Thursday, December 31, 2020

Goodbye Act. Hello ?


Every year, I pick a word of the year. I look at it as a light, a guide, a mantra, maybe even a marching order. The word for 2020 was ‘act’. Yeah. 

A year ago, there was no pandemic. No stay-at-home orders. No masks. No social distancing. No one knew what COVID was. No one was afraid, out of work, hospitalized or dying. Children were playing in playgrounds, going to school and running around with their friends. Shops and restaurants and galleries were open. People were working and shopping and looking forward. 

Acting on my word. 

Even with everything closed down, I worked. I threw and trimmed and painted and glazed. I was determined to keep creating. And I knew that creating, for me, was the best way to stay healthy. When I work with my hands, my mind relaxes. Throwing works my muscles and helps me stay strong. 

When everything else seemed to stop, my best act was to keep going in my studio. I made teacups for the first time. Trimming those delicate little feet took a lot of concentration that stopped my spinning thoughts. 

Act started to appear in my bowls giving me new thoughts. 

Act Brave.

Act Kind.

Act True. 

Acting in my own behalf. 

This phrase kept appearing in my journaling. I was a bit surprised because I always thought I did a good job of taking care of myself. But looking deeper, I realized, I did a much better job of acting on behalf of others like my husband, my children and even, my dog than I did on myself. 

Many, many times in my life, I’ve kept my mouth shut. Put up with abuse. Waited and waited to be asked, recognized, heard and seen. I kept my ideas, opinions and feelings to myself. I realized that many, many times, I did not act when I could or should have. 

Act helped me this year. Even with the pandemic fears, I acted. I worked. I created. I showed my ceramics. Instead of always depending on some organization or somewhere else, I learned to sell my art myself. I put my art on Etsy. I did social media promotions. 

I did act. In spite of all the closures and cancellations and quarantines, I acted. I acted brave by promoting my own art. I acted kind by going out safely with mask, sanitizer and social distancing. I acted with love by taking care of myself, my husband, my children and grandchildren. I acted true by voting with my mind and heart. 

What will be the word for 2021?

After this year, I have no idea what 2021 will bring. I don’t know what word could possibly help us move beyond this year into a better one. 

And the only act I want to take right now, on this New Year’s Eve, is say goodbye 2020! 

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Shortest Day


The solstice is an ancient marker of endings and beginnings. The "Winter Solstice" and the start of the "winter" season, will arrive at 4:02 CST or 7:59 am PST Monday morning, December 21st. While it is our shortest day, it’s also the beginning of our days getting longer. 

From now on, the sun sets each day just a little bit later.  And we inch our way from darkness into more and more light, from cold winter to warm summer. 

Cultures celebrate with many rituals. Fires and dancing and feasting. The Celtic people believed the sun stood still for 12 days and burned a log using the remains fo the previous year’s fire. They believed it would conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. And why many still honor this belief by burning a ‘Yule’ log for 12 days starting on the Solstice. 

Let’s say goodbye to darkness. 

I think we’ve all been through enough dark, difficult, scary months this year. Even when the weather was sunny and warm, I felt the chill of fear up my spine. I worried about my children. My children’s babies. My husband. My friends. My neighbors. I waited in long lines for TP with a mask on my face. I scrubbed and sanitized and held my breath. 

I held my breath again waiting for election results. I worried and fretted some more. Four years has seemed like an eternity watching and waiting for the darkness to lift. 

New light. 

Today as the sunrises on the shortest day of the year, I’m going to look ahead knowing each day will bring a little more light and less dark. That each day, I’m going to see fewer worried eyes around me as more and more of us get vaccinated. That each week will bring more good news and less bad. That month by month, we will be lifted up and away from fear.

So maybe this, the shortest day, will be the ending of a very bad year. And our first step toward a new beginning. When changes that have been a long time coming, will shine new light into the minds, souls and hearts of us all. 

Happy Solstice!

Sunday, December 13, 2020


Today, I sat like a cat in the sunlight and wallowed in it. I read and snoozed and put my feet up for a bit. Basking in the cozy warmth for a few hours, I forgot that it was cold outside. As soon as my neck felt that cool shiver of daylight dipping, I got up and made a cup of tea. And watched the light change outside and in. 

