Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One word...

As my faithful (cherished) readers know, each year for the past seven, I have chosen a single word as a form of new year resolution. It is a practice that I read about on another blog, and I love doing it. I have often said that my word chooses me, through weird coincidences, and this year is no different. 

My word for 2014 was LOVE. (From 2008 to present: Health. Wealth. Believe. Authentic. Power. Discipline. Love.)

I started a new job in January, in the middle of a snowstorm, taking the city bus (for the first and last time) and no word less reflected how I was feeling than love. I hated the job, the commute, and the parking (none), for starters. I hated myself. I went from a place where I knew everything to knowing nothing. I hated my boyfriend -- not really, but he had recently retired, and I would wallow in self-pity every time I thought of him at home while I trudged through snow and ice from my distant parking garage into work. I felt like the life I had loved was stolen from me, and replaced with a poor imitation. And then I felt bad for feeling bad, because I knew that I was incredibly fortunate. So it took most of 2014 for me to feel the love– but as usual, my word has seen me through. I can even say that I love my job now, most days.

So this year’s word has been on my mind because of a particular quality that I want to change:

I am a quitter. It’s true. When the going gets tough, or hell, not even tough, just slightly annoying, I quit. It’s usually at the point where I have mastered the basics and might actually have to work hard and fail a few times before I get to the next level. Or, because it becomes easy, it gets boring. And I have noticed that when I listen to successful people that I admire talk about their lives, (I am often referring to artists here), their talents, as great as they may be, are probably secondary to their PERSISTENCE when it comes to how they achieved great success.

And then, as though she had crawled into my brain, this post by writer Elizabeth Gilbert just landed in my Facebook feed after I had written that paragraph…

Somebody asked me the other day if writing was easy for me…I hesitated with my answer…I have never wanted my work to be easy; I just want it to be interesting (for me)…

Meditation teacher Pema Chodron once said that the biggest problem she sees with people’s meditation practice is that they quit just when things start to get interesting. Which is to say, they quit as soon as things aren’t easy anymore. As soon as it gets painful or boring or agitating. So they miss the good part – the part when you push past the difficulty into some raw and new and unexplored universe within yourself.

And maybe it’s like that with every single important aspect of our lives. Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking – be careful not to quit too soon. Don’t quit the moment it stops being easy, OK? Because that moment? If you stay in it and then stubbornly push past your fear and resistance? That is the moment where interesting begins. 

So there it is. 

PERSISTENCE.  (def: Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Fresh eyes

Yesterday, a friend who had never seen my house stopped over for just a few minutes, to pick something up, so I gave her the two-cent tour.

She ooh’d and aaah’d, and said that my house was great, and that it looked just like me – a comment that just about everyone who sees my house says. I hope they mean that my house looks bright and fun and creative, which I’d like to think I am, rather than like it was decorated by a wino, which would also be pretty much true.

And it was just what I needed to hear. Ever since I embraced living alone, six years ago, I have taken on a room each year as a project – fresh paint, new d├ęcor, etc. – except for this past year. So I was in a sort of house funk.

After losing my job and having to pinch pennies this past year, I put all improvements on hold. And once I began to regain my financial footing, my house conspired against me, with unexpected plumbing and electrical repairs and failed appliances that needed replacement.

So even though my home is filled with bright colors and artful pieces that make me truly happy, my focus had been on all the improvements I didn’t get to make this year, rather than on all of the things I’ve done for the past 6 years that already make my home cute and comfy.

And just like that, I am inspired to start working on the last two rooms -- my bedroom and my art/sitting room – so that I have something to look forward to over what I fear is going to be a long, cold winter.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


In 50 days, I will turn fifty. Millions (billions?) have done it before me, but I will only do it once, and it is a HUGE number for me. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, fifty screams with absolute certainty that I am no longer young. 

Overall, I have enjoyed aging, and I have had more fun in my 40s than any other decade, so it is not about youth per se, because that is so obviously wasted on the young. It is about running out of time.

It is about not wanting to squander a single moment of this life that goes by in the blink of an eye. I think about what I will leave behind, besides a whole lot of unfinished projects, unused art supplies and wine corks.

