Find Your Dream

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Soul Collages are a favorite medium for me to work with, especially at the beginning of a new year. It is 2020, Valentines Day, when we think of all of our loves and maybe celebrate special ones. Soul collages are also popularly called Vision Boards these days. Whatever you want to call them, sitting down with magazines, scissors,  glue and a variety of embellishments, then allowing yourself to get lost in the process of finding images and words that “ring true” with your soul can be a meaningful, healing experience.  I like to think of it as a soul jigsaw puzzle and once the pieces are gathered they can be put together however seems “fitting” or most pleasing.

I began the collage pictured above in January, around the time I “should” have been sending out late Christmas cards (sorry, they just didn’t happen this year). The title is in the collage, “Find Your Dream,” and follows a path from past to present to the future. It holds my hopes and goals for 2020, a year that may bring many changes and shows transitions. I wanted it to have a dreamy feeling and that is what the glittery white tulle is, a dream cloud holding my hopes. I have this in a prominent place in my studio where I can see it from any vantage point and reflect on what it means to me.  When the turmoil and divisions of the world are causing me angst this will be a grounding place for me to return to and shift the swirling storm clouds that are beyond my control. Hopefully, I will find peace here.

The beauty of this form of art expression is that it is very spontaneous, can easily be done with materials on hand, and often has the effect of expressing and feeding the soul in a meaningful way. Anybody can do it, so, no excuses of “I am not an artist, can’t even draw a straight line!” Those fearful excuses just don’t apply!

I did this project with a group of seniors last fall and I was amazed at how they were easily absorbed in the creative zone. The pictures below show some of their awesome collages. Try this, you might like it! And/or do that thing you already know fuels your passion and lifts your spirit. This will be a year of change, no doubt, and whether the changes be to your liking or not, we all need a grounding place to cope, to rest, to reenergize and rise up to see and navigate life’s hurdles along with those twisting turns on our paths. It is always a privilege to engage in positivity to offset, explore, and deal with negativity.  I promise you, the creative zone, in whatever form that takes, will give you  sanctuary, along with faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is Love!! Happy Hearts Day!

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When Life Hands You Cherries


When Life hands you cherries, specifically, dark chocolate covered ones with liqueur, do not eat them…IF you’re a dog! I have heard repeatedly that chocolate can kill dogs so when our new, approximately 3 1/2 year old fur baby, Toby, ate a bunch after his humans went to bed, I panicked! We had only had this sweet hound dog from the shelter for five days, and here I was on the phone with the emergency clinic and then animal poison control in the middle of the night. I was not very coherent but I tried to calmly give all the information needed and was sure this was going to mean a trip to the emergency clinic for charcoal induced vomiting.  I was having anxiety filled visions of a year ago when our other sweet dog, Indie, ingested the very toxic sago palm bulbs in the backyard. He survived that ordeal, thank goodness, because of the wonderful veterinarians who cared for him.

Back tracking a bit, Pedro awakened me around 1 am, sounding distressed that Toby had gotten into some things and chewed them up. I rushed, bleary eyed, to the living room and saw the mess all over the floor. In the midst of a chewed open bag of tennis balls, there was a sample-sized box of laundry detergent chewed open with the powder strewn like snow, a baggie of shoe polish tins and brushes, and an EMPTY, red, plastic box of Ferrero liqueur, dark chocolate covered cherries with many pieces of the wrappers all over the floor. Gulp! That is both a literal and figurative GULP!

The box said the quantity was 30 but minus the two pieces Pedro and I shared earlier that evening, and two more pieces I found under the couch, did that mean Toby ate the rest? Lord, have mercy!

As I was on hold for quite awhile, waiting for poison control to calculate Toby’s fate, I watched this extremely hyper hound running and bolting around the house, looking more drunk than sick so far! Aside from the two messes of doggy doo doo awaiting clean up, there were no signs of vomiting yet. Eventually, the kind vet tech informed me of symptoms to watch for and under what conditions  we would need to take him to the emergency clinic. Otherwise, I was to watch him closely for the next 24 hours. I took random notes I could barely read so I could do the right things for Toby, while feeling guilty for having done the wrong things that led to this incident (Like not puppy proofing better! And not shutting the laundry room door before bed!).

I sighed deeply, relieved that so far he seemed like he had a good chance of surviving this ordeal!  I proceeded to finish cleaning up and was thankful that Pedro had done a lot before heading back to bed. I decided it would be best to keep a closer eye on Toby by sleeping in the recliner near the back door, anticipating bouts of sickness from him through the night. He eventually crashed on the couch and I fell asleep in the recliner, praying this guy would be okay. Before I knew it, day was breaking and I awoke to Toby still knocked out on the couch, breathing deeply.

