Saturday, December 25, 2010

I'm Ba-a-a-ck

I lost a few months here, in the adjustment to being back in school, but now I'm back here, back to myself again, and happy to be here.

This is a sketch I started during one of my classes (Intro to Addictions). It has been many, many years, perhaps even decades, since I enjoyed the simple pleasure of sketching from observation with a pencil. This was a solid graphite pencil, so it was very soft and responsive to the subtlest pressure.

I found myself getting very involved with every single line in my skin, which there are many more of these days. My fingernails are full of ridges and flaws beyond repair. As I noticed each detail and recorded it, I accepted it without thought: just another detail of me.

I enjoyed being with all my imperfections, and I like this drawing, exactly as it is. I am not going to complete it. It is perfect as it is: imperfect me, now, in the process of life and aging.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm in Week 6 of Grad School. Not sure what to think. A lot to stay on top of and a lot I feel unsure about. But showing up every day. Here are some things I've been seeing that I like.  First, from the train one morning. Then, on a building window...grossness and beauty coexisting. And my favorite two tattoos at school: a NEURON; and a great quote: "Until I give what I came to get." Inspiring. More to come.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In the Room


It's been a few weeks without a post, because I was waiting for "an idea" before posting again. In advertising, we are idea machines....that is what we're paid to do, come up with ideas, lots of them. And always, while doing our damnedest to be creative, these ideas are a solution to a problem, some creative way to interpret or express a very carefully researched, strategized, crafted point of difference about a product or service.

Then I remembered that was not was this is about.

I started this blog to hold myself accountable on a new path, a truly creative path, into the truth of the moment, whatever that may bring. To have the courage to dive naked into my deepest creative self, and the creative spirit in others, as I pursue a course of study in Art Therapy...which by the way, begins next week.

September is upon us. This time of year always stirs things up for me. I've experienced a lot of messy, scary, complicated and confusing emotions lately that I didn't want to feel or explore. But that is the promise I made to myself, to this blog, and to my future. And the future of all those I hope to work with one day. If I don't want to "go into the room" myself, how can I help anyone else go there?

So yesterday I picked up my oil pastels, which I am not too comfortable with, and made myself work fast, trying not to think. I made the chaotic swirl of confusing feelings fly through fingertips onto paper. My hands got messy and happy. I liked the smell of the materials and the feel of the paper. I made a mess. And I felt a lot better.

I am in the room, and it is OK.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers "Grow."  -Talmud

I am not a painter. I've always preferred the control of pens, pencils, markers, etc. But this was made in a class with Misty Mawn at Artfest earlier this year. Here she is, showing us some techniques:

Misty works so intuitively and so fast! She doesn't think, she just goes at it. When she demonstrates a technique, it's hard to keep up with her hands to see what she's doing. She paints, she paints over it, she collages on top of it, she rubs it out and distresses it, she draws on top of that, she rolls something over it, she stamps on top of it, she rubs it off and paints over it again, wildly and fearlessly. It's fascinating to witness, and daunting to attempt...but before long, I was in my own zone, too.

I would not have chosen this class, but due to unusual circumstances, I inherited someone else's space there. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to work outside my comfort zone.

Sometimes it's just so good to use your hands and not talk. To be quiet with yourself and quiet the noise in your head. To bring it down from a thunderous chatter to a soft whisper to a breath. To converse with the canvas. To grow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Life Imitates Statistics

My statistics class is finally over. And as difficult as it was, I learned so many things beyond statistics that have already added to my capacity for compassion, both toward myself and others.

For starters, I now know how totally panicky and even shameful it can feel to understand nothing in the face of a task or problem, even the language describing it, much less how to solve it. I put in endless hours of study and tutoring to get over my block. But what about those with learning or developmental challenges, speech or movement challenges, even adults crippled with the invisible disability of illiteracy... what is it like for them? The strength it takes to persevere and struggle through painful, difficult challenges is something we all face. I now have a different understanding of that process, and the patience and respect it deserves.

I also have a new sense of what's possible.

I ended up getting an A- in the class that nearly took me under.
If I can do that, I can do anything.
So can you. So can any of us.

