Monday, April 29, 2013

So What Do We Need To Do?

"So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late."Lee Iacocca

Until I started reading "The Power of starting Something Stupid," by Richie Norton I'd been thinking about making greeting cards for a long time. Along the way I accumulated skills to do that. I've made lots of prototypes and now I have another set. This time I've made 100 cards--four different formats.

Here is one of the first cards I made early on. She is brave and tentative, and despite what she feels and how she looks, and despite the fact that she's standing in thin air, she is in balance and very cute.

As I've been reading "The Power of Starting Something Stupid," I find my work is less tentative. More sure. More vibrant. As I'm reading stores about people who had an idea and ran and stumbled with it until it became a household word, I'm making more and more cards more and more easily. Never thought I'd quote Lee Iacocca and know what he says is just what I need to hear. 

This painting went on to become something else, a lesson in leaving well enough alone. It doesn't exist anymore, but I loved what I did with it. Two years ago I joined a painting group in Mexico and needed to talk to myself a lot. "Dare to fear. Accept what is. Play." In its finished state it said "Fall A lot. Play." I like that. The subtitle of the book I'm reading is "How to crush fear, make dreams happen, and live without regret."  

I wanted to show you where I am now, but something interesting has happened. I've taken pictures of my current cards twice and when I try to move them here, they are no where to be found. I think I should go eat breakfast. Nevertheless, today, now that doesn't necessarily mean today as in this week or this month or this period of time, but rather today, as in this very morning, this very day, I feel I have a product to show, and I have local places I can talk to about showing them. Along the way, I'll know I need to do next. And do it.

Baruch ata adonai...I love the sense of energy and purpose I have this morning. May I always remember I have a well inside me to call upon when I'm standing in mid air and my balance seems tipped toward uncertainty. Today, this very day, I will take steps to make me even more believable to myself. Amen

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blooming Inside and Out

In my garden joyelium, punctuaricus, pointious and eysium bask in front of my Belle Folie, a zen like structure with walls and windows but no doors.

Meanwhile, indoors, springs brings into bloom everything a girl wants.

Happy Spring. Happy nearly May.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Don't Wait. Start Stuff"...Richie Norton

The books on my desk challenge me to get off my butt. "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown starts off this way: Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly. "The Power of Starting Something Stupid," by Richie Norton, exhorts me to start something that everyone, make that me, says is stupid and then run with it. These two books popped into my life within days of each other, and thanks to Amazon Prime, soon I began flipping their pages and found important lessons.

Yesterday I spent the day working on cards and bookmarks for an October open studio tour. The colors are lush, and it's the first time for me to sell little signed art works (suitable for framing), well, to sell my art work at all. Another set will feature my drawings. I'm terrible at mechanics. I don't cut straight, I don't plan ahead, and I figure if I waited to get that perfect part moving in my life I'd be standing still. The challenge for me is how to market them as they are. Open Studio is one thing, but getting them out there is quite another. If I'm to believe Brene's and Richie's lessons, I need to start. Start anywhere. Just start. Any Etsy fairy godmothers out there willing to spread fairy dust?

Meanwhile, I'm having a lot of fun in the doing. I'm thinking creating packages of "Bookmarks for Bookgroups." Here's the rub for many of us. Great idea. Now what! I'm planning on learning that as my fingers turn the pages of my current consultants' books.

Now, the next lovely piece is definitely in the angry teenager phase. It's my second assemblage. It started life as a torn lamp shade stripped to it's form and painted red. Then all those little bottles came into my life, and I wired them to the frame and they bounce it fun ways. I like the idea of people writing messages to fill them up, but not throwing these bottles into the sea. Oh, how about creating the bottom of the sea. OK. Got that. Now how do I make it hang together? That's why it's sitting in a corner, and if gives me any more trouble, it's going under the desk for a time out.

