Monday, December 27, 2010

Simple Pleasures. Simple Gifts.

Finding the magic, fun, laughter and joy in this holiday season, that’s what I really wanted for Christmas. Simple gifts can get a bit complicated with all the demands and distractions on and off the internet.

Earlier this month, I was part of a teleclass from best selling author, Jennifer Louden where the focus was on setting COE’s for your holiday. What are COE’s? Conditions of Enoughness is a tool created by Jennifer Louden to help put a few boundaries around your life.

How do I do that? Jennifer has 4 steps:
1. Name what is enough in simple facts. What you will actually do in a measurable doable fact.
2. Include a time element. By when, how long, etc.
3. Ensure they’re dependent only on you on a normal day.
4. Declare you’re satisfied when your conditions are met.
(Even if you don’t feel satisfied, that it’s enough, it is.)

So how do I create magic and joy using these steps?
Here’s my attempt:
1. Make a ‘fun’ list that includes joyful connections.
2. Take at least one day a week to do one ‘fun’ thing.
3. Be open to magic by being spontaneous in and around my normal life.
4. Put my list away and let light, life, magic and joy dance in and around me. The more spontaneous I am, the more I declare I’m satisfied.

Here’s a few of my fun, magical, loving things:
Walking through zoolights with my sweetie.

Tasting new seasonal ales at the holiday brew fest.

Lunch with my dear friends.
Bake my shortbread, cherry cake and other goodies.

Decorating the house for the holidays.

Making a warm, easy meal to enjoy after a hectic day.

Dressing up in the beautiful textures of the holidays.
(This is my child wanting a little velvet and prettiness)
Writing my thoughts, reading blogs I love.

Notice anything missing?

Trolling the internet, facebook and email is not on the list. I’ve seen a number of people taking digital sabbaticals lately. In fact, Jennifer Louden is on one now until the New Year. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to try to go off the internet cold turkey, yet. But I’ve decided to limit my time to blogs I love and blogging, checking my email every other day, and taking the holiday ‘days’ off from being online.

So far, this simple list of simple pleasures has brought me fun, magic and loving connections. And that’s what I really wanted for ‘Christmas’ this year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Christmas Sock Mystery.

Today, as my husband and I were getting ready for the day, I walked back into the closet and there on the floor was a sock I’d lost years ago. It was lying just inside the closet door on the floor. Odd. Because I’d just been in the closet dressing and it wasn’t there. My husband had dressed in there, too and it wasn’t there. But just as we were both ready to leave and I’d gone into the closet one last time, there it was on the floor.

“What the heck?” I said to my husband. “Did you see that?” He came over and looked down, then shook his head. “Nope.” He hadn’t seen it in there until I pointed it out to him. “Where did that come from, I lost it years ago.”
I looked up toward the ceiling, the top shelf, the rest of the shelves, then down to the sock on the floor. Nothing was out of place, nothing else had moved from the shelves. A few months back, I’d cleaned and organized closet shelves. I didn’t find any stray socks, then.

This sock isn’t just an ordinary sock, it’s special. It’s a Christmas sock. Not a stocking, a sock. I remember vividly when I bought them. It was about 4 years ago on Christmas Eve. We had little family tradition that on Christmas Eve, we would spend the afternoon downtown, seeing the big Christmas tree all lit up, drinking a special eggnog latte, going around to the downtown shops taking in the window displays and maybe buying a few small last minute gifts.

One year, to the delight of my, then, small children, I bought a package of Christmas crackers for them to pop at Christmas Day dinner. This particular year, I was looking for a few pairs of bright, warm socks to put into my daughter’s stocking. I lucked out and found these wonderful red and black wool socks at The Gap. They were on sale, so I bought a few pairs for both of us. We both loved them and wore them a lot. So, I went back the next year to buy more socks for our stockings only to find out they didn’t sell them anymore. We were both disappointed.

But my daughter and I still had a pair or two from the last year. And then, I lost the mate to this red, black and white snowflake pair. I remember, because I loved the socks so much that I put the one sock on my closet shelf hoping that I’d find the mate someday soon. Years went by and I never found it. So finally, last year, I got rid of the single sock.

Now, this year, its mate showed up on my closet floor. There it was, lying by the doorway on December 21st, just 3 days before Christmas Eve. I’d already gotten my daughter and I a pair of new socks for our stockings. I wasn’t planning on a trip downtown this year. Our children were grown up now and they grew out of our Christmas Eve field trip tradition quite a few years ago. I’d also finished all my Christmas shopping.

