march sunset

march sunset

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “stuff I’m loving right now!” post, so I thought I would do one.

- Spending time outside.
Not only am I loving spring gardening (so much to do all of the sudden- so much growing!) but I’m also going outside every evening.

I used to go outside for the sunset every night. Usually, Delilah would join me. After she passed, I was hesitant to go out there besides when I was out gardening or swimming. To be honest, her fur still coated my favorite rocking chair out there, and I couldn’t bear the thought of either looking at the fur up close or running a lint roller over it. So I just didn’t go out there to sit.

But about a week ago, I was really aimless and frustrated and not any getting work done, so I decided to grab my book (on my iPad) and go out back and read. I covered the chair with a soft blanket, and made myself comfortable. And it was bliss. There was beautiful sunset, and not only did Ginger and Chester come out and join me, but Tom and Gracie eventually wandered out, as well.

Since that evening, I have been going outside every night.

I’m also loving Daylight Savings Time. I usually hate the time switch, and I am struggling with it in the mornings (my internal clock has not reset!), but being able to work in sunlight in my studio later in the day and then go out and watch the sunset before dinner (instead of at 5:30pm, which is kind of the middle of my “workday”) is BLISSFUL.


- Demeter perfume oil (still).
Yup, still obsessed. A few weeks after my first few orders with Demeter, I found out that they are *very* serious about their “no questions asked” 60-day return policy. After I got a few fragrances, had them for a while, I realized that there were some I just didn’t like and wouldn’t really wear. So, I decided to test their return policy and send the unused ones back. A day or so later, I had a full refund. So I placed another order, trying to find some good scents to replace the ones I sent back. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s great, because I can order and not worry I will get stuck with something rancid- I’m free to try out fragrances that pique my interest without worrying it will be too much of a risk/waste of money if I hate them.

Some scents have been great surprises (chrysanthemum! rain! mimosa! salt air! laundromat!) and some have been very disappointing (clover, lilac, cinnamon bun, all the tea fragrances I have tried and assumed I would love but really did not…)

I’m slowly building up a little library/collection of scents that I really love and wear often. I love going to the little bottles (which are like tiny test tubes) and choosing what I want to smell like. Their perfumes don’t have much lasting power (which I actually like- I hate going to bed smelling like stale perfume and having it linger on my sheets and pillowcases) so it’s kind of like a perfume free-for-all- I change scents a couple of times a day. It’s very subtle, too, so it’s kind of this personal aromatherapy. I’ve even got my mom into it.

The funny thing about this whole Demeter obsession is that it has made me SO aware of smell. Not just pretty smells, but ALL smells. Because Demeter offers some off-the-wall scents, I tend to look for them around me so I can get an idea of what the perfume might smell like. For instance, “black pepper”- Demeter has a “black pepper” fragrance, and while I wasn’t interested in ordering it, I realized I had no idea what pepper SMELLED like, so I went in the kitchen and smelled it. And it surprised me. I still don’t like it, but pepper doesn’t smell like what it tastes like.

Now I smell anything that might be pretty or (pleasantly) interesting. All the leaves on my plants. The way the clothes smell coming out of the dryer. Paper. All the foods I eat but never took the time to smell.

And when I’m outside in the garden, and smell something in the air (salt water, soil, grass, even garden chemicals) I immediately stop what I am doing and pay close attention. It’s like hearing an interesting sound, almost. I want to know what it is. When I go outside every day, the first thing I notice are the smells, not the weather or the sounds or the temperature. I smell EVERYTHING now.

And I make up smells for things that don’t have them. I love that I’m suddenly so in tune with this one sense I have always took for granted.


- Taking art classes online.
Last week I started Lisa Congden’s “The Art of Line Drawing” class and I was reminded how much I LOVE taking online art classes. The aimless, unfocused feeling I have been fighting for months (since I finished the  “Bloom True” painting class) disappeared and I was right back into the groove. I love watching the videos and reading the lessons and writing a zillion notes on my graph paper.

When March started, I really planned on putting my painting aside for the month and focusing on drawing- I’d take Lisa’s class and maybe another and brush up my skills with pen and ink so that I could translate those pattern-making concepts into my painting process.

But about half way into the first class I realized I was likely going to take everything I was learning and take it directly to my painting. I’m kind of excited about that.

It’s ironic in a way, because before I decided NOT to choose a “One Little Word” for 2014, the one word that was forefront in my mind was “Learn”. Now I return to that.

I really DO enjoy being a student, and learning new things, and having a container for what I am working on. Classes give me that structure that I crave, with a little guidance thrown in for good measure. I feel like I am doing something useful with my time, and growing as I go. I’ve always entertained the idea of going back to school (that’s a total understatement- the truth is that I would LOVE to go back to school) but I’m not REMOTELY interested in the idea of formal papers and assignments and the academic work of being in school. So this is a happy medium. I just have to remind myself to stay enrolled and that art classes are a great investment, both financially and time-wise.


- Rediscovering the love of books.
I have to admit, the iPad mini has made me completely addicted to reading again. I just finished re-reading “The Happiness Project” and just started “Happier at Home”. Before that I blazed through “War of Art” and “Stitches”. Since I carry my iPad around the house with me (it’s very compact and I often use it to take photos), reading has become so much easier. I actually find it more compact than my iPhone, which is weird.

I think the key for me is reading books that I enjoy, even if it means re-reading books over and over again, which is what I am doing with “The Happiness Project: books. I got a lot out of them the first time I read them, but wanted to read them with the ability to digitally highlight.

Of course, now I want to start my own Happiness Project. I really think I might, to be honest. I already started a “One Sentence Daily Journal” for March (which I really enjoy adding to every night!) and I’m thinking about different aspects of what a Happiness Project might encompass for me.


- Working on Project Life.
The “One Sentence Journal” is also good for my Project Life. I’m really enjoying working on it. I love almost every aspect of it- taking the photos, organizing them, printing them, laying out the pages, and then putting them together with pretty paper and glue and stamps and stickers. (I especially love Wood Veneer pieces).

It’s not only a chance to be creative but also reflect on how we spend our time. And a chance to enjoy aspects of it again as I look at the photos and write the captions. And because of the project, I have become very aware of little things that are easy to forget in the jam of our day-to-day routine.

And, I’m a sucker for all the beautiful spring-themed art/craft supplies that are available right now. I love the soft but vibrant colors and the watercolor-esque paper designs. And I’m a sucker for anything with a brush script on it.


- Art Journaling (observing, not participating…)
I’m not art journaling anymore, but lately I have been reading a ton of art journal-related blogs and going through back issues of Art Journaling magazine. I have such an appreciation for what people do with their journals. It’s almost like now that I am not keeping an art journal, I appreciate the whole practice of art journaling even more.

The one thing I realized is that my art journaling became too much about focused journaling and not enough about just letting go. I started forcing every page, image, collage, etc. into some sort of story or expression. I could never just put down a bunch of images and paint and then turn the page- I had to force some sort of order or meaning onto what I had done and how it related to my life at that moment. And it became too much to do. I think that’s why I switched back to scrapbooking and Project Life- scrapbooking actually seemed like a breath of fresh air- I just picked out some paper, glued down some photos, scribbled a bit about what was going on, and that was that. It seemed completely fuss-free compared to what I was going for in my art journals.

Now I’m drawn to “random” or “collection/style” art journals. Journals with snips of random images and doodles and color and not much writing. Journals with one sketch for each day. Or journals that are just collections of color or shapes and whatever catches the eye of the artist. Maybe someday I will try that. Just ONE thing. But right now I am enjoying looking at other people’s art journals.


- House of Cards.
As I mentioned before, every day, Tom and I break for lunch (we both work from home) and we watch an episode of whatever show we’re working our way through. Right now it’s “House of Cards” and we are both captivated. It’s funny, because this WASN’T on our list. I think US politics is probably one of the most irritating and boring topics for a show. But we ran out of available stuff to watch so one day I just flipped on Netflix and fires up the series and we were in awe. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are amazing. We only have three more episodes left of the second season and then we’ll have to wait for next year, like everyone else.

There are aspects of this TV show I DESPISE (two animal-related incidents, sexual exploitation of women…), but Tom and I are addicted hook, line, and sinker.


- Spinach and Carrots.
I’m suddenly ADDICTED to raw baby leaf spinach. I started adding a few leaves to my Tofurkey sandwiches at lunch, and now my sandwiches consist primarily of a giant pile of spinach – add a few slieces of Tofurkey, some hummus, and some whole grain rye- and wow). And I want cooked spinach with dinner every night.

And fresh carrots grated into my salad. Like the spinach, I started out with a bit for crunch and now I put a tremendous amounts of carrots on my salad and douse the entire thing in Balsamic. It’s so good. I love that I’m sort of rediscovering veggies. First it was sweet potato, then the carrots, now the spinach. Nom nom. Just thinking about it makes me want a salad *so* badly. (Now if only I could convince Gracie to love salad. She loves big bowls of green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower, though, so I think we’re ahead of the game with that one. She even packs a tupperware of veggies in her school lunch. BUT NO SALAD. Oh, well. More for me!)

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it’s no big deal

03 Mar 2014

I was very touched by Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar speech last night. I didn’t watch it until this morning, but it definitely got my attention because two things he says are sort of coming up over and over again in my life right now.

He says, about the 40 second mark, that there are three keys to daily life- something to look up to, something to look forward to, and something to chase.

I know there is a lot of commentary on this part of his speech, but it makes COMPLETE sense to me.

First, “something to look up to”. I think everyone needs something to be in awe of, something that grounds them, something that connects them with space and time and the universe. God, nature, The Universe, science, any combination of those things- or something else entirely. Just something *bigger* than us, that we are a part of.

Second, “something to forward to”. This, I think is a KEY part of life that we often neglect because it feels selfish or “egotistical” to keep supplying ourselves with a steady source of happy anticipation. But I have learned that it’s really a key part of happiness, at least mine. And I don’t focus on it enough.

I love having something to anticipate. I think it’s why I often order art supplies via online shops and catalogues- I love the whole process of deciding what I need, then placing the order, waiting for the shipping notification, tracking the package, receiving it, and opening it up. Even though it’s something I do a few times a month, and usually something that’s not-a-big-deal, I still feel like a little kid on Christmas when I get a little parcel with my name on it dropped off on the porch of our house. I get a charge seeing it on my desk, unopened, waiting for me to unwrap it and see what’s inside (even though I know).

There’s also this happy mystery when you order online, you don’t actually see and handle the products until you get them. So it’s sort of brand new, in a way.

Instead of making lists and saving up all my needs for one complete order every few weeks, I tend to purchase things in dribs and drabs. If there’s more than a handful of things I want, I tend to remove at least half those things from my online cart (or my physical cart in the store). Part of this is being frugal, but the other part of it is just so I give myself something *else* to return for, something more to anticipate in the future.

I guess when I heard Matthew Matthew McConaughey talk about having something to look forward to, it sort of clicked. I want to do more of that, in other ways.

The third thing was “something to chase”.

This is the part of the speech that confused some critics. But I got it perfectly.

One of the classes I’m taking now is Soul Caller Lab, with Amy Oscar. One of the exercises we did in class a few weeks ago was a meditation where we “imagined” what it would be like to meet up with ourselves many years in the future.

We were asked to think about what our “future self” might look like, sound like, and what she might say. It sounds like a simple exercise, but for those of us who are in the class, our minds were collectively blown.

My “future self” was a peaceful, wise, good-humored, sweet, and spry older woman with bright eyes and a quick laugh.

The biggest surprise was that she was *tiny*. Sometimes, with my disability, I really do feel like a giant oaf clomping around. But I realized that it’s not all as apparent as I imagine it to be.

