Friday, May 18, 2018

Listening.


The world hums along all day, all night. But do I really hear it? 

Of course I hear many things around me everyday. We all do. I hear the news on TV or music on Pandora or the latest episode of Netflix. I hear my neighbors hammering, the gardeners mowing, car honking and planes flying overhead. 

What I also hear is the sound of my own thoughts, not silence. Oh, it might be silent around me but what I’m listening to is that critical voice inside my head talking and talking and talking. 

I want to stop hearing and start listening. 

I tried it this morning before I got out of bed, I laid there and listened. Somewhere a dog barked. A bird chirped. Tiny squirrel feet scuttled overhead. There was a buzz somewhere in the room which I’d never heard before and no it was not a bee or a fly. It’s the speaker for the TV which seems to make a high pitched noise even when the TV is not on.  I found out, I can turn it off, when I did, something inside me breathed a sigh of relief.

So many things inside and outside I may hear, but clearly I don’t listen. I don’t take the time to stop and just take it all in. And maybe, that’s ok. Because there’s so much noise in and around us all the time, taking every noise in would be overwhelming. But on the other hand, maybe it’s a matter of choice. 

Tuning out to tune in. 

Obviously, there are things I need to tune out. My TV sound bar is one. The drug commercials on TV. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, shrub trimmers are not fun sounds but neither is my non-stop mind chatter. It’s time to work on tuning out that voice, too. 

Maybe the best way to tune it out is to tune in. Let the world in by listening. Even though I hear many things all day long, they don’t connect me to the world. Not the living, breathing, organism that is our world.

The chirps. Crinkles. Scuttles. A whoosh of the breeze. Sound is a language all it’s own and this beautiful world is speaking to me and you all the time. 

Now I need to do more than just hear it, I need to be really listening.   


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Creating and Rebirth.


It’s spring. The world is ‘mudlucious’ and robins sing. 

The lilacs bloom. 

Peonies bud.  

Ferns wake up reaching for the sky. 


Twig by twig a robin builds a nest on my patio. 

I roam around the lawn sniffing and trimming and clipping flowers. And wondering. 

What will this year bring?

It’s been lonely lately without my Jilly. I miss her trotting beside me up, down and around. She loved to smell the rosemary this time of year. I loved to smell the lilacs. She would have kept watch over the robin, quietly so as to not make the mother nervous. As I sit here and wait for her to accept my presence nearby, I feel a breeze of hope. 

Just like lilac blooms wither where new branches sprout and the crab apple blossoms scatter across the grass making room for fruit to grow, loss is part of life. Death and rebirth dance together in intricate steps through time. 

Creating is a process of making and letting go. 

Last week, I showed and sold my work. This part of the creative process is wonderful and hard work and just as mysterious as beginning a new piece. You never know which pieces will reach out to people and find new homes. Sometimes old work sells and new pieces sit patiently by. 

I am always amazed how art making happens. Like the lilac blooms that took me by surprise, I see new work is sprouting in my studio. Of course, I know I made it all. But when I’m in the making process, I only see the one piece in front of me. I put it on the shelf and create another. 

I don’t see the shelves filling up and it always takes me by surprise. Just like spring bursting from the depths of winter, grass growing from muddy patches, robins sitting in a nest on my patio, creating a rebirth when you weren’t looking. 



Sunday, April 29, 2018

Showing my Work is Work.


For the last 5 days, I’ve been working to get ready to show my work. This is much like a marathon. It requires months of preparation, hours working out at the wheel, strength training in the area of packing, hauling and set up and pacing yourself as you near the finish line. 

As a studio artist, I work alone and I like it. I spend my days at the wheel throwing, rolling slabs of clay, painting on underglaze colors, glazing and loading and unloading the kiln. I experiment with different clays and ideas. Lately, I’ve been finding new characters popping up on my shelves. 

While there is a definite presence in my studio, there are no people present. And the loudest sounds I hear are singers on Pandora. 

Don’t get me wrong: I love the challenge, exercise and connections.

