Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 17,598 Gratitude: Wide Awake and Curious

I marvel at how many days can slip by between posts.  I'll swear I shared a story with you here the day before yesterday, only to discover it's been almost one week.  I'm losing my linear superpowers!  Alas, winter disorients me and disrupts my sleep schedule.  This Dark Time plays tricks on my perimenopausal brain.

I've been waking up around 4:30 a.m., sometimes earlier, and eagerly making collages an hour later.  When the moon and stars are bright by dinner time, the Sandman can hardly wait for me to take the last bite before taking me out.  Ideas and inspiration arrive at odd hours and often in pieces.  I rarely know what day it is anymore.

Resistance is futile ... and not really in my best interest anyway.  It's a great opportunity for me to begin working with my word for 2014.  Curiosity.  It's obviously started its work with (and on) me already. 

I'm now wide awake and curious.  For this I am so grateful. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 17,592: Fodder and Fixin's

Collaging continues ... now with 16 of 100 completed to date.  Alas, it already feels like I'm using the same bits repeatedly.  My stash of collage fodder and fixin's seems lean for the ambitious task at hand.  I tapped into my various social media outlets and extended an invitation to those who may be inclined to mail some bits and pieces for the cause.  I gratefully invite you to do the same.  Another option is to contact me directly with your mailing address and I will send a self-addressed stamped envelope right away.

In the meantime, I am looking at every label, receipt, package, photo, fabric, and tag with a refreshed sense of possibility.  As is always the case, lack is a state of mind.  We are all steeped in and surrounded by generous abundance.  For that I am so grateful.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 17,591 Gratitude: What Dusk Delivers

As dusk settled in yesterday, I saw something unusual in the corner of our back yard at the fence line.  Our neighbor's white poodle was tentatively investigating from her side.  She didn't bark at me as I approached.  I suspect she was as unnerved and befuddled by what was there as I was.

A hawk.  On its back.  The photo above is as I found it.  No sign of trauma.  Nothing to make its death make sense.  My only guess is electrocution.  The squirrels around here nest near dangerous places.  She was below a pole with high voltage.

There had to be a protocol for reverently handling the remains of this great bird, right?  I did the only thing I could think of doing.  I smudged it with sage. This brought me some peace and bought me some time.  Then a wise friend suggested taking it to the woods and reminded me that nature knew what to do.  So my husband and I drove it to our neighborhood greenspace over which it had likely soared its whole life.  As I placed the limp body at the base of a small tree, I realized that this once strong and powerful creature was the softest thing I have ever touched in my whole life.

I don't know what it means, if it means anything at all.  What I do know is that something like this doesn't happen everyday.  Some things cannot be discarded or disregarded.  For that I am so grateful.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day 17,590 Gratitude: Art Saves

9 of 100
"Dedicating the Merits"
Although having completed only two days of my month-long Power of 100 Project, I am learning so much.  For starters, what seems like a good idea and wholly achievable the day before launch can cast shadows of something entirely different once in motion.
It brings me back to when I quit smoking, by means of the coldest turkey.  It too had to be a game that I played with myself, but one in which the stakes were much higher.  I knew that a shadowy part of me, The Saboteur, would do everything within its power to steer me into the nearest convenience store and put "just one last pack" in my hands.
This time The Saboteur wants me to believe that this goal is too high, too silly, and, quite frankly, I'm far too busy.  It whispers in my ear, "Why bother?  Who cares?"  So I defiantly dip my fingers back into the gel medium jar and whisper back, "Buzz off."  If I could stop smoking cigarettes, I can easily whip up 100 business card sized collages. 
This goal needs to be high because this endeavor is as much about making the time for art as it is about making the art itself.  The only person who needs to care about whether or not I do it is me.   Trust me ... procrastination, excuses and apathy can be deadly carcinogens.  They stand between me and the full expression of my wellbeing.  Art can save a life.  For that I am so grateful.
(I won't be posting every collage here, but there are several ways to see them all.  First, there is a link to Flickr in the sidebar on the right.  You can also follow @juloftheday on Instagram or @jakksmagicbeans on Twitter.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 17,589 Gratitude: In the Process


Strong out of the gate, as is my way, I managed to collage eight cards last night.  It dawned on me that I haven't given this project, game, whatever it is, a name.  Power of 100, it is.  I won't be making eight per day, but I love having some extras creatively banked so that I can take a day off if/when needed.  But sitting down to make one makes it super easy to stay there and make another and another and another, so who knows.  This is about creating a body of work, yes, but also about what I learn in (and through) the process.  I'm grateful that you're tagging along!

