detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

painting – in progress

So, the other day I mentioned that I was sort of losing track of time a little bit. I mean, I know it’s the last week of February, that it’s winter (well, almost spring…) and it’s 2015. So I’m aware of time and date and all that.

What I mean is that I’m not really as obsessed with time as far as some sort of deadline. I don’t know if that makes any sense.

One thing that I am incredibly grateful for these past few months is perspective. I don’t know if it was turning 40, or if it was *finally* getting “it” after years and years of trying, or if something just finally clicked for me, but my attitude as far as creativity and goals and “life accomplishments” has changed completely over the last few months.

For years and years and years I mourned the fact that I never followed my dream to become a curator. If you’ve been reading my journal or know me for a while, you probably know this about me. At some point in the last few years, that changed for me, and I finally realized that the reality of the job of curator didn’t quite meet what I dreamed the job might be, and I was able to disengage with that regret and dream. I realized that my heart was really in the creation of art, and so I thought I should  try to develop a career around making art. Creative business, all that.

I don’t know why I felt like I needed permission – ie, a “formal career in creative business” -to make art. But I thought that if I made it into something “official”, then sitting down and making art wouldn’t feel so indulgent.  Also, it felt challenging and something approachable and sort of a nice goal to work towards.

But it was also frustrating. My goal was ultimately to achieve enough success that I could focus on creating art full time- maybe create something that could be printed/manufactured by outside agents and I could just focus on creating the art. Like, maybe I could create a design or painting that would sell a bunch of prints or something.

I knew the first steps to that was to set up shop on Etsy, and research and learn about small business, and promotion and etc and blah blah blah. I needed to create a foundation for what I wanted, then work towards goals realistically- do the work, get it going, and then it could move in the direction I hoped it would. So I did a lot of that, as much as I could.

But I didn’t enjoy it. Yes, there was a sense of accomplishment as I got things checked off my list and worked towards little goals, but it felt like a placeholder, and it also took up so much time that I couldn’t really make much art. I could have dropped the whole “creative business” stuff at any time and just made art, but I never felt okay doing that. I struggled with validation a lot. And when I did make art, I always did it with a sense of “make people happy with this!” hanging over me. I have talked about that before- I worked on shaking that feeling for years, every single time I sat down and created ANYTHING, even a scrapbook page, but I couldn’t stop feeling that way.

But suddenly, that all stopped.

detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

Sometime in the last few months that loud chattering voice that kept saying “make something successful of your life!” and “you have to prove yourself as an artist!” and “making art is only worthwhile if it’s received well!” just shut up. I don’t even think it was a gradual thing, to be honest. Just one day, it wasn’t there anymore. The weird need to have some sort of successful creative endeavor disappeared completely. The need to validate myself in order to create art disappeared completely. The need to make art for other people disappeared completely.

It’s a little weird, I have to admit. After so many years of that tangle of stress and static kind of cycling inside of me, now it’s just quiet. I think instead about things like color and pattern and paintbrushes. I don’t look forward to finishing projects, I just look forward to working on them. It’s a much smaller approach to things.

I think there might have been two things that precipitated this.

The first was Robin Williams’ passing. I KNOW I talk about this constantly, but I can’t tell you the effect it had on my life. Out of everything I have read, absorbed, studied about well-being that drove home the message of “you are enough” and “success doesn’t always bring happiness” and “be where you are”, it was Robin Williams death that finally got it through to me. This guy was beloved, successful, widely loved and appreciated and lauded, he was a legend, he had a huge body of brilliant work, financial well-being, etc. and it was not enough.

I finally got it. Depression and anxiety are serious inside things, and no amount of creative business success (outside things) will make them go away. Happiness is NOT about success. Sure, success can bring happiness for lots of people, maybe even most people, but the thing I wanted more than anything was to create with a sense of inner peace, and I made the mistake of assuming I could only find that peace if someone gave me “permission” to create, meaning they validated my work by loving it so much that they placed enough of a financial value on it to invest money into it.

So what is happiness, then? What brings happiness? I had no idea, and I still am not 100% sure, but one thing I DID know was that shipping out Etsy stuff was not happiness. Not for me.

I had to start from scratch, in a way. I knew I loved to create. I knew I loved to learn. That was the bottom line. So what next?

Well, something else happened that changed my approach. My health changed.

My whole entire adult life has basically been about preventing health problems. I had a bone infection at age 18, contracted while I was in college, and when the infectious disease doctors who were treating that bone infection started dropping the word “amputation” in heated conversations about my foot, I suddenly got just how serious my Spina Bifida was. I spent 18 years trying to be normal, trying to “do it all” and it just wasn’t working. I had to come to terms with the fact I had a health problem, and instead of fighting against it, I had to become my own greatest advocate.

I only wound up losing half a toe (and had six months of IV antibiotics, surgery, and bed rest following), but after that experience my attitude about my health did a 180 degree turn and I became devoted to taking exquisite care of myself. It’s been exhausting (come on, let’s be honest) but the older I get, the more I realize it’s sort of like this weird privilege, in a way. Like I was entrusted the care and keeping of something a bit complicated and that required a lot of observation and thoughtfulness. I don’t know…

Anyway, the whole thing is why I swim two and a half hours a day (it keeps my spine strong, it makes up for the time I can’t spend on my feet and doing activities, it keeps my weight way down, which means I am putting less pressure on my feet and spine,  it helps with the pain, etc.) , and keep my bathroom sterile, and don’t travel, and a serious myriad of stuff that I NEVER discuss with anyone but my family. I put a lot out there, but not everything.

Anyway, I put my health first. I HAVE to. It’s pretty much my life.

Well, despite all the daily practices I already do for my health, in the fall I noticed a few things changing. Some muscles in my legs were getting weaker. My skin was changing and getting dryer which meant I was more at risk for potential wounds, etc.  Muscles were getting sore and tight. Flexibility was decreasing a bit. All part and parcel of getting older, but for me, it could mean huge problems if I didn’t take it all seriously.

I realized that once again I had to step up. I was kinda annoyed at first, because, I mean, come on… but then I just was okay with it. I made the changes I needed to make- more time in the pool, more time tending to myself OUT of the pool. I just realized what needed to be done and added them to my schedule.

And after all is said and done everyday, after doing required health stuff and family stuff, I realized that my schedule is FULL. My health is my full time job. Period. Yeah, I know there are some people with much worse problems than mine scaling mountains and traveling the world and pushing it to the limit, but I’m not that person. I’m also not the person who wants to fight against her body every day and suffer the consequences later.

I kind of see it this way: I’m the owner and operator of a franchise of Spina Bifida. And my job is to keep the franchise going strong. Some days are easier than others, but no matter what comes up, that’s what dictates my time and energy.

Anyway, I also realized something I had never admitted to myself before- I’m busy. My schedule is full. And it’s not just health stuff. It’s other stuff, too- like gardening, which takes up an hour of my day (and is great for my physical body- lots of needing to balance and do lifting and moving, etc- stuff that doesn’t happen in the pool). Swimming. Family time. Stuff around the house. I have very little free time and the new changes in my health thing meant even less.

So what would I spend my time on? What would go? When I sat down to think about it, the choice was clear- the creative business stuff was going to have to go, at least for now. Enough is enough. If it is a choice between actually making art and packaging old art up, new art wins. If it is a choice between spending hours tweaking Etsy shops and doing self-promotion (which I despise) or using that time to take a class and learn something new, the learning something new wins.

So, no, there is no legacy as Chel Micheline, the awesome artist with a successful creative business.

But there might be a legacy of Chel Micheline, the woman who LOVED art and dedicated the time she had to learning about it and making as much of it as possible and sharing it.

And maybe there might be some happiness to be found in that process, because the whole creative business set-up wasn’t doing it for me. I just felt like I was always striving, and as much as it brought lots of little moments of satisfaction (in a “cross that off my list!” way), it never completely fulfilled me the way spending hours working on a painting or really investing my time and effort into an art class does.

detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

detail of my most recent painting- definitely in progress!

So the last few weeks, I have been painting. I took Flora Bowley’s Bloom True class (which was another game changer for me…) in the fall for the second time, started a bunch of canvases, took a break over the holidays, and then reviewed the class and returned to painting again in January. And it was really different. I just… painted. No ideas, no real worries about whether or not anyone would like what I was doing or if I was working quickly enough or whatever. It’s just all about playing with paint and translating something inside me to canvas, in a way.

After I’m done with all the health/family stuff every day, usually around 5 or 6pm (some days it doesn’t get done, and so some days there’s just no time in the studio – yesterday was one of these days), I sit down in my art studio and turn on a podcast or an art class video, pull out my paints, and just work on the painting until it’s time to get dinner going. We eat super late, so I get an hour or two of decent work in there if the day goes as planned.

Not much gets done- I’m a S-L-O-W painter. It’s ironic that a lot of Flora Bowley’s method is about letting go and just flowing through it, but after two years of the class, I finally realized that for me, being “intuitive” and “letting go” means being thoughtful and very contemplative in my approach. I like going slow, taking my time, looking at different options, trying different things out, refining, always changing things up, tinkering, etc. For me, there is no swashing paint all over – the early layers, absolutely (that’s all I do!) but after trying to force myself to do that in the final layers, it just doesn’t work. I LOVE the details. I love working small. I love creating tiny patterns and making different canvases within the canvas. I like messing with tiny dabs of paint.

So one painting might take me months. And I’m totally cool with that. Because for the first time in my life, I am painting not for anyone else, but because I really enjoy it. Not every day is fun- don’t get me wrong- I go through many evenings where I make little progress and it’s frustrating and a slog. If those days start to string together, that’s when I know it’s time to switch to another creative project (the art journal, the scrapbook, some writing, the watercolors…) for a day or two.

Also, if I don’t have much time in the studio because health/family stuff takes a lot more time than I imagined, then I work on something smaller in the little time I get- I sketch (I do this so much now, whereas before I never felt like there was ANY time or reason to do it!), I print out photos for the scrapbook, work in the art journal for a little bit, write a bit of a blog post, whatever. I just try and use whatever free time I get to do *something* that I enjoy.

So that’s where I am right now. And with the elimination of little milestones that comes from having a bigger, tangible goal (ie having a successful creative business), that weird sense of time that goes with it (ie to-do lists and deadlines) goes, too. So now I’m sort of in this in between space where the days sort of measure themselves.

It’s interesting and a little disquieting. I think for the first time in my life, I get what “be here, now” means. And it’s not exactly a comfortable thing in a culture where goal setting and deadlines are sort of prized as the way to operate. It’s just sort of fuzzy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still goals- write two or three blog posts a week (which I am enjoying doing after not having the time for it for so long…), work consistently in the art journal, keep up with documenting Gracie’s life, keep up with art classes, etc. But I’m the only person who can really say whether those goals have been met, you know what I mean? There’s no reception for those things. No launching into the greater world and waiting for feedback or results. And it’s different. It’s weird, but also good. It’s quieter.

I do think I want to find a way to measure and celebrate the days individually, though. The blur of time is not for me. I know I should sort of just let it be and be mindful of the moment and zen, and I will definitely embrace that. But I also don’t want the days to all glom together. I want there to be some distinction.

But all in all, like I said, I’m really insanely grateful for this shift in perspective. It’s such a huge relief, in so many ways, to be finally free of the pressure of needing validation. It’s been such a huge thing to realize how busy my life is instead of trying to find more things to “fill” it with that might give it some sense of meaning and accomplishment. It really *is* enough. It always had been, I just hadn’t been in the right time or place of my life to actually get it.


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knuckles, my parents' cat

knuckles, my parents’ cat, who came to stay with us this past weekend

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
I can’t believe February is almost over. (!!!) I’m having a weird relationship with time lately. As I focus more on using my free time to do stuff I love (ie painting), time seems to slip away with me. I’m measuring my days in both how much progress I’ve made in my painting and what Gracie’s schedule is rather than “today is Friday, and it’s the end of the month…” etc. I can’t tell if that’s good or bad.

Hoping/looking forward to…

I’m getting a haircut later on, which I always put off, but is always a tremendous relief after it’s done. I have a pixie cut, so I don’t like it when my hair gets even a *little* bit long.

This weekend is also the start of a bit of a renovation/home-improvement project around here- we’re shifting some rooms around and re-doing the floors in the entire house.

Our house is basically one story, with a little loft/bedroom/bathroom space on the second floor. Tom’s office has been upstairs, but we’ve decided to let Gracie have the space. It’s pretty much the same size as her bedroom now, but she’ll have that little bathroom up there, an extra closet, and the loft space at the top of the stairs as a playroom/den area. Tom’s going to move his office downstairs into what’s currently Gracie’s bedroom. Basically- we’re swapping Tom’s office space and Gracie’s bedroom, but they are both on different floors, so that makes things a little more complicated.

Gracie has bad allergies, and the upstairs is carpeted, so before she moves up there we need to replace the carpet with laminate.

As far as the floors: When we built the house back in 2004, we picked out some very basic carpet and laminate. We’ve gotten a lot of the carpet pulled up in the last few years because of Gracie’s allergies (plus, carpet is gross after a while…) and the laminate we used for the house was a really poor quality, so the woodgrain “sticker” on the surface has basically worn away on a lot of the pieces, and the laminate is shifting apart.

