Friday, February 24, 2017

Life Lesson: Live Like Jilly.

Jilly starts each morning with kisses. She kisses me. Then she goes over and kisses my husband. After kisses, she flops down on her cushy bed awaiting her daily belly rubs. After belly rubs, it's breakfast time(hers and some of mine), followed by a walk in the park. 

Ignorance is her bliss. 

Two years ago, she didn't feel her usual tail wagging self. After three vet visits and some very expensive tests, they concluded she had 3 months to live. They wanted to do a risky surgery and start her on chemo to give her, perhaps, 6 months. We decided to let her live her life the way she wanted to live it for as long as she could. We didn't tell her she was going to die and she didn't. Yup. She was 9 years old then, she's 11 going on 12 now.

Living the ruff life.

Jilly, my sweetness and light, wakes each morning wagging her tail in delight for another day. She wakes looking forward to breakfast, a walk, treat, nap, more treats, running around the backyard, dinner, pets, Kong playtime(with treats), another nap, belly rubs and bedtime. She barks happily when her people get home. 

We were worried a few months back because our happy-go-lucky lab, Jilly was groaning. A lot. She groaned from her bed in the afternoon. She groaned when we were upstairs with her and when we weren't. She groaned when the baby came over. Fearful, I went into overdrive watching her every movement for any sign of illness or, yes, death approaching. I was afraid to ask her to sit, stay or follow me anywhere, so I left her peacefully alone.

Another life lesson from Jilly: we all need to be needed. 

While I tip toed around, leaving Jilly quietly alone, she groaned louder. And louder. And louder. Until one day, I finally got it. Jilly was trained originally to be a guide dog and that training had a strict daily routine with commands for action. Walk. Sit. Follow me. Down. Stay. And guide dogs are always with their trainers or masters. They are rarely left alone.

I wasn't asking Jilly to do anything, so she felt unneeded. I started treating her like a guide dog and she stopped groaning. She is now happily following me around the house, upstairs and down. She is doing her job, staying near me, throughout the day. 

It was my fear of losing her that made her feel lost. She has no fears. She didn't know a doctor thought she was dying. She doesn't worry about tomorrow.  Jilly only wants to live her life doing all the things that make her happy with the people she loves. Walk in the park. Nap. Eat treats. Play.  

I always thought of myself as Jilly's teacher but now I know better. Jilly is here to teach me some very important life lessons: live each and every moment with no fear. And more treats.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kind heart. Kind words. Kind thoughts.

How often do I think these thoughts? Less than I'd like. I get caught up in my 'to do' lists, which seem so important before and so mundane after it all gets done. Then, of course, there's the Internet full of trumped up illusions of truth, anger and now, shame. The characters on our national stage right now keep my head spinning and maybe that's their game; to keep us all muddled and embarrassed while they move around the board acquiring their own winnings. 

It's way too easy to get caught up in comparison. Them. Us. You. Me. 

I do it all the time and I used to berate myself for it or shove it away. But no matter how hard I tried to pack comparison into a box, it always popped out again. It made me mad at myself until this national freak show I was watching showed me the danger of hate, lies and negative thinking.

It's time to unpack the box with a kind heart. 

As I looked at each and every comparison, I discovered the truth. Each comparison thought wasn't a rock in my path, but a stepping stone. It was a place or an idea or a technique or way of being that I thought I couldn't go, have, learn or be. But where my heart really wanted to go. It was there to show me the way to the life I truly wanted. 

Kind words helped. 

Now that I see the heart of comparison isn't truly bad, I can use good, kind words towards myself and others. When I hear words like can't, never, shouldn't; I can remember the words like can, maybe and could.

Comparison is, ultimately, a human evolutionary learning tool. We all learn by seeing something we want and figuring out how to do it or get it. I watch my granddaughter do it all the time. She sees words and hears me read and she wants to read it herself. She gets frustrated she can't read by herself, yet, and that frustration leads her to learn. 

Kind thoughts. 

We all want to live, love and feel safe in our world. I want to create, share and get inspired. Kind thoughts about ourselves and our world can help us all to ease the grief, anger and fear from world events. Keeping kind thoughts in my mind opens me up to inspiration instead of comparison and takes me one step further toward learning and creating.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Monday's with Meyer: A New Song.

Early on Monday mornings, I hear a squeal at my front door and a sweet little voice says, "Gramamama!"  Her little legs wiggle with wild and wonderful happiness while she reaches out her little arms for me. What a way to start my week!

