Monday, December 30, 2019

Goodbye Believe

Every year, I look for a word to guide me through the coming 12 months. Last year, the word of the year that appeared to me was ‘believe’. I saw it as a hopeful, helpful mantra to move me forward from a nationally chaotic year to a new faith in our democratic system. 

This year, it’s been hard to keep believing when faced with such unbelievable events around the country. More school shootings. Domestic terrorism on the rise. Leaders who turn not just a blind eye to these events but to justice and the very core of our nations constitution. 

Hope and understanding. 

Since the 2016, I can see my words have revolved around the events in our nation’s capitol. Starting with election fraud, illegal use of campaign funds, and an attack by Russia on our election system. 

So in 2017, my word was hope. I hoped for justice, reason and integrity. I didn’t get it. In 2018, I tried understanding. I tried to find a way to understand the downward spiral in the hope of shining some light into the darkening trail of events.  Again, it only got worse. 

It’s time for something more. 

Again, I don’t want to sink into the abyss of doom. Yes, I feel all the anger, fear, frustration and embarrassment these last 3-4 years have brought to our national doorstep. 

I refuse to sit and hope. I refuse to try to understand. I can no longer believe in those people with the robes, gavels, votes and power. Yes, they swore on a bible that they would uphold the constitution. Yes, they promised to help the people who voted for them. Yes, they have a legal duty to follow the letter of the law. 

But I refuse to give up on US. 

I refuse to give up on you. Or me. 

No matter what happens, I am going to move forward anyway. I am going to make my art. Love my family. Help my neighbors. And bring as much good into the world around me as I can. 

What will my word of the new decade be? I believe it needs to be stronger than the last few years because I feel I need to be stronger. I hope we will all understand that now more than ever we need to pull together, to move forward, to make ourselves, our towns and our nation stronger than ever before.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Solstice: The light returns

Today, on my side of the world, it’s the slow tilting of the globe from shorter to longer days. Everyday from now on brings more daylight and less darkness. Many cultures around the world celebrate the solstice so it’s no coincidence that Christmas also falls around this time. 

I’m always interested in how different cultures celebrated the winter solstice around the world before the arrival of Christianity. Since my ethnic background is Celtic, I did a quick internet search for some specifics of their traditional celebrations.

Druids, Celtic shamans, cut mistletoe, a symbol of life from the sacred oak trees, to give as blessings. The Yule log was also a Druid custom to light the darkest 12 days in winter, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the new year. Bright colored objects would be hung on pine trees to symbolize the sun, moon and stars as well as the souls of friends and relatives who had died.

As I found many of our current holiday decorations, traditions, foods and celebrations began with our ‘pagan’ ancestors. It just shows how important it is to our bodies, minds and souls to connect with the world that holds us and the universe that surrounds us. 

Let the light in. 

How hard life was then. Yet even with all our technology, innovations and inventions, we still struggle with darkness. Night falls. Seasons change. Life is a cycle of birth, growth and death. 

Our ancestors around the globe were wise. They survived and thrived by honoring the importance of light from the sun and the soul. 

How do we find a way through it all? By letting light in. Even if it’s just a pinprick of sun, a candle flame, a twinkle of a light through a window. 

Most important is finding the light inside our souls. 
It’s synchronistic. 
We receive light from our planet.  We contain light. And we can give light. 

May the Solstice bring even more light to your soul. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sage Advice from another Sagitarrian

It’s not just a month for holidays but birthdays as well. For most of my life I shared my birthday with my Dad. This was special and difficult in many ways. He got to pick the dinner, usually pork. I got to pick the dessert, usually chocolate cake. He wasn’t a fan of cake and I wasn’t a fan of pork. But we shared our special Sagittarius bond. 

Now that he’s passed, birthdays carry memories both happy and sad. I guess that’s why I always look backwards and forwards, past to future. Growing up also means growing older which as we know on our side of the globe is not seen as a good thing. 

I’ve written about aging and ageist thinking before. But I wanted to share what showed up this week. 

Birthday advice from a superstar.

“My greatest asset is that I am constantly changing," says Sagittarian actress and activist Jane Fonda. 

