Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 16,489 Gratitude

I am grateful for an afternoon spent with Mabel and Tony. I don't want this book to end!

I am grateful for our fireplace next to which I can cozy up and warm my bones.

I am grateful for the Reiki shawl finished this evening for a dear one's dear one.

I am grateful for spaghetti for dinner. My drug of choice.

I am grateful for my husband's cheerful willingness to navigate his way around our roof to hang the Christmas lights. I know this project isn't anywhere near as easy as he makes it look.

Souper Sunday: Roasty Toasty Winter Soup

This week's recipe is from my friend, Jenna McGuiggan, The Word Cellar. Jenna is wrapping up her course, Alchemy: The Art and Craft of Writing, but you can sign up for her mailing list to be notified when the spring session is scheduled. Thanks, Jenna ... this recipe looks delicious and couldn't be more perfect as the days get colder! xo

Roasty, Toasty Winter Veggie Soup*

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾” pieces
1 medium yam or sweet potato peeled and cut into ¾” pieces
1 large onion, cut into medium chunks
6 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
Olive oil
4 cups of finely chopped kale
6 cups or more of good lower sodium chicken stock (can substitute vegetable stock)**
3 large sprigs of fresh thyme (or a ½ teaspoon of dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans (or white beans of choice), drained and rinsed
7 oz of cubed fire roasted tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place carrots and yams on a rimmed baking sheet. Place onion and unpeeled garlic cloves on second rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on all vegetables. Toss to coat, being sure to coat the baking sheets with a thin layer of oil. Roast vegetables until they are brown and tender, stirring occasionally, about 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, clean and chop kale.

When the roasted veggies are done, set aside carrots and yam. Carefully peel the garlic cloves and place in food processor. Add tomatoes and onion and puree until almost smooth.

If there are any browned bits on the baking sheets, pour a ¼ cup broth onto each and scrape up the tasty goodness. Transfer broth and vegetable puree to large pot. Add 5½ cups broth, kale, thyme and bay leaf to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer. Simmer uncovered until kale is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add carrots, beans, and squash to soup. Simmer 8 minutes to blend flavors, adding more broth to thin soup if necessary. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

Serves six.

* Based on the Kale and Roasted Vegetable Soup from SimplyRecipes.
**Jenna likes Kitchen Basics brand
Please don't forget to root around the archives for past Souper Sunday posts. There's quite a collection growing!

And if you have a soup recipe to share for a future Souper Sunday post:

Please send it via e-mail to along with 1) a photo of the soup, you, you + the soup, or anything that captures the mood of the season and 2) a link to the blog or website to which you would like to be linked.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 16,488 Gratitude

I am grateful for hot pink buds, growing fat and full, on the Christmas cactus that I rescued last January from the ol' hardware store. Two sickly plants with no evidence of flowers, I repotted them together and crossed my fingers all year as it kept me company in my office. I love to see it (and anything, for that matter) flourishing!

I am grateful for this upcoming afternoon of warm conversation and hot tea with long-time friends, Julie and Debbie.

I am grateful for another dear friend, Lisa, bringing comfort through craft at this upcoming Bereavement Quilt Workshop here in Cincinnati, December 10-11. Art heals!

I am grateful that souper-friend, Katie, has made the leap onto Etsy with her new shop, Tea Leaf Knits. (Have you made the pledge to buy handmade?)

And, last but not least, a grateful tip of the hat to you, Nice 'N Easy 106A. You keep me from keepin' it too real.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 16,487 Gratitude

This crispy, bright, blue-sky day after yesterday's biblical rains.

Shameless enjoyment of pumpkin pie for breakfast. And lunch.

Another running lesson with my patient husband (and the fact that my lungs did not collapse in the process).

The enchanting way that the golden sunlight of late afternoon cast itself upon and throughout our dining room.

A long, lazy evening ahead curled up beside the fireplace.

Pondering Winter Well-Being

I make the transition from autumn to winter begrudgingly. There is no graceful, much less grateful, surrender to the darkness. November tends to be a particularly heavy month for me, physically and emotionally. Things lighten up a bit from December through most of January, thanks to the holidays and the momentum of a fresh, new year. But the heaviness tends to return for an encore in February, when enough is enough is enough.