Baruch ata adonai...I am having so much fun with this stuff. I'm asking myself how important it is for me to sell it. It seems to me that there is a next step, and it's not keeping it in my studio so I can admire it forever, and it's not giving it all away, which I love to do and have done in the past. The next step is for me to go public with it. Help me to be bravely vulnerable. I am so grateful to be doing this work and sharing it with others. Amen and Amen

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Aging Brain Has Some Major Advantages

"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake."  Sir Francis Bacon 1561-1626

In my twenties, in my fertile imagination, I was torch singer Peggy Lee, heart shaped push up red sequined flashy full length form fitting dress barely clinging to my breasts, with just a chance I might take a deep breath and reveal all. "Never know how much I love you," I'd purr into the mike in the most seductive way, "never know how much I care, but when you put your arms around me, I get a fever that's so hard to bear, you give me fever..." Ooooo ahhh.

At twenty, I had no voice and nowhere near enough guts to stand up half naked before a salivating audience. At twenty, at the beginning of my life, my plans were to graduate from college, then travel and teach and experience a few other careers and get married and have children. And then there came a point where all I'd planned for and all I'd been interested in doing came to pass. There I was, planted firmly in my sixties, with calmed down hormones, a yen to write and time to do it. Today I spend my life writing and painting, both joyful and life-affirming, and it seems I can do things I never could before.

Last fall I took "Joy of Singing" in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of the Pacific and fell in love with singing. Not only in love with it, I found my voice improved over the ten sessions. I had no idea my voice would get better and stronger. This is not "Glee" or "Pitch Perfect." This is singing for the love of singing without tryouts, competition, snotty snarkiness, or performance. Along the way, my early and rejected piano lessons came back to me, and I began to remember how to read music again. Best part: just singing: singing show tunes, camp rounds, singing harmony, singing technical pieces and all for fun.

At this stage of my life I am more creative than I've ever been. This is absolutely incredible to me and I can't see it slowing down or stopping. Yesterday I watched "The Age of Champions" and saw a 100 year old tennis player compete at the highest levels of senior tennis, a team of sixty-five year plus women win a national basketball championship, and two brothers, 88 and 90 win swimming titles. Until April 28 you can see this movie at

There are harsh realities of getting older, but the aging brain has some major advantages and creative ability is one of them. Amazingly enough, I'm improving with age!

Baruch ata grateful I am for health and for all the opportunities I have to stretch and grow and recreate my life each day. Amen

Monday, April 22, 2013

Leaving Heaven's Hard To Do

I can't seem to get started writing this morning. I've done two loads of wash, straightened everything in sight and am sitting down for the second time to see if my mind will center itself. Maybe the problem comes from yesterday, at least it seems that way because I had a very restless night. If I could unscrew the top of my head and dump the gremlins running around and behaving badly, maybe that would help. I know you've been here, but that doesn't necessarily mean you want to read about it, unless you think I'm going to find my way out of this which isn't at all clear to me just now. If I stopped now, my morning prayer would be, "H....E....L....P....!"

Yesterday we walked into our mountain cabin. You can google it: Silver Lake off Highway 88 in Northern California. It's south of Lake Tahoe in the gorgeous El Dorado National Forest. Our cabin is right on the lake at 7200 feet elevation. We had a report that we had a huge dump of snow on our deck and that the lake was still frozen. When we drove to the top of the hill for our first glimpse, we were overjoyed to see the lake had thawed. As we walked the 3/4 mile to our cabin, alternately through snow fields and bare road, we speculated about its state and found much much less snow than we anticipated and no snow damage. We so eagerly anticipate our first trip each spring. If we were younger, we would run around in circles just like Gracie, our labradoodle, eating snow, barking, running ahead, sniffing, sniffing. We looked at each other and said, "This is heaven."

We bought our cabin 25 years ago. I'd had an unexpected surgery and careened into the wall that has written on it, "Life will change when you least expect it." I didn't know what I wanted to do then, but I knew it was important to pay attention to clues. When a friend and I went on a camping trip and stopped off at Silver Lake, I felt as though I had come home. And so it has always been ever after. Our children were teenagers when we bought the cabin, and now my grandchildren are loving it. It's my dream come true. It's the place my husband and I get along the very best. It's a place of healing and restoration for everyone who visits.

