Saturday, June 24, 2017

Creating Sanity.


There is a whirlpool trying, and sometimes succeeding, in pulling me down, down down. I resist. I persist. But sometimes, the force feels too strong. I look for a savior, grasp for a life raft and I finally find it in mud.

It seems odd, really, that clay is my sanity.

While I prepare to throw by filling the tub of hot water and carrying it out to the garage, my mind chatters away about the dirt of the day. The political presidential poop, the scandals, the greed, the incredible wrongs done to all of us. The personal fears that arise. The family stress that I can't solve and the problems I think I can. It leaks from all those little corners of the mind and threatens to overwhelm. 

Slam. Turn. Slam again. 

Wedging clay is a completely physical task. If you've never done it, let me tell you it can be violent and wonderful and totally therapeutic. I cut off my clay from a big 25 pound sack of porcelain. After it's cut into 2.5 and 5 pound chunks, I wedge it. Well at least, that's the technical term. What I really do? I slam it onto a canvas covered board from a height of at least 2 feet. It hits the board and I pick it up, turn it and slam it again. I slam it over and over and over and over until it's compressed into a block about 1/4 the size of the original slab I cut off. 

Turn up the music. Now it's time to throw.

Once my clay is wedged, slammed and ready to roll. I get on my wheel to throw. I always have music playing when I'm working. It's essential to my process and I choose different types of music for different studio days. Under glazing days flow to the tunes from mellow rock to Broadway. Throwing days need instrumental either classical or new age but it's the rhythms that create the oasis I need to be centered enough to center the clay on the wheel. 

Centering is key to everything. 

If the clay is off center, the mug, bowl, vase wobbles and tilts and eventually falls apart. Throwing a bowl, vase, mug all requires balance, a stable center, an axis with no tilt. So, for me, music provides a beat to follow, a breathe of balance, uplifting notes to help me rise above the push and pull around me and find that stable core within. 

I need to connect with my core but also the core in the earth. The grounding that keeps us all from spinning out of our orbits. Even when the earth tilts on its axis, the core remains grounded, stable to keep it all together. I need that too. 

Mud saves me. Every time. 

When I'm at the wheel and I'm throwing, nothing else exists. My hands go around the gooey gob and press inward and upward and down. Again and again. I repeat the process until at last, I feel it. The clay is centered. I exhale a sigh. And begin to form whatever shape the clay will take. I'd like to say I control that process or, any of the process, but I don't. The clay leads me and if I'm willing to be saved that day, I make a really good bowl, vase or mug. If I fight for control or dominance or some need for profit, I create a cold, wet blob of dirt.

What saves you?

In this turbulent sea of political and personal and physical change in my world; my clay, my wheel, my hands covered up to the elbow in soft, gooey porcelain saves me. But it could be something quite different for you and you don't even have to know for sure. 

You just have to do something. Crochet or knit. Bake or barbecue. Plant a tree, flower or zucchini. Splash some paint around a canvas, paper or your bedroom walls. Go for a swim. Do yoga. Listen or play music. Run. Walk. Dance.

Save yourself. Save the world. Create sanity.  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Meet my Partner in Parenting.


It's Father's Day. The day when we honor our fathers. And while I had a good father whom I loved - my children have had a great one. 

I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful parenting partner. 

And really, that's what having children is all about: two people choosing to love, nurture, support and bring a baby into the world to become an independent adult. Of course, before there is adulthood, there are diapers, feedings, burping, and crying. Lots and lots of crying. And very little sleep. 

As a mom, I carried and gave birth to our two babies. But after that, my husband, Michael, did as much as I did. He burped and held and rocked and diapered. He washed and folded laundry and cooked. He read books, danced to Sesame Street, played with Legos and dolls. He dried eyes, wiped mouths and cuddled. He drove to soccer practices, teacher meetings, music performances, college graduations and weddings.  

When he made dinner, I cleaned up. When I did bath duty, he got them into pj's to read a book. When the house needed cleaning, he did the floors and I did the counters. When they were sick, he got the mop while I changed their clothes. When they moved out, I helped them pack and he moved the boxes.  

