Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Take a breath

 


Where are you today? What are you thinking or feeling or looking at? 

Are you tired or rested? Is your mind blissfully wandering or skittering here and there?


I used to meditate. Ok, not very well, but I did it anyway. It helped slow down my mental gymnastics but it didn’t stop them. I thought that meant I’d failed and after a while I gave it up and moved on. I find yoga helps me more because focusing on the physical movement redirects my monkey mind. It gives it something ‘to do’. 


I’ve written many blogs about my war with ‘doing’ vs ‘being’. I know I’m not alone and that is a comfort. But I think what I really need to do is end the war. 


Waving my white flag. 



More than a year of covid is getting on all our nerves. Add scared parents and grandparents seeing their sweet little ones head off to school without vaccinations. It’s enough. No, it’s more than enough. Right?


We all need a break right now. And I don’t mean a vacation, which for some is helpful, but for me that would only add more to my mental and emotional stew. What I really need, and maybe you do too, is a rest. Waving a white flag in the face of fear. 


Surrender


Looking out at today’s beautiful, blue sky I picture a cozy, quiet hammock underneath a huge oak tree where I can lay back my head, look through the gently swaying leaves. Still green against a blue sky, I watch the leaf patterns change as the air moves. 



I breathe in the sweetness. 

I hear a caw.  

I feel supported. 

Safe. 



Although there is still so much swirling in the heads and minds of the world. Mine and yours. 

Right now, I am here. 

Doing the best I can. Maybe doing the only thing I can right now.  

Taking a breath.  


Sunday, September 5, 2021

“I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils”

 




This quote always comes to me this time of year. It’s from the movie, “You’ve Got Mail” written by Nora Ephron. The message is delivered by email from Joe Fox, played by Tom Hanks to Kathleen Kelley, played by Meg Ryan. 


It makes me smile and remember some simple joys of childhood: going back to school shopping. It means getting a new box of crayons, pencils, a pencil box and new lunch box. I wore a uniform, so I didn’t get pretty new clothes. Just a few new white blouses and a pair of regulation dark shoes. 


But I loved my colorful new crayons. Sometimes, I got colored pencils, too. Which is why, even now with my children all grown, I can’t help buying new school supplies. 


Notebooks and folders and pens, oh my. 



Really, I was just going to get a refill for my journal. But then, the 24 pack of multi-colored sharpies was on sale. 


And then, there were pocket folders with black and white flowers. And, of course, I needed a new notebook to keep track of our home reconstruction. 


And then, well there was a combo sketch and notebook which is just perfect for putting all the kitchen details in and design ideas. 


Well, then, how could I leave this wonderful black and white folio file? Perfect for all the insurance, contractor and subs information. Right?


Back to School.  



I’m so encouraged by my successful first outside sale two weeks ago. I look forward to finding more ways to get my ceramics out there to new people. But the hard reality is, with all the house reconstruction due to happen, I won’t be able to create new work in my studio for a while.  


So I may have to learn to create in different ways. The first step is already happening: letting go of the old. Old files, dried up supplies, unfinished and broken pieces. Saving and rediscovering notes, stories and sculptures that need a little love and attention. 



I may not be school age anymore, but that doesn’t mean I stop learning. One thing I learned this week from my ‘end of the school year’ type of purge is to see the room I have for the new. 



Colors and design ideas for my 20+ year old home. 



Better ways to save things I love. Empty shelves waiting to be filled with new creations.


And, yes, maybe a bouquet of newly sharpened (colored) pencils. 


Friday, August 20, 2021

Clouds and Sun and a Village


In Oregon, it’s been a record breaking hot summer. But today, the clouds have moved in and I’m basking in the cool, dampness. I smell the possibility of rain. It’s a refreshing relief. 

Another relief, we finally have a contractor to fix our home. After living with mold and soggy floors, with no sink or dishwasher and removed cupboards and countertops, I’m breathing easier knowing there is an end in sight for this unsightly mess. 



Back to work. 


Working in clay is not just what I do but who I am. I’ve written before about the difficulty of working in clay in hot and dry weather.  And how I work around it anyway because I love what I do. This last month challenged me to find a way to work around a damaged house and wash dishes in the same sink I use for my studio clean up. 



I almost gave up but lucky for me, I had an outdoor show coming up. I needed to get my new work finished.


Getting out with a little help from friends. 



I’ve never done an outdoor show where I’ve had my own booth. I’ve done gallery shows. Group shows. And member shows where I had a set of group shelves. But I’ve never had to set up my own display tent, table, chairs and shelves. 