The stork must've dropped me in the wrong location. I'm not wired for midwestern winters. The wind, cold, and cloud-laden skies are hard to tolerate. I start wearing long johns in October. I start using my light box in September. These will be my constants through March.

But there are other things that help me so much through these next four months ... some of them, all year long:

1) Daily 20-30 minute walk(s) outdoors

This is probably the most important thing that I can do to keep my train on the tracks and yet I find it to be the most challenging thing to check off of my "I will" list each day. Two walks per day would be even better and three would be ideal, but most days I am lucky to take just one. For my own well-being, I have to make it non-negotiable. There are benefits to foregoing the gym and walking outdoors when possible. Being out in the elements helps me to release my resistance to them. It can be an incredible mood-lifter, too. But it's nice to know that the gym is there when things get slippery outside.

2) Green smoothies

I try to make one 48-ounce batch of green smoothies per day. I start with two cups of water, add a tablespoon each of bee pollen, seeds (flax, chia or hemp), and coconut oil, add a teaspoon of spirulina, one apple (or pear) chopped, one kiwi peeled and chopped, one fresh banana, one frozen banana, frozen berries, and greens (kale, collards or spinach) squeezed in until the carafe is full. (A couple of years ago, I splurged on a Blendtec ... well worth the investment! It will puree your arm if you let it.) One batch fills four 12-ounce mason jars, which I store in the refrigerator. I consume these magical jars of green goodness every couple of hours through the course of the day and eat/drink anything else that I desire, so that I don't feel deprived. They kick the ever-lovin' butt out of my sugar cravings, which would otherwise be merciless at this time of year. I won't say that it is easy to drink something so cold when I'm feeling so cold, but I am rewarded by feeling nourished and alert.

3) Smart Water + Amazing Greens

Yes, more greens! I started using this powder daily when we were on vacation this summer and I'm hooked. I add a scoop to a 48-ounce bottle of Smart Water (I know, I know, I know) and consume it throughout the day. It helps to keep me hydrated and is a nice backup if I don't hit the mark on my green smoothie consumption.

4) Steaming Mugs of Something

Although I never would have dreamed that it could be possible, I have become a tea drinker. Herbal tea, green tea, and even Yerba Mate, which may or may not be a tea, but I love it. Although I tell everyone that I gave it up a couple of years ago, you can still coax me into a good cup of decaf coffee once in awhile. At this time of year, it's something hot and comforting in a mug that helps me to believe that I might not freeze to death after all. A spicy cider is a real treat. Miso soup is also high on my good medicine list. The options are limitless ... my only requirements are liquid + hot.

5) Light Box

Okay, so I'll bet that you've heard of these things and may have wondered if they really work. I have used one since 2006 and it has absolutely made a positive difference for me. I use it for about 30 minutes each morning ... sometimes longer, if inclined. In the darkest months and through long, gloomy stretches, I will use it a second time each day in the late afternoon or early evening. The light box comes with instructions to guide you through establishing a routine to provide the best support. You have to ease into using a light box, so please don't disregard this information. I have found that light box times have become my favorite of the day, because I tend to take the opportunity to journal or read. It's a nice start and break to the day.

What helps to keep you well-balanced or feeling vibrant at this time of year?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

My side of the family will be coming over for dinner shortly. We keep it low-key, which means that I take full-advantage of prefab assistance. Things turn out better that way. I can do a lot of things, but Thanksgiving dinner from scratch is not among them. I used to feel ashamed and be apologetic about it. I'm over it now. I'm over feeling that way about a lot of things.

I try to make gratitude and appreciation a daily practice, so having this one day dedicated to thankfulness feels a lot like being told that there's just one day of the year that I get to brush my teeth and this is it. So I'm focusing on finding gratitude for the small and unusual things that I might otherwise overlook on a day-to-day basis.

So along with the big things that I will be celebrating along with everyone else, like loved ones, good health, and freedom, I'm giving thanks for you, tweezers. You spare me of tremendous ridicule. And I'm giving thanks for you, colander, because draining pasta without you would be impossible. And, last but not least, I'm giving thanks for you, Back arrow, because I can't imagine navigating my way around the world wide web without you.