Why now? Why did I find the Christmas sock on my closet floor? When I’d lost it years ago?

I must admit, I called out loud to the spirits of the house, “Ok, having a little fun with me? Am I going to find the other one, now?” Or, I asked myself quietly later, is it a message? Or just a way to remind me of our old tradition of Christmas Eve shopping? Or is it just the way life is…the minute you think something you love is lost, you find it. And in the most unexpected places?

As I write this, I sit looking at this old, red and black wool sock and I see it in a new light. It is a Christmas sock. And it’s empty. Perhaps, it’s here waiting, like we all are, to be filled on Christmas Day with joy. I know one thing for sure, I still love that old wool sock, red and black with its white snowflake, still warm and cozy after all these years.

Maybe the biggest lesson is the most obvious:
Whatever is lost, can be found. Again.

But maybe the key to finding it is in being able to finally let it go.

This Christmas may you and yours find all the mystery and magic of the season to enjoy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gifts of courage, hope, faith, spirit, love and joy.

In the last 2 to 3 years, my life has been full of challenges. Some good and some bad. But when the bad challenges threatened to drown me in muck, some very good people pulled me up and out. What a gift they gave me.

During this special time of year, I wanted to give something back to them. Of course, I’m there for them like they were there for me. But I wanted, somehow to let them know just how much their support meant to me in my time of need.

I could only think of giving them something I love, to reflect theirs.

I love metal. I love leaves. I love words.

So I made them each a metal leaf inscribed with a word that described the support I felt from them. Words like love, faith, hope, spirit, courage and joy.

Here’s a picture of one of the leaves that went to my darling daughter. It has the word, joy, etched into the copper. Her presence in my life is a continuing source of joy and during the last few years, she found special ways to bring joy into my life when I needed it most.

Some of these people I didn’t even know a few years ago, much less know well enough to share difficult times. But they were there for me. Especially at this time of year, I wanted them all to know what a gift they gave to me. Knowing I was not alone, gave me the gift of courage, hope, spirit, faith, love and, yes, even joy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fill up.

This is the rock that I picked out of a box at the end of a writer’s retreat recently. The small purple grey rock had a message for me, “Fill up.”

It’s a nice, positive, abundant message, right?

Then, why did I want to drop the rock and run?

All of a sudden, I felt overwhelmed. Pressured. The last thing I wanted or needed was a message to ‘fill up’ my already overflowing life. I know that sounds bad. Doesn’t everyone want a life overflowing?

That depends on what it’s overflowing with…abundance, love, health and creativity or job loss, fear, and no health insurance? For the past several years, it’s been a constant race to fill up my life with as much business as I could, as fast as I could, so I could help fill up the cupboards at home with as much security as I could. My creativity was pushed to the limits to produce, to sell, to show, to do, do, do and do some more.

The power of the universe is an awesome and wonderful force that never ceases to amaze me. Because just when the flood of busy-ness was about to drown me, life changed for the better and the pressure was off.

So the last thing I wanted that day at the retreat was to get a message to 'fill up' when what I really wanted was to let go, empty my bucket and lighten my load.

I looked around me another interpretation of that message. One woman felt it meant that I could fill up with more, that I was capable of handling a multitude of things. I nodded. I know I can multi-task with the best of them. But I’ve always seen life as one step at a time, one project at a time, one type of creative work at a time and that doing too many things at once was a recipe for disaster. And I didn’t have flood insurance.

After years of having people all around me, all day eating, sleeping, playing video games, watching TV, on the internet; I was alone. Alone to create, write, sing out loud or lay down on the floor with no one to see or stop me. So what did I do? My first reaction to the new was to do more of the old. I got busy. I cleaned and organized. I threw out the old and worn out. I made lists, shopped and restocked.

Then at the retreat and I reached into the box for a rock and got a message I didn’t want. But just like the Rolling Stones lyrics, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need."

I did. After the retreat, I retreated. In my studio, my writing room, my creative cave, I sat day after day in silence.

“Fill up.”

Solitude. Silence. Empty space. This is what I needed to ‘fill up’ on. I needed to be alone and meet myself again. I needed silence to hear my own thoughts and feelings. I needed to fill up with empty space in which to explore, rediscover and create room in my own heart for more love, new ideas and creations.

