Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moss Gathering

A picture’s worth a 100 characters.

“A rolling stone gathers no moss”
Wise words true
Moss gathering is good
And wise and true too

A sporadic writing exercise based on the quote, “A picture’s worth a 1,000 words. I thought I would try it based on today’s technology. I snap a picture and write 100 characters about or around it. Want to join in the game? I’d love it, just leave a comment, write a 100 characters about the picture as a comment or on your blog and I’ll put up links as we go. Let’s have some fun!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Making bread...bad looks, good taste.

Most of the time, I cook without recipes. Sometimes, I just wing it combining recipes and ingredients. Sometime, it turns out. Sometimes, not. This time, I got a little of both.

It was cold, blustery afternoon and I wanted a warm, homemade loaf of bread to go with the stew I was making. I just didn't want to go out into the storm to the store for bread. I got out two recipes for bread, one from a favorite James Beard cookbook and one from The Oregonian Foodday(back when they actually had recipes). The James Beard recipe called for regular yeast and normal kneading but the Foodday recipe called for an 18 hour slow rise and no kneading. I wanted bread in 3 hours, so I got creative.

I used the basic recipe from James Beard, but substituted quick rise yeast from the Foodday recipe. I got out the flour, water, sugar, yeast and mixed up the dough. I grated up some Parmesan cheese. Then I ran outside to snap a few springs of Rosemary from the garden, as the cold rain dripped down my back, I was glad that's as far as I had to go.

I kneaded the cheese and rosemary into the dough and let it rise for about an hour. Punched it down. Reshaped into the pyrex bowl and let it double for about another hour or so. Instead of putting the casserole into the oven at 400 and then adding the bread according to the Foodday recipe, I just put the cold pyrex casserole with the bread inside into the oven.

The result: Flat top bread. It tasted good, especially with the cheese and rosemary baked inside. It did a great job of sopping up the stew, but, well, fell a little flat. Next time, I'm using the cast iron casserole for the bread baking instead of the stew. Or maybe it's time to buy another cast iron casserole, so I can make stew in one and bread in the other?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Joy of Walking

The sun is out today. It’s peeking out between the thick, deep gray, rain clouds that filled the lake to the brim last week.

Without my knowledge, these gray, dull overcast days clouded my soul. But today, as I walk with Jilly to the park, the clouds have cleared both inside and out. The sun is shining and I see hints of blue sky. The air is so fresh.

Up on the rooftop, a dove calls out to me. I hear the tweets of the red-wing blackbirds and caws of the crows. A gaggle of geese feast on the grass and robins swoop in dining on the worms flushed out by the storm.

I smell the spring, at last. The crisp freshness flows over my face waking my senses, my mind, heart and soul. I am out, feeling my feet on the path, stretching my arms and legs under the trees, leaning into the energy of the Douglass Fir tree. And, today, instead of closing my eyes as I meditate against the tree, I open them and smile and see the sunlight streaming between the bare branches highlighting the new, tender, yellow-green buds.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Putting the fun back on the social media playground.

When I blogged about social media pressure, I found out I wasn’t alone. Many people feel pressured, overwhelmed, distracted and left out of the social media playground. Yep. A lot like those playground games from school. But I wanted it to be different. I wanted, for once, to be the cool kid in school. Don’t you?

Well, once again, you and I are not alone. I listened to 4 experienced women talk about social media on a teleconference called, the “Self care, mindfulness and social media.” On the call was Jennifer Louden, best-selling author; Tara Sophia Mohr, Huffington Post columnist and coach; Marianne Elliot, writer, yogini and human rights advocate; and Bridget Pilloud, writer and intuitive life shifter. The call was led by writer and lifestyle design expert Tara Gentile. It was an interesting and informative and soul-full hour.

They talked about the need for social media as a way to connect and feel less isolated writing from home offices, to push their business, expand their network and get the attention of publishers. While each woman had her own approach to social media, they all desire more kindness, friendship and try to approach it with awareness and grounded mindfulness.

Ask yourself where am I today and why am I going on social media? Ego validation, connection or distraction? According to Jen, if her ‘mean voices’ are too loud that day, she makes sure she doesn’t sign on. Bridget puts up post-it notes with a question for herself and sets up her ‘Tweet Deck’ to send out pre-written tweets throughout the day, so she can concentrate on her face to face work. Tara did a blog survey and found that one of the things her readers liked most about her blog was that she didn’t post too much. Her mantra: less is more.

That doesn’t mean none of these women are immune to a bad case of ‘cool kid’ envy. And comparing stats, followers and tweets makes them feel as tense and anxious as the next person. What do they do?

Jen suggests spending the day filling your own well, a good writing day makes her feel strong and up to the facebook challenge. Marianne pointed out that social media is designed to create an adrenal response in your body, and when you’ve absorbed too much, it’s time to take a break. Breathe, put on some music and move your body, then you’ll be able to approach it with a playful attitude. If you feel a bad vibe from someone, Bridget suggests, take them off your list because you need to set firm boundaries in all areas of your life, including social media.

As far as facebook, the women are divided. Two women see it as a business and marketing site. The other two are changing how they use facebook, making their lists smaller, a more intimate place for family and friends to talk to each other without long distance charges.

One thing they all agree on...people will not forget us if we’re not on social media. Stats show that only 7% of the population is on Twitter. That leaves 93% who are not on social media. So to really connect, we need to get away from our computers and out into the world.

