Friday, May 31, 2013

Practicing Extreme Self Care

This has been a very stressful week for me and my family.  Last weekend, my brother-in-law was stricken ill while travelling home from Canada.  We got the call Friday morning and drove across the state, frantic to be with him and make sure he was getting the type of care that he needed.  All told that weekend, we drove more than 1,200 miles and went 30 hours straight without sleep.  Confident that our loved one was where he needed to be and recover from his ordeal in time, we came home and tried to resume some sort of normality.  My husband threw himself into work, and launched myself into a painting marathon.  As of yesterday, I had completed two paintings and have 4 more in progress.

And then I hit the wall.  Too worried to paint, I shifted gears and turned my attention to the small, practical details of everyday life.  I went grocery shopping (it was time, the refrigerator was looking kinda bare), and passing the floral department, I spied the most beautiful roses, 20 for $10.00.  Our budget is tight, and the extra travel last weekend didn't help, but I knew I NEEDED these breathtaking flowers as much as I need air.  They brought me such comfort, cutting and placing them in a vase (actually 2, 20 is a LOT of roses!), then setting them on my vintage, flea market purchased table cloth on the kitchen table.  They were a small extravagance, but they have done wonders in perking me up.

I spent the rest of the day sitting in an adirondack chair in the shady part of our lawn, enjoying a good book. Some days are like that.  You need to put the pause button on life, ignore your to-do list, and recharge your batteries.

This morning I woke up fully rested, and ready to get back to doing that which needs to be done.  I don't regret taking the time off or spending money on what some (my husband) would consider frivolous.  If I don't take care of myself then I will be of use to no one.  Some pretty flowers, a good book, and a few hours to relax -- sometimes that's all it takes to recover your equilibrium.

What do you do to practice self care?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A New Painting to Share!

When we bought our house last summer, I was determined to fill our home with  only art I had created myself.  We painted the walls semi-gloss white in anticipation of showing off the vivid, bright paintings I love to create.  Here we are, 9 months later, and only 3 pieces are hung -- one in each of my children's bedrooms and a watercolor in the kitchen.  My living room, hallway and Master bedroom have remained, well, barren. The time has come to remedy that situation!  I have just completed this whimsical, folkarty painting today, and I must say, I love it!  It's acrylic on a 16x20 stretched canvas, and it will hang over my sofa, surrounded by several of its similarly whimsical, folkarty buddies, who have yet to be created.  I'm so excited!  I have been yearning to paint since we were bitten by the house-hunting bug last spring.  My time has been so consumed with hunting for and buying the house, renovations, decorating and just plain trying to locate our STUFF (I knew exactly where everything was in the old place!), that painting has taken a backseat to the practical stuff.  No more!  I am on a roll now, and nothing can stop me!  Now if I can only find the rest of my canvases...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Yummy New Papers!

Whenever I travel, I try to seek out unique art supply/stationery/paper stores.  A few years ago, wandering the narrow alleys of Rome, I stumbled across the BEST little art shop owned by an elderly Italian couple.  They did not speak English and I did not/do not speak Italian.  They were friendly though, and somehow we were able to communicate enough for me to walk out of there 100 euros lighter and with some gorgeous handmade paper.  I readily admit the fact that I'm hoarding it, and that I may never find the perfect project for it, but I cherish that paper and all the memories that are attached to it.

Back home, I discovered the lovely Paper Source chain while visiting my sister in Boston.  Those of you who have this lovely resource in your community, I'm envious.  The closest store to me is the one in Boston, 400 miles away from where I live.  At the time of my visit money was tight, and I only bought a couple of sheets of Lokta paper.  I had to make a journal for a handmade journal swap in one of my Yahoo art groups.  I had, as usual, procrastinated, and the mailing deadline was looming.  I made a very simple pamphlet stitch journal, using one of the Paper Source papers for my covers.  The journal was a hit!  I received so many complements on it and I have to admit, it WAS beautiful.  It was the paper (rather than the technique) that made it so.

Thanks to the Internet, I can now shop the Paper Source in my pajamas, and have just received the papers you see above.  They are handmade-books-waiting-to-happen, and when they''re done, I'll let you know.  A few of them will be available in my Etsy shop.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Right to Free Speech and Knowing When to Shut It

This is NOT a political commentary.