Anyway, I didn’t stay in the meditation long (and I was too busy “staring” at her to make conversation), but my future self’s main advice for me was this: “It’s no big deal.”


First, I took it as a direct address of the Spina Bifida. I know it is a big deal, but only as much as it effects my life. It’s not as big of a deal as I think it is to other people.

After some reflection, I also took “it’s no big deal” that to mean that life wasn’t quite as serious as I sometimes make it out to be. Sometimes I really wonder if I’m doing all I’m *supposed* to be doing.

I mean, I get the science of human life: out of all the things that occur in the universe, it’s EXTREMELY rare to be born a human, on planet Earth, at THIS exact time in history, and in these circumstances (Florida is not exactly a third world country).

When I think about that, it both astounds me and overwhelms me. I feel like I better make this existence, this rare blend of science and chemistry and biology, *count*.  And then – crash – brain overwhelm. Because there’s no way I can possibly meet those expectations.

(I hope this makes sense.)

So when Matthew McConaughey started talking about the person he looked up to, and how it was himself ten years in the future, I got that. Because when I had that little meditation with my “future self”, I felt that way. I wanted to be wiser, smarter, kinder, less anxious, relaxed, full of good humor, and at peace with my life. I admired that older woman. I started thinking about what it would take to be like that when I was older, what choices I had to make in life, etc.

Thinking ten years ahead is a GREAT start. That’s a great idea. That’s manageable, but it’s also enough time that it gives enough space for things to evolve and develop so that the stress of going in a direct, straight line doesn’t become overwhelming.

I don’t know if *I’m* making sense now. I mean, if Matthew McConaughey “confounded” critics with his (what I thought to be) beautiful, authentic, and thoughtful 3 minute speech, then I’m sort of done for. But I wanted to give it some thought, and articulate my reaction so I would actually remember it and maybe start to incorporate it into my daily life.

Something to look up to.
Something to look forward to.
Something to chase.
Every. Single. Day.

Sounds like great advice to me. [Alright, alright, alright... <--- couldn't resist ;)  ]

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Okay, here’s the beginning of February as far as Project Life. I think I’m finally figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and definitely “easing up” on what my idea of being “done” with a page is.

The most important thing I have learned is that I’m going to be making a LOT of these pockets and pages over the next year (and however long after I continue this project) and so to spend an exorbitant amount of time fussing with a pocket or page is literally a waste of time. So I’m trying to just go with my gut, not worry too much about making things perfect, and keep moving forward.

That’s a good attitude to take with anything creative, really- we’re going to make a LOT of stuff in our life. Not everything needs to be perfect.


First few days of February with some cards and embellishments from the Cocoa Daisy kit and a card from the Project Life “Summer” Mini-Kit (which is made from Crate Paper’s “The Pier”, probably one of my favorite paper collections of all time.)


I decided that I’m going to throw some 8×8 traditional scrapbook pages into my Project Life as well, so I did one about how happy I was that spring was coming. I used papers from Cocoa Daisy and Basic Grey (another of all my all-time favorite paper collections- “Fresh Cut”).


A page about the weekend. Some photos of different things we did and paper from Cocoa Daisy February kit.


Just some journaling cards (again, Cocoa Daisy February kit- I’m really trying to use the kits in the months they arrive) this time around, with quotes and journaling. This time I printed out the journaling because I couldn’t bear the idea of sitting down and articulating it with a pen.


A page about Valentine’s Day using elements from my stash. The beach photo is a screenshot of the weather app on my iPad and the dancing photo of Gracie is something her teacher posted on the school’s Facebook wall (love that I get so many photos of her having fun at school!) I just stapled some odds and ends from Valentine’s day on top of it (a snip off the business card from my haircut place, a little quote that came inside my Valentine’s Day present from Tom- a deck of Inquiry Cards, which I LOVE- more on those soon…)


And a page about Milo and Tom using more stuff from my stash and some paper from the new “Daydreamer” collection by Dear Lizzy.

I LOVE the watercolor, soft look in papers. It suits life in Florida. I’m not a big fan of TROPICAL, but the soft, bright watercolor look I love love love. I hope this trend continues forever because I love it. So many beautiful papers and patterns!

Sorry again for the photos, but iPhone + morning sunshine + shiny page protectors = bad photo conditions. I guess I just wanted to share a little bit of what I have been working on. I’ll try and get the rest of February up at the end of the week, and then from here on in share pages once a week.

The truth is, I really ENJOY this process. I like gathering the stories and photos and ephemera of our lives. I flip through the pages I made so far these last seven weeks and I think “darn, we really HAVE done a lot.” I don’t get the sense that I have lost track of time as much, which is a good thing. I would like to bring more mindfulness into my days and, therefore, into Project Life.

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I was thinking a bit more about why I enjoy Project Life and why I want to continue to devote time to it and it came down to this- it makes me grateful for all the little things in life I sometimes miss. It makes me notice and appreciate life a LOT more.
This quote sums it up:

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”
- William Morris

Here are some more pages from January:
A bit about the cold foggy weather we’d been having and how it made me want to curl up and hibernate a bit, which I sort of wound up doing for a lot of January. We stayed close to home, watched a lot of movies, I painted a lot, and we just sort of tucked in for the month.
On the other page is a thing about our kitten, Milo, and his stuffed giraffe, Gogi.

There are going to be a lot of cat photos in this book. Two reasons for that- one: the cats are around me *all day* (Gracie goes to school, Tom goes up to work, but I stay here in the midst of cat central). Two: I really wish I had more stories and photos of Delilah throughout her life, not just a few a year. I’m so glad in the last few years I added lots of little stories and snapshots of her to my art journals- it makes me really happy to look back on those and be able to REALLY remember what life with her was like these last few years.
A few pockets about our “Winter Staycation” and some of what we did while staying home every weekend, and then the other page was about flowers growing in my garden despite the fact it was so cool and rainy all month.
A page about life in the backyard. The top photo is of two dolphins that came right up to Tom when he was by the seawall off the back of our house. I’ll share the full-size photo soon. It was pretty amazing.
And the other page is about the ADVENTURE of living with a kitten. The very top left photo is of his ritual destruction of rolls of paper towels.
And a goodbye to January in eight pockets- a few last snapshots of January, a receipt from a tea order I received, a little journaling, and then some odds and ends from a shopping trip that Tom and I took on the 31st. They opened a Hobby Lobby up in Naples so that was a big deal and I also stuck in a business card from where we had lunch that day, I filled another pocket with the cool packaging that came with some little perfume bottles I bought at Whole Foods, a journaling card about the day, and the little insert from my new iPad Mini.
Story on that: When Tom’s iPad got damaged last year, I gave him mine. I never really had the urge to replace it, but my little Kindle is one of those older ones with the b/w screen and tiny keypad and the little tiny joystick-thing, and it’s getting harder and harder to read and highlight on it (which I LOVE to do). Plus, I can’t read magazines on it. I finally decided to get an iPad mini. I thought maybe I could do some drawing/sketching on it, as well. And I’m so glad I did. I like it *so* much, much much more than the iPad, which I found heavy and bulky and I really didn’t use. The Mini is something I use all the time for so many things.
Anyway… back to the Project Life stuff. I know I need to get the small photo thing on this blog sorted out. The template I use with WordPress has a fixed column size and even though I have monkeyed with it, apparently that fixed size is in SEVERAL files beyond just the template files so I have to keep trying to find the one that lets me make this column of content larger so I can post larger photos. But thanks for checking in and peeking at these little photos.
I’ll try and get the rest up tomorrow or Friday and get caught up on all the Project Life pages so I can just post them as I make them from here on out.
Have a lovely Wednesday! <3
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I decided to do Project Life this year, since I’m not keeping an art journal at the moment and that’s where I used to stash photos and stories and ephemera from our lives.

I really do enjoy the process of documenting our lives. I have been keeping an online journal since 1997, and then when Gracie’s adoption process started, I got very interested in scrapbooking for her (and plus, I had to do SOMETHING special with those photos and stories we received of her while we were waiting for her to come home!). Then that sort of evolved into art journaling, then back to scrapbooking, and now Project Life.

Project Life is basically this system where you use pocketed page protectors to organize bits of life- photos, journaling, odds and ends (such as movie tickets, business cards, receipts, etc.). Instead of taking your photos and stuff and making big pages from them, you tuck them into little clear pockets in a binder, and then as you fill the pages, the binder becomes a little snapshot of your day-to-day life.

I’ll post my process at the end of the post, in case you are interested. But for now, here are some photos from pages I completed in January- I’m sorry about the glare but since everything is in plastic sheets, I couldn’t do much to eliminate it. As usual, these were taken with my iPhone, so nothing professional or remotely excellent happening here… I just wanted to share a little bit of what I have been working on when I’m not painting.


First page in the album- just a little collage of things including a print out of a painting I love and that represents my ideas for the new year when I started the album.


The flipside of that page is another print of a painting I love with some of the words that were going through my mind as I was thinking about the year ahead.


A page about the garden- it was kinda cold and dreary, but some of my hibiscus and geranium were blooming, so I did a page about that.



Misc stuff- a journaling card with some “currently” stuff on it, a movie poster from “her”, a screen grab from my reviewer page, and then a page of stuff about Gracie (“Sleepover and Scouts”).


Another mix-and-match kinda page- receipt from a seed order I placed, some photos Gracie took of herself on my phone, an order from Demeter, the invoice from my dentist appointment (which I was scared of for weeks), some movie posters and business cards from our New Year day out with my parents, and an image from the TV show “The Returned” which we binge-watched in early January.

I’ll post a few more pages tomorrow or Wednesday, and then try to catch up and stay caught up.


Looking back on these pages, I can see myself trying to figure out the process. I knew I wanted to embellish the pages, but was unsure how, so I overdid it. I have kinda simplified that because of time reasons and because as you work on something like this, you really do get into the flow of the project.

I have realized that I OVER document. But that’s okay- it’s how I am. I just know that when the week ends I will likely have ten pockets to fill instead of three, so I have to spend less time embellishing.

Also, when I started this, I thought I wanted to include “art journal” elements into the project, (hence the first two pages with the paintings on them) but as I go on I can see that I probably won’t do a lot of that.

My process (so far):
I’m doing my Project Life a little mix-and-match. I’m doing mostly 6×8 pocket pages (the Sn@p kind – I mostly use the 3×4 pocket pages with a few 4×4 pocket pages mixed in) with a few 8×8 scrapbook style pages mixed in. I get these at local craft stores, when they are on sale.

I’m doing it all in an 8×8″ American Crafts binder, which is by far my favorite album out there. It holds a LOT of pages, which is good for me. I get these binders at Amazon since I can’t find them locally and I like the colors they offer. I think the price is fair for the quality and the size.

I print photos at home, and I do it all the time. I have an old Epson Picturemate and every few days I take the photos off my phone, no matter what they are of, find the best ones of the bunch, and print them out- two 3×4 photos on a 6×4″ sheet of photo paper.  I don’t use all the photos I print, but I print them out so when I have time to work on Project Life, I’m not editing and printing photos. I store the photo printouts (along with odds and ends from daily life) in a little recipe card box on my desk.

Every week I just sort of take the photos and bits I have collected and lay it all on my desk and move it around until it makes sense. Some things stay, some things go, etc. Then I put them into pockets and play with different supplies until I like what I’ve got, and I put it all away. It usually takes a few hours spread out into two afternoons/evenings. The hardest part is definitely the written journaling. Ugh. I’m getting better at it, though. The journal cards help a lot.