I wish you abundant blessings on this great day of thanks. I'm so grateful that you've stopped by. May your gravy be lumpless. May your crust be flaky. And may there be plenty left over of whatever you love the most.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


This photo always makes me smile. That's Reiki Sponge Syd and me, back in July 2007. I remember when he arrived at the League for Animal Welfare ... such a sweet, old gentleman. He would stand at the door to his room waiting for me. Had Camp Keefe not been at maximum cat-pacity with Garrett and Tansy, I would have taken him home myself. (Homeless senior pets are the most difficult for me to resist ... especially when their elderly owners pass away.) The good news is that his stay at the shelter was relatively short before he found his forever home. I like to believe that his eagerness for Reiki helped to expedite the process. It never seemed to fail that the cats who would jump in my lap for a lengthy hands-on Reiki treatment were usually adopted a week or two later.

If you dig through my blog archives around the summer of 2007, I had regular Reiki Tails posts with slide shows of the residents. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to volunteer at LFAW as frequently as I'd prefer, but I get out there for visits and Reiki whenever I can. I hope to return to weekly visits in 2011, because volunteering there lifts my spirits as much as it helps the kitties in residence.

What's really exciting right now is that, as a member of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association, I now have the opportunity to teach Reiki not only to volunteers and staff, but also vets and techs providing critical care in situations where Reiki can help the most. This is incredibly humbling. Even more so now that I've just been notified that there is a D.V.M. in this area with whom I will soon be connected. I'm excited. I'm honored. I'm nervous. I can embrace myself as a lot of things, but teacher feels like a huge leap ... and yet I know that I know what I need to know.

I've been a Reiki practitioner for ten years and the journey since I took Reiki I in October 2000 has been transformational. I hardly recognize the me I used to be before embarking on this path. Pared down to its most basic description, Reiki is a holistic technique that can relieve stress and promote relaxation for the recipient ... but it's also so much more. One really can't begin to grasp the scope of what it is and what it offers until one becomes a practitioner. Even then, there's always more to learn and room to grow. The first realization after training is what a blessing it is to be able to offer Reiki to yourself or another, especially when at a loss for what else to do. It increases compassion exponentially ... and might even break you wide open in the best possible way.

I have been certified to teach since April 2009, but have delayed the launch of classes for a number of reasons, large and small. The New Year beckons and has given fair warning that it's time for me to get off the fence and move forward with teaching those referred to me or otherwise find me. I do need to iron out the details with regard to the whens and wheres, but I look forward to offering Reiki I/Animal Reiki Basics classes sooner than later. If this is something that might be of interest to you next year, please let me know.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Souper Sunday: Pop's Chili

Katie has not only submitted another recipe us to enjoy, but it's her grandfather's chili recipe! Although I have Cincinnati chili coursing through my veins, I have the highest respect (and a hearty appetite) for a good bowl of Texas chili.

Katie says, "So easy, spicy and yummy. :) And I've attached a photo [above] of some of the beautiful autumn foliage around here [in Boston]...which is now being blown off the trees...but we did enjoy it while it lasted."

Pop's Chili

1 to 2 lb ground beef
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 big cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can black beans or pinto beans
4 heaping tsp chili powder
4 tsp brown sugar
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder, or 1 garlic clove, minced

Brown ground beef, onion and garlic together. Combine with other ingredients in Crock-Pot, and cook for 2 to 4 hours.

Thanks Katie! xo

In case you have a soup recipe to share for a future Souper Sunday post:

Please send it via e-mail to along with 1) a photo of the soup, you, you + the soup, or anything that captures the mood of the season and 2) a link to the blog or website to which you would like to be linked.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thoughts on Etsy

A friend contacted me earlier this week. She was trying to follow a link that I had sent to her for an item she would like in an Etsy shop. She was flustered. Etsy was a foreign concept to her and, try as I may to explain it, she just couldn't understand how it works. All she knew was that she wanted to order the necklace. And if she couldn't figure out how to do so, sooner than later, she'd pass on the purchase altogether.

Yikes. Food for thought.

I guess it never dawned on me that I could be losing potential customers because I'm vending through Etsy alone. Some people don't have the time or interest in learning the ins and outs of it. They just want to make a purchase as fast and easily as possible. No account to setup. No feedback to leave.