Kisses and hugs and she's off and running. Breakfast. Gathering her flock of animals. Sorting rocks. Doing puzzles with Granda. And that's all in the first hour, before we take our walk to the park. After that there's music, dancing, snacking, cooking and making (pretend) lattes to order, coloring and, finally, lunch and naptime.

Developing humans are fascinating. Truly.

Originally, I majored in Early Childhood Development. I now remember why I wanted to study them. Why I worked in preschools. Why I loved every energetic, non-stop minute. These little humans are the essence of what it is to be human. They touch, see, absorb and savor every single minute. When they're hungry, they eat. When they're tired, they sleep. When they're sad or scared or angry, they feel it. 

Right in the moment. 

Meyer loves so many things in the world. She is fascinated by everything and everyone. She is open, curious, inventive, exploratory, creative and adventurous. She, in her perfect toddler fashion, runs between toys, people and food with equal desire and interest. She is driven to learn about everything and everyone in her world. And even though some new experiences seem too much to her at first and she might need a step back, it doesn't stop her. 

When she's happy, you know it.

I remember a song I always sang with my toddlers, perhaps you remember it too: "When you're happy". As we dance and sing to the Raffi channel, I hear that song come on and I joyfully sing along until I realize something is wrong. The words and the song were written to describe and teach toddler the words and actions that go with feelings. But this song is wrong.

The song now is:
When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.(repeat 2 times)
When you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.
When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.
(Other verses):
When you're happy and you know it, stomp your feet.
When you're happy and you know it, yell hoorah!

Absolutely no other feelings in the song. Here's the verses to the song as I taught it:

When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. 
When you're sad and you know it, say boohoo.
When you're mad and you know it, stomp your feet.
When you're sleepy and you know it, close your eyes(yawning is action)
(Repeating the line're face will surely show it...after each verse)

What happened to having feelings?

This is a huge wake up call to me. And maybe the reason we're having so many problems right now with stress, insomnia, weight gain and anger in our world. We've all been taught that song and now the only feeling we're supposed to be feeling is happy? 

Now as adults, we all know that's not true. We feel a wide range of feelings and we have names for them. We know that feelings cycle like the seasons and weather. They come and go. Sometimes soft and sweet, sometimes loud and fearful. Change and changing feelings go with being human on this planet.

It's alright to feel wrong sometimes. So let's change and cycle back.

Let's teach our toddlers and ourselves, if we need the reminder, the most important lesson of being a healthy human. It's ok to be happy, mad or sad and show it. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Creative Rhythm.

Working as I do; writing, drawing, sculpting, throwing requires many skills but the most important of all is surrender. I'm not talking about giving up but giving in. With all the outside distractions lately, I've had a really hard time giving in to the peace and space to create. The result: my own creative rhythm is definitely off beat.

How do I get my beat back?

I took a few steps forward last week at the wheel. This week started with some steps backward but it took those steps to make me see where I really needed to go.  And, surprise, it's not spending more time cringing and complaining about what's wrong and liking the unlike able. I'm not turning my back on the situation or sticking my head in the sand, but the change I want to see in the world has to start from the inside out. Giving in before giving out. 

Baby steps.  Literally.

Mondays with Meyer are a joy. Meyer and I focus on the world in front of us: sorting smooth river rocks, making animal sounds, watching geese fly, catching snowflakes, singing joyful songs and scribbling with bright colors. By giving Meyer what every toddler needs, I'm giving in to myself as well. I'm connecting with my inner child, the true artist who experiences and experiments in every moment. Not every move works, sometimes you trip and fall but I can say to myself what I say to Meyer, "Oops. It's ok. Let's get up and move on."

Moving is the key.

I love to dance. In college, I took ballroom dancing and loved it. But the biggest lesson of dance isn't learning the steps, it's learning to trust. As the music plays, I had to believe in my own body to make the right steps, to trust my movement forward and backward, to give in to my own inner rhythm.

Sometimes in the studio and in life, I try to rush or push my work out because my mind gets on the worry track. I think I'm not working hard enough or fast enough or good enough. When I focus on product instead of the process, I loose my footing. Just like dancing, I've got to turn off my mind and give in to the music, movement and joy of the moment.

Whether I'm creating with my feet or hands, trust is essential. And the basis of trust is giving in to my own inner compass, listening to the true song of my soul and dancing to its unique creative rhythm.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

As The Wheel Turns: Throwing Hope.

So much is going on in the world around us all. It's outrageous, enraging and a very bad episode in reality. I've written about it before and I really don't want to write about it anymore. I want to live, hope and dream of a better day, a prouder day, a wholesome, whole-hearted, whole world for each of us. 