At times, I felt lost in the space. Adrift in the sea of unstructured time and my fear wanted to organize it, push it and produce. I've fought against my fear to fill up with busy-ness and instead listened to my soul ask me to fill up, instead, with openness and silence and solitude.

This holiday season, I want to 'fill up' in new ways. I want to enjoy the season and welcome the abundance that's part of the celebration. But I want to remember to 'fill up' with heart, laughter and creativity and openness, to leave room to let the silence of the season 'fill up' my soul, too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Questions are her life's work - An Interview with Jennifer Louden.

Best selling author and The Comfort Queen,Jennifer Louden, talks about success, digital stress and answers to her life questions.

It was a series of endings that started Jennifer Louden on the path as a best-selling author, spokesperson, workshop and retreat leader. Her boyfriend broke up with her and his friend wrecked her car. Her dog bit her. She was on crutches recovering from a skiing accident, moving from a house to a very small apartment, and trying to finish a screenplay. Her agent was getting disinterested and she was suffering from a huge case of writer’s block.

“And I couldn’t write. I was rewriting the same two pages of this screenplay over and over again,” said Jennifer.

If anyone needed comfort at that moment it was Jennifer, “Inside this voice was saying, Honey, you just need to take some time off. You need to take care of yourself. You need to maybe go work in a bookstore for a while, or you’re interested in some gardening. It’ll be ok. And I said, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll listen to all that when I sell the screenplay.”

But instead of finishing her play, she was helping and comforting another writer.

Jennifer said, “I was very jealous of a friend. I had taken care of her, given her advice, a space to work. She got a better agent than I did and she was just off and running. Here, I was drying up. And, so, I called to tell her I was going to quit writing for a month. But really when I said it, I meant I was going to give up. And that was when the title for my first book, popped into my head as clearly as a voice said to me, The Woman’s Comfort Book.”

At first, giving up her writing and creative life, felt like a huge relief. But the book title kept coming back to her, like a call that wouldn’t go away. Jennifer asked herself, “I wonder what did it mean to comfort myself? And then I began to think about writing a book and that book was very successful and launched everything else.”

Jennifer wrote a series of best-selling books starting in 1992 with The Woman’s Comfort Book, The Couple’s Comfort Book, The Pregnant Women’s Comfort Book, and Comfort Secrets for Busy Women, followed by The Woman’s Retreat Book, The Life Organizer Book and companion CD. Even though she’d published successful books, Jennifer still had problems seeing herself as a real writer. That inner critic was saying to her, “Well yes, you wrote a book and it sold hundreds of thousands of copies, but it’s a ‘self help’ book. It’s not a ‘real’ book. It’s not literature.”

Every book was a ‘self-help’ book for Jennifer. By looking for the answers to questions in her own life; Jennifer helped herself and many other people, too.

“I think that’s why so many of us write anything or create anything because we have a question. And somehow we are directed or constructed, or both, in a way that we don’t just do it for ourselves, said Jennifer.” “There’s something about the conversation that is huge for me. That’s what I love about the internet, and my blog, creating products and doing teleconferences, retreat calls or both, there’s feedback back and forth. And that sparks more learning and questions for me and then I get interested in answering questions for other people, too. But it’s got to be that sweet spot between the two.”

Life, according to Jennifer, is a question of balance and asking yourself, “Am I present enough to know what I want and what is needed in the moment?”
Add the internet to the demands of ordinary life and many moments can get eaten up with what Jennifer likes to call ‘shadow comforts’, “Email for me is the big time suck. I was given a writing retreat by the Fetzer institute in April and my intention for that was to be unplugged.” This made such a difference in her life, she decided to use her own tool, ‘Conditions of Enoughness’ to take a digital sabbatical in August.

“The sabbatical did bring me a huge gift, said Jennifer. “I’ve had a question for years now about what I want to do next and it really made me realize how much I want to be an active part of helping save the world. I think we’re on the edge of disaster and we don’t have a lot of time left. And I don’t think I could’ve done it if I was checking email every hour.”

Jennifer uses a computer program called, ‘Anti-social’ that prevents her from checking email, twitter, facebook or other sites for a set amount of time each day. But although she admits that comments filled with bragging, competition and comparisons can make a bad day worse, sometimes she realizes that it’s not always the sites themselves.

