Sunday, December 30, 2018

I Still Don’t Understand.

2017 left the land of hope into the 2018 bumpy road of understanding. Or so I hoped. And I tried to understand, really I did. But day by day the news feeds, headlines and tweets became a messy, mudslinging pile of lies, corruption and denial.

Our president pledged to uphold the constitution of our country but has shut our borders, insulted our allies, stirred a pot of hatred and fear. Other countries infiltrate our internet, which is an act of war. Racist groups grow hotter under the flame fanned by our own president.

Where, oh where is the understanding?

Right under our noses, I believe. We all know what’s going on, yet our elected officials do nothing. We know what is right. We know what is wrong. We do understand. 

Our country is corrupted. Our president is only interested in what makes him more interest(money). Our  senators and congressmen are bribed by corporations and pharmaceutical companies. Our health and education and security as citizens are the last thing on their lists. 

Still, I tried to see the possibilities. I tried to understand that the bad getting worse would cause a wake up call for our country. We as a people, instead of becoming more divided, would unite to make a better world, country and lives for all. 

I understand less and less each day. And yet, I don’t want to give up on US or give in to cynicism or anger or hopelessness. 

What new word will this 2019 new year bring?

I’m not sure, yet. All I know is I need hope and understanding to come together. I need a word to comfort me, to lighten the darkness, to see possibility that we are not a lost country on the road to destruction but a people finding our way down a rough road together.   

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Solstice, Fire, Creations and Vacations.

The Solstice always brings a time of contemplation, rest and renewal. The shortest day and longest night of the year gives us all a bigger space in which to slow down, put our feet up in front of the fire and feel its warmth and safety. 

Fire seems to be a big part of my life all year. I’m a Sagittarius which is astrologically a fire sign. Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved sitting in front of a fire. Watching the flames is a meditative practice for me providing a flowing movement to calm me, a visual mantra to center me and light to help me see through the darkness of doubt and fear. 

Having a new gas fireplace for Christmas has helped bring more serenity to my space in a way I would not have anticipated. The old fireplace was drafty and unused and made the room cold and almost unlivable in the winter months. Now I can sit here and write, listen to music, watch the flames feeling the cozy warmth on my face. 

Kiln time.  

On the Solstice, I also loaded and fired a glaze load in my kiln. Yes, the world’s shortest day was a long work day for me. Truth be told, it’s been a longer work week for me than usual. This time of the year, I give in to the demands of the season and suspend my studio work until after the New Year. 

This year, I have a gallery delivery date the first week of January. There is a theme for the January show called ‘Winter Dreams’. I admit I don’t always do well with ‘theme’ work. But this one snuck up and crept into my clay work. At first, I was just collecting leaves, playing with shapes without any agenda. 

Then the shapes became bent winter trees. And the leaves that fell in the fall became frosted, winter sculptured bowls and a platter. And shapeshifter bust came out of the closet to become a new, small sculpture. 

Now the kiln is cooling and I won’t know if all the pieces made it through, let alone came out as I envision. I never open the kiln until four days after I fire. The waiting and not knowing is always hard. 

Time for a vacation. 

With Christmas ahead, taking a vacation from the studio gives me space to enjoy the holiday, create in a different way. 

Instead of clay, I bake shortbread, cherry cake and candy. Instead of painting, I create with flowers, wrapping paper and ribbons. Instead of feeling the sun on my face, I sit warm and delighted in front of a new fireplace. 

My wish for the solstice is simple: peace, warmth and light for everyone near and far. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Remembering Gratefulness.

Quiet. Soft Lights. A warm fire. Music flowing around me. A puppy snoozing on my feet. 

These are some of the things I am grateful for today. 

In this season of busyness and bargain buying, it’s wonderful to sit and savor the simple things in my life. I want to appreciate it all not just right now or today but everyday. It’s not an easy task to keep my focus with all the loud tweets, posts, commentaries made around me. I try to tune it out, but it sneaks in, under and around my life anyway. 


I believe seeing the good around the bad in our country, world and universe is essential. It is a lifeline to sanity. A path to peace. A journey that reveals the true purpose to living each day beyond basic survival. 

This is why I started a gratefulness journal many years ago. I didn’t want to spend my days hearing and seeing only the bad words and difficult people. I didn’t want my critical monkey mind to derail me. I didn’t want to be blind to the beautiful little everyday things in my days. 

It’s easy to do. 

I keep a small book and pen by my bedside. And every night before I go to sleep, I write. It’s just a few lines, no big deal. After I write, I ask my husband the same question and I write down his answers too. 

Inside the book, at the top of every page are the words, Today, I am grateful for...