I have no children – so how will I be remembered – or will I, at all – and for how long? And why is it important to me, because I know that it is.

I want my life to have meant something. I want to leave behind something of worth and beauty – a story, a work of art – something.

So, at almost 50, I am in a mad dash to figure out what that is, and to do it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Beware of simpler times...

The BF and I visited the Schenectady Museum the other day. It’s a very small museum, housed in the historic Stockade section of the city, in an old two-story home, built in the 1800s. As you might expect, the museum’s exhibits focus primarily on items and events of historical significance to Schenectady, New York and the surrounding areas.

The BF was a history major in college, and he has a particular appreciation for New York State history. Among other things, we were there to see a new exhibit that highlighted the creation of the Erie Canal and the railroads, and their impact on the growth and development of the State.

I am more interested in the personal and social aspects of history, and while the canal and railways certainly impacted the social mores of the day, I found another exhibit at the museum much more fascinating…

The medical exhibit.

All I can say is, be grateful you live in 2014. Medicine and dentistry has come a very long way since the 1800s. This is a photo I took of the exhibit. The room is assembled to look like an exam room may have looked back then. In addition to a speculum on the exam table that looks as though it could give the doctor a clear view of your tonsils through your vagina, and a hammer (to test reflexes?) that could knock a prize fighter out cold, notice the rifle on the fireplace mantle in the background.

Based on some of the instruments I saw, along with the long list of deadly viruses that wiped out entire families during that era (cholera, Spanish fever, tuberculosis), the rifle may have been one of your better options as a patient.

Of course, as an artist and irrational lover of all things paper, my favorite item in the exhibit was this old prescription ledger. While I did my best to try to read some of the scripts, one thing hasn’t changed in centuries – it is still impossible to read the doctors’ handwriting.

And here  is my "altered" book of potions...

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Digital collage fun...

My heart keeps beating out a rhythm that seems to be asking me, over and over... What next? What now? What? What? 

Monday, June 30, 2014

NEED to make art...

It has now become an uncontrollable urge, as though I cannot think straight or do my work until I make one (and only time prevents me from doing this all day). It literally clears my head to make these digital magazine collages -- or DMCs, as I am now calling them.

On the practical side of my world, it seems that the lesson I am meant to learn this year is to let go (a little) of my need for order. I do not crave perfection, but I love visual order. I love to see the little bit of world that I imagine is within my control (i.e. my house and my garden) neatly groomed -- from folded laundry to a neatly mowed lawn, and perky well-watered flowers. But this year, time, nature and freakin' LIFE has conspired against me.

A summer flu, a broken lawnmower, and weekend family celebrations have forced me to accept the inevitable - grass gets high, thirsty flowers droop, laundry piles up, and dust settles on hardwood floors, accentuated by the long-awaited summer sunshine through the blinds.

I cannot keep up this year. And I am okay with it. Now. Mostly. I prefer when things are in order. But my DMCs allow me to exercise some control over a tiny party of this uncontrollable world.

DMC - collage therapy...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

More collage therapy...

Just kicking up my vision board a notch... Same image, some new splashes of color, etc. (maybe it's just me, but I find this process addictive - in a very good way).


I am off to Boston to visit my sister, pull on my cowgirl boots, and enjoy the Zac Brown concert at Fenway.

My sister also has a sizable magazine stash, so there may be some spontaneous collage therapy in the works as well. (I am sure she won't even notice if a few Newsweek's and O (prah) magazines are missing!!

I can't believe it is the last weekend of June already. Summer is flying by. I am savoring every minute. I hope you do the same!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Digital vision board collage...

So you want to be an artist. Then make art.

It really is that simple.

It’s not enough to envision the life of your dreams. You have to act on that vision. Even if the act is as simple as a few brush strokes on paper, you are, in the moment you pick up the brush, an artist. You have acted. The dream is already a reality. Are you good? Who is the judge? It is more important that you begin. And that you pick up that brush. Again and again. Day after day. Ask any artist who is living their dream how they did it. They will tell you they failed, dozens of times. They were terrible before they were good. They ignored their critics. Or they learned from them. But the one thing they never did was quit.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Collage Therapy

WARNING: Flaky artist story below. Read with caution.