Tom and my dad (who is a general contractor and carpenter) did some research, and they decided that they could handle putting in new laminate floors upstairs. Then we researched new floors and looked at our finances, and we realized that maybe Tom and my dad could do the entire house in the laminate we chose, since it was fairly inexpensive and there wouldn’t be charges for installation.

First, we are doing the upstairs as a test run- there’s just a bedroom, bathroom, and a little loft up there- that starts this weekend. Then they’ll do the stairs, and if it goes well, they’ll do the main floor of the house.

I am excited and apprehensive. SO excited to have new floors. Like, skipping and dancing excited. We went to Lumber Liquidators and picked up a really, really light wood laminate with a “handscraped” texture on it. It’s beautiful and bright and it will really lighten up the house. It’s very cottage-y.

I was going for a beachy/coastal thing when we built the house, but the “beachy” thing here is more Tommy Bahama/West Indies beachy (dark bamboos and cherry wood, ornate carvings, heavy furniture, fans made of rattan, etc.) and not New England Coastal Cottage, which is what I meant. So the laminates we ended up when we built the house are sort of a deep orange bamboo print. They are quite dark and just… not what I was going for. I had no idea how ORANGE they were going to be when I saw the little sample in the store! But, what can you do? I guess it’s lucky they didn’t hold up so well, because if they were still in good condition, there’d be no reason to change them.

I’m also glad that my dad and Tom are doing the work, because it means we won’t have to, like, move out while workers come in and do the rooms. They can do the work slowly (on weekends when Tom has off) and we can sort of shift around inside the house as they move from room to room.

But I know this is going to be a big thing that will take lots of time to complete, and I know it’s going to take a lot of my dad and Tom’s energy and time, so I am a little conflicted. But I think overall it’s a good thing. I’m not much on home improvement and decor and stuff, but I am obsessed with natural light and bright, clean spaces, so the idea of having a beautiful, bright floor makes me giddy.

Thankful for…

Knuckles, my parents’ cat (see picture above). My parents went on a trip this past weekend and Knuckles came to stay with us while they were out of town. He’s such a LOVE- he slept with me the whole time he was here, right at my head. And he’s a head bumper, which our cats are not. I love cats that head bump.

Outside my window…
Huge disclaimer- I live in the topics. Southwest Florida.

Today is in the 30’s. I know that’s balmy, beautiful weather for most of you (it was for me when I lived in New York- 40 degrees was the magical number that meant I could go to school without a coat/jacket), but for Southwest Florida? This is big COLD stuff. It rarely gets this low here.

But I love the “cold” weather, so I’m pretty happy. As long as the pool is warm and I get into a hot shower pretty quickly after getting out of the pool, I’m a happy camper. The sky is a beautiful blue, there’s a bit of a breeze… it’s lovely. I know the snowbirds who come here for the 80 degree winters are not thrilled- they are all walking around with big giant puffy jackets and scarves and gloves. But I think this is the new reality of weather- huge snowstorms up north, and cooler winters down south. I grew up in New York and then lived in Atlanta for seven years, and there was none of this severe weather. There were a handful of big storms in NY in my eighteen years there, and it only snowed once in Atlanta in my seven years there. Now it’s the norm for both. I think it’s only a matter of time before northern Florida starts getting a bit of snow, to be honest.

In the art studio…
Painting. Making slow but consistent progress on my painting. It’s a labor of love. I really enjoy coming in here every afternoon and getting out my brushes and turning on a podcast or an online art class (lately I have been catching up with “Studying Under the Masters”) and painting for an hour or two. I lose track of time. Again, I can’t tell if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’m trying to measure the days in how I feel at the end of the evening rather than whether I am aware of time. It’s just a different approach.

On Gracie’s side of the studio, she’s working through “Life Book”, which is great fun. I had her try one of the projects, and she enjoyed it. So she’s working through each week’s lessons. There’s a lot of collage and drawing, and she likes to do both. She’s also kind of excited that we have all the materials required for the classes already- she makes a list at the beginning of the lesson and then looks around the studio for what she needs. She’s making amazing stuff, she’s super proud of herself, and she’s learning a lot about different approaches and materials. Now she has her own supply of gel medium and paint, and this week I ordered her a set of really nice colored pencils since it’s her favorite supply and she’s used her Crayolas down to little nubs. I wonder if she’ll get excited about having new art supplies as I get. ;)
In the garden…
I’m a little concerned about how the plants will handle this cool weather, as some of them are tropicals. But it’s not a true freeze or frost, so I hope everything will be okay. (The lizards, too!) I had Tom bring in the orchids, just in case. They are all about to bloom anyway, so it’s an okay time for that.


“The Full Cupboard of Life” by Alexander McCall Smith – I’m just about done with it and ready to start the next book in the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which I’m re-reading. I like re-reading series of books that I enjoyed. It’s like putting on a comfy, soft, favorite sweater. Sometimes I just need familiarity in books.


It’s SO quiet right now. SO blissful. Even Milo, who is usually somewhere making lots of noise and chattering to himself, is being quiet today.

The construction seems to be done on the house across the bay- they built a new seawall. I’m waiting to see if they put a new dock in, as well. Their old dock stretched out across the bay, and until they pulled it down, I never realized how much it blocked the view of the water just beyond. Now the bay looks completely wide open and I LOVE it because I can see the bigger area beyond the curve of the houses, and often dolphins play back there. So I’m kinda hoping they don’t build a new dock. If they do, I truly hope it’s around the curve. I love seeing all that water.


Still working our way through The Wire. We don’t watch anything too violent/language-y when Gracie is around because she’s a bit of a lurker when it comes to TV. She’ll be in another room, facing the other way, plugged in to a movie on her computer or listening to a podcast, and then we’ll turn around and she’ll be behind us, watching whatever we are watching. She did that a few times when we were watching “48 Hours” (a documentary show on CBS). Or she’ll try and sneak in silently behind us and see how long it takes for us to notice. It’s sort of become a joke to her to see if she can sneak up on us, so now we’re sort of in a “absolutely no crazy TV when she’s home” thing.

We haven’t been to the movies in a while, which I kind of feel guilty about. I love going to the movies, but I’m still in my little hibernation mode. And, it’s crazy tourist/snowbird season here so getting into Naples and to the movies is over an hour drive, plus navigating once we are there… it just seems like more trouble than it’s worth. Just getting around the island to do regular day-to-day stuff is pretty time consuming. It feels like enough at the moment. Plus, I’m happy to be home, painting, hanging out with my family, and enjoying the weather and sunshine, so I think that’s okay. I know in a few weeks, when the weather shifts, I’ll be stir-crazy, and wanting to get out as much as I can. That’s always what happens in late spring, and definitely summer.


Working on a gray cotton blanket for Tom. I’m about 1/4th done. It’s a very soothing project- familiar stitch, so I just keep working on it whenever I get some time to sit down and watch TV.


A lot of hot tea.

As always, thank you for popping in and reading. I hope you have an amazing weekend! <3

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Because I’ve been painting pretty obsessively, I haven’t been working in my “illustrated book of quotes” art journal as much as I would have liked in the last few weeks. But I did get inspired to do two pages, based on some things I have been thinking about these past few weeks:

spirit art journal page

spirit art journal page

This page came together pretty quickly- it was a photo from my planner from last year (Sierra Club weekly agenda) plus a few layers of scrapbook paper. I added a strip of paper from the packaging sleeve from some beautiful paintbrushes Tom got me for Christmas,a bit of ephemera from a scrapbook collection, and a wood veneer.

I don’t love how the quote stamped out because the stamps “overstamp” but the quote is readable, so that’s what matters.

yourself art journal page

“Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” – St. Francis de Sales

For this page, I found a postcard I bought years ago from the MFA in Boston. I have a little Iris bin full of different things I have collected over the years- images from magazines, calendar pages, snapshots, postcards from museums, bits of mail, etc. so for every journal page I have a good time digging through it and seeing what images resonate. I layered it with a page from a different old calendar, plus some patterned paper, and a flower from the Maggie Holmes flower ephemera pack (which I LOVE). Instead of stamping the quote, I used letter stickers.

yourself art journal page

yourself art journal page

I REALLY enjoyed making this page- it came together in about an hour, and the whole process from looking through my box of images to layering things and playing with different compositions was really relaxing.


It’s interesting to see how this project, my reading of Mark Nepo’s “Book of Awakening” (which is a book of brief daily readings on things such as serenity and peace and well-being and mindfulness, etc.), and the whole “Peace” being my word for 2015, is all sort of tying together.

As I focus on the theme/word of “peace” I’ll get inspired by an aspect of it, and then that idea turns up in “Book of Awakening” (or somewhere else in life), and then I’ll go and find some quotes about it and feel compelled to spend some time thinking about the idea, which then inspires a journal page.

For example, the last few weeks I have been really thinking long and hard about authenticity and honoring who you are (my whole introvert thing) and how truly honoring who you are and following that path can actually bring a lot of peace to life, AND the lives of those around you, etc.

I’ve also been reflecting on how there’s a misconception that if we’re following our own north star, we’re somehow neglecting the world around us or being selfish or whatever, even though it’s not the truth. I mean, how many of us have REALLY lived 100% true to ourselves for long enough to see what happens if we followed through on being 100% ourselves? Everyone I knew gets siderailed by things creeping in and pushing things off course and the endless cycle of feeling obligation to other things.

So these two pages definitely reflect my desire to live authentically and see it through. I can be a bit of a people-pleaser/do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-people-comfortable-and-at-ease, so these quotes are really important reminders to me.

I know that some people get caught up on the word “perfectly” in the Francis se Sales quote, but to me, the quote seems like permission to be 100% yourself – meaning, if you are true to yourself and your true nature, *that’s* perfection, right there. No one else can be you, perfectly.

I love the idea of being Chel, and being that one thing perfectly. It makes me ask “well, who is Chel?” which then leads me to think a bit about my nature and my preferences and then work on honoring those things in daily life. Letting those values guide my decisions.

The thing is that my true nature really values family, community, and compassion, ALONG with independence and quiet and creativity etc., so “being Chel, perfectly” forces me to learn a balance between things that come naturally to me (quiet, creativity, family) and things that are a bit more challenging (community) but really important to me.

Okay, enough babbling. Off to swim. Thank you, as always, for checking in. Hope you are having an amazing day :)

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Villa di Marlia - The Balustrade by John Singer Sargent

Villa di Marlia – The Balustrade by John Singer Sargent

“Most of our searching is looking for ways to discover who we already are. Thus, we continually run into mountains and rivers, run to the farthest sea, and into the arms of strangers, all to be shaken into remembering…

We have been trained to think that being particular about what we want is indicative of good taste, and that not being satisfied unless our preferences are met is a sign of worldliness and sophistication. Often, this kind of discernment is seen as having high standards, when in actuality it is only a means of isolating ourselves from being touched by life.

Still, we are taught to develop preferences as signs of importance and position. In fact, those who have no preferences, those who are accepting of whatever is placed before them, are often seen as simpletons or bumpkins. However, there is a profound innocence in the fact that sages and children alike are easily pleased with what each day gifts them.

The further I wake into this life, the more I realize that God is everywhere and the extraordinary is waiting quietly beneath the skin of all that is ordinary. Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond, and music is in both the flowing violin and the water dripping from the drainage pipe. Yes, God is under the porch as well as on top of the mountain, and joy is in both the front row and the bleachers, if we are willing to be where we are.” – Mark Nepo. The Book of Awakening


This passage came at EXACTLY the right time.

I’ve been fretting a little bit about my tendency to hibernate a little in winter (even though I totally get why I do it, and it makes total sense) and my general homebody habits and preferences. Should I be “out there” more? I already know the answer to this and it’s always “no”. But yet I sort of worry that I’m not living up to some sort of weird standard that includes afternoons at Starbucks and happy hour and world travel (three random things I don’t do…)

I’m not ecstatically happy right now or anything, but when I am in my daily routine, I am OKAY. Sometimes more than okay.

I find lots of little moments of joy in the regular, everyday stuff- the cool, sunny mornings, the little surprises in the garden every day, the warmth of the pool water when I first get in, the pretty scent of flower-scented soap in the shower, the big deep breath when I’m all done swimming and can relax for the rest of the afternoon, the way the inside of house lights up in the winter afternoons, the softness of a well-washed t-shirt, the little afternoon routines and rituals we all have, sitting down with a giant mug of tea after lunch in my art studio and pulling out my paints, the clicking of the keys as I write something, sitting down to share dinner with my family, the feeling of sliding in between the sheets at night and closing my eyes after a long day. I could go on and on.

I truly notice and savor all those moments, plus a million more, every day.

No, none of them are EXCITING or ecstatic. They don’t involve scaling the globe or huge groups of new people or learning an exotic skill. There’s no big adrenaline surge as a result of the things I enjoy. I don’t have to summon a tremendous amount of courage to do a lot of them (although living day to day requires tremendous courage, I believe.) But they make me feel okay.

But there’s a concern that I should be seeking so much more- that life should be a big high, constantly full of amazing moments. However, the older I get, the more I realize that’s not the truth, at least not for me. I know there are people out there that thrive off adventure, who love to travel the world from end to end, who grow and evolve with each new brave thing they do.

I have realized that I am not one of those people.