I’m not one to take advice from actresses, even a superstar like Jane. But I think she’s totally right. The best thing I feel I can do and have done in my life is change. Now I’m not saying I welcomed, liked or expected it at the time. In fact, I remember many times I was dragged into change kicking and screaming. 

But looking back, I can see changing, rearranging myself and my life is the essence of true creativity. I actually can’t even imagine life without change. 

“One part of wisdom is knowing what you don’t need anymore and letting it go.”

So true, Jane. Letting go is a life long task and it’s not an easy one. But you can’t move forward without letting go. School graduations, weddings, births, deaths, job changes, moving all require us to let go of the known in order to move into the unknown, until it becomes the known, of course. 

I don’t always love the process, but I can look back and see it was worth it. 

“It is never too late to master your weakness.” 

Ah. Yes. So wise is yoda, Jane. And this is an even harder challenge, isn’t it? For me, it’s always easier to admit my weaknesses than it is to move onto mastering them. 

This for me is a very important advice. The emphasis on mastering not wallowing. 

“If you allow yourself, you can become stronger in the very places that you've been broken."

Jane, I really agree. Literally. I broke my wrist over 10 years ago and I was devastated. It was a painful recovery physically, emotionally and creatively. 

But here I am throwing clay, with the hand that was broken. When I need to open a tough jar lid, it’s my ‘recovered’ hand that does the job. My other hand is now not as strong as the one that was once broken. 

“The challenge is not to be perfect. It’s to be whole.”

Jane nails it again. And nails my biggest weakness: expecting perfection not just in myself but in the world around me. Of course this means I am constantly disappointed and not just with people in Washington. 

I’m not sure what it means to be whole. But I do want to let go of perfection. I want to accept myself. I want to see and respect the world around me. I want to welcome change and brokenness and weakness that lives alongside strength, change and love. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Whispers Through the Trees

It’s December, a month that means many things to many people. Holidays abound bringing with them many moments and memories both happy and sad. It’s also, the last month of this year and the beginning of a new decade. 

I always get into soul searching mode this time of year. What worked. What didn’t. What I could have done better. What I need to learn more about. As I walk through the woods, I listen for words of wisdom. 

“Be surprised.”

I’ve been in many galleries over the years. Some were good experiences, some not. When I signed on with Art On Broadway in Beaverton, I was very unsure. Would I sell anything at all? Would gallery sitting be weird?

I was wonderfully surprised. I sold. I met wonderful people. I shared my process with fellow artists and art lovers. I learned more about how other artists do their work. I chatted with gallery visitors. And biggest surprise of all, I enjoyed gallery sitting.

“Look but don’t search.”

I don’t know about you but I spend a lot of time searching on my computer. I search for information about supplements to fix my dog’s itching problem. I search for answers to my daughter’s new mom questions. I search for clothes, decorating ideas, health information, art supplies. I search sometimes for absolutely no reason. 

I realize the internet is a wonderful, wacky and wasteful place. I know there’s as much  disinformation as good information. It’s hard to know the difference. And there’s the problem of too much information which sometimes can cause more harm and stress.

The words that came to me, ‘look but don’t search’ bring a more important message. Maybe there’s another way that’s better than searching my mind and soul.

Look up. Look around. Look where you are. Just look. Be aware but not worried. Be alive. Be open to what you see, feel and know when you just look. 

“Open with wide eyes to delight.”

Tis the season, right. All around are bright lights illuminating the darkest time of year. Colors and music and bright, shiny things abound to lighten not just our pocketbooks but our senses and our souls. 

Instead of getting down on all the commercialism surrounding me, what if I just let myself open up to what delights me? Instead of planning and searching and organizing, what if I just let myself look at what is before me? Instead of list making, what if I just let each day present itself as a delightful gift in and of itself?


I grew up wearing uniforms and being told to cover up, bow my head and play it safe. Now, I’m all for being aware and proactive as I walk through life. You know the song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” I’ve sung that song to my children and now my grandchildren. 

Maybe now, it’s time to sing it to myself. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Believe More

It’s been a hard year to believe. I know when I chose believe as my word of the year for 2019, I saw it as a way to move forward while surrounded by backward motion. I didn’t know then, of course, how far backward things in this country could move. 

