Recently in artist's life in balance Category

It's alive

Maybe...just maybe...this blog will live again.
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winter games opening

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sometimes my patriotism does not allow me to be humble enough to see the contributions of other countries...

so many Canadians...

Joni Mitchell?...

born Roberta Joan Anderson.

yea

deal with it.

born in western Canada.

...in ft Macleod.

yea.

I am humbled.

my husband's kin...

now I am an anderson.

right on.

a little press for my new ad-venture

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The Gazette did a little Q & A on my work. Tomorrow the article comes out in the paper!

Here is the Q&A.

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missing blogger

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My blogging has been hit and miss of late, mostly because so much of it is now over here.

And I was recently convinced to become a twitter-er.

And there's that darned facebook thang that needs updating...

along with my other art website...

and my two business-es...

any wonder?

chili for a chilly day

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Friday, after spending two hours on the freeway getting home with all the other poor saps that thought it was a good idea to leave early in preparation for the storm, I cooked a big pot of chili to take off the chill. The snow started to fall around nine pm and by saturday morning we had a foot. It snowed all day saturday and by late afternoon our deck looked like this:

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The down side is that everything closes and no one moves. The upside is that everything closes and nothing moves. Happy to turn it into a party, Bryan and I read books, watched movies and football, and basically goofed off. Nice when mother nature forces you to take a "snow day".

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grand opening of the studio

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It was a great night and before I new it it was over. After preparing the space and setting out the food, people started to show up and at that point I didn't have the presence of mind to grab the camera to show how many people you can actually fit in an 8' x 30' space! It was cozy and a lot of fun. Thanks to all of our friends who attended and made the evening a huge success.

cubbies filled with artwork.
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illustration of "Journey" in process.
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food for the opening.
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new signage

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The new signage for my little corner of the park got put up right before my grand opening. Makes it seem more official somehow doesn't it?

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playing hooky

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It may be gushy and annoying, and maybe even unbelievable, but Bry and I do not do well when we are apart. We don't sleep well, we don't function well, and we just miss each other terribly. And recently he was assigned to do some traveling for work that required him to be gone for a few days and back a few and then gone again. Five of these trips all while I was setting up my new studio was pretty intense and stressful. When he came home sunday night only to leave agin monday we decided...

enough is enough.

And since this last trip was by train I jumped on with him.

Besides, I have been working non-stop and finished my first class on saturday. I have not taken a day off other than thanksgiving, and even that weekend was spent working.

time to play a little hooky.

in philly.

Turns out Amtrak is a wonderful thing. And it is stress free compared to all the wasted time spent preparing and going through security for the "time saver that is air travel". After buying a ticket on a whim, and boarding within minutes, luggage in hand without being scanned, puffed with air, or cavity searched, I am totally sold on train travel.

Stealing away a little time like dinner, breakfast, and maybe even a few hours sight seeing before his gig, Bryan and I are playing hooky.

a very cool market... a section just for cheese... need I say more?

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dinner at the continental... yea.

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first class first snow

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Looking out the studio window this morning and watching the rain turn into the first snow of the season. I give my first class in the new space today.

a day of firsts.

morning after

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It is really all you want the morning after turkey day, a nice french press.

And it wasn't our intention to do the traditional T-Day dinner this year, with Daniel absent and my schedule all askew. We haven't yet adjusted to the new normal. But like the call of the wild by five oclock I was craving poultry like a salmon needing to swim upstream. On the hunt for a last minute bird, just missing Safeway locking their doors, we managed to get into Giant just in time. Cooking at five thirty we were eating by 8:30 which I think constitutes making it just under the wire in Turkey time. And the great thing about doing it late, is the bird was half off.

A lovely french press morning.
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last minute bird

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The late night, last minute, poultry scramble.
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bracelet day

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It will take some getting used to, having folks come in and out as I work. I had some nice ladies from NY that took me quite literally when I said, "come on in, don't be shy". Before I knew it they were milling around the workshop area poking at all the work in process...

what a hoot.

I am so happy that people seem to be comfortable in the space. Today really was the first day that I was open to the public while wielding the torch. And it was interesting to have people watch and ask questions. It is what I would hope for if I was a visitor to an artist studio.

So between the visitors, I managed to get a little work done for the holiday sale at Glen Echo's Popcorn Gallery. (they call it the popcorn because it used to be the parks popcorn stand and has this giant deco sign "POPCORN"...very charming)

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at the bench

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Still pulling things together, but I actually managed to make some jewelry yesterday. New tools arrived for the students and I had to laugh at the fact that they are better than the ones I have been using all these years. Especially the pliers. I have used the tools that I originally bought when I was a student and it never occurred to me to buy something better.;-) After being at the studio most of the day, I cam home to finish
the new website for the studio. It was quick and basic but it gets the job done.