I had a fairly turbulent childhood with my health stuff. Because my health was so unpredictable, I found happiness and comfort in the bits of life that WERE safe and predictable. In everyday routines, and in my family, and in being *okay*. That hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s become even more true. Some people get bored when they aren’t moving, shifting, exploring, “out there”.  The opposite is true for me- when things are unpredictable and shifting, I get edgy and anxious. I crave simplicity. And returning to that makes me feel a zillion percent better.

Maybe that quality makes *me* a boring person, but *I’m* not bored. Does that make sense?

Like I said, I may not be ecstatic or wooping it up with joy, or going on adventures every day, but I am okay. And I think okay is excellent. Because when I was 15, or 20, I remember a lot of days when I wasn’t okay. I was unhappy and stressed and unsure and overwhelmed. I was depressed and crushed. I was terrified. All sorts of big emotions.

The idea of finding a level of “okay” (even boring okay) would have been a dream come true for me.

Then I think of Robin Williams. I think of him a lot- his death TRULY has changed my perspective on so many things. He had a great career and made a lot of people happy and wealth and success- all the things that are supposed to bring on “happiness”, but he did not seem to have “okay”.

So why is okay not enough, when it clearly IS enough?

I’m all for happiness, and for finding joy, but I think that our society, some of the wise teachers out there have defined “happiness” all wrong. It’s not always about big smiles and whoops of excitement.

Sometimes happy really is a soft t-shirt, or a favorite color of paint, or a new flower in the garden, or a hot shower, or a shared moment with family. Sometimes that’s more than enough. And I’m trying to remember that every single day. Okay is enough, okay is amazing.

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I barely took any photos in January (I guess after the holiday blitz, it didn’t feel necessary) so it was fairly simple to document the month in the scrapbook.

It took two evenings last week to pick the photos, print them, and put the pages together, which is very quick for this process, at least for me. It was actually really fun and stress-free, which made me wonder if I shouldn’t be doing smaller batches throughout every month, especially if the month is photo-heavy. I guess I’ll just see how February and March shape up.

Anyway, here are some pages from January, 2015:

scrapbook january 2015

around here in January

Just a little bit about January- the beautiful weather (since that’s been a huge source of happiness for me, I thought I would include snapshot of the weather app on my iPhone), a photo of Milo, and a shot of a hibiscus from the garden.

scrapbook january 2015

a new garden at school

One of the (many) amazing things that Gracie’s current school does is take tons of photos of the kids throughout the day and post them on a private Facebook page. So I grab the photos from the page and print them out and include them in the scrapbook.

This page is about the new garden at school and I had Gracie do the journaling. I am trying to get her to write more and more in the scrapbook – I love getting her perspective on things and I think it’s good to ducment her changing handwriting, too.

scrapbook january 2015

in the garden (overview)

scrapbook january 2015

in the garden (close-up)

A double page spread about the garden. I haven’t done garden pages in the scrapbook in a while, so I let myself go a little crazy.

I just wanted to document how much I love the garden in January knowing that it might inspire me next year when I get a little iffy about fall being over. Maybe now I’ll remember that January is a beautiful month, weather-wise, and that’s something to look forward to after the holidays.

Every year I learn a little bit about myself (my preferences, what makes me happy, etc.) by what I choose to document. For example, lat year I did a page in the scrapbook about how we were kind of “hibernating” a little bit in January and February and how there was a lot going on after the holidays and we were a little low-energy, so we stayed close to home whenever we had some down time and it made things less stressful.

This year, when January rolled around, I knew from documenting last year that the month might get a little crazy and we might consider laying low and close to home as a way to not get overwhelmed. I can honestly say *knowing* that about our family made the month of January a lot more enjoyable because I wasn’t trying to make myself stick to our regular routine of going to the movies all the time and running a zillion errands and having little adventures.

(note: I use a 9×9″ Aqua Bee Super Deluxe Sketchbook for the base of my scrapbook. After years of using traditional albums and page protectors and supplies, I am really enjoying how simple it is to pull out this book and create everything right on the pages. The downside: it’s getting too bulky for the binding. I might have to find a larger spiral and re-bind the book when it’s done, but I’m not too worried about it and I’ll figure that out when the time comes.)

Thank you, as always, for stopping by <3 .

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monk and orchid on our kitchen counter...

monk and orchid on our kitchen counter…


“Botswana had been a special country, and still was, but it had been more special in the days when everybody—or almost everybody—observed the old Botswana ways.

The modern world was selfish, and full of cold and rude people. Botswana had never been like that, and Mma Ramotswe was determined that her small corner of Botswana, which was the house on Zebra Drive, and the office that the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors shared, would always remain part of the old Botswana, where people greeted one another politely and listened to what others had to say, and did not shout or think just of themselves. That would never happen in that little part of Botswana, ever.”
– McCall Smith, Alexander : The Full Cupboard of Life

When I read this passage in the book I am reading, it stood out to me because it really reminded me of the  quote I used when I chose “peace” as my word for 2015:

“peace. it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” – unknown

I lovelovelove Alexander McCall Smith’s suggestion that physical, personal spaces are actual zones in which we can create conditions that encourage well-being and happiness. 

That idea is very empowering to me- that idea that no matter what’s going on out there in the world that is crazy and discouraging and imposing and out of our control, we can create little pockets of okay-ness in the spaces that we *do* control. Even if that space is small- just a room in our house, or a few quiet moments in an afternoon- it’s a place where things are okay, even good. And we can return to those places and find what we need.

When I read the lines above, and took a few minutes to think about it, I imagined people creating little corners of the world where goodness prevails- little spaces of well-being and calm and happiness sort of blinking to life on a map. Then I imagined watching the little lights blink on across the globe and the light getting brighter and brighter. The darkness may be overwhelming, but the light can get brighter.

If more of us did this- really take control of our spaces and impose conditions for well-being- we get more well-being across the board. You know what I mean?

I have to admit that this kinda helped me to understand what people mean when they say we can “create” the world we live in. That’s always seemed a little abstract to me, maybe a little “the Secret”-ish, but now I get it a little more.

This is what I want to do in February (and continually in the future)- I want to be determined that MY small corner of the world is a place where peace, creativity, kindness, compassion, etc. prevails. And then continually do what it takes to create the conditions so those things can flourish. I need to take the time to sit down and think about what this might entail, and follow through on it.

Bottom line: I may not be able to do much about the rest of the world, but I can shape this tiny little chunk of space and time that I inhabit. And that’s worth something.

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petunia love

06 Feb 2015
Carpet Buttercream

Carpet Buttercream

A few years ago, I ordered some Petunia seeds on a lark- I wanted an easy-care flower for the garden, and I had seen petunias in local garden centers year-round, so I decided to give it a go. Needless to say, I wound up becoming obsessed with them.

Daddy Blue

Daddy Blue

I have a large container garden (I’d say it’s about 150+ plants in a variety of containers, planters, and pots) on the back lanai of my house. It gets moderate sunshine, not too much both with pests (it’s screened in) and I have a potting bench and hose back there.

I’ve tried all sorts of flowering plants back there, but the Petunias just seem to flourish. They handle all sorts of weather, from the very HOT, intense, wet summers to the cool, dry winters, they are self-cleaning (which means they shed old leaves and spent blooms), and they tend to last for a LONG time- season after season, as long as I repot them with they start to get a little leggy. I just make the root ball compact with a little trimming, pot them in fresh soil in the same pot, and after a few weeks they are ready to go again.

African Sunset

African Sunset

Every few weeks I trim them down fairly severely and they just explode in response- they are basically big puffs of flowers over the top of the pots I have them in.

Aladdin Nautical

Aladdin Nautical

Even the snails don’t make much a dent in them- there’s always a few snails doing their thing around the Petunia planters/pots and I know there’s several large ones who *live* inside each pot, but the Petunias don’t seem to mind. I just have to watch it with the seedlings.

Dolcissima Flambe

Dolcissima Flambe

The seeds take a while to spout and bloom, and some of them definitely go through the whole growth-to-bloom phase quicker than others. But within a few months, they are flowering freely.

Wave Burgundy Star

Wave Crimson Star

Confession: I would love to double my collection, but I don’t have the room. There’s so many amazing varieties. I just tried the Double Cascade and I LOVE them, even though they easily “flop” when exposed to too much water and sun. But they are beautiful.

Double Cascade Orchid Mist

Double Cascade Orchid Mist

For a Southwest Florida container garden with my particular circumstances, I think Petunias are awesome. They ring a tremendous amount of color and detail to the garden, don’t require fussy care (they require a lot of water, pruning, but not much else), and hold up to the elements. Maybe a “simple” garden choice, but I really love them, especially since I LOVE flowers.

Daddy Pink

Daddy Pink

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Chester curled up for a morning nap

Chester curled up for a morning nap

What’s going on around here:

In my head…
How is it February already?

I think in my head I’m still in the middle of December. Not holiday-wise, just time-wise.

I keep waiting for things around here as far as schedules and stuff to settle down and get back to normal, but then I realize this IS normal, so my job is to adjust to it. There’s just a lot going on schedule-wise, and I’m such a creature of habit and routine every time something shifts in our world (soccer schedules, Tom’s karate classes, playdates, doctor’s appointments, whatever) it feels a little seismic.

But that’s what life is all about, right? I think that’s why I’m kind of a homebody in the winter- it feels like there’s so much going on in our everyday life, there’s no need to go seek adventure out of the regular everyday happenings. I feel like this is more than enough, and any chance I have to catch my breath and get a little peace and quiet is something I need to take full advantage of. So I am.

I’m just thinking a lot about the weeks ahead and what I’d like to accomplish and what needs to get done. It feels like a busy time of year, especially after the quiet of the fall. I really want to be sort of steadfast throughout so that I can avoid extra stress and stay grounded. That will take practice. I guess that’s what the whole “peace” as my word for 2015 is all about- letting it sort of guide my choices and behavior as much as I can.

Outside my window…
This morning it’s 52 degrees and a little cloudy. Nice. The temperature has been creeping up these last few days so the fact that it went back down makes me happy. I love the cooler weather.

I’m still enjoying winter here in Southwest Florida-  I just like the cooler weather, the shorter days, the less intense sunlight, the foggy mornings. I’m really trying to revel in it this year.


In the art studio…
Painting. PAINTING. So slowly. But quite contentedly, I think.

This week, two of the seven canvases I have been painting shifted a little bit and revealed potential compositions.  I went through my normal process of laying down layers and then I decided to sand the canvases a little, which is something I discovered I liked doing back in the fall, and BOOM, the paintings went from being random layers of color and mark-making to something that made more sense as a whole.

I’m trying really hard not to over think it and just approach the canvases every day with my brushes and paint and just work on them without focusing too much on what the outcome might be or how the part I am working on might fit in with the rest of the painting as a whole.

It just gets so tricky when a design starts to come together, because all the sudden there’s a path to go down. Suddenly, it can go from being fun mess-making to “oh, I see something in there… maybe I should work on pulling it out and defining it.” Then every mark starts to matter a lot more.

It gets very easy to get obsessive and fussy about the direction of the painting and the quality of the work when there’s something actually evolving right in front of you. You start to second-guess every single mark you make, even before you make it. Decision-making comes into play a lot more, and that’s what I get hung up on. All the sudden there’s a very real fear of “ruining” what’s there, and it sort of haunts me. THAT’s the thing I am struggling with as far as painting. I know that you can’t really ruin a painting, you can just paint over it and it can turn into something else even better, etc. etc. But the truth is, I *have* ruined parts of paintings that I loved. It does happen, and there is a sense of regret, even if the outcome is even better than what was there before. It’s actually a little heartbreaking.

But if I think about that, I won’t paint anything. So I’m trying to just PAINT. Not make decisions. Just show up, attend to the canvas with what feels good, and go with it. But I’m also not being slapdash, which some painters can do with incredible, gorgeous results.

I’m a very slow painter. This is becoming a bottom-line fact for me that I am trying to embrace.

As much as I’d like to be a flow-y, intuitive painter who works in big ethereal, loose layers with drippy organic forms (*swoon*), the truth is, I always come back to doing little, intricate patterns. Nothing realistic, just little doodles and abstract shapes. And it takes time. I like to take my time and contemplate the colors and the brushes and things like that.

I tried very hard to move away from the detailed stuff this fall, but the minute I allowed myself to just *paint* these last few weeks, I went right back to finding little designs in all the layers of paint on the canvases and wanting to bring them out. So right now I am honoring that. If I decide to go back to just slinging paint on the canvas, I’ll let myself do that.

I really feel drawn to doing other projects (namely, scrapbooking January and working in my quote art journal a bit) but I come into my studio every afternoon and always pull out the paints. I kind of feel guilty about not spreading my creative energy around, but I remember times when I had no creative drive at all and spent hours flipping through art books or the web, trying to find some creative inspiration or the energy to work on a project, so I know that just the fact that I get into the studio and make something is a good thing, in and of itself.

I also sketched a little this weekend. I have an idea/inspiration book with color palettes and photos, but very few of my own sketches in there. But I felt like sketching this weekend, so I grabbed a pencil and just doodled for a while. I am really into Klimt at the moment, so I went through a bunch of his paintings and sketched different patterns and motifs inspired by his work.  It was fun- I should do it more often. (Add it to the list…)


anole photo by Ken Slade (creative commons)

anole photo by Ken Slade (creative commons)

In the garden…
At last count, there were about 12 little lizards (at least) that I recognize and that live in distinct places in my container garden, inside the lanai screen. And now there’s an Anole in there, too- one of those lizards that change color and turn REALLY bright green. I saw him outside a few months ago (he was very distinct because we just don’t have a lot of them around our house) and then all the sudden he was on the inside of the lanai, sitting on one of my plants.