A few days ago, I was silently lamenting my “word for the year” choice. I chose a biggie. Maybe THE biggie -- certainly one of them – LOVE. I was thinking that for the first time since I began this practice of a one-word new year intention (six or seven years ago), I had perhaps not chosen the best word to fulfill my goals for this year. I thought perhaps the word was too big, too vague, too needy.

Around the same time, I had this irresistible urge to make a magazine collage -- to cut words and phrases and images out of magazines, and see what emerged. I should also mention that I was at work when this urge came over me, so I was extremely limited with time (my lunch break), and materials (three issues of Real Simple, a couple of decorating magazines, and no adhesive of any kind.)

My original plan was to arrange my collage, and then bring in a glue stick or some gel medium to finish it up the following day. I found a scrap of cardboard as a base, and began flipping through my old magazines for whatever caught my eye. With no plan for color, composition or message, I just cut out whatever appealed to me. Once I had an assortment of pieces, I began to lay them onto my cardboard, rearranging them just a bit, until I liked what I saw.

As I went to set it aside (to glue down on another day), I decided to take a quick photo of it, just in case I knocked it over. I liked the photo a lot, and it already looked like it was permanent -- and then it dawned on me -- I could now remove all of the pieces, and do a totally different collage on another day Or I could import the image into Photoshop, and enhance my collage digitally. Or I could do both, over and over again! I could not wait to get started.

The process is very different than when you commit to finalizing a piece with gel medium or glue. It is so freeing and fun to remove all fear of making a wrong choice. -- You don’t like how that looks? Move it. Take that piece off. Add those words. There. Take a picture. Add some digital magic in Photoshop. Then start again!

The most amazing part happened the following day. It is difficult to put into words how I felt, but I had somehow worked out my “LOVE” issues through this process. My word was working for me again. I had clarity about what I needed and wanted, and what was missing. Some of it was certainly the process. Making art is a very effective form of meditation. Creating, in the present moment, quiets the mind. In this case, I also felt that the piece itself was telling me something. All of those random words and images were not so random as they spoke to me:

There is only love. And what you do with it.*

*I wish to credit the Crew at Storypeople.comfor my closing, which I found in my email this morning, not at all by coincidence.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

When you have your health…

I am one of those incredibly fortunate people who rarely gets sick, so I forget how utterly miserable it is to be ill. I have been reminded now for the past ten days straight. Okay, I get it now. It sucks.

Now that I am better, I have been reflecting on the time I spent moping from couch to bed and back again, and this is what I have learned:

1. Sickness is a great form of meditation, maybe the best. Nothing keeps you in the moment like your own misery. Ouch, my head, my throat, my achy bones. Wow, I am really living in the moment.

2.  Sickness puts your priorities in order. I have learned that I do absolutely nothing on a daily basis that cannot wait another day…or ten.

3. Max disagrees with number 2. No matter how sick you are, your dog still needs to be walked and fed. But that really is the only thing that could not wait.

4. I have a huge threshold for pain. Other people’s.

5. From what I see in the media, you can acquire a lethal firearm, or marijuana or narcotics with relative ease, but if you go to the doctor for an antibiotic, you had better have green mucus flying out of your ass, or you will not get a prescription.

6. If you happen to get a prescription for, oh, let’s say, cough syrup with codeine in it, and it makes you sick, do not throw it away. Remember how hard it was to get that antibiotic? You may not be able to take that codeine, but controlled substances make great stocking stuffers for your relatives (or maybe just my relatives.)

So, even though my lawn has grown out of control, and I’ve used up most of the sick days I’ve accrued in my new job, it was all worth it for the insights that I gained. I think this was a real character builder for me.

In good health ---

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Dancing in the Moonlight

If you could go back in time to a single day, or maybe just pick a few favorites to revisit, what days come to mind? As I remember some of my favorites, I think of summer. Always summer. The days I remember have in common their ordinariness. My ordinary summer days were perfect in their simplicity and in a feeling of contentment that comes over me when I think back on them.

When I hear certain “oldies” on the radio, -- early seventies songs like American Pie, Sunshine, and Dancing in the Moonlight -- I am transported back to lazy summer Saturdays when I was seven or eight years old. Grammy Mac, my mom’s mom, had a house at the top of a hill on an old country road in Palenville, NY, in the foothills of the Catskills.