Even though I had a cold that day and couldn’t get out into the world, I was able to listen in to some wise, fun and insightful advice from 4 very wonderful women. Now that’s the kind of playground I want to play in!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A moment of insignificant silence.

Watching the waves rush over the fields and streets and cars and houses and people and dogs and cats in Japan, I was shocked, saddened and scared. All those lives, just washed away and all I could do was watch.

I offer only my own moment of silence...small and insignificant... silence.

In honor of every life lost.

In honor of every struggle to live.

In honor of fear and determination and survival.

In honor of love.

Remembering reading about plate tectonics, subduction zones and continental plates as I edited my brother's college physics papers. As I corrected spelling and punctuation, I learned, not realizing, the lessons would be needed in my lifetime.

We may have dodged this tsunami bullet, here in the Pacific Northwest, but it was our Pacific plate that was involved in this earthquake. Not insignificant.

I take a breath and honor in silence the preciousness of life.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Face Time or Face Book: Facing the pressure of social media.

This started out as a blog about taking a digital sabbatical, which I was going to take over the holidays. I didn’t post the blog. I didn’t take the sabbatical. But I’ve been playing duck and cover with social media for several months, now, and I haven’t been quite sure why.

I love my blog. When I started Sculpting A Life, I resolved to post at least 3 times a week. Now, I’m posting only 1 time a week.

I was enthusiastic about Facebook at first. I saw it as a bright, new way to be on the web, maybe meet some new friends, share my art and writing. I posted about all my shows, events and linked my blog to it. Now, the only ‘status’ update that I do is my blog.

It all just started to pile up. I wasn’t sure why I was hiding while everyone else was Facebooking away. Inviting everyone to Facebook events, sharing YouTube videos and funny photos. Was it too much info, from too many sources? Too much pressure to post my status as much as the next person? Too much me, me, me? Could be.

I know I’m not alone on my social network island. In the interview I did with Jennifer Louden here, she talked about the importance of putting parameters around social networking and the internet, including using anti-surfing software programs to keep you from wasting hours clicking mindlessly around the internet. She’s taken several digital sabbaticals so she could spend more face to face time with her family instead of Facebook.

Lately, I’ve read a few other blogs about how to survive social media madness. Here are their ideas: Set up your own Social Media 10 Commandments like Tara Sophia Mohr in her guest post about using social media sanely. I really liked her ideas on comparisons, judgments and the need for following your life out in the real world with face to face. And Bridget Pilloud's ideas here about trusting your gut, not your laptop, is wonderfully bold and true. Bridget points out that if you feel uncomfortable with some site or post or facebook friend, listen to your intuition and remember your boundaries.

I love the internet in many ways. I’ve made wonderful connections, shared ideas, created art, been helped and hopefully, helped others as well. My favorite part of the internet is right here, my blog. Sharing my creative journey with all its ups and downs with other like-minded creative people out there makes the studio and writing desk a lot less lonely than it used to be, that’s for sure.

I know that as an artist and writer, I need the internet, social media and email for marketing. And I love it for reading blogs, articles and finding information at my fingertips. But it can be intrusive, overwhelming, and start to dominate your life. Some days, my laptop feels like a ball and chain. Maybe taking a digital sabbatical would take the weight off. The problem, I see is, it would all still be there when I got back.

Let’s face it; Facebook was created as a way for a guy to ‘market’ himself to girls. So, it’s not surprising that its become the place to try to impress or market your work, family or life. Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided jumping on everyday to do a status update on my life.

I need to set parameters, of course. But I don’t want to become an internet hermit, either. Maybe what I’m looking for is more heart. Not more marketing.

As I write this blog, with my thoughts about the nature of the internet, I’m sitting in my chair feet propped up on pillows, my laptop in my lap keeping me warm on a cold winter day, a thought occurs to me…could this be the modern version of a cabin in the woods?

Am I writing from my cabin to yours? The only difference is it doesn’t require paper or printing and it gets from me to you, by mouse click down the digital highway instead by horse and carriage down rutted, dirt road.

I’m wondering this: Is it possible to create a digital Walden Pond? One where we could all wander, wonder and write? One where our spirits get uplifted, supported, our creativity supported, our imaginations stirred?

Now that’s my kind of space on the internet…how about you?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is a picture worth a 1,000 characters?

I’ve been musing about this idea for a while, now. Setting up a challenge for myself and any of you out there who’d like to join in, to write 1,000 characters about a picture I put up on my blog. I’m not sure how it’s going to work out. But I thought it might be a fun way to share our words, thoughts and pictures together.

Here’s what I’m thinking: I post a picture, my own words about it, then you write about it, post a comment linking to your blog. We all get to share.

What do you think?

I love the sky. The ever changing colors painted above my head. I see the clouds as a constantly changing sculpture in shape, color and form. It stirs my imagination. When I was a little girl, I loved to spin around and around on summer nights watching the summer sky whirling above me.

Blue sky wishes
On a cold, rainy day
Wading through dishes
Coffee on its way

White clouds floating
Not a sea of grey
Deep water bloating
The lake
Geese fly away

(Everything above this sentence adds up to 1,000 characters exactly. It took me a few tries, and I’m surprised how many words I can write with 1,000 characters. What about you?)