1 of 100
"On a Scale"

2 of 100

3 of 100
"That Which Lies South of El Prado"

4 of 100
"Pegasus Tales"

5 of 100
"She Who is Uncovered"

6 of 100
"Right Turns"

7 of 100
"When in Brooklyn"

8 of 100
"A Question of Honor"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day 17,588 Gratitude: The Power of 100

I am creatively contemplative this first morning of December in this last month of 2013.  Five years ago, in December 2008, I learned about The Portfolio Project.  I didn't participate.  It felt too big back then.  But I was immensely inspired by it and have never forgotten about it.

The Jens presented and approached The Portfolio Project like a game.  Create as many things as possible within a 12-week timeframe.  Paintings.  Poems.  You name it.  But make no mistake about it ... the name of the game was quantity.  Push the inner critic/perfectionist aside and focus exclusively on productivity.   

Knowing myself as I do, 12 weeks is too long.  I need a sprint rather than a marathon.  Otherwise, instead of art, I make excuses.  And I need a specific goal to reach as well.  I get sidetracked by open-endedness.  So I've opted for 100 things ... 100 of one particular medium or subject made within just one month.  I can build a body of work this way.  A portfolio of sorts.  Fast and dirty, as the Jens would say.  Simply a game that I play with and for myself.

That said, I am using December to test the waters of this idea.  I am challenging myself to create 100 micro (business card sized) collages before the end of this month(/year).  It may very well be the start of many 100 games in 2014.  But, if nothing else, this month's endeavor will keep me limber and less inclined to mistake any seasonal darkness as my own, which is a very good thing.

I invite you to join me.  Identify your own 100 things to make/do this month.  Together we can explore how it feels and what we learn in the process, as well as what gets made. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day 17,573 Gratitude: I Still Do

Twenty-two years ago, on November 16, 1991, my best guy and I said "I do."  It's fun that today is a Saturday just as it was when we wed.  Warmish and overcast, too.  But, as it stands, we've made no major plans.  This day will likely unfold in an ordinary way.  This isn't bad.  There is no cause for concern.  When you've been married this long, you get humble.  You count your blessings.  You take nothing for granted.  You give hard work AND luck their due.  Most of all, in myriad ways, we say "I do ... I still do" every single day.  Our celebration of us is on-going.  For this I am so grateful.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 17,571 Gratitude: What's On Hand

I've been sporadic about Art Every Day Month and here we are halfway through it!  I love making micro collages and challenged myself to make one using only what was received, emptied or found today.  So, hello pizza flyer in today's mail ... incense and tea boxes ... fruit stickers from my morning smoothie ... gently fallen geranium petal from the coffee table.  I slathered on the gel medium and basked over how this small creation serves as a creative snapshot of this day.  Not only did this turn out to be a playfully challenging project given the self-imposed limits, but it had me paying closer attention to what was around me and where I might find interesting little bits to add to the mix.  Any art practice that helps me to awaken AND allows me to recycle is something for which I'm grateful! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 17,569 Gratitude: That Which Blooms in November

The first snow of the season fell overnight.  About an inch of it, all wet and sloppy upon still-turning leaves.  Beautiful, yes, but too soon.  Entirely too soon.  As the days grow shorter, I've been taking great comfort in the fledgling geranium gifted to me recently which has taken to bloom beside my beloved schlumbergera and the swelling of its pea-sized buds.

I've also been basking in the afterglow of last weekend's open house.  Good friends.  Good food.  Amazing talent.  A bounty of inspired creations.  Ever since, I've been thinking deeply about what it means to be an artist with a full-time job that isn't the least bit artistic.  Before I can apply my creativity to making anything remotely artful, I have to use it to make the time.  Quite frankly, that has been hard.  Quite frankly-er, that is only because I've allowed it to be.  At a certain point, a decision needs to be made.  Is it worth it?  And, if so, what's next?

Betsy Cañas Garmon explained it beautifully ... "Listen to me.  You can tend to your creative life in 5 minute increments, in ideal and less than ideal (circumstances), in ease or when you're ill at ease.  Be fierce.  Choose the creative practice that heals and expands.  The rest of us need your authentic offerings."
And with those wise and gentle words, I burst open.  For this I am so grateful.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 17,561 Gratitude: That Kind of Girl

Artistically, I have my hands in (and on) many things, but mine is a writer's heart.  I need to play with words in the way I play with images, color, textures and energy.  This is why I love my daily haiku practice (#myku) which I often post to Twitter.  The dance of syllables ... 5/7/5 ... that some days serve as a snapshot story and other days food for thought.  Join me! 

And, by the way, I really am that kind of girl.  It's taken me decades to understand this about myself.  At first it felt like a flaw to be so careful and cautious.  How many opportunities have I missed because of it?  Now I am discovering it to be a superpower because I can finally see it for what it is.  Discernment.  Sure, I would love to be more spontaneous ... perhaps even impetuous once in awhile ... swept up in a passionate wave of YES.  But, hey, I'm that girl.  Hanging back.  Waiting.  And worth it.

