Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 17,218 Gratitude: Steady Courses and Tricky Terrains


With full hearts and stomachs, we safely tucked our daughter back into her college dorm yesterday.  It helped us to remember and remind each other that we would be back soon to fetch her for the month-long Christmas break.  But it was still a somber five hour drive, half of it with her and half without, no matter how much we tried to fa-la-la it.  Eastern Ohio in November is all sullen sky and barren landscape ... fodder for deep thoughts about life's changes, which can be its own tricky terrain.


I had assumed that I would be self-employed by now, conjuring a livelihood through some patchwork configuration of a creative life, but content in the meantime (i.e. the last 12 years) to work my traditional job primarily from home.  But here I am, blinking in front of the computer as I complete my application for a position that will require my presence in an office, full-time.  Something I swore that I would never do again.  Something that makes absolutely no sense in light of what thought I wanted.  And yet, somehow, something that makes perfect sense after all.  Or will.  I hope.

If we can't be completely fearless in the face of change, maybe we can muster a little faith or keep an open mind.  Sometimes we can't know what's waiting for us until we say yes to the invitation and then follow through, come what may.  The clearest view is always in hindsight.  For a steady course despite the limited visibility, I am so deeply grateful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Day 17,211 Gratitude: What is Given is Received

These are interesting times as we all, to a greater or lesser degree, feel the squeeze between eclipses and Mercury's retrograde dance.  So many are going through so much right now.  A friend asked me to crochet a Reiki shawl for a dear one who is going through cancer treatment.  It is such an honor to create something that will be of comfort through this experience.  As with Reiki treatments, every one given to another is one also received, so I have been basking in the healing and compassion inherent in the process of needle, fiber, and blessings united on behalf of another.  We are all in this together.  Uplifters and uplifted.  And for this I am so deeply grateful.         

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 17,203 Gratitude: Baby Cheeses in a Manger

Today I am so grateful ...

For a belly sore from laughter with dear friends (and baby cheeses in a manger).

For my sweet old dog with a heart (and appetite) so big that she must be in the middle of everything (and everyone).

For the luxury of an unplanned day wide open for a long, dream-laden nap.

It's all about simple pleasures, small changes and realistic expectations around here as the trees around me release the last of their leaves.  I am grateful to know myself and my cycles pretty well.  This one is all about pulling inward, circling the wagons, and building the figurative fat layer that will sustain me through my upcoming hibernation. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Day 17,202: She Let Go

She let go.
Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the "right" reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn't ask ayone for advice.
She didn't read a book on how to let go.
She didn't search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all the memories that held her back.
She let go of all the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn't promise to let go.
She didn't journal about it.
She didn't write the projected date in her daytimer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn't check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn't analyze whether she should let go.
She didn't call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn't do a five-step spiritual mind treatment.
She didn't call the prayer line.
She didn't utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn't good and it wasn't bad.
It was what it was and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and moon shone forever more.

-Ernest Holmes

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 17,200 Gratitude: Goodness

I don't know if it's all due to sitting under some lucky star or hitting the karmic lotto, but over the last couple of years I have met and befriended a number of amazing and inspiring people.  Through their encouragement and example, they have helped to resurrect the creatrix in me.  Each of them, in their own unique way, make me think, make me laugh, and make me bring my best to the table.  Many of these newish friends are professional artists.  Some are not.  But all of them are brave, prolific and steadfast in their craft ... whatever that may be and however that may be woven into their day-to-day lives.  They are wholly unapologetic about who they are, what they have to offer and what they need to thrive.  What is borne of it and of them is beautiful, heartfelt and, in its own way, healing.  In a world sorely in need of more whimsy and why-nots, I am so happy to have had the good fortune to find these good people who are such good examples to us all. 

For the precious opportunity to gather with a few of them this weekend to contemplate and toast the year that is closing and the one that is to come, I am so deeply grateful.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Day 17,197 Gratitude: The Care and Feeding of Uncertainty

From out of the blue, a potential opportunity landed in my lap this morning.  All surprises, be they good or bad, tend to throw me out of orbit, at least initially.  I was shocked, then flattered and finally wrecked by this prospect.  This isn't an offer that I would have sought out.  In fact, I thought that I had been running in the opposite direction of its kind for many years.  So, in its own way and for many reasons, the idea of turning around and pursuing it feels like a step backward despite the inherent advancement.  The first whiff has that pungent note of giving up.  The first impression is unmistakably play-it-safe.  And yet there are many important reasons why it would be crazy for me not to consider saying yes.  How are we supposed to know if that which we are resisting is really what is best (and blessed) for us?  I am torn and troubled.

So tonight, for the first time in six months, I got my butt out the door and then put it on my yoga mat in the safe circle of class.  I did something else that I've resisted ... returned to my body and breath.  With a tear or two, I surrendered yet again to what has become a familiar traveling companion this year.  Uncertainty.  For the answers that I trust are forthcoming and the perfect path for me that I trust is unfolding, I am deeply grateful. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 17,195 Gratitude: Treated

Over the last year or two, I've taught several Reiki classes.  All of them from my home.  This weekend's class was the first at a local shelter.  They have approximately 400 dedicated volunteers and not one single paid staff member at this no-kill facility that's brimming with animals and love.  It is such an honor to be here.  In the moment this photo was taken, before any students had arrived, I had the chance to really contemplate the impact of what it is that I am offering here.  It is one thing to give treatments.  One wonderful thing.  But it is something altogether different, deeper, to teach people how to treat themselves ... to treat others ... to become a force of healing and compassion in a world that sorely needs it.  My students don't know it when they get here and class begins, but when our class ends, they do.  Life will never be the same.  And for the privilege of facilitating this discovery, I am so deeply grateful.

Although not born on a Monday, there is a new mandala for you to download and color.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 17,193 Gratitude: Birth

November is here.  Those who know me well know that this is the start of what I call Dark Time.  Moving forward from now through February requires me to muster fortitude that it takes all year to store.  I am wired to need sunshine and warmth to thrive.  Without them, I sleep.  A lot.  I start to avoid going out.  And some days it gets hard to shake the blues.  Rarely do I forget that this too shall pass, things will get better ... brighter days will return.  But this in no way means that it doesn't scare the hell out of me when my trusty bag of tricks provides no relief.

