Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Altered fun

Something that is bringing me a lot of light this winter is a new 'found' project.  Let me share what I am up to....

I have two old journal/day planners of my mother's that she never really used. She was not a journaler, and I am not sure how she happened to have these two, very nice quality/Italian made, with sewn binding. Mom died a few years back, so it's not like I can ask her. Perhaps they were "new year's resolution" purchases, something she thought she'd have a go at? These books are from 1992 and 1993, soon after Dad had retired from the Navy and they had moved near the beach, in South Carolina.

It took a little courage on my part to open them up and read through these. I was not surprised yet still disappointed to find that there were very few entries, and everything was quite superficial - "haircut at 10 am." The biggest confidences seemed to involve food, "We went out to eat and I had scallops for dinner." Truly, there were very few references to any family members, except for noting phone calls, as in "I called Maureen this evening."

Later, when I was out running trails with my pal Marla, I lamented aloud - "How I wish I found some sort of affirming words about me in her writing. I'm half-thinking of writing a love note to myself in the empty pages." (This was one of those 'give yourself what you need' ideas that a therapist might recommend.) Marla, an artist, immediately suggested - "Oh my - you should make an altered book!"

"A what?" I asked, confused.

When I got home from the run, I went on a deep dive (thank you, Google and YouTube) to discover everything I could about altered books...and this has become my 'found' project. This visual art/craft approach appears for some to be a way to create almost an artist's portfolio, or to experiment with different art techniques. I am taking mine in a more personal direction, using Mom's book/writings (or lack of writing) as a muse, creating art collages and drawings, basically 'playing' with the book. 

Let me show you a collage I have just started - this is going to be a map of their home and surrounding area, showing all Mom's favorite places. I have created the 'toe' of the island that they lived on and the water all around, using papers cut from picture book jackets. 

(I should ask you teachers - do you recognize the illustrators?). 

(Okay, okay - I'll share! The 'land' is from Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and The Mouse and the "water" is from Michaela Goede's illustrations in Carole Lindstrom's We Are Water Protectors)  

As I said, I'm mid-process on this collage - I have yet to add roads, bike paths, and favorite places. More to come!!

I am awed by how this work is stimulating other writing, leading to poetry and some fanciful fiction draft ideas. Honestly, the exploration is meditative and hopeful. I am having so so so much fun.

Let me share a little poem I wrote, totally imagining Mom living in her new community, immersed in her local Catholic church and new friends. I thought about her and a friend taking a day to visit the local shopping outlets, from her entry "Tru and I to the outlets": 

the perfect day

how the waitress made us chuckle

shouting our names, saying hello

she knows us now, each morning

early Mass, coffee and biscuits

then we drove to the outlets

searching for the perfect shoes

finding so many bargains

that turquoise blouse looked so good on you

how fun it was to wander into

the little art boutique

so many beautiful pottery pieces

people are so creative

we sat on the bench outside for a bit

remember how cool the air was

how gentle the breeze

such a nice break from the heat

driving back, you shared that story

your trip to the mountains

all the antics that ensued

how we laughed and laughed

I had no sooner put my new things away

when he came through the door

we sat on the porch together

sharing our stories

I seriously don't know where I am 'going' with this project, but it is the perfect thing for me as another winter of isolation bears down.


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for creating this supportive community 
of teacher-writers!


  1. Maureen, what a gem! I'm so glad you found a creative outlet and project with your mother's journals. They will be a treasure for generations to come. Precious. I love how you expanded on the trip to the outlets and made it a whole story in your sweet poem.

  2. What an awesome and creative way to use your mom's journals. This will be a true treasure for you and whomever reads or finds it after you. :) I'm inspired to write more about my kids and grandkids than I do. Thank you.

  3. Wow! I have seen and heard about altered books, but never made one. It seems as though she saved those just for you. Your poem is beautiful and the collage is a unique take on your found project. Please continue to share your progress of the map! This is a perfect example of how creativity makes one become more creative. In Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, she describes how "playing" with a different medium helps you become more creative in another. Enjoy!