I see once again how important light is to the world and to me. We all need it and it feeds us all in so many ways. 


Decorating, during the holiday or not, is more to me than creating a functional living space. It’s an emotional and creative process. It’s a way I make my house into a nest from which my husband, children, and now grandchildren can feel loved and supported and grow. Even when they need to fly the nest, it’s always here should they need a soft place to land for while. 

This last week, I redecorated many areas for the holidays. Books and toys and candles and twinkling lights and china all come down from shelves and cupboards and closets to bring back cozy childhood memories, beauty and soft warmth. 

A few pieces of my Spode Christmas Tree collection and gifted teapots mingle with my handmade porcelain teapot and teacups. Afternoon tea is becoming a daily ritual. 

Santas sit, pose and ring in several spots around the downstairs. 

The coffee table set up for play with the Brio train set that now two generations enjoy. 

The tree and stairway sparkle. 

Light is life.

I love twinkling lights year round. And the holidays just give me more chances to play with light.  And I know, especially this year, I need even more light and warmth in my life. 

We may not all be able to gather or celebrate this year in the ways we always do, but we can still celebrate the sun shining outside, the warmth in our own home and let that light warm our souls and lighten our hearts.   

Friday, December 4, 2020



It’s December already and my birthday month. While I’ve grown up sharing my birthday month with my Dad and the holidays, there have been times of resentment. But not anymore. 

I can’t explain it, but it feels good to share in the twinkling lights and special decorations that come in my birthday month. Especially this year. Maybe even more because of this crazy year. I need more light, color and sweets to balance the stress, fear and difficulties. 

Looking at the horizon. 

One of my favorite things to do is sit on the window seat and look out as far as I can see. Watching an eagle fly over the distant trees. Seeing a cat run from one yard to the next. Viewing the progress as a neighbor strings up their holiday lights. Waiting for the clouds to move and let a little sun shine my way. Even at the beach, I could spend all day watching the horizon change. 

This popped up in my horoscope: “You live best as an appreciator of horizons, whether you reach them or not.” Those words from poet David Whyte would be a perfect motto for you to write out on a piece of paper and tape to your mirror for the next 30 years. You, Sagittarians are most likely to thrive by regularly focusing on the big picture. Your ability to achieve day to day successes depends on how well you keep the long range view in mind.”

Messes, order and disorder. 

That’s what I see most of the time. And as a clay artist, I make a lot of mess. This week, I glazed almost 2 dozen teacups and a bowl. I mopped up all the drips and washed up all the tools.

The next day, I loaded and fired up my kiln. Firing is an orderly procedure. I set my timer and turn up each dial from low to medium and high in 2 hour intervals. 

But what I can’t clean up or control are the results of the firing process. I can do everything right at every step, have lovely bisque teacups going in, but what comes out is not always up to me. And I have to admit, I don’t like this part of the process. 

Another quote from my horoscope this week: “To accomplish all the brisk innovations you have a mandate to generate, you must cultivate a deep respect for the messiness of creativity; you must understand that your dynamic imagination needs room to experiment with possibilities that may at first appear disorderly.”

This is my last kiln load for 2020. And I’m hoping, yes I admit, for a lovely kiln load of teacups. But I also know that this year has been full of mess and disorder. 

And still, I hope. 

I may love a scenic horizon but I’ve never felt like a big picture person. Maybe, especially this year, it’s time to start. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020



I am grateful. Yes, in spite of all the terrible, difficult, confusing, maddening, and scary things this year has thrown in my path, I am humbly grateful.

I am grateful for my breath, my hands, my body (yes, even as it grows older). My arms are strong enough to lift my grandkids. My back bends, slowly. I make sure to use my abs. My legs love to stretch and walk and climb with me every day around the park and back. And my hands still love to throw, shape, trim and paint clay. 

Home and heart. 

Again, I’m grateful for my home, warmth and food. Especially this year with all the problems finding TP, cleaning supplies, flour and even yeast, it’s been scary. Just when I stopped ‘backing up’ my pantry so many things got hard to find. But one day at a time, I’ve gathered and stored. And I’m grateful my pantry is ‘backed up’ once again. 

