Sunday, January 25, 2009

Secret #3 Following Your Fascinations

I JUST finished reading this week's chapter for the book blogging group, 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women hosted by Jamie Ridler and I SO wish I had read this chapter a couple weeks ago seeing as the reason I had little time to squeeze in reading the chapter was I was heavily engaged/immersed/overwhelmed in potential risk taking in my life. In a totally unexpected and ironic twist almost immediately after my previous post stating I had the distinct priviledge of having the entirety of my home living space available for 'sanctuary' if I so choose - my younger sister called from half-way across the country saying she needed a place to make a fresh start and could she please come live with me.



Little Sis had entirely exhausted the patience and good will of our mother and both of our brothers as well as having driven her ex to file domestic abuse charges against her and obtain a 'no contact' court order. She is no ideal candidate for a room mate. She is disabled, bi-polar with a whole host of accompanying issues, doesn't know the meaning of the concept of privacy and definitely NOT one who could or would be encouraging to creative pursuits. But, she is my beloved baby sister and had never asked me for anything since I had married and left home over 30 years ago. How could I say no if my dearest, darlin' was willing to have her come here? So I've spent most of my time the past week (in retrospect relative to the terms of this week's chapter, calculating risk) researching bi-polar disorder, availability of resources for her needs, advice for living with potential new circumstances...and then there were daily long distance phone conversations with her and our mother, both of our brothers, her probation officer, etc. Among those conversations were a couple very painfully uncomfortable reality revelations on my part to Mom a therapist might call breakthrough moments. I was one busy gal and amidst all of that had 2-3 severely limiting high pain RA days.

I hardly had time to give a moment's thought to my creative self except for the likelihood that rather than being allowed to run free, she'd be canned and shelved until further notice. I wasn't thrilled at the prospect but I felt noble and even potentially heroic for the potential sacrifice. I even entertained thoughts/fantasies that the circumstances might even have an ideal aspect ultimately advantageous to me in that Little Sis might contribute to meal prep and housework that often so deeply taxes my body and stamina and prevents me from having much of either for creative pursuits.

At the last moment (my long distance interview with the probation officer resulted in her planning to recommend approval for Sis's planned move to the court), Sis decided to pursue application instead for admittance to a group home or other local housing option to avoid being too far for comfort from her two adult children. A part of me is hugely relieved - in fact I've given new thought to the Old Testament bible account of Abraham being called to sacrifice his son Isaac and how God didn't require the sacrifice, only the willingness to be obedient. My very personal lesson is a far greater appreciation of the value of that which I might have sacrificed.

On to the book - I so appreciate the stories/examples of those who have gone before US, so to speak. It's so encouraging to hear/read experiences of others both from the perspective of making things happen AND being in the right place at the right time as far as preparation meeting opportunity (they call that luck?). One of the challenges in the chapter was summarizing your own risk taking history - calculated or inpulsive and to write down a risk profile for yourself with guidelines for future risk taking based on experience and natural abilities.

Based on experience - some of the biggest risks I've benefitted from having taken would NEVER have been taken if I'd had an inkling the risk that was actually involved. I trusted intuition more than calculation and personally, I believe our calculated assessments are almost always falsely weighted by partiality, insecurity and false assumptions. Ignorance can be bliss. You don't know what you don't know. Realistically, we really have control over so little. I've never been able to understand how people can plan vacations for instance months and months ahead. Stuff happens. I remember stumbling upon the unbelievably profound lyric of John Lennon which says, "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." *light bulb* Duh! The only thing 'prepared' I ever managed was 'prepared childbirth' with each of my 4 children and I KNOW how very blessed - some might say lucky - I was there were no major 'complications'.

I've long known my greatest limitation in approaching risk is being timid due to fear of failure. I'm afraid to try anything new I'm not confident of doing well - years of my real life patriarchal voice, dear old Dad, saying "If something's worth doing at all, it's worth doing well." All the years of easy success getting straight A's in school with minimal or no effort didn't serve me very well as training either how to make real effort or how to overcome mistakes/failures. I really wish I'd had more practice at an earlier age when it was easier for pride to heal.

I kind of envy all the collage makers in this creative circle - you have a huge head start, I think, on the last Chapter 3 Challenge to: Identify and celebrate your strengths as a creative woman and a positive risk taker, and post them in your sanctuary.
I think I may spend part of my mid-week day off Wednesday attempting to do just that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Secret #2 Honoring Your Inspirations

Chapter 2/Secret 2 of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: Honoring Your Inspirations…
When I was reading this chapter I was trying to guess like the teacher’s pet student I was when I was young what Jamie and the rest of the group would choose as THE focus key this week. As I read through several of the first posted blogs I grew more and more rankled and itch-y, realizing I was/am slightly out of step. The enthusiasm and reverence I read for ritual actually kinda riled me. Just the word ritual makes my inner rebel rise up, though at the same time reading some so freely shared does sound peaceful and serene.

