Category Archives: Art

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #47

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List everything that you think of as a treat for yourself:

  • The first cup of coffee I pour in the morning. With cream.
  • A good book. One that grabs and holds my interest, that can make me laugh or cry or quiver in trepidation, and that expands my understanding or enhances my world view.
  • A perfect poem. The ones I love are treasures, that can be read and enjoyed over and over.
  • Time in the studio. Unencumbered. Without six other things that need to be done diverting my attention and spoiling my fun.
  • A hot bath. In a heated room, with scented salts, nice candles and a glass of wine.
  • Perfume. Having recently found myself in the rare position of being all caught up on my bills, with a little money to spare, I bought myself a bottle of nice cologne, for the first time in years. It feels absolutely luxurious to have it.
  • Fresh flowers. I pick wildflower bouquets all summer long. When I first got divorced, I walked past a little flower shop every day on my way to and from work. At least once a week, I’d stop in to buy a cluster of posies or even just a single carnation. It was well worth the strain on my budget for the way it lifted my spirits!
  • A long walk. Right now, with ice on the pathways, and hunters in the woods, the dogs and I spend our walks just circling the yard. We aren’t fooled, though. We know it’s not the same, no matter how many steps we get in.
  • A square of dark chocolate.
  • A soft-boiled egg. My mother used to make them for her children when we were sick. That feeling of being nurtured and cared for comes back to me when I cook an egg that way.
  • A good meal in a nice restaurant is a rare pleasure.
  • A chat on the phone with someone I love. I’m not usually big on telephone conversations. My daughters decided, years ago, that I must be watching a timer, because I always ended calls after no more than five minutes. True, I don’t stay long on the phone, but I’m not timing the conversations. I simply run out of things to say; I find empty chatter excruciating and silence difficult. So, most phone calls are short. When the conversation flows, though, it’s a pleasure! One day last week, I had a nice long chat with my granddaughter, Madeline, then a good visit with my daughter, Kate. Before the day was out, my daughter, Jennifer, called. What a special treat, to talk to three of my favorite people all in one day!
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The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #45

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List the things, people, and experiences you want to say yes to:

This page also asks, “Do you ever hold yourself back from an experience that could bring you happiness?” Yes! The answer is yes, wholeheartedly YES! I do it all the time. I miss out, I think, on a lot of opportunities, on many wonderful  things. Sometimes out of a sense of duty, sometimes shyness, and sometimes fear.

There have been rare but extraordinary exceptions. As a young adult with two baby girls, I started college. Over the next fifteen years, while raising my daughters, moving around the state of Michigan, holding several jobs and struggling with (and finally ending) a bad marriage, I earned an Associate’s Degree, then a B.F.A., then a Master of Fine Arts Degree.

Against the best advice of family and friends, I moved, with my small family, to Beaver Island. One winter, I took a trip, alone, to Grand Turk Island, to work on an archaeological dig. On a cold October day not that many years ago, I set sail from Paradise Bay on Beaver Island to travel to Port Huron as part of a three-person crew on a 29 foot sailboat. Five days and four nights on the water. In October. I took a ride in a bi-plane. I climbed onto the back of a camel. Last August, right in the thick of our busy season, I took ten days off work in order to go to Chicago with my daughter and her family.

Mostly, though, I let things pass me by. Maybe I’m afraid of disappointment, or fearful of seeming foolish. I’m often stopped by a sense of being indispensable in my job, or by the notion that I can’t afford time off. Fear of failure. Fear of something new. Fear of something out of my control. Fear. Knowing all of this, and considering that at this stage in my life,  there may be fewer opportunities to take advantage of, what are the things, people, and experiences I want to say yes to?

  • EVERY SINGLE ONE! Every chance at adventure, each new learning experience, time with every new or old friend, any opportunity for fun…that’s what I want to say “yes”  to!

Mornings Like This

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Mornings like this, I have no clear path.

Outside, the sky is bright, but clouds hide the sun. It’s chilly. Not freezing, though. It’s not one of those warm and sunny fall days that demands I find an outdoor project. Nor is it cold, windy or rainy enough to necessitate staying inside. I could go either way.

Inside, as usual, projects pull me in many directions. Yesterday, I tidied the house and did my daily chores. I brought the compost to the bin, and the recyclables to the transfer station. I did all of the laundry, picked up packages at the airport, and went to the grocery store for a few necessities. That completed list left today open for projects.