In the last few weeks, I’ve watch him take over the passiflora and claim that planter as his own- any time one of the other lizards approaches that area of the lanai, he chases them.  I kind of feel bad because the other lizards were absolutely there first, but I have to admit, I felt a weird sense of pride when I saw that the Anole moved in (as if the lizards outside of the lanai make some sort of effort to come inside into my garden and stake a claim. Yes, I know that sounds insane.)

Anyway, the Anole is super cool. He spends a lot of time on the trellis, changing color. He changes from a dark brown to a LIME green very quickly, but he does it in such a way that you don’t know it’s happening. So one minute you are staring at a brown lizard, and then you realize it’s turned green right in front of your eyes without you seeing it happen. And then he disappears into the leaves.

I know I make a big deal out of all these tiny lizards, but when I’m swimming and bored out of my mind, the lizards are almost like a little reality show I get to watch. And it all becomes very interesting.

Just finished reading “The Kalahari Typing School For Men” (number 4 in the Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith) and started “The Full Cupboard of Life” (number 5 in the series) yesterday.

Windchimes and wind. Awesome.

I have to admit, I’m growing used to the construction noises around us. I know that sounds crazy, but whatever. It reminds me a little of the freight train that ran RIGHT outside my apartment in college- when I first moved in I was, like, “how am I going to live with that noise twelve times a day for four years?” and then when I moved out, I missed it. So much.

The backup beeping noise on the trucks and equipment on the construction site, though…(BEEP. BEEEEp. BEEEEp.)… that is a noise I am ready to stop hearing.


We finally finished season 2 of “The Wire.” Such a good show. I’m also loving Downton Abbey so far this season- nothing too earth-shattering, but it’s a good show, and (besides the never ending Anna and Mr. Bates drama) I always enjoy it.

We finally saw “Selma” this past weekend and it was a very good movie, and it astonishes me that David Oyelowo was not nominated for best actor. Then again, after Cate Blanchett did not get the award for Elizabeth I kind of gave up on the system.

As far as Selma as a whole, I think the movie would have been so much stronger if they didn’t focus so much on Rev. and Mrs. King, but rather the relationships that Martin Luther King Jr. had with the group of supporters that stood by his side for that event. I knew Andrew Young and Jim Crawford from the years I lived in Atlanta, but I wish I knew more about the other young men and women who were part of the movement. I was so curious about them, and by the time the movie ended, I didn’t even know their names.

About to start working on a birthday/Valentine’s blanket for Tom using a light gray cotton yarn. I made a blanket for him a few years ago out of cotton yarn and it just hasn’t held up well- it basically stretched out into a giant net. So I’m trying a different yarn and (that reminds me) I need to get a different crochet hook so I can gauge it right.

Hoping/looking forward to…

Being done with my swim today and painting this afternoon with a big cup of tea at my side.

An order with Dick Blick. Maybe. I don’t desperately need anything, but I could use a better quality white heavy body paint – I’m still working through some student grade white acrylic I bought back in college (I bought a lot) and I probably can go ahead and splurge on some Golden white heavy body. And there’s some cool silicone brushes called Colour Shapers that are perfect for detail work, which I could really use. Trying to get super fine lines with brushes, even the tiny ones, is so hard for me- it might be the fine motor control stuff I have going on because of the Spina Bifida.  Even the tiniest brushes wind up chunking up a lot of paint and getting splotchy. I’d like to try the silicone ones since I’m doing so much detail work. But, gah… when do I *not* want art supplies? Seriously.

Have a GREAT day!!

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being what you are

29 Jan 2015
teddy sunflower in my garden

teddy sunflower in my garden

From The Book of Awakening:

“There have been many times that I said yes when I meant no, afraid of displeasing others, and even more afraid of being viewed as selfish… But long enough on the journey, we come to realize that those who truly love us will never knowingly ask us to be other than we are.

The unwavering truth is that when we agree to any demand, request, or condition that is contrary to our soul’s nature, the cost is that precious life force is drained off our core.

Despite the seeming rewards of compliance, our souls grow weary by engaging in activities that are inherently against their nature. When we leave the crowded streets and watch any piece of nature doing what it does – tree, moose, snake, or lightning – it becomes clear that the very energy of life is the spirit released by things being what they are.

In effect, the cost of being who you are is that you can’t possibly meet everyone’s expectations, and so, there will, inevitably, be external conflict to deal with-the friction of being visible.

Still, the cost of not being who you are is that while you are busy pleasing everyone around you, a precious part of you is dying inside.- Mark Nepo


When I was a kid,  I was a COMPLETE chatterbox. I was the toddler who tried to make friends with everyone and anyone, the kid who always got told to shut up endlessly in class, etc. I wore my heart on my sleeve *and* on my tongue. I had no filter. Whatever I thought, it came out of my mouth. I had so much to say, it was almost like I couldn’t hold it in. “Talks too much” was a frequent comment on my report card in grade school.

Then things started to shift. In high school, I got a little quieter. I felt myself wanting to pull back a lot, but it was like I didn’t know how. I was “the talker”, right? So how could I not talk?

Of course, as with most sorta-sulky kids that age, it was assumed that the shift in my behavior was me being sulky and moody. Or depression. Etc. I went with that, because for my entire young life, I was always told that I was outgoing and cheerful. So I assumed that my desire for quiet and my need to jam my walkman headphones into my ears at any opportunity to drown out the “noise” of the world around me was something wrong with me and not anything a normal, happy person might want to do.

That became ingrained in me, in a way. Loud was good and happy, quiet was depressed and sad.

I think the big changing point was when I lived by myself during college and graduate school. It was the first time I wasn’t around people 24/7. At first, I was terrified of being alone. But after a day or so, I kind of loved it. I loved having time to myself. I loved the spaciousness of it. I loved that I didn’t have to talk first thing in the morning or as soon as I got back from class every day. It was a weird relief and freedom I never felt in my life.

The older I got, the more I relished the peace I found in the balance between being around people and being alone. It was always a work in progress, figuring out what was the right amount for both. I couldn’t be alone too much because it drove me a little stir crazy (I’m definitely not anti-social), but I couldn’t be around other people 24/7 because it would make me completely zapped.

I also started realizing that when I was around people, I immediately went into “on” mode. It was like some little machine inside me just clicked on and whirred into action.  I had no idea I was doing that, but it happened automatically. When I was alone, I was “off”. So I realized I needed as much time “off” as “on”.

I think the sense of needing to be “on” and engaging and interesting also comes from the desire to make people comfortable around me. When you have a disability, especially a physical one (I have Spina Bifida and have always limped), people sometimes have odd reactions and make judgements on you based only on what they see about you.

If you let them know immediately that you’re not a threat, then you soften the blow of their judgement, a little bit. So if I melted the ice, broke the tension, I diffused any weirdness. And therefore I saved myself from hurt feelings. Does that make sense?

Anyway, a few years ago, when I started getting interested in neuroscience and psychology, I came across the personality traits for shyness and general introverted type behavior. Seriously, I almost fell off the couch when I read the list, because it suit me to a TEE.

Me, shy?! Me, an introvert?! But I was a chatterbox! I was the big-mouth!

…Wasn’t I?…

No, I wasn’t. Maybe I was the outgoing, no-filter, chatterbox for a few years when I was a kid, but ever since then, especially as an adult, I have been very shy.

Why do these little labels that are attached to us while we are children – before we have a chance to develop our personalities and discover our preferences and learn who we are – stick with us for the rest of our life?

I started doing tons of research on different personality types, shyness, and the psychology and neuroscience behind it. It all fit my personality. I found explanations for a lot of what I thought was a life-long depression: anxiety, exhaustion, need for alone time, the general gut instinct to run away from a ringing phone or a cluster of people engaging in small-talk. Finally, FINALLY, it all made sense.

It was beyond a light-bulb moment, it was like the sun coming out from behind the clouds and illuminating everything. It was such a relief to know that I was not deeply depressed, I was not sulky, I was not under some dark dreary sense of malaise. Don’t get me wrong- I definitely suffer from depression and anxiety, but when I learned about my shyness and why I gravitated towards certain situations (quiet vs. social, etc.), it was like a door unlocked.  I finally got permission to be myself- the way I *wanted* to be, the way I was when I wasn’t feeling the need to be “on”.

Instead of challenging my introverted behavior, I began to embrace it. And that was SUCH a relief. For the first time in my life, I started to feel some peace with myself. Instead of trying to make things work for myself (book clubs, happy hour with the other moms, mom-and-kid playdates, meetups, etc.) I decided to follow the things that appealed to me- hanging out more with just my family, doing art classes (both online and through local continuing education programs), gardening, taking as much alone time as I needed, and most importantly- saying a whole lot of “no” to things I used to immediately say “yes” to.

And life changed so much! I feel like I’m still at the start of what this discovery holds for me, because I’m learning more about myself every day. But I feel so different now.

The one negative to all this? People’s reactions, especially people who have known me since I was a little kid.  Being true to myself means I’m not being the person people thought they knew so well- the chatty, bubbly, dramatic little girl. It was a drastic change and I know people who knew me *before* get confused about why I’m so quiet and introspective now. I think there’s a belief that wanting to be quiet or alone equals some sort of sadness, depression, or isolation, but that’s not the case. Not at all. 

I feel like when I’m being quiet or needing some space, I’m recalibrating my compass. It feels like I’m recharging my internal battery. Knowing that the opportunity to “refuel” myself exists and is available to me whenever I decide I need it has been a profound relief, and has contributed greatly to my overall well-being and happiness. It takes the edge off.  It brings me peace.

Don’t get me wrong-  I’m also guilty of asking people to be what they are not.

For example, when Gracie was a toddler, she was SO outgoing and made friends with everyone. There was one time when she was a baby and turned around and offered the contents of her bread plate to the couple dining behind us at a restaurant. That was regular behavior for her. The whole town knew her, and they still do (we live in a small town).

But as she got older, she became more reserved. When we’d see an adult she knew, and she’d hide a little behind us or get quiet, we’d ask her “why didn’t you say Hello to so-and-so?” and she’d say, “I’m shy.”

My response? I said “But you’re not shy!” to her. Argh! When I realized I was doing that… argh. So I get both sides of this. I try very hard not to do stuff like that anymore- when she tells me she’s something, as long as it’s not her being self-critical, I don’t try and change her mind.

My favorite part of the passage above? This line: “…the very energy of life is the spirit released by things being what they are.” When I am being what I am, I feel that “energy of life”. I totally get it. And I’m reminded of why it’s SO important to keep making these discoveries about myself and my life and the world around me and continue to honor them. And to model that for Gracie, as well. I hope she can grow strong and confident in exactly who she is, not what the world thinks she should be.

I wish that for all of us.

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hibiscus in the garden…

What’s going on around here:

Outside my window…
I’m still loving the winter weather and trying to enjoy every day since I know that spring (which is really summer part one) is coming soon.

It’s actually raining here- sort of a sunshower. When I woke up, the sun was shining brightly. But then it got very breezy and the temperature dropped and the rain came down. I know I complain about the rain in summer, but in winter, when the rain doesn’t last all day, when it cools things down, when there’s no lightning attached, I love the rain. I love a cloudy day. It makes me feel so cozy and snug inside, and it also makes me feel like the world is a little less expansive, if that makes any sense. Like I’m tucked into my own little nest.

Something odd going on behind my house: they are ripping up the seawall a few houses down and it’s a bit odd. To be honest, I don’t mind construction noise nearly as much as I mind vacation-renter-noise, but I do worry a lot about the impact the construction has on the native creatures that live in/near the area they are working, both on the ground and in the bay.

I think I am coming to terms with the fact that after the holidays, it’s FULL-ON here. Tourists, snowbirds, industry. There’s no quiet. But like I said, construction noise is easier for me than people-noise. I don’t know why that is.


In the art studio…
I’m painting. A lot. I was really intending on spreading out time between the four main creative projects I have going on this year (painting, art journal, scrapbooking, watercoloring) but I’ve felt really compelled to paint for the last week or so, so I’ve been letting myself do that.

I’m still following the Bloom True “arc”, but I’m a little more relaxed about it since I don’t feel like I have to keep up with the class schedule. I’m working on something, like, SEVEN canvases – usually one or two a day, just playing around with paint and mark-making. Having lots of fun.

I’m also playing with color palettes. In Bloom True it’s recommended not to start drilling down the color palette on the canvas until later layers, but I LOVE color palettes- I love making them, I love finding them, I love looking at them. And pretty much the whole point of Bloom True is deveoping your own style through trial and error, so I decided to embrace my obsession with color palettes and am experimenting with defining them earlier on in the painting process. I had a lot of fun this weekend with that- actually making little swatches for different paintings based on the colors I saw coming through in the early layers.

I think I mentioned before that one aspect of choosing “peace” as my word for 2015 is to relax, and that goes into my creative projects. Playing with the painting process is a good way to do that, I think.

I did work on my art journal yesterday afternoon, though, and it was fun. That was encouraging. I wasn’t feeling so great, so instead of pulling out my paints, I decided to pull out a few pieces of paper and images and make a little collage for the next quote, and it came together nicely. I was really, really happy about that.