Grammy and Grandpa had move up from the City -- as in New York City, which was the only City we knew. In the summertime, their City friends, mainly the O’Roarke family, would come up to visit. In addition, the summer bungalows around her house would fill with other City people, who came up to Palenville for the peace and beauty of the Catskills in summer. The bungalow neighbors had a hammock that hung between two giant pine trees. At seven or eight years old, it took me half a summer to learn to sit in it without toppling out on my head.

I remember feeling entirely free when I hung out at Grammy’s. I would disappear for what seemed like hours to go hiking through the woods to pick blueberries. I would return covered in scratches and bug bites, with a tiny bowl of sweet little wild blueberries, feeling so self-satisfied.

Grammy’s house was filled with noise and activity when the O’Roarke’s were in town, but what I remember most was the music. Ellen O’Roarke played guitar, and the highlight of those summer nights was out on the porch, singing folk songs, and listening to the laughter of my family and their good friends. We’d sing all of those 70s songs, along with churchy tunes like, Michael, row the boat ashore.  I still regret that I never learned to play guitar. And music still has the power to transport me back to 1971, like it was yesterday.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Girl-ifesto.

You can call it a mission or vision statement, a business plan, a mantra for life...  but I like Girl-ifesto. I think it sounds feisty. Yet girly. Like me. And maybe at least a little bit like you too, if you’ve found your way here.

Speak your mind.

Tell your story.

Sing out loud.

Own your quirks.

Laugh at yourself.

Laugh, period.

Cry, too.



Be curious.

Be furious.

Have fun.

 Break the rules.

Make things.

Break things.
Go places.




Sunday, May 04, 2014

feeling accomplished

For me, it really doesn't take much. I love it when I actually complete all (or most) of the things on my to do list. For the adrenaline junkie, this kind of weekend would rank a giant zero, but for a compulsive list maker (and checker-off-er) it was just what I needed.

I don't always love the rain, but in this case, it was a gift. It eliminated the dilemma of choosing between inside and outside chores. My lawn already desperately needs mowing, but... oh well. It's too wet. So I tackled my spring cleaning. There is nothing exciting about putting up window screens, washing comforters, and cleaning out closets, but there is, for me, a feeling of satisfaction when these totally un-sexy but necessary chores get done.

And I had time leftover to do all of the prep for my cousin's wedding invitations. As usual. when I agreed to make these, I had months, and now I have weeks. Maybe two. But on the plus side, I am not the bride!! :o)

Friday, May 02, 2014

The enduring human spirit

“Although the world is full of suffering, 
it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
– Helen Keller

…this quote appeared in my Facebook feed, like a gift to me, shortly after I had finished this paragraph, which I never published:
I am seriously considering shutting down my Facebook page. I am starting to lose faith in humanity. I can’t handle all of the bad news. It is getting more and more difficult for me to maintain a hopeful and optimistic attitude while exposed to abused children and starving animals, most of whom suffer at the hands of miserable humans. I have always believed that the good outweighs the bad, and that the power of positive thinking can overcome adversity, but the constant barrage of horrible images and news that inundate my Facebook feed is destroying my optimistic nature.
One of the really good things about getting older, and yes, I believe there are a few, is that we generally know ourselves. We know what we need to thrive, what pisses us off -- hell, yeah, we know that -- what motivates us, and what brings us down.

So, I know my capacity for bad news, and I can take measures to insure that I don't overdose on it. We can’t, and shouldn’t, block out absolutely every bit of bad news. It helps to be informed about the bad stuff, so that we can help others, protect ourselves, and make choices in our lives to influence positive change, to name a few.

The bad news also serves as a reminder to most of us of how good we really have it. I, for one, have certainly found that even on my worst days, I don’t have to look far to find someone who has it worse than me, and that usually slaps the self pity right out of me.

So when I find myself sinking too low, when the bad news threatens to crush my spirit, it’s just time to take a break, unplug, and remind myself that there is also incredible beauty, and good news, and love in this world, and I don’t have to look very far to find it.