I visit the blogs of a few artists who very simply put their creations up for grabs on their blog. If anyone is interested, all it takes is an e-mail to work out the transaction. After all of these years, I had forgotten that it can be that simple. I'm yearning to return to that ease. I simply want to create what I love and put it out into the world for whomever feels attracted to it. I don't want there to be any obstacles between that person and their piece.

I know that some of you are enjoying great success on Etsy. I'm a huge supporter of the handmade movement and I know that I'm not alone in purchasing regularly from Etsy vendors. But I would really appreciate some feedback from those of you who have opted to pass on a purchase through my shop or others because the process felt too complicated. If you've tried an Etsy shop and decided to return to vending via your personal website, I'd love to hear from you, too. If there's anything else that you would like to share on the subject, please let me know here or via e-mail. Thanks in advance for sharing!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 16,480 Gratitude

The crimson of leaf-laden pear trees
Sunshine through November gloom
Long johns just for chicks
A tuna melt with a soul sister
Merino wool teal scarf crocheted by moi for moi
Juniper Ridge incense
Sweet anticipation for HP7
And Dewey's pizza

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thank a Glue Person Day

Everyone has at least one Glue Person in their lives. Maybe you're related to one or work with them. Chances are you're friends.

Glue People have their hearts and hands available 24/7.
Glue People are the first to volunteer.
Glue People will step in without being asked.
Glue People tend to be great listeners.
Glue People have cool heads and good advice.
Glue People will make you laugh when you need it most.
Glue People bring people together.
Glue People reach out to create and maintain connections.
Glue People bring order to chaos.
Glue People clean up messes with relative ease.
Glue People see possibilities when and where others can't.
Glue People don't believe in the existence of lost causes.

So you don't think that you have a Glue Person in your life? Well, let me ask you this ... who would you call if were taken to jail? There's your Glue Person.

Glue People have a tendency to overdo and overgive. They may not be very good at receiving and, as a result, their tanks can run dry with little forewarning. They can find themselves in situations that they're more accustomed to helping others through. In other words, a Glue Person sometimes needs Glue People too.

So let's give thanks today for the Glue People in our lives ... past, present and future. And let's give thanks that we have the capacity to be the Glue Person for others. But let's remember that we aren't expected to serve as Glue People every day and that it's perfectly okay to take a break and even resign from that role with someone in particular or across the board when it starts to feel unhealthy. And never ever forget that asking for help is always, always, always a very good thing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nineteen Years

Mr. and Mrs. James Krafft
request the honour
of your presence
at the marriage
of their daughter
Julie Anne
Mr. Daniel William Keefe
on Saturday,
the sixteenth of November
Nineteen hundred
and ninety-one
at half past seven
in the evening
Guardian Angels Church
Cincinnati, Ohio

To my beloved Dan, with all my heart ...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Five Years

I still wake up sometimes
With space for you
Above my head
I like to believe that
Maybe you stopped by
For a visit
Eighteen years
Is a long time to
Get to love each other
But not long enough
I hope that there are
Plenty of foil balls
Wherever you are
And cans of people tuna
Not that cat crap
You deserve the best
Because you were
The best
Still miss you
Chelsea Cat
All ways, always will

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Souper Sunday: Lentil Soup

Beth is a great friend who rocks a Fuji Instax 210 like nobody's business. Please go visit her Flickr page and see for yourself. She also likes to rock a pot of lentil soup, especially at this time of year. This recipe is courtesy of Food Network and Giada DeLaurentiis. Beth said that it's her my favorite soup recipe and that she has been making it for years. As a vegetarian, she opts for vegetable stock in place of the chicken broth and gives it a big yum.

Please forgive me for not being able to share the details of the recipe here on this post. Technical difficulties. But if you go to the link, you can print it directly from there. In case you've missed previous Souper Sunday posts:

Sunday, 11/7/10: Tomato Soup - Katie Noah Gibson
Sunday, 10/31/10: Santa Fe Pumpkin Chowder - Amy Bogard
Sunday, 10/17/10: Curried Carrot Soup - jakk

In case you have a soup recipe to submit for a future Souper Sunday post:

Please send it via e-mail to along with 1) a photo of the soup, you, you + the soup, or anything that captures the mood of the season and 2) a link to the blog or website to which you would like to be linked.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Adventures in Northside and Photos at Spring Grove

Beth and I had been anticipating yesterday's play date for many weeks. We crossed our fingers to cramping with hope that the weather would cooperate. And cooperate it did, by providing us with an Indian summer day that included a high in the 70s, gentle breezes full of floating leaves, and not one blemish to the impeccably blue sky.

