Monday, July 22, 2013

On My Nightstand

Summer is the time when I usually load up on novels and spend as much time outside, reading, as possible.  This summer seems to be unusually busy, but I've been been able to squeeze in time for a couple of great books so far. In both, the main characters are artists, but that's where the similarity ends.

The first book, The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro is sort of a mystery based on a real event.  On March 18, 1990 two men dressed as police officers bound and gagged two security guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and stole 13 works of art that today would be worth more than $500 million dollars.  The people responsible for this crime have not yet been caught and the art has never been recovered.  But what if...

Shapiro carves out a possibility for this scenario.  What if a gallery owner and a fine artist work together to pull this off, but one of them has no idea of what they're involved in?  I'm not going to spoil the story for you, but I will tell you that this is a really, really good book!  I didn't want it to end.  I felt as if I was curled up on a couch in the artists' studio and witnessing the whole thing first hand.  It's THAT good!

The next book has been sitting on my shelf for awhile.  It was recommended in one of my art groups at least a year ago.  I grabbed it yesterday and started reading, and reading, and reading!  I can't put it down!

Broken Colors, by Michele Zacheim chronicles the life and career of Sophie Marks, an artist born in England in the 1920's.  It marks her heartbreaking struggle to survive during World War II and the after-effects of a life torn apart by war.  This is no fluffy English romance novel; it's a gritty and emotionally charged account of a fiercely independent and very stubborn woman who survives trauma only through her passion for art.  Zacheim's writing is strong and her voice is unique.  I'm completely absorbed and will probably be up all night reading.  I can't wait to see what happens next!

What are YOU reading?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mary Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

When we were thinking about purchasing a home last year, our original plan was to buy a piece of land in the country (but near the city limits -- entirely possible here), build a house, grow our own food and raise small farm animals.  Unfortunately financing got tricky and the cost of our dream made it out of our reach.  We "settled" for a small home in a small neighborhood just outside of town.  Undaunted by the scant 1/4 of land that we now reside on, my husband is determined to be as self-sufficient as possible in the suburbs.  In early spring, before the snow was totally gone, he started building garden beds.  He started seeds (heirloom) and placed them in our newly purchased portable greenhouses.  As soon as threat of frost was over, everything was carefully planted.

Now we have a thriving garden.  Squash, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and a plethora of herbs are all sprouting and thriving.  We are even able to supply some of our neighbors with food.  Bliss.

This man I love is determined to be an organic farmer.  This first crop in our tiny yard has won me over.  I dream of the day we can buy some land, build a home, raise chickens for eggs and goats for milk and cheese.  We want to produce our own electricity and heat (Roch has a friend who is selling us his un-installed woodstove this summer), and live a simple and abundant life.

We will do this one garden at a time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Goddess Makes Her Debut

After weeks of working on this painting in Flora Bowley's class, The Goddess has emerged.  I had so much fun using Flora's painting techniques, and I have to admit that I'm pretty amazed at how she turned out.  I've never done a painting quite like this before.  She's very bright, very bold, and really makes a statement.  What was really cool was that she actually emerged from the painting.  Flora taught us background techniques but urged us to make the end product our own.  I painted for 4 weeks without having any idea of where this was going, but on the fifth week The Goddess called to me from the colorfully chaotic background.  I had no choice but to bring her out.  Pretty cool stuff.  She now holds a place of honor in my living room.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Art of Lawn Mowing

Yes, you've read that right.  I'm thinking about starting a movement.  Creative lawn mowing.  This is my story - you can thank me for my brilliance later.

I hate mowing the lawn.  I have spent the last 10 (post divorce) years avoiding it.  I've either lived in apartments or homes with sand dunes for lawns, minus the view of the golf course.  I have also had child labor, for which I'm very proud.  Alas, said children now have outgrown the $10 per week for completing 10 chores thing.  Now they have jobs that allow them to pay to put gas in the car (mine), so they can go to the mall and buy things they don't need.  New hubby works full time and allows me to stay home and pursue my dreams.  Cool, but I have to mow the lawn while I'm dreaming.  Ugh.

So this morning I was out there, bright and early, to get the job done and out of the way.  I was mowing along, when I noticed my neighbors beautifully cut grass.  Those nice clean strips of lawn, mowed in perfect lines.  Yeah.  My lawn doesn't look like that.  When I'm finished with mowing, my lawn looks more like aliens landed in the middle of the night and created crop circles.  I can't mow straight to save my life. It's not in my skill set.