So drawing the Birth card this morning made me wonder.  Maybe this is the year that things could be different.  Maybe this Dark Time won't be so, um, dark.  Maybe all it takes is a fresh new perspective, the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe this is a beginning, an opening, rather than a period of shutting down.

Let's face it, like it or not, contrasting conditions are character building.  They also make great fodder for art.  Just as we must push our way from the womb into this world, we must push our way through the winter into each spring.  It's easier for some than others.  But for all it's an act of faith.  Trusting in the literal light at the end of the tunnel.  We have to go through the darkness, maybe even get stuck at times, in order to get to it.  For the knowing that it's there, I am so deeply grateful.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 17,191 Gratitude: Relief

The wind blew.  The rain fell.  The gloom persisted.  I tried to cheer myself up with some coloring in my journal.  As I scribbled and smeared, doors and windows appeared.  It dawned on me how lucky we are here in southwestern Ohio to be directly impacted so little by something so big.  I felt a wave of gratitude for my solid home, stocked cupboards, and responsive furnace ... for the electricity and clean water that flow as needed, so often taken for granted.  I didn't have to wonder or worry today about these or graver things ...  but a lot of people did and will for awhile.  The only thing I can say is help if you can.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 17,190: Illuminated and Updated

The western edge of Sandy laid upon us today.  Enough to make it blustery and dreary, but not enough to thwart a fleeting but spectacular sunset that turned the tops of the trees to the east a fiery gold.  These are the small graces that shouldn't be taken for granted ... being at the right place at the right time.

I don't know if you know (and if you don't follow me on Facebook, you probably do not), but I renewed fourteen expired listings in my Etsy shop over the weekend.  One pendant sold that afternoon (thanks again, Denyce!) and another was selected for a Treasury.  So happy and honored!  Anyway, I think I have three more pendants ready to be listed when it gets bright enough for me to snap some pics.  And I believe I have 54 crystals still sitting pretty in the queue awaiting their embellishment.

Although it's a very big goal, every sale for the foreseeable future will go toward the possibility (fingers held and breath crossed) of me going to Kathleen Prasad's Reiki III class at the CARE Foundation in February 2013.  It would be an amazing opportunity to practice with the animals at this wild and exotic animal sanctuary in Apopka, Florida.  After my long summer hiatus, this is a great incentive to get me back into my workshop, happily tangled in wire.

In closing, my daughter is safe and sound after Halloween festivities at her university.  My husband is home after more than a week away, working long days out of town.  And this new normal is starting to feel more, um, normal to me.  For all of the above and far more than I have the time, space and typing speed to include here, I am deeply grateful.  (How about you?  Do share!)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 17,188: The Problem with Preciousness

I am prone to circle-turning, much like a dog in its bed, compelled to go round and round before I finally feel the all clear to dive in.  Sometimes I succumb to the dizziness borne of the thousand things I'll swear I "need" to do before a project can begin.  Inevitably, I end up saying screw it for another day.  Where (and when) she'll stop, nobody knows ...

I consider myself to be making progress in my rotational recovery.  If I am alert enough to recognize what's happening before the circle-turning gains momentum (or, if I'm lucky, before it even begins), I can coax myself right into the deep end.  (You do know that all of the good stuff is waiting in the deep end, right?)  But the impulse to hold the creative process as something precious and rare is and may always be there for me.

So today, for the first time in over four months, I needed to prep the cover for my next journal.  I pulled out my collage supplies and took the wrapper off the new sketchbook.  I felt that old, familiar urge that lies dormant in my belly start to wake up and catch on to what I had hoped to sneak past it.  Oh no you don't!  I heard it wail.  Not before you ... 

And so, as quickly as possible, I slapped the first glue-laden image down.  And then the next.  And then another.  I took a breath and then patted myself on the back.

Preciousness of process is a joy-killer.  Its mission is to keep us stuck in our heads instead of moving through our hearts and hands.  Art is meant to be a part of everyday life.  There are no shoulds beyond showing up and proceeding directly to putting out.  The circumstances are perfect just because you are there and willing.  Don't buy the lie that later is better.  It's not.  Or that you don't have the right supplies ... or, quite frankly, the right, period.  You do.  Okay, let's be honest here, what you create might turn out crappy.  But, then again, it might not.  The real crappy is how you will feel if you put it off.  Again.  Everything else is fixable.

That said, today I am grateful for the opportunity to remember how natural it can be for me to dive in and create.  It can be for you, too.  Come on in.  The water's warm.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 17,187 Gratitude: Mending

Mangy dog sounds funny ... until you have a mangy dog.  Our nine year old greyhound, Phoebe, has had a rough go of it these last few months.  It started with a little patchy balding on her thighs that became increasingly more expansive and alarming.  Anywhere that her tongue could reach became bare as a baby's bottom and somewhere between hot pink and bright red.  We had her at the vet the minute the problem started, but it was misdiagnosed and then, again, misdiagnosed upon a return visit a few weeks later.  Allergies it was not.  As a result, we had been giving her prescription medication that made the problem far worse rather than better.

Thankfully, we were referred to a specialist who put her finger on the real issue ... adult-onset demodex.  It's often referred to as red mange and stems from a suppressed immune system, with her thyroid as the root cause and, thankfully, not cancer - although further testing may be needed.  We've been assured that she isn't contagious to other animals or people.  This doctor has helped us to get her care and recovery on track.  The treatment protocol is rather heinous.  I will spare you the details.  It's potency and potential side effects scared me at first and to the point that I was very resistant to proceeding.  Making peace with it and finding my way to yes has been a tremendous learning experience for me.  In faith.  In trust.  In letting what needs to be, be.  Yet another reminder that sometimes the only way through it is through it.