Making my day means just that: making.

I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a maker. I throw cups, bowls and vases. I sculpt faces, figures and masks. When my wrist was broken and I couldn't sculpt, I got a gel pen and drew in my sketch pad. When my husband was laid off and I had to work, I taught art classes, mask classes, held an open studio to sell more work. No matter what the world brings to my door from a broken wrist to a broken heart, I make something anyway.

I fill my kiln and my wheel keeps turning.

Throwing yesterday was a retreat for me, a place to sit and center, a place to ground myself into the earth. I had no agenda, deadline or concept in mind. I took out the clay, sat down and let myself be. Here's where the miracle happens, because many times, I fight with the clay to get it centered, to get it to form into my preconceived idea of what it should be, but this day, I was tired of should, of right or wrong, of fact or fiction. I let the clay be what it wanted to be. 

What rose up from my fingers were 2 vases and 2 plant urns. It wasn't my best throwing day or  my worst. And it didn't matter. Will they make it through the kiln process? Will they sell?  Will I like them in the end? Again, it doesn't matter. What matters is that I was there, embracing the clay, centering myself with earth in my hands.

I can't stop the war of mean words out there. But I bring the inside out with hope and peace.

One vase, one pot, one turn of the wheel at a time.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sometimes We Get What We Need. And It's a Kick in the Butt.

My goal for this blog is to talk about the joy of living a creative life. But life, especially lately, is not at all joyful in this country. The majority of people did not vote for the man taking the office of president. This individual, whom I can't call a man because a true man would never belittle or bully anyone regardless of age, sex, race or religion. Especially not a president. 

But the bandaid has been ripped off and it stings.

This is a politician. A member of the 1%. An entitled, white man born into wealth who believes himself to be better than anyone. He lies. He cheats. He thinks he can run the country like he runs his business empire. And he is, sadly, not alone. Members of the Senate and Congress sit in their cozy offices with their salaries, pensions and health plans also thinking they can run the country the way they want, too.

But they forget. They were voted into office. They can be voted out.

And we have forgotten, too.  We put them there.

I have spent my life, living as best I could. Working. Taking care of my family. Creating a home that nurtured body, mind and soul. And all the while, I trusted these politicians to have my back, to take care of education, health and safety. Instead, they were busy taking care of themselves and covering their own butts while they made millions of dollars from corporations interested in taking even more money from me. And you.

I am not getting what I want from these elected officials. But perhaps, I am getting what I need.

A kick in the butt. 

I was too young in the 60's to demonstrate against the war or racism. I grew up believing we'd stopped the war and started living together in peace. I was so focused on living my own life step by step that I didn't see how out of step we'd all become. And I didn't see how the greed and corruption had eaten away so much of my country. 

I see it now. I'm mad. I'm marching. I'm writing. I'm liking and standing by the people whose hearts are in the right place. I'm continuing to love my children and grandchild and husband and friends because now more than ever, we need love. And I'm creating with love and as much joy as I can shine into this darkness so we can all see the true light.

I'm not taking  this sitting down.  I'm standing up for what I know is right and true.
We can all get what we truly want:  education, health, safety and freedom for all. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Speeding Up and Slowing Down.

It's been an opposite week. Last week was slow, contemplative, relaxing and almost boring. From the very start on Monday, it's been fast, furious and fun. Emotions have run the gamut from post-holiday blues as I un-deck the halls to giggles as I played hide and seek with my granddaughter. My studio work did progress, in and around sippy cups, crayons and snowy walks in the park.

Life is such an ever-changing adventure.

I had my week all planned out, you see: one day of granny daycare, an outing with friends, errand running on another and two concentrated studio days. I penciled in a lovely, balanced week but, that is not how it turned out  I don't know about you, but my life never turns out quite the way I plan. And yet, somehow in life's wisdom, I get so much more than I could ever plan or foresee. 

It's not always sunshine and giggles. I've had my share of down times, too and I can be just as pissed off as anyone else. I could go into all those past events, but I'd rather stay in the present. Right now, I'm just as scared and shocked about the state of our union in this country as many of you. And yet, when I look out my windows at the drifts of snow shining in the sun, I remind myself to savor the moment. This moment. 

Right here. Right now. I'm safe, warm, loved and full of love.

My granddaughter is fed, changed, and tucked in for her nap. 

My yellow lab, Jilly played in the snow and is now snoozing in the sun. 

Outside, the snow covers the world in a shimmering blanket.

Inside, my studio awaits.