But moving my work to the areas largest convention center, surrounded by hundreds of other artists, thousands of art lovers and musicians playing live music.   

Packing up my work is the easy part, even though this year I broke a vase trying to fit into one of my plastic bins. Then the work has to be loaded into the car, driven to the site, unloaded and set up. But before I can unload, I help haul, unpack and set up the group booth where I will eventually show my own work. I zip tie shelf units, haul shelves, unfold boxes, unpack LED lights and hope they work. 

By afternoon of the first day, I get to set up my shelves and display my work. That’s the fun part and where I learn and get help from my fellow artists. It’s so much easier for me to see display opportunities with other people’s work than my own. 

Thank goodness, I’m not alone. 

Working together to surmount the obstacles setting up the large group booth helps us work together setting up our own small spaces. I help one person and two others help me. If I’m not there and a piece of mine sells, another artist restocks my shelf. I do the same for them. 

Saturday, sick with a cold, with two work shifts back to back, I was beyond hungry. I was at that dazed stage when another artist came up to chat, seeing where I was at, he went to his booth and got me two cheese sticks I could eat right then and there. 

Working by myself, I am alone. Showing my work, I am not.

There are so many fun, happy, silly and crazy moments in this kind of huge show. Seeing new work from my artist friends. Sharing silly stories. Hearing an entire shelf of work crashing down. People mistaking me for another artist(even though our work is totally different) loving my ‘new work’. And, of course, finding wonderful new homes for my pieces. 

Making my work is a labor of love. Selling my work is a lot like labor and delivery. But as with any birth, the struggle is always forgotten in the end. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hey Siri, Cortana and Alexa, it’s Time to Stop Fighting.


For years now there’s been an ongoing fight in tech-land. Like bullies on the schoolyard, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and Google have all been pushing and shoving to be top dog. As a consumer, I’ve used software and apps from all these companies. I’ve had Android phones and an iPhone. I’ve had an iPad.  I have a Microsoft laptop and I use google to search the web and publish my blog. 

I don’t use Adobe anymore, why? Because they removed my photoshop program from my laptop(which I purchased) during an ‘update’ and now want me to purchase the same stuff by subscription. My answer: NO.

I don’t care whose tech is best. All I care about is how well it works for me.  

I want to be able to use my iPad to publish my blog. But the google blog app doesn’t work with my new iPad. Google decided NOT to update it leaving thousands of bloggers out in the cold. Why? Because it turns out, they are developing a complete ‘suite’ of new products that includes blogging. Right now, they are selling it to corporations. Yup, leaving their original, base customers, blogspot bloggers out of the loop.  

There are hundreds of google bloggers who, like me, can’t use the app anymore, can’t post text or pictures, can’t get into their blogs and can’t get any help from google. No matter how many times you ‘google’ it. 

The latest crop of Apples have a lot of bumps, too. 

My new iPad is faster but I can’t use my blogger app. Now with my new iPad, my co-editor can’t open our newsletter draft in either pdf or pages formats because her iPad is older. I can’t text my daughter from my new iPad now because she has a google phone. And my Microsoft laptop can’t open iPad documents unless I convert each and every one from iPad’s pages to Microsoft’s word program. 

If I’d known getting my new Apple would upset so many other tech ‘carts’ I wouldn’t have done it.

Seriously, this is an easy problem to solve. Work together. 

I understand Apple, Microsoft, Google and Adobe are all competing for the same customers. So what? So are most companies on this planet. It’s not who’s better and faster and shinier that matters. Meeting the consumers needs that should matter to these companies.  

And knowing that almost everyone on this planet has multiple devices, in multiple formats, using many brand name products, these companies should be looking for ways to make using their products easier for people. Not harder. 

Here’s the deal, and really guys and gals, get real: top dog is no match for friendly dogs who play together nicely.

Hey, Google, Siri, Cortana and Alexa, find cooperation. 





Thursday, April 12, 2018

Mondays with Meyer: Answering A Big Life Question - Why?