For several months now, cleaning and rearranging the studio has been on the top of my “Tasks” list. Noticed regularly, and ignored. With new art supplies to find a spot for, I talked to myself this morning about getting at it. In my handwritten journal, I spent a whole page plotting out the manner and order of getting it done. The last line I wrote was, “but the floor…”

There is still the job of painting the floor. My progress is glacially slow. The bathroom floor is painted, which diverts my attention with its sloppy edges screaming out the need for woodwork there. In the laundry room, after weeks of contemplation and procrastination, the patch of floor under the clothes dryer is done. Now, I’m stymied by the need to disconnect the washer, and pull it away from the wall.

Fortunately, being Tuesday, I have this blog to divert my attention. And yet, on mornings like this, I am engulfed with doubt and misgivings about writing. Do I really, still, have anything worthwhile to say? I struggle more and more each week with topic and relevance.

Today is my grandson’s birthday. Patrick is sixteen today. I was present at his birth. All photos taken in that hospital room of his newborn self have a holy glow. I can still clearly picture my daughter’s tired smile. At sixteen, Patrick is a strong, handsome and respectful young man, and I’m very proud of him.

Yesterday was my father’s birthday. If he were still here, he’d be ninety-two years old. As it stands, he’s been gone twenty years last August. I still talk to him, though, when I see things that I know would interest him, and we have lively conversations in my mind whenever I’m working in the garden.

On other days, either of these topics could fuel an entire blog. Today, I worry about the universal appeal. Am I being self-centered? I eke out barely a paragraph on each subject, and wonder if I haven’t said it all before.

Some days, circumstances or blind enthusiasm direct me to action. On days like this, it’s rather a matter of just plodding on, one foot in front of the other.

 

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #44

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List the gifts you want to give to others through actions, words, and what you can make:

  • About a year ago, following up on an idea presented by my friend Kathy, I started writing a timetable of my life. Not memories, exactly, but dates with places and events. For instance: I was born in 1952; my Grandpa Ted died when I was in the first grade; I attended Bishop Kelley School from first through eighth grade; I first moved to Beaver Island, with my husband and two young daughters, in the fall of 1978; my Dad died in August of 1998; my mother died in August of 2011. That’s just a sketchy idea of my intentions. For those times, long after I’m gone, when my daughters might wonder when it was that we lived at Corner 16, or what year we moved to East Lansing, or any other detail that might not otherwise be readily available. It was a good plan a year ago, and it is still a good idea, though – after an enthusiastic start – it has been completely neglected. I’d like to find time to finish it.
  • Along the same lines, I’d like to put a book of memories together for my brother and sisters, my daughters and their children. I actually have most of it already written. I did it in 2016, when I was writing a blog every day. I divided my childhood into random sections, as we’d always lived in the same house. My young adulthood was easily divided by going from one address to the next, and writing about the memories attached to each place. Now, it’s just a matter of putting those posts together, editing for clarity, and having it printed.
  • I’d love to finish the crocheted slippers I started – last year – for my grandchildren. Thankfully, at least they are done growing!
  • Some of the best gifts I’ve received in my life have been gifts from the kitchen. Friends and neighbors have brought me jars of honey, jelly and homemade maple syrup. I’ve treasured jars of stewed tomatoes canned and presented to me by each of my parents and my Aunt Katie. With that in mind, I enjoy giving gifts of edibles: cakes, cookies and homemade granola, mostly. When I visit my sister Brenda, I have the rare chance to prepare meals for others, and I enjoy it immensely.
  • When I have over-abundance from the garden, I like to share the bounty. I’m sure I get that from my father.
  • I like to share good books, movies and other media. It’s difficult, though, because not everyone likes the same things. I have a dear friend who I would say is very much like me. I think we share many of the same ideas and tastes. However, when I’ve tried to share movies and programs with her, I have fallen flat with some of my absolute favorites. Amelie, she couldn’t tolerate subtitles; Billy Elliot, the accent made it impossible to understand. Recently I showed her the pilot for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which I think is brilliant, witty, and some of the most touching humor out there. She asked, “Is it always so depressing?” She just bought a book,based on my recommendation. I have my fingers crossed that she’ll like it!
  • I used to give gifts of my artwork to friends and family. If I know it’s appreciated (not just accepted out of courtesy), it brings me great pleasure to do it.
  • I love to give honest compliments. It’s an exercise (not difficult) in looking for the good, and saying something about it. It’s a gift that I can give to strangers as easily as to friends, and that is always appreciated.