While many other hearts filled with anger and violence and fear gnawed at my soul, my arms opened to welcome my children and grandchildren home. After many years apart, my daughter, son-in-law and baby grandson came home. Now I get to take care of two sweet, wonderful new humans. My granddaughter, Meyer is at that magical age of 5 and my grandson is moving from baby to toddler learning and growing with amazing speed and sweetness. 

Art and soul. 

Through all these difficult months, art has been my island of peace, safety and joy. Throwing teacups. Trimming delicate feet. Stamping bowls with messages to ‘act brave and kind’. Creating my own new way to make birds with heart shaped wings and encouraging words. 

All of this work lifted me up when my heart started to sink. It gave my body a way to work through my feelings. And my mind something else to focus on and move onward. And I am always and ever grateful for the opportunity to do the work I do.

Inside and out.  

Quarantines. Walks in the park. Gallery sitting with a mask and no visitors. Shopping with social distancing. It feels more than a little surreal. It’s difficult. Frustrating. And sad. 

But inside, my home is still my home. Today, my daughter and I cooked and watched a movie.  My husband and my doggy Darby are now snuggled by the fire. Upstairs, my daughter and son-in-law are gently singing my grandson good night. And tomorrow, my son and granddaughter will be here to eat turkey dinner and

Every day. Every breath. Yes, even for every roll of TP.  

I am grateful. 

Again and again and again. 

What are you grateful for today?

Sunday, November 15, 2020



When I look in, out and around me all I see is change. Whether it’s the leaves on the trees, the election, covid case counts or new restrictions, everyday brings new information and adjustments to my daily life. 

I don’t know about you but it’s taken me a few weeks to get used to everything that’s happened around me. The election took its toll on me. I didn’t even realize I’d been holding my breath, worried that somehow things would go sideways. And let’s face it, it’s been a bumpy ride. I might now like it, but sometimes life is like that. 

Deadlines and deliveries. 

In the studio, I’ve had a lot to do. I admit I was surprised to be firing up my kiln twice in one week to meet a deadline. I usually get my work done well in advance. I’m a planner and a list maker which I realize doesn’t fit the artist stereotype. 

But I’ve learned that clay has its own timeframe. Cooler, rainy weather means it takes longer to dry. I have to wait to paint the colors, bisque fire, add glaze and do the final firing. While I’d like to hurry the process and force the clay to dry faster, I’ve learned with porcelain, that leads to cracks, bubbles or blow ups. So I watch it, feel it and work with it knowing I’ll be glad I did. 

This time, I was working with a new clay. I wasn’t really sure how long the drying cycle would take. I would’ve liked to wait a little longer to be sure, but I had a deadline. So I had to change my work routine and timing. 

Time to learn.

In order to glaze the new dove clay ornaments, I had to come up with a way to hang them in my kiln without letting them touch each other or the kiln shelves. I ordered heat resistant wire and bent it to fold in and over my kiln posts so each ornament hung in a separate groove during the firing. I slid each ornament into the groove, turned on the kiln and crossed my fingers. 

I opened the kiln the next day and let out a sigh. It all worked out. The ornaments were glazed on both sides, still hanging from the wires and now with a lovely pearl finish. 



I let out a huge sigh of relief that day. And I realize sighs of relief have been flowing out of me for days now. I sighed after the first big storm hit and my new roof and skylights proved strong and safe. I sighed when the election results finally came in. Yes, I sighed when I opened my kiln to see dove ornaments fired and fine.  

Throughout all of these changes surrounding me, I was hopeful, scared, doubtful and finally, relieved. Now, I hope these changes will bring peace and a change to come together, listen, learn and help each other.  

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Samhain


I come from a Gaelic heritage based in and around Ireland, Scotland and Wales, yet I didn’t learn much about it growing up. I was raised in a cozy mid-west suburb where I was sent to Catholic school and church. In my school, there was no Halloween. Instead, we observed All Saints Day where we dressed up as our patron saint. 

When I got home from school, I changed into my costume and ran through the neighborhood trick or treating. I loved getting dressed up. I loved the candy. I’m glad I was allowed to have fun on Halloween. 

But I was never taught the true origin, meaning or rituals of Samhain which is the origin of Halloween. 

Spirits and Saints. 

Samhain, pronounced Sow’ in, is an ancient Celtic festival on November 1st. Because the Celtic calendar calculates the days using the Lunar calendar, the start of Samhain or All Hallows is on October 31 which is the end of the Celtic year. 

