Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To blog or not to blog

The impetus for this blog was to give readers a change of scenery every time they came back to my website. And to give them a reason to check my website for new paintings, workshops, artwork. After a year of working as my daughter's home facilitator (she finished her first year of cyber school)--among other other distractions, I have little to show in the way of art and writing. After a year of economic hardships, my workshops have come to a halt. It is a decision I have made because I have put a lot of effort into my workshops only to have disheartening cancellations.

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.

Arden, Delaware

A few weeks ago, Mark and I were invited to stay in the community of Arden, Delaware for the weekend. This is a community that was set up as a stab at Utopia under the heading of the single tax. In the years since its founding, it attracted many artists, free thinkers, and civically minded people. How can we describe the visit beyond saying that we both looked online at real estate following our weekend there?
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

Honest Mother's Day Reflections

This one is not going to be sappy. I've done that past Mother's Days, so I've given myself permission to be a little snarky.

* 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

Wonderful Good Market

They are just about to break ground on a strip mall, the first in our local area. Included in that plan is a Giant Grocery Store. I was mildly excited about this because our local grocery store is a hard place for me to shop. It has been stepping up the effort to get new products in, but often they don't know where to put them. The organic food ends up in no man's land next to seasonal things like water pistols or pumpkin buckets. And the new cheese island is filled with more kinds of processed cheese-ish products than I ever thought possible. And they aren't open on Sunday. I realize this is an issue of religious beliefs. I respect that, but I also respect my desire to sometimes make a grocery run on a Sunday.

Here's the thing--an even better option opened up today: Wonderful Good Market. I live near Stoudt's Brewery. At the complex they not only brew fabulous beer, they have a restaurant, a bakery, a village of shops, and an antique market. Now they have a farmer's market and cheese-making facility. I am the queen of cheese, so I am in heaven. The operation is bare bones at the moment. Cheese will come in a month or so, along with a deli, olive bar, organic frozen dinners, farmer's produce, meats and dairy. But they have the bread, a line of organic food, Pennsylvania maple syrup, free range eggs. One of the owners stopped me when she admired my market basket. We started talking about everything from cheese to yoga, to my workshops, to Radiance (a store we both love and the place I bought my basket.), books we read. By the end of the conversation, we were so excited by our aligned interests, we just gave one another a hug. With any luck, my supermarket days are behind me. Heck, I may even apply for a part time job. (How often do you hear me say that?) I just want to be a part of it all. I am that excited.

Opera for Broccoli

What a beautiful day. I just went outside to look at my garden. Stuff is a sproutin'. Radish, fava beans. I replaced the cruciferous plants the bunnies ate and I surrounded my garden with a little human hair. It is supposed to keep away the invaders. So far, so good. The morning was just so alive and the air smelled so fresh. I just wanted to sing. I didn't, but I played opera for the seedlings and sprouts and plants and the bunny who was eyeing me from the neighbor's yard. (It was that kind of a morning.) Maybe I'll install some speakers out in the yard.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Recipe redux

My Friday morning indulgence is Grey's Anatomy. Husband is off to work. Son is off to school. Daughter is not up yet to start cyber school. Alone with the remote control. At some point in starting or pausing the show, I saw a clip from Good Morning America. They were showing off the week's worth of meals to feed a family of 4 for under $15 a meal. Is this hard? It's a rare night when I don't cook for my family. I be willing to bet I do the limbo under that $15 pole with regularity and dare I say...finesse. I think it is funny when magazines and TV shows proclaim, dinners under 500 calories or dinners that are good for the environment, or dinners that save you money, or dinners you can make in 30 minutes or less. Each of these tasks is a no-brainer. Want to impress me? How about a dinner that is light, filling, healthy, environmentally friendly, quick, cost-effective, AND that kids and grown-ups alike will love. (Doesn't quite all fit on the cover of a magazine--does it?). But basically, we the meal mavens weigh the pros and cons of each dinner we make against all of these standards. It is science, math, artistry (and at my house it often also includes a social studies lesson thrown in for sport). Let's add poetry. Haiku? Check out this Twitter user (Maureen) whose entries are complete recipes in 140 characters. She was featured in the N.Y. Times. Maybe it is all novelty rather than substance. But I love the spare minimalism of it all. Steps and ingredients are scaled back (which often translate into savings of $ and time). Chef's intuition is a must. I am thinking of trying the rhubarb upside-down cake, the Stout ice cream, Saffron Asparagus Orzo, spicy tofu. It's fun. Makes cooking into playtime. And in an economic recession, we all need as much joy as we can get.