For this I am so grateful.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 17,560 Gratitude: Put Back Together Again

Yesterday brought with it an emergency.  My daughter, visiting her boyfriend two hours away, had fallen down hardwood stairs.  She had the wherewithal to call us immediately afterward, in tears, for guidance, reassurance and support.  Parenting the injured from afar is impossible.  And worrisome, especially with a possible head injury.  Long story short, she is fine.  Bruised and sore, but fine.  For that and the great job her boyfriend did in handling the situation and getting her medical care, her father and I are so very grateful.

Today brought soul balm in the form of precious creative time at Spiderville Studio.  I suspect that most artists are accustomed to working alone.  There are advantages to the quiet, yes, but sometimes it can get pretty lonesome.  It was a treat to bring my wire-wrapping into this inspiring space with its tea-filled cups and sweet dogs at our feet.  Three new pendants were born within the artful vortex that we opened.  Most importantly, I learned that my art(s) need not be confined to my workshop.  I can be mobile!  I can be social!  For all of this I am so grateful!

(All three available at the open house next Saturday, November 9!)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day 17,558 Gratitude: What Withers and What Blooms

I don't think that I've done a very good job of tending to my gardens this year. There are the figurative gardens ... endeavors, ideas and the like ... which were planted in good faith but not necessarily given the time and attention they needed to take root and flourish. And then, of course, the literal gardens ... wave petunias in terra cotta pots that seemed to require little attention but, as with all else in life, would've thrived had they been more than afterthought by summer's peak.

November arrived today and there was this wee flower at the end of a withered tendril. With it comes the reminder that no garden is beyond hope. There will be opportunities to plant again. To know better, thus do better. But even without better, there shall be some blooms. For this I am so grateful.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 17,549 Gratitude: Around Here

Around here, along with the telltale signs that autumn has finally arrived, creativity is afoot.  I'm excited to be a guest artist at Michelle Blades' and Brent Naughton's Open House and Art Studio Tour on Saturday, November 9 from 2:00-6:00 p.m.  I would love to see you there (524 Park Place Cincinnati, OH 45244)!  I'm lovingly wrapping gemstone beaded earrings in sterling silver wire and amulet-esque pendants in copper wire too.  I have another one or two offerings up my sleeve as well.  If you plan on stopping by, please contact me or email Michelle at
And speaking of Michelle, she is coaching me (and others) as part of the Sit to Fit program offered by Bob Roncker's Running Spot.  This training leads up to the Jingle Bell Run on December 14.  Over the course of this last year, my walking routine has been more miss than hit (thus more sit than fit).  I can't remember the last time that I tried to run.  But with Michelle's help, the group's support, and encouragement from family and friends, I look forward to giving it a good run.  Literally.
For showing up.  For saying yes.  I am so very grateful.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 17,547 Gratitude: The Return of Souper Sundays

In late 2010 and early 2011, I invited one and all to submit their favorite soup recipes for posting here on Jakk's Magic Beans Life.  With soup season once again upon us, I would love to bring back Souper Sundays so that we can raise our soup spoons together and share with each other in these chili, um, I mean, chilly weeks and months ahead.  Best of all, the chopping, sautéing, and ingredient tweaking that goes into the loving preparation of a hearty batch of soup absolutely counts as art-making for the given day, so please jump in and join me!

As an incentive, here are the recipes posted in the first go-round of Souper Sundays years ago:

Renda’s Cream of Jalapeno Soup - Katie Noah Gibson
Potato Soup - Tim VanSant
Lentil Soup - Night Owl Musings
Curried Carrot Soup - jakk
Tomato Soup - Katie Noah Gibson
Roasty Toasty Winter Soup - Jenna McGuiggan
Lentil Spinach Soup - jakk
Pop’s Chili - Katie Noah Gibson
Santa Fe Pumpkin Corn Chowder - Amy Bogard

If you have a soup recipe to submit for a future Souper Sunday post, here's how it works:

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.

Souper Sundays will continue until your soupy submissions cease.  Hope to hear from you soon!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview with Amy Bogard -- Workshop in Taos 2014

Since 2011, Cincinnati artist, Amy Bogard, has been teaching an amazing Illuminated Sketchbook Journaling Workshop in Taos, New Mexico at the historic Mabel Dodge Luhan House. She has just officially announced that the fourth annual workshop will be held June 15-20, 2014. An early registration discount is available until December 15, 2013. The registration deadline is March 15, 2014.