Finger pointing.  Bullying behavior. Lies. Sexual harassment. Hostile work environments for high level officials. More lies. Refusal of people to work together for the greater good and not just the good in their checkbooks. More finger pointing. 

Worse a ‘leader’ who is only interested in his own ego. Who has no idea or caring about the great democratic country in which he lives. Who is only out to ‘make a deal’ for himself. Who almost succeeded in bullying to cheat his way through another election. 

It’s hard. But I can’t give up. I won’t. 

Believe in truth.  And truthful people. 

I believe in the whistleblowers. I believe in the career public servants who know why and how and what to do in their jobs at home and away. Without these dedicated professionals employed in our military, diplomatic and justice service, we would be in even graver danger. 

I admire their courage in spite of hostility thrown at them. I’m encouraged by their courage to stand up, speak out about the unethical and illegal acts happening around them. And I admire their dedication to their jobs that involve keeping so many people safe here and around the world. 

Believe in goodness.

I believe in the goodness of our beliefs. The rights that are written into our Bill of Rights. The ideals of our constitution. And I believe there’s only one way to truly show my belief. Voting. We must maintain our most precious right with better security and support. 

I believe in the goodness of people. People who adopt stray animals. Donate food. Clean up our world. Build homes for others. Give clothes and blankets and toys. I see people who embody all that is the best in America. I do my best, even as little as it is, to make our world a good place. 

Believe in love and kindness. 

It’s there. It’s in you and me. It’s how we all not just survive but truly thrive. Together. 

I believe it. 
I believe in you even more now. 

I believe the truth will shine out through this darkness. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Get Up On Your Feet

I work hauling 25 pound bags of clay from studio inside to wheel outside. I throw clay in a cold garage with my small space heater and my sweet pup, Darby. I lift pounds of clay up and cut it and wedge it and roll it to make vases and sculptures in my inside studio. 

There are some days when working means waiting for the kiln to finish firing, for bowls, vases or cups to dry. Sometimes it happens all at once and the days are so busy I worry I won’t get it all done.

There are days and weeks and months standing, walking, lifting and throwing in solitary silence. And days of noise and packing and unpacking and hauling and setting up displays. And days sitting in a gallery hoping someone will come in and buy something they love. 

At your age?

Yup. And even more so ‘at my age’, it’s important to be working. Whether that means writing my blog or throwing bowls or building new vases. This work is more than love, it’s life saving. 

When I was in college, I took a course in gerontology. 

One study in particular, made a big impression me. It showed how retirement and/or not working caused a significant downward trend in the health of the retirees. Comparing this study to another where people of a ‘certain age’ were still actively working in, around and outside their homes clearly showed an increase in their overall health both mentally and physically. 

It was such important news, I was asked to do a TV spot for the university. The message  of keeping active and NOT letting retirement lead to endless days in a chair doing nothing. That getting up and out and working was the way to live a longer, healthier life. 

The TV spot I did actually won me an award and the encouragement to go into advertising. 

So, yes, I still work. 

Sometimes I sit and throw and others I’m up and moving.  I know many people who are retired at my age. And many who expect me to be retired, too. They say to my face that, I’m retired with a ‘hobby’. They used to say, I was a housewife with a ‘hobby’.

Both comments are wrong. Both are demeaning. And both are unnecessary and detrimental to your health and mine. 

So. “Get up on your feet.”

I’m going to listen to some older and younger musicians like Gloria Estefan. 

“Get up on your feet
Get up and make it happen
Get on your feet
Stand up and take some action”

Friday, November 15, 2019

Words of the Week

“Be Open to New and Unexpected Ideas.”

The first appearance of these words came in an email from Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper. And although I was raised Catholic, I don’t share her faith in the church organization, officials or outmoded misogynistic concepts. But reading her words left me feeling pleasantly surprised, uplifted and informed. This was unexpected. 

I’ll admit, the word unexpected makes me want to get a blanket and a hot cup of tea. But what if the unexpected is a good thing? What if life is meant to be a series of unexpected events that lead you in a new and better direction?  

