Saturday, January 13, 2018

Bumping into the New Year.


I'd love to say my New Year is going smoothly. I'm contentedly working in the studio, churning out innovative, new work full of energy and enthusiasm. Sorry. I'm really bad at lying. 

Bumpity. Bumpity. Bump. 

I feel a little like Pooh bear going down the stairs with Christopher Robin. I'm seeing the world from a little sideways view, or perhaps upside down, and each step is definitely bumpy. I had a cold for a few weeks followed by the flu, so my aches and pains were real. And many days, I feel like Pooh, a little 11'o clockish.

I wish I had Christopher Robin around to bring me a balloon to grab onto and sail away into the bright, blue sky. I could wonder at the puffy, white clouds. Chat about honey pots and bees. And find myself a cozy spot to sit in the sun and pass the tea and honey, please.  

Pooh or Rabbit? 

I'm probably more like Rabbit than Pooh, actually. I'm usually bustling about, planning, making lists, throwing, trimming, painting and doing. Pooh is the essence of non-doing. That wonderful Zen idea of doing without pushing sounds so wonderful. I've always thought that was a great way to live life. Be mindful. Be in the moment. Be Pooh. 

When I'm sick, I can't help but not do. I'm in the moment because my body totally runs the show. When I'm hungry, I eat whatever it wants. If that's Nutella on toast for dinner or chicken soup for breakfast, that's what I eat. If it says rest, I rest. If it says, stare out the window, I stare. 

Not doing gets boring but maybe that's a good thing.

Rabbit, the go-getter of the group, never stops doing. But he also never, ever seems to be done. His tasks, lists, chores go on and on and on. It's exhausting and he's always frazzled and crabby. 

Pooh on the other hand, sits a lot eating honey under a tree. But when he does need more honey, he gets up and finds it. He doesn't plan or make a list or pack a bag or organize everyone around him. He looks up and down and around right where he is sitting. He figures it out, finds the honey then sits down and enjoys it.

I can see that sitting and staring outside on a window seat or under a tree can be a very good thing. 

No, I didn't get anything done in the studio in the last 4 weeks. But nothing bad happened. I sat and stared at the clouds, found some funny faces staring back at me from the tree branches outside my window and saw a rainbow pop up out of the dark, rainy sky.     

My work sat patiently, like Pooh under the honey tree, and waited for me. 

Even if the beginning of the year was a bit bumpy, I think I like being a little less like Rabbit and a lot more like Pooh. 

(Illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard)

Friday, January 5, 2018

2018 Word of the Year: Understanding.


This past year, the world just seems crazy. Charlottesville. Barcelona. North Korea.  People killing people and threatening to bomb the planet. I hear words of hate and anger and fear. I see my country being led by a small, spoiled, stupid person who has no love for anyone except himself. In spite of it all, last year, I tried to hope. This year, I'm trying to understand. 

I did not grow up understanding race or racists. 

I was brought up Catholic and my friend next door used to tell me how bad it was to be Catholic. I didn't understand how the church I went to on Sunday had anything to do with that. I felt sad. All I wanted was a friend. 

I didn't understand why bullets were flying through my Gram's front window and my Dad's hotel was surrounded by tanks in Detroit during the 1960's riots. I felt fear. All I wanted was for them to be safe. 

In college, I didn't understand why my new roommate couldn't be seen with me, because her friends were black and I wasn't. I felt embarrassed.  All I wanted was someone to talk to in class. 

I was the only girl in a family of boys, so I do get what it's like to be on the outside looking in.

So, I try to understand. 

This is what I do. What I've always done when faced with a situation, event or life change that's horrible, upsetting and crazy. I dig in and try to figure it out. I ask myself how did it happen and most importantly, why.

I read as many articles from as many sources as I can find. I ask questions. I read some more. I look back into my own personal experience and see what I can understand from it. I read some more. I seek out wise sources with a variety of viewpoints.

I try to see this old landscape of fear and hate with new eyes. 

My grandparents were immigrants from Ireland. They immigrated through Canada in the early 20th century. At the time, the United States had such an immigration boom they were not allowing any more people in who were Catholic, Jewish or African. Irish were called 'micks', Jews 'kikes' and, unfortunately we all still know what blacks were called.  According to a history professor, this huge immigration influx caused southern white Americans to band together forming many of the hate groups we are seeing again today. Confederate statues were erected to 'honor' their heroes. 

I didn't know or understand that since the turn of the 21st century, our country has seen record immigration again. This time the people coming in were Hispanic, Asian and Muslim. Once again, fear and hate raised its ugly head, the hate groups are banding together again and Americans are being beaten and killed.
Understanding does not mean accepting.
 
I may understand the facts and history but I still don't understand the 'why'. Maybe it's silly and naive but I don't accept why anyone has to be left out. Why one color, culture or religion is better than another or none at all. Why shooting each other leads to a better life for anyone. Why we can't all treat each other with respect regardless of our outside differences. 