I have had the good fortune of attending this workshop each year it has been offered – most recently as Amy’s assistant with regard to matters of planning and logistics. But I clearly remember contemplating that initial workshop and whether it was right for me. I had a lot of questions before I decided to sign up. You may as well, which is why I am delighted to take this opportunity to interview Amy so that you can learn more about this wonderful opportunity.

Jakk: Hi Amy! Before we dive into talking about your 2014 Illuminated Sketchbook Journaling Workshop in Taos, can you share with those who haven’t had the opportunity to meet you a few things about yourself?

Amy: Hi Julie! Thanks for this opportunity to share a bit about what I do! I am an artist, first and foremost. Artists tend to look at and approach the world very differently than most folks and I enjoy sharing my view of the magic and mystery in this world through my work. Like many artists, I have a day-job that I love, a family too, so I am definitely one who cobbles an artful existence together in the midst of all of that. Oh, and I love my animals. Dogs especially.

Jakk: What inspired you to offer this travel workshop?

Amy: I've been keeping a journal of my thoughts, adventures and experiences, with little doodles included, for years! Over that time I was asked again and again to teach a class on how I approach the journaling process. So I developed an evening class to teach at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. The travel based workshop was a natural and eventual extension of those original evening classes. When I travel my journals really come alive. The trick is bringing that back to the day do day upon returning home!

Jakk: What drew you to base this workshop in Taos?

Amy: I visited Taos with a Denver-based friend one year and it just felt right there. So much to take in in a rather small place.

Jakk: And why do you hold the workshop at Mabel Dodge Luhan House?

Amy: Mabel's is so rich with history, especially art history. Its beauty just beckons creativity. By the time we are finished with a week at Mabel's, we are fairly dripping with it!!

Jakk: Is previous art experience required? In other words, will sketchbook and/or journaling newbies feel left out or overwhelmed?

Amy: Not at all! My very favorite students are the ones who believe that they “can't draw a straight line” to which I answer, “straight lines are overrated.” Keeping an illuminated journal is about really learning to see as if you haven't seen before. I can teach anyone the basic drawing tools necessary to begin capturing what we see.

Jakk: Will experienced artists benefit from this workshop? If so, what should they expect?

Amy: Over the years I have had a few repeat students who come back time and again for this trip. It's my job to have new exercises to challenge their creativity. For 2014's workshop we will have opportunities for the more experienced students to critique their work and push the boundaries of what they are making as well as discuss their work within the framework of established artists.

Jakk: Aside from the arrival day on Sunday, June 15 and the departure day on Friday, June 20, what does a typical workshop day look like?

Amy: While there is plenty of free work time for students to spend with their journals, there are also core working times that we will spend as a group or subgroup during the workshop. These are structured around meal times. Part of the beauty of a workshop like this is the group dynamic that develops over the course of the week.

Jakk: Do students have to do everything that is on the class schedule each day?

Amy: Aside from the core class times when we are expected to be together for announcements, exercises and demonstrations, there is a fair amount of freedom to be had during the workshop. There is much to see and do in Taos and the surrounding areas. Opportunities for self-guided field trips are plentiful and these will feed into what we do as a group.

Jakk: How physically demanding is this experience? In other words, is there anything that someone with a chronic health issue or physical disability should be aware of before signing up?

Amy: Taos is considered “high desert.” It's situated at almost 7000 feet above sea level so altitude is definitely a factor to consider. The campus of Mabel's demands a fair amount of walking and much of that walking is on old-fashioned cobblestones and other uneven ground. My best advice would be to know your limits and respect them.

Jakk: Do you handle any of the travel arrangements for this trip?

Amy: Your workshop fee covers lodging during the workshop plus two meals (breakfast and lunch) a day. We will have folks hold off until March 15 to make any individual flight plans just to make sure we have the number of participants we need to hold the workshop. Once we get everyone signed up, we will create a virtual meeting space for participants to discuss their flight plans, sharing rental cars, etc.

Jakk: How about those with special dietary needs? Can Mabel’s accommodate these requests?

Amy: Yes, the staff at Mabel's is very accommodating! We just need to let them know ahead of time.

Jakk: How will you help students prepare before the trip/workshop?

Amy: I'll be doing some brief introductory videos for the very beginners that will discuss materials and give some basic at-home practice to work on. That will put people on a more level playing field. I'll also be introducing everyone to some of my favorite journaling artists by sharing websites and such via lead up emails. It's my hope that everyone will arrive primed with inspiration!

Jakk: Do the students need to bring their own supplies? If so, how will they know what to bring?

Amy: Yes, aside from a few secondary supplies that I will provide, students will need to bring their own sketchbook journal and watercolor, set along with some pens and pencils. I will provide guidance as to which ones to get. The great thing about this particular artistic practice is that you can toss your supplies in a small bag or backpack and go! It's not tremendously supply-driven. You can do so much just with a pencil and paper!