Jennifer said, “I can go on twitter on a bad day and feel horrible about myself. And I can go on twitter on a good day and feel like I’m at the spiritual water cooler. So I go on with limits. Am I feeling good enough to do this? Can I make a contribution or am I going on there to give the mean voices some ammunition? Then I’m not going on.”

What are your Conditions of Enoughness for the internet? According to Jennifer, that’s a question you have to answer for yourself, with many more questions.

“Why are you on there? What’s your intention, asks Jennifer, is your intention to run away from your marriage? Your creative work? Dysfunction in your kids? From the fact that you didn’t exercise today? Or is it, wow, I’d just really like 20 minutes to check in and look at what your friends are doing? Or is your intention to build your business? And are the other live people in your life getting enough from you?”

Jennifer knows that she’s not alone in these questions and now she wants to explore answers in a different way, taking the personal to the global level. After 10 years, she’s saying good bye to the Comfort Queen website, the place that’s sold her books, retreats and workshops. She is designing a new website and blog. Is this a bold move for Jennifer? Her way of changing the world or just her world? Or a little of both, perhaps?

Jennifer answers, “I’ve listened to the mean voice that said, ‘You got lucky with the success of your books, so you need to keep doing the same thing over and over again because you’re not going have anything else.’ And I’m at the point where I don’t want to believe the mean voices anymore and if they’re right, I’d rather go open a cheese store. I’m a person who likes to learn. And I think of the one thing that defines me, it’s learning and changing. So I have to keep doing it or what’s the point of being here. I’ve got to create.”

Jennifer’s not sure exactly what this creation will be yet. Even though she feels strongly about taking time off from the internet, this project will require internet involvement using her blog. Again, Jennifer starts this new project with more questions.

“How do you do enough of your passion that you make a living and savor the world and save the world? And what’s the sweet spot between the three? Because that’s my question, I need to work. I need to make a living,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer Louden has been making a very good living since the beginning. First it was traditionally with publishing advances, book sales and international rights, workshops, retreats and speaking engagements, but with the boom of the internet, Jennifer has creatively diversified her work and products. In 2000, she launched her Comfort Queen website expanded with virtual events, tele-classes, comfort cafĂ© memberships and digital products. Now her income is made in a wider range of diverse products instead of the larger chunks from her book publishing past. Does this cause her to feel her life is too complex, that she’s stretched too thin? Maybe.

“One of my fantasies is that my life would be a little simpler, Jennifer said. “I don’t know if that’s a possibility so I live that question, sometimes I do feel a little spread thin. And the truth is, I don’t like to do just one thing. I like to do several things at one time.”

Jennifer feels doing the same thing over and over is like answering the same question over and over. And to some degree she feels she’s been doing that with Comfort and she needs to explore new questions. How does Jennifer see this new work and life coming together? Right now, she’s not sure. Jennifer has been successful in the ‘self help’ field for decades, but she still has her share of fears and fantasies about future projects.

Said Jennifer, “I may wake up in the middle of the night petrified, but right now it feels great. And I’ll start to have fantasies that I won’t contribute. I won’t get to create. Nobody will listen to me. I’ll be poor.”

Has Jennifer finally learned to comfort herself writing successful self help books? Or not? “It has been an ongoing exploration of….what does it really mean to take care of myself. And I think that’ll be a question I’m living my whole life. I think that’s part of the role of a creative person is to be able to live in the question. I love questions, but I want answers.”

Jennifer Louden has made asking questions and seeking answers for her own life, her life’s work. Whether she’ll find all the answers and learn to savor and save the world is yet, another question. But she has to try, even if it means she has to open that cheese store after all.

“The key is loving the questions, said Jennifer. “Loving the fact that there are so many questions in life. How can we be in that place of curiosity?”

If you'd like to hear Jen talk about her life, listen to the podcast interview on Voices of Living Creatively website. And visit Jennifer's blog at Comfort Queen

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thankful Tuesday

(Jilly in the Park)

An ongoing series...Be Thankful Everyday.

On Thanksgiving Day, Jilly, my yellow lab, and I took a walk in the park with a special intention. I wanted to visit some trees in the woods and thank them for the support and energy that's helped through these last two very difficult years. Leaning against one of the large Douglas Firs, sending my thanks I heard the whisper, "Be Thankful Everyday."

Here's my list of Everyday Thanks:

Everyday Thanks...Tuesday: A rainy day, a hot cup of coffee, savoring the soft silence of the pen across the page, writing.