Yesterday it was a walk without rain, Greek potatoes for dinner, seeing the neighborhood holiday lights. For my husband, I wrote: relaxing day in front of the fire, walk with the puppy, getting the bamboo cut up. Today for me it’s a relaxing Sunday, a walk in the park, waffles with bacon, a puppy who follows me from room to room and lays on my feet to sleep. 

It’s so simple that I miss how important it is to me. It keeps from getting lost in this complex maze called life where I rush and worry and strive too much. I forget that each breath is a gift, each color a miracle, each sound magical and each puppy kiss a delight. 

Today, what are you grateful for?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Tis the Season: Trees, Memories and New Ideas.

I do love the holidays. The lights, colors, smells and sweets all help to make this darker time of the year brighter. First, I clean out fall and re-deck the halls. I put the trees on the mantle, plop bright red pillows on the sofa and get out my Santa collection and my children’s favorite Christmas books. 

Every ornament and Santa picture is a happy trip down memory lane. The candy cane Rudolph and starfish Santa my children made in school. The photos with Santa at Meier and Frank’s Toyland. But those babies are Masters graduates now. 

Many seasons, many changes. 

For the first time this year, we did not go out to our favorite tree farm for a freshly cut Grand Fir because the family sold the property to developers to make yet another subdivision in our suburban landscape. It’s sad to see it go. But we’ll always have the memories of many family treks in the woods to find that perfect tree. 

Now our perfect tree came from Amazon. I know. Some might say a faux tree is good for the environment and cutting a fresh one is bad. Or visa versa. There are good and bad sides, of course. One: it finally fits our narrow space so we don’t have to move all the furniture. Two: it’s tall and stately and clean. Three: it’s reusable every year. 

But I do miss the smell and freshness of a ‘real’ tree. 

Creative Spirit. 

I know I often see change as bad. There’s the fear of the unknown. But what I find too, is a spirit of adventure. A chance to try something new. An opening for creativity.

I missed the Grand Fir smell and I decided to see what I could do about it. First, of course, I brought out the candles and searched for ones with a ‘forest’ scent. It works. But it’s not what I was really missing: the scent in the tree itself.  

Ah ha. I work in clay. 

What holds scent? A bisque fired clay. What did I have in the kiln? Bisque fired red clay hearts. I unloaded the kiln and found 2 dozen nicely bisque hearts with porous clay on the back. I was just going to make magnets out of them, but I realized they could be more. Add a ribbon, and a magnet, a few drops of good scented oil and I’ve got a Christmas tree that smells like one again. 

Problem solved.

Now when I walk past the tree, all the lovely memories of fresh cut trees, Santa visits and sweet, little faces blend with our new faux fir. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thankful: A Day of Small Moments

My granddaughter, Meyer is curled up, fast asleep tucked in by her baby blankets with her head on her special purple pillow. My sweet new Lab puppy is also curled up on his soft bed, asleep. This is truly a blissful moment. And a moment that can be so easily taken for granted because it’s just a normal, rainy, Monday. 

Thankful surprise. 

About a week and a half ago, I got the call Guide Dogs had a career changer for me! Tears of joy streamed down my face, as I listened to the director’s message. I jumped. I laughed. I almost couldn’t believe it. 

What is a Guide Dog Career Changer? Quite simply, a dog who, for many reasons, would not make a perfect dog to help and guide a blind person. With all the exceptional breeding, puppy raising and training, there are very few puppies now who don’t move on in the program. The ones who are career changed have a wide range of issues from physical to behavioral. They may not fit the Guide Dog program, but they are still wonderful.  

Meet Darby.

Delightful, sleek, strong and sweet, Darby is an 18 month old, black male Labrador Retriever. Born and raised in California, he came up to the Oregon campus a few weeks ago. He was career changed for his difficult ‘home’ habits. 

This means he ‘counter surfs’, ‘dumpster dives’, plays keep away and is very vocal. Now, I’ve dealt with all of these issues with other dogs. But right now, I want to get to know him. 

I now know he loves to walk in the park, jump for balls and eat strawberries. He does not like rain, getting his feet wet or dried off. Geese, ducks, kids and other dogs all distract him. He’s very energetic and needs to be reminded to take it easy going up or down stairs, across the floor or out the door. And he whines, cries, and yowls when he is in his kennel, which  just makes me laugh. 

Progress Already. 

He already knows his new name. When I call him, he comes. When I go around the corner without letting him know, he sees me and follows. Now, instead of pulling, he waits. He walks easily up, down and around. He is learning to ‘settle’ on his blanket or bed.