Jakk: What if someone wants to sign up for the workshop and bring their partner who doesn’t want to attend the workshop?

Amy: While I think everyone should sign up for the workshop and begin keeping their own travel journal (heck, my own husband keeps one of his outdoor adventures!), we do offer a companion rate for those who would rather do other things while in Taos. This means your spouse/ partner/friend would share your room and would take meals with the group.

Jakk: How does one go about registering for the workshop?

Amy: Just send me an email (!! Details can be found at We are offering an early bird discount. If you sign up before December 15th, you save $200.

Jakk: Thanks so much, Amy! Is there anything else that you would like to add before we close this interview?

Amy: Well I could go on and on and on about the magic that this process can create in a person's life. Traveling with a small book and a little set of watercolor paints is like no other travel. You will find yourself approaching all of your travels differently, slowing down to capture them in a way you never have before. When you even attempt to draw something you really get a sense of it, unlike you do with a camera. I can teach you how to draw what captivates you. Join us!!

Thanks again, Amy! I hope that you will consider joining us for this creative adventure. You can be assured that your personal journal practice will be forever changed, new friendships will be forged and you may fall in love with the richness of Taos in ways that you can’t yet imagine!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 17,536 Gratitude: The Fun in Furlough

I don't speak of it here, but I am a federal employee.  Ironically, I reached my 25 year anniversary as such immediately prior to the government shutdown.  It isn't easy being a civil servant, but I have always been proud it.  Being furloughed is frustrating and the uncertainty of it is daunting, but I have vowed to make the best of it, however long it may last.  This time off has granted me the opportunity to focus on my arts and do something I never have time to do.  Dabble. 

There is a lot to be said for this kind of spaciousness, especially at this time of year.  The trees are practically begging me to watch them change.  The sky has been almost too blue to bear.  My muse is coming around for tea with greater frequency.  She is encouraging me to make messes, the healthy kind, and see what needs to be cleaned up from fresh angles.  This time off is good in a priceless kind of way.

I avoid the news.  When it is time to go back, I will be notified.  My focus right now is on filling my creative cup, so that when it is time to return, I will have the good sense to restrain myself from giving it all of my energy and best moves.  For crystal clarity in realizing my true worth and the good sense to stop confusing my job with my real work in this world, which is the livelihood of me being me, I am so deeply grateful. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 17,534: Of Mountains and Mending

I'm back.  From Taos.  Again.  As much as one can come back from such a magical place.  I was just there in June to assist Amy Bogard with her Illuminated Sketchbook Journaling Workshop at Mabel Dodge Luhan House.  It was my third time in Taos for this wonderful offering, but this fourth visit was with my husband and purely for fun, relaxation, and celebration of my 48th birthday.  It was the very best present to introduce him to the desert southwest.  We were fortunate to have the opportunity to spend three of four nights at Mabel's ... not only at the Inn but in Mabel's own bedroom.  This historic property, built and run with love, is a home away from home and has a way of mending within me whatever may need it.    

During our stay, we basked in the hot springs at Ojo Caliente.  We fawned over llamas, alpacas and angora rabbits at the Taos Wool Festival.  We went on a photo safari for migrating tarantulas on West Rim Road.  We savored handcrafted beer, homemade taquitos and chatting up the locals at Taos Mesa Brewing.  We gazed, awestruck, at the spectacular blanket of stars in the expansive New Moon sky.  We packed in as much joy as could be squeezed into such a short visit.  And Taos Mountain, oh, that mountain, she hangs onto a piece of me until I can return.  So very grateful for this special trip with my partner on life's journey.  So very grateful to know that I will be back again next June.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 17,526 Gratitude: The Complexity of the Tapestry

In these whirlwind days since my last post, I have been evaluating contract proposals and rubbing the bellies of wolves. My daughter went ahead and turned 20 years old as well. I am gearing up to travel later this week, but also heeding the impulse to hunker down and start building my nest for the colder, darker months to come. Gratitude for me right now is a complex tapestry of grand acknowledgements, simple pleasures, and saving graces. May I never, ever lose my sense of wonder. May I never, ever stop cutting myself ample slack.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Day 17,519 Gratitude: To Teach and Be Taught

Since September 12, I've been soaking up and basking in Patti Digh's VerbTribe ecourse ... an early birthday present to myself.  Writing is my creative first love.  Since my early teens, few things have brought me more comfort or given me more confidence than putting pen to paper.  I've maintained a blog for the better part of 12 years, but this year I've been droopy as a writer, avoiding both the page and screen.  So how could I pass up the opportunity to be guided by and learn from one of my favorite authors?  I am feeling inspired again!  For teachers like Patti and my friend, Amy, who not only serve as role models by living what they love but teaching it as well, I am so deeply grateful.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 17,518 Gratitude: Is What It Is

