Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Me, Too

“Acceptance isn’t stagnation—you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.”
—Leo Babauta


Monday, January 26, 2015

Winter Interrupted--Adventures in Art

Friday I returned from Laure Ferlita’s artist’s beach holiday, Winter Interrupted. Along with a suitcase full of dirty laundry and sand in my shoes, I came home with new friends, new sketches and great memories. Eight of us spent four days sharpening our sketching-on-location skills at various places in the St. Petersburg, FL, area. Each day we had a new destination: John’s Pass, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the beach itself, and Sunken Gardens. Laure offered instruction and demos, then turned us loose to sketch. Most of us had never met in person, but had taken online classes together and/or connected through our private class blog. It didn’t take us long to bond, and we ended up spending a good deal of our free time together, too.

Where we stayed
Some general observations on this adventure:

Sharing benefits everyone. One of my favorite things was when we shared our sketchbooks after each session. Each person’s take was different—even when two people sketched the same thing, the results were different—the hand of the artist in action. One day we also shared all the items in our sketching kits—so much fun to see each person’s favorite pencil/pen/sketchbook/palette, and we all jotted down tools we want to get our hands on.

Physical therapy for Winter the dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium
“Bad sketching days” happen. I had one when I felt overwhelmed and just “off.” I didn’t like any of my sketches, but I made myself sketch anyway. The next day was better, and I can always go back and sketch from photos if I want a better representation of what we saw that day.

John's Pass
I love sketching palm trees! I added them to several pages, even when they weren’t part of the lesson.

Palm tree practice--my favorite is the one in the middle
Sketching in ink can be fun. My mechanical pencil ran out of lead at Sunken Gardens and I was forced to sketch with a pen—something Laure encourages but I hadn’t yet tried this trip. I’m not confident in my drawing skills and the pencil served as a security blanket. And you know what? I had the most fun sketching that day, and that page is my favorite page from the trip. (I can hear Laure laughing from across town.)

Sunken Gardens
Art instruction is great, but being inspired by fellow artists is even better. Each woman on the trip had something besides her art to bring to the group. I came away energized and eager to make my life even better than it already is. Getaways like this help us to pay more attention to our own wants and needs, and to open up to new people in a way we wouldn’t during our normal, everyday interactions with others. (Thank you Laure, Cheryl, Claire, Clare, Patti, Susan and Terry!)

Our collected sketchbooks
I’m still working on my pages—and will be for a while—so I can draw out the pleasure of the experience. I’m grateful to have had the chance to escape my everyday routine and add some art adventure to my life!

When was your last getaway? Are you planning one soon?


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sometimes She Needs to Cry

Photo courtesy Alexander Shustov
Introduction by Ted Kooser: During our more than four years of publishing this column we’ve shown you a number of poems about motherhood. Here’s another, beautifully observed by Liz Rosenberg, who lives in New York State.

I Leave Her Weeping

I leave her weeping in her barred little bed,
her warm hand clutching at my hand,
but she doesn’t want a kiss, or to hug the dog goodnight—
she keeps crying mommy, uhhh, mommy,
with her lovely crumpled face
like a golden piece of paper I am throwing away.
We have been playing for hours,
and now we need to stop, and she does not want
to. She is counting on me to lower the boom
that is her heavy body, and settle her down.
I rub her ribcage, I arrange the blankets around her hips.
Downstairs are lethal phonecalls I have to answer.
dying, I need to call.
My daughter may be weeping all my tears,
I only know
that even this young
and lying on her side,
her head uplifted like a cupped tulip,
sometimes she needs to cry.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Liz Rosenberg, whose most recent book of poetry is “Demon Love,” Mammoth Press, 2009. Poem reprinted from “Paterson Literary Review,” Issue 37/2009-2010, by permission of Liz Rosenberg and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Interrupting Winter

This week I’m over in Clearwater with Laure Ferlita, interrupting Winter with an artist’s beach holiday. I’ll report back on our simple pleasures and everyday adventures when I get back. Have a happy week!