  • I think of ritual as:

Albert Einstein is attributed with the quote: ‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ When I think of creativity I think of spontaneity and it just seems illogical to me for ritual to have a place in it. It’s good for productivity, maybe, but not creativity. Guess I’ll hafta think about that some more. But then it also seems to me there’s an awful lot of list-ing going on in your creative worlds all you creative women are opening up to me and I despise lists. *Grins* (to me list is a dirty four-letter word I think of mostly in terms of Limit Imposed Scheduled Tasks)

Ironically though, the quote that spoke loudest and deepest to me in this week’s chapter comes at the very end of the section on ritual Cathleen Rountree says, "The creative process is like a lover and you must treat it as such. You must treat it with respect, with regard, with appreciation, with love, with joy, with gratitude, with fear, with all the complexities of a relationship. And if you are able to give of yourself in the way that it requires, it really becomes a relationship." And McMeekin goes on to say, ‘This bonding with your creative self entails acknowledgment and the honoring of its wisdom.’ Personally, I’m excited by the idea of that kind of ‘affair’.

My creative self is wooed (inspired) by cottage and rustic/primitive interiors of comfort and beauty in magazine photos and coffee table-style books, art museums, time spent communicating with other creatives in a variety of fields and genres, reading stories/profiles/blogs of women who do whatever it is they find joy and accomplishment in (Suzie’s and other interviews and your blogs for great example), babies’ hands & feet & smiles and eyes, children, weddings, couples who love and respect one another, achievers, strivers, overcomers, the ocean, the mountains, farm land, cities, villages, churches, color, texture, spice-y fragrances, lush and whimsical gardens - lol, I’m inspired RIGHT now to devote a whole notebook to my inspirations. I hadn’t realized I had so many!

As to sanctuary – I’m growing into the appreciation of the fact that as an empty nester now living alone MOST of the time I have the freedom to allow MOST of my home to evolve into creative sanctuary if I so choose. It’s another irony that close on the heels of that becoming my reality first injury and then the sudden and rapid acceleration of rheumatoid arthritis limitations have frustrated progress. I’m slower than I want to be at this time but determined to make it so. Open, accessible desk space in the main living area with a new desk chair I can more easily get up from have been a recent giant step in that direction. I’m now contemplating accessibility and functionability accommodations for the sewing room and welcome any suggestions for limiting pain while using tools such as my rotary cutters.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


WORD! I used to work in a corporation in the LOOP in Chicago for a VP of sales who would greet everyone in his gentle English accent like and Austin Powers-wannabe with an emphatic ‘WORD!’ It really annoyed me then cuz I thought it was highly immature.

I’ve been visiting blog pages of many women who are also participating in the online book blogging class on The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women (started this past Friday! Yippee!). Being the first week or so of a New Year many of those pages are filled with resolutions, intentions, goals and such. Some of the ladies are in groups encouraging ‘everyday creative’ practices, some have adopted a ‘word for the year’ (a common-sounding one is ‘YES’) intended to focus on developing a new habit for responding to challenges of life, artistic pursuits and giving one’s self permission to proceed/indulge/ in trying new things.

My dutiful self would have chosen organize as my word for 2009 believing the act of getting/being organized would enable me to accomplish more and at the very least, please my significant other a great deal. Organized would mean neat and tidy cabinets, drawers and closets, on orderly pantry and fridge and more efficiently used space in my sewing room. The idea of all of that organization though leaves me feeling frigid, intimidated and paralyzed. So, I’m going back to the word I embraced as ‘my’ word while reading “Eat, Pray, Love” last year with my book club. There was a portion in the book where I got the idea from a character that every city has a single word that labels it and so probably does every individual. The writer of the book chose as ‘her’ word a single Italian word that means to cross over to the other side. I don’t remember precisely at this moment what that was – attravissimo or something like that. She was a woman on a journey to find herself after a disintegrated marriage left her questioning virtually everything about her life. She fed herself bodily in Italy for part of a year, spiritually in India for part of the year and another part of the year in Bali. An enviable journey!