I learned two statistical terms that have additional meaning for me now, having completed this journey. Here are my homages to them. And here's to the next challenge.
"Confidence Interval"

"Degrees of Freedom"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Another Eye of the Needle

Does this look creative to you?  I know, I know, nothing creative about statistics. But it's the final prerequisite before my Masters Program in Art Therapy begins next month. And it's the hardest thing I've ever done: completely left-brain,  a language as alien to me as Chinese.

But I persevere. I know somehow, this experience will serve me well. And I  CAN'T WAIT till it is over in 11 days....and I can return my focus to the art part of my brain.

And I do have an art piece I want to do on this there is inspiration everywhere. Everywhere!

Besides, if I had not taken this class, I wouldn't know that a CONFIDENCE INTERVAL is a mathematical equation... I would've thought it described a good phase of self-esteem...or that DEGREES OF FREEDOM is not a band. I may write a poem about that one.

Have you found unexpected inspiration this week? Have you kept your antenna up, so as not to miss it? Sometimes it appears like a mirage, in the driest of places. Tell me about yours.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Eye and the Needle

"To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour."    William Blake

It's been a few weeks since I last posted. That's because I was fortunate enough to spend a week at Shakerag Workshops in Tennessee, surrounded by exquisite natural beauty and the company of approximately 90 other artists and outstanding locally grown food. I could go on and on about it, and the wonderful people I met there...but this space is for the art part. I spent 5 days in an embroidery class taught by Tom Lundberg, a beautiful man who teaches at Colorado State University. You can (and should) see his work at, but here are two examples... you can see why I was dying to take a class with him:

While next door, students were chopping and tying willow branches together into gorgeous sculptures with John McQueen, and down the hall ceramics were being created, and gorgeous natural plant dying/printing was happening with India FIint, in our room we sat with heads bent over, focused on a 1.5 inch area of cotton for 5 days straight.  We laughingly and lovingly called our classroom "the quiet room" and "the slow room." It was very relaxing and I learned so much.

There is a beautiful reservoir on campus where this all took place. I loved the reflection of the sun on the water, and used a small detail from a photo I took to inspire my embroidered remembrance of my time there. As a childhood art teacher once taught me, "Look to see to remember." 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Art is Attention

For me, mindfulness can take on many shades. It can be serious, contemplative, and sometimes playful.  It's all about paying attention, being gently awake and present to what is, in any given moment. Sometimes I certainly do a better job of it than others.

Once in a while there occurs a lovely serendipitous moment when surprising things happen. This was the case when I was on an airplane (the same trip as when I shot the strawberry hull "flower" from a recent blog entry....what a juicy day). I was reading a magazine and drinking a glass of water. I couldn't ignore the beautiful reflection the light created through the glass, which seemed to underscore the message on the page. I positioned it with my right hand, and shot in with my iPhone in my left...and I felt happy indeed...just as the beautiful calligraphed words express. I love when these things happen. Small, ordinary miracles of everyday life...these are the ones I love most.

Friday, June 4, 2010

More Lomob Love

I had a glorious day downtown yesterday. The weather was spectacular and I went to see the thesis exhibition of Masters in Art Therapy students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Their work, reflections on their work with people in a variety of settings, was so fantastic and inspiring. It made me very excited about the road I am on.

I passed the Bean and had to act like a tourist and take a picture. Then I played with it on the Lomob app on my iPhone:

Here are some other images I've taken and played with later on Lomob. First, from the same ROYGBIV walk I took last week, proof that art is where you see it, even when there is no blazing color....just the beauty of sunlight and shadow shimmering through the trees onto the pavement of the road:

How about a set of stairs leading up to an apartment building in La Jolla, California? Wow!

And a shower door of reeds embedded in resin, made to look like it's on 35mm film with sprocket holes: 

Art. 4 Play. Yes, Art does MAKE HAPPY. Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, May 30, 2010


The weather has been spectacular these last few days in Chicago, perfect for a holiday weekend. I am blessed to live in a very wooded area outside the city, surrounded by huge 100+ year-old trees, heaven for my spirit. Nature has become as important to me as air.