It's hard to leave heaven and come home to your everyday self with your everyday needs and the everyday house to clean and food to buy and errands to run and a blog you really do want to write, but you're feeling dry. It's hard to come down from a high point. I can remember conferences I'd come home from too jazzed to calm down. And so it is with art and writing now. There are so many things I want to do and I think I'm afraid I won't get to do it all. Now that's another blog.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you so much for helping me know what is great and wonderful in my great and wonderful life. I do have this fear that I won't have time to do all I want to do, not just this day, but in my life. I'm not sure what is bringing this to the fore. Perhaps you'll help me figure it out. My life is wonderful right now. Thank you for pointing that out to me. Thank you for telling me that this moment is all I have anyhow. Thank you for telling me to get real and stop worrying about not having enough time. And now, yes, thank you for telling me I've written quite enough! Amen

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sit. Close Your Eyes. Ask Yourself How You're Feeling.

A few minutes ago, when I sat down to the computer, I closed my eyes and asked myself how I'm feeling. The way the answer came surprised me. "You are feeling great joy." Not I am feeling, but rather it seems someone else is giving me that message. So then I asked myself why, and the answers came rolling in. "Because your cabin in the mountains will be open in six weeks or so. Because you are going to the art center party tonight. Because finally your new glasses are ready to be picked up. Because you've made plans to go see Charlie play t-ball, and Sidney turn three, and discuss with Annie the book you're illustrating for her. Because after years of not wanting to prepare dinner, you're enjoying it now and making delicious meals. Because you made a breakthrough in thinking on the assemblage you've been working on. Because your body will be feeling better. Because you believe what you wrote the other day and are back on the track training for your life long marathon. Believe me now?"

It's not everyday I have the feeling God is laying on the evidence, telling me what I should know, if only I were smart enough to see myself clearly. I think I'm out of the funk that began a week ago today. I believe I am feeling great joy today. Way better than inglorious funk! It helps that the weather is great,  that the wind has slowed down. It helps that for the past two days, I've been working in the garden feeling sad for the plants that didn't make it through the winter and delighting in the forthcoming gifts from the ones that show so much promise.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for being with me this morning and for such a clear message. I have so much in my life. I am grateful for the joy it brings me. Today I will remind myself over and over, "You are feeling great joy." And so I am. Amen

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Time to Challenge Your Assumptions?

This morning I reached for one of the many books above my desk, opened it at random, and trusted the first thing I read would be something I need to learn today. Today's book, one I really love, is The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life by dancer Twyla Tharp. Here's what stopped me. "Even though the evidence is staring you in the face, you don't always read the evidence correctly or even bother to think about it. If you're in a creative rut, the easiest way to challenge assumptions is to switch things around them and make the switch work." Bingo.

I think I might be in a "comfortable life rut," and for much of my life, this would be a problem I would have loved to have!  I know this is a rut you wouldn't mind being in. It's an upper end problem, yet I have only this one life, and I'm healthy, and my children are healthy and leading their own lives, and it seems to me it's as important for me to be creative about how I lead my life as being creative in the field of art.

Here's her process.
1. Identify the concept that isn't working. (If I have plenty of time to do art, I will do art.)
2. Write down your assumptions about it. (Too much pressure. I'm avoiding doing art. Maybe I need....) I'm working on this step, and  I'm beating back the gremlins who have so many unhelpful things to tell me.
3. Challenge the assumptions.
4. Act on the challenge. Haven't gotten here yet, but you might be able to work faster than I can.

My take away lesson from what happened in Boston this week is to look at my life as a marathon. Each day is a training session in living meaningfully and fully. If I'm slowing my pace because I'm meandering and off course, I need to step up and challenge my assumptions. I'll be thinking about this all day.