Many, many times, my partner in parenting saved the day. And night. And everything in between. 

And, frankly, we both wouldn't have it any other way. Because coming from families that weren't always able to be there for us, we knew we wanted more. We both see that parenting is a lifelong commitment of the heart. From that baby's first breath, you are linked to each other for life. Parenting is not for the frivolous or faint at heart. Parenting requires strength, dedication and endurance because it's a marathon with, hopefully, no finish line. 

Our children are grown now and we are still parenting. And that's more than fine with both of us. 

I honor my husband today on Father's Day because Michael isn't just a great father. He's a great partner. And I appreciate him and all he does not just today, but everyday. Because he deserves it. 





Saturday, June 10, 2017

Slow Down You Move Too Fast.


A few weeks ago, I saw a video of Steven Colbert and Paul Simon playing the "59th Street Bridge Song" on the Steven Colbert Show. Paul Simon commented that he hated this song, now, he felt it was just too naive. I see his point and even though we've all heard it millions of times, it remains a tune with a true message.  

You got to make the morning last. 

In this world full of fast food, cars, Internet lifestyles, slowing down seems like a dream of a by gone time. But does it have to be? Is it wrong to take time to sit and sip your coffee? Enjoy your breakfast? Savor the light shining through the window?

I'll confess, I've had to slow down in the past month due to a leg injury. I'll admit I'm not the best patient in the world, because patience is not something I have for myself. And because of that lack of patience, I've taken an injury that could have been mended in 2 weeks and increased it to over 4 weeks. All because I wanted to move too fast. 

Hello lamppost, what cha knowing? I've come to watch your flowers growing. 

Walking through my neighborhood park has always been a big part of my life. Whether I was jogging after my kids on their bikes, power walking my dog or now, pushing my granddaughter in the playground swing, I've made that 2 mile circuit almost everyday of the year, rain, snow or shine.

Now, step by very slow step, I can make it there again.  I can't make it all the way around the lake, yet, but I can go through the woods, down the sidewalks, over one bridge and half way up the hill home. Sometimes I hate how slow I have to go, but slowing down has made me see more of the life around me. 

Yes, like the flowers growing. This year, with all the rain we've had here, there are more flowers out and blooming. The peonies, rhododendrons, and Rose of Sharon's are bursting out all over. There's this tree with white bell-like flowers that smells like jasmine. And a plant with a star-shaped purple flower I just love. I have no idea what they are and I've never noticed them before, either. 

Usually, the park overflows with goslings. But this year, due to overzealous park people who robbed the eggs from the goose nests, there were no goslings and even the geese left the park. But this week, a few brave geese were back with a few new goslings. 

Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.

Yes, this lyric is past its prime. No one says, 'groovy' anymore than 'totally'. But the idea of looking for fun and feeling good is still important, maybe even more important now.  With our ever increasing need for speed comes overload. And a question: what are we running toward?  Do we really want our days, nights, weekends and years to go faster? Do we really want our lives to go quicker?

I don't. And although I look forward to getting my strength and stamina in my leg, back, I want to remember that moving too fast isn't a good life goal. I'd rather be looking for fun. 

Life, I love you. 

How about you?

Friday, June 2, 2017

As The Wheel Turns: Centered.

So many things in the world seem so off kilter lately and I find myself thrown off balance. Our country seems to be reeling like a ship in a hurricane, we are lost in a sea of scandals, greed, corruption, racism and sexism. 

I'm afraid for our safety and our sanity. 

And I know I'm not alone. I can feel the fear everywhere. I live in Portland, Oregon, which has been known for an artistic vibe, casual atmosphere, green trees and rain. Unfortunately, now, because of one person's hatefulness, we are known as the place where women are threatened on trains and men who defend them are murdered. 

When you have a president who spews hateful, racist words, pushes himself to the head of the line of diplomats and uses our country's resources to further his own greed, these kind of things are going to happen.

I am off center in more ways than one.