(My hand built mug, a little wonky, but it doesn't leak!)

Everyday Thanks...Monday: Piles of crimson leaves.

Everyday Thanks...Sunday: Making swags at Patty's farmhouse in the country. Smell of fresh cedar. Hot cocoa, sweet treats, chatting and creating among friends and family.

Everyday Thanks...Saturday: The patience of a truly dedicated teacher who sat beside me and helped me out of frustration and into creation.

(Ok, a short, wonky bowl, but I love the horsehair firing)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Being Thankful Everyday

This may be the day after Thanksgiving, but I don't want to spend all my thanks on just one day. I have so much to be thankful for this year. I want to take the advice whispered to me yesterday and try to be thankful every day for the whole year.

Today's Thanks:
I'm thankful for my family. The love we share and the support we give each other. Managing to do what we love and be who we are and pay our bills. Especially, in the last 2 years, we've pulled together part time work, gigs, classes and studio sales to keep paying our bills despite recession and job lay offs.

Yesterday's Thanks:
I'm thankful for this table covered with good food, fine beers and sharing it with my husband, son, daughter and her fiancee. And a special treat for my sweet Jilly sleeping on her doggy bed in the background.

Now the challenge for me: Be thankful everyday. Can I remember to see the every day moments and small things and stop and be thankful? I don't know, but I'm going to try. I'm starting a journal today. I'll post some of them here,too. I'd love to have you join's what we can do. Put a Be Thankful Everyday post on your blog, let me know here, and I'll put a special link here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Art works by Mother Nature.

It snowed last night. This morning, I found my copper patio fountain had been transformed by Mother Nature into an ice sculpture.

The leaves in the park were sculpted too, with layers of ice and soft, white snow.

The chard looks festive with its red stems and green leaves contrasting against the white fluff.

All of these ordinary things become extraordinary art works in the hands of Mother Nature. And, Jilly agrees!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

PMM: My daughter, the teacher.

Caitlin started singing when she was five. Today she's teaching children and adults to sing and play the piano. It all started for her in the backyard, where she belted out 'Part of Your World' from The Little Mermaid movie holding the rain sprinkler head like a microphone. She was so good, the neighbors wanted to know where she got her great voice. She did not get it from me.

In 6th grade, Caitlin had the lead in the school's Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. She started voice lessons at age 15. She auditioned and received a college scholarship in vocal music and graduated with honors and a Bachelor of Music. She's sung in operas, choirs, and toured Europe.

Now she's taking her love of music and passing it on. These are pictures of her with her new students after their first recital of the year. As an mom, I'm proud of my daughter's hard work, dedication and talent. As an artist, I'm proud of the fact that she's passing on her skills and love of her art to others.

I think the best thing we can do as humans is give our best to each other, pass on our talents, shine a light into the dark and help someone else find their way. I'm proud to see Caitlin's light shine the way for herself and others.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A phone to save us from our phones? Really?


A better question is: Why do we need to be saved from our phones?

Watch this youtube of the commercial for Windows new phone.

Then ask yourself, how a better phone is any better than the other phones?
Do you really need a 'smart' phone or would it be smarter to turn off the phone entirely.

So you can look up at the clouds, down at the fall leaves, around at the, well, each other? I'm hearing more and more people complain about the burden of the internet, email, twitter. I just finished an interview with Jen Louden who has taken 2 digital sabbaticals this year and is planning another for the holiday season.

Now that's something that really could save us. Stay tuned for the interview and podcast with Jen. Till then, save yourself first and turn your phone off.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Student to artist to teacher to student again.

Learning is a life long process that circles from learning to doing to teaching and for me, back to learning again. In my last blog I wrote about taking a writing workshop. I'm also taking clay classes. And even though I've taken clay classes, produced clay sculptural work, written professionally and taught classes, I love being a student again.

First lesson learned: I throw clay left handed. I write right handed. Yep. That's why all those years ago in ceramics class, I could never throw a pot, bowl, cup or anything straight. In fact, I was so bad, even the teacher suggested I should stay away from the wheel. Ok, to be fair, my clay had the habit of spinning off my wheel at a high speeds and hitting the wall. But, really, I was trying to do it the right way. Now, I know what was wrong, thanks to Jan, my new teacher who watched me and asked me, "Are you left handed?" "Sometimes," I replied. So, she stopped the wheel, flipped the toggle switch up instead of down and finally it felt right.

