Memorializing Your Legacy

ID-100141696_“Family” by arztsamui_freedigitalphotosWhen I was a child Memorial Day was one of those holiday gatherings that had little expectation or preparation. It was meant for spending time together and hearing stories. The elders of my family bothered to get flowers and visit the grave sites of our loved ones. I found this to be a very interesting tradition because it connected the web of our complete family. Making the time to connect and reflect with those who came and went before fleshed out characteristics that defined our family.

This holiday is traditionally about honoring those who served all of us through their military and other service institutions. In my family, it was about everyone who served the family in all the ways a family needs service.

Some of my family’s stories were quite fantastic and others we’re out of the ordinary but all of them described a thread that wove the fabric of our family.

My father served in WWII and while he NEVER talked about his active service years and what he had to do during the war, in my own research I discovered that he fought in several very nasty battles in and around the Ardennes Forest. I’m sure he had many memories both good and bad but he chose instead to teach that war was that was a means to an end and something to fight very hard to avoid. He served in the army as an officer for almost 30 years, and he cared greatly about the service men he trained to go into battle, especially during Viet Nam. He was deeply disturbed by the manner in which the service personnel were cared for, and appalled they were shipped in and out of active battle returning to civility with merely a few hours between. Without time to decompress he predicted the damage to our soldiers would be devastating. He died before the conflict ended, and sadly we now know he was right about the needs of our soldiers. I remember his silent and anonymous honor. He did kind things for people he barely knew. Often in secret he paid their bills, bought food, and one Christmas he bought bags of food and gifts for a destitute family of five kids whose father just died after a long illness. At his funeral numerous people I never met came up and shared stories of his quiet kindness’s that truly made a difference in their lives. His legacy is one of taking action to live kind and fight in all ways for freedom.

His father served in WWI and while he shared stories of the camaraderie of the fine men he served with and the people he met along the way, he also never discussed the battles or the horrors.; He too, believed that war was a sad and desperate means to an end that should never ever be glorified. It was about the duty of freedom. One of his oft repeated stories became known as The Black Snake Story. While he was training in Texas a member of his patrol didn’t join in the morning muster. When they went to check on him he was still in his bed motionless. During the night a large snake had crawled into his cot with him. There were lots of poisonous snakes around and these Northern boys had been warned to steer clear of them. They decided if they rolled up the side of his tent eventually the heat from the rising sun would warm the snake and it could slither away leaving him unharmed. My Grandfather spoke at a napping pace and if you could stay alert while he talked you’d learned that it worked. I always found it remarkable that during his slow cadence he rarely changed any words, and through the years of listening I had the story memorized. That story and the time spent listening to my grandfather was magical because it taught me that bonds are important and can’t be rushed.

Memorials are an important part of understanding who came before us and what we’re made of. It’s not the genealogy that makes a legacy, it’s the stories from the people you know that manifests the character of your family. What are those little snapshots of the people you know?

At bigger  family gatherings the women prepared, served and cleaned up the meal. As the youngest I floated between the living room listening to the men talk between dozing off with a full belly, and the kitchen a beehive of activity I remember lots of squawking about Aunt Tilly who always ran to the bathroom after the meal and was gone long enough to miss doing the dishes. I had an Aunt Bernice who laughed. “HA!” so loud she could wake her deaf husband. Uncle Norm was a diabetic and a very bad driver. Once he drove my sister and I mostly on the wrong side of the road while doing his errands. He had malt balls in his glove compartment which we devoured. He and his wife had a ball and chain and used it as a doorstop joke. Aunt Mae wore red lipstick that ran way over her natural lips and painted on black eyebrows. I always thought she was lucky and when I grew up I could dress for Halloween, too. These relatives had quirks, they were kind and loving and remarkably endearing.

We can do goofy things, dress oddly, say the wrong thing at the wrong time or give love when it is needed, but whatever our quirks they make us who we are and we will be remembered for them. These little things make us unique. When I paint pictures I look for the unusual, the small details that tell the story and create a pictorial impression of a memory.

All those wonderful service men and women fought honorably so you could have your memories. Remember them as you draw in a breath of peace, and celebrate their legacy by discovering your own. What are the little stories that will memorialize your legacy?