I currently subscribe to one kit club- Cocoa Daisy. For $25 they send me a box full of Project Life supplies every month- cards, stickers, labels, etc.

As far as core kits- I don’t have any “official” Project Life core kits, but I do have several mini kits (two Dear Lizzy kits, one Maggie Holmes kit, the “Summer” mini kit) plus I have two We R Memory Keepers kits- Blackboard (which I LOVE) and Captured. I’m trying not to go overboard with the cards, because I have a collection of 6×6 paper pads and journaling cards I have collected in the last few years, and I also have that We R Memory Keppers 3×4 punch (which is completely worth the price) to make as many Project Life cards as my heart desires.

However, the smaller sets of cards are fairly inexpensive and VERY collectable, so if I see one I love, I usually am okay with getting it. I don’t know that a core kit is in my future. I do like Midnight and Jade, but not enough to have all those extra cards. I find it more economical to buy small cections of core kits on Etsy that other people have bought and broken down into smaller kits. I got bits of Blush and Jade that way.

Okay, more soon. Thank you as always for looking! <3 Have a lovely week!

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...petunia from the garden...

…petunia from the garden…

After my focus and determination not to let myself get back into “chaotic” thinking, I sort of slipped up these past two weeks.

My to-do lists started getting longer and longer and instead of sitting down and painting every day, I started finding myself floundering a bit and doing other stuff (bookwork, etc.) during any extra time I had. Things *HAVE* been busier than usual- the post-holiday fog is lifting, our kitty Ginger is recovering from illness, we have a full schedule of stuff, etc.

I also spent a little too much time looking at the photos and videos people took at the CHA show (Craft & Hobby Association).  I started having ideas for all these creative projects that have nothing to do with paint or anything that I have been focused on lately. I started making lists and lists of new crafts and art techniques I wanted to try, doing research on to what was needed to get started, realizing I didn’t need or really want to be doing any of it, and then getting frustrated at myself for all of it.

One thing I have learned about myself is that when there’s “too much” going on in my head and “too much” competing for my attention and passion, I get immediately burned out and don’t want to do ANY of it. Then I get anxious and start picking on myself, which makes me feel worse, etc. It’s a vicious cycle. The good news is that I’ve gone through this enough times to now recognize it.

Yesterday I was swimming and thinking about how crappy I was feeling and I remembered this story from the Mark Nepo book (“The Book of Awakening”) about this guy Nepo knew who was renovating the inside of his house:

“[Robert] mixed the paint outside and waddled to the door with a gallon in each hand, the drop cloth under his arm, and a wide brush in his mouth. … He teetered there for minutes, trying to open the door, not wanting to put anything down. He had the door almost open when he lost his grip, stumbled backward, and wound up on the ground, red gallons all over him.”

The point of this story? When we are holding or carrying too much, we can’t get *anything* done.

“It’s such a simple thing, but in a moment of ego we refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the door. Time and time again, we are offered the chance to truly learn this:  We cannot hold on to things and enter. We must put down what we carry, open the door, and then take up only what we need to bring inside.” – Mark Nepo

When I first read this, it hit me so hard you could almost hear the “ooooffff” noise.  And it hit me again yesterday in the pool.

So I kind of did what Mark Nepo recommended- I “put down” everything. Meaning, I mentally knocked EVERYTHING off my  daily schedule- EVERYTHING. I made it empty.  And then I started adding stuff back in, one at a time, depending on how crucial it was for me or my family or my health, etc.

Family and physical health stuff came first, and then came well-being and creativity.

The first thing I added under the “creativity” category was painting.

Painting makes me enormously happy. It gives me some moments of peace and quiet in my head. It’s something I don’t need to justify doing, and something I’m not particularly competitive about. I know I’m learning right now, so I’m in a good space with it not needing to be perfect. So painting serves a lot of things- not only a creative outlet, but also a sense of well-being.

So if I enjoy painting, and want to do it more often, why am I thinking about art journaling? Or Zentangling? Or learning hand lettering? These are all great things, don’t get me wrong, but why do I REALLY want to do them? Was it because these things are truly calling to me, or was it because I saw people doing them at CHA (with fun new supplies… oh, the color!)

Do I really want to give up painting time (or gardening time, or family time, or sleep time, or swimming time, etc.) to do other stuff? The answer is a huge NO. When push comes to shove, what I want to do with my creative time is (mostly) paint. Canvas, easel, blobs of paint on my palette.

I realized I do want to work more with watercolor, draw more intricate patterns (I really miss making those circle drawings!), and collage, but all of those things can be incorporated into painting, very very easily.  And I can certainly make time for drawing practice again. One of my favorite lessons in the Flora Bowley class was learning about how to create a personal vocabulary of meaningful images. That can be part of my painting practice.

The minute I realized I just really want to paint, I felt a tremendous sense of relief set in.

The next thing I added to my “creative” category was Project Life. It’s this cross between a photo album/scrapbook/personal journaling. I love to journal, I love to document, and I like playing around with bits of paper and punches and photos and stuff. I started doing Project Life in December (instead of December Daily) and it immediately made sense to me. The whole pocket page protector thing  eliminates a LOT of layout decisions (which I agonize over) but provides ample space for everything from photos to bits of journaling to receipts/ticket stubs/ephemera from life.

Also, Gracie regularly looks through the finished scrapbooks/art journals I have made. They matter to her. They are basically the illustrated story of our life, as it progresses. And she makes her own journals and scrapbooks alongside me. So it’s sort of a good creative thing AND a family thing AND a well-being thing.

(And it’s fun. And I LOVE pretty paper and washi tape.)

So, creative-wise, I think I have my hands pretty full with those two things.

The bottom line is that I have very limited time and energy to be creative. And I want to use that time doing stuff that makes me happy, that makes me grow, and that doesn’t make me feel overwhelmed. So that means I am going to have to say “no” to a lot of things that really catch my interest. I think that’s going to take so much practice because I’m really curious about so many things.

And it’s not just creative stuff, it’s well-being (SO MANY CLASSES I WANT TO TAKE, plus, oh, meditation again… plus more time for reading, plus I want to start writing fiction again), physical health (been wanting to try yoga for years and I want to ride my bike again), family stuff (would love to take a class with Gracie, do more volunteer work, get the telescope back out since all three of us really want to use it), etc. I’m trying to see it as a positive thing- there are lots of things that pique my interest. I just can’t expect that I’ll be able to manage jamming them all into my schedule.

I guess I’m just going to have to remind myself over and over again of Mark Nepo’s advice:  “We must put down what we carry, open the door, and then take up only what we need to bring inside.” And right now, my hands are pretty full.

And now, I’m off to work on some Project Life pages and make a smoothie, and then I’m going to go and hang out with my family. Hope you had a GREAT weekend. <3

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seeing anew

14 Jan 2014
Winslow Homer - "On the Fence"

Winslow Homer – “On the Fence”

So, I’m reading Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening”- it’s one of those books that have a reading for each day of the year- and this morning I was reading about “love at first sight”.

Not the romantic kind, but the buzz we feel when we really SEE something for the first time and it breaks past the surface of all the everyday-duldrums and reaches deep inside and touches us.

You ever get that thing when you wake up in the middle of the night and you look at yourself in the mirror and it looks like a COMPLETELY different person staring back at you, like you have never seen your own face before? That’s what jumped into my mind when I read the passage this morning.

From the book:

“We all walk around within the numbness of our habits and routines so often that we take the marvels of ordinary life for granted. It is first sight that opens the freshness of each moment, unencumbered by any of our habits and routines. … At its deepest and most real level, the notion of love at first sight is spoken of in every spiritual tradition as the reward for being fully awake. Such seeing anew restores our sense of being alive.” – Mark Nepo

That really resonated with me right now. I feel like I’m a tiny bit stuck- not a bad stuck, but the kind of stuck where I want to shift things a little bit so they can be better.

Let me tell you a little story:

On Friday the landscapers came and did the semi-annual tree and hedge-trimming around our yard. It’s no big deal- it takes them an hour or so, everything looks more or less the same, just less overgrown.

After they finished trimming, I went outside and it was almost like I was in someone else’s yard. For some reason the trimming on Friday REALLY opened up our little back yard. I think it’s because the sun is sort of low on the horizon (or whatever) and since the ficus hedge is shorter, the sun is able to directly shine in our backyard now for most of the day, instead of being filtered through the leaves. The garden gets more light, the afternoons seem a little less gloomy. It was almost like it was a different season. I was a little freaked out by how much a difference such a small change could make.

I still haven’t gotten used to it, and I don’t want to. Every day when I swim I look at the plants and the flowers which look lit from within and it makes me see everything so differently.

Anyway, reading about “love at first sight” and seeing things anew this morning made me think of that. I want to do more of that- *see* the beauty of the everyday, and embrace it. Feel it.

I was flipping through some stuff on the table today and a title on the cover of Yoga Journal caught my eye- it said “Foods that Make You Feel Good”. Something about that phrase jumped out at me. I pictured myself sitting cross-legged in a cushion-y, comfy chair, with a steaming bowl of something wholesome and delicious in my hands, the steam drifting up above my head, my eyes closed, and a relaxed smile on my face. I looked peaceful and healthy and calm and happy. I have no idea why that particular phrase triggered that particular image in my mind, but what I did know for sure was that I WANTED IT for myself- I wanted that blissful, imaginary, happy-Chel moment so much it hurt.

I want to “feel good”, whatever that means. I get moments of it, but not periods of time. I want to make little shifts in my life so that “feeling good” is more than just some imaginary projection in my head, it’s reality.

The thing is, it will take change. And I despise change. Over the years, I have come to associate change with loss. I’m trying to shift that, trying to see change instead as evolution, as a chance for things to get better, to improve, to become more solid and true and magical. To add more *good* stuff to life. To figure out what it takes to make that happen and go for it.

It’s like the tree-trimming- a little adjustment might open my life up to much more light.

I guess I’m just babbling, but I wanted to write this down before I forget it and go back to being anxious and irritated and exhausted, which kinda seems like standard operating mode these past few days. I don’t want to feel like that anymore. I know January is typically a weird month for me (and a lot of other people!) but maybe I can change that this year.

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(Sleepy Milo from a few weeks ago…)

Here is a daybook entry for today:
Outside my window…
it looks like a lovely day- the sun is shining (well, it was shining- now it’s kinda overcast), the thermometer says 70 degrees, and the windchimes are singing so I’m guessing there’s a nice breeze, too. After I finish writing this, I’m going to go and garden and then swim. If it stays this nice, and the humidity doesn’t pick up, I’m definitely going to open doors and windows today and let the nice weather in!

I am thinking…
my brain is sort of a hodge-podge at the moment. It starts whirring when I wake up in the morning and sort of picks up speed as I go through the morning stuff (and the caffeine from my tea doesn’t help) and by the time it’s late morning, it’s pretty much full LOUD cacophony that only eases when I get outside to garden (the fresh air helps clear things up) and then get in the pool to swim all the anxiety out.

Another “hot spot” for brain overwhelm is about 45 minutes after lunch. I really don’t love afternoons, so I get into this weird anxious funk and the only way out of it is to dive into something (painting, chore-y stuff, etc.). As soon as the sun sets, I feel better. It’s very odd.

This is part of why “RELAX” was one of my words for right now. I need to figure out a way to work with the little build ups of anxiety that tend to accumulate during the day. Meditation helps, but the problem is that straight-up meditation is great for a while and the benefits are immediate, but after about a month of daily meditation, I just stop being able to do it. Even guided meditations make me crazy. Sitting for even three minutes becomes complete agony and causes more anxiety than not doing it. So I just stop for a while and the benefits of it go away. And then I promise to start again… same cycle over and over.

