Sunday, August 9, 2020

Moving while Staying in Place

I’m the first to admit, these past five months created many new challenges, difficulties, sorrows and fears. As an artist, I saw my opportunities fall like bricks one by one and the bricks keep falling. As a mother, I worried for my sons, daughter and grandchildren’s health and safety. As a friend, I lost connections when I needed them most. 

There were many times, I felt my heart and soul cringe at the hard shell building around my city and country. Seeing violence and fear shatter so many lives, I found myself building a shell around myself, too. 

Creating from inside helped me out. 

With more inventory than opportunities, my head said it was time to stop making. Stop throwing. Stop building. Stop painting. But my heart cried out louder saying making, throwing, building and painting is your only hope right now. 

Creating is your only move toward light, even if everything you create has to stay home. 

It became a very slow process. I had no normal routine. I didn’t set a schedule and there was no deadline to meet. But I threw small bowls. I built new teapots and painted new birds. 

Moving closer. 

I know I’m lucky in many, many ways. I am healthy. My spouse and children and grandchildren are all fine. Even as they struggle to juggle home, work and babies. They are finding their way in this crazy covid world. 

And they are moving closer to home. This month, after 6 years away, I welcomed my daughter, son-in-law and grand-baby back to Oregon. And my son also moved closer to us. 

Now on Mondays, we have Meyer and Cieran and Colin and Caitlin and Kyle to see. Now we  get to walk with them to the park. Watch them swing. Slide down the slide. All at the same park where my now grown ‘children’ used to play. 

Learning a new pace in the same place. 

This difficult time forced me to break the shell of routine. Work away worry. Discover moving slowly is my new pace. And welcome my family home while staying in place. 

How about you? Is it possible to stand aside from the pain and fear, just a little? To look beyond these five months and see some light, movement, possibilities and maybe, some good?

Sunday, July 26, 2020

A lesson in listening

Lots of words swirl around us all right now: scary headlines, angry quotes, rude social media comments and insults. It’s hitting all of us from all sides and while some of these words definitely need to be said, my question is are they being heard? Are the right people listening? 

I read a wonderful piece by Martha Beck on listening. And how the overwhelming amount of information right now can drive you to turn off, listen less when what’s needed is to listen more. Her idea of listening is something more than just using your ears. 

4 Levels of Listening. 

Martha Beck breaks down the seemingly simple act of listening into 4 levels that involve your whole

Level One is ear listening. You hear something, perhaps scary, and you leap into survival mode.  Conflicts jump to the surface instead of cooperation and compassion. 

Level Two is body listening. The scary words cause a reaction in your body. Noticing it, breathing into it, you can help your body stay calm. This helps you notice the truth of the situation and understand your feelings and the feelings of others. 


Level Three is heart listening. Once the body relaxes, discernment happens and you can use your heart to lean in or out of the situation. According to Beck, “check to see whether your heart wants to move forward or to back off. When you’re being lied to, you may feel an inexplicable desire to move away, even to literally run. When someone is telling the truth, even though the words may be hard to hear, you’ll feel a softening and opening in your chest, a desire to hear and understand more.”

Level Four is soul listening. Beck describes this type of listening as, “a  bolt of love flows through me and toward everyone around me. It’s two aspects of one consciousness connecting, hearing our shared experience in separate bodies.” And with this type of listening a connection is made. Even if you don’t agree with the words or person, soul listening allows you to see their confusion or pain. You don’t have to change your mind in the midst of fear or prejudice, you can listen with less fear, more awareness and compassion. 

In Martha’s words, “When I listen with my ears, body, and heart, my soul is available to hear the wise voices of millions who refuse to give in to fear and bitterness. Their aim is to create a world that is safe, just and happy for all of us.”

Now these are words, I need to not just hear but listen to and act on. 

With my whole body, heart and soul. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Making Space

I’ve spent a lot of time during Covid cleaning. I do clean my home once a week but closets and cupboards and book shelves do gather dust. Somehow during this Covid time, I’ve found myself going from all ‘go’ to full ‘stop. Over and over. 

In March, I was determined to keep to my work schedule. Clay days. Painting days. Firing days. Errands, home and cleaning days. I look back and see it was my way of coping during a very scary time. I thought if I ran fast enough, maybe I’d out run it all. 

My way of working out. 

While every other social media post showed new ways to work out ‘at home’. I did my usual: walking the dog, yoga and throwing. But I added more to my workout schedule. 