Meyer wants to slide down the slide. She wants to paint and color. Squish play dough. Cook in her own kitchen. Read books and go for a walk. But lately, what she wants to know: why. 

“Let’s put on your coat now,” I say. 
Meyer asks, “Why?”
“Because it’s cold outside,” I say. 
Meyer asks, “Why?”
“Because it’s winter,” I say. 
Meyer asks, “Why?”
At this point, I point out that without a coat, she’ll be very uncomfortable and I want her to be warm and cozy. It’s then, the coat gets put on. 

When we get to the park, Meyer wants to slide right away. But she can’t.
“I want to slide,” Meyer says
“The slide is too wet,” I say. 
Meyer asks, “Why?”
“Because it rained last night,” I say. 
Meyer asks, “Why?”
“Because the rain got it all wet, so I have to dry it off before you can slide on it” I say. 
Meyer asks, “Why?”
I show her the towel I brought and as I dry off the slide, I explain that now she can slide on the slide without getting wet.  

This is another reason why I love two-year olds. They don’t take no for an answer and if they do, they want a really good reason. They want to know ‘why’, not because they want to be difficult. They want to know why so they can learn and understand the world around them. They want to be safe and healthy and secure. 

Why as adults don’t we ask that question more?
Think for a minute about what’s going on in our country, right now. Our politicians are being bought off by corporate interests. Our president is being investigated on fraud, conspiracy and corruption. Our country and corporations are only interested in the bottom line and lining their pockets leaving our children without equal education, health benefits and retirement security. Our children are being shot in their schoolrooms because there are no gun control laws. 

Why? Why? Why? And, oh my god, Why?

We’re told politicians are allowed to accept campaign donations from large corporations. Why?

We’re told our president knows nothing about these payments or meetings. Why?

We’re told our country and corporations have no budget for healthcare or education. Why?

We’re told gun control laws would defile our second amendment rights. WHY?

All over the world, small and large countries provide their people with healthcare, education through college. 

Why? 

Because  these politicians understand that people who are healthy work harder, live longer and keep their country healthy and thriving as well. And corporations pay their fair share of taxes that help to fund the present and future of their country and their own work force. 

In Japan, they have strict gun control laws. Any citizen who wants a gun can have one. There is a process to follow: gun education, gun safety training, gun background checks, gun registration and mandatory annual gun safety and license checks. 

If countries like England, Germany, France, Australia, China, Canada, Japan and more can provide healthcare, education, gun safety, anti-corruption laws, why can’t we?
Maybe we all need to learn a lesson from our two year olds. Don’t just accept life around us without asking the biggest question of life: why?


  

Monday, April 2, 2018

Goodbye Studio Buddy, Zen Master and Friend.



It was a shock. Total and complete shock. Everything had been going just fine and then, we woke up Friday morning, but my sweet, silly Jilly did not. 

The day before was just a normal everyday day. We got up. She went out, ate her breakfast and begged for my toast (and got it, of course). We went for a lovely walk around the lake in the sunshine. We came home, she got her vitamin, her treats, and slept while I ran errands. She went out, got more treats, snoozed while I worked in the studio. Oh, she grumbled a little because I was late doing her 3:00 out and treat. But that’s normal for Jilly because she liked to keep me on schedule (hers not mine). She had dinner and settled on her bed while I went to yoga. It was warm in our room for her and she woke us up to go out, then settled on her bed downstairs where it was cooler. 

She died in her sleep sometime during the night. Peaceful. On her favorite bed with her chewy bone beside her. I just wish, I’d been there too. But I didn’t know. Maybe she wanted it that way. 


Jilly beat the odds. 
If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know quite a bit about my life with Jilly. If not, here’s a little  bit about her and there’s more on the sidebar. 

She was a Guide Dog Career Changer. Meaning, she did not fit their mold. I’m not surprised at all because Jilly never fit anyone’s mold. She was stubborn and smart. She had a mind of her own and got what she wanted most of the time. She had training issues and it took quite a while for Jilly and I to get past her problems and find our way to working together with trust and love.  But we did. And she was also beautiful, sweet, loving, friendly, patient and fun-loving. 