Haven’t really watercolored or scrapbooked in a few weeks, but I’m okay with that. January is a slow month for notable events, so besides some photos of Gracie at school (I love that her teacher and staff at her school share so many photos of their daily life on the school [private] Facebook page!) and some garden photos, there’s not many pages for the scrapbook in January.


In the garden…
It rained this morning so maybe I don’t have to water today. I love working in the garden, but when I get a surprise day off and everything is FINE out there, it’s a little bonus.


I think Gracie has a playdate today but I’m not sure if she’ll have it here or go to her friend’s house so that will determine the afternoon. Hopefully there will be time for some painting or art journaling once the daily “stuff” of everyday life gets done.

Can I just say how much I love it that Gracie is at the age where playdates are now mostly kids-only, meaning that the moms/dads don’t have to stay with the kids at the host’s house? The kids come here or she goes there. That’s the way it ALWAYS was for me growing up and for Tom, too, but for some reason younger kids here have playdates with parents accompanying the kids the entire time.

It made it really hard for us to do playdates because of Tom’s work (he works from home and his schedule is very flexible, which means he can work at odd hours) and my swimming schedule and health stuff (and my general desire to spend the little free time I have in my art studio). Now Gracie can go play with her friends any time or they can come here, and I don’t have to worry about putting out a spread and not boring another adult to pieces OR spending the afternoon feeling like I’m invading someone else’s space. I know a lot of parents like the whole mom/dad/kid playdate thing because it’s a chance to get to know other people and spend time with friends, but it’s really hard for shy people or people who work at home and have to have conference/video calls, etc.


“Morality for Beautiful Girls” by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m re-reading the entire “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series and enjoying it.


I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately in my art studio, and also catching up on a lot of videos from different art classes I have signed up for in the last year. I found out that I enjoy watching art classes *while* I make art even if the two projects are NOT related. It’s a little weird because it’s like going to an art class and while the teacher is showing you technique, you’re sitting there working on a different project.

But my thing with art classes is not to create very specific projects, but to learn technique and new approaches to stuff I like doing. So it’s more observation and picking up information, which I can do while I paint or collage or scrapbook or whatever.

Right now I’m taking two classes for 2015- LifeBook and One Little Word. I signed up for One Little Word specifically for the writing prompts and NOT for the scrapbooking projects, even though that’s a big part of the class. I just know that if I add some sort of extra scrapbook project on right now I’ll get behind and get frustrated, so I’m not even considering it.

LifeBook is an art journaling class where you create one art journal page a week for the entire year of 2015. Every week there’s a new video from a different teacher showing you their techniques and project, step-by-step. I’m interested in a few of the specific projects and teachers, but I’m mainly interested in absorbing and exposing myself to more creative approaches and styles across the board. It’s a SUPER cool year-long project, but again, I know if I add on a project of that scope, it will mean having to give up a project that I’m already working on, and I’m not willing to do that. At least not now.

I’m just approaching both classes as stress-free as possible. Great information, great content, fun stuff to watch while I’m in my studio, making art… why make it more complicated?


We saw WHIPLASH this weekend and LOVED it. I have obsessive tendencies and I get VERY passionate about things that matter to me, so that movie really resonated with me and made me think. I probably will write an entry about this soon, but I highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it.

We’re still working our way through The Wire- we’re on season two- we can’t really watch it when Gracie is around, so we watch it when she’s over my parents’ for the night or at an activity. It’s super compelling.


I just finished a “pashmina” type scarf using Red Heart Unforgettable yarn in Dragonfly and I LOVED working with it. Probably one of my favorite yarns ever. I will have to post a photo of the scarf. I am not a technical crocheter (I know a few basic stitches and I’m pretty happy with that) but the coloring came out beautifully because of how the yarn is.

Now I’m working on a blanket or a throw or something with some Caron yarn I had in my stash. It’s really to keep me busy until some yarn I ordered arrives- I’m making Tom a cotton throw for his birthday in blue cotton yarn from Knit Picks. I made him a blanket in some cotton yarn way back when I started crocheting, but it’s basically a giant trapezoid full of holes because a) I had no idea what I was doing and b) I realized it’s super important to use cotton yarn with another fiber in it to give it a little bit of elasticity or else the fibers don’t bounce back as you stretch them over the crochet hook. So I’m giving it another go.


During the holidays, I got a gift certificate from Adagio from a friend and just went crazy restocking myself with all the black and oolong teas I loved. *swoon* I love tea. For a while, I was sort of “meh” about it, just working through my stash, but I realized that when I have a full drawer, tea drinking becomes a lot more fun and delicious. So now I’m back to total tea obsession. I am loving mixing different oolongs and different black teas right now. Every day a new happiness :)


Hoping/looking forward to…
There might be a trip to Universal Studios to see the new Harry Potter section in our future. Just a day trip, since the park is only three hours away and sometimes planning a longer-term vacation up there is more trouble than it’s worth. But since we have annual passes, I really want to try to get up there more often.

I mean, it’s an hour drive to get into Naples (the nearest town) to go to the movies or whatever, so why not just make the trip up to Orlando and go to the amusement parks every few weekends? If we go often enough, we won’t feel the need to try and jam everything into a single visit. I want to get back into the habit of going up there more frequently. I am also jonesing for Epcot and Magic Kingdom.


Thankful for…
a new week, creative mojo, my family, tea, the weather, the pool heater (especially on a blustery day like today!), my sweet pets, crochet, painting, mechanical pencils (random, yes, I know…), Mary J. Blige songs to listen to in the pool (I’m on a kick with her music), online classes, friends, windchimes, and seeds that sprout quickly.



Have a GREAT day!!

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I haven’t written about my garden in a long time, so I thought I’d share what’s going on out there. (I live in Southwest Florida, so it’s peak gardening season here.)

the back corner of the lanai

the back corner of the lanai

I don’t have a “traditional” garden because we don’t have a “traditional” yard- almost the entirety of our yard is covered by a screened in lanai that covers our pool and patio and deck, etc. We live on a canal/bay, and the home lots here are small, so our “backyard” is water.

But a few years ago I started a container garden on the back corner of our lanai, and it sort of exploded out on to the rest of the lanai- I now have something like 150 pots, planters, and containers all over the lanai. I have a little potting table out there, plus a hose, so it’s fairly easy to take care of everything.

Anyway, this is that “back corner” that I started it. It’s now sort of home base for my older and some of my larger plants.

the "ceiling" of the screened-in lanai with passiflora vine

the “ceiling” of the screened-in lanai with passiflora vine

A few years ago I moved one of my passiflora back there, and let the vine grow up the screened in lanai and then across part of the “ceiling” of the screened in lanai. It blooms in fall, and it’s pretty amazing to have huge flowers “dripping” down from the inside of the lanai, but I also like just the green vine. It’s like a little secret garden back there.

this year's tomatoes

this year’s tomatoes

As usual, we do a large container of tomatoes. This year we picked some from Lowe’s, but Tom (who eats the tomatoes), isn’t a huge fan. Next year I’ll probably go back to finding a good seed.



Basil is another edible we do every year. This is a plant that survived the summer (which never happens) so I decided to let it go again and it came back. I also have two others pots of basil- one a regular variety, and one an Italian big leaf variety.

tiny succulent garden

timy succulent garden

My little succulent garden. This year, I decided to keep the succulents in a shady area and it REALLY made a huge difference in their health. They get a blast of sun every day in the mid-day, and then dappled sunlight/shade. For some reason, they like it.

I want a little bench for them… like a little teak bench a foot or so off the ground. Maybe I can put my little bonsai on it, as well.

petunias down the side of the pool

petunias down the side of the pool

Petunias and geraniums down the side of the pool.



My hibiscus got hit HARD by mealybugs this summer. I had to continually cut them down to the trunk and remove all foliage this summer and fall. Finally, some of them came back, bug-free. And this was the first hibiscus bloom I had in months, so it made me REALLY happy. I hope they can all pull through- I miss them!

a new favorite - wishbone flower

a new favorite – wishbone flower

And a new favorite- wishbone flower. I used to get these from the local nursery in summer but they always had a short life. I decided to try from seed this year and I have them tucked in all over the place. I just love the way they look- very bright and clean.

I’m going to do a post just on the petunias soon (I’ve gotten obsessed!).

Thank you, as always, for stopping by :) I hope you are having an amazing Friday!

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paisley watercoloring project

paisley watercoloring project


I have a new passion- coloring with watercolors.

Last summer, I really got into watercolor paints. My parents got me a full set of Peerless watercolors, and then a wonderful friend got me a Jerry’s Artarama gift certificate for my birthday and I decided to invest in a set of good pan watercolors.

I wanted semi-moist pans, so I ordered two sets of St. Petersburg. And then I started supplementing the colors with tubes of QoR, ShinHan, Senellier, and DaVinci. I spent a lot of time creating a customized palette and organizing it and playing with the colors- it was so much fun. Someday soon I’ll take a photo of my palette and share it.

I also decided to get out my Twinkling H2o paints (I purchased a set a long time ago to try with beads) and play with those. Of course, I fell in love. Twinkling H2Os are amazing.

So I had all these beautiful watercolors but I couldn’t figure out what to do with them besides make endless color combinations and just drip them on paper and watch them mix. There are a zillion online watercolor classes and books, but for some reason, I didn’t want to learn a bunch of intricate techniques, I just really wanted to *play* with them. Just put them on paper and let them spread around and mix together. No mixed-media, no drawing with them- I just wanted to have fun with them.

Then I realized that I had a perfect use for them: coloring.

For a while now I have been collecting complex coloring books, like paisleys, Arabic Design, geometric designs, etc.. I mainly buy them for design inspiration and just because I like having them- they are a fun thing to collect. But I started thinking that I could scan the pages, print them out on watercolor paper, and watercolor them.

I could paint in the books, I suppose, but the paper in the coloring books can range from terrible to amazing, and I’d rather not mess up the books. Also, I’m picky about watercolor paper (has to be 140 lbs or heavier) because I do a lot of wet-on-wet techniques and lifting. So what I do is scan the books in chunks, edit the images into smaller “snapshots” in Photoshop, and then print them out on watercolor paper using my Epson printer.

Pepin Press Colouring Books

Pepin Press Colouring Books (photos from Pepin Press)

My favorite coloring books are from The Pepin Press. They are EXQUISITE- they are really large portfolios of lightly printed images on sheets of thick paper. *swoon*

I also love the “Just Add Color” series from Northport Press, especially the Lisa Congdon and Mid-Century Modern ones. I also like the Dover ones that feature paisley, mehndhi designs, and Tiffany stained glass windows. And Pomegranate Press has some great ones from art history.

This fall I started “coloring” with my watercolors, as well as my Tombow markers, which I sort of consider watercolors in pen form. I take the markers and “scrub” them on my palette and then use a paintbrush and water to pick up the color and mix it with other colors, etc.

I did the paisley above for my mom for Christmas. It took a few days, but it was SO MUCH FUN. It just was relaxing and meditative and something I did just for the sake of doing it and not being too worried the results.

If you’ve read this blog in the last few years, you know that’s something I have struggled with a lot- creating art just for the sake of creating and not thinking about if people would like the results. Coloring released me from that. I just find an image I love (which I did not create and therefore am not self-critical of), print it out, and go to town with my watercolors.

So one of my goals this year is to do some regular watercolor coloring. And also continue playing with the watercolors in my little Moleskine and pocket watercolor books. I’ll share what I make.

Thank you, as always, for reading! <3

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Tim's Vermeer

Tim’s Vermeer

I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “Tim’s Vermeer” but if you didn’t, you should definitely make some time to watch it. It’s FASCINATING. It’s about this “regular guy” (ie absolutely not someone with any experience with art) who decides he wants to paint a Vermeer. He becomes convinced that Vermeer used some sort of optical device to help him paint, and after exploring the options, he builds his own device based on what he learns. It’s sort of this cool movie about art and technology and geeky stuff.

After I saw the movie, I did a few searches to see if a very simplified optical device (literally typed in “Tim’s Vermeer Device”) that is used in the film was available and couldn’t find anything. I figured someone would have grabbed the idea and mass produced it. Nope. But then…

Gracie got this “Crayola Sketch Wizard” thing for Christmas and – holy smokes- it’s the Tim’s Vermeer device! It uses mirrors and a lens to line up the image of your hand drawing with the image you are trying to duplicate.

Of course, it’s not exactly the same- it’s Crayola, it’s plastic, it’s meant to be a toy. But it really does work.

I only used it for a few minutes, but it’s very interesting how what you are *sure* you are seeing and drawing is not at all what you are drawing and seeing- you start making a mark with the pencil and even though you are watching yourself do it, the line winds up *completely* off by half an inch and the curve is wrong. It’s so strange! I remember there was a bunch of stuff about this in “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” but it was fascinating to actually have a demonstration of it. It takes a while to adjust yourself to drawing what is there.

I don’t know- this isn’t for serious artists, but if you are interested in the device used in Tim’s Vermeer, I would totally recommend trying the Crayola Sketch Wizard out, just for kicks. It does give you insight on how the eye/hand/brain thing works and doesn’t work when drawing.

