Saturday, May 29, 2010

To Do or Not To Do - Answers

Last week, I wrote about my habit of list making and whether 'To Do' or 'Not to Do' helps or hinders my creativity. I wondered how other people manage their lives and creative projects. Did they have long lists, too? Or no lists at all?

I worried that a life without lists, might become too listless, that I would dabble here and there never getting anything done ever again. But was having so many lists about everything becoming a burden rather than giving me freedom from fear? I wondered if there was a better way to manage all the projects I need to get done without hyper-managing myself with lists.

So I asked for help. And thank you all for sharing your thoughts on lists and your own list making strategies. Here are your comments and ideas.

Kim Switzer said:
I do make lists, but they don't help me get everything done. I've stopped making highly detailed lists, though. I make a list for a period of 2-3 days rather than a daily list, and I only put on it the big things that need my time and attention. That way, I don't get caught up in the small busy-nesses of life and forget to focus on what really needs me. I've been doing this since the end of last year, and it seems to help me get things done without leaving me overwhelmed by a too huge "to do" list.

Stacy(aka goldenbird) comments:
I have slowly stopped making lists almost without realizing it. I used to make them on the weekends because I felt overwhelmed with stuff I needed to do, but then I would get bummed out because I didn't want to spend the weekend checking off a to-do list. At my day job I have a to do list of my big projects, but I don't make lists of the little tasks anymore. Everything somehow gets done.

Caelista said:
Like goldenbird, I used to start the weekend with a big list but it was depressing to have so many tasks ahead of me, and then the lists kept getting longer as I remembered more things I needed to do. I never seemed to get through them.

Lois J. de Vries writes:
I keep a Master List by category that I add to whenever something occurs to me. From that list, I choose three to four priorities (in various categories) for each month.
On Mondays, I make a weekly list of everything I would like to get done that week and have gotten over the idea that the list is way too long. That isn't its purpose.
Whatever doesn't get done on Monday is carried to Tuesday. What's left on Tuesday's list gets carried to Wednesday, etc. Yes, sometimes things come up that have to be added. On the weekends, the list may change completely, to address just weekend things. On Monday, I carry forward whatever is left over from the previous Friday and add more things.Over time, the irritation of seeing the same item on the list every day for two months or more acts as an incentive to finally get it off the list. I either decide not to do it, or do it. I view lists as organizational tools that free up brain cells that would otherwise be used for repetitive tasks of remembering. Past a certain age, it's the only way you can remember anything.
These days I try to focus on one main thing I need to get done each day, or at least no more than three main things. That seems to work a lot better because I can actually finish them!

Thanks to you all again!

I can see that there are many ways to look at lists and the more creative you are, the more creative you can be with your lists. Using them as an organizational tool and a memory jogger, a way to get big projects and goals done, or keeping them small and doable. Hearing that things can get done without lists made me curious. What would happen if I tried going listless for a week? Would I become a non-productive drone or would I still get work done?

I've decided to take your advice to heart this week and try a week without a list. So, I threw out my lists, took down my post-it notes and closed my notebook next to my computer. Will I get work done? Or will I wind up in front of the TV staring into space? I'll keep you I could make a list about that...but :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Masks Unvieled - In the Studio

I love masks and mask making is a big part of my art. For years, I was happy to be chosen to make masks for a local annual mask show. When that ended, my mask making stopped. In fact, my studio work stalled for a while. In the past two years, I've been lucky to be able to make masks again for local and regional mask shows. And, now that I have my own kiln, I get to make masks in clay, too.

So, here are a few of my newest clay masks, all finished and hung up on the wall.

Also, I had so many good comments about the 'To Do or Not To Do' blog, I'll be putting all those helpful ideas in my next blog. So, if you haven't put in your 2 cents worth on the question of 'To Do or Not To Do' lists, do it by Friday, so I can include your ideas, too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jilly Unleashed - In the Park

Jilly's romping instead of running away! It's taken 4 years of training and treats, practice and problems but finally, Jilly can be trusted off leash. Please understand, that I am a firm believer in the leash law. But today was a training exercise and, if all went well, a graduation from our private dog training home school.

We adopted Jilly as a 'Career Changer' from our local guide dogs association when they determined that she was not going to meet their needs. Jilly jumped when she heard van doors slam. She startled when someone walked behind her. Refused to walk over sidewalk grates or jump into the back of the car. Played 'keep away' instead of fetch. And refused to come when she was called.