For the Celtic culture, this is a celebration of endings and beginnings. It’s a time to feast and celebrate the harvest. It’s also the Celtic festival of the dead. A day to remember lives well lived and honor spirits with bonfires, food and drink. 

The festival was changed to unite tribal culture with monotheistic religion. When Christian religion took over the Druid culture, Samhain was changed to All Hallow’s Eve or All Saints Night. 

Fire, food and faith. 

Certainly this year, of all years, makes the whole Western idea of candy and costumes seem wrong. Co-opting a culture by using stereotyped costumes can be seen as racist, sexist or worse. It could perpetuate misinformation and misunderstanding at a time when we need just the opposite. 

Yet coming together to talk, eat, laugh and celebrate may be what we need most right now. It’s getting colder outside and we need warmth inside our homes and our souls. Giving a sweet can be just a symbol of generosity by sharing food with people we know and those we don’t. It builds faith in the families surrounding us in our neighborhoods. 

If there was ever a year where we needed to come together, it’s this year. I need to find a way to end this difficult year with heart and hope and faith. 

Maybe, for me, that means making ghost cookies, carving a silly pumpkin, lighting my home with cinnamon scented candles and making a big batch of stew from the last of the season’s tomatoes. And most of all remembering the good souls who walked and lived and laughed and loved among us. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Small Steps

I’d like to say that this week has been an amazing array of big, grand and glorious things, events, sales and opportunities. I’d like to be able to look up at the sky and twirl like that opening scene from the TV show, Mary Tyler Moore. Or sing with free abandon(and on key) like Julie Andrews in the “Sound of Music”.  

But all I can truthfully say is that I showed up and did the best I could do. All the time looking up at the sky and asking, “Is it all over, yet?”

Slapping, rolling, trimming and cutting. 

Yup, the studio works doesn’t just give me something ‘to do’ to distract me from the current events swirling around, it saves me. Energizes me. And calms me. 

Precisely trimming a teacup takes all my focus. My mind cannot wander, well, unless I want a footless cup. Or an uneven bowl bottoms. But there is no doubt one of the most therapeutic part is slapping that clay down during hand building. I don’t have a slab roller, so throwing the clay down on a canvas board with a slap is a way to wedge and shape it before I roll it out. 

These are some of the many small steps it takes to make a finished bowl, teacup, vase, bird or ornament. Many days, it feels like nothing is getting done. 

Wise words always help me. 

Especially now, when I feel lost wise words of others help me find way. Martha Beck’s words landed in my inbox to save my day. 


“Any action we take, at any given moment, is small; big achievements are simply accretions of many small acts. Creating a full, meaningful life doesn’t mean doing huge things. It means that we align each small step we take with our sense of what’s right. And that takes courage.”

Martha Beck’s advice, “Today, look for two or three opportunities to act in accordance with what you most value, even though it takes courage. Tomorrow, do the same thing. And every day after that. Years from now, people will tell you that you’ve done big things. You’ll know better, of course. But it will be wonderful all the same.”

I don’t know that people will tell me I’ve done big things. After all, my teacups are small. But I do know that 10 years ago, my small step was a throwing class once a week and now, I see shelves full of vases and bowls and mugs and jars and, yes, teacups. And my work is out there online and in galleries. 

So, I know that once again, Martha Beck is right when she says, “It’s amazing how big a difference we can make over time, especially when all our small actions come together.”

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Simply Fall

It’s a blustery day and I love it. There is stew simmering in the slow cooker, fresh rolls rising and a cup of tea is steeping. I’m grateful to welcome this season, yes, even with COVID.

A rainy afternoon with a clean house and cup of tea. 

A kiln firing with new teacups, teapots, bowls and plates. 

A Halloween Raven wreath on my front door, a banner on the porch, a pumpkin and chrysanthemum on the porch. 

A plate of freshly baked chocolate cookies made by my husband and best friend, Michael. 

Spirits of the trees, a mask and pumpkin scented candles. 

A shape-changer sculpture and a crow made by an artist friend.

I’m grateful for all of these warm, creative, decorative, fun, tasty, scented, bright, spirited art and delicious tastes. It’s my simple way of celebrating fall.