I am thankful for…
weekends, my family, little stressful things (doctors and perscriptions) that got *somewhat* sorted out this week, having a few days off, painting, gardening, tea.

From the art studio…
This week I completely painted over a canvas I have been working on for the last six weeks, which was TOTALLY liberating. I just covered it in acrylic ink and metallic paint and glaze. Then I put it aside and pulled out an older canvas I worked on during Flora’s class and started painting that. I’m trying to keep it loose- for some reason I got very *rigid* the last month with paintin and had this fixed idea of something I felt make make a good painting, and spent a month agonizing over it, only to realize it wasn’t working. So I feel relieved, in a way.

I’m also working on a Project Life-esque project this year- using pocket page protectors to document life and photos and odd journaling bits. It’s kind of a mix of an art journal, photo album, and scrapbook. It’s an 8×8 American Crafts binder with a bunch of different pocket pages in it (from AC, Sn@p, We R Memory Keepers, etc.)  I like it because I can do creative little bits, but also add in straight photos and journaling on little 3×4 cards, and everything is already laid out for me.  If I feel like doing more for a week or event, I can do more. If I just need to slip some photos or ephemera in one of the pockets because I’m out of time or energy, I can still get the week documented without much fuss. I’ll post photos soon.

From the garden…
blah. The weather has been cool and cloudy, so the garden is a little droopy. I planted some geranium seeds last week that need 75 degree weather to germinate and so I assume the rain and cool weather basically washed those away. I’ll re-seed some of those this afternoon.

I am wearing…
pajamas. But I’m about to go put on the good ‘ol Speedo and swim cap and goggles I’ll spend the next few hours in for gardening and swimming. People always wonder why I don’t get dressed in anything but pajamas after I swim every day (well, if I’m not going out) and that’s because when you spend 4-5 hours in a  wet Speedo, you kinda want your PJs.

I am going…
I think this weekend I am staying close to home. Tom is teaching several karate classes today and tomorrow he has a triathlon, AND he’s getting some new equipment for work that he has to set up, so I’ll most likely just hang out around here and paint and take care of paper work, the “staycation” for which what I have been craving for weeks.

It’s funny, I always yearn for a few days of not having to go anywhere, but then when I get them, I feel oddly guilty about them.

I am reading…
NOTHING. Art books, actually. But there are a bunch of books I am desperate to read- “S” by JJ Abrams (which I got for Christmas- it’s so fascinating!), the new Alexander McCall Smith book (already loaded on my Kindle), the new Sue Monk Kidd and the new Anne Lamott, plus I want to re-read Artist’s Way and Flora Bowley’s book and a book on self-compassion I read last year.

I need to find a time and place to read every day. Make it as much a part of my fixed schedule as swimming and gardening. It just always seems to fall by the wayside, even though when I am making time to read, I feel SO much happier.

I am hoping…
to get the holiday decorations down soon. I wanted them down this weekend, but Tom is crazy busy. It’s basically just the big tree and a handful of ornaments but it takes a bit of work. I want my sunroom back.

I am hearing…
right now: leafblowers and chainsaws (some of my lest favorite sounds), cars passing by, Winnie grumbling at the birds outside (we put her cage by the back door so she can watch over the bay), the two parrotlets having an argument with each other. As far as the parrotlets, we adopted them in 2004, and they are brothers, so they are completely bonded and co-dependant, but they also have these “I can OUT CHIRP you!” contests and bicker over cage space and food. We have to keep them in two different cages if they get too annoyed with one another, but the cages have to be right next to one another. Anyway, from time to time they get in little chirpy arguments or call the birds outside.

As far as music: I am OBSESSED with Polica. Such a great band.

I am watching…
Tom and I are binge watcing “the White Queen” – one episode every day during lunch. At night, we’re watching “Firefly”.

I want to see “Her” and “Inside Llewyn Davis” soon.

One of my favorite things…
Demeter roll-on perfume oils. I just got my second order Thursday (keepers: honeysuckle, linden, mimosa, violet, flower show) and placed another order promptly after. I sent back three vials (turpentine – blech!), some citrus mix, and something else I forgot- they have a no questions asked return policy) and so I got a few more to try out in exchange (clean skin, hawaiian vanilla, a strawberry one). Also, two for Gracie since she’s getting interested in my little perfume obsession: I got her Chocolate Chip Cookie and Vanilla Ice Cream.

Oh, and my short haircut! I love it. I love how it looks different all the time.

A few plans for the rest of the week [end]…
Relaxation. PAINTING. Swimming. Tidy my art studio (I ordered some stamp storage boxes and I’m hoping they arrive today so I can get that done). Watch a few movies. READ. Catch up on sleep. Hang out with the family. Write a bit (I have a bunch of Amazon reviews that need to get done). Crochet. Who knows?

Have a GREAT day!!

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I wanted to start doing a regular gratitude practice again (similar to Common Miracles, but a little looser in format), so here we go.

We saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” this weekend and it was *wonderful*. It was sweet and funny and astonishingly beautiful and kind and inspiring. I can’t recommend it enough. It wasn’t even like a movie- it was more like an experience. I wish more movies were like it. One of my favorite films, for sure. (And the soundtrack was amazing, although they didn’t use an Sigur Ros, which was disappointing since a chunck of the movie took place in Iceland and it would have suited it perfectly.

While I’m talking about ICELAND and SIGUR ROS, I’ll add both those things to my list as well. I’ve been looking at photos of Iceland and the beauty of the country blows me away. Something about it calls to me. Sigur Ros is a band from Iceland and their music is *so* beautiful and always gives me goosebumps. I love to swim and paint to it.

Oh, and the band POLICA, too. Their music is on constant rotation in my art studio and on my iPod and in the car.

Over the last few weeks, Tom and I have been stopping work in the middle of the day to sit down and have lunch together, and every time we do, we watch an episode of a TV show in order. We also watch an episode at night, if there is time and Gracie is at Nanny and Papa’s (not many binge watchable shows that are good for entire families…) We watch entire seasons of shows in order, very quickly, and it’s immensely satisfying. It’s sort of like watching a long movie in segments over the course of a few days.

Over the holidays we caught up on “Sleepy Hollow”, “Homeland” (season three), and “The Returned”. All three were absolutely compelling and well-done, but THE RETURNED gets serious, serious props because it was haunting, absolutely beautiful, and I still can’t stop thinking about it and wanting more of it, even though we finished it a while back. I can’t wait for the next season. We just started “The White Queen” which also sucked us right in. I think the best shows we have seen in the last few months are ORPHAN BLACK and BROADCHURCH.

Speaking of TV, DOWNTON ABBEY is back. That deserves mention.

Earlier this year, my mom sent me a bottle of L’Occitane Rose shower gel, and it is SO beautiful. I used it one day and then caught a scent of it later in the day, and just that simple smell of roses reminded me how much I love good scents but how I rarely make time to seek them out. Besides shower gel, I’m pretty much scent-free.

So I started searching for a simple rose oil that I could dab on my wrists that would complement the shower gel. My search led me to Demeter’s website. I had heard about them before from many people, but as I am NOT a perfume person (I have tried, but never found any fragrance that I truly loved the scent of enough to stand it all day) I never really looked into it.

I got four perfume oils to start with (rose, lilac, gardenia, and jasmine) and now I am hooked. The scents are absolutely beautiful- true to life, subtle, and they don’t last. There’s no weird “perfumey” smell about them.

The best part about them is that many are “singular” which means you can mix them and make your own scent. It’s kind of like mixing different tea flavors or mixing two different colors of paint.

I just ordered several more, and I have another order I want to make in the future. For $10 a bottle, I think it’s a fair splurge. And I love picking out the fragrance for the day and then catching tiny little whiffs of it later on.

Duh, I guess :)

I have been working on a new painting for about  month and this weekend I realized I was tired of struggling with it and went ahead dumped a bunch of white ink on it. Now I love it again. I love the freedom of that.

I also got a bunch of ART BOOKS (mostly instruction on acrylics and abstracts, but also one on Klimt) for Christmas and every time I open one up, I’m reminded of all the possibilities and inspired to keep learning.

I read (and re-read) a bit from this every single morning and it *so* resonates with me. I keep thinking I should do more with it (journal entries, some sort of project related to the entries I read) but then I immediately think “NO, just keep it simple so you stick to it.” Here’s a passage from this morning:

“I am finding that being who I am- not hiding any of myself- is a necessary threshold that I must meet or my life will not evolve…. Nothing else in nature is indirect. The leopard trying to scale the mountain strains and shows its effort. Only humans say one thing and mean another. Only we go one way and wish we were somewhere else. I implore you, when feeling lost or far away, try being direct and the Universe without a word will come alive.

early january12

I’m on a geranium kick this year. They are so easy to grow and they are good with the extremes of Florida weather and there’s always lots of beautiful flowers. I have about 15 different colors and varieties at the moment. My favorite is the AppleBlossom, which looks like rosebuds.

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to swim, I heard a lot of different birds singing (we usually get shore birds – seagulls, osprey, eagles [the island I live on is a Bald Eagle sanctuary]) and it reminded me so much of early spring in NY that I felt something shift in me, something hopeful and good. Usually I associate spring with the countdown to summer (ugh) and tourist season (double ugh), so to feel really positive and excited about it made me remember that there are still several months of cooler weather and sunshine until summer, and I need to be present for each and every moment.

I loved seeing all the pixie hair cuts that everyone has been getting, so I went ahead and got one, too. No photos yet (I know, I know…) but I am SO thrilled with it. I feel like a new person, and it’s so easy to take care of. Short hair is amazing.

Need I say more? I love the way they feel when I write on glossy paper with them. They make a satisfying, juicy “squeak” noise.

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words and resolutions

03 Jan 2014
"Midsummer Eve" by Edward Robert Hughes

“Midsummer Eve” by Edward Robert Hughes

“How are you tending to the emerging story of your life?” -Carol Hegedus and Frances Vaughan

So everyone is posting their “Year in Review” and “One Little Word” and I’m kind of resisting a little bit.

2013 was devastating and 2013 was wonderful.  More than anything it was *full*, and therefore, exhausting. I’m still living it, I think. I will be for a while. The things that came about (most significantly, Delilah’s passing, Tom’s mom’s passing, and painting) are still things I am experiencing fully every day. So, recapping it doesn’t seem right…

One thing I realized as I was thinking about these last few months is that I did not do any sort of “December Daily” project in 2013. When the holidays rolled around, I was terrified that if I stopped painting for a few days and worked on another project, I might lose the groove. I had no desire to cram any sort of project in the nooks and crannies of the month. It felt like too much. So I let it go (which was kinda a relief, to be honest).

And, to my surprise, I actually found that NOT doing a December Daily type project made the holidays much happier for me. That was eye-opening. Without the outside influence about what the holidays should and/or could be, I was better able to be present for what our holidays truly are and enjoy them. It was like a blank slate. Like there was no pre-conceived ideas of what had to happen, so what *did* happen was more than enough. I really liked that, to be honest.

I think I am finally starting to understand what it means to “go with the flow”. I just want to do that for a while.

I can honestly say I have NEVER EVER felt this way on New Year’s Eve before. I’ve always been ready to hit the ground running- super fresh start, new projects lined up and organized, goals to set and to move towards. Everything neat and *ready*. It’s very strange that I don’t have a zillion creative projects or ideas running through my mind. Or a “One Little Word” all picked out and several entries written about it with a project attached.

So, I’m not choosing a word for the year. I’ve gone back and forth on this because I know from experience that these “one word”s can have profound influence on life. The year I chose “grow” as my word I picked it with the intention of it getting me back to school somehow, but it turned into me discovering gardening, which has become a serious passion and tremendous GIFT to me. Unexpected and amazing. I still want that.