*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

Free the Chickens

I see progression on my walk. Fields being planted, livestock relocated, trees felled, streams melting, buds, buildings going up. One day on my walk I noticed a new platform on wheels. The next walk it was enclosed in plastic--Conestoga wagon style. I thought the farmers were going to sell plants for Easter. Then I saw boxes and shelves inside the sheltered space. HMM? A moving vegetable stand? I did not expect what I saw next on my walk: dancing chickens. That is what they looked like, running in and out of the covering, clawing the fields for food, talking to one another. Had the farmer been out that day, I would have rushed over and started talking to him. I had read about these gypsy chickens and the health of field eco-systems from reading The Omnivore's Dilemma last summer. One of my top recommended reads, it detailed how farms used to be more savvy in using animals and plants as self-contained eco-systems. The chickens eat the bugs that feast on the cow patties. They leave droppings which leave the pasture in better order so the cows can have better grazing land. One farmer profiled in the book, had a moving chicken coop so he could rotate it over the pasture and make his farm a healthier organism. I have a lot of farms nearby. Family farms, not big agri-business. I have seen crop rotation, animal raised along-side crops to better enhance the fertilization/feed cycles. I have even seen rotting citrus fruit dotting fields as a way to get acid into the soil. The Pennsylvania German population which make up a good percentage of the farming community has had a better than average reputation as being good stewards of the land since they came to the county in the early 1700's.
I was thrilled to see the practice of roaming chickens as described on my walk. And I was sad when I went for a walk one day and they were gone. The farmer and his family own a lot of land, but I thought I could see most of it on my walk. Where did the chickens go? Did he sell them? I got my answer today while running errands. In a nearby field, stuck between houses, I saw my chickens frolicking once more. I vowed to visit them after running errands. (They were a lot more energetic than the orthodontic assistants I surprised on their lunch hour. Going in for a new container for my son's retainer, I found them all napping in the chairs.) I was happy to get back to the chickens. Surprise. The farmers, father and son, were with them. I talked to the son. They have about 250 chickens. They are happy critters, who don't exactly want to stay in their pasture. He is working on that. They just started laying eggs. Ten yesterday. They will be sold at a premium at the produce stand a mile from house. It opens in late May. I can't wait! I wanted to ask more questions--What kind are they? Will you be selling meat? I got a bit shy. So did he. I wanted to take more pictures. I will eventually--now that I know where to find them.

Earth Day Daring

Happy Earth Day. I got a happy earth day email from my friend Regina. She wished me enjoyment and care of our sweet earth. Some of my earth day activities included going for my usual 4 miles walk, buying plants for my garden, finding out where and when I can buy more plants from Happy Cat Organics, signing up for online banking to use less paper, reading about safe cleansers online, taping Oprah's special on saving money by going green, stopping a farmer alongside the road and asking him about his new project of free range chickens and where I can buy the eggs (more on that later), and stopping for an ice cream cone. (I ate the container. No waste!) Small things--but all today. My other new and earth-friendly practices of continuing to cancel catalogs as they trickle in and composting are ongoing.

In addition--20 things I am glad to have done. 2009

1. Had both a son and a daughter to teach me all sorts of lessons.
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.

20 things I am glad to have done--written in 1996, age 27

1. Had a baby
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

Taking a whale for a walk in NYC

I already said I went to NYC and saw my first Broadway show. I guess the reason I haven't gone to shows is that I'm always at the museums. The occasion for this show was my son's chorus trip. They've gone in the past years, but we never went with them. Jonah brought the papers too late or finances were an issue. (They always want the money around the holidays.) But this was his last year to go, so we went and saw Phantom. Of the choices, I would have picked Lion King, but Jonah wanted Phantom, and it was his trip. The musical was in the afternoon, which left the morning in NYC open. We were being dropped off at 10 and had to eat and be back to the theater by 1:30. What to eat? What to do? We could go to a museum, but that would leave little time to see much and we'd still have to pay the $20 admission. I suggested walking to see the renovated Grand Central Station with its shops and restaurants. I also suggested walking up to Central Park. I tried to get Jonah to participate in this pre-trip planning. The most I could get out of him was that he would like either pizza, a barbecue joint, or chili for lunch.