Second lesson learned: Potter's wheels turn counter clockwise for right handed people and clockwise for left handed people. Amazing. I never knew there was a choice. And to be fair, I wasn't given a choice. I was to be right handed, period. I've found as an adult, that I do somethings well right handed and somethings well left handed and sometimes I can just use whatever hand is handy.

Third lesson learned: I can throw a bowl. And it isn't horrible, a little wonky maybe, and I needed instruction on some of the steps. But I was able to get it centered and pulled up and pushed out all on my own. Left handed, of course.

Biggest lesson learned: Knowledge is not only powerful but empowering. It's never too late to learn and turn a failure into a success.

Now, I can't wait to learn more about glazes, slips, raku and oxides...oooh what fun!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Walking into Fire: A day for writers.

(Women who write enjoying some munchies with Patti Digh)

Last weekend, I had the pleasure and opportunity to go to a retreat for writers with best-selling authors, Jen Louden,(The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life and 5 other books) Patti Digh(Life is a Verb and 4 other books) and Susan Piver(Wisdom of a Broken Heart and 4 other books) at Portland's Kennedy School.

Sitting in the old school gym, I wrote and meditated, stretched into my fears, laughed, drank coffee, laughed and wrote some more. I learned how to write with my fear beside me instead of in front of me blocking my way, to use my senses, stay on my own side and keep my hand moving. There was down and dirty talk about how to get that draft done. Then, more exercises to keep the energy and the words moving. Free writing questions and a long sessions of sitting and writing.

Lunch was delicious, but meeting the other participants was even better. Listening to everyone's story was amazing and comforting. There were people there from Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, San Francisco, Seattle, and beyond, but most important was knowing that no matter where they lived, they wanted to face their fears and write. We may be from different places, but here we found we were not alone.

Thanks to Jen Louden, Patti Digh and Susan Piver, I learned to say, "I write." And most important, "To sit the hell down and write."

I'll be writing more about the 'Comfort Queen', her life and writing in an upcoming interview and podcast with best-selling author, Jen Louden. So, stay tuned.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Studio vs Sunshine

It's November in Portland, Oregon which typically means drizzle and rain followed by rain and drizzle. Surprise...and now for something completely different...sunshine, blue skies and temperatures in the upper 60's.

I'm working on new work in the studio, have pieces to deliver and classes to organize. It's all good and wonderful work to do.

But...there's SUNSHINE outside! My inner kid is jumping up and down, racing to the window and pointing. Look!

What to do? Well, what would you do?


Outside I went with Jilly bouncing at my heels. First, I sat drinking in the blue sky, light fluffy clouds and sunshine.

Watch the shapes in the clouds overhead.

Admire the leaf silhouettes on the side of the house. Then, I started tidying up the garden for winter, pruning my roses, camelia, heather and pulling up tomato plants, harvesting beets, catnip and lemon verbena. I still have more to do to put the garden to bed for the winter and in the studio but it will get done. Another day.

Today - is for drinking in the sun in November.
And, oh, playing ball with Jilly. Of course!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Celtic New Year!

Today, November 1st, is the first day of the Celtic New Year. Samhain(Sow-when) is one of four Celtic Fire Festivals that mark the turning of the seasons. This festival begins at sunset on Halloween, October 31st goes through sunset on November 1st.

Traditionally, it was a time to make contact with ancestors and spirits, make peace and settle disputes, and let go of old ideas. Growing up in the Catholic church, it was called All Saint's Day. Some cultures call it, The Day of the Dead. But it's all one in the same idea. It's a way to acknowledge the past, honor memories of family and friends, and move into the new year.

Celebrating Samhain for me, is a celebration of the bounty and beauty of the season. Enjoying newly ripened pears and apples.

Lighting candles and pumpkins. Putting out my spooky witch banner.

Making ghost cookies.

I also make time to reflect on the past year. Take a look at where I've been and where I hope to go. Sending loving thoughts to my Gram, Dad and Aunt May who loved and helped me. And I try to let go of any sadness and anger the past year has brought me, so I can be open to more love and happiness.

Happy Samhain! May the Celtic New Year bring you much joy and happiness!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A new writing contest and a birthday present.

Carvings done by Erwin A. Thompson

Fellow blogger and author, Janet Riehl wants to give her 95 year old dad, Erwin A. Thompson, a unique birthday present and you can help.