I live in a place that honors freedom but no one is free to kill. I have rights and so do you, but no one has the right to violence of any kind. We are all here because we want a place where we can be free to live, love and be safe regardless of color, religion or gender. 

I understand fear, anger and hate. But I do not accept it. 

Because, you see, I understand that on the inside we are all created the same.

We all need to understand, that here in America, we all get to create the life we feel is right for us. We have laws protecting our freedoms of speech, religion and lifestyles. You get to choose. I get to choose. And we can all work, live and love together. 

Let's ring in a New Year with a new word to live by: Understanding. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Word of the Year: Goodbye Hope.


Every year, I pick a word of the year. Last year, the word was hope. With the shocking election results and the Russian election tampering, I decided to pick myself up out of the dumps and hope. I wanted so desperately for something to go right: for Hillary to wind up in the Oval Office where she rightly belonged; for elected officials to work together for our health, wealth and wellbeing; for people to embrace change. 

Unfortunately, my hopes were completely dashed. 

Unless you've been hiding under a rock(and I must say some days, it is tempting), you know what's been happening and how far off the road we are as a country. So, I don't want to go down the road counting blessings that turned into curses. 

I not only want to but I desperately need to move on. Find another word to help me and, hopefully you in this new year. I need a word to not just light my path through this difficult and dark time in our country but be a beacon. Like a lighthouse alone on a craggy shore, I need a word to warm my heart and help me, and perhaps you, find my way home. Back to a country where kindness and understanding and good intentions work to create a country that's even bigger and better than we've ever seen. 

What will be my word for 2018? I don't know yet.   

But I do know, I just want it to end. And since the year is ending, it's seems fitting to wave goodbye to hope. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Let it Shine.


There are many reasons we celebrate during this dark time of year. But the biggest and most basic human reason we celebrate is hope for our survival. It's hard to think there was a time when people did not know the longer dark days would slowly get shorter, that the light would return and sun would warm them again.

We all need light not just to survive, but thrive. 
 
Because they didn't know the light would return, they came up with rituals to the sun. I've always loved the references in religious literature to the 'son' rising from the dead, knowing that ancient tribal cultures started most of the 'sun' traditions we still celebrate today. 

European traditions include Yule logs, bonfires and feasting to celebrate the return of the sun in Roman, Germanic and Druid cultures. China celebrates with the Dongzhi Festival while the Talmud celebrates Tekfah Tevet. Many of today's Christian traditions were once pagan rituals which were re-designed by the Roman Emperor Constantine in an effort to unite the tribal people. But the common thread is light. 
Bringing the light back.

During the last year, I felt the light dimming all around me. The demonstrations, corruption, corporate greed has run amok, polluting our lives with lies and casting the shadows of fear and doubt. Like many, I feel run down, sad and mad. 

So it's even more important than ever to believe, to celebrate and to know the light not only will come back, but that it's always there. From the electrons in our bodies to the warmth of our distant sun, light is all around us.

Let's turn it on.  

Whether we choose to believe in the 'son' or the 'sun', we can all agree light is essential to our body and soul. Light candles. Share a cup of tea. Sit with a friend new or old. Encircle a tree with twinkling lights. Put a star in your window or a menorah on your table. Do a sun salutation. 

It doesn't matter to me which tradition you choose as long as you turn on the light. Because when you and I turn on the light for ourselves, we lighten the world around us. And this year, more than ever, we need it. 

So let's shine it now for everyone to see. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Thoughts as this Year is Ending.


On guns:
What was once a necessary survival tool has become an unnecessary threat to everyone's survival. Military weapons do not belong in civilian hands. If we let this happen, what's next? Every neighborhood having their own nuclear bomb? We don't allow armed tanks to drive around neighborhood streets, so we shouldn't allow military weapons either. Strict gun regulations need to include not just tough background checks but mandated gun training and licensing. If we can do that for driver's licenses, we definitely should be doing this for guns. 

On net neutrality: 
What are we talking about here? Free and available internet access for everyone. It's that simple. But corporate internet companies want to make it complicated for a simple reason, what we don't understand, we won't fight for. Let's re-brand this immediately because the label was created to confuse the public. We need free, accessible Internet as much as we need lights.

On sexual misconduct: 
Let's just stop it. Now. Abusers need to be convicted. Period. But let's also acknowledge that there are abusers on both sides of the fence. Using power for sex and sex for power is wrong no matter what spin you want to put on it. And, there are also levels of misconduct here, so let's not make the mistake of painting everyone with the same wide brush or pointing at one gender over another. 

On greed and corruption:
Our country is overflowing with problems stemming from corporate greed. That greed has infected our government on all three levels; executive, legislative and judicial. We've forgotten how hard generations before us worked for a free and equal nation. We've forgotten how the stock market crash and the depression brought about the many regulations to insure free trade, communication and social services to help everyone. That's how our nation has not just survived but thrived. It's time to remember and fight for our rights once again. 

On perspective:
Especially this time of year, let's look up at the sky. See the stars and the moon. Breathe. 
And remember we all share not just this planet, but this country, state, city and neighborhood. Every choice we make can help us all to be healthier, happier and safer. 