Recently, I went for my annual eye exam.  Since our insurance changed late last year, this meant going to a differrent eye doctor.  After the usual pleasantries, I sat down in the dentist-y looking chair and the eye doctor began asking questions. "So what do you do?", he asked.  This is a question I loathe, as I do not have a traditional job that can be easily explained.  My own job description would sound something like this: I am a dreamer, a seeker, a wonderer and an artist.

I replied, somewhat confidently, "I am an artist."
Eye doctor:  "Oh, so what do you paint, landscapes?"
Me: "No, I'm a mixed media artist."
Eye doctor:  "So you're an abstract painter!"
Me (less confidently):  "Um, no. I do collage, painting, that sort of thing."

By this time my ego was deflated like a balloon in a lightening storm.  I decided to change the subject.  I asked him where he was from (he had a distinct Long Island accent). He told me the name of the city he was from, how he came to live in my part of the state, and a little bit about his family.  Then, noticing that I was a good listener and not likely to budge from my chair without having my eye exam completed, he launched into a tirade about how alzheimers was eating away at his elderly father and how he had no qualms abut putting a pillow over his head and putting him out of his misery. He was dead serious (no pun intended), and reiterated his statement many times.

It was one of the few times in my life when I've been completely speechless.  Although I was decidedly uncomfortable with the turn our conversation, did I leap out of my chair and shout, "You want to kill your father???  You're a bad person!"  Nope, I kept my mouth shut.  I sensed that something had happened recently, perhaps even that morning, and his father had taken a turn for the worse.  Or maybe he was stressed out.  As inappropriate as the conversation was, this man had a right to express his opinion.  I stayed silent while he ranted on, and eventually he settled down to give me my exam.

One of my virtual mentors, Danielle LaPorte, says that we should all have opinions, and I agree.  That's what makes Danielle so successful, she shoots straight from the hip and doesn't give a damn if you like it or not.  However, I also believe in manners and being sensitive to others.  This is not the same as political correctness, which is just plain bullshit.  This is about knowing when and where to express your strong, and perhaps controversial, opinions and when to keep your mouth shut out of respect for others.  A little discernment goes a long way.

Now I'm off to work on my elevator speech!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

International Soul Art Day, Part 2

After a very happy and busy Mother's Day weekend with Roch and the kids (thanks guys, it was great!), I was finally able to grab some time for myself and work on my Soul Art project.  Using brightly colored pages torn from magazines, I collaged the entire background, isolating the tracing I did of my outstretched arms.  I didn't try to get too fussy about it, I just worked intuitively and fairly quickly.  Although my original intent for creating this piece was to discover the gifts I have to share with the world, something shifted as I worked.  My outstretched arms, instead of giving, turned into receiving mode (Notice a theme here?  It's all about me, me,me.  Hey, it's MY project!).  I felt drawn to being open to all the wonders that are manifesting in my life, and to those that are sure to come.  I know, I know.  I'm becoming all woo-woo on you.  I've recently been studying the power of Intention and Manifesting, have been taking it for a test-drive, and whaddahyaknow? It's WORKING!

Once the background was covered, I painted my arms and hands a yellowy-orange, and rubber stamped "Now Manifesting" on the large blue block in the center of the piece. Scattered around on the other collaged bits, I hand wrote the things that are either manifesting in my life right now, and those that I would like to see more of in the future.  I filled my outstretched arms and hands with inspirational quotes and affirmations.  I am ready to call this piece done.

While this collage is never likely to gain anyone else's attention or acclaim, it was a project well worth the work.  The fun, the intensity, the payoff was in the process, not the end product.  I learned a lot about myself and my own personal happiness while I was creating it.  I felt energized, inspired, and even downright FULFILLED by all the cutting and pasting, letting my mind wander freely as I did so.  That, my friends, is the power of creativity.  Now go on and make something!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

International Soul Art Day!

Today is International Soul Art Day, a day-long live event hosted by Laura Hollick, for the purpose of "carving out time and space to express your creativity and make a connection with your spirit.  You can join in here.  My intention for the project is to clarify the gifts I have to offer the world, but hey, any opportunity to cut, paste and play with paper, I'm IN!  Check back throughout the day and see my progress.   Why don't you join in too?

I've collaged a large piece of water color paper with colorful pages torn from magazines.  I've chosen both solid colors and those with subtle prints for texture.  I'm finding that my color choices are bright and vivid, because I'm feeling particularly happy and in the flow!