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.

Checking the list

A while ago, let's call it mid-nineties, I wrote a list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime. Not quite a bucket list. I only had 17 things on the list with room for more.

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

Cob Studio

A few weeks ago, my daughter had a long play practice, so Mark and I took in the sites. We went to Terrain Garden Center which is a real treat for the senses and unlike any garden center I have ever been. Go for a whole day with a bunch of girlfriends and make sure to lunch in their greenhouse. Mark and I also hit Chaddsford Winery for a barrel tasting. This is probably the most well-known and one of the best wineries in PA. I especially like their select vineyard Chambourcin wines
But, like I said, the play practice was long, so Mark and I didn't stop there. We capped off our experience by attending an open house at Cob Studio, a ceramic studio built in cob construction (the only of its kind in PA) about 4 years ago. The place as an aura of enchantment. It is bigger than it looks with meandering earthen shelves, a wood stove guarded by handmade tea cups, and an organic form that makes it seem as if the whole structure grew out from the ground like fungi. Quite hobbit-like, with reclaimed windows and colored bottles set playfully in the earth, hay mix. The place of whimsy houses ceramicist and holistic health counselor, Cara Graver. It is where she gives classes, has tea parties, hosts organic suppers parties, and creates her own work. My daughter is taking a ceramics class this year at her school. I'll need to get her there over the summer to see the place and perhaps create. Maybe I'll bring my mom along too, for the tea and scones. No website for the place, but Cara does have an email list. The Cob Studio 1281 Green Lane, Chester Springs, PA 610-469-9509.
Although our entire Sunday experience was fun, we saved the best place for last.

Hail storm

We had a bad hail storm recently. I had taken a picture of a tree on one of my walks. The next day it was gone. I am glad I took the time to notice it.

Latest Breakfast craze

I have a new breakfast thing going. Bob's Red Mill 6-Grain hot cereal with flax seed. Make it in the microwave. Add a splash of milk. Some blueberries. I could add honey, but I add toasted coconut which seems the most decadent thing in the world. I refuse to look at the nutritional information of the toasted coconut. It is helping me get my anti-toxins, omega-3's and fiber. I actually have started craving this now. Pretty good for someone who is usually in muffin mode.

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

Site redesign

I am thinking about redoing my website, but feel I don't want to devote my life to do it. I've dsicovered www.easysite.com. Don't know if it will work for me, But I love the concept. HMMM? Anybody with any experience here?

Soul Pancake

I was listening to an interview with Rainn Wilson of the office. He was talking about his Bahá'í Faith. This is a religion started in Persia in the 1800's and, at the risk of over-simplifying, has as a basic tenet, the unity of major world religions. I am somewhat familiar with people of this faith, as many of them, without a presence nearby, have chosen to worship at our church, Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster. You might correctly infer from the name of my church that unity is something I believe in too. The world is getting smaller. Multi-culturalism is the result. Unity makes sense to me. Domination of one culture over another or one religion over another--not so much. So you can bet that I was listening to the interview and nodding often.

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

The Pink Side of the Mind

Have you heard about the book The Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink that Oprah gave to each member of the graduating class of Stanford? I heard an interview with him recently, and it made me want to run out and buy a copy of the book for each member of local school board. In this economy, I just bought a used copy for myself.