So instead of picking a word for the entire year to come, I’m picking a few words for *right now*. They can change any time, or they can stick around for as long as they are appropriate. The list can be added to or whittled down at any given moment. There are no rules.

Here are my words for this very moment:


“Learn” is obvious- I want to take more classes, and learn more about art. I also want to learn more about geography and astronomy and poetry and anything else that interests me and calls to me. I miss being a student, and while I don’t think I would enjoy the stress of returning back to school full-time (deadlines and writing papers are no longer enjoyable to me), I did enjoy my painting class immensely.

By “passion” I mean that heady feeling when you get lost in something in a really good way. This past year I got passionate about a few things and the feeling REALLY surprised me because it seems as I get older, my reactions and feelings about things tend to get milder. But there were a few things this year (painting, music, ideas, etc.) that really made me feel alive and vibrant again. They sort of broke through the neutral haze of the everyday and made me take notice. I want more of that. I want to fall in love with my life, and I want to figure out what gives me goosebumps and takes my breath away and makes me want to get out of bed every morning and live life to the fullest.

“Nourish” and “Relax” are related to my desire to work on decreasing my anxiety. I don’t want to live feeling like I am constantly tied up in a knot, or sort of crouched down in a ball, waiting for a blow to hit me hard. I want to alleviate those feelings somehow. It’s exhausting, and I want to try and work through it in the coming months.

But why “shine”? I’m clearly a fan of the sun, of sunny days, of the power of sunshine. It became very relevant to me in 2013, as I struggled through the darkness of the really stormy and rainy summer. Every bit of sunshine made an enormous difference to me.

But then I think about how the sun warming our planet and giving us light is really just a side benefit to what the sun was really designed for. The sun is really a star, one of many. It looks like just a spark of light from far away, in fact it probably looks like a whole lot of NOTHING from most perspectives in the Universe. But for us, it’s life. And maybe for some on faraway lands, our little star may be the focal point of a beautiful, meaningful constellation or a way to find home.

I always think about how the sun- all stars- need to constantly feed themselves to continue to shine. There’s some fierce stuff happening in a star’s core- storms and explosions and energy, light and dark.

And when they do show up and shine, it’s 100% authentic. There’s no editing what they emit, or hiding their power. It’s not like the sun has a variety of filters and masks it can hold in front of itself to change how it appears or what kind of light it emits. The sun just shines.

For some reason the idea of “shining” in *that* way inspires me. I want to show up day to day, nurture myself from deep within, continue to fill up the creative and emotional well, and then shine out like a little twinkling star in the sky, exactly as I am. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and not everyone will see me, but maybe a few people out there will find something about me and my life and the things I do and share that resonates with them.

I guess my goal in 2014 is to be the very best me that I can be. Not the Chel I *wish* to be, not the Chel that I think I *should* or *could* be, but the Chel that is true and authentic. I want to tap into that and stop being afraid of showing people what I’m really all about.

“Perhaps this is the secret-that every time we dare to voice what beats within, we invite some other cell of heart to find what lives between us and sing.” – Mark Nepo

I chose the image above, “Midsummer Eve”, because it’s really the middle of summer here in Florida (nice weather, warm days) and because every time I see this painting, I’m reminded of the magic in the everyday. How if I pay enough attention to it, it can really illuminate and *move* me. I kind of feel like that when I am painting, or gardening, or interacting with animals- there’s this little light that I find that pulls me in and warms my soul. I want to find more of that light this year.

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31 Dec 2013
"northern sky" - acrylic on canvas

“northern sky” – acrylic on canvas

Long time, no blog.

I’ve been painting.

I’ve been doing other things, of course: swimming, gardening, holiday-making, family stuff, movie-watching, writing, reading, a tiny bit of documenting. But for the most part, when I have a bit of free time, I find myself painting.

I guess it’s safe to say that the painting class I took in October (Bloom True with Flora Bowley) had a HUGE impact on me.

For years, there was a little voice inside my head that said “I want to paint.” My art teacher in high school was amazing, so I had unlimited access to the art studio and the supplies within in it throughout my junior and senior years. And because I was being graded on my art, I was compelled to devote time and effort to it.

Then I went to college, and there was NO real visual arts program, and definitely not access to a studio. So I stopped making art, and got interested in graphic design instead. It was something I could do in my dorm room, with minimal supplies. But it wasn’t the same.

I finished college and grad school and found myself with space and time to be creative again. But I couldn’t justify the time and energy to paint, even though I *wanted* to. I felt like I needed to be spending my time in useful, productive ways. So every time that little voice said “I want to paint”, I would respond to it by finding ways to paint that were part of a bigger whole. I do jewelry design, so I started painting beads. I felt documenting our life was justifiable because Gracie would have those books to look back on, so I painted in my art journals. I painted only as part of a bigger whole.

And even though I kept “painting” (or so I thought), the little voice that said “I want to paint” never went away. It frustrated the hell out of me, to be honest.

The “Bloom True” class appealed to me for years, but there was no way I was going to spend the money on it. It just seemed too indulgent, especially since I had made absolutely no effort to paint on canvas in years. I kept bringing it up, and Tom kept telling me to take the class, that I HAD to take the class, but I kept not signing up.But then Tom’s mom passed, and I KNEW that she would have wanted me to take that class- in fact, if she had known about it, I’m 100% certain she would have gifted it to me. That’s how she was. So I enrolled.

At first, I planned on NOT buying any of the supplies that were recommended- I was going to be thrifty and “make it work” and figure out a way to apply what I was being taught to art journal and beads and other things I already had going.

But right before class started, I had an urge to get some canvases and paints (not the cheapy 2 for $1 craft stuff) and actually do the class as it was intended. And because the class was a financial investment, it gave me incentive to not make it into anything it wasn’t- it *wasn’t* a mixed media class, it *wasn’t* an art journal class, etc. It was canvas and paints, period.

So I began to paint, tentatively. On the first “painting day” of the class, I put it off all afternoon. But when I finally sat down and started painting, M83 blasting on the laptop and my eyes shut tight, finger painting (it was an assignment), it was like a dam burst. I felt a sense of peace and “at home”-ness that I haven’t felt in a very long time. It felt like I was coming back into my own place in the universe.

More than that, it was FUN. It made me giddy. And I wanted more of that.

So these past few months, I have been painting. I give myself the time and space to paint. I let myself spend money on supplies. I’m a fairly frugal person, so I haven’t gone Golden-crazy (THE brand of acrylics that every artist seems to lust after), but I do have a full drawer of Liquitex and Daler-Rowneys in a rainbow of colors. And it makes me enormously happy.

But the biggest thing is that I give myself the opportunity to do this without ANY justification. I have no idea of how this can or will fit into my desire to contribute to the world, but that’s okay.  There’s no bigger picture, no plans of what might evolve from this, no thoughts of “maybe someone will like what I am painting and I can make prints…” (<— the main reason I have not shared any of my paintings anywhere but on Facebook.) It just is what it is.

I think the real reason I love to paint so very much is because of the little groove I get into when I am sitting at my table, dabbing bits of color onto canvas. I feel lost in time and space but also deeply grounded and rooted. I didn’t know it was possible to feel both those things. Definitely not at the same time.

I don’t know where I am going with any of this, but I know I need to keep going. I just wish I listened to that little “I want to paint” voice years and years ago, because it was absolutely, 100% correct. And as long as that little voice asks me to paint, I will pay attention.

I do have one of those “2013/2014″ New Year’s posts but I wanted to share this first. I think this whole experience has really changed my views on so many aspects of my life, and it’s definitely influenced my ideas of what I’d like to do in the next few months.

Happy New Year <3

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On Monday, Flora Bowley’s “Bloom True” painting class started. I have wanted to take it forever, but the cost always prevented me from signing up. Finally, I decided enough was enough, and just went for it. I’m so glad I did.

It’s only three days into the class, and I’ve already learned so much.

Yesterday was the first painting day, and it was pretty mind-blowing. Not the results (see above- it’s the first layer), but the PROCESS. I’ve never felt like that while making art. We were supposed to start two canvases with a first layer, but I was so enchanted by the process that I did a first layer on a third canvas. I *had* to. I have no idea what is coming next in the course, and what goes on the canvases next, but if I just continued to paint like I did yesterday, this class is more than worth the investment.

In addition to painting days, there are a lot of “reflection”-kinda days. I figured I might write about some of that stuff here. I would type it anyway (writing by hand is not my favorite thing these days…) so I might as well share some of it.

Set an intention for the course:
Oh, I have no idea. As much as I talk about intention and appreciate its power and know how good it is to set intention, I avoid it like crazy. I hate narrowing things down. Choosing an intention (or choosing anything, really) feels more like trying to decide what NOT to choose. Does that make any sense at all?

I dithered over it for a while, and finally scribbled down the following in my journal:

“I want to paint without fear.
I want to paint and have it be fun.
Fun and fearless painting.”

Instead of trying to find less kindergarten-sounding words and phrases, I decided to just leave it there. I just want to have some fun. That’s all. I want painting and making art to be fun again. Creativity lost its magic a long time ago, but I remember the joy so vividly that I never stopped doing creative stuff. I guess I just trusted that at some point the fun would come back. But it hasn’t. So I want to make that happen. I want to find the fun and magic again.

What do you want to get from this course?
I just want to be able to sit down at my desk and paint without it being dampened by fear and endless dithering and resistance and concern about how other people might receive it.

How do you want to be in this course?
Brave. Colorful. Engaged. Passionate. Cheerful. Ready. Optimistic.

What is the most important part of the creative process?
For me? Actually getting myself started and being authentic about it.

Why are you here?
Because I’m TIRED of art being such a f*ing agonizing thing for me. I mean, enough is enough!
(Plus, I love Flora Bowley’s style and want to know how she does some of the stuff she does. I’ll be honest.)

What is begging to come out?
Vulnerability. Childishness. Silliness. Passion. CONNECTION. Heart.

Do you perceive yourself as an artist?
No. (again, being honest.) I’m making it work *as* an artist, but it’s more like I’m playing a role of an artist and waiting for some last bit of magic to click into place and *then* I can inhabit life as an actual artist. But right now, I’m “acting as if.”

What is the most challenging thing about making art?
Decisions. Getting over my self. Worrying about whether it’s good enough. Just STARTING. Feeling so much resistance.

And then sharing the art- putting myself so deeply into something and then not getting a response. It’s like a car crash, almost. It feels devastating. So now I monitor everything I create and always ask “what can I do to make this as accessible to everyone as possible?” I’m just so tired of that, but I can’t seem to get myself to stop doing it.

How do you perceive yourself as part of a creative community?
I have no idea, truly. Any time I feel as if I am squeezing in a bit, I feel cramped right out. And I blame my “talent”, or lack thereof. Or my lack of passion for personal promotion/social networking. I honestly don’t care so much about being a community leader- I have no desire to run workshops or write a book or publish tutorials. But it would be so nice to be recognized as an artist, as a viable participant in the community. As someone whose work mattered and inspired and changed people, even in tiny ways. I just want to reach people, I guess.


And then Flora recommended that we take our negative self talk, and restate each negative thing as a positive thing. An affirmation.

Okay, affirmations are not my thing. (Again, being honest.) They feel very forced to me. At least when I do it. At some point when I was in my mid-20′s I started getting really, really *real* with myself. And I talk to myself in a honest way. It’s gotten more and more compassionate, but it can be harshly critical. But there is always humor in it. That was the magic to finally accepting myself- finding the great humor in life. I love laughing, and I love to laugh at myself. It puts me at ease, and by finding the humor in my life, I have finally stopped feeling so awkward about having Spina Bifida.