He does not bark. He is lying here on his bed, listening to new noises: cars and trucks on the street, dogs barking, the furnace and yet, he is quiet. His head goes up with each sound, he looks to me, I tell him it’s ok. He puts his head back down without a sound and does not disturb my sleeping granddaughter’s nap. 

It’s 3:30 now. Today’s rain continues and the dull, cloudy light is fading. But to me, it’s been a beautiful day. Why be thankful for a quiet, rainy Monday?

Because life is all about the small moments filled with giggles, yawns and peace. Thankfully. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

You Just Never Really Know.

One day, you dream of doing or making or being or creating or loving but you don’t see any way that it might work out. You don’t have the skills or the place or the equipment or the time or the opportunity. 

All you have is a dream that’s like steam on a mirror. You can see a vague form. You have a sense of presence and possibility that feels warm and inviting. But you can’t reach out and grab it. Not yet.  

Waiting is not fun. 

Patience is not my strong suit. I get so frustrated when I’m waiting for anything, anywhere, anytime. And yet, I know I can’t push time forward or backward because I am just one element, one blink of the immensity of time. Time is not mine. 

But when I see the future of an idea or a creation, I want to do it and see it now. And yet, at the same time, I know creation is not about the destination, the end point, the result. It’s about the journey. And the journey can take some crazy curves. 

Clay, my teacher. 

I love clay. It’s soft and cool and so wonderfully squishy. You can throw it and mold it and roll it. I can make it into cups, bowls, vases as well as masks, figures, flowers and faces. I can paint it and carve it and enjoy it’s pure, essential color. 

But it will not be rushed or pushed. It will only become in its own time. 

And I have learned to honor that even as I chomp at the bit of time. It’s a life long lesson in patience that is taking me a lifetime to learn. 

And that’s ok. I like all the life in and around me and I hope I get to keep living it for a long time. But since my sweet Jilly died suddenly in March, I’ve been shocked into the reality that time can stop suddenly for anyone at anytime. That fear has been chasing me lately, making me run faster and hurry. Yet at the same time, I’ve found myself holding my breath. 

But without breath, there is no life. 

And so clay, once again teaches me slowly to be here, in each roll, slab, turn of the wheel to be in each minute, each day, in each breath. That what I dreamed but never thought I could do, I can. What I thought would never happen, does. And an opportunity I’d given up on, comes to me. 

Breathe. Because you just never know. 

And that’s a good thing. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Time to Go High not Low.

Photo by NASA Apollo Astronauts 12/7/72

I was sitting staring at my TV with my mind cluttered with dark thoughts when up on the screen popped a view of the Earth from the Space Station. There before my eyes was a soft, white swirl of downy clouds topping planet Earth. 

My mind stopped. My eyes relaxed. I actually smiled down at all of us who live here. Birds, otters, whales, dogs, cats, horses, elk, deer, bears, fish and yes, even, insects all eat and sleep here. And yes, most of us will die here. Many of us much too soon. 

The fear and pain and horror is not to be denied. Many sad realities of now need changing and the weight is hard for all of us. Even more so for the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who have lost their lives and loved ones. So many wrongs need to be righted in this topsy-turvy time.

But it’s way too easy to get caught up in the hate and fear and violence. And doing so helps no one. And stops nothing. At this low point in our life in this country and on this planet, I found some comfort in these beautiful and wise words from Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama on going high.  

“I absolutely still believe that we’ve got to go high-always and without exception. It’s the only way we can keep our dignity. Because if we lose our dignity, what do we have left?”

“When someone’s trying to pull you down into the mud, it takes a lot less effort to give in and join them in the muck than to keep yourself upright, standing tall. If you allow yourself to play on their terms, they win. It’s what they want you to do. You can’t give them the satisfaction.”

“Now, going high doesn’t mean giving up or ignoring reality. It doesn’t mean you shoe away from the fight or weaken your principles. It means you lead with your whole heart and your whole soul -your whole value system - and not just whatever happens to be your stance on a given issue. Going high isn’t just about the fight you want to win, but it’s also about the person you want to be -the kind of country you want to have.”

“Barack and I have always tried to do this: When the haters come our way, we don’t let them distract us from our purpose. We brush them off when we can, and we deal with them when we need to. But we never lose sight of our goal. We never stop working. And we never stop trying to set a good example for the next generation - not just for our two daughters but for everyone’s kids. Do we want the next generation to be angry? Do we want them to be spiteful and petty? Or do we want them to live by the values that our parents taught us - values like honesty and generosity and respect?”

“I think the answer is easy enough. And it’s an answer that always applies, not just when it’s easy.”