Of course, her medications are supplemented with Reiki treatments.  For her.  For me.  For our whole family.  It's been an important reminder that Reiki isn't intended to replace conventional care but rather to support it.  Despite how she may appear in this photo, this is a tremendous improvement over just a couple of weeks ago.  Her fur is starting to grow back.  Her appetite is returning.  We are trying hard to get some much needed meat on her bones before winter comes.  In the meantime, I am grateful for all of the love that surrounds her ... especially from her pal, Garrett.  May we all be so lucky to have someone lovingly sit by our side as we mend.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 17,179: With Childlike Wonder

I have completed re-entry after a visit with my puppeteering Wonder Twin, who is wrapping up a two week tour at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta.  The timing of it gave me an excuse to give myself a birthday getaway and the chance to let my inner child out to play.  I got so much more than I could've expected.  A room full of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer characters nearly brought me to joyful tears.  Also had the good fortune of getting to see a performance of the The Ghastly Dreadfuls ... truly a highlight of the trip!  Margaritas and carne asada tacos from here and honey-soaked goat cheese balls here, all savored outdoors and in good company, took me to my happy place.  The High Museum and Piedmont Park Botanical Garden left me infinitely inspired.  I've come home with my stomach still sore from all the laughing and my creative cup overflowing.  I couldn't be more ready to dive into my personal new year and explore what wants to be born.

For dear and talented friends, playful adventures, and tapping back into the childlike wonder that is always available to us all, I am so very grateful.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 17,171 Gratitude: Saturn and Such

So much to tell you since my last post ...

Saturn moved out of Libra on Friday, October 5.  He and I had been doing the astro tango since September 2007 when it moved into my Virgo Ascendant.  It's my spin that most things (be they planets or people) have about as much power over us as we give them, but here I am on the other side of this extensive transit, humbled.  My sharpest edges are smoother.  I am more flexible and less attached.  I have learned to sit down, shut up, and listen.  And now, five years older, a little wiser and with everything surrendered into hands far more capable than mine, I welcome the sense of lightness and ease that is settling in like the sun breaking through after thunderstorms.  I made it.  And I am better for it.

On Saturday, October 6, I turned 47 years old.  I drew the Angel Cards above.  It was supposed to be just one, but they stuck together as they sometimes do.  Humour and Delight ... I don't know that I could've chosen a better theme for this next journey around the sun.  The older I get, the more that I am drawn like a magnet to opportunities for playfulness and fun.  Laughter keeps us limber, inside and out.  Bring it on. 

There's so much more to share with you  ... the thousands of birds that take flight over our neighborhood every single morning ... the magical hike at the local nature center with a dear friend ... the new Royal Blue Chalcedony ring that found me ... how great it was to have my daughter home for my birthday weekend ... my swanky new glasses ... the gift of brownies from Boston ... the list of rebirthing blessings goes on and on.  May it suffice to say that my well is full.  Gratitude fuels me as I move forward into this new chapter of my life.  Again, thanks as always for sharing it with me. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 17,162: What Is and Isn't My Business

This Full Moon in Aries precedes my rebirthing.  October marks the start of my new year.  I've discovered that an empty nest provides a lot of time for introspection.  Pen-to-paper journaling has provided me with tremendous comfort and clarity lately.  One recent entry in my tattered notebook continues to resonate with me, as I hope this portion of it will for you:

"I know my (day-to-day) job can be challenging but I also see it now for what it really is -- one of my greatest blessings.  Through it, I've learned that everything that I do (by desire or necessity) is as fun as I make it, even what may otherwise seem mundane.  Maybe me being me (as in the best of me) doing this (or any) job with joy means something bigger than what I actually accomplish through it. 

It's easy to remember this with my heart work (Reiki, wire-wrapping, etc.).  I don't do it for the sole purpose of making money.  I'm doing it because I love being of service.  It feels really good.  My joy and sense of well-being compound through what I make and share.  From there, everyone is free to 1) be a recipient of the product; 2) be inspired/uplifted by what I've made or done (and thus move forward to make or do what feels good to them); or 3) just enjoy catching a whiff of my joy and taking that forward with them in whatever way they choose.

There may be direct, monetary benefit through my creation or service, yes, and that is wonderful and appreciated because 1) it helps me to buy supplies to keep doing what I love and 2) it helps me to buy other things that bring joy to me and others.  But what kind of payment comes from inspiring and uplifting others?  Well, I guess what I've always called karma points, but referring to it as such minimizes if not demeans what's really going on.  We can't even begin to understand the impact that our actions and attitudes have on others -- and this includes our work in the world, and who/how we are through it.  This to me is sacred commerce. 

My mistake over the years is buying into the belief that I have to monetize my offerings in order for my business to thrive.  I've not given enough credit to those things (like the mandalas to color) that are offered purely for the love of it.  Yet I've received messages of appreciation from people who have been impacted by them in powerful ways.  Yes, these mandalas take time, but when I choose to see them as a gift, then any sense of them being a hassle disappears.  Making the process playful, I thrive ... and so does my business. 

Sometimes I will receive feedback (appreciation) regarding what I do, but sometimes not.  When I don't, I need to remember that my feeling good and having fun through the process was as much an offering as the creation itself .  I can trust that those who need to find what I've made and/or tap into the joy behind my making it will have benefitted.  I don't ever need to know who has been touched. 

So here's a great example of this at work.  A friend shares her day-to-day on her blog.  She's not charging people to visit.  She does share about her work for which she charges, but it's gently woven into the mix and never feels pushy because it's part of her life and who she is.  It makes her feel good to write and share photos about the whole of her journey.  Family and friends around her benefit from her feeling good from this activity.  People who connect with her through her blog are inspired try some of the things she is doing.  Some even contact her to buy her creations or sign up for her e-courses.  Others may send emails of gratitude instead.  New friendships are forged and opportunities take shape.  Others may never comment or contact her, but the energy of appreciation for who she is and what she does is there, just the same.  She knows that her PayPal balance is not the indicator of her success.  She knows that she is an irresistible magnet, drawing to her those who need what she offers, which is the example of a life joyously lived, first and foremost. 