Our adventure was off to a sweet start with lunch at Take the Cake in Northside. I must confess to having quiche envy when Beth's lunch was served, but the chocolate cupcake that I ordered for dessert more than made up for my remorse. I look forward to getting back there soon.

After lunch, we decided to check out Fabricate, a funkity shop with consigned handmade creations. Thump-thump-thump. That's where I fell in love, love, love with Moon Unit (in the photo above). His tag says, "Moon Unit loves to dance! He often thinks things are funny when they're really not but he's so cute no one really minds." Moon Unit is also unspeakably soft. I would wear him if I could. As a collector of all things quirky and comforting, I couldn't stand the idea of leaving him behind. I might need to go back and fetch him a friend, though ... after fortifying myself with a cupcake, of course.

The lighthearted start to our outing was in stark contrast to the main purpose, which was a photo shoot at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum. This would be my first visit to this Cincinnati landmark that is so rich in history. I was very glad that Beth was driving, because the magnitude of the place, in terms of size, beauty and overall impact, was overwhelming to me at first. The monuments were incredibly grand. They seemed to compete with each other in terms of extravagance. The seasonal slant of sunlight upon them was breathtaking and there was still enough autumn color available to cast a warm background to the cold stone.

Beth would drive and instinctively pick the perfect locations to pull over. We would essentially flee the car each time, beckoned "over here!" from various directions. It's a miracle that we didn't get permanently separated and completely lost along the way. Despite our exuberance, we moved through the headstones and monuments with care. This wasn't a park meant for romping. People and memories were deeply at rest here. Although I wondered if it might before we got there, it never felt creepy or sad to me. Many of those buried had lived what we'd consider abbreviated lives. But I couldn't help but marvel at how beautifully they were honored, even celebrated. I wanted so much to capture the essense of that in my photos.

See what you think ...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pretty ... Awesome

This video came to me recently via my friend, Beth, who said it's been making the virtual rounds for awhile. If you've seen it, I think it's well worth watching again. If you haven't seen it, then I'm glad to be the one to share it with you. Absolutely pass it on.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


A new friend was coming over this morning for a Reiki treatment. This was her first visit to Camp Keefe. I must confess that there was a flustered moment when I was beside myself trying to figure out how to hide the ugly truth.

I am a lousy housekeeper.

Now, as far as I know, there have been no reports filed with the Health Department and A&E hasn't sent a camera crew to our door. My domestic deficiency is one of basic neglect. I can't keep up with it all. There are teenagers coming and going. There are animals with fur. Papers pile up. Things get tracked in from outside. Dust gathers. Belongs never end up where they're supposed to go. Layer upon layer of funk, filth, and denial.

As a certified Feng Shui practitioner, our ordinary mess pains me greatly. But I could spend the whole live-long day, day after day after day, trying to keep up with it all. I could give you a thousand excuses reasons why that just won't happen. Maybe I didn't get the clean gene. My mother has it. She passed it down to my sister. They have immaculate homes. I got my father's nose instead.

Speaking of my father, I am his mother's granddaughter. She was the happiest person I've ever known and, honestly, she didn't keep a particularly clean home either. Passibly clean, yes. No infestations. No hoarding. Nothing to cause alarm. But she didn't fret about dishes in the sink, sticky spillage or the fact that white socks on her hardwood floors were doomed to darkness. She was too busy doing the cha-cha, catching a sale at Shillito's or doing something else that brought her joy. How can you not cut someone fun like that some slack?

If you come to my house, you will see dirty windows, dust bunnies, and cobwebs. There will be countless spots, stains and scuffs. The dishwasher will need to be loaded and the trash taken out. You can count on identifying at least a half-dozen locations that could benefit from a thorough scrubbing. Of course, we will make every effort to get our clutter hidden in check before your arrival. Not so much out of shame, but because we don't want you to trip and fall.

Despite our faults, I promise you this ...