Baruch ata adonai...I must learn from what others experienced this week. Help me to stay with and within myself. Help me to challenge my assumptions on how I'm suppose to run and how I'm suppose to look and be. Thank you for being with me. Amen

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

May Our Hearts Stay Open

     Yesterday, once again, once too many times again, our national grief drew us together.

   Yesterday the sun rose and the sun set. Most of us did our ordinary things in ordinary ways.

Yesterday, as usual, I took everything for granted: that I would go and come back and so would you.
     And you did come back. And I came back too. We should all be able to take that for granted.

But dear God, it wasn't an ordinary day. I only thought so. What do I know of ordinary days?
                                              Baruch ata adonai...Help. Amen

Monday, April 15, 2013

I Am Worthy, Yes I Am. Repeat.

"Yes, we are totally exposed when we are vulnerable. Yes, we are in the torture chamber that we call uncertainty. And, yes, we're taking a huge emotional risk when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. But there's no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness."
Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

I'm just starting Brene's book, thank you Flora, and I'm only in chapter two. It's already dogeared. Just this very weekend, just a few days ago, I felt off balance, cranky, sad, and I didn't know why. Then I read a few chapters in, and yes, I was feeling vulnerable. But why? And more so, what was the cause of that feeling and how quickly could I escape. I told my sorry story to a friend. I knew I had to reach out quickly before I could tell myself too big a story about it. Well, guess what? You know what. Because she is a very good listener and because she could identify a similar experience, the story she told me was put in a way that I understood a part of the seed I had planted in myself. As I read, I'm learning more about how vulnerability works.

I'm hoping some of you might start reading Daring Greatly, or if you have, start talking with me about it in the comments section. I's a book worth buying. One of the things I'm working on with myself as I write and add my art on my blogs, as I show my paintings, is to disconnect my feeling of self worth from the comments I do or don't receive. It's easy to attach my self worth to the number of comments that come in. It's easy to attach my self worth to the way people offer feedback on my art. What if you love it? That's great, just as long as I don't bump up my feeling of self worth because of it or feel shame because you don't. We are so complicated!

Baruch ata adonai...I take a lot of chances in life. May I continue to do so. May I move ahead bravely. May I not believe all my inner voices: not the misguided ones that whisper venom or the cheerleaders who rah rah me into believing anything can happen as long as I jump up and down cheer loud enough. What's important to me now is to love the doing of what I'm doing. And I do. Amen

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another Darn Patience Lesson

When we moved in, my garden looked nothing like this. Years and years ago it contained one of every imaginable plant and tree. Five years later we removed the trees that ran down the middle of the lawn, a play set was erected for the boys, a boat full of sand was put in, forts were built, dogs dug, vegetables grew. Just before we got rid of the play set, the swings were taken down and it was covered with flowing white paper and flowers, and it became the stage for a wedding. After the kids moved out, I created my idea of an English garden with masses of day lilies, perennials, annuals, color every season. Whoosh. Years in a paragraph.

My beautiful garden became my refuge from the world, and I loved keeping it looking like something out of House Beautiful magazine. Years passed. A knee replacement. A cranky body. Annuals were replaced with bushes with interesting colors and structure. No more kneeling to cultivate and deadhead. And so it goes.

This isn't the blog I intended to write about my garden. Some of the pictures would't print or didn't allow me to continue to write after printing. I'm learning how to do this and trying really really really hard to be patient with myself. Gardens teach us about patience, don't they. And about life and death. And about the need to pay attention. One year I missed the wisteria growing down through the slatted roof of this garden room, a room with windows and walls you can walk through, because I didn't look at the right time.