But from the first, I saw the love in those sweet brown eyes, I was determined we'd fix those problems. It took time and patience and persistence. But one by one, we got through each problem. Jilly learned to walk with someone behind her, jump into the car on command, and walk over grates. Playing fetch without playing keep away took much more time, but now she loves the game so much, she bugs us endlessly for just one more toss.

Coming when she was called and being able to be off leash has taken a long time. There was progress and setbacks. There were times when I didn't think I'd ever be able to let Jilly off leash. It hurt me to think that she'd never be able to run with the freedom and abandon that I knew she craved. But I couldn't let her run free without knowing whether she would come back to me. It's not a matter of my authority, it's a matter of her safety.

Everyday, we practiced. Because she wouldn't respond to the word, 'come', I had to figure out other ways to do it. I started with treats and the word, 'here'. That worked so I added a hand signal. That worked but sometimes, Jilly would get rebellious. When that happened, even treats didn't work. So I had to get creative. I started playing hide and seek with her in the house. I'd hide in closets and behind doors upstairs and down. It worked. She loved the game. So, I'd call, 'Jilly, where am I?'. When she found me, I'd have my hand signal for 'here' and give her a treat. We took it to the backyard. It worked there, too.

And so, for the last 3 years or so, we've played that game almost everyday. I hid. Jilly found me. I called. Jilly came.

But I was still afraid to let her off leash anywhere but the backyard. I was afraid that she'd see the open space and like she'd done before, panic and run away. But I also knew that it was time to give her the final tests. I just hoped she'd pass.

First the test was off leash in the woods, just a few feet from me or my husband with treats. She passed with flying colors. Second, the test of letting her sniff around off leash. She passed that one, too. Third, romping with another dog in the woods off leash...again, she passed.

It was time for her final test off leash in the park's baseball field, next to the picnic area, playground, and yes, street. I knew I had to be calm and confident. I had to believe in her.

I let her off leash. Jilly took off at a full bolt run across the park, across the baseball field with her ears flapping and her tongue flopping out, she ran in circles around and around the field picking up more speed each time. I breathed out a sigh to see her joy. And I breathed in to calm myself and keep my confidence in her.

Then, I called, "Jilly, where am I?" and used the hand signal. Would she pass the test? Would she come to me in her moment of freedom? Would she finally graduate to be a fully trained dog?
She heard me. She saw me. She came running full speed across the field right to me. Stopped. Sat. And waited for her treat. I told her what a good, good, good girl she was and gave her treats, of course. Then, as she ran over to my husband, then back to me again and again, I jumped for joy and laughed as tears rolled down my cheeks.

Jilly may not have ever had the chance to graduate from guide dog school, but today, she graduated from her own home school. Jilly did it. I couldn't be prouder. Graduations are so emotional, aren't they? I just want to know which way to place Jilly's tassel?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To Do or Not To Do - A Question

Do you make a 'to do' list? I do. But I've been wondering lately whether my 'to do' lists really help my work get done. Or whether it's just another thing 'to do'.

Thanks to Sister Mary Catherine, I've been making lists since the first grade. After many nights of bedtime panic because I'd forgotten to do my homework, Sister gave me a small notebook and told me to make a list of all my assignments. I took that book everywhere and wrote down every assignment from that day on. I didn't go to bed in a panic anymore as long as I had my notebook by my bed.

I am a very organized person. Lists have proved to be a very helpful tool. I'm not blaming Sister Mary Catherine, she was trying to help a struggling, fearful little girl. I've even taught my own children to use 'to do' lists.

But now, after many decades of using this tool, is this tool using me?

It started out as a way to be less fearful. But did it really make me less fearful? When I have project, a weekend off or vacation, I worry that I'm going to forget something so I make another list. Post a notes are everywhere in my house. Making a list has been the first thing I did every week and checking it off gave me a feeling of accomplishment.

Now, there's a part of me that wants to be free 'to do' whatever comes to mind. To create without an agenda, a schedule, a list of projects with sublists. After a few years filled with fear, loss and change, I want to be open to enjoying my life as it's happening with more ease and flow and grace.

So what did I do to help myself move into this new space?