The other day I took a walk and thought, what if I continued my "looking" practice by looking for one great splash of each color in the spectrum? In school we learned to call it "ROYGBIV," the acronym for red-orange-yellow-green-blue-violet. Maybe that would enrich the quality of my walk in a creative way...and I could photograph my "palette" with my iPhone.

So here it is...I share with you the spectrum of my ROYGBIV walk. It was a lot of fun to approach a simple daily activity in a new way, a way that stimulated my creativity and made my solitude richer for that hour.

A detail on a fire hydrant not only provided me with the R in ROYGBIV, it reminded me to keep open eyes and heart:

A closeup of the solar light on a construction sawhorse gave me a lovely graphic O (in both color and composition!):

Green is everywhere. I couldn't decide among such abundance. So I offer you two Gs, a wide view (looking up) and an evergreen closeup with fresh green ever-emerging: 

I hope you've enjoyed the fruits of my ROYGBIV walk. Nourish yourself with color, too, and have a beautiful weekend.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Strawberry Season

Recently while removing this leaf cluster from a strawberry,
I was struck by its floral resemblance. Inspired, I began photographing it with my iPhone. Strange glances followed,
but I barely noticed; I was engaged in the spirit of discovery,
of looking.

Later, after discovering some amazing photography apps like Lomob, I began to play and discover all over again. The filters allow you to instantly alter the color, dimensions, saturation, and feel of your image in all kinds of wonderful retro ways. You don't have to know anything technical about photography; just push a button and see what you like. 

Art doesn't have to be hard...just fun. And it starts by looking around with open eyes, a skill we were all born with. Like everything else, we use it or lose it. How much more fun will today be, if you look around with open eyes? What will you see?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Woman Like That

This portrait by Joyce Tenneson from her book Wild Women has always moved me. Perhaps that's why when I first saw it in a magazine, I tore it out and taped it to the wall in my office, where it's been hanging for years now. Elva Azzara, 93: I can still remember what it feels like to love with all my heart. Is it the look of sweetness in her face? Is it the feeling? I want to be a woman like that.

And then last night I went to see a documentary called "I Know a Woman Like That," made by mother-daughter team Elaine and Virginia Madsen, where they traveled the country interviewing inspiring older women between 64-94, not ready to retire but passionately engaged in life. Treasures included Lauren Hutton (more fabulous than ever), totally marching to her own drum; Rita Moreno, gorgeous and soulful, full of wisdom; Gloria Steinem saying, "if you want to know what you'll be like after 60 just think about who you were when you were 9,10, 11 years old...when you were still bold and fearless, before you learned to tame yourself, becoming 'a female impersonator,'" and everyone laughed out loud. The room at the Evanston Library was packed to fire hazard status, with people standing and sitting on the floor, cheering at the end.

I'm also listening to a fantastic audio book in my car: Traveling With Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd (Secret Life of Bees) and her daughter Anne, narrated by the two of them, each chapter read in their voices,  journal entries of a joint trip they took to Greece at a turning point in their lives.

Mothers, daughters, aging. Last Sunday, Mother's Day; tomorrow, my mother's birthday. If she were still alive, she would be 90. I miss her every day.

And now I am my own mother, my own daughter. I am 55, no longer in my "youth" and not yet "old." I remember reading a quote about how the great thing about getting older is that we don't lose any of our earlier selves, we become an accumulation of all of them.  I like that.

And so I collect examples of others ahead of me, doing the same. This photo, film and book are three of them. I want to be a woman like that.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tree Prayer

Last week we decided to finally have a large oak tree cut down and removed from our front yard. It's been dead at least 2 years now (maybe longer), but we'd resisted. Why do we resist discarding what's already gone, what's no longer alive? For me, letting go is always hard. Always. And we're very attached to our trees. It's a big part of why we live here, surrounded by so many tall, powerful, wise ones over 100 years old. Even when they're already dead, cutting them down still feels like murder. 

But it was time. Positioned where it was, one bad storm could have it crashing into our roof. And if you looked at it from the street rather than from our front door, it did look a bit...well, bad. So down it came. I couldn't watch. I just listened while the saw cried its long buzz, then ended with a THUD.