I’m thankful to my father, grandfather, to my aunts, uncles who served our country in military service and to my greater family for serving our small tribe.  Happy Memorial Day to all those honorable people who helped make my life possible so I could freely remember and celebrate today.

(Artwork by artzsamui courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

What’s Your Slice of the Creative Pie?

ID-100199185_Fresh Homemade Apple Pie_KEKO64

I consider myself a painter who writes. It’s much easier for me to brush paint on a canvas than string words in a line on a page. It certainly feels better to me to work with brushes and paint, however, the satisfaction both creations bring me is the same. While some creative projects feel better or are easier than another, the need to create never stops. Even though it was a difficult process for me, I can’t explain why I had to complete writing my book. I only knew I had to. This compelling factor of creation is hard to explain. It’s not just a great feeling it’s more like eating. You have to do it or you’ll die.

Readers and writers share a special symbiotic relationship. I once asked an avid reader what would happen if they didn’t get to read, and they said they’d probably perish. There’s a part of us that is compelled to do things. Writers must write and readers must read. Painters must paint and audiences must look at the paintings. We need to support each other in our quest of creative pursuits, because somewhere we serve each other.

As far as the teeter-totter of creativity swings, it doesn’t matter on which end you sit. The part you play in a creative expression is up to you. What does make a difference is that you play your part. Make your art and share it. Tell your full story about what led you to create. Go to museums and look at art. Take the time to learn the backstory that led to the masterpiece in front of you. Wander through art shows and, yes, talk to the artists! Ask them why they make their art, what they do for fun or what their favorite piece is? If you’re an audience be a great observer and give appropriate feedback. If you’re a reader savor the words and then seek ways to leave a review or interact with the author.

Put some power in your playground of creativity and enjoy your slice of the creative pie!

 

(Image courtesy of Keko64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

THANKS — To You!

It’s no secret we’re in the midst of the crazy time of year. There’s so much to do for others, and take part in that it’s easy to get lost in the wave of holidazzle. It’s also a great time to say Thank YOU!

Giving thanks to yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself at any time of year. If you’re creative person or like creative things, you know that too much celebratory chaos can be destructive. Practice T-H-A-N-K-S to you and enjoy this holiday season and arrive in the New Year with a great attitude.

ID-100271736_Thumbs Up Means Thanks A Lot And Approved_ by Stuart Miles

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Timing- Pay close attention to your schedule this season. What’s your timing? It’s your personal time. Do you want to have dinner with a friend or be shopping at that hour of the day? Maybe you don’t want to shop at all? Give thanks for the way you choose to live and decide what works for your best timing so you can both enjoy, and give joy in all of your activities.

Health– Notice and be very honest with the state of your health right now. At this time are you capable of what there is to do? What exactly do you need right now to maintain the health you have, and improve it if you need to? Would a bit less decorating, partying or driving here and there be a good choice for your health? How would a healthy home cooked meal that nourishes you feel instead of a round of entertainment? A bit of quiet time or a nap might serve you better than many other activities. Honor your health and give thanks for how healthy you are this season.

Anxiety- There’s no denying it. This can be a season of high anxiety.  There’s extra noise, moving bits, activities, blinking lights and decorations spilling all over the place. Yikes! Those new wonderful energy saving lights give people like me serious migraines because they have a micro strobing effect. Even if you enjoy the decorative things of the season they’re in abundance adding extra input to your being. Sounds, smells, textures, colors, people, and an wealth of special foods during this season can create too much stress. If your nutritional balance goes awry you’re not going to feel well and might instead be feeding anxiety. Marketing uses an element of pumping up our anxiety making it irresistible to not grab an extra present just in case. Commercials send messages checking if you’re ready for that crazy hour when everything is supposed to be perfect. Remember that those moments last a few seconds of your life. Treat yourself gently this season. How will you choose to live with less stress?

No- One simple little word. I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase, “Just say no!” Think of all the ways that you’ll need to say no during the holidays or anytime you need to moderate your schedule. Say the words sweetly and honestly, because you care about who and how you are.  “No thank you, I don’t care for any more food. No, I’ve had enough to drink.  No, I don’t feel like going out to dinner that night. No, I need to get rest instead. No, I’m not cooking dinner for 50 people. No, I don’t care to go through all of the work to decorate. No, I’m not taking on that extra project. No I’m not doing that extra activity.” Celebrate yourself by gently and firmly saying “No” this season.