Anyway, affirmations tend to feel completely positive, which is great, but my thing is humor. So when I read or write an affirmation, my inner self reads it in a sort of theatrical and overly-serious way, and it becomes a joke rather than something I can actually process and believe.

So, I need to make some new philosophies. Philosophy I can do. Approach I can do.

Philosophies on creating:
- Making decisions is not a stressful process. Choosing between many happy possibilities is joyful and a part of the creative process I love. I love my supplies and I love the opportunities to use them all.
- I’m a good artist. (ack, that feels so icky!) My art has a place in this world. My art is an authentic expression of exactly who I am.
- Getting started every day on creative stuff is something I do not resist. Instead, I embrace it with my whole heart as an opportunity to express myself exactly as I am in that moment.
- Art is for me. Creativity is for me. The creative process is for me. All that matters is that I arrive and leave the creative process feeling whole, at peace, genuine, satisfied, and not overwhelmed.

There’s more to this, of course. But I wanted to put some time and genuine effort into this part of the course, and not just put it aside for when there is more time, or more “space”. I want to give myself the gift of keeping up, and really being present for this class as it unfolds.


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What I’m loving at the moment:

- autumn. 
It’s official- autumn is here. Well, at least the calendar says so. It’s still hot out, and we get the occasional storm and clouds, but the key word is “occasional”, which is a big difference from “constantly”.

I love how different the light is- in the span of just a few weeks, the sun has gone from being a searing ball of white hot crushing light to a warm, golden, peeking-through-the-trees kind of light. The days are a little shorter, the shadows a little longer. The morning skies are beautiful and blue. Being outside (as long as it’s in the morning) is refreshing. My plants actually need me to water them.

I’m trying to enjoy every moment of it, and really be present for it. Every year I get giddy about autumn, and every year it seems to slip through my fingers. This year, I just want to be present for it, enjoy it in the moment.

- scarves. Not to wear (wayyyy too hot for that), but to crochet. I think I mentioned that I finished Gracie’s fluffy blanket. Now I’m back to making scarves. Last year I made a gauzy, loosely crocheted scarf out of some lightweight, thin cotton yarn for Gracie and she loved it and actually wore it a lot (even when it was hot!), so now she picks yarn colors she likes from my stash and I basically churn out scarves for her. Right now I’m working on one in autumn hues using the yarn pictured above (Premiere Serenity Garden Yarn in Gems).

- weekend lunches out. A few weeks ago Gracie asked for chocolate chip pancakes for lunch, so we went to a local breakfast/lunch place. And then we went back the next weekend. And then yesterday (Saturday) we went again- Tom was teaching karate class, so I called him and told him we’d come meet him, and we did. It’s a pretty simple thing- breakfast for lunch on the weekend with my little family, but I really enjoy it. It’s pretty nice having someone make you a super fancy veggie omelette exactly the way you want it, with a fluffy whole wheat pancake on the side.

- getting ready to paint. I’m taking an online painting class in October (Flora Bowley’s Bloom True) and while blank canvases are part of the supply requirements for the class, for a while I was thinking that I’d just use what I had on hand for it- large sheets of watercolor paper. But after we had lunch, we decided to stop at Michael’s and, lo and behold, all their blank canvases were 60% off. So I got about eight of them.

I figure that I’ve been wanting to really PAINT for a long, long time, and I finally took the leap and signed up for the class, so I might as well do it right and jump in with both feet.

I’m kind of excited about it. And nervous. I haven’t painted on a large scale since school.

(Oh, and another thing that was great- all the Crate Paper and American Crafts 12×12 paper pads at M’s were $5 each which is CRAZY inexpensive. I got two- I couldn’t resist. I don’t regret it though- I love the paper and I know I’ll use it. That was a nice, unexpected bonus.)

- twitter. I signed up for Twitter way way back when people were using it for live chatting. But it evolved into more of a smart phone/status message thing, and then hash tags came along, so I backed away and ran to Facebook. I liked how easy Facebook was to customize and that I could type as little or as much as I wanted and, on top of that, control the privacy of everything. It seems like on Twitter, you have to spend time really picking and choosing what to see and you sort of can’t avoid the really ridiculous stuff even if you refine everything exactly the way you want it.

But there’s a bunch of people I admire who use Twitter a lot more often than Facebook (artists, writers, and -yes- famous people), so this week I decided to try the Twitter thing once again. After spending about 30 minutes trying to remember my password, I logged in and caught up. At some point in the past year Twitter highlighted my completely unused feed (?!) and I got hundreds of random followers so I had to take care of that business and figure out who was who and what was what and how to make it so I only see the stuff I actually care about.

I’m sort of in the middle of being fascinated by it all (something about watching two people I admire converse with one another in 120 character bursts in real time is crazy addictive) and being repelled (the attention seeking ALL CAPS TXTRS people who say horribly offensive things to celebrities just to get a response from them is just not my cup of tea…). But it interests me, none the less. I mean I log on and get a bunch of little and very recent thoughts by Neko Case, John Cusack, and the Dalai Lama in a column down my screen, all put there by them, poking away at their phones and laptops wherever in the world they might be, doing their thing. It feels like eavesdropping, almost.

Technology is pretty amazing, when you think about it. I always find myself thinking “what great thing happened in my lifetime?” and then… DUH… the internet. Total and complete game changer. And I was just starting college when it came along, so I got to witness it evolve from my own little place in the world.

- my family. I not only *love* my family, but I genuinely *like* my family. I’d rather be with them than any other people in the world. I love that we all hang out together. I love that Tom and Gracie go with me to buy art supplies and get excited about it because they know *I* get excited about it. Stuff like that is huge in life.

- music. For some reason I never realized (or used) the miniplayer in iTunes before, the one that floats above all the other windows on your desktop. This week I’ve been going crazy listening to music. Mostly M83 and Paul Simon. I know I’ve mentioned M83 before, but I literally cannot stop listening to “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.” I have a very weird obsession with that album at the moment. I kinda like that, though- I haven’t felt drawn and attached to music in a long time, and I’ve missed it.

- singing in the car. Loudly. My absolute favorite CD to wail along to while I’m driving is Blind Melon’s debut. I cannot believe that album came out over twenty years ago. (WHAT THE HELL?!) I spent my freshman year in college with that Blind Melon on repeat, along with REM’s “Automatic for the People” and 10,000 Maniacs “Our Life in Eden”.

For some reason that Blind Melon CD really stuck with me all these years, though. I have so many very specific  memories of listening to that CD- mornings in my dorm room, having it in my discman as I was sitting in the backseat of the car going somewhere with my parents, blasting a taped copy of it in my own car, playing it at home on summer break, making endless mix tapes with songs from that album on them.

Despite the fact that memories from that time can be bittersweet, I’m so glad I have songs that really define very precise moments of my life. The magical thing is that I can put on those songs and I almost feel like I’m able to  connect with myself as I was at those particular times. I guess that sounds strange, but it’s sort of a comfort for me to think that maybe I can send some love back in time, and remind myself to keep going, that it does get better.

-tea. I changed the way I brew tea (using much less tea and brewing for less time) and for some reason that changed the game. I’m back to being completely obsessed with it. I don’t know how I worked into the heavy, overbrewed slop I had going there for a while, but I’m glad my way back out. A great cup of tea changes everything.

Okay, I think I’m going to watch a movie with Tom and Gracie (maybe Thor. Gotta refresh my memory before I see the sequel, which looks really, really great:

So many great movies coming out in the next few months! I’m *very* excited.)

As always, thank you for reading and I hope you are having an awesome weekend.

Common Miracles is a project I started in May, 2011 to examine and discover how gratitude works in everyday life.

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Etsy and the EAC

20 Sep 2013

I finally posted the new stuff at Etsy. A few people convo’d me over the past year and asked for postcards and ACEOs, so I did some of those, too. Here are some photos.






I don’t know why I get so weirded out by listing things on Etsy. I just get so *nervous* about it. To be honest, I feel a little bit better about it than I usually do (just sort of launching it and letting it go) but there’s still a part of me that wonders if it’s all okay.

I also get this weird “empty nest” feeling after I finish a project I have been working on for a while. I love being in the *midst* of a project, knowing exactly what I need to be doing and sitting down and spending several hours on it, absorbed in the task. I guess that’s what “being in the flow” is all about.

So now, there’s the question of “What next?”

Now onto maybe some jewelry? Or more illustrations? Or maybe start writing that story that’s bumping around in my head (that I am spending way too much time daydreaming/obsessing about…)? Scrapbooking, since I’m itching to play with some new paper (American Crafts… *swoon*) and get our summer photos and stories down before I forget the details?

Whatever it is, I hope I can slip back into the flow. I love that feeling, of being swept *into* whatever it is I am working on, and also moving forward at the same time. It reminds me of the EAC in Finding Nemo:

“Just keep swimming”, right?

Hope you are having an amazing Friday! <3

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I haven’t done one of these in a while, so here is a daybook entry for today: 

Outside my window…
it’s dark, humid, and a little cloudy. Right now the weather is in this weird transition, almost- mornings are a little breezy and cool(ER), but then mid-morning the summer stormy weather kicks in. But it doesn’t always make it. So I am trying hard to focus on the fact that it’s a tiny bit cooler, drier. That the storms don’t always gather and explode. Maybe fall is coming after all!

I am thinking…
about writing. Fiction. When I was a teenager/freshman in college, I started creating this epic little story in my head, and whenever I was bored (or swimming) I’d “write” more of it in my head. I’d think of details, dialogues, plot points. I actually “worked” on this story- in my head- until about six years ago when I started typing it out and publishing it anonymously on a fiction writing website. I never finished it, but it’s finished in my head.

This week, while I was swimming, I got the idea for another story, and it’s really consuming me. I haven’t felt this sparked by anything in years. It’s almost *too* much, in a way. I feel haunted by it because I can’t stop playing it out in my brain. I guess I’ll get around to writing it down sooner or later, but right now I am buzzed by having something new to play with in my brain as I swim. The problem is I can’t stop thinking about it when I’m trying to focus on other things.

Also, some upcoming Bliss Habits posts. I posted one on the topic of “Adventure” today. That’s not a topic I’m super comfortable with (just being alive feels like enough adventure for me on most days…) so it was good to write about it and go through a bit of a discovery process about it.

I am thankful for…
technology. Dry potting soil. Homemade veggie pizza courtesy of Tom. My family. Feeling better (had a head cold all weekend).

The other night Tom and I were doing that thing where we were talking about how old we were when we met and all that and marveling over the fact that we’ve been together for 13+ years. Our ninth wedding anniversary is soon. I know that’s nothing for some couples, but I’ve been with Tom more than 1/3rd my life now, over 3x as long as I was in high school or college or other “moumental” eras in my life, so it’s pretty tremendous. It’s amazing to look back and realize we became a couple when I was about 25 and he was in his early 30′s. BABIES, we were just babies! But we felt like such grown ups. Now we’re giggling over the fact that I’m closing in on 40 and he’s closing in on his later-40′s. What the heck?

I don’t know. It’s just amazing to be with someone and have it feel like you’ve been with them forever but then no time has passed at all. I’m just grateful for it. I’m grateful for him and for Gracie and my family. I would have never imagined being a grown-up would be like this. And here I am, a “grown-up”.

From the art studio…
I’m working on new cards and prints for the Etsy shop. I’m focusing all my energy on that right now, and it feels good. I’m a little afraid to actually activate the listings on Etsy because once they go live, it’s sort of… what next? And if there’s not a good reception, it’s always a little hard to shake off, you know?

