometimes opens beneath my feet if I let it. It begins with pangs of self doubt, a bit of worry, thoughts focused more on the lack than on the abundance...and before the pit opens and I fall in, this is what I do. (all of the photos you see here, came from the same ten or so minute exercise this morning).
vintage linen curtains sacred cake blog
vintage linens in the bedroom window
I find it is always the simple things during this awareness exercise that catch my eye. The shadows of the old linens in the windows, the one favorite sugar bowl filled with dried hydrangeas; that I've taken from one end of this country to the next and back again; intact, I might add...and I remember when there was a simpler time, when that one sugar bowl along with one favorite plate was all I really had, on a shabby little white mantle in the country in the deep south. It was all I needed. It was all I could afford. And I was still a happy person.
There has been a noticeable little undercurrent throughout my life since the days of my walks in the woods as a young girl of 9...and the undercurrent consists of the love for the simplest things. Poetry stuffed into an old suitcase. One extraordinary wildflower. A shabby old book. Vintage linens. Pressed leaves...the shape and look of hydrangeas...painted white walls and salvaged furniture....a favorite old brooch...walks in the woods...laying beneath trees...

When did my life become so complicated? The sugar bowl has now become a vast collection of antique ironstone platters, plates, pitchers and vases and a big 'ol cabinet to house them all. The brooch has turned into vast amounts in stacked boxes and containers of vintage jewelry pieces and parts that I can never in a lifetime use up, because I keep buying more before I use what I have. The old suitcase has turned into at least twenty two vintage suitcases, along with countless little boxes, antique trunks and containers.
vintage assemblage bridal jewelry french nouveau sacred cake ooak
bridal earrings I made, atop little antique paper boxes from my (shrinking) collection
I feel like my life has lost its simplicity somewhere and there has, along with that thought, come the revelation that I am not being true to myself in so many ways. I'm not honoring my true spirit.
Fear is what is keeping me from myself... it took writing that word, "fear" just now, for me to realize exactly that.
What if I do simplify back to the days of that one suitcase? Back to the days when I made jewelry to please myself...before it became all about selling jewelry that I cannot even afford to buy for myself...while my first love, vintage assemblages, gathers dust on my desk? I fear what will happen financially if I stop creating the jewelry that has now become what I sell most of and most often. The jewelry that is of my alter high society event ego?
Maybe I fear how empty this big house would look without the stuff that it is stuffed with and then maybe realize that this much space isn't really necessary. Maybe I fear my Etsy shop will just be overlooked.
And in exploring this feeling of not enough-ness, and fear, which comes right along with the cavern that I discussed in the beginning of this post, comes the camera exercise. If you try it would you share your thoughts and photographs with me?

morning feet

I am asking myself lately, what exactly can I live without? What possessions do I truly need to be happy? Are any extra possessions needed at all? And what is considered extra?
I heard of the 100 thing challenge awhile ago, but never thought I could do it. While writing this post, I realized that I already had done it by 1998. I really had. Before Dave even began talking about it I think. But then came the backslide into acquiring more and more.
You can read about the 100 Thing Project at

What is enough?
I want so much to get back to that one plate, one sugar bowl, one suitcase let go of the material things that need dusting and shuffling around and finding a place for.
Even if they are just cheap old things that only cost two dollars and it was such a great old pitcher how could i go home without ONE more old pitcher for two dollars?

This word was brought to me yesterday, with a visit from a dear friend, Michelle Stambaugh, an amazing potter whom I adore. And my word mantra has become this~
A One Word "simple" Bowl by Michelle Stambaugh on Etsy
A glorious soothing pool blue swirl of simple. (that is far from simple!)(her work is extraordinary, highly detailed and vibrant)

I think I'm going to call this "The Simplicity Project". I don't think I can narrow it down to just 100 things like Dave. At least not just yet.

**More of Michelle's Work Can be found right here:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Antique Floral Images, Free Friday

antique floral/ flower images
I've come across my stash of antique floral postcards, antique thread advertisements, and vintage Arm and Hammer Collectible Cards. Thought you might like some pretty downloads today. I admit I have an old papers addiction. Any scrap of paper...stained, ripped, creased, discarded, shabby; I have to keep it. My very first love before assemblage jewelry making was assemblage art making. And I love to use old shabby papers and photographs in my work (which I haven't done in forever).
I thought these would just be amazing for all kinds of transfer projects, assemblage projects and such.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Return to Myself

just plain me
Hi. I've come back! I cannot even begin to tell you what the last two months have held for me. Things you might find hard to believe! I've been almost steadily sick with one thing or another for the last two months... some things serious, and not so serious and I am just returning to what feels like normal again. I've been involved in a really big project and keeping my shop afloat for the last couple of months while being so ill and working on a big assemblage jewelry making project has been quite a challenge....
I've been creating a lot of the jeweled collet necklaces (I'm wearing a fave in the photo), and though I love them and their sparkle so much, it isn't where my heart really resides. It is the assemblage jewelry that I make that really makes me feel like I am expressing my best self...the true me. The "me" that began this journey almost three years ago.

assemblage collage locket necklace
victorian button necklace (in the shop)
There are so many things I have to tell you about where I've been, stories about who I've met along the way, grandchildren coming into the world right before my eyes...and the latest, last week, a melanoma scare that has me, a woman who is really big on not worrying----worried.
More about that later on when I know more.
I really just wanted to say hello. I haven't forgotten about you at all. Writing is something that always tugs at me. I compose blogposts and poems in my head often that never make it into black and white during the bustle of the day.
Benji and KW
Which reminds me, my days are filled with even more bustle, now that my oldest grandson lives with us temporarily. He's 6 months old and the sweetest baby in the universe...such a joy, but still a lot of work too!

 It is so hard for me to find balance in my life. Is it hard for you too? How do you cope when you feel like parts of you are so far flug here and there? How do you center yourself?
I know that a big cup of hot tea is a start for me...then some favorite music...singing out loud...and making a list helps to get things out of my mind and on to paper.Somehow writing it down works to settle my thoughts.

I hope to be back soon!
Many Blessings to You and Yours,