Thursday, July 20, 2017

Confessions of a Technophobe.


I admit: I'm technophobic. When it comes time to push that post, upload, or share button, I cringe and expect it to all crash. I know it sounds crazy because I've had a blog, Facebook page, Instagram and website for almost a decade but I still fear the worst. 

I'm terrified of websites. In my nightmare, I push the button and KABLAM, my site turns black and my computer blows up into bits all around the room. I lose everything, my blog, my passwords, my photos, all of my writing. Everything.  

Time to jump off the website building.

I've had a website, thanks to my talented son, for over 10 years. He's had computer graphic design classes and knows how to use Adobe like a pro. My websites have always looked amazing and I'm very grateful. But now he's busy with work, his daughter and studying for his MBA. 

So it's time for me to figure this out and I'm terrified and it's not the first time. I bought a website builder 3 years ago that was advertised as easy, quick and simple with drag and drop templates. If I could design my blog on blogspot with easy templates, surely I could do this website builder, right? Wrong.  It was awful. Nothing worked as advertised and the money back guarantee only meant a guarantee I'd never get my money back. 

My son, once again, came to my rescue. But, this time, I am on my own. 

I searched the web for easy website builders that would allow me to use my own domain name that I've had for 10 years. Just in case you are as in the dark as I was about all those 'free' website builders out there, let me shine some light for you here. They are NOT FREE. 

They do offer free template designs. But you have to pay them for a domain name and hosting and also in some cases, carry pop up ads on your site. I also found out that you don't own your own content, so if they decide to close down, you lose everything you put into and on your site. 

How to conquer computer terror? Sneak up on it.

I froze for quite a few weeks but in the end, I had to have a new website. Period. I was tired of spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. I wanted to feel in control of my online content, it was time to learn to control my technophobia. 

After much surfing, which is code for procrastination, I chose Wordpress. I read through the start guide, which promised a website in an hour. Ha. Maybe for non-technophobes. The only way I could approach this project was to go very slowly like a teenager learning to drive. 

Go. Stop. Go. Stop. Go.

First, I got out my trusty pen and notebook and outlined all the elements I wanted on my site. I outlined the pages I wanted. Created an album of photos I'd use. Wrote my copy. That's my comfort zone - writing on paper. I had my notebook beside me as my security blanket when I finally opened up my Wordpress page and every time I worked on the site.

While my husband watched golf, which I find relaxing, I sat down and worked on it online for maybe 2 hours. Then I took 2 days or more off. I'd do another page or two. Take more days off. Carefully very carefully, I'd click on create a menu. Take 2 weeks off. Edit a page or two. Take more days off. In between, I'd visit it just to make sure it hadn't blown up, crashed or disappeared. It didn't.

Today, my website: susangt.com is UP!

Yes, it took me 30 days to get my website designed, uploaded and running. I had to push that UPLOAD button many, many times and each time, it got a little easier. The panic slowly subsided and morphed into accomplishment. But not confidence, not yet. 

Hello, my name is Susan and I'm a technophobe. 

Because I'm still holding my breath and wondering if I can wrap it in bubble wrap. Just in case. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mondays with Meyer: Be Lazy.


As I write the headline, I realize there is a big pull in my gut against the word, lazy. It brings up many bad thoughts, words and pictures from deep within. I know it is societal conditioning from early childhood to always 'do' something. And by doing something I will 'be' someone. 

Do. Be. Do. Be. Do.

Hmmm, I wonder what if the line started and ended with Be?

This week, Meyer was in a different toddler mood. Some might call it clingy or insecure or tired or mellow. She wanted to sip juice and listen to a music on the Raffi channel. We sat and read the same two books over and over.  Both my favorites by the way, "Frederick" by Lio Leoni and "The Very Hungry Catepillar" by Eric Carle. She made soup from rocks and splashed in a pan of bubbly water but mostly, we nestled together in the big, black, cushy leather chair. 


She dozed, snacked and sipped and listened to the wind chimes. After lunch, she napped. We picked blueberries and ate them. We made peanut butter and graham cracker sandwiches. And watched an episode of Daniel Tiger on PBS Kids while she sipped and snuggled some more. 

Be. Do nothing. 

It occurred to me after she left to go home, that I would never in a million years call a toddler, lazy. Instead, I saw her as needing rest and at the same time, in her stillness, watching her hear her world around her. The neighbors lawnmower. Crows cawing. Ringing wind chimes. Airplanes flying overhead. She was truly be-ing in the moments of her day. 

How often do I even hear the wind chimes, airplanes, crows? Or pick warm, fresh blueberries and pop them in my mouth? Or swish sweet-scented bubbles around with my hands for the pure feel of it? Or close my eyes and just take a nap?

Doing nothing doesn't mean being nothing. It means being in every moment without having to do everything. Try it. Put yourself in a comfy place, let your head flop back, and close your eyes. 

Be. Brave. Be. Lazy. Be Do Be Do Be. 

Another lesson learned from my Mondays with Meyer.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Filling Empty Bowls with Hope.


Fourth of July means many things to many people but to me, it means volunteering for the Oregon Food Bank. I help set up a Oregon Potter's Association booth at the Waterfront Blues Festival where donated pottery and glass is sold and 100% of the proceeds goes directly to the local food bank. 


I donate over $100 of pottery I make as well. I volunteer 12-15 hours or more each year onsite during the 3-5 day festival. I stock shelves, put up displays and wrap up purchases. Yes, I also sell my ceramics for the last few days of the festival. But I lower my prices by 50%, as well as give another 25% from my sales directly to the food bank. 

It's not about making money. It's about giving back. 

You see, for years before I made bowls, cups, or vases, I bought them at the Empty Bowls Booth to benefit the Food Bank. Even when I was scared for my own family, I bought a bowl because I needed to hope. 

I know what it's like to fear for basic survival. To wonder if I'd have enough to feed everyone in my home. When my husband was laid off a decade ago, we had two children living at home and going to college. We couldn't afford Cobra healthcare and have a roof over our heads and eat. We all worked part time jobs to keep us going. And still, we found a few dollars to buy a bowl at the OPA booth. 

Hope. 

My husband bought a blue and black bowl that year. It wasn't very expensive, because it couldn't be. It wasn't big, either, just a cereal or soup bowl size. But I saw it as a symbol of hope. 

I filled it with some pennies, added water and put it on the small table by the window. When I found a few blooming flowers in the garden, I added them too. And every day, when I walked by, I saw that the bowl wasn't empty but full. I saw it as a symbol that the void in our lives would be once again, filled. That we would all survive. That we would all be safe. That maybe, just maybe, we would even thrive. 

Fulfilled. 

A decade has passed since then and we've survived and thrived. It's not been an easy road, and it's continued to twist and turn, but in the big picture, we made it through. Jobs, graduations, opportunities allowed us all to move onward and upward. For that, I am very grateful. 

On this 4th of July, I am once again in the OPA Empty Bowls booth. But in addition to buying a bowl to feed the hungry, I'm filling shelves with my own bowls to feed the hungry and my soul. 

This is what makes America Great, not again, but always: the spirit of generosity in all of US.

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.