Crayola Sketch Wizard

Crayola Sketch Wizard


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common miracles

“Most of us lead far more meaningful lives than we know. Often, finding meaning is not about doing things differently, it is about seeing familiar things in new ways.”
– Rachel Naomi Remen

I haven’t done a Common Miracles post in a *long* time, and so I thought I’d do one.

“Common Miracles” was a series of weekly posts on gratitude that I did a few years ago. The whole point of “Common Miracles” was for me to look at everyday life on a regular basis, and point out the little things that made me happy and all the regular, every day things that made me feel gratitude.

I’m not sure if this will become a weekly thing but I definitely want to do them more often.

Here’s my list for right now…

- Winter
Oh, winter. I am loving winter. I regularly wax poetic about autumn, but I am starting to realize that winter is ranking up there on the “favorite season” list.

Before you curse me for praising frigid, frosty, sub-zero, endless snow, etc. weather, know this: I live in Southwest Florida.

Winter, for us, is temperatures in the 60’s and low 70’s, with dips into the 40’s and 50’s. If it’s REALLY cold, we’ll get some 30-degree temperatures, but that happens once or twice a season.

I grew up in NY, and I remember checking the temperature every morning in winter, looking for 39 degrees, because if it was 39 degrees, it meant I didn’t need to lug my coat to school. 40 degrees was positively balmy back in NY. So for me to be thinking that 50/60 degrees is “cool weather” is kind of ironic. But for Southwest Florida, anything under 80 is a cold snap. 40 degrees is just like frozen tundra.

But as long as the pool heater is working, I’ll take any of it. Getting out of the water is a little chilly, especially in the 30/40 degree temperatures, but the melty, goosebump-y feeling that I get from jumping into a hot shower right after getting out of the pool into the cold air makes up for it.

And then there’s the beautiful fog, the quiet mornings, the overcast skies that don’t come with a storm attached. It just feels cozy. Perfection.

And I LOVE the shorter days. The sun sets around 5:30pm, which is perfect for me. In summer, the sun is up until after 9pm, if not later, and since you can’t go outside because it’s so hot and rainy, it feels like a crazy-long day and you feel trapped. At 8pm, you want the sun to go down, not emerge from the clouds.

In winter, it’s just a great balance. You can go out any time all day, be outside without getting exhausted or crispy, and then come in and feel the day winding down in the later afternoon/early evening.

I love hanging out in my art studio in the early evening, after the sun goes down. I feel focused and happy to be in there. I like watching the lights twinkle on across the neighborhood and out over the bay, imagining people getting their dinner ready, relaxing for the evening, tucked into their homes. It feels right.

– Podcasts

Towards the end of the fall session of “Bloom True” (online painting class), I started wanting to listen to something other than music while I painted. So I started listening to Serial. Ahhhhhh. So good! I’ve had a lot of podcasts that I’ve listened to sporadically, but when I realized I could paint/create and listen to podcasts without be distracted from either activity, it was like a whole new world opening up.

Of course, Serial is only 12 episodes, so there are others: Elise Gets Crafty, Professor Blastoff, After the Jump, The Lively Show, Adventures in Arting, etc. I keep trying to find new ones and adding them to my list.


- Apple Juice
I know this sounds weird, but there’s nothing more refreshing to me than an ice cold glass of Mott’s Apple juice. I don’t drink it often because it’s pretty unhealthy once you get to levels over 4 oz. (and 4 ounces of any beverage is never enough) but every so often we have it in the house snd I splurge a bit.

- The Wire
As a fan of serialized television (which is perfect for binge watching), The Wire has been on my “to watch” list forever. For some reason, one of the cable networks re-aired all sixty episodes right after Christmas, and our TiVo picked them all up.

What an amazing, engrossing show. We’re just about to wrap up season one, and I know the location of the show shifts every season, so I’m sort of bracing for it. But it’s a generous, thoughtful show- every episode is a full hour, and they don’t waste time on situations that don’t eventually add something to the story. Watching television can feel a little wasteful to me sometimes (especially when I’m watching a repeat of House Hunters), but shows like The Wire make me feel like my hour spent watching TV is time well spent. I work on my crochet and lose myself to the story.

Speaking of TV, there’s also The Great British Baking Show, which is awesome. So good! We watch Top Chef, and have watched different cooking shows periodically over the years, including many “dessert” ones, but this is the first show I have watched where I want to taste most everything. And it’s so fun and charming and funny, too. I look forward to it every week.

- Painting Again
I took a break from painting when preparation for the holidays kicked into high gear, and then spent some time after New Year getting everything in order and taking care of some other things that got sidelined in anticipation of Christmas. This week I started painting again. I didn’t go back to the canvas I had been working on this fall (the one with the circles)- instead, I went back to some canvases I started in October but didn’t get far on.

It feels really good to be back in the earlier layers, where all that matters is getting color and marks on the canvas. Because I’m not worried about composition or cohesion in the early layers of a painting, I can sort of space out and just PLAY. It’s fun. I think I’ll just stay in this “early layer” mode for a bit and if one of the canvases moves forward and I want to focus in, I will. But for now, I just want to have my paints out again, and I want to really enjoy using them.

And, of course…
My Family (and a very clean master bedroom closet…)
My dad for installing a new, pristine countertop for me in my art studio, my mom for taking Gracie to her allergy shot appointment this week (and for taking her to see Paddington this weekend!).

Gracie for generally being awesome and interesting and cheerful and for being an amazing person to share the art studio with. The dining room table used to be her center of operations, but the last few months she’s migrated in here for more than just craft projects. Now her laptop lives in here and when she’s working on homework or watching movies or playing Minecraft or working on a project or listening to music, she’s in here with me. It’s really nice having the company.

Much love and gratitude this week to Tom for giving up a Saturday afternoon and evening to help me clean out the huge master bedroom closet. It’s the biggest storage spot in our house, by far, so lots of stuff get toted away in there in my obsession with tidiness. It was a little insane, to be honest. And I always put off organizing it because it seemed like just *so* much.

But I finally got the bug to get in there, and Tom sacrificed one of his few days off to help me go through EVERY SINGLE THING in there and really organize the closet.

We got rid of about 90% of what was in there (no joke): years of clothing, odds and ends from when we lived in the condo, random baby stuff, tons of old craft stuff, bins and boxes of all sorts of random stuff that got annexed in there over the last eight years. I’ve been very minimalist and organized in the house in last five or so years, so I guess the closet was sort of the last hold-out. Whenever I couldn’t make a decision on whether or not to toss something because of sentimental reasons (or ye old “but I paid good money for this!” reason) I’d stow it in the closet. It felt so good to clear out all that stuff that I didn’t even remember was in there. I had to work quickly and make fast decisions, because I’d find something and think “oh, THAT!” and start getting attached again, so if I worked fast, I could sort of bypass the emotional aspect of it.

Also, the capsule wardrobe concept is new, but I’ve been sort of doing that for the last three years, just because I’m sort of lazy as far as clothes and it’s so hot here most of the time. I have a core group of v-neck t-shirts (all black), skirts, sundresses, shorts, and hoodies I wear and I RARELY deviate from them. I have about ten favorite bags.  My only shoes are two pairs of Nikes and some shoes for swimming/gardening. I just wanted to get rid (donate) the rest- sweaters, unworn/barely worn skirts and pants and shorts and tops and jackets and purses and sweaters… all stuff I loved but never ever wore or used.

It’s like I have a brand new closet- it’s so vast and empty and I love it. Such a huge weight off my shoulders that I didn’t even realize I was carrying around. It makes me wonder what else is like that – something that’s sort of weighing on me without me realizing it. Worth giving some thought to.

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art journal page

first page from my newest art journal…

“Simply be who you are, do what you do best, be where you are called by joy, and let life work its magic on your behalf.” – Alan Cohen

Sometime in December I realized that I REALLY missed keeping an art journal. I missed having a space to combine words and images and random odds and ends from my life. I missed the process of making the (simpler) pages. It was sort of mindful, in its own way.

But every time I thought about starting a new art journal, I immediately got turned off because of the mixed-media aspect of it. Since I’ve been painting on canvas and taking painting classes, my interest in creating mixed-media projects has been more or less zero. And art journaling has always entailed quite a bit of mixed-media for me.

Those mixed-media pages took a LONG time, and since I am so indecisive and agonize over small, silly details, it often took me days to complete the background of just one page. I’m trying to identify situations that throw me into indecisive tizzies, and then try and eliminate all the unnecessary ones, and “mixed-media backgrounds” seem to fall into that category. So, I would consider an art journal, and then talk myself out of it.

… and then consider it again …

I started looking back on some of my own art journals to see what grabbed my attention and if there was any part of the process that I could pick up and carry over to a new art journal practice that wasn’t fussy or complicated. I realized that some of my favorite pages to make *and* to look at were just the ones that were straight-forward collage with some words on it. No paint or dye to be found on the page, except for stamping.

So I started wondering, couldn’t I just do *that*? Just keep a clean, fairly straight-forward art journal? Just a collection of collages made of images and ephemera and quotes?

After thinking about it, I decided to create an illustrated, collaged journal of my favorite quotes using images that caught my eye. No paint, no gesso, no personal journaling (that took me an enormously long time, as well…).

Just images that spoke to me and quotes that are really meaningful to me. That’s it. A simple collection of images and words.

I headed to Pinterest to see if I could find examples of what I was imagining in my head. Of course, they were there in abundance. Looking at all those beautiful pages that others have made helped me realize that what I want to do *can* indeed be done.

So I decided to try it.

I’m not 100% happy with my first page (see above) but after my original irritation with it, and the whole “do I really want to do this project if it’s not turning out the way I want?”, I decided I really want to keep going with it, at least for a little while.

The truth is, I usually *strongly* dislike the first few pages/steps/layers/attempts of every project I start. It takes a while to get into the flow, and my litmus test is this: if there’s interest after the initial disappointment that comes with the start of a new project,  it’s usually worth investing more time and energy in. So I’ll try a few more pages.

As far as specifics: Once again I am using a 9×9″ AquaBee Super Deluxe Sketchbook- I bought two for watercolor, but they aren’t good for wet-on-wet painting techniques, so I wound up putting them on my shelf because I was a little baffled on how to use them. I LOVE the size, though- the Super Deluxe is large (60 sheets) and the spiral is large to hold bulky pages and the size is perfect- 9×9″.

When I decided to simplify both my scrapbooking and start art journaling again, I realized they were the perfect books/journals for both projects. So I have one as our family scrapbook, and one as my new art journal.

So, we’ll see how this goes and how it evolves. But for now, it feels good to be collecting images and ephemera again, knowing that it will end up in a journal.

Do you have any favorite quotes? If you want to leave a comment with them, please do! I would love to know what you might include in a collection of quotes, if you were going to create one.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by <3

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photo by Kathleen Brennan

photo by Kathleen Brennan

When Akiba was on his deathbed, he bemoaned to his rabbi that he felt he was a failure. His rabbi moved closer and asked why, and Akiba confessed that he had not lived a life like Moses. The poor man began to cry, admitting that he feared God’s judgment. At this, his rabbi leaned into his ear and whispered gently, “God will not judge Akiba for not being Moses. God will judge Akiba for not being Akiba.”- The Talmud

From the Book of Awakening:

We are born with only one obligation-to be completely who we are.

Yet how much of our time is spent comparing ourselves to others, dead and alive? This is encouraged as necessary in the pursuit of excellence.

We humans find ourselves always falling into the dream of another life. Or we secretly aspire to the fortune or fame of people we don’t really know. When feeling badly about ourselves, we often try on other skins rather than understand and care for our own.

Yet when we compare ourselves to others, we see neither ourselves nor those we look up to. We only experience the tension of comparing, as if there is only one ounce of being to feed all our hungers. But the Universe reveals its abundance most clearly when we can be who we are.

And compassion, sweet compassion, is the never-ending story of how we embrace each other and forgive ourselves for not accepting our beautifully particular place in the fabric of all there is.”  -Mark Nepo. 


Another Mark Nepo bit- I’m reading daily from “The Book of Awakening” and this one really made me think.

I like to think that I’m *aware* of the fact that I compare myself to others, both consciously and subconsciously. But it’s sort of a disease of being human, isn’t it? I don’t think it ever really stops.

I think I’m trying to get to a place where I feel very much at home being me. When I think back on how uncomfortable I was with myself when I was younger, it makes me cringe. It also makes me realize that I have come a LONG way, and it makes me so proud, in a way.

I think part of the “peace” mission for myself is finding not only contentment in my place in the world, but also finding contentment in myself, even when I’m not at my best- those days when I’m not getting much done, or feeling crummy, or not wanting to be “on”. Every year I get a little better at it.

I think a key to this is self-awareness. Knowing how you behave, react, respond, feel in certain situations that repeat themselves. And then adjusting accordingly.

For example, right now I’m in a bit of hibernation mode. Last year I realized that after the holidays, I get into a little bit of a mood where I don’t really want to go out into the world to do things (like movies or go out to dinner or go shopping or whatever), I just want to stay close to home and make art and take classes and hang out with my family and swim and tend to the garden and read. It’s winter, so that’s just a natural thing for a lot of creatures- hibernate. Rest. Gather energy. (I also know that when it starts warming up, I’ll go a little stir-crazy to get out more.)