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

Coffee, Tea and Me

I am precise in my coffee drinking. 16 oz a day. I need to do it that way so my caffeine is regulated--or I get headaches. At home I drink it black, but in the world I have been known to add cream. I like a dark roast mostly but I have been known to enjoy a few offbeat and limited number of flavors: coconut, blueberry, southern pecan, pumpkin. For the last 2 1/2 years I have been making coffee with my single cup Keurig machine, but now that I am getting into composting, I am trying to get over the waste of the cartridges. I am going to be using more of the individual filter and try my hand at making French Press coffee each morning.
I do seek out cafes for coffee. I love Dosie Dough in Lititz, Wyomissing, and Lancaster. Before my workshops at Radiance, I have been known to stop for coffee at Prince Street Cafe. I love their mugs. White and squared off. They fit in my hand. The outside rim is square, but inside is round. Somehow this is comfortable to my coffee-sipping mouth. At home, I have a menagerie of mugs. I tend to choose them for my mood or to match my pajamas. I especially like my lavender grid mug (gifted to me in 8th grade by my best friend) when I am wearing my lavender polka dot night shirt (gifted to me by my college roommate).
But this week, I found mugs at Ikea that are similar to the mugs at Prince Street Cafe. The only difference is that the lip is completely round. I tried them out this week and love them. Call me crazy, but I think the coffee tastes better in them. I am a girl who loves white dishes, so even though I will miss my dose of morning color, I like these. I guess my other mugs will be relegated for my decaf afternoon tea, Earl Grey or Lemon Ginger. For some reason I like a big chunky mug of tea, but prefer my coffee in a sleeker cup. But here is the thing. It feels a little like my religious life. Searching for the best possible experience before settling in and making it my ritual--a ritual to add meaning and launch me on my path.

Walk--on the Wild Side

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

Updates on my little bits of social action

I am coming to this place to keep myself accountable. I thank anyone who is reading for helping in that. Most of these things are items I said I would do. I just need to say, "I did them." Helps me to feel pride and move on to further action. Feel free to post your own ongoing action--nothing is too small. We need to inspire each other and keep each other going in this time of flux and opportunity.

*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.

Studio to-do

I put off cleaning and organizing my studio as long as possible, but I was inspired by a few things--the Clutterbugs on Oprah, The book View from the Studio Door, and Spring. Maybe something else, but I can't think what it might be right now. Anyway, I knew I wanted to get my supplies--especially my painting and workshop supplies in order. Here is a view of two of the walls. I am thinking of turning my closet into a sewing nook, but that has yet to happen--and might not for a while. Sewing just isn't a priority--though I did recently spend a couple of hours in a sewing store, for fun. But, I am coming out of a rut and this do over has really made me feel good. To think--it only took me a day to accomplish and according to the odd paperwork I found in piles on the floors, I'd been putting this off for over 6 months. I reconfigured my filing system and even cleaned out my email in-box. I am feeling pretty slick right now and that almost anything is possible.
You'll notice a pillow on the floor under the desk, next to files--bed for my pug. He doesn't like it. He'd rather be in the way of my rolling chair where he has a view of the door--but I tried.
You'll also notice that I left out the embarrassing before pictures. I do have enough room to now lay down a yoga mat and do yoga if I so desire. Also, in the corner directly behind my desk chair is the painting station. That is still not optimal yet. I need better lighting, a corkboard, to remove the clock, and get my table set up the way I want it. At the moment, it is just an easel and the end of my sewing table and a few taped up pictures. Hopefully it will be coming soon.
I am thinking about making every Friday, a clean and organize day. Maybe. It sure felt like a good way to start the weekend.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Demise of PA Governor's Schools of Excellence

Economic hardship. Budget cuts. I understand that we need to make hard choices. Our state education system just cut the leaders of tomorrow out of the budget. Gone are the Pennsylvania Governor's Schools for Excellence: five-week, boarding summers schools for students of promise. (High school students need to apply, audition, interview etc. to be accepted into these prestigious programs.) It cost about $2.7 million to run the 8 programs that make up the schools: Agricultural Sciences (PGSAS), Arts (PGSA), Global Entrepreneurship (PGSGE), Health Care (PGSHC), Information, Society & Technology (PGSIST), International Studies (PGSIS), The Sciences (PGSS), and Teaching (PGST). Once again, mediocrity rules.

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 you give Jill some venison...

You will get chili, roasted venison loin with potato celeriac gratin, creamy mushroom stroganoff over egg noodles, a spicy tomato ragu over rigatoni, bologna slices spread with goat cheese, Guinness game pie, and Southern fried chipotle steaks.

If you give a mouse a cookie...

If you give Jill some goat's milk, she will have to make chevre.

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?