The last couple of days were spent at my daughter's university for Parents' Weekend ... or as I like to call it, the harder goodbye. The weekend is well timed, one month after move-in. The day that we take her back to school never fails to be hotter than the surface of the sun. Carrying her every belonging upstairs to her fourth floor dorm room (second year in a row) always leaves us exhausted, sweaty and humorless. By the end of that day, after all of the preparation for it and anticipation of it, we are ready for it to be over. That goodbye is bittersweet, yes, but we are buoyed in the knowing that we will be together again soon.

The goodbye at the end of Parents' Weekend is the actual heartbreaker in comparison. All parties have had one full month to adapt to the changes and really steep in the heartfelt missing of each other that only time and distance can bring. Add to that a weekend of playful togetherness and fun and then try to say goodbye. It doesn't matter if you are the one leaving or the one staying behind. It's life, but damn it hurts.

I humbly confess that I assumed everything would be easier this school year, with our daughter being a sophomore and our family having separation experience under our belt. I was wrong. It isn't easier. It isn't harder. It just is what it is. We are figuring it out and learning how to proceed as we go. And, thankfully, we all have the good sense to really appreciate the opportunities that we have to be together during the school year. We three know that, in due time, we will blink, and she will fly from our nest completely and for good. This is really great news! This is what is supposed to happen. For all of this, I am so grateful.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 17,490 Gratitude: State of the Nest Address

After three and half months of having our daughter back in the nest, she has flown from it, once again, to return to college for the new school year.  We (smugly) thought that we would be better prepared this time and, organizationally, I suppose that we were in comparison to last year.  But emotional readiness tends to blow out the open window on the long drive back to campus or gets lost at the bottom of a random box like the extension cord that we desperately need to find.  Post goodbyes, we are fragile but fine, the three of us.  We know that being apart gets easier over time and our appreciation of each other increases exponentially along with it. 

Where there is always love, laughter, sanctuary and succor, there is no such thing as emptiness.  Our nest is ever-evolving, like the lives of those who rest within it.  The changes only make it (and each of us) stronger. And for that I am so grateful.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day 17,445 Gratitude: Sometimes

Sometimes things don't go as planned.  Sometimes we get past troublesome situations that find a way to come back around and clobber us again.  Hopefully we are wiser and stronger from having faced this foe the first time.  Sometimes we aren't so sure. 

We spent half of 2012 on a quest for the best veterinary care for Phoebe as we sought answers to her skin condition that was finally diagnosed as demodex.  In February of this year, we celebrated the confirmation of her remission after months of an intensive treatment protocol.  Today we scratched our heads and gave many heavy sighs as she was diagnosed with a recurrence.  Razor blade scrapes were made on her thin, sensitive skin.  Blood was taken for clues.  Many kisses were given.  Now we wait until Tuesday to find out where her thyroid and liver stand so that we can chart the course from there.

Sometimes things don't go as planned.  Yes.  But I am so very grateful for the love and support around Phoebe and our family as we figure this out.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Day 17,439 Gratitude: Scribbly

I was strong out of the sketching gate, post-Taos, but the more that I've settled back into the day-to-dayness of my job and catching up, the more difficult it has become to show up in my journal and here.  I cut myself several days' worth of slack for work and wallowing, but I won't stand for ongoing excuses.  Although the backlog will (hopefully) soon rectify itself, my job and its demands aren't going anywhere anytime soon.  No one said it would be easy to craft for myself an arts-filled life, but by all indications it's well worth it to carve out that time and lovingly hold myself accountable.  I have just less than one whole year to draw upon (literally!) before the next trip to Taos.  And there are so many other things (i.e. wrapping, teaching, etc.) that I want to get back to doing and offering. 

So today, I may be scribbly but that counts for something.  Showing up is enough.  And for that I am so grateful.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 17,433 Gratitude: Raising My Ceiling

I am immensely proud of this sketch.  It's another Taos story.  (I really hope you aren't growing tired of them.)

Most days, I prefer quick-and-dirty drawings because they don't require a lot of time, energy or forethought.  When I play sketchy-beat-the-clock, I can (usually) circumvent circle-turning and other avoidance/procrastination behaviors.  The point is to capture some semblance of the subject ... FAST!  The downside to this approach is that it keeps me stuck in my comfort zone, which is not good for me or my journal.