When we do what we love, feel good and have fun -- heck, when we do ANYTHING while feeling good and having fun -- we serve the greater whole and we open ourselves to abundance in all forms.  So, to recap, serve yourself first by doing all that you do in joy.  That's the part that is our business.  What isn't our business is what happens from there.  We can't control it and, frankly, we shouldn't want to.  If the success of our business or career is hinged solely on sales (promotions, advancement, etc.), we've missed the point.  Even attachment to positive feedback can be a joy killer.  When we remember that who and how we are day-to-day is infinitely more important than what it is that we do, we discover that our vocation can be a blessed disguise that frees us to truly, deeply touch and impact the lives of others.  And that's what it's all about." 

And for journal entries such as this, I am so grateful.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 17,143: What to Keep

I guess I must've been hasty in my springtime weeding.  I typically have a bigger plant with more flowers by now.  This year, it's just a wee plantlet with this solitary Black-Eyed Susan bloom. 

I do that sometimes ... get a bit overzealous when it comes to figuring out what to keep and what to toss.  Suddenly everything has to go.  Every green leafy is a weed.  Not only within my garden, but also specific areas of my home, my life, and myself. 

It happens when I focus on the finish rather than the process ... when I stop caring if the baby goes with the bathwater.  After the high of the cleanup completed, there's the aftermath.  Wanting back what I've lost.  Regretting what I've tossed.

So today I am grateful for this one sweet flower and the message that it sends me.  Slow down.  Look closely.  Discard with care.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 17,137: Maybe in Due Time

Empty nested.  I am not a fan.  Not yet.  Maybe in due time. 

It crosses my mind around 6:15 a.m. that I ought to go upstairs to make sure she's up for the day.  And then I remember.  A school bus goes by.  I remember.  Evening rolls around and time for all to return to the roost.  Again, I remember. 

She's getting settled.  Finding her way.  Figuring it out.  Fumbling.  It's going around.  Individually within and collectively as a family.  Navigating these changes is awkward.  Surprisingly messy.  Not at all like I thought it would be. 

I welcome this new chapter with open arms.  I shamelessly confess that I've no idea what to do with it from there.  Not yet.  Maybe in due time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Day 17,129: The Ride of My Life

Sunday was my husband's 50th birthday.  His wish was to spend the start of it at the local amusement park.  So for a few hours, I accompanied him from rollercoaster to rollercoaster.  He rides them.  I watch.  It gave me a lot of time to sit in the shade and contemplate how these contraptions are a lot like life, with rises and falls, twists and turns.  The key is to be exhilarated by the ride rather than terrified of it ... to say hell yes rather than sit out.

We successfully delivered our daughter to college last Friday.  This transition has been its own unique experience with stomach-lurching and breath-taking ups and downs for us all.  Each day gets easier, yes, but my mama senses are heightened in a way that they haven't been since after she was born.  I am at the ready in whatever way she may need me, but from a distance and with some restraint.  It's important that she knows that I know she can do it ... figure things out on her own.  It's empowering.  It's exhausting.

I am easing into this new chapter of my life like a steaming hot bath.  At this point, I am halfway in but still halfway out.  The more that my daughter relaxes into her new life and finds her bearings within it, the more that I embrace the freedom I have to do the same.  I have crystals to wrap.  I have classes to teach.  I have a brimming heart, willing hands, and an unshakable knowing that I've got more to share than I can possibly perceive at this point.  As one foot is put in front of the other, this new chapter and all of the opportunities held within it will be revealed.

I am deeply grateful for all of it and can't wait to see how it all unfolds ...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 17,120: What I Weave

Coming back around to my first house in Virgo, my personal new year time is soon upon me.  It coincides with the annual abundance of tunnel spiders inside and behind the window boxes which we can view (much like an ant farm) from our living room windows.  Sadly, my husband and daughter loathe them.  They just don't get the message.

Spider is a totem for me and Jakk's Magic Beans Workshop (with its eight limbs of expression and service).  Spider reminds me to be awake to what I'm weaving.  What do I intend to offer through it?  What do I hope to draw to and from it?  There is a literal and my figurative "web" to consider here and lots of food for thought.

These are important questions year round, of course, but particularly significant as I repack my medicine bag for another trip around the wheel of the year.  Changes are obviously afoot.  Thanks, as always, for joining me on the journey.  I hope you find nourishment here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Day 17,118: The View from Here

Our dining room is brimming with the fixins for our daughter's freshman year of college.  We aren't finished shopping, nor have we gotten around to choosing which of her clothes to pack.  All the while I'm thinking about how we had to take a class before we got married.  We had to take another class to prepare for her birth.  So where is the class to prepare for this transition?  I could use one right now, but without it will navigate my way (albeit with some clumsiness) on my own.

Last night, my husband (her dad) and I went out with friends who had just delivered their youngest child to college the day before.  Suddenly, the four of us found ourselves magnetically attracting other parents who had already dropped off their child(ren) at school.  There was considerable sadness and lamenting within the ensuing conversations to which I could not fully relate.  I arrived home feeling emotionally depleted and a bit guilty.

It isn't that my husband and I can't commiserate with how our peers are processing this experience.  This is our one-and-only child to be kissed goodbye next week.  But this impending separation is not permanent and, quite frankly, this transition is what we've been working toward as a family over all of these years.  As we see it, parenting never stops at a specific age or stage, nor will our home ever stop being available as a sanctuary to and for her.  We anticipate that it will all shift and flow along with her growth and needs. 

Don't get me wrong.  I am going to miss the day-to-day-ness of having her right here with us.  No doubt about it.  But my husband and I have done our job of lovingly raising her well to go forth with confidence and make her way in this world.  This is cause for celebration rather than lament!  I choose to approach the future with a sense of joyful wonder and deep gratitude.

Yes, I know that there will be days ahead when I shall grieve the lack of her sweet face in front of me, but I know in my heart that we are always connected and she is just a text, Face Time or Skype session away.  Visits and breaks will always be on the horizon.  I just can't help but look forward to how our relationship as mama and daughter will evolve over time and I am eager to see what and who she becomes through this experience and opportunity.  Also, with unapologetic selfishness, I must confess that I'm curious what the next chapter of marriage has in store now that we have this opportunity to rediscover each other.  Curiosity is good.