Another lesson from the mat

My yoga practice is has helped me in more ways than just physical. And even more than just the inner peace. There are a lot of metaphors in yoga that work in life and here is one that I am beginning to assimilate. I am a pretty inflexible in my muscles, especially hamstrings and legs. Stretching is important to my health because the strength and inflexibility in some of my muscles can throw me out of balance--as my lower back can attest. So I have always tried to stretch in a way that was ultimate--go until I feel resistance and then go until I feel more resistance. The harder I stretch, the looser I'll become, right? Recently, I've been taught another approach. Don't stretch to your limit. Stay just inside of it. Then stay with the stretch. Breathe into it and observe how your body relaxes naturally into the pose. This has worked wonders with hip stretches. I can see the uses of this practice in life. Sometimes I try soooo hard to make something work. Over-exert. Use up my energy stores trying to push a brick wall (which is what my hamstrings feel like at times). But if I back off a little, I can find that the impediment with loosen and give way. I am seeing how this can work with my writing, my relationships, parenting. While I have yet to put this to the test, I am really looking forward to seeing where I can go with this.

Intro to Labyrinths

I have talked about labyrinths before and my experience with them. But if walking a labyrinth is not practical or there isn't one near you, here is a virtual way to get acquainted with the meditative practice and possible uses. I would still recommend trying to find a labyrinth to walk in its physical form. Click here to find a labyrinth near you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Looking back, looking ahead

Looking back, I wonder if the tone of my ten entries is a little preachy. Maybe. Not done yet. I really am optimistic about this world and don't feel the need to be apologetic about that stance. I don't think it is big ideas and actions that are going to free us from current economic climates. But we all do need to do our part. I am bothered by the country's consumerism. My house isn't exempt. I could point fingers particularly at my husband and daughter. He likes new electronics. She can't go into a store without wanting to spend money. I am not an impulse buyer, but that doesn't mean I don't buy things I don't need.

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.

Just One thing

Recently I attended a ritual in which participants were asked to write an intention for the coming seasons on a small piece of tissue paper. The paper was then crumpled to the size of a pea and ceremonially planted in the earth. This was to signify the planting of our intentions that they may flourish and grow with the seeds of the earth in the coming Spring. What to write. Focus on one thing? UHM? Let's see. Lose Weight? Balance my books? Take care of clutter and overflow in my house? Care for the environment? Use all those new art supplies I have been buying and actually create something?

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.

Square Foot Gardening

Already contemplating the garden. I produced the most stunted produce last year. Not only do I want to compost to save waste from going in landfills, but my soil needs improvement. I have a book called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew which is probably my favorite gardening book. I just found out he has a new version of the book. I like his ideas for easy and organized gardening. The basic idea is 4'x4' raised beds that are subdivided into 16 one foot blocks. Plants are planted according to the density best suited for them. One eggplant in one block. But maybe 16 carrots in the same size square. You get the picture. I have a variation on this with an L-shaped bed that is 4 foot wide. Next year I hope to have actual 4' square boxes as prescribed. One change in the old book to this book. In the old book, you dug down deep in to the soil and to the soil you removed, you added many things. Put it back into the raised bed (6"). In the new book, you remove sod, put on weed blocking material, lay your frame over and fill with vermiculite, peat moss, and compost---all bought. No fertilization needed. Each year, you just add your own homemade compost. I like the idea of this. The ease. But part of me wants the romance, the groundedness of eating vegetables grown in my local soil. Is it really local produce if all the soil is imported?

Limp in, Walk out

I have been doing a walking meditation called a labyrinth for years. I have posted on it. Love it. It settles my mind and keeps my body occupied. Generally when I walk the path of a labyrinth I try to imagine letting go as I walk toward the center. In the center, I try to center. DUH! Be in the now. One with all. Experience the Godlight. Got it? Then I allow this spirit to swell and fill me as I walk out. Well, the last time I walked the labyrinth was the beginning of February. I forgot my agenda, and low and behold, I had a bit of a transformation. I am a spiritual person, but I don't often go into my journey with others. It is personal. What I do reveal is generally the stuff of the surface. I am not going too go deep here, either. These are quick sketches I am writing. But during this latest walk, I hit pay dirt and went to a new level in my consciousness. Some issues broke open for me, and I began to see things with a new sight. AH-HA moment. Lightbulb. Just some issues I have been working on since childhood cleared up for me a little. Nothing I would normally write about. But on the way out of the labyrinth, I heard a little voice say, "Now that we got that settled, how about the knee?" I had been having quite the time with me knee since November. All kinds of pain. Limping. Pain that moved around so I couldn't really explain it. Popping noises all the time. It clicked. It froze up on me. Pain on stairs. I iced it. Took pain killers. Did every thing except go to the doctor. I was waiting for the holidays to be over. Then I was waiting for the new insurance. Then I was waiting for my sis-in-law to get her knee done so I could ask her questions. Well long story short, the knee hasn't bothered me since the labyrinth. I remembered what a healthy knee feels like. Today I was doing deep squat after deep squat in Yoga. I've never experienced anything like this in my life. The bothersome thing? Now that this has been so miraculously overcome, I wonder why my whole life can't be WHOOSH the way I want it.