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #43

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List how where you are right now fulfills dreams and desires of your past:

  • Well, for as long as I can remember, I always wanted to live on Beaver Island. And here I am!
  • I consistently wanted a designated space for working on art projects. At the tiny cottage on Lake Pleasant, I used a corner of the front porch for art-making. It was only useful in the warm months, and I shared the space with spare tires, cat litter, and trash bags waiting for the garbage truck. When I was living with my family in a small duplex in North Branch, I would convert the kitchen to working studio, sometimes for days at a time. We ate a lot of cold cereal and sandwiches until my projects were completed. As a student at Michigan State, living in a tiny campus apartment, I’d haunt my studio in the Art Center at all hours of the day and night. When I came back to Beaver Island, I cleared out the area that had been sleeping space for my daughters. I set up my drafting table, and moved in files cabinets and bins for storage. Later, I added a printing press. Finally,  my own little studio!
  • I always imagined dogs as a part of my life…and they are!
  • I dreamed of a small house with a high pitched roof, surrounded by gardens and fruit trees and flowers. That’s where I live!
  • When I was four years old, my Grandpa Ted would take me and my sister Brenda to his electrical shop. We got to sit in the brown leather chair that could spin around. We could trace our names into the dust on the windows. Best of all, we were allowed to sort the nuts, bolts and other tiny parts that were mounded on the desk into rows of baby food jars provided by my mother. I loved sorting! My mother reminded me of that fifty years later, when I started working at the hardware store and took on the wall of nuts and bolts as a challenge. “Oh, you’ll do great at that,” she said, “you’ve loved that kind of work since you were tiny!”
  • I invariably think of myself surrounded by books. And I am.

A Late Report

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“Late” seems to be the theme today. I was up late last night working on home projects. I slept in late this morning. I was barely on time for my drawing class. After walking the dogs, working in the yard and fixing supper, I am now, late in the evening, finally sitting down to write my Tuesday blog.

I had a little trouble coming up with a theme. I’ve been publishing a blog for seven years now. Since I most often write about myself and my own experiences, I feel like raw material is getting rather scarce. I’m afraid I’m getting repetitive. Looking for inspiration, I went through a couple books of writing prompts; nothing piqued my interest.

When I was about to give up hope, I remembered: my “birthday list!” Each year, for my birthday, I have published a list, corresponding to my age:  favorite people and life-changing books have been the theme of past birthday lists. Of course my birthday this year is long past; I was in Chicago then, having a glorious time with my youngest daughter and her family. That’s okay, I can do the list now. Late. Because that’s how my day is going.

