Family and/or Autobiography

Don’t Ask Me What Zombies Have to Do With It. I Have No Idea.

Try shuffling this deck.
Good luck shuffling this.

A recent study suggests that disorganized people are more creative than organized people.

In other words, I am the least creative person in my house.

My seven-year-old son is at the top of the creative heap. He achieves this by creating creative heaps all around his room. His invented games are, I admit, ingenious. Sadly, they also require hundreds of parts from dozens of different sources.

Rocks? Check.

Marbles? Check.

Individual Legos, handpicked from different sets? Check.

Every refrigerator magnet in the house? Check.

The battleships from Battleship? Check.

Broken toys – including that whoopee cushion with a hole in it that his dad told him to throw out last year? Seriously, boy, what’s the point of a whoopee cushion that can’t make any noise? Check!

It should come as little surprise that my son and I also have very different interpretations of the word “straighten,” as in, “Straighten your room.”

My “straighten” is defined as, “Put every single solitary thing away forever.” His definition is, “Consolidate the six or eight smallish piles of stuff into one, four-foot-tall pile of stuff. Then shove that pile of stuff into the mathematical center of the room.”

But, hey, the boy is creative. One day, Alex noticed that war (the card game, that is) was an excruciating bore. Many, many years ago, when I made this same discovery, I abandoned war forever and did something tidy. Alex is cut from a different cloth, however; he decided to take a crack at improving the game. He searched the house for every deck of cards we have and became the sole inventor of Nine-Deck Zombie Super War 4000.  To play, you need five decks of regular playing cards, two Uno decks (one being a dog-eared deck from the early1980s and the other a contemporary waterproof deck that you can play in the tub) a deck of war cards featuring characters from the movie Cars, and The Mad Magazine Card Game.

The rules and scoring system are, I think, a bit too involved, complicated, and convoluted to mention here (think 43-Man Squamish). I will say, however, that it takes about 15 minutes to purge all of the decks of the unnecessary cards and nearly another ten minutes to shuffle the massive, irregular deck that remains. Once you’re done playing the game, it takes another 15 minutes to put all the cards back where they belong.

The actual game takes about maybe four minutes.

But I am surprised to say that I don’t mind any of this, really. Nine-Deck Zombie Super War 4000 caters to our strengths: Alex gets to stimulate his creative instincts by making up rules and creating random piles of cards, and I get to sate my OCD urges by sorting the cards into rigid, properly sanctioned piles.

And of course there is that Father And Son Thing. I love that Father And Son Thing.

Once the game is over, Alex will help put the cards back in their proper piles without complaint, but mostly he keeps me company while I take on the lion’s share of the work. Straightening up is what I do best, after all. And organizing things while chatting with my boy puts me in the happiest of my happy moods.

Sometimes while we peek under the couch for stray cards, we even kick around a few picture book story ideas. Because, well, according to documented research, I need all the help I can get.

Alfred E

Doodles 'n' Drawings, On Blogging

My Crafting Crisis

Ho-Ho-Holy cow I don't have the strength for this.
Ho-Ho-Holy cow! Crafting is really hard!

Susan Rocan over at mywithershins is a lovely person and a fantastic creator of homemade greeting cards. Every Wednesday she posts whatever craft she’s working on and I, without fail, am dazzled by what I see.

It wasn’t long before I decided that just had to have one of those cards. So on one impulsive day this past fall, I begged Susan to put me on her Christmas card list. She, being lovely and Canadian (but I’m being redundant), happily agreed. I was delighted.

It then dawned on me that by asking Susan for a homemade card, I was agreeing to make a homemade card for her. This didn’t delight me so much. I haven’t made anyone a card since I was a tyke. I didn’t know where to begin.

So I did what I usually do when I need to shove an unsettling fact out of my mind; I repeated my time-honored mantra:

“I’ll come up with something.”

This mantra hasn’t failed me yet. But my confidence wavered when my birthday approached and I got this in the mail:

Holy schmoley!
Holy schmoley!

The photo doesn’t even begin to do the card justice. The level of detail is incredible. The subtle color blends, the textured papers… I was amazed.

I was also touched, for Susan didn’t just make a card and send it to me; she made a card specifically for me. To construct this card, Susan used paper made out of elephant poop. (Perhaps I should explain: Once upon a time, Susan mentioned on her blog that she bought some sheets of elephant poop paper. Ever since, I have repeatedly commented on how I would loooove to get some elephant poop paper of my very own.) Also, I don’t know if you can see it in the photo, but the lower right corner of the card sports a tiny goat! Oh, how I love goats!

After receiving this card, my mantra changed slightly:

“I’d better come up with something.”

I played around with the idea of a pop-up card. It didn’t work. Not even close. I tried a collage. It looked terrible. And as I continued to experiment (and fail) precious time slipped away.

By the time my despair tank was about half full, Susan sent me a note asking what color my eyes were. “Oh, Dear God, what is she working on?” I asked aloud to no one in particular.

I had no choice but to jump back into my comfort zone. I doodled. I didn’t know what to doodle or how my doodles would work in a card, but I doodled away and hoped for a Christmas miracle. The miracle never came, but I eventually found myself with an appealing Santa sketch.

That’s was when Susan’s Christmas card arrived:

Oh, you gotta be kidding me!
Oh, you gotta be kidding me!

Can you believe it? And, much to my surprise, inside was an apology.

“I looked all over for brown googly eyes, but I couldn’t find them. Hope black is okay!”

This is what happens when you exchange cards with a Canadian. They do something amazing and they still think they need to apologize.

Just look at it! Those gingerbread men are my wife, my son, and me!

It should also be noted that, somehow, Susan made the card smell like gingerbread. I have no idea how she did this, but if you told me she took a trip to the Serengeti, fed elephants Christmas cookies, and then loitered around the area with a shovel to collect their droppings, I’d believe you.

The pressure mounting, my time almost up, I finally came up with this.

Here it is!

It looks simple, and compared with what Susan gave me, it is. But making this thing was far more involved than I ever could’ve imagined. After making a satisfying Santa doodle, I polished it up and photocopied it onto a piece of résumé paper – which gave me a nice enough texture to add color. Then I cut out the jolly fellow out with an x-acto knife and pasted him onto a sheet of Bristol vellum. Then I meandered around an A.C. Moore for what felt like 96 hours puzzling over Christmas-themed papers. Then, using my beloved Royal – and its very Christmas-y red ribbon – I typed out my greetings on the Christmas-themed paper and pasted the paper in the card.

I have always been impressed by Susan’s skills, but now I am impressed to the tenth power. Thanks again, Susan, you amazing crafter, you! I will hang onto your cards always. Do forgive my modest effort; it wasn’t due to lack of trying, that’s for sure.

My Christmas Card inside

Here’s hoping all of you fine bloggers (and blog readers) had a happy holiday! See you in the new year!