But I feel kinda guilty about it. Like I need to shake things up… and not for any particular reason. Even though I feel perfectly okay being a little “hibernate-y” right now. I’m not yearning for anything, or feeling like I’m missing out, or craving something outside of what I am doing. Tom’s got lots of work on his plate and he’s crazy busy. Gracie is adjusting being back to school and regular soccer practices and Girl Scouts, and all her stuff, so when she’s home, she’s happily reading or making stuff with her creative Christmas gifts or whatever. She’s not asking me to take her somewhere.

But still, I feel like I maybe should pack us all into the car and go “out” because that’s what families should do on the weekend. Which is ridiculous, because none of us want it. So I basically have the urge to take us all from our little zones of quiet contentment in order to *seek* contentment? (See how this goes?)  There’s no right way for everyone. Everyone’s “perfect Sunday” is different. Everyone’s daily routine is different. Everyone’s everything is different.

So I have these little tug-of-wars in my head. But I’m aware of them. So I think that’s a start.

I’m trying to honor myself, my place in the universe. It’s hard work- maybe it’s the true life-work of all human beings: accepting and actually being okay with exactly who we are. And then continuing to accept and honor yourself every time you have to make a decision.

It’s not just a state of mind, this “peace” business- it’s a constant practice. I just realized that now, writing this. Something I need to remember.

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winter fog

winter fog

What’s going on around here:

Outside my window …
Okay, I love the winter weather. Seriously. I’m smitten. Usually December in Southwest Florida is rainy and gloomy, but this year it was really lovely- a few wet days, but mostly cool and a little overcast.

Oh, and foggy mornings, which I LOVE. There’s something about a cool, foggy morning that makes me incredibly happy. It sort of makes me feel like I’m alone on a little nook at the edge of the world, and everything sparkles because the light is very bright, but diffuse. It muffles all the sounds, so it’s super quiet. It reminds me a lot of when the snow *just* started to fall back in New York (where I grew up). But it’s warmer and when the fog fades, it doesn’t leave yellow/gray dirty slush in its wake.

It’s funny, because I hate cloudy weather in summer, but in winter, I can’t get enough. Maybe because it doesn’t bring the violent storms, and doesn’t feel heavy because there’s not as much heat. It just feels cozy, not constricting.

I think winter is going to be added to my list of “favorite seasons worth celebrating” (along with autumn). I probably never considered it celebration-worthy before because of two things: it’s the start of tourist season, and *drumroll* … the holidays.

The holidays seems like a separate, fifth season all to itself. You get scooped out of the start of winter, thrown into the holidays, and then at the end of it you get deposited BACK into winter, just several weeks later, in a bit of a daze. So it’s like winter has two parts, and the second part doesn’t offer twinkle lights or a bunch of fun stuff to look forward to.

Second Winter [writing that makes me feel like a character from a JRR Tolkien book] is a weird season for me. The tourists have come back, it’s very loud (the island gets super busy during and after the holidays), and it seems like things are a little more exposed. Like, now the countdown to summer REALLY begins. (And summers are kind of brutal.)

In the months leading up to December, no one is here yet. So you get the beautiful weather and quiet and ability to move around the island quickly and go about your business. It’s pretty much heaven on earth. There’s a reason I make such a big deal about it. It just makes me so happy!

After the holidays, the island is buzzing, people jostling for space, things needing to get done. This morning I woke up to three leaf blowers, screaming and clanking from the construction site down the block, and the sound of cars zooming down the block. All before 7:15am.

I’m trying to remind myself that nothing has really changed in the natural world since late November- the weather and light is basically a mirror of what it was back then. There’s just a little more going on around me. I absorb a lot of that stuff even though I try very hard not to, so I think these next few months will be me trying to focus on the beauty of the season and not the chaos that surrounds it. It’s STILL winter, it’s still cool and breezy and bright. There’s still much to appreciate and feel. I just have to work on drowning the noise out a bit.

Yet another way a focus on “Peace” comes in handy this year…

I am thinking…

I’m still a little discombobulated from the Christmas break. I guess we all are. I’m slowly easing back into day-to-day life, but also trying hard to keep the whole “peace” thing in mind, and retrain myself to approach each day a little differently than I have been. I know everyone starts a new year hoping for the best and trying new things, but I *really* want to make little changes that make me less stressed and frazzled. So I have to re-invest in that process That needs to be the priority, rather than the accomplishments along the way, if that makes any sense.

I have this little thing lately, and I’m not sure it will last, but for 2015 my daily goal (along with bringing peace into my life with the choices I make) is to start something and finish something every day. It can be simple, like starting a blog entry or starting a new pot of seeds, or it can be complex like starting a new year-long project or whatever. And finishing is the same- finish a book, finish an email, finish something I have been putting off for months, etc.


I am thankful for…
a gorgeous sunny day, the windows WIDE open, and the giant mug of Darjeeling tea next to me.


From the art studio…
I haven’t painted in weeks. In the middle of December I put everything away, knowing that holiday preparation would be happening, and I’m working on getting back into the flow and regular routine.

I’m hoping that I can spend a few afternoons reviewing the materials from Bloom True while they are still fresh in my mind, and then pick up with painting again. I also have a few other creative projects I am wanting to try this year- an art journal specifically for quotes and some watercoloring- but painting is my priority. I’m just sort of working through the backlog of stuff I had to put aside to be present for the holidays. I’m making a million lists, which help me feel centered, and working through them. I’m definitely a list-maker. They really do help me.


From the garden…
It’s peak gardening season! I’m very excited about this. Every day I’m out there, watering, pruning, monitoring, seeing what’s new and exciting.

This year is all about petunias and geranium, plus I just planted a bunch of new coleus varieties and some new plants I have never tried before- hollyhocks and lisanthus.

Our eggplant and tomatoes are doing very well, so well that Tom and I are discussing getting a small dwarf avocado tree. I don’t like avocado (surprise, surprise- but I guess it’s well-known that I’m an insanely picky eater) but Tom does, so I’d be excited to try my hand at growing avocados. I also still want a citrus tree (clementine- again, for Tom) and I want to try different varieties of tomatoes since the ones we have are not very juicy (just some Romas we picked up at Home Depot).


I am reading…
I spent the last two or so months re-reading all ten books in Alexander McCall Smith’s “Sunday Philosophy Club”/Isabel Dalhousie series, and now I’m re-reading all the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency books. I like to re-read books every fall and winter. Last fall I re-read all of Elizabeth Berg’s books and then re-read both Happiness Project books in January.


I am hearing…
frickin’ Taylor Swift. Seriously. Her new album is on repeat around here- it’s really good. It’s very similar to Tegan & Sara’s Heartthrob (but even better). I would have never in a million years thought that I would be listening to Taylor Swift, but there you go. I’m also listening to Mary J. Blige’s new CD, which is FABULOUS. And some old Sinead O’Connor and Edie Brickell and Liz Phair. And Metallica, always.


I am watching…
Downton started last night and I’m SO excited to watch it (it’s sitting on the TiVo). We’ve also been working our way through The Paradise (both seasons) with Gracie. Tom and I watched the first episode of Black Mirror on Netflix, which was… odd. I’m really looking forward to the return of Broadchurch and The Fall.

And, oh, if you haven’t watched “Transparent”, go do that right now. SO good. But nine half-hour episodes does not a season of a show make. Hope they make more episodes soon.

As far as movies, recent films include Foxcatcher, Belle, The Hobbit part 3, Night at the Museum part 3, The Interview, Horrible Bosses 2, Hundred Foot Journey, and a bunch more. I definitely didn’t see as many as I hoped in the theater over the holidays, but we watched a ton of movies we missed this year at home.


I am going…
to get a haircut later today. I still have a pixie and I still love it. But it requires a lot of trims. I know I’ll feel awesome after my hair is cut, though.


Have a GREAT day!!

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Here are some scrapbook pages from fall and the holidays.

My goal was to get all the holiday photos scrapbooked before January 1st, because I know myself well enough to know that by January 1st, using anything holiday themed would just irritate me. Last year I was so busy with painting that I just stuck the fall and holiday photos onto some patterned paper and called it a day. And I didn’t want to do that this year.

I’m trying to be honest about why I do some of the ongoing projects I do to see if there’s anything that I’m doing strictly out of a sense of obligation or even comfort, but scrapbooking is one of those things that I know is important. Not only does Gracie regularly look through the scrapbooks and cheer me on when I do them, but the process of making them really makes a huge difference in how I see our lives- I get a second chance to reflect on days and time passing, and that changes everything.

Anyway, I got it done- I barely made my “end of January 1st” deadline, but I did it!

New scrapbook, too!  More on that under the photos:


finally autumn

Celebrating autumn, my favorite season. Sun rises, rainbows, and cooler weather. 48 degrees is VERY cool for Southwest Florida, so I decided to document the temperature by taking a screenshot of the weather app on my phone.



birthday girl

Gracie’s birthday celebration- a movie (“Alexander and the No Good…”) and dinner (burgers @ Counterburger). She turned nine. (9?! Holy smokes!!) We’re eventually going to Universal Studios for an official celebration this spring (and to check out the new Harry Potter stuff because Gracie is obsessed- she’s a LOYAl Hufflepuff), but we always do a little family thing on the weekend of her birthday.




General October photos- a selfie of Tom and me at dinner, Chester snuggled in his bed, some snapshots of the painting I was working on for Bloom True, the painting class that started in October.

[Note: the super cool thing about this particular sketchbook I am using as a scrapbook is that an old hole punch I had (Stampin’ Up notebook edge from YEARS ago) actually matches the spiral binding of this sketchbook. So I was able to take out my un-used Project Life cards and punch them and they fit PERFECTLY into the binding. I was so excited when I figured that out. I love having extra room for journaling and I also love the look of the little included pages. Total serendipity. And I get to use up all the Project Life cards I purchased when I did that project last year.]



mystery history day / halloween

Mystery History Day and Halloween. At scool, the kids dress up as a historical figure for Halloween and the other kids and teachers try to guess who they are by clues and costume. The more obscure, the better. Gracie dressed as “Grace O’Malley”, who was a female Irish pirate who ruled the Irish Coast back in the days of Queen Elizabeth I. O’Malley was so powerful that Queen Elizabeth met with her amicably to try and negotiate a trade route through Ireland- one of the first time in modern history that two female “rulers” met to work together. It was actually a fun research project. We weren’t expecting to find many female pirates, but there were quite a few.



school and soccer

Gracie started soccer this year and she loves it. She didn’t want to do it for years, but we finally just signed her up and asked her to try and lo and behold… Also documenting school days. This year is her last at Montessori (it only goes up to third grade :( ) and so next year she’ll be attending a new school. She got to shadow one of her friends at a local school for a day to see if she liked it, and she did. So we’ll be going through the admissions process this spring.



it’s starting to feel like winter

More cooler weather and the transition to late November. Lots of Chester the cat curled up and the start of foggy mornings, which is one of my FAVORITE weather things down here. Cool, foggy mornings- BLISS.




Our Thanksgiving tradition- on the day before Thanksgiving we go to a movie and out to eat dinner with my mom and dad. Gracie was in Harvest Fest at her school that morning, and then we went to see Mockingjay and had dinner at Bravo. Then Gracie went home with Nanny and Papa and spent Thanksgiving with them for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Tom and I are vegetarians, so the food-centric holidays feasts are not really our thing. I have become an insanely picky eater in the last five years, so that’s kind of a pain, too. I don’t impose my eating habits on other people if I can help it. Anyway, by doing it this way Gracie gets a fancy home-cooked meal, she gets to spend the holiday with my parents, and my mom doesn’t have to worry about making an extra thing for us. And it’s a lot more relaxing, too- Thanksgiving has become this nice, 2-day cozy holiday for all of us.



deck the halls

A few days after Thanksgiving we put up the tree- my parents came over and we got it up. We have three trees- one big one in the sunroom with a zillion lights, one tiny real one that Gracie decorates, and my little “twinkle” tree which we put up in the corner of the living room and has tiny temple bells, quartz chunks, and butterflies on it…



wreck the halls

“Wreck the Halls” because the day the twinkle tree went up, the boy cats promptly knocked it down. The photos make it seem like Chester was not involved, but he definitely was. Before the tree came down, both he and Milo were under it, and Chester was being very vocal, so I know he was involved. He’s so good at looking innocent, though.



calm and bright

A few moments of peace for the cats (and for us!)



dinner and a movie

Christmas break started for Gracie and we celebrated by going to see Night at the Museum and then going to dinner. We ate outside (which I love but no one else – but Gracie- ever wants to ;) ) and there was a big Christmas tree right near our table so I got lots of pictures of it and Gracie standing near it.




Random December shots- weather, the harvest from our garden (eggplants!), the succulent that bloomed out of nowhere, Gracie at school, etc.



december 23

Like Thanksgiving, we celebrate Christmas by shifting the days a little bit. We celebrate Christmas Eve by going out the day BEFORE Christmas Eve- December 23rd- to the movies (this year it was the third Hobbit film) and then to dinner at my parents’/Tom’s favorite restaurant.


scrapbook pages fall/winter 2014

christmas eve

Then on Christmas Eve, Gracie, Tom, and I hung out at home- we watched movies, then made molded chocolates (a new holiday tradition that was a total success for all three of us), and then opened a few gifts. My mom got an extra day to wrap gifts and cook for Christmas, which she appreciated.


merry christmas

merry christmas

Then on Christmas, my parents came over and we opened gifts together and hung out.