Kindness– If there’s one word that says what this season is supposed to be about it would be— kindness. This is a great time to practice your kindness skills. People are taxed, tired, stressed, anxious, and bombarded with messages that they and everything they touch needs to be flawless and full of magical moments. There’s a pervasive sense that everything needs to be all shiny, twinkling, and full of hope and promise. However, without being conscious about your actions, it’s a setup for disappointments. Giving your kindness will go much further than anything else you can do. It may not be easy when another shopper hits you with her grocery cart and yells at you for being in her way, or the parking spot is rudely snatched, or someone is just angry. The loveliness you pull into your own heart will be well worth it when someone cuts you off in traffic, grabs the last item on the shelf. Flash your smile, send them kindness, and fill your own well with humanity.

Satisfaction– Know what you need to fill up, and when you’re full. Go for the things that serve you best. It’s okay to have enough of your nieces and nephews running around and screaming, relative’s rants or listening to stories about grotesque organ failures. It’s quite right to eat a few bites of all the rich foods. Decide what you need to feel satisfied and cut out the excess this season. The holidays will go smoother, your stress will be reduced and you’ll be a much happier person when January 1 rolls around. You won’t feel as if you’ve been bulldozed. Instead you’ll feel fulfilled, rested, and your checkbook could have extra money, because you were consciously choosing how you wanted your holidays to be.

I’m very thankful for you and that you’re reading my blog. Happy New Year!

 

Freeing Your Wild Artist

What’s the wildest art you can make?

Do you favID-100213076_Beautiful Girl with Her Hands In The Paint_stockimagesor marking with a pencil or brush stokes?

Will you use brilliant color or a monotone?

Are you the type who makes sketchy lines or bold smudges?

Will you give your work sensual expressions, or keep it plain and simple?

What is wild artistic expression for me won’t be the same for you. Finding your wild side can be fun and enlightening. Let yourself make a few messes with this opportunity and you’ll likely discover some amazing things about yourself and your art. If you want to stretch your creative abilities do something racy to juice up your creativity.

Challenge yourself to take a new risks. Try a new technique. Do something you really hate just to see what lies beyond your belief. Wear a color you don’t like and notice reactions of others, can you feel what the vibrations of that color do for your perception. Try being like another person for a day. How would that person make your art? During your next meeting take the opposite viewpoint from your own. Can you see something else in your reflection? How can you use these new-found tensions to enhance your performance?

When I feel I need to shake things up in the studio painting or on my keyboard writing I seek out my wild side. First I clear time and space for adventure trusting my instincts for what I think I need and can afford. Second, I give myself loads of permission to get really messy and have a lot of fun. Third, I allow play to invade everything I do. Fourth, I let go and live on the wild side of my artistic expression.

How do you free your wild artist? Leave me your comment. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

(Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Always Something New to Learn

I get asked all the time, “Why are you taking an art class? You teach them.” Well the answer is pretty clear. There is always something new to learn. Someone else may have the same skills or mastered the same techniques, but they do it in their own way. By looking at the same information through new eyes I can get a fresh perspective.

Watching paint splashed or how another artist handles their brush, is just as exciting as trying it for myself. I learn about using the same old papers to get different results, and why a particular brand of paint is favored. Things I never thought about become fascinating.

I also love the camaraderie of working with others. It gives me a lovely break from my private studio work, where I become serious about my final outcome. For me taking classes is about discovering something. Perhaps it is a tidbit I forgot, but it might also be seeing a color used in a completely novel approach. I make it a rule to not make a masterpiece when I take a class. I want my eyes open to possibility, not perfection. If I find myself getting picky about what I’m doing, I stop and add some playfulness to my approach. This keeps me spontaneous and ready to explore.

Also, as a creativity coach, watching other artists tackle really tough techniques is inspiring! Witnessing the amazing angles from which they choose to draw or paint their subjects, is thrilling in its outline for how they think about creating. Tenacious beginners are incredibly gutsy. It is through their creative innocence I see the force of creativity most alive.

What can you discover by taking a new class today?