Luckily, I didn’t have to go it alone. I was invited to join a group of potters for a one day outdoor show. One potter is loaning me an 8x8’ tent booth. Another friend is loaning me a folding table. My daughter is giving me her camping chairs for the day. And my husband is helping me with set up, take down and tech support. 



I’m grateful for my village. 


I’ve always been independent and hard working. I was taught to go it alone and be strong. But what I’ve learned lately is working together works much better for everyone. 


Asking questions. Sharing information. Learning from others who have more experience. And being able to admit I need help, scary as that is, is teaching me more than I could ever learn on my own. 


I know the old saying, “It takes a village”, is wise. But I didn’t ever think I’d need one, or had one, but I’m sure glad I do. 



Sunday, August 8, 2021

Right Now



Sweet summer breezes flow through my window calming my mind and body. Being in the moment, any moment, even this small moment with total attention is my ongoing challenge. 

Today, I look up at the cerulean sky and cotton ball clouds. And take a good deep breath. That’s all. Just that. 


Because right now, with what’s happening inside my home and outside in the world, this is what I need to do. Maybe this is all I can do. Maybe this is all any of us can do. 


Breathe. 



Yes, covid cases are rising. Again. It’s scary. It’s maddening. And I really can’t do a thing about it. Yes, viruses live among us all the time. They mutate to survive.


Taking a deep breath is one thing I can do.  Other things we can all do to survive is get vaccinated, use good hygiene and practice social distancing. 


I’m grateful to be fully vaccinated. I’m relieved my husband and children are also vaccinated. We can see each other safely. And I can see my vaccinated friends, too. 


Right now.



It’s easier said than done. Right now, my kitchen has no sink, cabinets are missing and my floor is chopped up in sections of subfloor, old vinyl and laminate wood plank. This is due to a  plumbing failure and water damage. 



It’s been scary. I’ve had many sleepless nights. Yet, I’ve found help from family, friends and neighbors. The support and understanding flowing my way from their hearts is calming mine. Their stories, advice and helpful information gives me the strength and courage I need. 


Right here. 


Several people have said to me this week, “One thing at a time.” This is how I can focus. Cleaning up the dust from the demo in my kitchen. Washing my dishes by hand. Making blackberry syrup for pancakes. Weeding my garden. 


In the studio, I can do small things. Right here, I can glue magnets on my diversity rainbow hearts. I can take new product pictures. 



I can update my Etsy shop. 



I can get ready for an upcoming outdoor show.



Here on the window seat, I can rest for a bit. 

Breathe in the cool breeze and savor the sunshine.

Right now. 

Right here. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

First Covid. Now a Flood.

 


I haven’t written for two weeks because I’ve been in shock. What do you say when you wake up one morning and your entire kitchen is flooded? Other than unprintable expletives? 


After throwing every towel into the lake and turning off our water, we called the plumbing company. The very same plumbing company who had installed a new water valve just a few months ago. It was 7:30 in the morning but unfortunately, we were told they couldn’t make it out until 4pm. We spent the rest of the day continually mopping up the floor, emptying the bucket under the sink and trying to function with the water turned off. 


The problem: a failed water valve. Yup. The newly installed, new fangled water valve failed. The plumber installed another new one, at no charge this time. But we were left to deal with the flood. Call  the plumbing company, our home insurance company and wait. 


A great room that’s now not great. 



Our house is a great room concept. So it’s essentially one big room with the wide plank flooring. The flooring runs through almost our entire downstairs: laundry, kitchen, dining and living rooms. 


So does the flood damage. The water damage from the failed valve went under the floorboards from the kitchen sink at one end of the room to the living room on the other. Because it’s a plank laminate floor, the entire floor has to be ripped up and replaced.


Oh, that’s not all. Black spots appeared on the drywall under the sink. The drywall behind the cabinets on either side of the sink is also damaged. That means ripping out the countertops, tile and bottoms cabinets which is most of my kitchen. They are hoping the island is not involved but they don’t know at this point.



All of this is, of course, going to affect everything: baseboards, walls, paint. Yeah.  


No words.


After the evaluation, I was speechless. My husband and I helped design and choose everything in this house. It’s not just a house, but a loving home to our children and now grandchildren. 



And now we are left with mold and extensive water damage. The kitchen sink area is so bad, I have to hold my breath to use the trash can or sink, so I’ve moved things to the utility room. 


In addition, we’ve been left with the task of finding a licensed, honest contractor to do the restoration and rebuilding work. With the high demand on home remodeling, we are having a hard time getting even email responses. 


In the mean time, the water damage is festering and the floor buckling is spreading everyday. 


A good note?