Three years ago, vets gave Jilly 3 months to live. The diagnosis was cancer and the best treatment was major surgery and chemo. We opted not to put her through an ordeal of suffering for 3 extra months. Jilly proved us right by living happy and healthy for 3 more years.  
Jilly taught me to be.  

Jilly was patient and kind but she also demanded her needs be met. I need to learn that, too. 
Especially as a female in our society, too often needs go by the wayside to accommodate others. Jilly taught me that kindness and patience doesn’t mean forgetting your own needs.  

We walked everyday. As she stopped to sniff around, I also stopped and took the time to look around my world in that moment. See the otters diving. Watch the heron fly. Notice the day the bare limbs showed the smallest of buds. Jilly taught me that exercise can be relaxing and uplifting for body, mind and soul. 
Jilly was always there in good times and bad. She took it all in with quiet acceptance. Her presence kept me in the present whether I was at the wheel throwing, making dinner, or on the computer. No matter what kind of day I had, she was there to hear about it and sit by my side.  

Jilly was my friend. 
I know she wouldn’t want to see me so sad. I know just what she’d do about it, too. She’d amble over and lie down on my feet. If I needed a hug, she was always there day or night. If I got up, she’d follow.

I still can’t believe it. I still look up or over expecting to see her on her bed. I still feel her behind me as I walk up the stairs. But now, my wonderful dog and friend moves on without me. And I can’t follow.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Social Media Phobia.


I started my social media journey about 10 years ago with Facebook. I looked at it as a natural marketing tool for my art. Little did I know, I was a natural marketing tool for Facebook. 

I posted about my gallery shows. I posted about my open studios. But little by little, I posted more about my life. A picture with an artist friend was posted to my wall. My daughter snapped a pic of my husband and I at a restaurant. Then it was Christmases, birthdays, graduations, Mother's Days, Father's Days, walks in the park, vacations and baby pictures. Slowly, the pictures and posts on my wall became an open window anyone in the world can look into at any time.  

I signed up and signed on and forgot about it. 

My social media network started with Facebook and grew to include almost 12 sites. Once I signed up for Facebook, I got on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Etsy, Blogspot, Google Plus, and more. A few years ago, I was so shocked by the creeping growth of my social media networks. (See Social Media on the sidebar for more.)I resolved to cut my social media ties to only those sites I felt worked for me. And I had to admit, what started out as a professional decision had indeed become personal.  

The 'social' in media had become part of my life and I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I 'like' Facebook's platform. It's easy. It's fun. And I get to see what other artists, friends and family are doing. As I log in almost daily, I see beautiful art, photos, friendly faces, inspiring words, honest opinions and funny stories. 

But like many others, I didn't realize just how personal it is.   

I didn't know I was being 'followed' by dozens of people from foreign countries. I didn't know that apps were taking my personal data and using it to market their products. I didn't know that every 'like' button I pushed gave out even more of my personal data which was used to determine my voting preferences, which in turn, undermined our country's election process. 

In the last few days as the scandal about misused personal data emerged, I've gone through my Facebook account. I've deleted all of the apps that have been using my info. I've deleted groups I never joined or liked. I've deleted or hidden my personal birthdate, etc. I never put any phone number or address on any social network, and now, I never will. 

But I will still be on social media. 

All of my family and many of my friends are on Facebook, so yes, I'll still share and like. I happen to like Instagram for the pictures and ability to show my art to more people. Although I lost interest in Pinterest for a while, I now treat it like an online catalog where I can scroll through things I'm interested in. I have a website to show my art work. And I love blogging, so yes, blogspot will stay.

I'm an artist and writer, so new ideas are my life's work. Technology, social media, cell phones are all very new ideas in our world. And new ideas, like social media are going to bring up new problems and fears but new ideas are also a necessary part of innovation and growth.  
It's taken me a while to learn how to use them and now it's time for me to learn how to not let them use me.