In conclusion, sad?  Okay, perhaps a smidge.  But mostly (and immensely) proud ... of her, of us ... and excited ... for her, for us.  There is so much more to be gained here than lost and I, for one, can't wait.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 17,106 Gratitude

Our first visit to this sleepy little town south of Daytona was back in May 1996 when we convinced ourselves that we could afford our first family vacation.  My husband's aunt was a real estate agent around here and found us this great oceanfront condo that we could swing for a week's stay just barely off-season.  It was a stretch of both our budget and parenting abilities with a wee one.  We had no idea at that time that we would keep coming back to this condo almost every summer for the next 16 years.  It's been a heart home for a long time now.

The not-so-wee one will leave for her freshman year at college in the next few weeks.  We are basking in the sunshine, many happy memories, and this sweet family time together before she goes.  For this visit to New Smyrna Beach and every precious visit before, I am so very grateful.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day 17,101 Gratitude

My Facebook pal, Janet Goldman, posted this today.  I love the message.  It's important.  I think most of us are prone to some measure of hiding our true, unedited self.  It's human nature, I suppose.

Thankfully, the older I get, the weirder I become.  Much more random, as well.  And to the degree that I can know myself, whilst ever learning, stretching, transforming and expanding, I try to bravely (and sometimes brazenly) be it, all of it, as openly as possible.

Not so long ago, I was inclined to hide all but what I thought was my most presentable self.  Sometimes, in certain stressful situations, I am inclined to revert back to that habit.  I never really gave much thought to how I might not only be cheating myself in doing so, but cheating others as well.

It's not just about love, as per the message above, although, yes, that is important.  But also we never know who might be inspired, served, and quite possibly saved by the person we hide.  Just a thought.  And that thought makes me feel grateful today.  Come on out and play!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 17,100 Gratitude

Today I am so grateful ...

That I am less than a week away from my family's annual pilgrimage to the sea.  This long, hot summer has me feeling crispy and cranky.  There's been a lot on my plate and mind.  Sometimes the only thing left to do is to cast the burden of it all on Mama Ocean.  Sand and salt water are good medicine, as can be rum and pineapple juice (in moderation, of course).  I say yes to all of it and in communion with my family expect to soften and relocate my sorely missed sense of humor. 

That sometimes a doodle will do.  I lamented over my last sketchbook journal which was so heavy on writing and light on anything artful.  My current journal has picked up where that one left off.  Although I would love to sketch something every single day, the circle-turning, hand-wringing and nail-biting that preface the act are a deterrant.  I know it doesn't have to be that way, but for me, at least for the time being, it is what it is.  A doodle for me doesn't carry the same weight.  It's freeing, the way that I hope sketching will one day be for me.  I'm just glad that I have filled a page with something other than words.  It's a good reminder that there are a thousand different ways to express whatever is on my mind.  I'm quite partial to any way that lets me do so with color.

That no matter how much time passes, I always find myself back here.  Whole-hearted.  Grateful.  And, as always, so grateful for YOU too!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Of Puppets, Playfulness and Pals

Despite the fact that I am still processing Taos and its myriad tales, it was time for me to travel again.  Not many people in this world can say that their BFF is a puppeteer, so I consider myself to be one lucky duck.  Likewise, she considers herself incredibly fortunate to be working alongside (literally) Kevin Frisch of Frisch Marionettes

Kevin and Amy are just past the middle of two weeks in Roswell, Georgia for the 2012 Roswell Summer Puppet Series.  I treated (i.e., shamelessly invited) myself to spend a long weekend hanging out with these very talented and hard working artists and was graciously given a behind-the-scenes perspective of their production of Rumpelstiltzkin.

Every show was pure magic.  Their dedication and passion was clear to one and all, not only during the presentations but well before and long after.  It truly warmed my heart to hear the children respond to the story, the music, the antics, and to know that it all served to fuel their imaginations in a world otherwise bent upon distraction. 

I am now back home in Cincinnati while Kevin and Amy prepare to present Hansel and Gretel all week.  The little girl in me has stayed behind to sit quietly, wide-eyed and cross-legged, beside the stage.  The grown-up in me must get back to my own work in this crazy world ... but, hopefully, with a bit more playfulness than before. 

Thank you, Kevin and Amy, for letting me pal around with you and the puppets for a few days.  And thank you, Roswell, for your hospitality, tacos and pie!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Taos Tales #1

From what we could see between the trees behind the pigeon houses at Mabel’s, all signs indicated an amazing sunset was afoot. With little time to spare but our ability to expand it in our back pockets, we took our chances and launched ourselves down the highway. Stop here? Nope. Here? Hurry! How about here? Back out. Further south. Such was this a metaphor for life, we can only know where when we get there.

We stealthily tucked ourselves into the dusty entrance of the abandoned Stakeout just as the horizon caught fire. Passing cars pierced our ears like screeching jets, but then the reward of stone silence. Between us and this sunset, amongst the darkening brush, disappeared the dangerous abyss of the Rio Grande Gorge, melting into a boundariless blanket of moonless black.

It’s not just witnessing the sunset along an unobstructed desert horizon that will change you, but having the fortitude to stick around and behold the aftermath of it. The light fades. The colors mute. But the subtle beauty of what remains will hang in the air with the scent of sage every bit as long as you are willing to stick around for it. Nothing ever goes to waste.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 17,065 Gratitude

I don't know what makes me think I can come home from Taos and put into words what it's done to me.  I can't.  Not last year.  Not this year.  Maybe not ever.  Time IS different there.  And so is pretty much everything else.  Those who've been there surely understand.  They are the ones to whom I cleave right now.  For comfort, yes, but also some assurance that what I experienced wasn't my imagination.  Taos is a thin place that can fill your heart to bursting and then leave you limp and raw.  It's a powerful place with little tolerance for anyone's ego.  Karma there can be a mighty swift bitch.  Soft mornings like the one captured above, where the mountains lay bare to the caress of rolling clouds as the sun rises above them, are solemnly viewed from boundaries that must not be trespassed.  There is devastating beauty all around.  Light and dark.  Hot and cold.  Bounty and lack.  That which is dying.  That which is bone dry.  It's all there (and more) to be witnessed, explored, and maybe even embraced.  Resistance is futile.  No one leaves there untouched, unchanged.  I will be back.  I can't resist.  And for that I am so grateful.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Taos Bound

After many months of counting down, it's time.  Headed back to Taos.  To Mabel's.  To draw.  To write.  To commune with kindred spirits.  The veil is thin there, but the rich history is thick.  Nourishment and beauty abound.  I plan to fill myself to overflowing.

