Saturday, March 28, 2020

Home: The New Workplace

My dog and I always work from home, so it’s ok by us. Social distancing is part of our normal everyday routine.  But now working from home is the new normal. My husband, a news reporter, is working from home. My daughter and son-in-law both musicians and teachers are working from home. My son, a credit union manager, is working from home. 

I know for many working from home feels odd, uncomfortable and strange.

Working from home and being your own boss. 

I have a few pointers for those new to ‘working from home’. Since I’ve been working at home for several decades, I know it’s important to have a routine. A way to start and end the day. Borders that define the day, week and weekend. 

I start my day with a walk around the lake with my husband and dog, Darby. It’s not just healthy to exercise, it’s my way to have a beginning to my work day. You could go for a run or do an online spin or yoga class. Whatever floats your boat. 

Then I start my ‘work’ day. Throwing. Painting. Slab building. Trimming. Loading the kiln.
I take a break for lunch by going to a different part of the house, looking out the window to the sky and watching something different. Then I go back to work. 

I end my day with another walk through the woods with Darby. 

Try not to micromanage yourself. 

Yup. I’ll admit it, I can be a little too organized at times. I’m very aware of it but still find that many days I overfill my plate. As my own boss, I could be a little more understanding and give myself a pat on the back for what I do get done. 

While that sounds nice, I’ve found the best thing ‘to do’ is to make a list of ‘the dones’. I work on so many different pieces at once, I often lose track of the progress I’ve made. Making a list of what I’ve done during or at the end of the day can make all the difference. I feel and see the accomplishments of that day even though the piece is not finished.  

There are so many small steps required to make something into a functional cup or a vase, bowl, jar. It’s easy for all of us to get too focused on the finish line and lose sight of the fun  in what we do.  

Social distance and caring. 

Solitude is comfortable to me. For me, the hardest thing are the new rules on ‘social distancing’. I’m not real good at judging distances outside or around me, so I’m worried I’m going to violate that 6 feet rule. 

So please be kind. 
Social distancing doesn’t mean we don’t care about each other. I know we do. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

How are you feeling?

I know it’s been a turbulent week all over the world for all of us. It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. In times like these, I want to reach out, help out and do something. But instead we are all being told to stay in, stay away and maintain distance from each other. 

As a born problem solver, I’m totally frustrated because this is a problem I cannot solve. I’ve been diving into denial. Is this real? Is this really true? We’ve had tons and tons of viruses the world over for thousands of years and we’ve never shut down cities, countries or borders like this. What or who does this kind of worldwide panic serve?

I’m pissed. 

Over and under my fear, anger has crackled through me. I flipped off another driver in a parking lot. I got in an argument with my husband who is my love, best friend and supporter in all things. Why? Because I am really scared and I didn’t want to admit it. So I got angry instead. 

Now, I do have some really good reasons to be mad. And sad, too. 

One gallery closed in December. Another new gallery closed until further notice due to the virus. Another gallery show I entered for March/April was cancelled with a notice that it might be rescheduled if/when the crisis is over. Add to all this, my biggest show of the year in May is cancelled, period, for the year.

As an artist, these are huge losses. Not just financial but creative as well. I work hard to create and make ceramic work to sell at galleries and shows. Last year, I saw my sales grow as my newest body of work gained more attention from art lovers. As my pieces went from my hands into others hearts and homes, I worked even harder to create more. 

Now it all sits, stacked on shelves with nowhere to go. I, too, feel I have no where to go. 

So, I wonder. I wander.  And I walk.

The park. My park. My trees. The lake and my dog and my husband are keeping me sane right now. The woods have always been my escape from a hectic world. And my oasis from overwork and over worry. 

It’s also my creative inspiration. The texture of the bark. The colors of the leaves. The chatter of the crows. The faces in the clouds. The peaceful floating of the geese and ducks on the softly waving water.

And I come back to my heart and my hands. 

I live to create. All the things I see and love and breathe come out through my hands. My masks are the faces in the trees and clouds. My cups have heart shaped leaves. My bowls and jars have spirals, hearts and words I hear in the trees. My lily vases come from my love of the flowers in my garden. 

Lately, I’ve been throwing tea cups. I’ve always loved china tea cups with their delicate curves, shapely handles and colorful patterns. I never thought about making them until my granddaughter asked to use my china tea cups at our luncheon tea parties. I decided she needed to have her own tea cups. 

Throwing them is easy and relaxing. Trimming them into graceful curves requires complete concentration. I love making each delicate foot and pulling each small curved handle and adding a new little leaf and spiral. 
What I didn’t realize is that I needed my own tea cups, too. Especially now. 

Holding a delicate cup filled with warm, scented tea is just what I need to soothe my soul. 
Making them relaxes my heart. 
The beauty in my hand and in the park gives me hope. 
And these feelings are how I’m getting through the day right now. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Feeling the fear. Acting anyway.

There’s a lot to be fearful about these days. Traveling. Pandemics. Politics. Quarantines. Wacked out President. Even wackier Presidential primaries. Shortage of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. And lack of universal healthcare. 

Whew. How’s that for a list? But I’m sure I’ve left many things out. So what’s on your list? Feel free to write your own or in the comments. 

Why am I writing down all my fears, you might wonder. Isn’t there enough of that on every news feed, internet site and email out there? Yeah. Definitely. I see it every time I turn on my computer and it does make me want to close it down. Shut off the TV. Turn off my phone. 

But what I’ve learned the hard way is burying my head in an internet desert does not keep me from feeling the fear. It’s there anyway and sometimes, pushing it away just makes it push back at me harder. 

So what can I do? 

Ah, yes. Let’s do something. Anything, right? Busy work can and does keep a worried mind at bay. Weeding. Laundry. Cleaning. I did all that and but my mind buzzes along anyway. Nope, my usual escape coping mechanisms are not working. 

But what if I don’t need them. What if I just take a look around and let myself really see. What if I dare to let myself look at what is out there?

Outside my window, the sky is blue. The clouds are still white. And the fresh spring air is waving the tree limbs around. My dog, Darby is napping on his bed. There are daffodils and hyacinth, plum and forsythia blooming. 

Finding the flowers in the dirt. 

Our world is not perfect. Life is a cycle of up and down, good and bad, fear and safety. Facing these facts, I can act. I refuse to wallow or hide in fear. I search instead for signs of life.

Buds on a tree that looked dead. 
Viruses we have survived. Babies who have thrived. 
Air so polluted it was once gray is now clear. 
A blob of mud that becomes a vase filled with flowers.

When I feel fear, I need to act anyway and I can to see that through the dirt grows new life.