Thinking he might have had some more accidents while I slept, I inspected the house and found no other signs of chocolate induced illness. Meanwhile, Toby snored away on the couch and I cuddled up next to him with a cup of coffee. The sun rose slowly to a new day, one I hoped would bring many more days with Toby.  Indie, a sleepy, sweet boy, missed all the excitement, snoring away in his bed in our bedroom. I can write about this two days later and happily say that Toby seems to be fine! Thank God!! He has been eating well and playing with Indie, so I think we’re out of the dark, chocolate-covered, cherry liqueur-filled woods without even a noticeable hangover.

Aside from the joy and relief I feel, there is another reason why I feel the need to write about this incident. Prior to this now seemingly minor ordeal, I have always happily associated chocolate covered cherries with my mother. They were her favorite candy and she loved them any time any place on any occasion. I never understood why but I tried to like them just to share in her obvious pleasure when she was alive and later to remember her better after her death.  I never had the kind with liqueur until the other night and liked them even less with that sugary blast of bitterness. Throughout this long, fretful night, I was thinking of my mom, missing her,  and hoping she would help Toby with heavenly prayers, if that’s possible at all.

 I am thankful for a second chance with Toby and will forever see him as a toddler, puppy proofing the way we child proofed many years ago.  Lesson learned! Accidents happen, as do mistakes, but prevention is the best medicine.  Today we left Toby and Indie home alone while we went to church.  Every closet door was tightly shut, all table tops and counters were cleared of potential hazards. When we came home there was only a tiny pee puddle by the back door and the fur babies were fine! No signs of mischief anywhere!

From this day forward, when Life hands me cherries, I will still think of my mother AND the day Toby got drunk on a box full of chocolate covered cherries.  I won’t like eating them any more than I did before but I will hopefully laugh about it.  My mom’s birthday is in two days and I will think of her with great love but I will NOT be having any chocolate covered cherries to celebrate her sweet life. I came across a quote in writing this, “When Life hands you cherries, make lemonade! Cherry lemonade!” Now THAT I may try to honor her. She often said “When Life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”  I think she would enjoy a glass of cherry lemonade and a laugh with me, I know I would with her!

Life and Art

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As the New Year approaches, yet still in the spirit of Christmas, I found myself taking pictures of the holiday decorations around our home. The idea started with the live poinsettia plant I brought home from church yesterday and placed on the mosaic table in our little atrium. It looked so beautiful out there with the brilliant red petals in full bloom. I didn’t know how long it would last so I wanted a picture of it before it waned.

Well, that tiny thought and the feeling that stirred within me  started a chain reaction of my wanting pictures of many of the decorations around our home.  We are planning to move in 2020, God willing, and I want to remember this house and what may be  our last Christmas in it.  I am in a nostalgic state of mind this holiday season as the hopes of moving closer to some of our grandchildren approaches reality.  It is as exciting as it is daunting, the idea of being geographically closer to some of our family brings with it the reality of moving away from other family, friends, and a city we’ve known for thirty two years to start over completely! Yikes! Change is bittersweet! I know some people do this moving thing a lot and they likely wouldn’t have much empathy for us but believe me when I say this is a BIG DEAL – for us!  This news will be a surprise to some but I have been letting people know of our plans when I have the opportunity.  If I missed telling you, please forgive me, good folks.  But this is not really the purpose of this post.  

In my snapping pictures, I was reminded several times through the years when a beloved decoration became inspiration for me to paint or draw it. Sometimes the motivation was for the purpose of a Christmas card image, although it has been several years since I have made that sort of effort.  More often than not I simply felt inspired and tried to interpret and express what I saw before me though not in a photorealistic manner.  I think the study of what moves an artist to create is a worthy analysis and I have several books that help explain the creative process in depth. I hope I am not oversimplifying this by focusing on the obvious, but for me, life and art go hand in hand.  Inspiration (and it has many sources) is experienced on the inside of a person and if he or she allows it to come outside of their mind and become, to give birth to its existence, I would coin it “Out”spiration.

It isn’t a word, look it up if you must. But it should be. Input, output also explain it and they are actual words. But people make up words all the time so if we have inspiration why can’t we have outspiration?  Inspiration is like breathing in and outspiration is like breathing out. Inhale life, exhale art (in all its many forms, find your bliss!)

Holiday spirit is often given form for us to enjoy by someone else’s inspiration as seen in the photos below on the left. Then the observer feels something stirring inside them and he or she wants to express that feeling or idea. So the inspiration, the input, becomes the outspiration, the output, and art is created. Without judgement of the quality of the product created, it is the process that I believe is a birthright for every human being, a gift of God.