I wish I could promise you that I will be sharing bits of the journey in this space while I take it.  But last year I couldn't even find the words to share about it when I got back.  So check back over the next week or so if you'd like and let's just see how it goes.

And, yes, by the way, I'm immensely grateful.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Day 17,043: Between Now and Then

I was surprised to discover that it has been ten days since my last post.  I could swear that I had checked in here, albeit briefly, between now and then.  Obviously, I was checked out instead.

For those who haven't been through it, the feelings around this rite of passage are difficult to explain.  It's felt a lot like coming home from the hospital with the wee bundle of her in my arms.  The similarities have surprised me.  The life I knew up until the week before last is over and a new one has begun.  I am no longer the parent of a school-aged child.  I am feeling fumbly and uncertain, yet deeply in love and awe each time I look at my graduate.  Feeling so blessed for the good fortune of being her mama.  Feeling so inept at recognizing the signs of what she needs from me in the face of all the changes as she prepares to fly from our nest.  Leaning on girlfriends who've been through it ... doulas in their own way.

This fresh chapter will change, yet again, when we deliver her to college in a few fleeting weeks.  Between now and then, there is travel to take and art to make (as there will be, perhaps exponentially, thereafter).  But for now, I'm circling the wagons to protect our family time and give us a safe space to figure out these new terms.  I'm also assessing where and how I can do better with regard to self care.  In many ways, in my recent busy-ness, I've let my well go bone dry.  Despite the beautiful weather, walks outside have been few and far between.  Nourishment has been replaced by the fastest fix.  (Instant coffee anyone?  A donut with that, perhaps?  Maybe two?  Oh the shame.)  Art of any kind has been more miss than hit.  Thankfully, I know these things (among others) keep my boat afloat and I have the good sense to eventually come back around to them.

This is the week for such.  And for that (and all of the above), I am so very grateful.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 17,033 Gratitude: On Creative Inspiration

Today I am so grateful ...

To show up for all that I need to do and hold right now, yet always remember that my creativity is always there for me.  Ceaselessly flowing like a river that I can jump into and out of at will.  Immediately accessible.  Right at my fingertips.  I keep art supplies and books on my desk, which may seem like a tease and temptation, but they serve as inspiration when I am racing against a deadline or flailing amid the mundane.  The promise of fun to come.

For inspiring projects, like Maya Stein's Type Rider.  Although she is passing through Ohio right now, sadly, she is too far north for me to reach her.  My Grandma Krafft had a manual typewriter upon which my sister and I would peck when we spent weekends with her in our childhood.  In high school, we learned how to type on manual typewriters so that we could perfect our keystrokes.  I remember wistful glances out the window as pterodactyls flew by.  (Snort.)  In my previous and painfully lengthy incarnation as a secretary, I was married to an electric typewriter in order to complete the infinite carbon forms my duties demanded.  So what I'm trying to say is that rocking a typewriter is one of my superpowers and it would've been so awesome to rock this one, but, alas, tis not in the cards.  Like the books and supplies at the corner of my desk, inspiration all the same.

For Kickstarter, which truly rocks in supporting creativity, outreach, and helping us to help each other make big dreams come true.  I am backing Cincinnati-based songstress, Kim Taylor, in the making of her new record.  You can too.  Hope you do.  (Despite my best attempts at posting the sweet video on her Kickstarter page, Blogger would not cooperate.  Go watch.  And listen.  The song is soul balm.)

What is inspiring you creatively these days? Do share!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 17,032 Gratitude: A Tree, Tina and Toads

Today I am so grateful ...

For this blessed Sycamore tree. 

People don't normally think of Cincinnati as a magical place.  Overall, it may not seem like such, but as with anywhere and everywhere in this world, there are pocket places of timelessness and portals to other dimensions that choose whether to be seen or remain hidden.  This tree has been waving at me from a distance for the last 10 years as I've passed it on the way to my beloved labyrinth.  It stands regally with magnificent arms outstretched beside an elementary school playground.  When the trees that circle it are fully robed, it is well protected and practically invisible from the road.  In the winter months when it is more exposed, it catches my eye and begs for my attention.  In all of these years of curiousity about it, I've been too shy to stop, draw near and stand before it.  Until last week's eclipse.  After walking the labyrinth.  It was time.  With breath held and goosebumped arms, I could not believe my eyes.  After this encounter, I found my way home and did a bit of research.  Thankfully, this tree is officially registered and, thus, protected.  It's at least 400 years old.  Maybe as many as 200 more.  It makes sense that you can feel that it's full of stories.  A treasured wonder to behold. 

For the woman under it.

Have you ever met someone and thought, "Well, there you are!"  Of course an immediate friendship is forged, because on some level, somehow, you know that you already know them.  You're simply picking up quite easily and comfortably wherever in time you left off.  These are the kind of friends that I've been making over the last couple of years.  I've been pinching myself at such good fortune because these women are so incredibly wise, talented and generous.  No front yard talk here.  No resting on laurels either.  They support, encourage and inspire me to show up creatively, yes, but also (and more importantly) to show up with authenticity and without apology.  Tina and I met for coffee late yesterday afternoon.  I told her about my eclipse-ical introduction to this tree and a blink later we were in the car on the way to take her to it.  She is cooking up a public art installment that may involve a Sycamore tree, so it was serendipitous that I mentioned this one while we were together.  Then again, synchronicity is the name of the game with a friend like her.  The photo for this post is Tina under the tree, snapping photos with full knowing that they would only provide her with a whiff of this tree's immensity and significance.  She, like the tree, is a treasured wonder to behold.