I’m also working on documenting our summer in the scrapbook. I need to devote more time to it. I love doing it, I’m just very s-l-o-w at it. I kinda like to go through papers and photos and try different things out. That’s the whole fun of it, at least for me.

Not in the art studio, but I also FINALLY finished the blanket I was crocheting for Gracie and started on another scarf for her (which I love- I love making scarves!)

From the garden…
I had to water my plants for the first time in weeks today! It was pretty stunning. Don’t get me wrong- I had to pull a bunch of plants and repot them because of super-wet soil, but having to water a few plants because they were dry and droopy was a very good thing after such a wet season. Maybe there is hope after all.

I am wearing…
pajamas. I actually have TWO varieties of pajamas- my “day” pajamas (Nick & Nora pajama pants, black t-shirt) that I put on after I swim/shoer and then “sleep” pajamas (Land’s End) that I wear to sleep. The whole “day” pajama thing is because of a bunch of reasons- after wearing a Speedo for three plus hours, the idea of putting on clothes-clothes doesn’t jive. I just want to be comfy. And I hate sweatpants and jeans… so pajama pants (the old-school menswear style) fits the bill. Plus, if I get messy in the art studio, it’s no big deal. And I don’t feel like such a moron answering the door in them.

(No, I do not wear them out. Just around the house in the afternoons.)

I am going…
to vacuum and then make salads and then sit down for dinner with Tom and Gracie. Season finale of Siberia on the TiVo tonight. It doesn’t look like it’s getting renewed for next summer, so I hope they tie some of the loose ends up.

I am reading…
the newest Sue Grafton book, on loan from the library on my Kindle. I’m not making much progress on it.

I am hoping…
it cools down soon! Also, to get to the movies soon. We haven’t seen a movie at the theater since Planes :/ There just hasn’t been anything family-friendly that we could take Gracie to and we don’t have a local babysitter (my parents do that when they are here) so we haven’t been to the movies in weeks. I feel almost *homesick* for it. I’m bummed that we probably missed Elysium, but very very excited for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Rush, Don Jon, Her, and SUPER excited about Gravity and Captain Phillips. And, of course, Thor. (I’m actually quite fond of Tom Hiddleston, so… and I feel like a total weirdo for saying that since I’m suddenly older than most everyone in most any movie. At least Duran Duran and Metallica are still older than me. )

I am hearing…
Gracie talking to my parents on the phone, Tom making pizza, Winnie whistling, and the cats running around.

One of my favorite things…
I have rediscovered the perfection that is Paul Simon’s Graceland. Every few years I get obsessed with it and I’m back on right now. Can’t stop listening to it. Also, a few songs from his other albums. *sigh* So beautiful.

OH, and today I was screwing around with the hose while I was gardening and shooting droplets of water into the bay that’s behind our house, and a manta ray jumped OUT OF THE WATER to try and catch the droplets of water. It was so cool! I’ve seen dolphin back there, and all kinds of jumping fish, but never a manta ray jumping. It was amazing.

A few plans for the rest of the week…
… get everything up on Etsy. Start re-reading my Flora Bowley book in anticipation for her online class (starts in October). Sanctuary call/class tomorrow. Perhaps some painting. I am thinking about a fall filled with good music, good movies, good times with my family, good stretches of creativity, the painting class with Flora Bowley (hopefully it will get me going again), and maybe even some writing. I just like to picture myself tucked into my desk in my art studio, cozily working away on different things that feel interesting and engaging and rewarding.


Have a GREAT week!!

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My new hibiscus *attempted* to bloom today. I say attempted to bloom because I’m not sure the flower ever opened up all the way.

A hibiscus flower usually only lasts for one day. If it’s a little cooler out, you can get a day and a half out of it, but not much more. When I wake up in the morning and look out into the garden, I can tell which hibiscus are going to bloom that day because the petals will have started to unfold a bit. By the time I go outside to garden and swim an hour later, the blooms are usually all the way open.

This bloom was only halfway open when I was done swimming so it may have been the lack of sun. Regardless, it’s pretty amazing. The colors are crazy-cool so even though the bloom wasn’t open, I took a picture anyway. I like that stamen a lot- for some reason it reminds me of a lion.

As I mentioned over on Sprout, I finally went ahead and looked up the rainfall amounts for this year, since everyone’s saying it’s been REALLY rainy this summer. Last summer we had 22 inches. This summer? 40 inches. So, yes, it’s been a wet and stormy summer. I feel a little tiny bit better about whining about it, but not much. Sorry it’s all I seem to be talking about lately. It’s just tough… it’s really like our version of winter. I miss the blue skies and being able to go outside in the afternoon and get fresh air.

This morning I went out to swim and everything smelled like what you would imagine the inside of a clam smells like- funky and fishy and moist and slimy. I just feel like getting out the power washer and power washing everything- the lanai, the screen around it, the SKY. Everything feels like it needs a good scrubbing down and some cool dry air.

On Tuesday there was a CRAB hanging off the screen wall of the lanai. A CRAB with little claws and everything. A crab like Mr. Krabs on Spongebob. I have seen a lot of creatures around the house and hanging off the screen, but never a crab. We tried to rescue him, but by the time I got Tom and he got the net, the crab had skittered off. I just assume it’s so freakin’ moist that out of the bay is just as good as in the bay for him, right?

Today was hectic. I guess Thursdays tend to be, now that I’m “tracking” what I do. Laundry, changing sheets, making tea, cleaning bird cages, gardening, swimming, showering, lunch, plus a little writing (product reviews and the aforementioned Sprout post) and some photography (snapping photos of some new artwork for the Etsy shop). Some email. Some photo editing. Some online grocery shopping. Some tidying up. I still have to finish laundry and empty the dishwasher and vacuum. And do some paper work.

I know I talk about laundry a lot. But the truth is, I do a lot of it. We have three cats who are on the furniture and beds quite often, and the idea of letting a layer of cat build up on anything (especially the beds) with Gracie’s allergies… it’s just not happening. So we vacuum a lot, and we do a lot of laundry. It works, though. We got to keep our cats and Gracie’s allergies are not very much of an issue anymore. So if I have to vacuum and change sheets all the time to keep it that way, I’m going to. (Plus, I can’t stand the idea of reusing towels after a shower, especially since it’s so humid here. Fresh towels and sheets all around!)

I may just go and take care of the vacuuming/dishwasher and then crash and watch a movie. I’m not feeling so great. It’s funny, because it would be good for me to take a little break and get some down time. It’s 5:30pm and I’ve been going since 6am. But a little voice in my head is saying “you’re just avoiding working- you could squeeze in two hours in your studio!” I really hate that. Even if it’s 7pm on a Saturday night, if I’m not here in my studio working on something, that little voice pops up and gives me a hard time for not working on something.

Today I might tell that voice to go stick it where the sun don’t shine, because I honestly do think I’m getting a cold. Gracie and Tom both had one about two weeks ago. I thought I avoided it, but today I feel a bit under the weather that goes beyond usual exhaustion and overdoing it. So I’m drinking lots of tea and keeping an eye on things. Hopefully if it does turn into full-blown ickiness, it won’t be too bad.

It’s funny, because before Gracie started school everyone said “you’ll have an immune system like steel after the first year!” That was such a lie. If it is true, it hasn’t happened yet. It’s just inevitable that we catch whatever is going around at school. I think Gracie might be more susceptible to it because of her asthma and allergies, and even though I make her scrub down when she gets home from school/after school activities (straight into the shower every day!) she gets whatever is going around and eventually we do, too. Tom usually gets it worse than I do. I’m kind of obsessed with hand washing and washing my face a bunch of times a day. (And I’m going through a weird phase with leaving paper towels all over the house, but I’ll get into that another day… I’m sure Tom would have a lot to say about that.)

Maybe all the humidity makes it like an incubator inside the school, inside the house. All I know is that I am VERY excited for the day when we can throw open the doors and windows and let some fresh, clean air circulate through the house. If I did that now, the paint would pretty much slide off the walls and everything would be moist within a few minutes.

We do need to get some screen doors, though. I still won’t let Milo on the lanai because he thinks lizard hunting is a wonderful and fun sport, but I happen to LIKE the lizards in my garden because they eat the bugs which allows me to not have to use any pesticide (and I think they are cute and fun to watch as I swim). So until Milo calms down a bit, he’s got to stay inside. That’s going to be an issue when the weather cools because we like to leave the back doors to the lanai open. The house didn’t come with screen doors because the entire lanai is screened in, so we’ll have to get some. I guess we’ll figure that out in the next few weeks…

This is *totally* not what I meant to write about today. This week in Sanctuary (my weekly class/meditation/ gathering with Amy Oscar) she talked about happiness and how we all tell ourselves these stories about what we need to be happy (routine, more sleep, more downtime, love, success, etc.) that simply aren’t true. That was serious food for thought for me. The class/call was just last night and already I’ve realized that there are a bunch of things that I’ve led myself believe are conditions for happiness, but in all honesty, *aren’t* remotely related to my happiness.

I do want to process it a bit more via writing so I’ll do that tomorrow or this weekend. I think it’s something definitely worth spending time on.

Okay, off to tangle with the vacuum while the cats are all in other rooms. have a lovely Thursday evening and THANKS (as always, thank you thank you thank you) for reading. <3

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“If you think there is no action that you can perform in your current circumstances that will increase the supply of love in the world, you are believing a lie. At the very least, you always have the option to offer yourself kindness and understanding. That alone can increase the supply of love in the world.”
- Martha Beck

Today I worked on some paintings, drawings, and color ideas (see above).

For a while I have been thinking about taking one of my cell drawings and making three very similar (but different) paintings/prints of it, drawing from a single color palette. So it’s the same drawing, but three different configurations of it- they match, but they aren’t identical. Does that make any sense?

For some reason I feel drawn to working in “series” of things right now. I think it’s because I’m really drawn to pattern lately, and when I put together more than one of my drawings, it kind of looks like a continuous pattern. Like three parts to a story. I don’t know…  I’ll keep monkeying with it.

The printing process is what stumps me. I have a nice large format printer, but it’s not practical to do a lot of large prints on it. Printing is my least favorite part of everything. I just get so FUSSY about it- one off pixel and it goes into the trash. I just need to realize that painted and drawn images are not going to look perfect because they are handmade and not computer generated, *even* if they are being duplicated by a computer.

Oh, and I have a post over on Bliss Habits today. We were asked to write about the topic of “habits” so I wrote about how I believe (and the research shows that) happiness is a PROCESS rather than an instant state of mind.And it takes work!

The more I read and research into the neuroscience behind happiness, the more it becomes clear that mental/emotional health is just like physical health- it’s something that takes time and effort and constantly making “healthy” choices. And it takes quite a while to really see the results.

There’s a lot of blind faith involved in becoming happier- you just have to aim for it and keeping making right choices and believe that eventually your brain will adjust and produce different chemicals in response. I am trying very hard to keep remembering this- every decision can make a difference down the road. So even if it’s just something as simple as choosing to take a break and have a cup of tea and a few deep breaths, that might make a big difference down the line, especially if I repeat that choice and make it a habit. That quote from Martha Beck resonated with me- if the world feels a little lacking in love, at the very least you can give yourself some.

Anyway, the post is over here, if you are interested.

Hope your week is going well. Thank you, as always, for reading!

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(That is not my new hibiscus. Just so you know. As soon as that blooms, I will try and get a decent shot and share it.)