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glen echo magic

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I am posting this a few days after the fact because I haven't quite worked out the habits of what to take to the studio (camera cable) and what to leave on a daily basis. Today I am home working on some promo material and happen to have the stuff in one place.

I just have to say how grateful I am for the folks at Glen Echo Park for the system that they have set up for rolling out an artist. Having had to do the self promotion end of my craft for years (my least favorite part and for most artists that is true) it is really nice to have this amazing support system. Even though the park takes a wee percentage of class tuitions which means it makes sense that they promote their artists, still some studio settings just don't have that. And promotion is one of those things that some artists just never get around to doing. It is hard work, and most of us would rather be doing the art.

Pre-reception food set-up. Three unsung heros... Jennifer, Sharon, and Meredith. Jen and Shar are the promo gals, and Meredith holds the post of Education Program Manager which is like herding cats when you consider that all the instructors are artists. She manages to wrangle us all with a gentle grace and patience. A huge task. And she was my original gateway into the whole process that landed me in this amazing place. Thanks so much you guys!

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the view out my studio window of the vintage carousel.
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from inside the back of the studio
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encouraging words over the student stations. Dream, Imagine, Live... and over my work bench..Keep it Simple(not shown)
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my vintage treadle polishing machine finds an appropriate home here.
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the new kid

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I am almost completely moved into my new creative space minus incidentals that I keep forgetting to stick in the car when we leave each morning, coffee in hand. Yesterday was my first sort of official day as an artist-in-residence here at the park as I attended my first resident meeting. I was also fortunate enough to be visited by Glen Echo Park's governing board members last night at a little reception held in my studio and the lobby space outside it.

Wow.

I lost count of these esteemed folk that popped in to ooh and ahh at this newly transformed space and the promise of creative opportunities that it offers would be students.

I even met the mayor.

I have to admit to feeling a huge sense of pride watching jaws drop as folk entered the space to have a look around. I fielded numerous questions about the classes, silversmithing as an art form, my work specifically, and even... "what is in the crock pot"? (that would be a silver cleaning agent called 'pickle'".

A few of my fellow residents popped in too, and that was absolutely wonderful. My hopes were proven right that this is truly a vibrant art community where each artist seeks to build the other up. I was given some great tips for marketing to the local area, and lots of encouragement. As well as an insistent buyer of some of my cards.

Shades of what could be the soul of exnihilo.

I couldn't have asked for a warmer welcome.

studio home stretch

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Well so much for reporting the day by day, instead it has fallen to the weekly interval. But, much was accomplished this week in spite of missing my hubby helper who has been an uber-busy business traveler.

Almost done, minus my office area (hence the ladder peeking through the curtains). The student stations are all done sans some wall embellishments like inspiring pictures of works in progress, or encouraging words. We got the anti-vibration rubber installed under all the cabinets so that the sound of hammering is transformed from a bang, bang, bang, to a tink, tink, tink. This will hopefully keep me endeared to my neighboring artists across the hall and on the first floor.

Much sawing and assemblage, nailing and painting... design and selection of things that will maximize the wee 8 foot width of this space. The thought put into the preliminary design has paid off ten fold as the room now actually feels much larger that it did originally. Contrary to popular belief, darker colors can actually expand the perception of a room.

Fortunately for this artist, there is a place called IKEA, and even more fortunate for some reason they have been over-stocking their AS-IS room. My visit there on an almost daily basis has paid off big time, from the discovery of a perfect workbench to nice wooden drawer pulls for 25cents a pair. Three places where I really splurged was the gallery flooring, the two beautiful glass cases, and the student seating. But at 250.00 for both, those glass cases bring the gallery to life, and they are lockable. And I have to admit being a little obsessive about the stools. I literally butt-tested a dozen different styles before selecting these (again, thank you Ikea) which came in a pack of two and are the most comfortable stool I have ever sat on.

Hey who can be creative with a sore butt?

And they add a wonderful zen sort of style to the space and fit perfectly in the little niches.

Yea... I am really obsessive about the student experience. But I have always been highly sensitive to how a space can help or hinder the creative process. The muse needs a happy and inspiring place to live, and that includes a lot of things...

functionality,
comfort,
beauty.

All of these things feed the muse, and my hope is in this new creative space that I can help other would-be artists to be inspired.

There is still much left to do in the next few weeks. Preparing for the classes that start Dec 2nd and are posted here and all the finishing touches and tests (like a torch test to make sure my flames don't set off the park's fire alarms;-) It is a wild ride, but already the studio feels like home with my tools and supplies mostly moved in.