I was fascinated by the ceiling in my room at Mabel Dodge with its tapestry of wood.  I can't say that my first instinct was to sketch it, fast or not.  But there was something about this one particular morning and its sense of spaciousness that beckoned me to capture the essense of it in my journal.  It felt like a lofty goal, but I knew that I would regret it if I didn't try and give it my wholehearted best effort.

Overall I would say that I spent close to three hours on it, with some breaks to regain my bearings.  I never would've believed I'd had it in me to capture such detail so accurately.  (At least accurately for/to me.)  Now that I know what I can do, my personal ceiling is raised.  A breakthrough of sorts.  I gave it the time it needed, this sketch, and in return it exponentially increased my confidence in my ability to really see and transmit that through my brush. 

I know that sketches like this one may be few and far between, but in the meantime I am so grateful for the lingering inspiration provided.  It fuels me to sketch on ... making room and time as needed ... being willing to draw (and be) bigger than I thought.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 17,431: Every Sketch is a Story

I can't promise that I'm going to keep sketching everyday.  For now, doing so keeps me connected to Taos, where showing up on the page came to me naturally.  I want to ride that wave for as long as I can.

I can't promise that every sketch will be good.  I'm human, just like everyone else, and with my humanity comes some vanity.  I would prefer to share only the sketches I love, but there is benefit to sharing those that I don't.  Sketches where I was heavy-handed and the paper deteriorated ... sketches when the pen misbehaved.  I'm a beginner.  I want to wear that proudly.  There is safety in vulnerability, so I take my opinion out of it and simply share.

What I can promise you is that every sketch is a story, so here is this one for you ...

Taos is timeless for me.  Literally.  I can't tell you on which day of the week it happened.  I can't even remember if it was morning or evening because, well, I honestly can't tell time out there.  I don't think it exists.  For me it feels like one long and exquisite right-now. 

So once upon one of these right-nows, Amy and I were sitting on the gravel covered porch, as had become our ritual.  This was our view:

I know, right?!  We spent a lot of time there, taking in and filling up with the magnitude of it all, but one of these precious times, a glistening caught me eye from amongst the rocks upon which our chairs sat. Nestled in the gravel was a faceted crystal bead.  We couldn't imagine where it came from or how it ended up there, but at a certain point during your stay in Taos you stop being surprised when things magically show up.  So after a moment of marveling, I picked up it, tucked it away and trusted that I would know what to do with it when it was time to do it.

And I did.  Today.  Wrapped it in a wee bit of argentium sterling silver wire with two matching beads to anchor it.  It, in turn, will anchor me until I can return.  For this little treasure and what it represents, I am so very grateful.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 17,430 Gratitude: Art Isn't Optional

I was already crispy dry by the time I reached the desert.  Even after a week by the sea just a month before.  The first half of 2013 was difficult.  Having my only child away at college for the first time ... difficult.  Losing a young colleague and friend suddenly, tragically ... difficult.  Unrelenting job stress ... difficult.  Suffice it to say, I dragged myself into Mabel Dodge Luhan House much the way a victim of shipwreck drags themself to shore.  Tattered and gasping.  I was starving for expansive art, beauty, and peace.

I received everything that I was looking for, needed and more.  I worried that my rekindled sketchbook journaling practice would be limited to Mabel's where my heart brims and I'm burden-free.  Thankfully, it traveled back home with me, along with considerable peace. 

We can't control which cards that life will deal us.  But we can slap on those cards some gel medium, slivers of ephemera, penwork and paint.  It's easy to forget about the option of art when we are otherwise in the thick of things.  But art really isn't optional.  Through the creative process, we can be buoyed and maybe even saved.  For this I am so very grateful.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 17,429 Gratitude: Drawn Forward

There is a saying ... "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."  I'm sure that it is in reference to attitude, but I see that it could apply to the artist ... the image that travels from the eye to and through the hand, pen and paintbrush. 

I was in Taos to help with the workshop and that was primary focus and responsibility.  But I was fortunate to have ample opportunity each day to draw something ... usually outside of class time, alongside and at the urging of Amy who took full advantage of her own precious time to sketch.  She wouldn't let me give up when frustrated or skip out when unmotivated, but rather gave me some patient and precious pointers ... particularly on perspective, which has been my biggest obstacle (on the page and off).  Again, "when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." 

This guidance and support, as well as being surrounded by so much beauty and inspiration, seem to have led me to a breakthrough in my sketchbook.  I'm back home and can't stop drawing.  My trepidation, for the most part, is gone.  I don't have to tell myself to show up ... I just do.  And my most recent sketches feel truer and clearer than ever before.  My greyhound finally looks like a dog!