Today I was… really really really hungry. I’m hungry most of the time after 4pm, but today it was excessive. I eat plenty, but I’m always thinking “when can I eat again?” I can usually satisfy the before-dinner hunger with cups of tea, green smoothies, and the ocassional Pop Corner, but today the hunger was intense. It kind of made me a little batty. All I could think about was steamy, crusty french bread, like the kind that comes in a bread basket at a restaurant. With a cloth napkin folded on top to keep the bread warm. The kind that is sliced but not all the way, so you have to sort of break it a bit to pull of a slice. And steam billows up as you do that, so it makes you want it even more.

When I swim, I always crave kalamata olives so much so I can practically taste them. I think it’s the salt and the protein I crave- I’m anemic, so olives sort of ring my bell, food wise. Olives and hummus and warm bread… oof.

Okay, I’m going to stop now.

Today was busy and stormy, but I actually managed to get some good stuff done in between the laundry and the swimming and the cleaning out of bird cages. I’m suddenly interested in Gingerblue Studios (and the Etsy shop) again. After Delilah passed away back in the spring, my interest in most everything went flat. One by one things are coming back- art journaling, scrapbooking, painting, reading, and now I’m suddenly interested in making jewelry and designing prints again.

I’m trying not to get too caught up in it. My intention with the Etsy shop was never to make myself crazy, and every time I work on it I wind up making myself *really* crazy. I get in this mode of looking at other Etsy shops and trying to find “success” factors (gorgeous photos, social media exposure that people actually enjoy looking at, trendy ideas, connecting with other Cool Etsy People) and then trying to emulate them only to get frustrated and walk away.

This time I am trying to think of doing it for my own self- meaning, putting out what feels authentic and GOOD to create as opposed to trying to figure out what people want. That will always be a challenge for me- not getting into the “how can I make this more marketable?” mode when I create something. I know this, though, and hopefully if I can stay mindful of it as I create, I can honor my own path.

I’m trying to envision the Etsy shop and the whole Gingerblue Studios thing as a *physical* space. Like, if I had a little shop/studio carved out in a little public space, what would it *feel* like? What would it look like? What would be in it? What would the offerings be?

I never picture it as a trendy, busy, product-filled boutique in the hippest spot in town, teaming with beautiful salespeople modeling the goods and making them look INCREDIBLE. So why do I find myself trying to make that happen online?

I picture my space as bright, quiet, airy, and clean. Beautiful big windows that would look out on fluttering trees.

My space would be filled with beautifully and lovingly made creations, but the space wouldn’t be crammed with those things. They would be displayed here and there. White bookshelves with packs of cards bundled with ribbon tucked into the cubbies. Colorful beaded necklaces hanging on a bundle of twigs. A few paintings on the wall- colorful and bright and loose- and they would change out often. Colorful bangle bracelets stacked in a little round basket, that a person can poke through and find exactly the one that speaks to them. And comfy chairs to sit in and take a moment to rest with no pressure to do anything else.

Glassine bags at the register, to be sealed with bright strips of washi tape, which are stored on a long dowel on the back wall. (Oh, and free stickers or whatever other goodie that is available, tucked into the bag as a surprise to find when you get home.)

So I am trying to keep this little space in my mind as I do a little creative work every day. This is the place I want to honor and bring to life… (well, as much as one can do online). And this is a space and feeling I hope other people want to inhabit and take part in, as well.

Yes, it sounds dippy. And not the “successful model” for Etsy. Where are the high resolution photos taken by a super fancy camera? Where are the beautiful people modeling the goods? Where is all the social network buzz and connections? How can anything “make it” on Etsy without those things?

But that’s okay, I think. It feels right.

I am trying to find the way to bring this “feeling” into my day, especially when I am creating. Sometimes my art studio feels stuffy and anxious, especially in the afternoon when the sun is on the other side of the house and I feel like doing anything *but* sitting down at my table and making something. Then I start chugging tea and writing down ideas (but not executing them) and running to the bathroom every five minutes, which makes me more jittery.

But if I can get my head on straight and actually start working on something, I feel 100% better. Having a list helps, too. If I’m dithering and not wanting to commit to anything, I can just check my list and start at the first thing. It gets me on track.

Anyway, I guess this is one of the things I’d include on my “autumn to-try” list: transforming my approach to creative work. Changing the way I see and approach the early afternoons, which are pretty much the only time of day I have in my studio to work without too much interruption.

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“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.” – Max Ehrmann

I posted this amazing little video on Facebook and thought I would share it here, too.

The idea that our bodies are made from the same stuff that every other thing in the universe is fascinates me. And it *roots* me so deeply in what I know to be true about life.  We are all connected, all part of one big whole, from the tiniest particles to the largest galaxies. It’s scientific fact and it makes me feel so much more secure about my place in life, and also about what I am here for.

I really do believe that every human body is a universe onto itself, and that our mission in life is to not only take care of and show compassion towards the world around us, but also to take care of and show compassion to ourselves. We’re part of life, we’re part of the whole. It all matters.

(Thanks to Dispatch From LA for sharing this video!)

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I keep thinking I need to sit down and think about how I want to spend September, but then I realize that I *am* “spending” September just by living it. Does that make sense? I mean I have some goals and ideas for things I would like to get done, and I’d like to get those down because I always do a little bit better when I have a gameplan. But then I realize it’s already the 7th. I mean, forget gameplan, I’m well into the GAME. Wow. Where does time go?

The last two days have been a bit of a blur. I don’t feel like I got anything done, but both have been busy busy busy days. Yesterday (Friday) was just… I don’t even remember, to be honest. From the minute I got up, I felt like I hit the ground running and didn’t stop until I went to bed.

I think that’s my general feeling on days when the weather is stormy- I feel an odd sort of pressure. One thing about swimming while a storm is on its way is that I really do feel as if I am being chased a little bit. From the pool I have good views of the horizon and as I see the storm clouds bubbling up and turning darker and darker, I start swimming faster and faster, trying to get away. Even if I know the storm is miles out on the Gulf Of Mexico, it still makes me scramble a bit. Even when I’m done swimming, if there’s an impending storm, I get this irrational feeling like I need to finish up what I’m working on as quick as possible.

Tom’s training for a triathalon, so he’s also swimming a lot. We’re doing double duty with the storm tracking. I didn’t realize just how much time I spent tracking the weather in the summer until last night- Tom wanted to swimming and asked me to help him figure out the weather.

Since I have a ton of experience looking at the weather radar and trying to predict if and when storms might come before and while I’m in the pool (I keep my iPhone by the side of the pool so I can keep an eye on the weather), Tom asked me to help him figure out if had time to get in a swim before a storm hit the island.

The sky looked ominous, but he was really wanting to get in the pool and I TOTALLY understand that feeling, so for about 90 minutes we just kept hitting “refresh” on all the weather radars, tracking the lightning, waiting to see if there would be a break in the storm cells so that he could get in a quick swim. He finally just went for it, and within two laps he had to get right back out of the pool. A huge storm rolled in and raged on for several hours last night.

It makes me really grateful for technology, though. When I first moved to Florida in 1999 and started swimming outside, all I had was the weather reports on TV and looking at the sky. So any sort of rain in the spring and summer meant no swimming. Now I have six weather radar applications plus two lightning trackers loaded on my iPhone so I can REALLY see if rain is “just a little something” passing through or something much more than that. In some ways, it’s kind of a bad thing because it can get you psyched up for no reason. But on the other hand, even if the clouds look bad, if there’s nothing on the radar, I feel much more relaxed about staying in the pool.

One thing I have noticed is how the weather is changing. A few years ago, lightning wouldn’t start up until there was a big cluster of storm cells on the radar- at least the size of the county. It would start out as a big cluster of green, and take a while to build in intensity. This summer, it’s been completely different- all it takes is a TINY cluster of storm cells and there could be a huge storm that could pop up right in the middle of it, out of nowhere.

See the radar image above? That’s from right now. There’s a little red storm cell sitting right over our island. Normally that tiny of a cell wouldn’t be enough to be orange/red, which means lightning, but this summer… these little tiny red cells are just popping up out of nowhere. It literally is just a big cloud in the sky that looks fine but all the sudden turns into a raging storm.

It’s VERY spooky, to be honest. It’s never happened like that before, at least not in my experience tracking weather.

Also, the YMCA in Naples was struck by lightning just a week or so ago and burned down. It’s a modern building, built to withstand hurricanes and stormy weather, so it goes to show you that weather is definitely getting more intense.

Gosh, I never realized what a GEEK I’d become about this stuff. But if you count on spending a good deal of time outdoors, especially in the water, you kind of have to do it. I really do apologize for that little extended dialogue about weather tracking. Geesh, it’s so freakin’ nerdy, just looking back at that block of text and realizing that it’s all about looking at weather radar images. I know you don’t really care, but since I am doing a tremendous amount of it, I figured it’d be a good thing to record in my journal. Just so when they find this in 200 years, and weather tracking is done via ESP, it will seem quaint and funny.

So yesterday was about weather, and other stuff (laundry, paying bills, paperwork, etc.)  Today was family stuff-  Tom had a karate class early in the morning and he took Gracie with him. After they were done and I was done swimming, I met them for lunch in Naples (eggs and pancakes all around!), and then we went to Home Depot.

I needed  few planters for my garden, but wound up checking out with the planters plus a new hibiscus and a tiny tomato plant and a tiny eggplant plant. I felt really guilty about it, because the last thing I need is another hibiscus plant and/or veggie seedlings, but the hibiscus was crazy cool (it has a LAVENDER center – I have never seen anything like it) and the veggie plants were *so* healthy and green, and I am SO anxious to get the fall gardening season going, that I just put the three plants in the cart and rolled to checkout before I could change my mind.

I get really weird about spending money. I feel very guilty about it unless it’s for something absolutely essential. I have no problems spending money on Gracie or Tom or my family or friends, but when it comes to things that I know *I* will be the one getting primary use and/or joy from, I get a little iffy about it. It sets me into a bit of a shame spiral for a while. It makes me nervous, I think. I have to really shake it off.

But the bottom line is that I love to garden, and I love my hibiscus plants probably more than anything else out there, and the veggie plants will most likely grow lots and lots of fresh veggies that we will consume, so it is all OKAY. Tomorrow I will feel better, especially when I plant those two little veggie plants in their waiting pots and put the new hibiscus in a place of honor along the edge of the pool and see it every time I look out the window or am in the pool.

Here’s a photo of the hibiscus from the breeder’s website. It looks even odder in person, like it shouldn’t be real:



Since we got the big errands done today, tomorrow is kinda hang-out-at-home day. In the last five or six weeks I got some new paper pads and have a bunch of photos I’d love to scrapbook, so maybe I’ll make some time for that. I’d also love to paint, and I have a Bliss Habits post to write. We’ll see. The weekends are either all of us hanging out together and watching movies or whatever, or each of us doing our own things in different parts of the house or some mix of the two.

I’m off to figure out dinner, and hang out with the family. I hope you are having a lovely weekend.

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I'm Chel (pronounced "shell", short for "Michele").

I'm a 30-something painter, writer, gardener, art historian, long-distance swimmer, crochet addict, movie watcher, animal lover, and avid reader.

Random facts: I grew up in New York (Long Island, to be specific), went to college and grad school in Atlanta, and now I live in Southwest Florida. I'm incredibly shy but I can be very chatty. I've been a vegetarian for 25 years. I swim five miles every day. I have an eight year old daughter and a 40-something year old husband. I'd rather eat kalamata olives than most anything, and I'm an AVID tea drinker. I exist with the steady background noise of meows (three cats), chirps and whistles (three parrots), and silence (an elderly gecko).

If you'd like to know more, click here

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- Sprout Dispatch
- Bliss Habits
- Craft Critique

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