Saturday, February 29, 2020

Healthy Acts

My word of the year, act is shedding light on many areas in my life and the world around me. I usually expect my yearly word to be an inspiration or thought or idea to give me a nudge of encouragement every day. This year, it’s been acting a bit different. 

Act is less head and more body. Less thought and more do. It’s showing me many of the things I do everyday for my own health. I’m not talking about dieting. I think there’s too much talk about that, usually negative. Instead I want to act for my body, mind, and soul in as many healthy ways as I can. 


When my kids were babies, I needed something I could do for me, in my own home, in whatever small amount of free minutes I might have from day to day. One early morning I turned on PBS and there was a woman doing some kind of exercise by herself on the floor. She spoke quietly as she bent and turned and twisted. 

I was instantly intrigued. I’d never seen anything like it. But it looked so easy, so I decided to try a few of the moves. Thankfully I was wearing leggings and a t shirt, my uniform of the time, which made it a little easier. What I found out quickly is what looked easy and felt good was quite a work out. 

I was hooked. I did that short routine as often as I could, it was my little lifesaver. I still do a series of moves every morning before I walk and I’ve taken classes once a week for almost 15 years. 

Walking the dog. 

I’ve always loved the woods. There’s just something about walking that soothes and calms me. So almost everyday, sometimes twice, I’m out there walking to the park, around the lake and through the woods. 

I used to push strollers and trikes along the paths, but now I get to take my newest darling dog, Darby. We walk along greeting our favorite 2 and 4 legged friends. He sniffs while I watch the geese nesting and look for otters, eagles and blue herons. He’s even patient while I lean against my favorite cedar tree, maybe because he knows he’ll get a treat if he’s good(which he always is). 

Good. Feeling good. I was always taught that good people had to suffer to be good. But I know now, that is totally wrong. Doing things not just because they’re good for me but because they feel good for me is good. 

It’s the healthy way to act. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Cooking. Baking. Glazing. It’s All Art.

Way back when I started this blog, I was in the ‘in-between’. Oh, I didn’t know it then. All I saw then was yet another in a long line of changes in and around me. I was relieved, happy, exhausted and lost all at the same time. And I dealt with it in the only ways I knew how: walk, learn and create. 

I’ve learned a lot since then. I’m grateful and happy and, sometimes a little lost. But that’s ok because I can see the pattern. I know that this is how life, my life happens. Up. Down. And around. Rinse and repeat. 

One way to cope: cook. 

Ever since my grandmother taught me to make shortbread, I’ve cooked. I made cookies as a kid and went on to college level foods classes where I not only learned the chemistry of cooking but the value of good, healthy food.  

Today, as I wait for the newest kiln load to ‘cook’ to the glaze stage, I’m busy cooking in the kitchen. I’ve got a Moroccan Stew in the slow cooker and a Chocolate Chip Banana Cake ready for the oven. 

Baking clay. 

A big part of creating finished ceramics is firing. Whether you throw it or slap it or roll it out, clay has to be dried and baked and glazed to its finished form. 

Once the colored underglazes are added to clay, it’s baked. After bisque firing, I add more to my clay and bake it again. Then clear or more colored glazes are dipped, brushed or poured on and it’s baked again. 

While baking food requires similar skills, clay needs a lot more time. So when it does make it into the heat, I usually sweat it out.  Worrying and wondering and hoping it will make it out in one piece.

I never worry about my cake because even if it cracks a little or crumbles, it’s still delicious. 


Mixing, straining and dipping my clay pieces in clay is not my favorite part of my art. The actual process of covering the pieces goes fast but the set up and clean up is tedious.  With cooking, clean up is not my favorite part either.

But whether it’s clay or food, it’s the process of working with my hands to form, cook, bake or glaze that’s important.  

It’s hunger and desire in action. 

And in the end, whether your work produces the perfect bowl of stew, a cake or cup, it’s your art.  And it feeds you body and soul. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Hopeful Acts

Where is my America? After this week, I truly don’t know. I see the acts of the Senate and that man in the White House degrade our country, our protected lands, our rights, our hearts and our souls. They take millions of our tax dollars to play golf while refusing to use the funds we pay for our healthcare, education and welfare.