Summer Blitzing

I don’t know about you, but as an artist I can get excited about pretty much anything. I love to let ideas tumble through my mind, and sometimes to distraction from my real creative work. As summer heats up in the north country, all I want to do is sit and dream. This is the summer blitzing phenomenon, that makes me feel light and fluttery, bouncing from one thought to another. In this mindset, I can’t do much physical or outdoor work, which is what we northerners save up and take advantage of doing in summertime. Frankly, it’s too hot to be outside anyway, so I need to work inside looking out. Gazing through windows is definitely dream time, however learning to do so with purpose can be mind bending. I have to remember to plan time for and call this activity passive work, and set limits on how much of it I can afford to do given my other commitments, but it’s always worthwhile.

One way to make idea spinning meaningful is to record what you see, sense, discover or ask about the experience. Your observations might come in handy to solve your current or future creative challenge. I also like recording mine, because it sets limits due to the media used, and makes the time a part of my real artistic work. I think as summer as the soft months during the year, a time to ease up my workload. So when I find the need to day dream, I try to honor it. When you make this a real part of your summer, you can look forward to blitzing your way through your creativity with insight and wonder, and maybe an unanticipated nap!

Reframing Can Help You Succeed

I had lunch with a friend the other day. “OMG/Boy I’m frustrated!” they said. “So what’s going on?” I ask. “I have a new project manager who doesn’t know what’s she’s doing.” “Tell me more,” I continue. Well she’s only been here a few months. She’s young, and more stereotypical descriptors flow into our discussion. At this point, I know my friend is facing a challenge and in the throes of learning. Frustration is the obvious symptom, and stereotyping is a sign they may feel cornered and defensive. And most of us want to elevate our symptoms fast, so we focus on what seems obvious to us.
There’s another way to make it feel better and actually enhance the experience. If we looked at our challenge as just that- a new encounter, we might be able to accept the differences and change that which is frustrating us. Saying some altered things to engage the situation, might sound something like this: “I have a new manager in charge of my project starting tomorrow. I really don’t know much about her, and I’d like to know what experiences she’s had that can make our project better. I’d also like to learn about her ideas and see how we can combine our thinking to make our project a great experience for the team.”
Here are some of the key differences when we look at a challenge as less of a threat and more of a learning exchange. In the example statements above we never give up our own important placement in the project. By reframing our thoughts and words, we continue to see ourselves as part of the team and take ownership of our role. We also embrace the new person as someone to learn about, rather than quickly assess and negatively judge. Reframing allows us to use our creative insights to discern what we need to know. We can stay focused on the project, not our feelings. Last, we anticipate a great experience as the successful outcome we expect.
All of these adjustments will bring up frustration and most likely won’t come easy for us, because learning something new is a change, and change is scary and hard. However, when we read our frustration simply as a symptom of a new learning that is taking place, we can simply reframe our thinking to more easily make the personal adjustments necessary to reach a positive outcome.
I’d love to hear how you’ve reframed your challenges to turn them into success!

Need Some Really Good Advice?

Ever get some advice that knocks you into a much needed reality change? I’m pretty sure you know the kind I mean. It comes in simple words, a sentence fragment, maybe just a sentiment. It packs a real punch because it comes at just the best time for you to feel it’s meaning, and recognize this is the purposed idea you most need now.

I got such a gift the other day, and it’s been a game changer for me. For over a year now, I’ve been under the weather with health issues. I’ve had a couple of surgeries to fix “things” that have been getting worse over time. I’m feeling guilty sharing this because I’m so blessed that none of it has been a serious health crisis. Except that now, the chronic nature of my healing has become a crisis. I’m not someone who likes to be lacking in energy or told to take it easy over and over and yes now, over again.

It’s hard to plan to creative projects when you doubt you can execute them. I feel like I’m just going to make more messes every time I try to start something, and this eats up my creative energy. I’ve always had the ability to come up with more ideas than I will ever be able to create, and sitting around resting to heal lets these dogged thoughts go crazy.  It uses up my energy to manage them, too.  

It really doesn’t matter what your energy buster might be. You could have limited energy, time, money or supplies from any number of situations. And your mental state could suffer just like mine has. So when magic words are spoken to you that help you put things back into a gentler perspective, they can be the balm that really works.

A really kind and wise mentor, Eric Maisel told me to “pester myself less.” And his words have stuck for me so much I’m making myself a necklace with this phrase to remind me to do just that! 

What’s an Empty Nest for?