I'd like to end with this quote from Carl Sagan:

"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

Let us look out from our tiny dot in that sunbeam.

Yes, we are all different colors, shapes and sizes. We all come from different places. We all have our own stories. And it is these differences that strengthen us. Let your story shine a light for all of us to see, so that we can all move forward. 


Sunday, December 10, 2017

'Tis the Season.


I don't know about you but this time of year, my long, lost child peeks out from under the bits of gray hair and giggles. "It's time! It's time! It's finally time for sparkle and twinkle and tinkling bells." Oh, my!

I do love decorating for the holidays. 

My first job is sweeping the usual items off the tables, bookcases and shelves. It gives me a clean slate to create vibrant vignettes. I don't move everything. I decide each year which places around the house will change. I want to bring color and sparkle, not cluttered chaos. So somethings and places change dramatically and others are just tweaked a bit. 

In the nook off the kitchen, I always take out my Spode Christmas china. I started collecting these pieces in high school. I love the 30's tree design with Santa on top and presents below because it brings back childhood memories of wonder and delight. 

In years past, I've created a Santa shelf in the bookcase over the desk, but this year, I decided to do it differently. It used to be a place to showcase all the holiday theme books we read to our children but as they grew up, it became more of a memorial to Christmas past. This year, we have a wonderful, sweet 2-year old granddaughter who loves books. So the non-breakable Santas and books are all at her level to be enjoyed once again.

The Christmas tree is a little lighter this year, too. All the ornaments that 'Santa' delivered to my children's stockings are now hanging on their trees. I added ribbons to fill in and create a new flow to our new 'Mom and Dad' Christmas Tree. 

I always re-decorate my coffee table as seasons change. But again, this year is a total change from our adult decor to one that honors not just my granddaughter, but my children's childhood. For years, we gave Brio Trains to our two children. For birthdays and Christmas, new parts, tracks, cars, trees, trucks appeared to add to our Brio Town. This year, we got the box out of the attic, dusted it off after 20 years and set it up for everyone's Christmas enjoyment. Who knew it would bring out the child in 3 generations. 

Creativity for me is always about heart and home. 

In fact, truth be told, I love decorating. You can call it home decor, fixing things up, moving furniture or interior design, I don't care. I still love it. And I've been doing it as long as I can remember. As a child and teenager, I moved my room around many times, painting and repainting furniture, making side tables out of boxes and creating frames from cloth and paint. I've made window coverings from bed sheets and valances from tablecloths. I've stenciled basketball players on my son's walls and leaping gold figures in my bathroom. 

I now create and make functional and sculptural work for the home. Bringing nature and color into my home and yours is a passion for me. So adding my work to my own family traditions just feels like the right way to celebrate any season. 

So here's my wish to you this holiday: Celebrate. Sparkle, twinkle and shine with hope and health. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

No Apologies.


Back in my 20's, I vividly remember another female coworker bumped into her chair and said, "I'm sorry." I also vividly remember being appalled because she just apologized to HER CHAIR! It was just so ridiculous to me, really think about it, the chair has no feelings so why in the world would she apologize to it?

Unfortunately, many decades later, I understand. 

As a red-hot, young feminist, I saw her behavior as a flaming example of what not to do. But after years on this planet as a woman, I have to admit, I've done it too. Ok, maybe not to a chair. But I've said those words to plants, dogs, cats, spiders, and strangers everywhere. 

Just this week, I caught myself apologizing for: trying to get down a crowded grocery store aisle, needing help to reach items on a high shelf, a dirty window, silver glitter on a store conveyor belt, getting a parking space in a crowded lot. In NONE of these situations did I do anything to 'wrong' anyone else. I was even told by a cashier that the conveyor belt was already littered with glitter from OTHER customers. 

In other words, I had no need to apologize at all. 

Here's something I'm asking myself now: What would a guy say? What could I say instead? Or better yet, do I need to say anything at all? Really, how many times do you or I really do anything that needs an apology. 

If I've decided to do or not do something that is in my own best interests for my health, wealth or well-being, I do not need to be sorry. Just because someone else wants me to choose otherwise, I do not need to apologize. I need to remember making a choice that is good for me, is my right as a human being on this planet. Even when it comes to simple things like getting a jar of peanut butter in a crowded grocery store aisle. 

Guilt free, new words. 

Here are a few phrases I'm going to start saying instead of, "I'm sorry."

"Hi, there. I need to get the peanut butter."
"Oh, look at all that glitter."
"Look out, coming through!" Or better yet, just navigate around the crowd. 
"Oh, look. A great parking space!"
"Oh, it was a miscommunication."
"Hi, I have a question." or "I'm looking for ______. Do you know where it is?"
And most of all, "I can't make it." Or "I can't do it." Or "I'm all booked up."
Or, "No."

I know, the 'n' word is scary especially for women as we are not trained to say it so boldly or simply. But, let me be bold, and say it's time to stop saying sorry. Say No. No apologies necessary.