I always try to leave my blog on a good note. Spread joy, creativity, hope or healing. I’m sorry to say, I just don’t have much right now except sleepless nights and high anxiety. But still I’ll try. 


I’m grateful I have enough work for an upcoming show in August. (I can’t get work done now)



I’m grateful for friend and family support and everyone fully vaccinated. 



I’m grateful for a good sign: seeing a mama deer and fawns trot by me on my daily walk.



Saturday, July 10, 2021

Firing it up

 


Is it crazy to load and fire the kiln at 2,199 degrees in the summertime? Maybe. But when I have a deadline to meet, I fire whether it’s hot outside or not. And the last few weeks have been the hottest we’ve seen this summer with temperatures as high as 112-117 degrees. 


Working with porcelain in the summer is always a risk, especially when it’s both hot and dry. If the clay dries too fast, it will crack. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s usually the opposite problem, having the clay take too long to dry. It’s always a balancing act. 



Hot and happy. 


I love to work with clay anytime of the year. Especially when I have a new idea that sparks a whole new group of work. A few months ago, I made a dozen or so little plates. I really didn’t know what to do with them or why I was making them, but it was fun. And I needed some fun after this difficult covid year. 



Even in the heat, the little plates are fun to make. Add to that I was making them for a new cooperative project with a local artisan company, Plein Devie, online at bepleindevie.com. They make crystal self care products. Beautiful crystal soaps, bath bombs, and fragrances. I was asked to make turquoise Celtic spiral plates for a new crystal soap. 




So firing up the kiln twice in two weeks had to be done. Yes, it was the hottest 2 weeks this year, but it was worth it. 


Lavender and bergamot, oh my. 


I grow lavender in my garden and every year, I harvest bunches and make them into sachets for my home. Another of my favorite scents is bergamot, which you might know is in Earl Grey tea. These two scents are just heavenly and relaxing all on their own. 




But the idea of mixing them into a soap? And putting in a beautiful Aventurine crystal? And wrapping them up on one of my turquoise Celtic spiral plates? Inspired.  


I’ve been so excited working on this project and couldn’t wait to smell the wonderful soap and see it paired with my little plates. 


 Plein Devie and Me. 


All the sweating paid off, none of the plates cracked or bubbled or stuck to the kiln shelf. They all came out beautiful. And the soap created by Ashley Dow, PDV owner, was just as beautiful. 



The soap scent is a relaxing mix of summertime sweetness and comforting spice.  And the layers of turquoise and lavender surrounding an aventurine crystal look so lovely on the celtic spiral plates. 


After you enjoy the luscious, scented soap, you have a porcelain plate perfect for a candle, earrings, or even a sweet treat. 


This week, I didn’t just fire the kiln, I got fired up with new ideas. 



Monday, June 28, 2021

Hot Day Memories

 


Living the last few days in my ‘cool cave’, my mind wanders back to my childhood. Those days where sitting in the sun was safe and fun. Splashing in the community pool without sunscreen was the norm. And there was NO air conditioning. 


Yes, I got really sunburned. And yes, as a descendent of Ireland, my skin is not just fair, easily sunburned but also high on the list of skin cancer risk groups. And yes, I’ve had melanoma and I’m luckily now, cancer free. 



How did we survive the heat?


Sitting in my air conditioned cave, I wonder how we all survived the summer heat and humidity in the Midwest. It was hot, yes. But it was also heavy with moisture that weighed you down like a heavy, hot blanket. I remember hating it. 


But I also remember going to the library, not air conditioned at all, but dark and cool and filled with rows and rows of books. I was a regular. Checking out stacks of books at a time. One summer I read through all books in the women in history section. Of course, I read through all the Nancy Drew I didn’t own and other classics like Little Women, House on the Prairie, Huckleberry Finn, Heidi and more. 




At home with a borrowed book, I headed next door where my two friends were already sitting on the covered patio quietly turning pages. One summer, a box arrived from my grandmother’s house filled with paperback gothic novels. I voraciously read them all. As we sat and sipped Kool-aide, feet propped on the brick walled patio reading the hot days away.


Forward into the past. 


I do miss swimming and splashing in the sunshine sometimes. I loved the water. But not the sunburns that came later. As a melanoma survivor, I don’t go out into the sun now unless I really have to and then only layered in sunscreen. I’m so grateful for the technology we now have that can protect us from the sun. 



With temperatures soaring into the hundreds, I’m regressing into my childhood comfort zone. I’m sitting with my feet propped, a cool drink and a stack of digital books. I’m in the house, out of the sun, heat and humidity. Safe from cancerous rays, reading the hot days away. 


And remembering those hot summer days quietly reading the day away fondly but now very glad for my air conditioned cool cave.