Saturday, November 3, 2018

As the Wheel Turns: Home Stretch

Sometimes, I feel I’ll never get it all done. Yes, I do love creating. And art, is all about the process whether I’m working with paint, copper, window screening or clay. I love layers and textures and colors. Oh my.

But working with clay as I do, there are times when I just want to look up and magically see all my pieces perfectly glazed and sitting on my shelves.

There are a lot of stages in the art of making porcelain pieces. Some I love. Some I don’t. 

Throwing =Love. The smooth clay is lucious. The spinning wheel is meditation in motion. 
Handbuilding = Love.  Slapping, rolling, texture, cutting, pinching, shaping are all wonderful. 
Underglazing = Love. Layering color after color is pure play. 

Glazing = Don’t Love. Messy, tedious and a logistical nightmare.

My studio is in three different places in my house. In the garage, I throw and fire and store glaze buckets. In the home office/studio, I handbuild, paint and glaze. In the utility room, I get water for throwing, building or painting, set up for glazing, mix and clean up brushes and glazes. 

Glazing day set up: 1 1/2 hours. Bring in glazing buckets from garage. Get glaze from studio. In the utility room, open and mix glaze in each gallon bucket. Carry bucket from utility room to studio(opposite sides of my house). Bring in more water to mix more glaze to fill bucket(because it’s too heavy for me to carry from utility room) in studio.

Dipping bowls into the glaze bucket = 1/2 hour. 

Cleaning up = 1 hour. Washing the table, spatula, brushes, mixer, buckets x 4, moping floor, stacking and re-shelving all above equipment either in the garage or my inside studio. 

After all glazed pieces have dried overnight, I load them on a tray inside and carry it out to the garage where I load the kiln. This takes 3 to 10 trips, depending on the kiln load. 

Home stretches. 

I wondered, perhaps there is a way to make my home and studio stretch to work a little better. Now I have a 5 gallon bucket of glaze mixed and ready to use sitting on a new metal cart with wheels inside my studio. Next time I need to glaze, I can roll it out, mix it and use it all in one place. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Wanted: Four-Footed Best Friend

I love dogs. And happily, most of my life has been filled with fluffy tail wagers, spotted barkers, wonderful walkers and cheerful chewers. Since my sweet Jilly died suddenly, I’ve felt loss and grief, as you can read in my other dog blogs, but there’s more to it. 

I feel lost without a four-footed best friend. Yes, I am an animal person. I’ve had many cats, too. And once a week, my son’s dog comes along on Meyer Monday’s and I get to take her for a walk, feed and play with her. But as a true ‘dog’ person, I miss my pack. 

I grew up with dogs.

The first dog I remember was a cute Beagle. I was very small but I remember him sitting beside me. Our next dog, a black, Standard Poodle, was adorable. True to his poodle roots, he was happy, energetic, fun and loyal to us all. If you’ve never been around a standard poodle, you’re in for a treat. Smart and entertaining, they are irrepressible and need kind, firm training. But I call them the ‘tigger’ of dogs for a reason. 

My two Golden Retrievers were both sweet, loving and wonderful family dogs. One was definitely calmer and easier to train. She loved to play frisbee, swim in her very own wading pool and cuddle with the cats. The other, a field dog golden, was energetic and smart with a mind of her own. She loved to chase birds, swim in the ocean or any available body of water, play ball and go for long walks. 

Jilly was, of course, wonderful, too. But she was also special because she came to us from Guide Dogs as a career changer. Smart and energetic, Jilly had a few training quirks but we worked together forming a strong bond of love. She loved to chase squirrels, eat tomatoes and strawberries out of the garden. She especially loved to walk. And so we walked to the park almost everyday.

Along the way, I’ve taken dog training classes, helped with rescue dogs, and done lots of dog sitting. And although, I’m really glad to see my son’s dog, Apple, every week, I know someone is missing from my life.   

Where, oh where, is my new doggy?

I didn’t think finding my new dog would be so hard or take so long. I’ve searched and searched online but I haven’t seen my new friend, yet. 

I know many rescue groups are bringing in dogs from Asian countries, but I really want to help a dog from right here. I have a granddaughter, so I need to be careful of certain mixed breeds. But surely, there’s a 12-18 month old Golden or Lab out there who needs a good home?

Jilly was so special to me, the first place I looked was where I found her: Guide Dogs. I’ve applied for another Guide Dog career changer, but because I’m just me, and not part of a therapy association, I’m afraid, I’m low on their list now. But maybe, just maybe I’ll be chosen again. I sure hope so. 

What I do know is this: I am a dog person looking for a four-footed best friend.