I feel all this in my body, mind and soul. I've been more tired, lately. My mind spins with the news and the possible consequences. My body has, quite literally, been thrown off balance, too. My left knee was injured so badly, I had to stay off of it for most of a week. Now I can walk again, slowly, but every step requires careful attention and balance.

I see that I've taken balance for granted. I've assumed that my body, mind, home, state, country are on an even keel moving along in a balanced way. Taking that for granted, I see now, is a big mistake.

All of life is a balancing act.

My balance lately comes from my clay. Throwing on my wheel this week showed me just how important it is for me to be centered. If I lean a little too far to the right or left, my clay wobbles. Pulling it up into a form that is strong, only works if the clay is centered. And for the clay to be centered, I have to be centered. 

I have to be where the clay is: in front of me, on the wheel spinning. I have to center my body in the chair. My feet have to be level. My breath, yes even my breath, needs to come in an even, easy, centered way. 

Throwing keeps me centered in my body, mind and, yes, soul.  

My studio work does too. When I'm painting or designing or sculpting or even putting on handles, my focus is right there on each piece. If my mind wanders, so does my paint brush, my fingernails, and my pressure on handle attachments. And, let's face it, who wants a wonky mug handle? Not me!

So, I guess I have my answer to all the curves the world is throwing my way: Center and throw.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Creating Balance.


When I picture the word, balance, I see two things: a balance beam and a see saw. 

I see the balance beam as the obvious path to a balanced life, right? Get up on the straight and narrow beam and put one foot in front of the other until you get to the end. It appeals to the part of me that likes plans, organization and to-do-list making. I've tried for years to master the balance beam but sometimes, I can only manage a few small steps before I fall off. Even if I do stay on top of it for a while, somehow life throws me a curve and off I go. 

Sometimes that curve is my own making like when I line up too many things and the beam gets so overcrowded, I can't move. Or other times, I move along through my lovely, organized routine only to slip and fall, literally. When I broke my wrist, twisted my ankle and pulled my quads, hamstrings and calf muscles, I quite literally could not balance myself at all. I was forced off the beam into a situation of full stop. 

See the see saw go up and down. 

If I'm really honest with myself, I have to admit that my life is really a see saw. Days, months and years go up and down. I work, finish projects, do shows, sell work, then it slows down. I'm walking and weight lifting and then, like a few weeks ago, I get an injury.  There I am in the downward part of the ride. 

I'm bummed. I see failure. I see loss. What I don't always see is the swing is a necessary part of balance. Picture a see saw permanently stuck in the middle. Both parties or ends are equal distance from the ground. That sounds like perfect balance, right? The perfect goal? Or perfectly boring, static, a life without momentum.

Life is all about movement. 

Days follow into months, years, decades. Babies grow into toddlers, tweens, teens and adults. Trees and flowers bud, leaf, bloom and lose it all only to start again. I hate to admit it but even pain brings an acute awareness of what I didn't see. I saw my imperfections, my drawbacks, my failures then, but what I see now is my ability, my strength and my successes. Even if success today is climbing the stairs or making it around the block and back. 

As a grown up, life looks like one big balancing act which I've tried to organize, prioritize and control for years. Maybe I need to get off the straight and narrow beam. Instead of looking back at what I saw, look right in front of me now and see. The movement down is as important to balance as going up. 

As a child, I loved the see saw. I relished the ride down just as much as ride up. I squealed with delight as I rose and when I came down, I pushed off the ground with excitement every time.  

Creating balance is, maybe, as easy as that: Delighting in the ups and pushing off from the ground with just as much excitement.






Saturday, May 20, 2017

Happy to be a Mom.


Did you know that Mother's Day was created by an everyday mom in West Virginia in 1908.  She got congress to set aside an official day to honor mothers across the country in 1914. What she didn't want was the commercialization of her idea. In fact, when the greeting card, flower, candy companies started to market the holiday, she protested. 

I agree with her.

To me, Mother's Day is a time to be with my kids. It's not about flowers or cards or gifts. It could be a barbecue on the patio. A pint at the local pub. Having my son stop by and take my car to the car wash. Or having my daughter's breakfast strata together. 