This week has brought some new and unexpected events and ideas. In the studio, I loaded 4 porcelain maple leaves into the kiln and opened it up to find 3. One had cracked right down the middle. It happens. But this time instead of blaming myself, I was glad for 3 good ones. 

An unexpected call came mid-week and a local arts organization bought several pieces of my work for their annual auction. The best part, by being open, I met a new local artist who truly values other artists and their work. 

“Loosen Up.”

Leaning on my tree this week, these words came loud and clear. At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was supposed to ‘loosen up’. But the energy directed itself right into the tightness in my calves, knees, thighs, back, arms, neck and jaw.

But, I thought, I’m strong and to stay strong I need to tighten my muscles. Quickly the reply came, “No. Muscles held too tight, get tired and weak. Because you are strong, you can loosen your hold and trust your muscles to carry you.”

As I move around now, I’m grateful for the reminder. 

“Life gets very quiet before all the doors open. I’m learning that what can feel like loneliness is actually grace. Rest. Find your strength. It will all change soon.”

Life does get quiet as fall turns into winter. Daylight gives less time for studio work and the world seems to hunker down. Working solo in my studio, I do worry about loneliness but these words brought me back to the truth. The solitude can feel satisfying and restful, like grace. 

Sometimes, things happen around me to upset that balance. Like the gallery closing or pieces breaking or sales falling through. In those times, I need to find my strength knowing it will all change soon. 

Perhaps, these are important words not just for this week, but all the time. 

Remembering to staying open to the new and unexpected.
Trusting your strength to give you the ability to loosen up in tough times. 
Believe in restful grace. And believe doors will open. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Turning Darkness into Light.

In the northwest, this is the time of year we ‘fall back’ by turning our clocks back one hour. It’s an old law that was meant to give farmers more time to work in the fields harvesting crops. It made sense then, it makes no sense now. And yet, we are still stuck in lock step, turning our clocks back the first Sunday in November. 

No one seems to like ‘springing forward’ or ‘falling back’. We all complain about lack of sleep and it upsets our body’s own natural rhythms. There’s evidence of more accidents and health issues around each time change. Which is why I’m glad the west coast has voted to stop these time changes. 

Why do we try to control time?

Because we are just one species on one planet in a vast universe. We’re afraid. One of the most elemental fears is darkness. As children, we all wake up in the night afraid of the dark. We fear monsters in the darkness under the bed or shadows in the corners. 

And we all know many reasons to fear the dark. There are dangerous animals outside. Violent people on the streets. More accidents happen in the night. So it makes sense to want to create more light when the days grow shorter and the nights last longer. 

Light is essential to our body, mind and soul.

We need light to survive. Sunshine gives our body what we need to make Vitamin D. Seasonal light changes affect our need for food and our moods. More light, well, just helps us feel lighter, too. 

That’s why we turn on the lights all around us 24/7. We want to feel safe. Protected. Healthy. With all these lights, and screens and daylight savings time, could we be missing something?

Maybe we need to honor the need for darkness too. 

Just like the earth needs the change in seasons, so do we. After the blooms are gone and fruit is picked, the trees need to rest. Leaves fall to the ground and create fertilizer for the next years  growth. 

Darkness cools and soothes and cradles new seeds and sleeping babies. Perhaps seasonal light changes not just trees but our very nature, too. 

We can slow down. Tuck into bed early. Rest by the fire. 

Let ourselves look up at the darkness as a place to imagine and dream. 
Bringing possibility out of nothing. 
Finding new ideas in the blank canvas of night. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Welcoming Worry

Am I going a little crazy? Maybe. Maybe not. As a lifelong worrier, I’ve fought hard to avoid worrying. And I’ve tried many anti-worry methods: aerobics, meditation, jazzercise, yoga, chocolate and binge watching on Netflix.

Many of the methods were healthful and helpful. And what’s not to like about chocolate and binge watching, “Bones”.  But none of them made the worry go away for good. 

Maybe it’s in my genes or jeans?

As a child my great Aunt Mae told me, “Susan, don’t worry about worrying. You come from a long line of worriers.” I didn’t understand her then but I do now. 

First off, worrying about worrying is definitely not helpful. It’s like a dog chasing its tail. And while the spinning might give you a little exercise, it also keeps the worry circuit fully charged. That said, I’ve spent quite a few hours chasing my worries anyway, perhaps hoping the exercise would help my jeans fit better. 