The word I chose for myself then and choose now for pursuit in 2009 is Beauty. I want beauty in my relationships, beauty in my home, beauty in my garden, beauty in my writing and artful pursuits, beauty in body, soul & spirit. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it when my daughter, Rachel, says “Hello, Beautiful!” in greeting on the phone. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and there is beauty in every single person and thing around us. Beauty can be created, enhanced, magnified and reflected. I want to read books that tell beautiful stories, listen to beautiful music, read and write beautiful poetry, see and make beautiful quilts, de-clutter and beautify spaces in and throughout my home…

Page after page of the blogs of the other women in The 12 Secrets group are allowing me to see incredibly beautiful creations that greatly inspire me. Time spent visiting them qualifies I think for the prescribed ‘artist dates’ in the artist’s recovery process described by Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way” which I’m also presently reading. It’s almost like going to church to view the works of these ladies’ hands.

Today’s goal: make one spot in my home, the kitchen/dining table, truly beautiful – I CAN accomplish that much. Doesn’t hafta be the whole house in a day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Acknowledging My Creative Self

This is a first for me, participating in an online book blog group such as Next Chapter: The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women and I'm very excited about it. So far since the first prompt was posted yesterday by Jamie I've visited about 50 blogs of other women - only 1 of whom I'd ever 'met' online before. Because I don't really know any of these ladies yet nor do they know me and many seem to already know one another, I haven't left any comments on individual posts but have found among them an encouraging display of variety of personalities, talents & skills. In some I see bits of myself past and present and I dare hope future as to confidence, achievement/accomplishment and aspirations/dreams. To me that's the beauty of sharing a book experience such as this with a large group.

The 1st Secret is to acknowledge your creative self. When I think of the word acknowledge my first association is the acknowledgements an author lists besides themself in bringing a book forth and those lists are filled with a variety of gratitudes to everyone from spouses, parents, siblings to editors, research assistants, character inspirations and technical advisors. In this context as to acknowledging the creative self I wonder why the word acknowledge is used instead of recognize or something else and dissecting the word a little bit - visually it appears to me to almost a contraction of accept & knowledge - accept knowledge. What that means in the context of this book blog group and where I hope it will take me is accepting knowledge of my creative self as a living being. Living things need nurturing to survive. They must be nourished and fed, studied and monitored so as to learn to recognize both spoken and unspoken needs and be prepared to fulfill them.

Hmmmmmmmmm...I guess I remember first knowing I was a creative individual around the age of 8 when for the first time something I'd handmade (an owl from two joined pine cones with felt wings and facial features) was imparted with enough of me to take it personally when the parent I'd gifted with it wasn't as thrilled with it as I'd hoped they'd be. I later rescued it from its location deposited among clutter on top of the fridge and took it to school to give to my 2d grade teacher, Miss Simpson, who adored owls. I learned then my creative self NEEDS to be appreciated and praised.

Since I was a teenager I've loved to write and I've tried a number of other creative pursuits and after knitting, cross stitch, crochet, etc. I discovered true obsession when I began quilting about 20 years ago. A few years ago though, I just kind of abandoned my sewing machine and fabrics after a much admired friend lost the battle for her life with breast cancer whilst I was finishing a banner to send to cheer her. And it's been okay until fairly recently to let the machine gather dust but it's begun to woo me back to it. That and the fact that I've been grappling with an inspiration for writing a book for almost 10 years now have been the draw to this book, this group and another book some of the women have also mentioned reading/using - The Artists Way by Julia Cameron.

So as to where I am on my creative journey - I'm movin' on. I kind of feel like I'm hitching a ride on a tour bus along with all of these other creative women. I'm along for the ride, the ultimate destination not nearly as important as the scenery and stops along the way.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Show of Hands

Back to the wedding for a moment – I’ve noticed when the serious part of a wedding ceremony begins after the bride comes down the aisle and her boka is transferred to her maid of honor or attendant, most ministers will first tell the bride and groom to join hands. I love that, the image of unity and intimacy that creates before the witnesses of it…my favorite wedding photos are almost always those that show the couples’ hands with their rings or holding the knife feigning slicing their wedding cake.

It’s been 3 days now that Darlin’s been gone after one of the longer periods of time we have gotten to spend together day in and day out and while I miss his laugh, his smile, cooking and eating together, lying next to him sleeping – what I miss most are his hands.