For the toad medicine that came to us.

When we circled the immense base of the tree, I spotted a wee toad.  It was half asleep and half covered by a fallen leaf, seemingly dried into the earth.  When we bid the tree adieu, I drove Tina over to the labyrinth as she hadn't seen it before.  Lo and behold was another little toad to greet us.  Inner strength and luck.  I appreciate this message and medicine at this exciting and transformative time.  I welcome the reminder(s) that magic and support are all and always around me.

What magic has found and even rescued you recently?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 17,031 Gratitude

Today I am so grateful for these exciting times ...

Tonight brought the first of three classes at the Art Academy of Cincinnati which lead up to my dear friend Amy Bogard's Sketchbook Journaling Workshop in Taos, New Mexico.  Last year, I was a student participant, but this year I have the good fortune of attending and serving as Amy's official helper.  We have a fun and talented group of women preparing to embark on this journey.  About half went on the trip last year and are eager to get back.  The newer half are about to get their socks knocked off by what lies ahead.  Keeping an illuminated journal on a day-to-day basis captures life in a way that a camera and handwritten diary cannot.  Keeping one while traveling has a way of truly tapping one into miracles and magic that must experienced to be understood. 

This is my daughter's last week of high school.  The significance of these days is not lost on me.  Having only one child, parenting has always been a one-way street.  The line between firsts and lasts has always been blurred.  Her dad and I have taken nothing for granted along the way.  She graduates with honors on Sunday.  Three months from today, we will move her into her college dorm.  This chapter of parenting is deeply bittersweet but all is as it should be.  To everything, turn, turn, turn.

Again, exciting times.  There is so much to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead ... and yet I find myself perfectly content in each moment with so much to bask in and savor along the way.  My heart and calendar are full.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Color It Out

It's been a little over a year since I posted the last mandala to download for coloring.  That's entirely too long, if I do say so myself.  Unfortunately, I can't commit to posting a new one weekly as I did in the Mandala Monday days, but I would love to create and post them for you to download when I can ... with love from me to you.  Because crayons, colored pencils, paints and pens, they heal.  Especially when applied to a mandala.  A few moments of rest.  A break in the day.  Color it out, friends.  Color it out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Day 17,024: Thank Goodness

It's been a day spent trying to register my daughter for college orientation
And gathering documents to pare down a 30-year mortgage to 15
Add a lunch hour appointment with a mighty thorough dental hygienist
And in between the usual work to which I must attend each day
The bright spot toward the end of it, my reward, was this place
A grande soy latte and a couple of sweet, peaceful hours spent
At a weathered table under the outstretched arms of the softest fir tree
With a wise friend who makes me laugh, relax and wonder
Thank goodness for priorities and connections such as these
To help me keep my perspective and my train on its tracks

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 17,017: An Old Blogger's Tale

I've been blogging on and off for about a dozen years.  Lately I've found myself sorely missing the early days.  In retrospect, things were pretty simple then.  There was an innocence to the process.  Those were the Blogroll years with links in the sidebar to favorite sites.  Posts were about day-to-day life ... what was being read, cooked, discovered, and mostly thought, be it meaningful or mundane.  Long before Facebook and other social networking sites, blogging was a new platform for connection.  Comments felt a lot like corresponding with a pen pal and far-flung friendships were forged. 

Back in 2001 and for many years thereafter, there were no e-courses, sponsorships, affiliate programs or advertisements.  Blogging wasn't a business nor intended to support one.  There was no marketing, per se, at least not in the straightforward approach taken today.  There was no concern about search engine optimization and such.  No one was getting discovered for publishing or licensing deals.  Please don't hold my old school-ness against me if I confess that it feels like something precious got lost when the bar got raised.  Blogging hasn't been the same to and for me since.

My original blog, Jul of the Day, is long gone.  I've had this one for several years, but continue to seek the right fit for me in this new-ish (to me) and flux-tastic (again, to me) age of blogging.  I've been trying to conjure the essence of those early days.  Trust me, I know that there's no going back.  Now I have the matter of my own wares to share.  But here's the thing ... I want to do so in a way that doesn't make you feel like I'm reaching for your wallet whenever you stop by.  Yeah.  It's circle-turning, head-scratching tricky because I can't know the sensitivity of your ick meter.  But I do know the sensitivity of my own and, no judgment intended, of course, but most of the approaches that work effectively for others don't feel like a good fit for me.  And so I sit and ponder.  And I give thanks for the handful of treasured blogs that appear to have cracked the code to the ideal balance between personal and professional, warmly sharing the heart and soul of the offerer as well as the offerings.  But it is admittedly a work in progress around here.  Just like me.  Always will be.

Would love your thoughts, if you'd care to share ... 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 17,015: A New View

When I turned 40 several years ago, I gave myself the gift of a full week at feng shui school deep in the gentle woods of Brown County, Indiana.  I learned so much from that experience and have never viewed space or place the same way again.  I have been working from home for eleven years.  Although I have a dedicated office, you will rarely find me working in there.  I need to roam.  Hence, I've learned to keep everything I need inside a laptop bag, so that I can stay mobile.  All that's left to find is a place to land.  For a long time, our dining table room served as such.  Nice view outside.  Room to spread out.  It worked out great ... until it didn't.  I have been longingly eyeing this corner of our living room ever since I added my friend Tina's amazing artwork around my collection of suns.  I have a perfect view of our beer garden which will soon have its fountain flowing and flowers planted.  My journal is handy as are some books and art supplies.  And, yes, I use the ball as a chair.  Try it.  I may work here for a week, a month, a year, who knows.  Everything is in a luscious state of flux.  I wisely go where I am beckoned.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Day 17,008 Gratitude

Today I am so grateful ...