What’s there to worry about anyway? Really?

The world ending tomorrow? Trump getting re-elected? A plane crashing into my house? Falling meteors? A chocolate shortage? Ok, I know some of these are silly. 

But we all have worries that are very real to us. From birth to death, we work to survive. And with all that work comes success and failure. And the worry follows. I worried I wouldn’t graduate. Or find a job. Or an apartment. Or a boyfriend. Or a home. Or have healthy babies. 

Remembering my worries now about my sweet, small babies, I smile. Both of my babies were considered ‘small’. I fed them and changed them and rocked them all the while worrying constantly. Were they eating enough. Would they gain enough weight. Would the grow up and be good, strong people. 

Now 30 years later, I see my ‘small’ babies are strong, healthy, beautiful adults. They are fine. They are talented. They are working. Now they have babies of their own. And, you guessed it, they worry. 

They worry their babies are too small. That they aren’t growing and learning and eating well enough. That they’ll never learn to sleep through the night. Will they grow up to be good, strong people?

Worry was not what I really wanted to pass on to them  But then, I remember my great Aunt Mae and I say to them, “Don’t worry about being a worrier. You come from a long line of worriers.” 

Maybe the best we can do is welcome worry. 

Maybe welcoming worry won’t make it go away, but it will perhaps, make it a bit lighter. Shining a light on it as a guide to tell us what we truly love and care about. Helping us understand what we need in our life that may be missing. Maybe it’s a part of ourselves that thinks survival depends on being prepared for catastrophe and the only way to do that is worry. 

I’m not sure. And I worry about that. 

But one thing I do see clearly: my worst worries never came true. So now, I’m going to work on welcoming my worries as part of life because I come from a long line of worriers. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Living a Gutsy Life

Gutsy is a word making the media rounds right now because of a new book, “The Book of Gutsy Women” by a famous mother-daughter duo, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. I can’t even imagine what Hilary and her daughter went through during their days in the White House and on the road during the 2016 presidential election. I admire both of them. 

What they did and do and who they continue to be takes real guts. And they see the ability to be gutsy in other women. I don’t see it in myself but I can see it clearly in other women around me.

Meet my favorite gutsy woman. 

She is my daughter, Caitlin. From a young age, she loved to sing and act. Her first role at the age of 12, was the lead in “Trial by Jury”, a Gilbert & Sullivan play. Her naturally beautiful voice took everyone by surprise. But as her mother, I saw one very gutsy girl up there on stage as a 6th grader in front of the entire junior high school. 

Now, she has a Master’s in Vocal Performance. A list of vocal scholarships, degrees, awards and performances as well as work conducting and teaching music at academic levels. 

Three years ago, she moved to Los Angeles with her husband and found new jobs and performance opportunities. 

Beginning a new life takes guts. 

Now, Caitlin is a new mom. And as any mom knows bringing a baby into the world is a gutsy act. Birth itself is scary and many times, traumatic. Recovery from surgery takes time and sleep which almost don’t exist as a mother of a newborn. Add the responsibility of being the sole manufacturer of food for another human being, right? Nursing your baby is natural and wonderful. And very overwhelming. 

Now add to all of that trying to make a living in an insecure world as a vocalist and musician and teacher. Well, it all takes a lot of guts. 

Women are gutsy. 

Many people are gutsy including men, of course. My husband and son and son-in-law come to mind first. They have each worked hard, suffered losses and still continue to accomplish more. 

Women many times start out in the background just by being born female. I grew up in a man’s world surrounded by brothers. I was taught early to do woman’s work. But in spite of or maybe even because of that, I was very determined to do more with my life than dishes. 

And I did. Writing. Awards. Art classes. Gallery shows. 

Yet, even though I’ve done a lot more than dishes and diapers, I’ve relished that too. Nothing can compare to holding and feeding and teaching my babies. And as those babies grow, it’s a growing challenge to follow their fearlessness into this fearful and uncertain world. 

But, let’s face it, living a real life takes guts.  

So maybe, I am a gutsy woman. 
And yes, you are too.