Tuesday, June 9, 2009
So that leads me to my blog. Do I stop updating because there is nothing new for me to promote? Is there a reason for these musings beyond a little harmless exhibitionism on my part? Do I have something of importance to give--something that can't be found elsewhere.
These are many of the questions swirling through my brain. Part of me wants to forget the whole creative experiment and get a job somewhere. Doing what? It seems I am at a crossroads. I love to write and to paint, but I am paralyzed by economic realities. Do I do that thing for which I feel I have a gift even if my payday may be years away? Workshops were helping to ease that conundrum. I could do a few here or there and feel I was adding in a small way to the outside world of trade and jingle a few coins in the family pockets.
The title of this post is to Blog to not to Blog a play on Hamlet's existential crisis. Crisis. Crossroads. I am there. What is at stake is not physical life, but the artist life. Should I stop the blog and concentrate on my arts, until I again have something worthy of a new website? Last weekend I picked up three paintings from a gallery in New Hope. I have two galleries who want to see more of my work. I have an agent who wants some writing. If I show them the goods, will they show me the money? Is this what I am about? If it is what I am about, then should I just get a job with a paycheck? To be continued. . . or not.
The weekend didn't start out too well. Mark was supposed to get off work at 12. He told me to meet him at his workplace because he was already halfway to Arden. I met him, but he didn’t actually get out of work until 1:45. I was not a happy camper and neither was he, so we started out our weekend a little on the aggravated side. But we did hit Chaddsford winery on the way down and got a few sample pours to help smooth the edges before arriving at friend Cynthia's place. The cottage where we were to stay and her property in general were adorable. Something out of a fairy tale--Snow White, but with a better design sense. After visiting with Cynthia in her garden over drinks and snacks, she called up all these artists who lived in the community—spur of the moment—and asked them to let us see their studios, which they did with an abundance of hospitality. We also took in a play. Footloose. Mark and I felt a bit guilty about going to a play that didn’t feature our daughter or any of her acting chums. It felt wrong to go to get tickets where we know nobody. Turns out the guy playing the Reverend in Footloose played Max with Maren in Sound of Music. We stalked him after the show. Even more funny—he was the roast beef carver for the dinner theater. We didn’t recognize him when he was carving our meat.
The next night we went to a community dinner. They have them every Saturday night. BYOB. Community announcements. Their community is so charming. So walkable. We explored every niche, and just about every trail. We took our picnic to a rock in the stream in the woods. We had subs from Capriotti who did some of Biden’s Inaugural feast. Thanksgiving on a bun: Turkey, mayo, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Our other sub was hot pastrami, cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and coleslaw. We washed it all down with wine. I hope we can take the kids there to see Shakespeare in their dear little 100 year old 100 seat outdoor theater. Jonah is getting his first taste of Shakespeare this year and he LOVES it. And you already know of my little theater girl. We also went on a home and garden tour on Sunday.
All of this left me questioning what it was I want in community. Arden, Delaware is a heck of a place to start that conversation.
Monday, May 11, 2009
* The main reason I like Mother's Day is that I can do anything I want and not feel guilt. I realize that part of this equation is me allowing myself not to feel guilt, and I can choose that any day I want. But I read a novel, mostly lying down, partly while sipping limoncello. I think it is the same feeling my husband must get while watching the U.S. Open on Father's Day. With my limoncello, I had crackers with goat cheese and pepper jelly. I realized as I was snacking, quite satisfactorily, that I had made the limoncello, the goat cheese, and the pepper jelly. I patted myself on the back. It is one of those accomplishments that only I can appreciate. I mean seriously, what kid or husband ever says, "My wife/Mom makes the best pepper jelly."
* On Mother's Day--I can have the last word. Here again, I could assert myself more on other days, but I choose not to for whatever reason. But on Mother's Day, I am given this pass, and I feel empowered. It makes me a little sad that this only happens twice a year--my birthday being the other occasion. This latest instance really makes me want to stand up for myself more. We have a little game in our family. My daughter was born on an odd date; my son on a even. So if there is an impasse of sorts, an even handed dispute to be solved or a an extra cookie to hand out, we bow to the "favorite" of the day as determined by whether it is an odd or even date. (There are more odd days during the year, but my son was an only child and favorite for three years before his sister came along.) My husband was born on the 28th, and I was born on the 21st. I am beginning to think I should be granted "last word" status on odd days.
*The kitchen fairy comes more often on Mother's day weekend for which I am most appreciative. (The kitchen fairy cleans the kitchen after Shiva as Chef is done with the place.) I still cooked (made my mess), but that is because I don't want to relinquish control of my kitchen and meal planning. We had Chicken Marsala over polenta with steamed broccoli.