You will be wholeheartedly welcomed here. You will find comfort. You will be nourished. You will laugh. And you may feel a peace here that you simply can't describe. People come to our house and they like to stick around. They kick off their shoes, curl up and exhale. So, far as I can tell, we must be doing something right.

Come on over anytime.

(But please call at least 30 minutes in advance.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Souper Sunday: Tomato Soup

My friend, Katie Noah Gibson, submitted this week's soup recipe and promises more to follow in the weeks ahead. So grateful to have met Katie at Jen Lee's Integrate Retreat earlier this year. Our friendship was forged over cups of tea, shared stories, and a life-altering visit to The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn. She's a keeper, that one ... and an incredibly talented writer, too! Katie and her husband, Jeremiah, recently made the huge move from Texas to Boston, so she will be earning her Ph.D. in soup-making this winter. This tomato soup recipe is a favorite that her friend, Rachel, adapted from an Everyday Food recipe, and then passed on to her. The best recipes comes from dear friends!

Tomato Soup

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons, olive oil
A handful of basil leaves (to taste)
Tomatoes (Katie used about a dozen, or 1-2 #10 cans of whole peeled tomatoes)
Chicken broth (about 2 cups)
1/2 stick of butter (if desired)
Cream (if desired)

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil. When everything is tender (but not brown), add tomatoes, roughly chopped, and basil, torn or chopped. Add chicken broth, stir, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and let simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down (15-20 minutes). Add half a stick of butter, if desired.

When the tomatoes are soft and breaking down, transfer the mixture to a blender, 3-4 cups at a time, and process to a smooth, creamy consistency. Transfer the blended soup to a large bowl or pot, and continue blending until you reach the desired texture. Return to pot and simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Add salt or pepper to taste, if desired.

Add cream to individual bowls, if desired. Serve hot, with crusty bread.


In case you've missed previous Souper Sunday posts:

Sunday, 10/31/10: Santa Fe Pumpkin Chowder - Amy Bogard
Sunday, 10/17/10: Curried Carrot Soup - jakk

In case you have a soup recipe to submit for a future Souper Sunday post:

Please send via e-mail to along with 1) a photo of the soup, you, you + the soup, or anything that captures the mood of the season and 2) a link to the blog or website to which you would like to be linked.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

One Source of Bad Information

There’s a boy in you
About three years old
Who hasn’t learned a thing
For thirty thousand years.
Sometimes it’s a girl.

This child has to make up its mind
How to save you from death.
He says things like
Stay home.
Avoid elevators.
Eat only elk.

You live with this child
But you don’t know it.
You are in the office, yes
But live with this boy at night.
He’s uninformed
But he does want to save your life.

And he has.
Because of this boy
You survived a lot.
He’s got six big ideas.
Five don’t work.
Right now he’s repeating them to you.

--Robert Bly

This child has been repeating to me those five big ideas that don't work, night after night, year after year, decade after decade. This child has made every effort to keep me small. Keep me in doubt. Keep me safely tucked inside of my cozy comfort zone. For my own good, of course, or so I've been led to believe.

Six big ideas and five don't work ... 2010 has been my adventure in finding the one that does. Although I'm not certain I've put my finger on it yet, the quest itself has created a shift. My comfort zone isn't quite so comfortable anymore.

Every November has a way of bringing me around to assessing how well I was (or wasn't) able to rise to the occasion throughout the waning year. I embraced opportunities in 2010 on which normally I would pass. See, sometimes even little, no-big-deal-ish things can be a stretch for me. Too many years of listening to bad information, I suppose. That's okay. I'm a late bloomer. I've made peace with it.

This year I learned that the further I stretch, the further there is for me to go. I am looking over the unchecked triple-dog dares on my 2010 list and mulling over which of them to carry over into 2011. I am looking for clues toward new directions to explore. The urge to purge is increasing in intensity these last eight weeks of the year. It's time for the making and holding of space for what's new and true.

Yes, January 1, 2011 arrives just eight weeks from today. A powerful day, at that, with the Alchemist's New Moon at hand. What bad information are you releasing right now so that you, too, can make room for that one big idea that works?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beauty Amid the Decay

The moss rose that I planted in May never flourished. Most years minimal effort is rewarded with profuse growth and an abundance of flowers. This was the one annual that never failed me.

Until this year.