I wiped down all my oak cabinets, doors and drawers with Murphy’s Oil soap. I treated my 12 pieces of leather furniture with conditioners. I dusted shelves and scrubbed drawers. This weekend I’ve dusted and reorganized two closets, cleared out 10 drawers, one desk and a window seat full of, yes, more drawers. 

Turning my worry into work is nothing new to me. I’ve done it all my life. I don’t do it all the time but during a time like this, I find it’s a helpful, healthful coping mechanism. It’s a work out that helps in body, mind and, yes, soul. 

Feeling refreshed and ready. 

Life is a force for change. Whether we like it at the time or not, life moves us on. Moving for me seems to always involve some cleaning and clearing. Whether it’s just to settle my energy or let go of the past to move into the future, it’s a workout that works for me. 

I’m making space in my body, mind, life and home for something new. And new things are coming. Some I know for sure and others I don’t. Either way, I feel refreshed and ready. 

And my closets are really clean. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Happiness is Darby on my Feet

Every morning I wake up to a sweet, furry face looking up from the side of my bed. Even before I know I’m awake, he knows. Yet, he waits patiently for me to give him the signal for cuddles. Then he jumps up, leans in and gets a big hug. And I laugh. 

It wasn’t always this way. Two years ago, I had lost my sweet 13 year old doggy and I was beyond sad. I was lost. Everything I did from walking to reading to throwing clay was always done with her by my side. And she was gone. 

My dear husband shared my grief and insisted we both go to “Fun Day” at our local Guide Dog Campus. I loved seeing all the beautiful, happy, healthy dogs and their dedicated trainers. But with my grief so fresh, it was hard too. I wanted a hug from each and every one of them. I talked to the Guide Dog Career Changer Coordinators for a long time. I left sad but hopeful. 

Luckily, four months later I got the call about a black lab Guide Dog pup who needed a new career. 

Bouncy Boy. 

I’m so grateful for this sweet, ‘tiggerish’ boy. He bounces up every morning to greet me and my husband. He’s learned to wait at the top of the stairs for Michael to go down before he charges down and out into the yard. He’s a food gobbler, yogurt bowl licker and blueberry picker. 

He loves to run after the ball. He just doesn’t want to bring it back. His game is keep away and he loves to play it. Anytime. Anywhere. 

He has learned a lot in the last year or so here. He now takes his treats gently, greets a little slower (and without bumping into me) and looks but does not leap at other dogs. He also knows how to walk beside me off leash outside the house and ‘go home’.

Home is where my Darby is.      

Especially right now with all the fear and separation and loneliness, I know I’m not alone. Whether I’m throwing clay outside or painting inside, Darby is right there. 

Upstairs or down. Inside or out. He follows me from room to room all day long. If he can’t reach me because I forgot and closed the bathroom door, he whines to remind me. 

Just like Tigger in the Pooh books, he is happy, bouncy, playful and sweet. Even though he’s 70 pounds, he thinks he’s just a cuddly, playful lap dog. He snuggles next to me and when he can’t he watches over me. 

Wherever I go, he goes. 

Even if it’s on top of my feet. 

And I couldn’t be happier. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Hello, it’s me July.

Really? It’s July? I’m just shaking my head in confusion here because the last time I looked up or out it was March. Oh, right. Covid. How could I forget? How could anyone? I don’t want to start a rant about that, there’s enough of that on social media. 

I wish to focus on blue skies and sunshine and hope and love. I wish to picture my new bowls, teacups and teapots cheering someone’s day. I wish to see my new, little birds fly off and perch in the land of smiling people. 

Act Kind. 

My word of the year, act, found it’s way into my work. A series of new bowls bring messages I hope to act on more. It’s been way too easy to be fearful and angry and sad lately. While I understand the importance of all that is going on around me, I see my soul was reaching for the message. The meaning. The learning. 

All I could do was work. Put my hands in my clay. Trim my cups. Paint. And let the words and symbols appear. 

Act True. 

Act Bold.  

Spirals, hearts and wings. 

Spirals are ancient, cross-cultural symbols. The circle moving in and out and around represents the changes, unfolding in the journey of life. I’ve always been drawn to it, perhaps due to my Celtic heritage, it makes me feel both comforted and challenged. 

Hearts, of course, represent love but also ‘the heart’. Mine. Yours. And the ‘heart’ of the matter. I see it as a perfect symbol right now. I see how leading from the heart and getting to the heart of what matters are key in unfolding outward and reaching beyond our situation. 