* Saturday night Mark says to me, "I wanted to get you a plant or something that you can look at more than just once like a bunch flowers or card on Mother's Day, but I didn't know what to pick out. Do you want to ride to the greenhouse and pick out some flowers?" Guys, if you are thinking of saying this--DON'T. This is what I heard, "I didn't get you anything yet. Do you want to go out and buy your own present?" In Mark's defense, when I told him I wasn't interested in running out to the greenhouse, he did go himself on the sly and buy some perennials. I don't need a present, per se. But I do value it greatly when someone has thought ahead and planned something. It makes a person feel cherished and appreciated. Last minute arrangements (and I am not immune to this behavior) reek of obligation instead of endearment.
*We went to J. Maki winery. On Mother's Day and Father's Day they are selling their world reknowned champagne (They call it that even though it is a French designation) by the glass. The champagne was good but there was no fanfare for the event. No table to sit outside and enjoy. No music. We should have gone to Moondancer Winery which has the ambiance--but in my opinion, their burgeoning popularity has encouraged them to release wines that aren't quite ready. Mark did take me to the winery on my request--he had never been there-- and we enjoyed sitting on the stone wall overlooking the vineyards and sipping our Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noir. A nice experience, but I am sure that for Father's Day Mark will just want to stay put, smoke some ribs, pop open a local beer, and watch the U.S. Open.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
*While I was a little harsh on GMA for their $15 menu story idea, it did help raise awareness of and increase donations for the food bank, which is another thing of joy.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
2. Had a baby at a birthing center with no drugs; home the same day
3. Ran a marathon.
4. Wrote a few novels.
5. Got one published and reveled in the book signings.
6. Planted a garden
7. Visited some great American Cities: New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, Dallas to name a few
8. Taught some classes on art, writing, journaling, LIFE
9. Traveled to Europe (England and France). Thanks, Nate.
10. Visited Disney World and Vegas. Two places I thought I would hate and ended up loving. (I bow to you, Kathy.) And visited California wine country. One place I knew I would like and I was right.
11. Researched my family tree
12. Been interviewed for newspaper, radio, and television.
13. Rode some rollercoasters in spite of my fears and aversions.
14. Watched my brothers and sister become parents
15. Engaged with other women in a deep way with spiritual work/group dynamics.
16. Started my own website
17. Painting my paintings and the art shows that followed.
18. Experienced the magic of Moondance (my friend's summer retreat) with family and friends.
19. Read over 60 novels out loud to my children.
20. Gained some great friends. Actually, the month I wrote the first list is the month I met 4 of our best friends of all time.
2. Got married
3. Went to a foreign country (Canada and Mexico)
4. Learned to knit. (Thanks Darcey and Karen!)
5. Made salsa
6. Visited New York City
7. Traveled in a airplane
8. Made my prom gown
9. Grew my hair past my shoulders
10. Hosted Thanksgiving
11. Floated on my back in a swimming pool during a lunar eclipse
12. Pulled off a surprise party
13. Fixed a flat tire
14. Ate sushi
15. Graduated from college
16. Took music lessons
17. Gave a speech in public
18. Camped in the great outdoors.
19. Learned some French
20. Saw a President in person (Bill Clinton)
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I thought the excitement of the city would wash over him once we got there. I was wrong. Once we were actually in the city, Jonah was sullen. I don't like big cities. UGH! I used an analogy with my mother-in-law telling her it was like trying to walk a whale around NYC on a leash.
He eventally agreed to Grand Central Station after my iPhone indicated it had a bookstore. So I started walking quickly in the direction of the station. Jonah plodded behind. At one point I almost turned around and told Jonah to keep up, but then I had an A-HAH moment. Why should he keep up with me? This was his trip. We weren't pressed for time. I slowed down to his pace. It was hard. I like to walk fast. But I tried to look around and really absorb the city rather than getting ot my destination. Later, we opted for brick-oven pizza across the street from the theater. (Never my choice but I was able to get my favorite topping--eggplant.) I don't know if Jonah knows how I struggled to let him have the trip his way. Maybe he doesn't even think it was his way.
Day later, I heard a radio interview about mindfulness and how parents always rush their kids. I am terribly guilty of this one. It talked about present moment and teaching moments. The best way to show kids the power of now (a la Tolle) is to let them see you as a parent be totally immersed in the moment. If by totally immersed in the moment they mean running around like a crazy person shouting, "Let's go, we will be late! MOVE!" then I have it covered. I think I even rush my kids when we are ahead of schedule. Mark is the same. So, we have some work to do when it comes to teaching our kids to be in the moment. I think for me, it'll take a few more walks around the block with a whale on the leash.