When I first met my Darlin’ face to face after months of online chat, email and phone calls he took my hand and held it tight as if I were a figure composed of helium balloons that had to be securely held onto or I might float away. Then and consistently ever since, when he holds my hand he’ll knead them in the most amazing massaging way, soothing and thrilling at one and the same time. I’ve often felt with him that holding hands is better/sweeter than any other physical form of intimacy. In fact, I was quite touched recently when my younger daughter shared her observations of other couples and expressed disappointment that though they professed to love one another they didn’t hold each other’s hands when they’d drive or walk together or sit side by side watching TV as Darlin’ and I always do. When she has a boyfriend, she told me, he’d BETTER hold my hand! (smiles)

A couple of years ago a favorite magazine, Mary Jane’s Journal, had a hands theme issue with some of the most beautiful photography of hands – firemen’s hands, farmers hands, mother’s and babies’ hands, children’s hands. What a treasured edition! Last year, the last time I saw my dear friend Cyndi, she gave me a piece of her artwork – a pencil sketch of a quilter’s hand stitching. What an absolute treasure! Since her death in October I’ve thought a number of times of offering it back to her family in case they’d wish to keep as much of her artwork together as possible but I can’t part with it.

In one of Michelangelo’s most astounding and famous works of art, incredible as it all is in every detail all of it could be eliminated but the point where the hands of God and man stretch out to touch and still, it would be a Masterpiece.

Doesn’t it make you smile every single time you see a photo in the stale pose of a newborn in the palm of a father’s hand?

And it’s amazing to me to witness the communication of anyone in American Sign Language…to think that even those without voice or the capacity to hear can still communicate with their hands. A favorite joke:
A tour bus driver brings his deaf tour into a bar and grill for their evening meal after a long day driving. The bus driver interprets orders for the bartender while some are gathered at the bar as others are seated for dinner, which the bartender appreciates and gives the bus driver a drink on the house. As everyone has been served the bartender comes to lean awhile and chat with the bus driver and as they chat the bartender curiously asks the driver to help him eavesdrop, so to speak, on some of the conversations of his clientele. After a time, suddenly, all the hands of the folk gathered ‘round the bar start flying rapidly and the bartender is royally confused. “What’s goin’ on?”, he asks the driver. The driver groans and replies, “We’re gonna be here a while – they’ve started singing.”

One of my favorite movie stars/celebrities is known for her voice above all else, Barbra Streisand, but I remember one of my favorite of her movies, A Star is Born, it was her beautiful hands that left the greatest impression on me. I couldn’t take my eyes off her lovely hands!

My favorite hands of all are those of the shampoo-person at any salon and last year I came to appreciate the hands of manicurists. Ahhhhhhh! What luxury! I’m sure I could be made a willing slave for a masseuse.

We can do so much good with our hands – pet an animal, gentle a horse, stroke the trembling back of a sobbing friend, wipe away a child’s tears, feed our selves and others, mend a garment, sow seeds of flowers and vegetables – the possible list is endless. And the value of anything handmade is always immeasurably greater than manufactured. You can read and study and learn about a thing/things but the real knowing comes from hands-on experience.

Today I am especially grateful for hands – mine, though not as strong as they used to be and those that touch me through strokes on a keyboard. I don’t know if this medium will allow it in comments but if you can give me a link, won’t you please show me your hands?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: For Richer Or Poorer

First Sunday of 2009 and I realize if I don’t post for Sunday Scribblings I’m missing the opportunity of perfect discipline for the entire year and therefore sabotaging my intentions at the outset…this week’s Sunday Scribblings prompt is: ‘For Richer or Poorer’ which automatically brings to mind wedding vows and it’s no small irony that I actually attended a wedding for the first time in YEARS on New Year’s Eve. I know the groom, Jonathon, well but hardly know the bride, Jessica, at all outside of her having become the love of Jonathon’s life.

As we watched the two exchange their vows and rings and devoted looks into one another’s starry eyes I couldn’t help but think how little we know when we stand before God and a congregation of friends and family exchanging those vows. I remember well those vows being a ‘passage’ into a life where two shall become one and having little concept of the duality of the realities of life they represent. For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…you stand there unless you’re already facing a handicap or life altering illness in all optimism believing it will ALL be better, richer, in health. How could it not? But then, life is tough & throws you curve balls so it’s good to recall when it’s not what you expected on the wedding day that you promised your love and devotion and fidelity despite whatever reversals of fortune and expectations may come to pass.

I’ve never been wealthy but have often considered myself rich. I have little desire for trappings of wealth and believe people are ALWAYS more important than things. As long as I have people in my life who share past, present and future I’ll remain rich in the ways that matter most and I know this because just trying to imagine being wealthy but lonely is beyond comprehension that anyone would choose such a life.