My first bird didn’t have wings. Yet, now they all do. Heart-shaped and word-stamped wings. Hmm. More messages. 


This seems an odd message right now, don’t you think? Getting out and about is full of new rules, social distancing and face masks. Going on a trip, especially in a plane, is even more risky. Although some places are opening up, hours are limited and sales are slow. 

I worried. I wondered perched in my safe studio. Should I try to sell online? If so, how? I decided to re-open my Etsy shop last week. I took my own photos featuring my functional tea and whiskey cups only. Just 5 pieces. But it’s a start. 

A friend heard about my teacups and asked if I was going to make a teapot. I’ve never made one because I don’t like throwing lids. Then I saw ‘my kind of teapot’. And now I’ve made 2 teapots, I call ‘Me’ and ‘Mini-me’. 

Yes, months have flown by. And I must admit, my wings have felt very heavy in June. My usual speed slowed and it didn’t feel like I was going anywhere at all. 

But now I see, I did fly to some new and wonderful places all without leaving the nest. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Everyday Dads

I grew up in a family of boys. As the only girl, I was the odd ‘man’ out always trying to be tough and at the same time hoping to be seen in the crowd. 

It was my Dad, not my Mom, who always had my back. It was my Dad who reached out when I was overwhelmed. He drilled me in math. He gave me his books to read. When I wondered ‘why’ about anything from the Bible to history or science, he answered my questions truthfully. And counseled me to keep the knowledge to myself around the nuns who taught by sending me to the coat closet for asking too many questions. 

I loved him and thank him for everything he did for me. Yet, he was a traditional man of his time. He traveled a lot. He did not help around the house. He was not an ‘everyday’ Dad. 

A new kind of Dad. 

I married a man who is the best kind of Dad I could imagine for my children. He’s been all in from the moment they were born. He diapered, rocked, bathed, fed, played and loved our children. He built them play sets. He read them books. He took them to work with him. 

Now my children have their own children. And my son has diapered, rocked and fed his daughter. Today on Father’s Day, he made her a delicious egg and potato breakfast. He got her dressed, took her shopping and played with her. 


This is my son-in-law’s first Father’s Day. His son is not yet a year old and yet, he has also been there from the moment that baby was born. And he’s diapered, fed, and rocked his son. Today, he set out his ‘Dad’s’ day dinner for his wife and himself while their son napped. 

Everyday Dads. 

My Dad was there for me and he was a good Dad for his day. 

But my children had a Dad who was there for them everyday. And he still is. 

Now, because my children had an everyday Dad, they are there for their children everyday, too. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Process doesn’t always mean progress

Life is a process. Up. Down. Back and forth. Life moves in its own waves whether I like it or not. Whether I want it or not. And I have to be reminded again and again, there are stronger forces that surround me. Some keep me afloat and some push me over. 

It’s hard for me to see when it’s time to let go and trust.

“Two steps forward. One step back.”

This is a quote called ‘the dance of life’ that I saw many years ago and I’ve found it to be true many times. It’s helped me see that progress isn’t a straight line, that set backs don’t have to be an ending. It’s just all part of the process. 

In the last few weeks, I’ve just focused on the process of living. Walking. Baking. Wedging clay. Getting enough sleep. With so much happening in the world and my mind and heart, I had to keep it simple. 

Power walking and baking. 

I like to walk fast and luckily for me, my Darby loves it too. Around we go day after day, counting the baby geese and stopping to sniff along the way. Even on a rainy day, Darby always makes my day brighter. 

This week’s baking challenge was a baguette. I wanted to use the sourdough, rosemary from the garden and parmesan for the flavors in two crispy, long, thin loaves. Perfect for a glass of wine and some cheese, or avocado. 

Mud makes everything better. 

Coming back to clay: rolling it, throwing it, painting it. It just helps me in so many ways. This week, I threw more teacups. Not because I sold any of the others(yet) but because they are a new challenge. Teacups are really created in the trimming stage. I used to hate trimming and now, for some reason, I love it. 

Why? I’m not exactly sure. But making the delicate little pedestal for the cup is a new challenge. Trying something new is both scary and exciting. Maybe just what I need right now. 

Focusing on the process. Seeing every single step whether it’s walking, kneading or trimming as a way forward through these difficult days. Whether or not I see any progress in the moment or hour or day isn’t necessary. 

It’s taking the steps that count.