1. Visit all 50 states. I am at about 28 states (a few more if you count sitting on an airplane in an airport). I may just get another one this summer.
2. Travel over an ocean. check
3. Publish something. check
4. Paint a mural. check minus. I did paint a small mural in my daughter's bedroom. Not sure if that is what I had in mind, but it is cute.
5. Perfect Salsa. check. Had a great batch this summer.
6. Own a log cabin. Not yet. The Little House on the Prairie dream is still alive.
7. Write a novel. check.
8. Teach a class. check.
9. See a Broadway Show. check. And the reason I am blogging. I finally saw my first Broadway show on Saturday. You would have thought that would be an easy one.
10. One year, make all of my Christmas gifts. No, and I really have no desire to do this one. I am taking it off the list.
11. One year, make none of my Christmas gifts. I think I am taking this off my list, too. I don't think I really have ever had a year where I didn't make something, however small.
12. Learn to dance--for those slow dances at weddings. Haven't done it. Can't say I am chomping at the bit to do this one, but never say never.
13. Get a professional massage. check.
14. Take a cross-country motorcycle trip with Mark. I have no desire to do the motorcycle thing, but a cross country trip with Mark and/or kids intrigues me. We have done a 10 state, 10 day, 40 hour-in-car trip in 2000 with kids ages 3 and 5. I think that was pretty gutsy and fun.
15. Have a foreign exchange student. One of my biggest regrets is not doing a semester abroad in college. I guess this is to make up for it. We haven't done this yet, but I could see it happening. Conversely, I'd like to see Maren and I setting up shop in Paris for an extended stay, Jonah and I in England touring castles, and Mark and I in Italy.
16. Make clay pots with Mark. No. He was taking a ceramics at the time I wrote this list. I guess I got a romantic notion. My daughter is taking a class now. In our living room, you will find an example of ceramics by each of the four of us. It would be fun to take a family ceramics class.
17. Make a quilt. check. It is a lame quilt, but it fits the definition.
It isn't on here, but I thought for sure that run a marathon was on this particular list. check.
I think I am going to have to make a new list of 20. But that is for another blog. Also, at the time I made my original list, made a list of 20 things I was glad to have already done. Again--another entry.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I have also started taking vitamins with breakfast. I don't know what the results are. Perhaps I'll never know. I am looking for energy and if it can help focus my brain, keep me healthy, help my joints and help me live a longer more productive life, so be it.
Still drinking my 16 oz of coffee. Black. Thought about giving it up for some sort of tea. Seems more spa-like. More in line with a morning yoga practice. I don't know. I recently gave up all sodas. I was drinking about one coke zero day at lunch time. Wanted to be done with chemicals. We'll see. I'm not on some drastic health kick, but if I can make a few gradual changes, it may be worth it.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Rainn said that Bahá'í has many names for God, but this is true in most churches. God the creator, God the redeemer, God the merciful. But Rainn mentioned one name in particular. God the fashioner. This is God as artist, designer. I have taken and taught a curriculum in my church which is called, You the Creator. It focuses on the creative process which is a mirror of God as creator. Rainn went further to describe creative work as prayer.
This isn't new. I studied a bit of the work of German Idealist Philosopher G.W.F Hegel who claimed that art, along with religion and philosophy was a primary means through which spirit was manifested.
Often when I write or paint, I am so "in the moment" that I cannot help but to think that I am a puppet of or a magnet to spirit energy, completely bypassing the intellectual and emotional realms. Call it what you want: prayer or meditation or lifeline. There is something to all these claims that creative work is sacred work. Rainn Wilson started a new website for dialogs of spirit and art--without the woo-woo factor. www.soulpancake.com Check it out.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
A description of the book from Daniel Pink's website ...
"Lawyers. Accountants. Computer programmers. That's what our parents encouraged us to become when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. The era of "left brain" dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which "right brain" qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate. That's the argument at the center of this provocative and original book, which uses the two sides of our brains as a metaphor for understanding the contours of our times."
In the interview I heard, Mr. Pink reasoned that any jobs that can be mapped out in logical sequential steps (such as technology, accounting and some forms of law practice) are the jobs that are being shipped to Asia. The U.S. of A. is entering a new economy in which a new set of skills will be necessary. He outlines the main skills (the six senses) in his book. These include play, empathy, big-picture thinking among other things.
Ironically, the traits that Pink espouses will be important for a healthy economy and successful job search of the future are exactly the kinds of skills taught in art classes, classes that are being cut out of school curricula at a faster rate than folks cutting out cereal coupons during Our current economic downfall.