So, and here's the brilliant part, I thought "What if I mow my lawn artfully.  Create flowers, birds, that sort of thing?"  That way, my haphazard mowing style can become art.  People will be drawn to the inspired, completely green, lawn art.  The press will show up at my door -- I'll be famous!  I can patent the idea and become rich!  "How innovative," I think.

Now, if I can just convince my diagonally-mowing neighbors that "different" doesn't equal zoning law violation...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Working large and intuitively in Flora Bowley's Bloom True e-course.  Trusting that something beautiful will come out of this (insanely fun) mess.

Oh yeah, LOTS of trust going on here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sharing Deeply

I thought of putting up a "Gone Fishing" sign on my blog this week, as I had made a promise to myself that I would post happy, inspiring things here.  I am breaking that promise to myself and my readers (badly), in the hope that my openness will help others who are hurting.

This week sucked.  In fact, the past couple of weeks have pretty much sucked.  You see, we have a loved one who suffers from addiction.  Addiction sucks.  Anyway, our family member's latest fall came the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.  We received a call that he had been found in pretty rough shape in a motel room 500 miles away from home and was taken to the local hospital for emergency care.  We dropped everything and drove, praying the whole time that we would find him alive when we got there.  By the Grace of God he survived, but it was several hours before we could find appropriate care for him.  We left to drive home at 3 a.m. Saturday morning, having gone more than 30 hours straight without sleep. It was trying, to say the least.

Although I handled the immediate crisis quite well, once home I began to crumble.  I was worried, anxious, exhausted and depressed.  I was completely worn down from living the past several years in constant crisis mode, and sadly, I know some of you can relate.

Yesterday I listened to an interview with Dr. Judith Orloff on the Hay House World Summit.  I felt as if she were speaking directly to me.  She described Empaths as those of us who are more than just empathetic, we actually absorb other's emotions into our bodies.  In short, we are emotional sponges.  We can be among strangers and sense that someone is angry or having a hard time, and that will affect us for the rest of our day.  We can't seem to shake things off the way others can.  This is not a healthy way to live (well, it can be if everyone around you is happy and positive, but seriously, how often does THAT happen?).

So how do we cope with sadness, with pain, with negative energy?  The answer is boundaries.  In my case, it's telling my loved one, "Look, I'm here for you and will support you on your journey to wellness.  But please know, if you continue to make poor choices, you will have to face the consequences alone.  I cannot save you."  Not an easy thing to do when you care for someone deeply, at least not without some degree of guilt.

The best advice comes from the airline industry:  In case of emergency, put your oxygen mask on first.  Because really, you will be of help to no one if you, yourself, cannot breathe.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Overwhelm & How I'm Dealing With It

Lately I have been completely overwhelmed by my never-ending to-do list:  housework, laundry, meal planning and preparation, lawn care, family care, repeat.  In addition, I'm trying to nurture my creative practice of art-making and writing, with the goal of starting a small business.  There are never enough hours in the day and I've been feeling frustrated by the lack of time available to do the work that needs to be done in order for me to reach my goals.

See, here's the problem:  I love to learn.  Thanks to the plethora of courses offered on the Internet, I've been  to indulge in my passion without so much as getting out of my pj's.  In the past year alone, I've learned about Buddhism, mindfulness and meditation.  I've read English novels, American novels, learned how to look at and appreciate fine art and learned the basics of composition theory.  I have also learned to paint and have greatly expanded my repertoire of mixed-media techniques.

Is it any wonder I feel overwhelmed?

What I've discovered is this:  While self-growth and development is a grand and noble pursuit, it can also serve as a distraction, a form of procrastination, and a cover for fear.

"I will start my next painting as soon as I learn this one more technique..."

"I know I can write my blog/article/book just as soon as I take that course offered by a published writer and read those three books..."

Anyone with me here?

So this is what I propose, and feel free to join me:

Instead of enjoying my morning coffee in front of the computer, I will do my morning pages and work on my own stuff for a set amount of time (I'm thinking 2 hours to start).  This is kind of like setting a toddler in front of a candy store and telling him that he can't go in, but I am strong.  I can do this.

And, like a toddler who has dutifully obeyed his parents and been "good", I will then reward myself with computer time, email time, reading time, and fun project time.

Oh, and housework?  That will have its proscribed time too.  It will be done at 3 pm, one hour before hubby gets home from work.  There's nothing more motivating than a deadline!