Together. Is the key word here.
Because my 'kids' are all grown up now, finding time to fit into their busy world gets difficult. Especially when they don't live close by. I'm lucky my son is so close and I get to take care of his sweet daughter every week.  But my daughter has lived far away from me for several years, now. I'm lucky we text and chat, but I miss her. 

This Mother's Day, I sat in a church in Monrovia, California and listened to my daughter sing in the choir. I don't go to church anymore, I was there because my child was there. I went to hear her and spend time with her.

We went to Disneyland and California Adventure with her husband for the day. We screamed through Thunder Mountain Railroad, Grizzley River Ride, Star Tours and Pirates of the Caribbean. 

We walked around her neighborhood under bright purple trees and along the Long Beach Boardwalk. We watched old tv shows, ate, drank coffee, talked and sometimes, just sat there together. And that, to me, is the true essence of Mother's Day. 
I didn't become a mother to be honored, given flowers or presents.
    
Many years ago, I chose to be a mom. Yes, I had a career.  Yes, it was the height of the feminist movement. Yes, I was going to go back to work as was expected of me, but I chose differently. Instead of finding childcare, I decided to leave the advertising world and enter the world of being my own child's childcare provider. I was snubbed and chastised and told my choice was wrong for me, for women, for feminism. I did it anyway. 

I followed my heart and I'm so glad I did. 

And I brought two amazing, talented, intelligent and loving people into the world. I'm so happy to be their mother every day. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mondays with Meyer: A Different Kind of Knowing.


Every Monday, I get to spend the day taking care of my sweet 20 month old granddaughter. It is a delight. It's also an amazing, inspiring learning experience watching the ever evolving developmental process of a human being. 

Toddlers get a bad rap.

Our society sees toddlers as early teenagers and equate their tantrums to adolescent rebellion. While the comparison on the surface looks similar, the truth below is much, much different. Toddlers are learning language and not having the words to communicate to us what they see, feel and need creates frustration. This frustration along with a body that can't do everything we can, leads at times, to complete meltdowns.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.  And I'm not talking about talking, entirely.

Watching my granddaughter and my dog showed me that the biggest problem we have with toddlers are words. We talk to them and while they understand most of what we say, it's not enough for them. Why? (And the answer is not because they have a limited vocabulary.) The answer is we do.

Here are just a few examples. Meyer needed a diaper change, but I didn't know it. However, my dog, Jilly, knew and when Meyer didn't tell me, Jilly did.  How? She looked at me, then Meyer, then me, put her nose in the air towards Meyer. When I didn't get it, Jilly used a soft growl to get my attention. She was right and by the way, she always is right. 
Several times, I've watched Meyer tell me, Jilly needed to go outside. Jilly made no sound to alert me, but Meyer just knew. And Jilly knew that Meyer knew and Meyer knew that Jilly knew. 

Meyer also always knows when mom or dad are on their way to pick her up. Again, I did not know or receive a call or text. Jilly also knows when my husband is leaving the office and she's right every time, too.  

Knowing is built into us from birth.  Unfortunately we are taught to forget. 

We are born connected to this planet in hundreds of ways. We all know what we need. We can feel the pulse of the people around us well before we can crawl.

We also know who is a friend and who is a foe. Stranger Danger doesn't need to be taught because every being comes into this world equipped to know this. It is a basic survival tool. When our children reach toddlerhood, they are able to communicate who they trust and who they don't. When Meyer started to say, no to being held or picked up or kissed by anyone, it's a good thing. It's her next step in survival development. 

My job, say yes to no. 

By letting her choose how, when, who and what touches her, I am empowering her. I am giving her permission to take control of her own body, to trust herself to make choices for herself. This is what will keep her safe from all sorts of unsafe situations in her life. It may be awkward and socially embarrassing when she says no to a friend or relative who wants to hold her or kiss her or have her sit it their laps. But even as her Gram, she gets to choose to be held or kissed.  

I support her choices. I encourage her inner knowing. We all have this and I truly believe it's always in our best interests to listen.  

Gut instinct. Having a 'feeling' about something both good or bad. Trust it. 

It's your inner knowing talking to you.