I am not going to kick the accountants and other left-brained thinkers while they are down. They are not dinosaurs by any means. I have always advocated a whole mind approach. Though it may seem like I am a right-mind cheerleader--it is only because society has put down creative thinking with disempowering labels of flakiness and woo-woo. In order to achieve balance, I have had to stick up for the creative, non-verbal, non-linear hemisphere. Take back your woo-woos and give me an R!
I am still awaiting my copy Pink's book. I ordered it days ago. I am sure I will more to say when I actually read it. (I am anticipating a lot of AMEN, Brother Pink!) But for now, I wanted to personally go on record as saying: I think our country will soar if traditionally left-brained thinkers add some of these new skills to their repertoire, and if traditionally right-brained thinkers (who, out of survival, have already acquired left-brained skills) are valued for their gifts.
My son is entering the high school next year. With that comes a whole new focus on future careers. I am so glad that this book and the Johnny Bunko comic accompaniment have crossed my path at this time.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Since getting my iPhone, I have renewed my walking practice, but just in the last two-three weeks, I have revved it into high gear. I used to vary my walks and runs. Lately, I have been walking the same 4 miles (which is actually 2 miles out and back) and doing it daily in an hour's time. It has become a meditation of sorts. The terrain is challenging and the views are wonderful. I don't always go at the same time of day, but I am really studying the route. I watch the way sunlight changes the view. I notice when the farmer tills the soils, bringing up the black bulging earth. I watch the way the green is trying to push its way into the landscape. I notice baby goats. The flow of the stream--or not-- in the case of ice. The smells, some good, some foul. I notice if I get tired at the same point in my walks or if I am getting stronger. I notice the litter. I have come to realize that if I stop and nod at a cow or sheep, they will nod back to me. Sometimes I take pictures of the cows. The birds are in pairs now--flitting around. I saw cardinals, blue birds, robins, morning doves, and something small like sparrows or finches--brownish.
Yesterday I looked out of the fields. They were yellow brown with just enough green trying to come through that the color seemed to pulse. Against this backdrop was the Amish schoolhouse. The children were playing and most of the girls were wearing bright purple windbreakers and lavender skirts which really popped against the wanna-be chartreuse of the fields. I wanted to take that pictures, but felt it a little disrespectful. I feel like poetry should follow, but I am still taking it all in.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
*Still eliminating catalogs as I get new ones. As they come in, I go to catalogchoice.org. I have even been doing this for the catalogs I do like (Today I got Title Nine and DharmaCrafts--both of which I love) because I don't really need to be spending right now and if I have money to burn, they do have a presence online.
*Refurbished the dirt in my square foot garden (SFG). Put a grid in place over it. Strung my trellis. I am ready to go on this SFG project. Hubby took down the kids wooden swing set. I am going to convert the spot under it to a new SFG bed. Mark took the platform off the top of the playhouse. We are converting that into a stage for Maren, our actress.
*Started composting. Bought a kitchen composter with a carbon filter (for smells). Bought a 32 gallon round plastic garbage can (no wheels) with animal proof locking lid. Mark drilled small holes for air in a grid pattern. Each hole about 4"apart, on the sides. I am alternating my brown and green layers, watering to damp sponge wetness, and rolling the bin once a week. We shall see. Composting is what I promised to do for the "I pledge..." campaign.
*I have scheduled a paperdoll workshop with kids and their mothers at the local shelter to fulfill half of my Starbucks pledge to give 5 hours of service.
*Wrote letters to my PA congressmen and the PA Secretary of Education to ask them to support the reinstatement of PA Governor's Schools for Excellence. I couldn't be at the rally in Harrisburg today, but my heart is there.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
This is devastating to an educational climate that is already prejudiced against achievers. No Child Left Behind has been great in getting kids who are just shy of the middle line to raise their scores--so necessary for schools to keep their funding. This is where teachers and administrators and school boards are concentrating their efforts (often at the expense of arts programming--another of my gripes). But kids who naturally do well on the tests are getting the shaft. Why concentrate on helping those kids fulfill their potential when they can be left on autopilot and meet expectations held by the state? If I haven't be vocal on this issue, it is because I am busy supplementing my own kids' education by taking them to museums, watching documentaries, reading to them (yes I still read to my kids, ages 11 and 14) and getting them involved in extra-cirricular activites.
Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones and herself a past student at PGSA says it this way:
"How, in a nation that idolizes its infants and children, can we find it acceptable to abandon them on the cusp of making their dreams - dreams that will be greater and more important than our own - become realities?"