What’s worse is seeing the Medal of Honor given to a racist, hate-monger while the brave soldier coming home from Afghanistan gets only a hug from his wife and children. I’m angry the very obvious criminal acts by our elected leader are not only being ignored but encouraged.

I’m mad and determined to do what I can to make all of US better. Part of that, for me, means not giving in or giving up. 

Art is my best act. 

With everything that’s going on, it’s easy for me to get mired in the muck. My best way out is to throw a little dirt or clay. Believe me, wedging clay can be a real good way to get out my anger. 

Slicing into a fresh, new block of clay is always wonderful. But slapping it down, picking it up and slapping it down again and again and again is well, wonderful therapy. Rolling it out, slapping it down again and taking the rolling pin to it is soul clearing. The best part is knowing that in the end a new piece will emerge. 

My lily vases make wonderful vessels for flowers of all kinds. A beautiful sculpture to sit on a shelf or table at anytime. But the thing I love most is how they stand tall, beautiful and strong in full bloom all year round. No matter what happens around them. 

Love acts. 

Inside my bowls, words emerge. Believe, last year’s word of the year, became a big part of my bowls. Love followed close behind. I was a little worried about using red and blue on white right now. But this piece is for a friend of many years to brighten up her newly remodeled kitchen. 

This year’s word act is making its way into my work, of course. But finding a way for it to fit well into other words is proving tricky. Why? Because something as simple as Love and Act can easily get simplified and twisted. I don’t want to be seen as promoting perversion or assault.  I want Love and Act to be seen as the blessed form of communication that it truly is. 

What are Love Acts? Kindness. Listening. Accepting. Helping. Being there. Being aware. Being a place of safety for every one and every being on this planet. 

This is how I cope using my clay to send out messages of hope and encouraging acts of love. 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A Day in the life of Darling Darby.

He knows when I am sleeping and he definitely knows when I awake.

As morning creeps across the horizon and he hears the furnace kick on, he gets off his bed, sits sweetly and patiently by the side of the bed until I reach out my hand. Then, he jumps up and down like Tigger, from Winnie the Pooh books, ears flapping adorably. When I pat the bed, up he jumps with sweet good morning kisses. 

He gets belly rubs after that, time to go out and, of course, breakfast. He gobbles down every kibble, licks the bowl and goes to his mat in the kitchen.

Counter surfer no more. 

When we adopted Darby from Guide Dogs, he had some issues. Dumpster Diving. Counter Surfing. Jumping and lease pulling. Mouthing. For the Guide Dog program, these were reasons he had to be ‘career’ changed. I got the lucky call to adopt him. 

Dumpster Diving was the first to be checked off the list. All my garbage cans are behind doors. Darby has no access and therefore, no more dumpster diving!

Counter Surfing is not a problem. One reason, no food is left out on counters within his reach. Two, when cooking happens and food is out, he stays on his mat in the kitchen. He gets small handfuls of his food to snack on while our food is being cooked. Problem solved. 

Walks in the park. 

I love to walk. Almost everyday, you’ll see my husband, Darby and I walking around the lake. I also take Darby on ‘second’ walks several days a week to keep us both in shape. 

Darby’s a very enthusiastic, energetic extroverted dog. He loves every person, child and dog we pass. He wants to run over, jump up and down and lick them all. I love him for it but not everyone shares his enthusiasm. 

So our walks provide ongoing teaching moments. Darby learns with every step, every dog, every person we meet. He knows how to heel in. Sit and wait. Pass without pulling. And he gets kibble bites when he gets it right, which is more times than not now. Problem (almost) solved. 

Greets and treats.

When the doorbell rings or the garage door goes up, Darby gets excited. Now I’ve taught him to bark on command because I want him to alert me. And he does it gladly. 

When I open the door, he rushes up to everyone with 70 pounds of exuberance. I find it funny. But for others, it’s just too much. So I’ve been working on a training routine for greeting. 

He goes to his place and waits. I go to the door. I open the door, let the person in and then go back to Darby. If he has waited, he gets a treat. Then I pull out another treat, lead him to the new person saying, ‘easy greet’. Well, let’s just say this is a work in progress and it’s much better now. 

You know what’s so much better now? I couldn’t imagine a day in my life without my darling Darby.