After the tree trimmers left, I walked outside to the spot for a private moment. It felt like a mourning. I was very quiet as I viewed the slice of trunk that looked like a slice of sandwich bread. I looked at all the age lines in it, marking its history and its wisdom. Then I stepped onto it and stood there, looking down at my feet planted firmly where the tree used to be. 

Letting go. Dying into life. Connecting with the source of creation and the Creator who brings all life into being. May we all grow tall, strong and wise, spreading our arms wide while it is our time to flourish. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Embracing Change

"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living." 
Gail Sheehy 

Sometimes change feels easier than others. I made this piece several months ago in an afternoon art therapy group I participated in, and I was feeling fresh, optimistic, inspired. But it is a bumpy road. Some days, I feel more sure of myself than others. Some days I feel scared for all kinds of reasons. Still, I am committed to the journey, and to staying the brave course of discovery and change in pursuit of growth.

And too, when was the last time I made such a leap? Not since I graduated college in 1976 and moved to Chicago to build my own adult life. I miss the aliveness of creating a life, of taking risks, of trying new things. I believe it is possible at any age, and I am going for it now while I still can.

To support me, we're currently discussing Middle Adulthood in my Lifespan Development psychology class, and I am a perfect bullseye for Erikson's seventh stage, Generativity vs. Stagnation. Right on schedule, I certainly feel this need to "commit to the continuation and improvement of society" and pass some contribution of value on to others.

What will my impact be? What will be my deepest challenge and deepest reward once I become an art therapist? It is too soon to know, but I look forward to finding out.

What changes do you long to make? What little steps are you taking to feed them, or what holds you back? Can we travel this road together? I'd like that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Inspiration all around

This piece of paper is from 34 years ago. Why do I still have it? Perhaps to post it here, and remind myself that a) inspiration and amusement is all around us, at all times; and b) I must admit, I can now relate to this woman.

What are you noticing and amused by in your world today?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Zen Cracks

"Ring the bells that can still ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." -Leonard Cohen

I've been taking a beginning ceramics class for the first time since mid-January. It is totally outside my zone of comfort and familiarity, and I've alternated between loving it and hating it. But it is full of lessons, joys, and much about myself as the material of clay itself.

This was one of the pieces I was most excited about. It was a platter, and I was excited because I was focusing more on the decorative rather than structural aspect; to "draw" on the clay with a fine, sharp needle tool felt easy, relaxing, enjoyable for me. I was confident that this one would be a success and be very "me."

And yet...there is always the glazing and the firing to contend with. Entirely different processes. So I was surprised when I found this finished piece to have a huge crack right down the center of it. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but my best guess is that I dug too hard into the clay with the needle tool on that line, and it weakened it to the point it could not withstand the heat.

So of course, I was disappointed. But then I remembered the words my instructor uttered on the first class, urging us not to get attached to any one piece, and not to get upset when things break or collapse (because they will)..."just make more." And so I am.

I'm also happy to see this as an opportunity to befriend my personal imperfections, of which there are many. And to embrace "Beginner's Mind" again and again as I try new things. Because that's where the light is.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Silliness is Healthy

Okay, just figured out how to upload a photo... progress every day! I'm taking a monthlong online class in the Art of Silliness with Carla Sonheim and this is my proof.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Here I am

OK, I can't wait another minute. I've decided to get my blogging feet out there before I really know what I'm doing. That's precisely what this whole chapter of my life seems to be about right now: starting over in brand new territory and embracing change in midlife. I guess in my case it could be called "advanced" midlife, though in so many ways, I feel so much younger.

"Hineni" is Hebrew for "Here I am." It was used in the Bible when God personally called on someone to do something difficult and important. There is a sense of readiness and willingness, of taking a stand.

For me, this time of ripeness, action, and urgent willingness to grow is happening now. I didn't plan it, but it happened this way.

The goal here is to shine a light in front of myself as I start all over again at 55. To face and embrace reinvention bravely, creatively, and with humor; to keep myself company with kindness and compassion; to guide where I can and ask for help where I need it; to defy the notion that we are too old to try anything. My hope is to share my journey, my successes and challenges, and have others share theirs as well.

Come join me as I explore all things menopossible.