66 Random Things That I Know

  1. The sky is most beautiful, here on Beaver Island, in the fall of the year.
  2. The water in Lake Michigan is warmest in the fall. That probably holds true for other bodies of water, too.
  3. In places where there are evergreens among the deciduous trees, fall colors are most breathtaking.
  4. Water, too, provides a good backdrop for the changing autumn colors.
  5. Winter apples need a frost to bring out their juicy sweetness.
  6. If you count the seconds between the sound of thunder and the flash of lightning, that is how many miles away the storm is.
  7. Sleep is better when it’s raining.
  8. A jet stream is a weather pattern. Until I was forty years old, I thought a jet stream was a contrail. A contrail is the white trail that a jet leaves in the sky.
  9. Cheap wine is better appreciated if you can’t see the label.
  10. Better vodka is worth the extra cost.
  11. A good haircut can be life-altering.
  12. Sisters and brothers who grew up in the same household are more alike than even they know, no matter what their current differences.
  13. It takes about thirty days to form a good habit or to get rid of a bad habit.
  14. Either can be turned around in one moment of weakness.
  15. I think lateness is a way of revolting from life experiences that are not ideal.
  16. I believe procrastination is a side-effect of perfectionism.
  17. And perhaps what looks like laziness is actually the inability to act because of a lack of direction (or too many directions to pursue).
  18. Dogs are comforted by familiar voices.
  19. Pigs are some of the smartest animals.
  20. Chickens respond to novelty.
  21. You can move a chicken at night, without them knowing. Just drape a cloth over them to keep out the light, pick them up and carry them to their new location.
  22. Having the right tools for a project makes a big difference.
  23. Bicycling is easier on the knees than running.
  24. Cheaters never win.
  25. Honesty is the best policy.
  26. Summer always goes too fast.
  27. Humidity makes hot weather feel hotter, and cold weather more bitter.
  28. Most savory dishes can be improved with something from the onion family, or by lemon.
  29. Butter is now healthier than margarine.
  30. When it was new, margarine was sold as a block of white fat. The purchaser had to stir in the little packet of yellow colorant to make it look like butter.
  31. Friends that I know only through their writing are still true friends. Sometimes I know more about their lives and inner feelings than people I see every day. Likewise, I often reveal more in my writing than I ever would in “real life.”
  32. Letter writing is a great way to communicate.
  33. Everybody, deep down, wants to be accepted, appreciated and loved.
  34. Morning glories and moon flowers are more likely to sprout if the seeds are nicked before they are planted.
  35. Dogs have the right attitude toward life.
  36. We are all born with a sixth sense. It can be recognized and nurtured or denied and buried. In either case, awareness and practice will always improve intuitive ability.
  37. Anyone can learn to draw. If they want to.
  38. People that are good readers and enjoy reading, have a richer life than those who don’t.
  39. A book doesn’t have to be high literature to be good. It only has to speak to the reader at the time.
  40. That said, there is a lot of lousy writing out there.
  41. That holds true in the art world, too. If you like a piece, good. Enjoy it.
  42. Good teachers change lives.
  43. Continuing to learn, through life, is the best way to feel truly alive.
  44. Music communicates with us through our beating heart.
  45. Games are good for the mind.
  46. Plants have feelings.
  47. All life is precious (though I still set mouse traps this time of year).
  48. Daughters are more fun than sons (says this mother of two girls).
  49. Grandchildren are a blessing.
  50. Grocery shopping when hungry is never a good idea.
  51. A good experience, in a restaurant, is expected. Often food and service needs to be over-the-top before it is recognized.
  52. Inadequate service or a bad meal in a restaurant will be noticed right away, and never forgotten.
  53. A word of encouragement or praise goes a long way.
  54. Coming from a boss, it’s great incentive.
  55. Coming from a co-worker, it builds camaraderie.
  56. A compliment from a stranger is easier to believe than the same from an acquaintance.
  57. We are all, generally, too stingy with our feelings.
  58. Everyone deserves to hear something nice.
  59. A day can seem interminably long, when doing something unpleasant.
  60. Hours speed by when doing something enjoyable
  61. On that same theme, children seem to remain at two years old much longer than any other age…
  62. Until they reach their teen years, which drag on for a lifetime.
  63. But all in all, children grow up way too quickly.
  64. The longer you live, the more loss you have to bear.
  65. It’s always worth it.
  66. Life goes on, like it or not. May as well find the silver lining.

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #39

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List the things that you hope will bring you joy this week:

  • Barring more company (which is so worth it!), rain or wind, I intend to cut my grass this week. It’s amazing how happy it makes me, to have a freshly mowed lawn. It makes all the shrubs and other plants stand out, and freshens everything up. It should be the last time I have to mow this year, which is also a good thing.
  • My Autumn Joy Sedum are brightening up daily, and should be in their full glory – or very close to it – this week.
  • We’ll be working with shadows and shading in drawing class this week. Sometimes, that helps everything else come together. If so, I’ll be happy!
  • This week, I should be able to get caught up on a few long-standing bills, and pay off a personal loan, too. I just love having an empty “bills” folder!
  • This week, I am filling boxes of items to take to the Re-Sale Shop. My goal is to eventually cut my belonging down by half. I feel joyous just thinking of the results: being able to easily find what I want in cupboards and drawers; knowing that I have what I want or need and nothing more; and having space for what’s important.
  • Walks with the dogs. That brings me joy all year, but especially this time of year, as the colors start to turn and the landscape changes daily.
  • Conversations. Having had time, recently, to catch up with family and friends, I am hungry for more of the same.
  • Writing. After working hard to re-form the habit of writing every day (three pages, longhand, stream-of-consciousness, “Morning Pages”), I misplaced the black and white notebook I was writing in, and used that as an excuse to drop the habit again. Last week, while dusting a bookshelf, I found it. This week, I’m back to writing again. If I keep it up, I’ll be both proud and happy.