Yup. I made a list. I didn't realize it at first. I just saw the post-its as colorful little flags, a way to make my intentions more concrete. But now I see that in an effort to get out from under my old fear-based behavior of making lists, I just made another series of lists.

Do you make lists? Does it help you get everything in your life done? Or is it a ball and chain that slows down your life and saps your creative energy? If you don't make lists, how do you remember to get everything done?

So the question...To Do or Not To Do? Can I live my life and get my work done without a list? What do you suggest? Let me know and I'll keep you all posted. By the way, you're on my list. :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Patience and Peonies - Around the House

About 3 years ago, I planted five peony bushes. With peony bushes, you don't get blooms the first year, and maybe not the second. So, as a lover of their huge showy blossoms and delicious scent, I had to be patient.

This year, my waiting was rewarded with these huge peonies with fuchsia colored petals and bright yellow centers. As you can see, it's got those bees a buzzing!

I also have a nice new crop of Calla Lilies bursting forth right now, too. Their smooth white flowers are such a sculptural delight.

Also, in the garden, thanks to some tips from Susan Tweit's blog on starting seeds indoors, I have these great little beet plants. I planted the seeds in the pots and put them in my sunny and warm upstairs bathroom a few weeks ago. Now, they're ready to plant in the garden box tomorrow.

I have three more peony bushes ready to burst into bloom. So, again, patience is required. But sometimes, it's definitely worth the wait. At least this year, I know the rewards will be bountiful and beautiful!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A tree of hope - Walk in the Park

Cloudy grey skies cover the world overhead as Jilly & I walk to the park today. But even though I'd hoped for more sun, it doesn't darken my spirits. I'm too busy admiring the pink, purple, yellow and white blooms of dogwoods, rhododendrons, and iris all around me.

There's a house that I pass everyday on the way to the park that always grabs my attention. It's not the house itself, it's this tree in the front yard, or rather what's left of the tree. It used to be a large plum tree, much like the one in my backyard. But now, it's a sad, cut down trunk of a tree. Why the owner cut it down, I don't know.

What's so hard to look at is the way it was chopped and then left to die. They cut off all the limbs and then chopped into the trunk at odd angles. But they left about 3 feet of the tree trunk just standing there bare and mutilated. For a long time now, every day I walked by it, I cringed.

But not anymore. You see, over the course of the last year, I saw these tiny twigs sprouting from the sides of this poor tree trunk. There were no leaves, just little branches. At first, I thought maybe I hadn't noticed them before, that may be the owner had run out of steam cutting the tree down and left them there. Maybe they did just figuring the tree would die.

It didn't die. This year, there were tiny buds that flowered. Yes, against all odds and in spite of all the ill treatment, this tree is springing to life.

This tree gives me hope. It proves to me that no matter what happens in life that may cut you down, you can bloom again. All you have to do is keep yourself rooted and you will not only survive but grow and blossom again. Now everyday, I when I walk by this tree and I smile.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Beautiful Inspiration

My husband surprised me with a wonderful Mother's Day gift: two tickets to the Carole King and James Taylor Turbadoor Renunion Concert. I've loved King and Taylor as singer songwriters since I was a teenager.

Carole King's first hit album, 'Tapestry', was my first experience with her music. Her performance is wonderful but it's her writing, her lyrics that hit my heart and soul. As a young teenager, the words in her songs gave me messages that I needed to hear. They uplifted my shaken teenage heart, gave my soul something to believe in and hang onto when my life was rocky. Words like these from the song, "Beautiful", literally got me out of bed in the morning...

'You've got to get up every morning With a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
The people gonna treat you better
You're gonna find, yes you will
That you're beautiful as you feel'

And nothing spoke about a teenage crush to me like the song, "I feel the earth move"...

'Hey, I feel the earth move
Under my feet.
I feel the sky tumblin' down.
I feel my heart start to tremble
whenever you're around.'

And when I had to move all the way from Ohio to Oregon, away from all my high school friends nothing soothed my soul like
these words from, "You've got a friend"...

'When you're down and troubled and you need some love and care,
and nothing, nothing is going right,
close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there
to brighten up even your darkest night.

You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am,
I'll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call
and I'll be there
You've got a friend.'