Friday, January 16, 2015

This Is Not the Blog Post I Planned

I had a thoughtful blog post planned for today, full of encouragement and wisdom (har), but due to circumstances being what they were, I did not finish it. Instead of giving you nothing (don’t thank me), here is what my day was like:

As I was sitting in my office this morning (which doubles as Prudy’s bedroom at night), I notice something suspicious in her water dish. It was a mouse.

More specifically, my wireless computer mouse.

I snatch it out of the water, remove the batteries, and toss it in the trash thinking it can’t possibly work. On reflection, however, I pull it out of the trash, dry it thoroughly and replace the batteries, thinking just maybe it might still function. Lo and behold, it does! Sort of. Perhaps I can muddle through the day if I am careful. I can always borrow a mouse from my husband if my newly dried off mouse fails me—which it does almost immediately. I can click on things, but if I try to scroll, the screen leaps and stutters until I pull the batteries out of the mouse again. OK then. Borrowed mouse it is. Let’s get back to today’s blog post…

But wait! You say you want to type? No, no, no, no, no. Whether the keyboard decides to take a break, walk off the job in sympathy with the mouse, or just simply make my life difficult, suddenly it doesn’t work. I try rebooting. Nothing doing. Into my husband’s office I go, to use his computer to look up “keyboard won’t work.” I find a solution on a Dell forum that works. Back in business. OK, about that blog post…

[Short interlude in which I eat lunch.]

OK, then, let’s put some nice, soothing music on Pandora for inspiration. Hmmm. I don’t hear anything. What gives? Do my external speakers work? Yes. How about iTunes? Yup. OK, look up “sounds don’t play on web pages.” Try a bunch of things, including clearing my cache and cookies (which means I now have to sign in to everything again). Nothing. OK, I guess I can listen to iTunes—BUT WAIT—now iTunes doesn’t work, either. (Pity poor Laure Ferlita who was getting a blow-by-blow recounting of all this.) I wonder if the laptop has sound and the problem lies between it and the external speakers? Pull the laptop out (it lives on a shelf under my desk and I use a docking station to connect it to an external keyboard and monitor) and find that no, it doesn’t have sound.

No, I do not curse.

I give up. Stare pitifully at my paper. Twiddle my pen. Can’t think of anything to write. Click sadly over to YouTube to look longingly at some silent videos.

And suddenly

A miracle.


Don’t know how, don’t know why.

Beautiful sound.

But now it’s 4:30 and I’m cranky. Decide the encouraging and wise (har) blog post will have to wait for a day when I feel encouraging and wise.

Moral of the story? Some days are irritating and unproductive. Some days expose your weaknesses. You just have to put up with them, do your best to get through them, and hope the next day proves to be better.

I hope your Friday was much better than mine!

RIP little mouse.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Do Your Duty

“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson

Chocolate makes me happy.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday This and That, or Yes, I'm Still Here

I’ve been so busy with this and that I feel like I’ve been neglecting this blog. Along with my normal, day-to-day stuff, here’s a little bit of what’s been going on:

Tank is lame and I don’t know why. Later today I have an appointment with the farrier to rule out hoof issues. Our current thought is he’s pulled a muscle. If that’s the case, there’s nothing to do but take him for gentle walks and let it heal.

I have an owie.
I’m sketching every day. You can see my sketches on Flickr, but I assure you they’re nothing to make a special trip to see. It’s more about establishing a sketching habit, brushing up and improving my sketching skills and getting over “fear of the blank page.” I’m posting them to keep myself honest. Belle, from Belle, Book and Candle, is sketching with me, and you can see her sketches here

I’m helping Laure Ferlita wrap up details for Winter Interrupted: An Artist’s Beach Holiday that will take place Jan. 18-22. (Another good reason to get back in the habit of sketching!) 

Taste testing. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.
And, of course, I’m reading—library books mostly, and nothing towards any of my reading challenge goals. Oops.

So what’s new with you?