Oprah's Best Life

I tuned in for Oprah's Best Life Week. It seems I need a kickstart in all areas. Where to start? But especially since my 40th birthday is upon me, I especially was paying attention to health matters. So this is the way of it. I know I need to lose weight. The Best Life Diet seems intuitive and reasonable to me. And I am easing into it. Gathering resources and information. I am not procrastinating as much as I am taking things slow. I have started a new regimen of vitamins. I got my eyes checked and am sporting bifocals. I really like them--no problems adjusting. I scheduled a mammogram. I will schedule a physical. I was going to schedule an appointment for my knee which has been bothersome for far too long, but I didn't for reasons that will become the subject of another blog entry.
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.

Still loving the iPhone

I can go for a walk, stay in contact with the kids, have emergency contact, listen to music and podcasts, text or write myself a note (often a walk will clear my mind and allow me to remember something important that I want to call to mind when I get home), and take photographs of nature and things I observe. Plus I can map my route and see how far I've gone and approximate calories consumed. Now, all of this depends if I am out for true exercise or mental escape. But the iPhone is great tool for me to hone my intent. If I want a hard session, I listen to my iTread workout. If I need to think, I can put in a meditation tape. I can use it to learn with podcasts. And if my walk gives me artistic inspiration I can take pictures or notes. I can even check the weather before I go to make sure I am dressed appropriately.

I Pledge and Starbucks

I got swept up in the spirit of the "Be the change" and the "Yes, we can" attitudes that pervaded the inauguration. Would I have done so if a new Republican administration had inspired these ideas. I'd like to think so, but I can't be sure.

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.

Green Tara

I didn't make any New Year's Resolutions this year, but I am beginning of journey learning about and working with energies of the Green Tara. She is a female Buddha associated with (among other things) compassion, enlightenment, success in the workplace, liberation from fear. I am not a Buddhist, so I don't want to step on toes with my year's quest. I taught a survey course of Goddesses from around the world this past fall to a group of extraordinary women who are still gathering to meet and share energies. I chose one of the figures we studied and decided to take my personal study to a deeper level. I am experimenting with meditations and mantras. I have experienced many different kinds of meditation over the years, but have not built a practice. It is ongoing. I probably won't have much to say until I come to the end of my year, but I'll put it out there as intention.

Inauguration of Barrack Obama

I didn't even blog about the inauguration??? You know that Obama gave his acceptance speech in Grant Park where I finished my one and only marathon. It was thrilling to see the landscape of my biggest challenge in the spotlight. Well the inauguration conjured other memories. Mark and I got engaged on a picnic beside the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial. And I just finished reading a book on the Lincoln marriage. So all the Lincoln references felt personal to me. That's not even beginning to hit what I felt about Obama taking office. In a lot of ways I felt healed. I didn't expect that. But I have been feeling sorry about my race's treatment of other races. I didn't realize how I had internalized all of those messages until the moment Obama arrived. I feel proud and awakened. I am not saying that he will be able to cure all ills with a magic wand. But I finally have someone in office I can respect. I couldn't say that about Clinton. I don't know if I have ever really felt that as an adult. I am looking forward to seeing what happens. But YEAH! President Obama did sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I did a dance. Would that it have been in effect when I was in the workplace.

Time again for ten new posts

I can't believe I haven't posted yet this year! My goal was to design a new website in January. Perhaps I was waiting. I think I have the homepage designed. But I am working on a template. It is hard. I have forgotten all that I know about designing a website. Why must I reinvent the wheel each time. Any web designers want to volunteer to come up with a real stripped down site? I just want something simple where my artwork will provide the visual focus. I need to get this done so then my artwork may once again be my focus. It isn't any fun writing about NOT MAKING ART!