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial 'Scandal for Schools' says this in : Why cut great programs for the best students?' published on 2/7/08, "America needs super-achievers to scale the heights as much as it needs underachievers to meet firm standards. Nothing is more important to a nation lagging in science and math and seeking to stay internationally competitive than to encourage a culture of high achievement among its youth."
I am biased. I spent two summers at the Pennsylvania Governor's School of Arts: one as a student going into my senior year and one as an assistant instructor just graduated from college. It is not an understatement to say that this program changed my life. In many cultures, youth are sent out on a vision quest. PGSA was mine. I spent the summer with other kids who were at the top of their game in the arts and teachers who were dedicated to catching my attention while they had it. No sweating for grades. We were in this for the pure experience. In my summers at PGSA, I made jewelry, sculpted, learned improv, saw my first independent film, learned to draw in a new way, wrote poetry, learned to knit, learned sign language while teaching deaf students, read some great new authors, attended dance and theater performances, learned about art history, took leadership training, and learned photography skills. And here's the kicker--only about half of that was part of the curriculum. The other half happened as a result of hanging around other creative kids who were blooming in this environment.
A year after I went to PGSA as a student we had a reunion where two alumni were given awards for their leadership over the past year. What had they done to take the arts and the experience of the school back into their communities? The competition was steep because these kids were on fire. I didn't win. Didn't even come close, though I had done much upon my return including helping young kids write, produce, and create a puppet show. In an era of arts funding cuts, this kind of leadership is a real boon to the community. And the loss of it, is devastating.
I am personally going to be writing letters to my PA state congressmen (Mike Brubaker and Tom Creighton) in the hopes that this program is one of the first to be reinstated when our economy gets up and running again. We cannot afford to ignore our brightest scholars. My kids are entering 9th and 7th grades next year. My hope is that these schools are back in time for them to strive to earn the title Govie.
Friday, February 27, 2009
If there is cheese, there is leftover whey.
If there is leftover whey and a few overripe pears, Jill can make oatmeal pear muffins.
If there is still more whey, Jill can make Imbolc bread.
If there is leftover flour and yeast and still more whey, Jill can make indiviual crusts to freeze for a future pizza party.
If Jill has pesto frozen in her freezer she can make a yummy cracker spread with goat cheese, to take to a party.
If Jill has some dried lavender from her garden she can roll goat cheese rounds in it.
If there is more lavender than goat cheese, she can make lavender sugar for use in lavender poundcake with lavender whipped cream.
If there is more lavender sugar leftover from poundcake and still more whey, Jill can mix up a batch of fairy pancakes.
If you give Jill some goat cheese, she will make a mess of the kitchen.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I have just discovered Ted.com. Pretty fascinating stuff. I have been uploading audio on some of these talks to my iPhone to listen as I go for walks. Some of the stuff is best with the visual, but this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert is a keeper. I don't have time to look through all the stuff on Ted, but I will come here occasionally. If any of you find some interesting spots, let us know in the comments section.
It also makes me wonder--if I had to give an 18 minute talk for Ted, what would I say?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I am really trying to cut down on my consumption. Not just of food and meat. But paper. I canceled our phone book, the freebie paper that gets thrown on the end of our driveway once a week, and many of the catalogs we get. I've used the back of used paper to print out items such as directions and coupons. These are small steps, but they feel right.
I felt overwhelmed. But I also felt like all this stuff had to be connected. It was! I was able to write an intention that encapsulated all these things.
I intend to appreciate, conserve, care for, and share the physical bounty I possess.
This may seem broad and a little corny. But think of the application. If I put this into practice all of the aforementioned issues would disappear. It's worth planting the seed.
I am investigating nutrition in ways I never have before. I am about ready to eliminate white breads and flours from my diet. I just need to plan out meals I love to get me through the transition. And I have been walking an hour a day on most days (weather permitting). When I do yoga, I have been taking it to a new level. All in all, it has been small slow changes. Nothing so radical as a diet, but as I enter a new decade, I want to do so with care and an eye forward on how I can optimize my future decades.
Anyway, to answer the call put forward by Ashton and Demi and their "I pledge" campaign, I have pledged to start composting this year. So far, I have been doing research, but I hope to put this into effect starting next month. It has always seemed a little intimidating to me--having to get the mixture just right to created the proper chemical reactions, but I am going to start.
And to answer Starbuck's call for 5 hours of volunteer work, I am going to do some workshops with the local domestic violence shelter. I have done this before, but in light of my present commitments to my volunteer work with the Lancaster Literary Guild, I had not planned to do any workshops in the near future. Still it feels good to be putting an extra effort out there. Times are tough, and I want to help get this country on its feet again--even if my efforts are small ones.