Maybe it was the lack of rain. Supplementation with the hose was more miss than hit. I think I stopped watering altogether back in August. Probably earlier than later.

Despite my neglect and the waning light, a flower blooms. A reminder to me, to us all, that there can beauty amid the decay. Something that is easy to forget as October's feast of color succumbs to brown.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Art Journaling Dream Team

I recently spilled the (magic) beans that I have an art journaling dream team ... three powerfully talented artist superheroes from whom I draw inspiration. I am willing to share them here with you. In fact, I can't help but gush. They inspire me to bust out of my creative comfort zone, which -- when it comes to journaling -- isn't particularly creative at all. I need all of the help I can get!

I have kept handwritten journals since my teens. I have joyfully filled an infinite number of blank books and emptied countless Pilot Precise V5 pens over the last (gulp) 30 years. Julia Cameron would surely pat my head and give me a gold star if she knew that morning pages were the first thing (okay, fine, third thing) I've done almost every day for the last dozen years. All of the money I've saved on therapy has been invested in more blank books and V5s. Through this writing process, I have made some insightful discoveries along the way. It's a habit that I hesitate to release.

Yet lately I've found myself yearning to go deeper and do more with my journals than just write in them. I am hungry to add some playfulness to the process. Let's face it, life is messy. Doesn't that fact warrant expression on the page? The older I get, the less inclined I am to simply download deep (to me) thoughts from pen to paper. Honestly, I feel like I've been wrestling with and writing the same things over and over again for years. Now, finally, I find myself beckoned to move the words to a supporting role and capture moments and feelings on the page in unconventional (again, to me) ways.

Each day can be seen as its own separate story. Like a patchwork quilt, an art journal binds these stories together to reveal the magic and masterpiece of day-to-day life. It's hard to be satisfied with only words on the page when I see, through the creativity of others, the vast array of emotions and intricate layers to life's stories that an art journal (and all art, for that matter) can convey.

Although there are so many incredible artists sharing their journeys through their journals on the web, these three women are particularly near and dear to my heart:

Teesha Moore is responsible for jarring me into assessing my journaling process and asking, "What if?" She is generous with sharing her techniques on her blog. She is equally generous with photographs of her work and studio. Drool, drool, drool. Prepare to feast your eyes upon (or shield your eyes from) her art supply porn. Her best posts leave me dazed and cruising the aisles at Michael's for a fix. Her journal pages are whimsical, with a smidge of strange, which I absolutely adore. It's a dreamworld of artful eye-candy. I should be so lucky to take a class from her some day.

Judy Wise is a relatively recent discovery for me out here in blogdom. I may be late to her party, but she has a fan in me. She generously shares personal and professional glimpses into her flourishing daily life as well as her vivid, image-rich journals. More than once, I have clicked on a new post and gasped. If I could keep a journal like the beauties that she creates, dishes would pile up and dogs would go unfed. It's doubtful that I'd ever sleep. How could I ever find the time to do anything other than journal? Well, I'm more than willing to give it a try and see how it goes. As with Teesha, it would be an honor to take a class from Judy some day. Journaling AND art dolls, please. Swoon.

Last but far from least is Amy Bogard. Amy's art journals are less about mixed media and more focused on heartfelt sketches that capture what a photographer aspires to seize with the lens. Bigger, brighter, and bolder isn't necessarily better when it comes to art journaling. Sometimes a small sketch with delicate details and just a few words can say all that needs to be said ... with surprising impact. As I prepare to travel to Taos next year with Amy and friends, I welcome the opportunity to fall in love with this form of journaling and I'm curious to see what I discover about it and myself in the process.

I encourage you to visit the websites of these three phenomenal artists (if you haven't already). Spend some time going through their archives. Be a witness to the care and keeping of their journals. See if their work inspires you as well.

If you are inclined, share with me in the comments your thoughts and discoveries on journaling. What works for you and what doesn't? Who are some of your creative superheroes?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hello November

You are shedding trees and chapstick addiction.
You are starry mornings after blanket-nest nights.
You are the constant teapot.
You are wood and loved ones gathered.
You are stove and bodies, well-fed.
You are the reintroduction to candlelight.
You are soft yarn and knitting needles.
You are good books and afternoon naps.
You are blessings counted, thanks given.
All of these things and more among them.
Hello, November. Welcome back.