Baruch ata adonai...this isn't the blog I intended to write. Today I need to be satisfied with who I am rather than who I want to be or who I very well might be tomorrow. There was a time a didn't know how to put in even one picture. Today I put in two.  If I wait to become perfect before I show my beautiful blooms, chances are I won't bloom at all. Thank you for helping me to be brave. Amen

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dealing with Our Stuff

The American People's Encyclopedia occupied a prominent position in my parent's home for fifty years. Purchased volume by volume from Sears, they represented more than my parent's prayer for our future. They meant my parents had enough money to provide for us what they never had. The books gave them a certain gravitas, proclaimed them adult members of the middle class. They meant my sister and I were to have a college education, that we would never have to face years of unemployment as my father had, and though we were only six and eleven when they arrived, we knew these serious looking books meant business.

Sixty-three years later, those volumes bought with savings and great hopes, those volumes which had a place of honor in my own living room, were dumped on the floor in my home. Have I ever looked at them in all the time they lived with me? In this day of Wikipedia and instant online sources for all you want to know, these volumes speak of another time. Saying good-bye isn't so easy. Even though my parents were very practical people, I feel I need to apologize to them, thank them, honor their hopes so fully realized.

No matter how important our stuff is to us, how freighted with history and personal weight, our kids don't want much of it. By the time my parents died, my sister and I had overstuffed homes. Now our kids do too. My son has told me he doesn't want any of it: not my grandmother's wedding plates and glasses we used and they used on special occasions when we were all growing up, not the sterling silver in the same box I played with as a child, and knew one day would be mine.

So what do we do with the stuff we carry, the stuff we box and store, the stuff we think is so important or simply can't figure out what to do with? These encyclopedias will be upcycled to art pieces. What would my father think? Better than going to the dump I say. No one wants mid century encyclopedias any more. I'll save one remnant: "Anatomy of the Human Body, 12 transparent plates showing the internal organs in natural color." They always fascinated me, and though you can see through page to page from boney structures of the chest to intestines to the scrotum, though you can see front sides and back sides, I still can't see and couldn't then see the very thing I looked for: what little girls are made of and why aren't my reproductive organs even mentioned?

Baruch ata adonai...I am so thankful to my parents for wanting so much for me and doing so much to make that happen. Thank you for placing me in their arms. I will create an art piece in their honor so that this book and their intentions for me live on. I like thinking about that. Amen

Monday, April 8, 2013

Willing to be Vulnerable

Aha! I've been wanting to add pictures to my blog, and today I had just the right combination of courage and willingness to turn my face toward vulnerability and my back to perfectionism. I am quivering with excitement. Not a big deal to many of you, but I know my oldest truest friends are impressed if not amazed. Right? I've been having great fun painting colorful papers to use for cards I'm creating. Cut down to card and bookmark size these are art pieces I'm quite proud of.

This is a time of challenging my willingness to show myself or stay in my shadows forever. Yesterday my husband helped me hang five of my paintings on the walls of my living room, studio and office. Out of the stack of humble canvases leaning against the wall, the stack of mistakes and imperfections and learnings, five hang honorably and proudly for all to see. I'm definitely embracing my vulnerability with love and delight! They look great.

Friday I had a facial treatment and the dermatologist left me beet red and required I stay inside, shades drawn, for 48 hours. Today I move on with my life. My cover story: jetting to sunny Hawaii for the weekend. Staying inside for two days no matter how well I entertained myself, no matter how much fun I had painting and drawing then cleaning out cabinets, is debilitating. When I took a walk after dark, I noticed I felt unsafe on my own block. How much more so if I had been feeling sorry for myself and stayed in a bathrobe for those two days. Our world can diminish us if we let it, and that can become the story of our lives.

Baruch ata steps and then a breakthrough, a willingness to be vulnerable and show parts of myself kept in dark safe vaults. I'm taking a big deep breath. I'm feeling energized. What's next? I'm moving slowly but surely to something that will require everything I'm learning and practicing now, and I have no idea what it is. I know I'm willing. I know I'm moving forward, and I know my eyes are open. Amen

Thursday, April 4, 2013

So Hard to Trust when You Haven't a Clue

"Trust that still, small voice that says, 'This might work and I'll try it.'"Diane Marechild

The past few days have been the lulling, quiet, not much happening type, just the kind that used to  make me antsy and impulsive and then for no good reason morph into angst and ennui. But no more. Life is good. The weather is lovely. I woke to rain this morning, so in a day or two my garden will do the happy dance.