The photos below on the right are my outspirations of the inspirations on the left. I will go to my grave one day knowing that this process matters and is accessible to all who seek to experience it. The joy this brings is a life spring and makes my life worth living.  I am in awe of the outspirations of others, the many forms and ways to express creativity. It is a vocation to follow the creative path where life becomes art.  I will breathe my last breath knowing my journey to follow the art was my passion and purpose in life.  May you find yours as well!  As the holiday decorations and memories are tucked away for another year, may we be open to inspiration in 2020 and have courage to let our outspirations come forth!

Mandala Monday: Grief Revisited

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The other night I got to visit old friends. I was picking up my friend to go see a play, The Diary of Anne Frank. It has been several years since I had been in my friend’s home and while there I got to visit this old friend, a painting I had done in 1999. It is a very large canvas and it hangs in her living room. I painted this soon after we lost our first dog, Maia, a golden retriever, who is still known in our family as The Best Dog Ever. Maia helped me raise our three babies, no kidding! She was the most gentle, attentive mother who always watched over our children playing in the backyard. She loved them as much as I did and I always appreciated her maternal ways. Living far away from family, we didn’t have a good support system so the help I got from Maia was the unconditional love of her constant presence by my side. She helped me be more patient and was a great friend to me as she was to our children. She was nine when she died and I was by her side as she breathed her last breath while the kids were at school and Pedro was at work. It was a a tearful goodbye and I somehow had the strength to bury her in our backyard by the creek. I started this painting that day and don’t remember how long it took me to finish it but it helped me grieve her loss in the subsequent days.

The pain of loss feels similar whether it is the loss of a beloved pet or a loved one in human form. I won’t try to quantify which is greater or deeper, they are all great sorrows. I have endured many personal losses by now (parents, brother, grandmother, brother in law, distant relatives, and friends) and life will surely bring more. There are physical deaths we have to cope with as well as the losses that changes bring, as we go through many seasons in life. All involve loss and letting go. All involve pain and remembering hurts but it also comforts me to cherish them and love them all.

This painting is about hope and the autumn tree shedding leaves as it prepares for a winter rest. This is a change of life assured to all. I was grateful for the visit with old friends, those  still here on this earth and the many who have passed on. Certainly the play my friend and I saw later further magnified the theme of death, grief and loss of those who perished in the horrors of the Holocaust.  In some ways it was a hard night but the beauty was also there in celebrating the power and gift of unconditional love.

In the midst of pain there is great joy. Here is a picture of Maia keeping watch with our youngest, Sophia. Maia was probably watching the boys swinging from the rope tree across the yard.  We just celebrated Sophia’s 30th birthday!  Our boys, Jason and Corey, will be 34 and 32 this fall as well. We are grateful for each one of them and the gifts they all were and are in our lives.  Our family has grown with their marriages and we are blessed with two more daughters, a son, and four beautiful grandchildren. We are not a perfect family and we are flawed human beings who sometimes hurt each other but I believe that Love never dies, forgiveness will save us, and that is the hope that keeps me alive!  I am thankful for God who has been with me through many sorrows and strengthens me to keep going. “Surely it is God who saves me. I will trust in Him and not be afraid.” Isaiah 12:2

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Starry, Starry Nights

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In preparing for teaching an art class for adults (all who chronologically fall into the demographic of “seniors” just like me!), I drew this starry night scene using oil pastels. The inspiration is Van Gogh’s Starry Night and we are going to create our own versions inspired by this famous work of art. I am not trying to be,  nor asking others to be, Van Gogh, as that would be an obvious act of futility. Instead,  I was trying to just let myself be me by interpreting his vision and make it my own. Dare I ask others to do the same?

Van Gogh’s life and art provides fertile ground for appreciating his immense talent and intelligence, while striving to understand his struggles with depression and anxiety that eventually led to his demise. For this class, however, the focus will be on his inspired art. In the starry starry night art project, the emphasis will be on appreciating the wonder and beauty of a night scene. Who hasn’t stood before the canvas of a star filled sky and marveled at the silent beauty literally stretching for limitless miles? There are similarities to Van Gogh’s effort but there are far more differences and the goal in this artistic effort is one of discovery and learning.

The art therapist in me is ready to analyze meaning and the symbolism that underlies the conscious realm, taking my creative effort to the depths of the unconscious where the process of creating is as beneficial to examine as the end result. While there is a place for that self analysis – like clearly the tree in the foreground is almost a barrier to seeing the starry night sky, giving new meaning to “can’t see the forest (sky) for the trees (or in this case a single tree with many leafless branches) – I am leaving that reflective process to my journal later! What I am interested in is whether this effort will translate to a meaningful and enjoyable learning experience for an eager group of people with varying degrees of art experience?