For whomever came up with the great idea of having a photo booth at wedding receptions.  Mind you, my husband and I haven't attended many wedding receptions in the last ten years (wherein "many" means "only one").  I don't recognize a lot of the songs.  I don't know the dance moves.  Fine with me to sit and watch.  A waiter offered us coffee.  We must've had "early bedtime" written all over us.  Sigh.  Yes.  It's happening.  We are the grown-ups.  Not only that, but we are fast becoming the older grown-ups.  Thank goodness for the photo booth and the fact that my husband never met a camera in front of which he hasn't felt compelled to goof off.  There you have it.  Er, um, us.  Twenty years married.  Twenty-five years together.  The bride and groom got a copy along with our best wishes in a scrapbook.  We get to put this copy on our refrigerator to remind us that we will always be as young and silly as we feel.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 17,000

I am now 17,000 days old.
17,000 sunrises.
17,000 sunsets.
Each day its own story.
Its own leg of the journey.
Humbled.  Grateful.  Blessed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Day 16,993: An Otherwise Ordinary Day

Today I am so grateful for ...

The confirmation of plans almost as soon as they're cooked up.
Open windows, billowing curtains, and the sound of distant chimes.
The shameless self-promotion of lilac in bloom.
My lusty feelings toward Vermont extra sharp white cheddar.
The sacred woven into an otherwise ordinary day.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day 16,992: The Me I See

I am always grateful
for opportunities to see myself
in a different way, from a new angle
In a fresh light
Taking a workshop or class
will often do this for me
Or forging my way through and to
the other side of a problem
Or doing something, anything
That I was once certain I couldn't
Comfort zone and perspective expanded
I see in the mirror or
Through someone else's eyes
A me entirely new to me
And then other times
It's something silly and playful
Like this Camwow app on my iPhone
That reminds me not to
Take myself or what I see
Too seriously

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day 16,990: What Is and Isn't My Business

Some sketches will work
Some sketches won't
Some sketches I love
Some sketches I don't
But I try
To show up in some way
Every day
And to remember
That it's the practice
That matters
Not what I think
of the outcomes

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Day 16,989: Lost Causes, Egret Medicine, and Fresh Hatchings

Today I am so grateful ...

For yet another reminder that there's really no such thing as a lost cause.  Okay.  Maybe.  Sometimes.  But I stand firm in my belief that there are no lost causes in terms of art.  I started this drawing with a design in mind.  It's no secret that I love my Caran D'Ache Neocolor Crayons.  I am in childlike awe of how my drawings with them are magically transformed with water.  Unfortunately (or not), this time I got a wee bit overzealous with blotting and blending.  The liberal use of black crayon turned it into a snapshot of the bottom of an ash tray.  I let it dry, then started doodling on it with a white Prismacolor pencil and learned that sometimes what appears to be a mess can be the gateway to a new direction in disguise.  I need to remember to apply this discovery to my day-to-day life.  

For a wonderful walk-and-talk late this afternoon with a friend who recently returned from an amazing trip to Sedona.  Our conversation naturally shifted toward how we might get out there together before the end of the year.  Goodness knows that I should need to restock my wrapping inventory by this autumn, right?  A large low-flying bird caught my eye as we schemed.  I thought it was a hawk, but the wingspan and long legs gave it away.  A very odd bird to see in our suburban neighborhood!  Of course, I looked up Egret medicine as soon as I got home.

For other summer travel possibilities that sprung up all of the sudden like dandelions on a sunny day.  They are still in that freshly hatched and fragile stage where I feel like I need to keep them warm and safe in my pocket until they decide whether or not to manifest.  But I can't help but be hopeful, excited and begin to quietly mull the logistics of these adventures in my daydreams. 

What has you feeling grateful these days?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Day 16,981: Lightened Load

A lot like this photo I took the summer of 2006, I feel in the in-between.  I've crawled out of shell.  My wings are unfurled.  But letting go of what no longer serves me, exciting though it may be, is also scary and a little sad.  I welcome change with a nod and a shrug.  It's just how I'm wired.   

A chunk of the day was spent deleting e-mails and text messages from my iPhone 3GS that date so far back that I'm too ashamed to confess specifics.  I had taken comfort in having history at my finger tips.  As I recently told a friend, I am a hoarder of minutiae ... the bits and bytes of day-to-day life that most others would cast away.  A handwritten letter lover at heart, these modern day means of communication and connection are treasures to me.  But as they say, you can't take them with you when you go.  In this case, go = transition to a new cell phone carrier and upgrade to the iPhone 4S.

There is a lot to be said for clean slates and fresh starts.  Spring begs for such.  No one ever complains about traveling with a lightened load.  There's good incentive not to drag so much of the past with me wherever I go ... even if it's only in the palm of my hand.

Cheers to freedom ... in whatever way you need it!   

Monday, April 2, 2012

Day 16,980: Next Journal for the Journey

Today I am so grateful ...

To birth the cover of my next sketchbook journal.  This opportunity only comes around a couple of times per year.  Always exciting.  A bit unnerving.  I do my fair share of circle turning before I bravely dig in.

My cover collages on past journals have been pretty safey-safe so far.  I hungered for this one to have some dimension.  So I began by covering it with a piece of Fred's comforter that I had saved when I relunctantly discarded the rest of it last week due to its sad state of disrepair.  It had previously been the comforter on Dan's and my bed when we moved into this house almost 10 years ago to the day.  There's richness of personal history in the well-worn fibers and patterns of things that comfort and give us warmth, but I don't need to keep them whole forever to satisfy my nostalgia.  They mean even more to me when a portion can be integrated into something new.
In a dream last night, while the new journal still slept in its plastic wrapper, I saw the finished cover with the tree.  My marching orders were to find the stash of embroidery thread, otherwise long ago forgotten, from my daughter's childhood friendship bracelet days.  Afraid to slow down, much less stop, the finished cover manifested through a beautiful mess in a surprisingly short time.  It's like nothing I've ever made before.

Now I'm in shellac mode.  Adding protection and shine.  As I gently brush it on, I realize that I don't entirely understand what the whole of it means.  I do sense that this tree is capable of accommodating the winds of change while remaining firmly grounded.  It appears to be bending and flowing quite playfully, in fact.  Hopefully these characteristics apply to me as well as I fill this journal's pages with art, words and other treasures gathered on this juncture's journeys, inward and outward, near and far.