Gracie always makes gifts for Nanny and Papa and this year she made golf balls for my dad (had them printed at Cafe Press) and she knitted a scarf for my mom. The scarf took a LONG time, and she had to put in a lot of work and days. Hopefully that experience didn’t discourage her from doing handmade gifts in the future, because I know my mom really appreciated it.

Gracie went home with my parents for a big Christmas dinner, and Tom and I took a deep breath and collapsed in front of the TV with vegetarian hot dogs (so not kidding) and just RELAXED. No last minute anything to worry about! We were so excited and relieved that we got it all done.

So as far as my new scrapbook: after using American Crafts 8×8 albums for several scrapbooks, I decided I wanted to try something new.

aquabee super deluxe sketchbook

aquabee super deluxe sketchbook


A few months ago I bought a 9×9″ Aqua Bee Super Deluxe Sketchbook because it was supposed to be good for watercolor, but it’s not good for wet-on-wet watercolor, which is my favorite technique, so I really didn’t know what to do with it.

I LOVED it though- it is large (60 sheets) and the spiral is large to hold bulky pages and the size is perfect- 9×9″. But the idea of priming 120 pages for watercolor was too much. So I just put it on my shelf and tried to figure out what I could use it for.

When it was time to start a new scrapbook, I started getting really interested in old-school scrapbooks and simpler page layouts and stuff. And NO page protectors. So I decided to try scrapbooking in the Aqua Bee.

It took a little getting used to – no page protectors, spiral binding- but now that I have done a few pages, I really like it. I love that I have a place to start on every new page because there is already a foundation for the pages (the white paper in the sketchbook). I can either add a background paper or just glue the photos down to the white sheet and embellish around them.

retired Stampin' Up Spiral punch

retired Stampin’ Up Spiral punch

And the big bonus was what I mentioned up above- the Stampin’ Up punch I got when I FIRST started scrapbooking back in 2005 punches out perfectly aligned notches in any paper and it slides and locks into the spiral binding. I originally took it out to see if I could *maybe* get the holes to line up, but when the Project Life card snapped into the binding of the sketchbook, it was like trumpets played. Now I have extra space for journaling and notes and extra photos, and I have a use for not only the punch, but all the Project Life cards I have.

So we’ll see how this new approach to scrapbooking works.

Thank you, as always, for stopping by <3

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winter sunset...

winter sunset…

I read this in Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening and thought I might share it:

Each person is born with an unencumbered spot – free of expectation and regret, free of ambition and embarrassment, free of fear and worry – an umbilical spot of grace that issues peace.

Psychologists call this spot the Psyche, theologians call it the Soul, Jung calls it the Seat of the Unconscious, Hindu masters call it Atman, Buddhists call it Dharma, Rilke calls it Inwardness, Sufis call it Qalb, and Jesus calls it the Center of our Love.

To know this spot … is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it.

This is a hard lifelong task, for the nature of becoming is a constant filming over of where we begin, while the nature of being is a constant erosion of what is not essential. Each of us lives in the midst of this ongoing tension, growing tarnished or covered over, only to be worn back to that incorruptible spot of grace at our core.

When the film is worn through, we have moments of enlightenment, moments of wholeness, moments of satori, as the Zen sages term it, moments of clear living when inner meets outer, moments of full integrity of being, moments of complete Oneness.

And whether the film is a veil of culture, of memory, of mental or religious training, of trauma or sophistication, the removal of that film and the restoration of that timeless spot of grace is the goal of all therapy and education.

Regardless of subject matter, this is the only thing worth teaching: how to uncover that original center and how to live there once it is restored.”  (Mark Nepo. The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have (pp. 3-4). Kindle Edition.)

At the end of the chapter, Nepo suggests the following: “Consider two things you love doing, such as running, drawing, singing, bird-watching, gardening, or reading. Meditate on what it is in each of these that makes you feel alive.  Hold what they have in common before you, and breathing slowly, feel the spot of grace these dear things mirror within you.”

I think that’s a simple but powerful exercise- picking two things that you really love doing (notice it doesn’t say “being the best parent to ever walk the earth” or “working harder than anyone else in the company” or “getting excellent grades/performance reports” or anything that we do because we feel like that’s what we should really love… that stood out to me, although I know there are some people who truly do love those things) and figuring out what about them makes you love them and what they have in common. That’s a good way to start figuring out what *else* might make you feel the same.

I’m definitely going to try that, I think. I always assume the answer is “art” or “movies” or whatever, but maybe I can uncover some things. The other evening I was standing in the bathroom, brushing my teeth and thinking, and all the sudden a voice in my head said “You know, Chel, art is not the end-all-be-all of happiness.” That was a total a-ha moment for me- super scary, because it’s easy to just love making art and always return to that. BUT, it also felt like a sense of freedom to me- there ARE other things out there that I love to do and *do*, but I don’t give them the same investment of time and energy and thought as making art.

So maybe I need to start opening up my bits of free time, which I usually just devote to being in my studio, to other things. It scares me, because I worry “if I give some of that little bit of free time to other things, I won’t be creating much at all!” but maybe there needs to be a different balance in life, and I need to make room for other things. Just some food for thought.

Happy Sunday <3


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Most people think that once they've found their purpose and the power to practice it, they'll finally be at peace. Actually, though, it's only by starting in a place of peace that we find our purpose and power. Peace is the first step and the final lesson we all need to learn.

“Most people think that once they’ve found their purpose and the power to practice it, they’ll finally be at peace. Actually, though, it’s only by starting in a place of peace that we find our purpose and power. Peace is the first step and the final lesson we all need to learn.” – Martha Beck

I’ve been thinking about writing some sort of retrospective entry about 2014, or doing some sort of meme… but, I just don’t feel like it. Not that the year wasn’t worth reviewing, cause I think it was in a lot of ways. I just don’t have the energy to sit down and articulate it all. At least not right now. I just feel focused and ready to go with 2015.

I have been making little lists of creative projects in my notebook, though. I got derailed by the holidays (pretty normal around here) and as holiday responsibilities start to ease up, I’ve been feeling really discombobulated as far as getting back into the groove of my normal creative routine. So I started making lists, because they always help get me centered and focused.

As I wrote little lists for all the creative projects I’m working on – painting, scrapbooking, writing, classes, etc.- I started reflecting on 2014 a bit, and what I accomplished and what I didn’t accomplish and what felt right and what might need a little more attention this year.

I had a few different things that I hoped to work towards in 2014, and I accomplished quite a bit. But more important was the discovery that a lot of the things I thought I really wanted for myself  when I started 2014 were not really things I wanted at all. You think you want something very badly, but then you discover you don’t want it at all, and it’s like someone has handed you the key to a lock you didn’t even know was blocking you from a better life. It’s almost a sense of relief.

I think what I really wanted in 2014 was happiness. And, of course, I went about it a roundabout way. That’s what I tend to do.  But the older I get, the more I realize that the path to happiness is pretty straightforward. The truly complicated part about happiness is that it’s different for everyone, and it takes a LONG time to figure out that what makes someone else happy won’t make you happy, and that the things you might have been told about happiness from a zillion outside sources (the media, peers, family, etc.) are not necessarily valid for you.

For instance, for years and years I thought I wanted a REALLY successful, demanding creative career. I wanted to create a creative niche that I could thrive in, and devote my time to that, and then say “this is it, this is who I am and what I do.” I guess I felt if I created an amazing career for myself, I could define myself by that and then have that become my mission in life and follow that path and life would snap into place. It would be the thing that defined me, that gave me a feeling of value. It would allow me to find my place in the world. I think I believed that if I finally figured out an official “career”, then that would give me some feeling of relief and worth.

As time has gone on, I realize that the validation I’m looking for has to come from within.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t conditions, because there are. I know for a fact that I’m much happier when I’m working towards a goal, or at the very least the project I am working on is organized. Like for example, taking a painting class from start to finish. Working on the scrapbook. Those are things that are part of a larger whole, in a way, and there’s a way to go about them, so I feel like I have less decisions to make along the way and I can just *create.*

But for years my “condition” with creating things was “is this marketable? will people like it?, and those questions were pretty much ruining everything for me.

I think I realized this when I started taking painting classes (specifically Bloom True)- my only intention with that class was to start painting on canvas again. Not mixed media, not using paint as an inclusion in other projects, but PAINTING. And I had no intention of becoming a “painter” or trying to sell prints of my finished work or anything when I started that class. I just really missed painting a lot and needed a reason to start doing it again.

I painted a lot in high school- my high school had a little “Master’s program” AP Art thing which meant that some of us were given unrestricted access to the giant art studio and the materials inside it. And then I got to college, and there was NO art studio, and if you wanted to do any sort of visual art you had to take the dippy “Intro to Art” class held in the shack on the back of campus and bring all your own stuff for half an hour, once a week. I was in a tiny dorm room, and then a series of tiny apartments for almost all my college/grad school years, so finding a place to paint wasn’t an option. So I dropped it and picked up other creative pursuits, most specifically graphic design and web design back when the web was just coming together.

And then I got out of school and did web design and graphic design in a professional capacity, and then moved back to 2D art (jewelry design, mixed media, etc.). It’s funny because they whole time I was doing all that, a little voice inside me kept saying “I want to paint” and I kept answering back “okay, well, here’s some paint but we have to use it in a way that might be appealing to others.”

So I painted beads, I painted pages in art journals, etc. I painted everything but a canvas – I never *just* painted. And the voice kept saying “I want to paint.” Finally, I just signed up for Bloom True and on the VERY first day, the little “I want to paint” voice stopped, and was replaced with a sense of wonder I thought I lost when I was a kid. Wonder and peace. I felt like I was lost inside something beautiful and open-ended, like I was somehow being pulled through space and time (<— Yes, I know- that sounds completely ridiculous, but I can’t describe it any other way!) On the other hand, I felt deeply rooted and connected with myself- that self that spent so many hours in that art studio in high school, painting. It was like coming full circle.

Anyway, over the last year I’ve painted, but then lost my way, and then found it again. And it felt good, and I felt a deep sense of peace about it that I never felt when I was painting in other ways. I want more of that feeling.

I realized that there are many creative projects I enjoy and am interested in doing- painting, collage, scrapbooking, art journaling, etc. The key is to make sure that I’m doing them for whole-hearted reasons.

For example, there are many art supplies I have purchased over the years that I never really loved- they were new and exciting and trendy or whatever, and I purchased them. But then they sat on the shelf. And I’ve always felt guilty about not using them, so I would try and find projects that would incorporate them. I’m kinda over that. In the last few years I have really purged my studio down to the things I either use regularly and/or really love (for example, I don’t use ALL my patterned paper, but the collection I still have I REALLY love having. Same with wood-mounted stamps- I don’t stamp much, but I love my little shelves of these beautiful stamps.)

So I guess creatively my goal this year is to enjoy myself. To find projects that are meaningful for me to spend time on. To continue to let go of the belief that things that I create *must* be created for commerce (this is a big shift that is going to take a lot of time, so I need to remember to be patient with it.) To find joy in the process. To lose myself in the process. To continue to share what I’m working on just for the sake of saying “hey, look what I’m thinking about and working on.”

Honestly, I’d love to make the kind of art that people want prints of. Who wouldn’t? But I don’t want my process to be guided by that. That’s a bad road to go down.

I think *professionally* I have a few goals for this year- the first is to get a new website set up for Gingerblue Studios. I really just want one central gallery and archive of all my creative projects that I can continue adding to as I create. I want the website to be sort of a “what’s happening in the studio” and maybe have a Fine Art America or Society 6 page where I can post images. But as far as trying to make it a really dynamic site with its own blog and stuff… I just don’t have time. So I need to keep it realistically manageable.

I also have another online project – purely visual- that I have been thinking about for a few years. I’d love to organize and launch that, as well. We’ll see. I realize that any time I spend working on digital projects that are not purely creative is time I’m *not* spending with paints and photos and words (I’d like to write more this year, both here on the blog and the fiction piece I was working on several years ago), so I need to take time every time to see where my energy is and spend it wisely. I keep learning from experience that any time that I walk away from painting for more than a few days, I lose my rhythm and it’s really a challenge to find it again. So I need to maintain that creative process constantly, no matter what other projects I may be working on.

And sometimes that’s a hard balance- I’m NOT a full-time artist. I have no set time in my art studio. I have a family and I have health issues (Spina Bifida) and those demand a great deal of my time and energy every day. The health stuff alone is abut five hours of my day (swimming, self-care, stretching, etc., taking time to do everything right so tomorrow I’m not paying for stuff I neglected today, etc.)

So the time I have left after dealing with real life is the time that goes to being creative. Some days it’s three hours, and I’m feeling focused and energized and excited. Other days it’s little chunks of 15 minutes here and there that is constantly interrupted, and my energy is zero. I’m starting to learn how to work with that- some days I sit down and realize that NOTHING is going to be created because of the way the day is going, and I’m learning how to accept that instead of getting annoyed about it and trying to force a project to fit into those constaints.

Wow… okay, this is along entry. I guess I just wanted to articulate to myself what my creative goals for 2015 were. Paint, write, document, share, collect, curate, and most importantly- enjoy myself along the way. Peace and joy and purpose.

Here’s to a creative 2015!


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

I'm a 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).

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bloom true

Bloom True is the painting class with Flora Bowley that I talk about in a lot of my posts :)

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