Question: What’s an empty nest for?

Answer: You fill in the blank: My nest will be filled with “______.”

I was very excited to see my kids grow their wings and learn to fly. Then they flew away. It was always my plan that they would, but the day became my someday; and I wasn’t fully prepared for it. If you watch birds raise their fledglings, after the babies fly away, the adult birds fly off, too. I must have missed the importance of understanding this detail. I get to fly to new places, too? Yeah, I know we all make those someday plans, but whoever talks about identifying how or when that someday will arrive. Without knowing this, how will you know when it’s here and be able to plan for it? This is where I got stuck creatively. Whether it’s when the kids are gone, or the mortgage is paid off or you finally get that studio, it’s the same issue. Will you be ready? What will come next? What are the steps you’ll take?

Devilish details! It’s really hard to start again because it’s scary. Parts are exciting and others are emotionally baffling. It’s taken me awhile to discover that I don’t need to dwell in the feelings of loss and emptiness, leaving me unprepared for my next nesting. Instead I realized I get to recreate something new and exciting, because I’ve identified and claimed that this is my someday. They’re not all bad. Life has a way of taking us on juicy detours; but they help us know what flavors we truly like. All my experience from mistakes and hopeful attempts, as well as my wins have helped me to recognize that empty nests are a gift from my somedays. It’s the same thing for any project you worked hard on. It doesn’t matter if it met your standard of success or not. Because you made the choice to do it, you name when it’s done and then you can choose what comes next again.

Here’s the really cool part: You can feather your new nest any way you want!

You can use the good china or throw it out and get something different. You can turn empty bedrooms into guest rooms or alternate studios. Give up quilting in exchange for making jewelry. When you’ve finished that manuscript you can learn to paint. You can do whatever you desire, because your someday has arrived.

If you woke up tomorrow and were living your someday dreams, what would you be doing?

Tell me about the feathers that will remake your empty nests today.

Chronic Need For Motivation?

Lately I’ve found myself needing an unending supply of motivation. Not the kind that gets you up and on with the day precisely, but the type that gets you through a project from beginning to end – and feeling overjoyed at all your accomplishments. Often us creative types can be at a loss for the satisfaction about what we’re capable of creating. Perfectionism is commonly blamed, but I’m discovering the real culprit is lost motivating energy. For me it feels like my car is stuck in between gears and I stall out.

What kind of creative mechanics could fix this? I’ve been stumbling around for long while trying to find it. And I think I finally have some words that fit, so I can begin to articulate my issues to myself and others; and hopefully get some useful feedback that will reinvent my motivation.

Here’s my plight: I’ve been endlessly clearing and organizing my home and studio. It’s more or less been going on for over a year and a half. Any sane person might ask,” What kind of mess do you live and work in?” Well not that much actually. It’s the emotional part that’s a mountain; and all the stuff that complicates those feelings. Today a wise advisor reminded me not to go into feeling grief and loss, but work at just staying in clearing the workspace and organizing it enough to work in. Well. duh! Simple switch up of words! That little change in how I’m thinking about this project opens up a whole new look at my progress, (which has been phenomenal) and what I need to do next (which is pretty simple).

As an empty nester, I now have all this space in my house which has accumulated the stuff of thirty years from an actively creative family and several businesses’. I let myself believe I was starting anew like moving out rather than moving on. I still live and work here and need my tools and supplies to create. What’s really changed is that I can finally spread out all over my home if I want to. Emotionally I never felt that was an option before. That feels freeing and more than a bit scary mostly because I’ve always had a cramped space to work in. That means there’s never been enough storage so things always looked a bit unkempt. My fear is that my living space will end up that way though it doesn’t have too. That’ll be my choice. My workspace just has to function well enough for my work flow, and the stored items can be moved all over my place as I please.

With these switched up words I feel like I can begin to keep up the energy I need to get back into the swing of what I really want to do and have the motivation to stay consistent with my efforts. The practice of not overwhelming myself, will need to be a chronic effort because, I’ll need to remind myself often that managing my workspace is about the flow of my work. It is not about the pack it up and check it off task mastering that can leave me feeling spent, joyless and unendingly emotionally worked to death. Well, right now, this all sounds to me good anyway – going to move a few boxes into a new location. Keep you posted on the rest of my progress.