Next, I've defined the tracing I did of my outstretched arms this morning with a black sharpie. I haven't yet decided if I'm going to collage, paint or doodle my arms.  I still have more background to fill and will add washi tape (because honestly, doesn't everything look better with washi tape?) when I'm done.

I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't wrap this project up today.  It's taken me longer than I expected to get as far as I've gotten, but I have to say, it's been one heck of an enjoyable way to spend the day.  I can see the value of this exercise and think it would be great for teachers, therapists, or anyone in a helping profession to do with their students or clients.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Rock & Roll Can Teach Us About Passion

A few months ago, Roch surprised me with tickets to a Ted Nugent/Styx/REO Speedwagon concert at our local Civic Center.  I will admit that my first thought was, "Ehhhhhhhhhhh, I LOVED those guys in high school, but NOW???", followed by, " Geez, if these guys are coming to our town (it's a small town with a very small arena that's mostly used for hockey games), their careers must really have hit the skids."  Don't get me wrong, I was really grateful that Roch surprised me by planning a "date night" all on his own, but I was feeling a little underwhelmed about spending our money on something that didn't involve a quiet dinner and a bottle of wine.

The night of the concert arrived.  Once I got over the shock of having a full-body pat down at the entrance, the first thing I noticed about my fellow concert goers was their age.  Heck, we were no longer a crowd of rowdy teenagers in ripped jeans and concert tee shirts. We were an old and tired looking bunch, and the 7pm start time was scarily close to our weeknight bedtimes.  This observation did not add to my enthusiasm for the event.  I couldn't help but feel sorry for the performers.  They, who were used to BIG CROWDS at BIG VENUES "back in the day", were surely going to be disappointed at the sorry lot they were going to be performing for, in an even sorrier arena.

Then Ted Nugent hit the stage.  He ROCKED.  Styx hit the stage. They ROCKED.  Ditto REO.  And the most surprising thing to me was that none of them looked the least bit sorry that they were there.  In fact, they looked THRILLED to be performing.  We were sitting close enough that I could see the light in their eyes, their happiness at being able to do what they love.  Let's face it, these guys are no longer young.  Most of the band members are in their 50's and 60's.  They all have made it big, and (I'm assuming), have made enough money to no longer have to go out on the road.  It was exciting to see that they were doing what they were doing because THEY LOVED IT.  They were PASSIONATE.  Their age didn't matter and ours didn't either.

Bottom line:  There is no expiration date on passion.  When you find something you love to do, DO IT.  Do it exuberantly until your last breath is drawn.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Living in a State of Gratitude

I first read about the idea of keeping a gratitude list sometime around 2009-2010 when I purchased Sarah Ban Breathnach's book, Simple Abundance.  While I thought the concept of writing down a list of at least 5 things you are grateful for at the end of each day was kinda cool, I found it very hard to practice.  It was about that time that my marriage took a nosedive and life really sucked for several years.  Not only did I feel I had nothing to be grateful for, but it was painful just to open my eyes each morning and face a new day.  A few months ago I revisited this practice and started noting down things during the day that were good - the sun shining through the lace curtains on my window, a particularly insightful and supportive comment from my  partner, diving into a really good book.  Let me tell you people, this practice is LIFE-CHANGING! On the outside my life may seem very ordinary, even boring perhaps, but through this practice I have found that my internal life is extraordinary.  There is beauty in my everyday life that is breathtaking.  I have a feeling that it's been there all along but I've never taken the time to notice.  Committing to this practice has held me accountable for paying attention to my life, to the small, simple things that make up my day.  This makes me happy.  Very, very happy.  Try it. You'll see.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hello Spring!

I've been seeing beautiful pictures of spring all over the Internet for almost two months now.  In my neck of the woods, winter lasts from late October through the end of April.  May is spring and June begins the summer season.  Sure enough, today it is decidedly spring-like, so I decided to work outdoors.  I'm working on a series of mixed media paintings (there's a fourth painting, but it's on its way to a publisher), and am loving working out in the sun!  The only drawback I'm finding is that the paint dries really, really fast.  That's great on the canvas, not so great for all the paint I've poured on the palette.  Live and learn.  I think I'll just take a little break and continue my work later this afternoon as the sun starts to set.  Ah, creative freedom!