Janet has come up with an essay contest and an award that's dedicated to her father's birthday. Janet writes, "My birthday present to him is to establish an annual Second Mile Award. The holder of the 2010 award receives a $500 honorarium, a certificate designed by my niece, and publication on Riehlife of the nomination essay. The deadline for nomination essays is November 9, 2010--my father's birthday. He'll join me in reading the essays to determine the holder of the 2010 Second Mile Award."

Picture of Erwin A. Thompson

What is the Second Mile Award? The Second Mile Award honors Elders 75 years and older whose dignity, character, creativity, and connection to community have quietly contributed to the world around them.

If you love to write and have a special Elder in your family, life or neighborhood, this is a chance for you to bring your 'loves' together. You write an essay describing how the Elder person has contributed to you and your community. Then send it to Janet's link. You could win a $500 honorarium. To find out more about how to nominate an Elder, enter your essay, the award, the meaning of the Second Mile, and Jane'ts father's life at Second Mile Award.

I think this is a wonderful birthday present, don't you? If you're a writer, and have a special Elder in your life, I hope you'll join in giving Janet's Dad a very special present this year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dribbles and Scribbles

Sometimes getting back into serious studio work requires serious play. Focus is great but all work and no play, not only makes me dull but my art as well. How do I know when that happens? Good question.

The biggest clue for me is SAS or Studio Avoidance Syndrome. Ok, silly, I know but I've noticed it's a pattern for me. When I push myself and my art to work harder and better and faster, I also find myself getting busy with too much busy work on the computer. That makes me very crabby.

Time for serious play. So, this week, after writing long hand with a pen in my journal, I decided to doodle. I got out this wonderful pastel paper that was given to me a year ago (it's very expensive, so, therefore, precious but I got it for free), and decide to make a mess of it.

I painted all over the paper with washes of acrylic paints in cerulean blue, cobalt blue, warm and cool reds. Then I added drips of pink ink.

After it dried, I got out my old pastels and scribbled. I haven't used any of these pastels in over a decade. I dabbed on light blue clouds. Then I scribbled all over that too. Smooshed over the scribbles and called it done. Fun.

Dribbling and scribbling, it's not great art. And that's the point, really. I finished with hands covered in pastel colors and a smile on my face. Just what I needed...not serious art but some serious fun!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Desire - Delicious and Scary.

Why is the word, desire, so delicious? Because it's such a sensual word, one that I feel to my very core. It creates visions of little birds hatching, fragrant flowers blossoming, water trickling in a fountain, hearty soup simmering, love shared, words written and said, copper and clay and paint and yarn and wire and beads and chocolate...well, you get the idea.

Desire is something I desire. I just didn't know to use that word until the other day when I read Jen Louden's blog post. Do I allow myself to feel it? Sadly, not very often. Why? Desire is a word that also scares me to my core. After I read Jen's blog and the comments, I saw I'm not alone with my desire of desire and my fear of it, too.

Here's are some quotes from Jen's blog about desire:

Lorin Roche, from The Radiance Sutras:

"When a desire arises in you, let it flow. Sense the sparkle and flash as the desire springs up. Put your whole attention into that flashing energy. Seeing desire in this way brings tranquility and equanimity. As you absorb the energy of the desire, you glow with satisfaction."

Jen wrote, "I do not want to miss out on life because I was afraid to desire. It burns, it hurts, it beckons, it seduces, and most of all, it’s here. Why waste time resisting?"

I commented, "I realize that I keep my ‘desire’ down because it scares me. Even the word, desire, shakes my soul and brings up the mud of guilt. Now, maybe, I can let it in a little, see it for the goodness that it is and can be?"

Molly Gordon shared this quote by Buddhist psychologist, Mark Epstein:

"Desire is a teacher: When we immerse ourselves in it without guilt, shame or clinging, it can show us something special about our own minds that allows us to embrace life fully… If we are out of touch with our desires, we cannot fully be ourselves. In this way of thinking, desire is our vitality, an essential component of our human experience, that which gives us our individuality and at the same time keeps prodding us out of ourselves."

What is desire to you? How does desire feel to you? How can we all move toward our desire, embracing desire without guilt?

I can see already, that just using the word desire, a sparkle of light, a shimmering tingle and a shy smile has started to peek through my serious busy-ness in spite of myself. I even let myself 'play' with paint today. I let myself desire fun and mess instead of perfection. That's not so bad, is it?