I don’t want to ask something of others that I am not willing to experience myself, which is why doing a test run is a good thing. In asking others to create a starry night scene, I hope they will feel free to draw from their imaginations and allow themselves the permission to change their scene as they like. While Van Gogh used oil paint, we will be using oil pastels and this difference will create a changed effect from the very start. Another difference is that we will use blue toned paper where Van Gogh most likely started with a white canvas. I thought this would give a different approach having to bring out the light from the darkness. Layering light effects with oil pastels works well on dark toned paper. The metaphor of “light in the darkness” is the foundation of this experience where my hope is that others can know the joy of letting our lights shine. Don’t worry, I don’t plan to sing This Little Light of Mine I’m Gonna Let it Shine, although it is a tempting thought!

One final difference is that we will not be using turpentine to blend the oil pastels as Van Gogh would have done with oil paints ( though I am fairly certain he would have used linseed oil or mineral spirits for his impasto technique). I tried this technique in an earlier sample but was surprised that even with low odor turpentine, I was affected by the fumes! I had to open a window in the large, ventilated space  of my living room to offset the woozy dizziness I was feeling. I certainly don’t want to make anyone sick or high! Here’s  a headline for you: Seniors Experience Breathing Problems from Sniffing Turpentine Fumes in Art Class – EMS Called to The Scene!”

We shall see how it goes! Until then I will be taking in all the starry starry nights I can -without the “help” of turpentine! Be sure to catch the next Total Lunar Eclipse on January, 20-21, 2019. It is being deemed the Blood Moon and the next one will not be until 2032. This is one starry starry night we don’t want to miss! Who knows what surprises await us?

 

Que Sera Sera

When we adopted Tortolina over a year ago I wasn’t thinking about the long term commitment. She will outlive me! (Did you know leopard tortoises can live until they’re 50?!)  And she can get as big as those tortoises at the zoo! She was just a cute little creature who fit on the palm of my hand and now she fits on my whole hand. We’ve had to invest in some renovations recently because she has outgrown her indoor and outdoor homes, which means I’ve been on the hunt at thrift stores for the needed upgrades. She is as sweet as can be and  I enjoy her but wonder about life down the road and also future road trips. The grandkids love it when she visits now but later? She is the only reptile I would ever have as a pet since I can’t do snakes or iguanas (my son Corey had one named Elvis who couldn’t sing but was a holy terror…that didn’t last long!). I don’t know why I am writing this except to say it is very ironic that the long term commitment to a tortoise is by far longer than a spouse (going on 33 years and hoping for 50!), children (on average they live with you maybe 20 years), cats, or dogs!

Somehow, when I look in her eyes, I feel peace and hope. Her slow gait reminds me to slow down too. She’s not boring at all, she’s my silent friend who doesn’t talk my ear off with incessant chatter but she does knock her shell against the glass if I am late feeding her. Hey, it works, everybody needs a way to protest when things aren’t right, don’t they? She reminds me that she’s there and I need to do my part. I don’t know what the future holds but I have hope! Hope for Tortolina’s solitary life, hope for my family, hope for my life and yours. I am old enough to remember this song, do you?

“When I was just a little girl I asked my mother, what will I be? Will I be pretty, Will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me…Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see; que sera sera, what will be, will be.

When I grew up and fell in love I asked my sweetheart, what lies ahead? Will we have rainbows day after day? Here’s what my sweetheart said…Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see; que sera sera, what will be, will be.

Now I have children of my own, they ask their mother, what will be? Will I be handsome? Will I be rich? I tell them tenderly…Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see; que sera, que sera, what will be, will be.” Doris Day

Saga of a Sago

An unexpected snowstorm in January froze the gigantic sago palm in the front yard. It was clearly overgrown as it was but we liked the privacy it provided us in the rocking chairs on the porch. I have never had a sago palm nor a green thumb to know what to do for it but this much I knew, it was dead.  I researched it a little the way our grown kids have modeled modern research, which means we “googled” it. I learned that we needed to cut away the dead stuff which I did during Holy Week and then let Mother Nature take her course because the core is good and has life yet within it. Recently, Pedro decided it needed an even closer to the core pruning and did so while I was away visiting grandchildren.  He had the swollen, punctured fingers to show for this painful, prickly effort but look at it now!

The pictures show the resurrection of the sago palm over the course of the past week. One  of the photos shows it has sprung three offspring from the bottom of the trunk. It has been a joy to watch it evolve and I wonder how it will be different in size or stature. Like all good things in life, we must wait and see. Faith is the belief in what will be and the hope for things unseen. I believe it will be beautiful again and perhaps soon! May I, too, be like a sago palm, succumbing to a deep pruning to the core and rising up renewed…but without the three offspring please, been there done that!

”What Thou hast given, Thou canst take, and when Thou wilt new gifts can make. All flows from Thee alone; When Thou didst give it, it was Thine; When Thou retook’st it, ‘‘twas not mine.  Thy will in all be done.” John Austin

”The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Job i.21

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