Color me grateful ... and excited for what's to come.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 17,428 Gratitude: Of Moving Mountains

Alas, back home after ten days in Taos.  The theme of finding feathers continues.  Thankfully, the sketching continues as well.  There are so many stories of gratitude to share.  It must (for now, at least) suffice to simply but wholeheartedly thank my beloved friend and Wonder Twin, Amy Bogard, for her complete faith in my ability to help hold the space for and gentle hearts within her workshop that is so much more than just that.

No one leaves in the same condition as upon arrival.  The least of which would be me.  This place, the experience and those with whom I get to share it never fail to fill me up, expand me exponentially, and then crack me wide open.  I couldn't go there (literally or figuratively) without the ongoing blessing and support of my husband and daughter who somehow understand how much this trip means to me and the impact it has upon me, not only as an artist but a traveler in the deepest, rawest sense.  I've come home (yet again) a much better and more focused observer of the world around me, if not a better and more focused artist through my renewed hunger and eagerness to capture it.  Home again, I am fully fueled to maintain this perspective and momentum. 

But even thousands of miles away from it, Taos Mountain has my heart.  I am already counting the days until we are together again.  For that and all of the above, I am so very grateful. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day 17,415 Gratitude: Finding Feathers

And so it begins.  The finding of feathers.  This is what Taos does.  One of many things.  In this case, before I even get there.  Feathers appear.  And appear.  And again.  Carrying with them messages of comfort and caring.

There are angels among us.  Always.  But in Taos, where the veil is whisper-thin, their presence is especially palpable.  

For winged and feathered companions on the journey, I am so very grateful.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Day 17,414 Gratitude: Stories of Stories

I've been thinking a lot about the role of stories in my life.  The stories I hear.  The stories I tell.  Which stories get shared.  Which stories get spared. 

I could tell you four dozen stories about what I've been doing (and not doing) in the six weeks since my last post, but I've never been very good at catching up on backlogs.  Sometimes it's best to let such things burn.  Start anew.  All that really matters right now is right now.

In this particular right now, I am looking into an open suitcase, trying to remember what I really need in the Land of Enchantment.  It's always less than I think.  My needs are few and simple there. So I keep paring down my pile. 

The high desert suits me, serves me.  I always come back from Taos a better, brighter, and clearer me.  Always.  And for that and all of its implications, I am so deeply grateful.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 17,367: Shameless Like the Sun

This song.
This video.
On repeat for me today.
Compatible with spring showers. 
I've overflown my banks.
The theme continues.
Miracles, miracles, miracles.
All around us.
So grateful.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 17,365: Miracles

A miracle happened today
Something I've been needing to do my work more efficiently
Something I'd made peace with doing without for a dozen years
Arrived at my door on this otherwise ordinary day
Maybe there should've been champagne
And a marching band
Perhaps some fireworks
Instead there was stupefied silence
You just never know with miracles
Some days it's just water out of faucets
Plants and children growing overnight
Other days it's what seemed impossible
Finally showing up at your front door
For this I am so grateful

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 17,361 Gratitude: Beautiful Transformation

I shall ceaselessly sing the praises of good mail days.  Thank heavens for them and their contents.  Today's good mail is good medicine.  My friend, Kate, in Holliston, Massachusetts made these just for me.  The prayer beads AND the sketch with a bead-by-bead description of how each one will support me.  To declare that these are already immensely treasured would be an understatement.

This journey from mother toward crone (or queen, if you prefer) ain't for sissies.  The only way through it is through it ... with all of the tools that can be gathered and patience that can be mustered.  On clinched-fist days, it can help so much to have something to hold.  It helps even more to feel held by something greater in return.   

For all of this I am so grateful.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 17,353 Gratitude: Sweet Time

Spring has taken its sweet time showing up.  Seemingly within the last 24 hours, everything has decided that its the right time to bloom.  Right in line with this Aries New Moon.  And with it a long overdue lunch time return to my workbench wherein I wrapped not one, not two, but THREE pendants.  These are commissioned wrappings.  A simple request to make pre-owned stones simply wearable.  No frills.  Easy peasy.  The perfect project to help me return and remember.  The way the stones roll and warm up in my hands.  The way the wire melts like butter around my fingers.  The way it feels so good to make something that makes someone else so happy.  For all of this, I am so grateful!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 17,340 Gratitude: The Only Way Through It is Through It

With four days left in March, I can't say it's a month I'm gonna miss once it's gone.  I'm not fond of rollercoasters ... with "not fond" meaning "terrified."  But I've found myself strapped into one this month nonetheless.  Round and round, up and down I go.  The only thing left to do is surrender.

When the sky has gone bruised and the wind has blown cold, mercy finds us.  Somehow, someway, everything is going to be okay.  Through the grime and wired windows on and over each of our souls, the love and light will always make itself known and it's way through.  For this I am so grateful.

(Click here if you'd like to listen to this post.)