I'm painting without having the least idea where I'm going, and yet just the doing is good. The flip side of trusting the process, the nasty nagging side is feeling as though I have no idea what I'm doing either.  Well, it's true, I don't, and I can choose how I feel about that. Shall I put on my duck and cover gear or step into my tutu and boa and dance anyway? When I was writing more and felt dry, I  strung words together that meant nothing at all until some twitch of an idea began to move to a sentence, to a thought, to some idea I had no notion waited inside me. Kind of like now. Now I trust my writing process. I don't know this way of working with paint, but I suspect it is the same. Be patient my heart.

"To the rationally minded the mental processes of the intuitive appear to work backwards." Frances Wickes

Baruch ata adonai...please protect me from my rational mind and it's need to build fences to keep it safe. May I create with paint like my flowers bloom in my garden: sometime showy, sometime waiting for  my words, or fertilizer, or protection from the garden bullies, those slow moving, voracious, relentless, snails to eat them up. Help me paint in an organic way that has nothing to do with my marvelous mind. Amen

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring is all anticipation

"When all is said and done, spring is the main reason for Wow." Anne Lamott

As I look out my window, trees silhouetted against blue and pink strata now changing to the faintest of yellow pink and greying blue fill my view. In a very short time, just the time I take to write this, the sun has come up enough to reveal shades of green, green trees so recently bare then decked out with buds, then blooms, then the release of petals dropped to a blizzard of white on the ground all around it. The recent rain has made the trees so happy, the air so clean. My garden looks like a teenager getting ready to go to her first prom. In days the wisteria will trail through the arbor, long purple plumes anticipated for so long and gone in days. And now the sky is beginning to show its color for the day, a glare of bright grey.

Why has the thought of pencil boxes, an archaic reference to the past, come to mind? Maybe it's the distinctive smell of anticipation like opening a new book or getting a box of brand new crayons, tips pristine, paper in tact, or new shoes when we're kids and we know we can run faster and jump farther and higher now. Or the smell of my first car, the smell of freedom and possibility. Spring is all satisfying anticipation. Each spring day I thank the tulip tree I pass on my morning walk for coming out again, for giving me so much hope and encouragement to bloom myself.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you. Amen

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Freedom of Silence

"When you become aware of silence, immediately there is that state of inner still alertness. You are present. You have stepped out of thousands of years of collective human conditioning. " Eckhart Tolle, Silence Speaks

This weekend I spent two days in virtual silence. The silence I'm talking about is the silence of internal dialogue, dialogue that saps my joy of creation as it nitpicks and natters mindlessly for its own purposes. This weekend I painted and constructed a book and bookmarks and participated in Skype conferences with my seven year old granddaughter about a book she's writing that I'm illustrating, in total freedom from myself. Only now do I realize why I slept so peacefully last night. I had escaped my boundaries.

As I write about that silence now, and only in retrospect do I recognize it for what it was, I observe it has abandoned me or rather I have abandoned it. Just now comments about getting it right, not getting it right, rewriting, retyping and a loss of confidence in my ability to find out what I think are in charge. I'm no longer involved in the joy of writing and thinking. I'm concerned about exposing myself.

How great to understand all this before breakfast. My inner critic reports to me that all this is quite banal, and I respond, "to you it might be, but to me it is simply amazing." I refuse to get into a conversation with myself about who is who or whom is whom.

Baruch ata adonai...I am so grateful to have spent the past two days in monklike silence. Now I know I can create peacefully and joyfully without continual critical references drawn from the past and no longer true in the present. Thank you. Amen

creating painted paper, using it to make a book, and illustrating a book my grandchildren are writing.