Carole King was a songwriter long before she was a performer. I had no idea of all the songs I'd heard over the years that were her work recorded by other performers from The Shirelles with "Will you still love me tomorrow", The Chiffons with "One fine day", The Animals with "Don't bring me down" along with performers like The Beatles, Herman's Hermits, Celine Dion, and James Taylor to name a few. She's acted on Broadway, in movies and on TV. She's a mom with 4 children, too.

I'm awed and amazed and inspired by a woman of such talents. Her writing continues to inspire me.

Just take last night at the Rose Garden, to a completely sold out house, she sang, played the piano and danced around the stage with James Taylor and the band. Just seeing her and James up there, doing what they love most in the world, their music, is inspiration enough. But both of them are millionaires with no need to tour anymore, both are in their late 60's considered to be 'retirement' age by some; yet there they were up on stage for 3 hours singing their hearts outs. Carole's joyful exuberance once again showed the world all the love in her heart. And I know, it filled my heart and soul with love, happiness and inspiration just as it did the day I first played her 'Tapestry' album.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quote Quiz - "By indirections find directions out."

Who said this? Who wrote this? Is it the same person?

I love this quote. I've had it on my refrigerator off and on for years. Where does this quote come from? Who wrote it? Do you know? Share it here and along with how you feel about the quote and what it means to you. Does it create a picture in your mind?

In another blog, I'll put up your answers, ideas and pictures this quote calls up for you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Life Remembered

My husband's mother died yesterday. She was 91 years old. That's a long life to live and something to be remembered. What I remember most is her kindness. Even though I wasn't the most dutiful daughter-in-law, she always greeted me with a smile and a hug. She loved my children and thought they were adorable babies. She never corrected me on my parenting and saw that I was a truly dedicated mother and she appreciated it.

I remember her smile was always wide, her laugh frequent and her hands were always busy. She did a whole array of crafts from rug hooking, embroidery and sewing to crochet, knitting and cross-stitch kits. That was one thing we had in common. I, too, have always loved to embroider, cross stitch and later in my life I taught myself to crochet and knit. I used to watch her knit and crochet fascinated by her speed and expertise. By the time I learned to crochet, she was unable to do it anymore as her eyes and mind were not as good anymore. So I never told her that I'd finally learned to do it.

I hope she knows that I will remember always appreciated being treated kindly. I hope she knows how much I love her son. I hope she knows that her smile and laugh will be remembered. I hope she knows her ability to knit and crochet was an inspiration to me and that I passed on that knowledge to her granddaughter.

She didn't win any awards, make the news or have a facebook page, she just lived an normal life as a wife, mother and grandmother. But I realize that a life well lived doesn't have to make news to make a big impact on others.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy Beltane! - Around the House

Today, May 1st, is May Day for many of us. For the Gaelic and Irish, it's Beltane, one of the two important fire festivals in the Celtic year. Beltane arrives at the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, it's celebrated as a fertility festival marking the rebirth of the earth. Many of the same symbols that mark Easter, mark this festival as well including eggs and flowers.

According to Wikipedia, "Another common aspect of the festival which survived up until the early 20th century in Ireland was the hanging of May Boughs on the doors and windows of houses and the erection of May Bushes in farmyards, which usually consisted either of a branch of rowan/caorthann (mountain ash) or more commonly whitethorn/sceach geal (hawthorn) which is in bloom at the time and is commonly called the 'May Bush'. The practice of decorating the May Bush or Dos Bhealtaine with flowers, ribbons, garlands and colored egg shells."

Another popular celebration of this holiday around the world is dancing around the Maypole in a clockwise direction to bring fertility and good luck. The colored ribbons added later are said to symbolize the balance of masculine and feminine.

I don't have a maypole in my backyard, but I did celebrate May Day in my own way. Today, I filled my empty patio pots with fresh soil and new plants. I bought some new plants and some old favorites. I always love to plant trailing blue and purple lobelia and small white and red wax begonias alternating around the pots. This year, I'm experimenting and mixing in some alyssum, hybrid dahlias, and delphiniums. I couldn't help myself, I bought 3 coleus plants because I just love the colors of the leaves.

The sun came out and smiled on me dirty hands and all. And my husband and I managed to find a little time to enjoy our hard work with a beer and homemade guacamole. Happy Beltane (May Day) to you! I hope you had time to get out and enjoy the spring flowers, too.