My official grand opening will coincide the reception for the park's holiday show on Dec 12th from 7-9. So if you are in the area please stop by for a glass of wine and a peek at my new creative home.

view of gallery into office

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view from gallery into workshop

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student stations and very comfy stools

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25 cent drawer pulls
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before shot

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floor

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I finished the floor for the gallery portion of the shop last night. Of course all that up and down motion makes for a sore back the next day. Little bits at a time as I load up the element with as much as it can carry each time I go. There is still a sound proofing rubber matting that needs to be attached to the base of every cabinet before we put them in place. That rubber will help quiet the hammering and machine sounds. I am hoping to be completely moved in, up and running by next friday.

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Sunday morning we have some construction at home before making the trek to the studio. The large butcherblock countertops need to be cut in half and we need to make pedestals for the cabinets (2x3s). Bryan begins this task and I head toward the hardware store for more paint, glue, and some other misc stuff. Painting the legs once he has them assembled, we hope to be in the car by noon. I am steering clear of the countertops until they are cut down. I made the mistake of not doing this and employed Daniel to help me unload them from the car last week, only to take a nasty tumble and landing flat on my face on top of one. Like getting hit in the face with a board, I ended up with a fat lip and a reminder that my less than five foot stature may not allow me to do such heavy lifting.

Darn it.

But it also reminds me how lucky I am to have a husband who gets into this kind of project, and can lift heavy items.

By noon we are in the car with a load of wood. It is pouring rain which is a bit of a drag. Getting to Glen Echo we unload everything in the 20 minute loading zone. I go to move the car and look down at the front right tire...

flat.

crap.

Again... Bryan to the rescue.

Hey, at least the sun came out!

More assembling. We put together two of the stools that I picked out to check the height for workability. Because the space is only eight feet wide, holding a class in here would be tricky if we used conventional cabinets which are 24 inches deep. So I opted for twelve inch deep wall cabinets to support a 13 inch deep counter. Each work station has about thirty inches of width which once we set it up and tested it, proved to be very comfortable. It is going to be a very efficient use of the space.

While Bryan finished the cabinets, I started to work on the office area which is on the other end of the studio. It will be slightly hidden by a large display case which will act as a room divider.

By five o clock we were exhausted.

Cabinets with butcherblock counter tops
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Bryan putting on the spare.
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The space is coming along.
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new adventures-assembling cabinets2

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Saturday...more cabinets, but with the right drawer hardware this time. The park is doing a "fall frolic" thingy for halloween, so we got to see some kids dressed up wandering the park, and occasionally making it up the stairs to my space. I threw together a make-shift display for the looky-looos... with a sign, "coming in november".

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new adventures-assembling cabinets

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Friday...Multiple trips to IKEA was rewarded with some super deals. I was delighted to find the kitchen island that I had selected for a work bench in the as-is room for fifty dollars less. Of course the challenge was to then get the already assembled thing into my already jam packed element. Fortunately Bryan had packed the entire tool box and so when presented with the problem, I just pulled out the cordless drill and took the thing apart right in the middle of the parking lot.

Bryan had to work the morning, but then we headed toward my new space to begin the task of assembling cabinets. Part way in we realized that IKEA had given us the wrong drawer parts...

back to IKEA.

And more deals in the as-is-room.

Bryan assembling cabinets...
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new adventures-purple paint

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Loading up the Element with paint, ladder, and stuff... today I begin to paint the space. Color scheme... purple, green, black, and natural wood.

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new adventures-the keys

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Put Daniel on a plane yesterday and picked up my keys today. It is hard to describe the emotional shake down that happens with so many transitions. Shifting of focus can be a little disconcerting, but also invigorating. New creativity gets jacked up for me in these moments.

Now its pedal to the metal to convert the space.

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artist in residence

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Well, the good people of Glen Echo Park selected me as their newest artist in residence.

I am honored.

Yesterday I signed the contract, and Tuesday I pick up the keys to what will be my new studio and gallery. It is a wee 345 square feet, and has challenging proportions but after modeling it to the inch with the help of sketch-up, and of course Bryan, the most supportive husband in the world, I am able to imagine a very efficient and functional space.

As well as imagine a new chapter in my life as an artist.

As always it is a wild ride, and I am both excited about the possibilities in this new space as well as being a member of this vibrant artist community. A lot of very talented people make the Glen Echo community a coveted place to be, and I hope to add another facet to those offerings with classes in silversmithing.

Ironically the morning before I pick up my keys, I am putting Daniel on a plane back to Arizona. I have not gone into much detail about him of late because he is embarking on his own journey that is a wild ride which deserves its own very long post. All good, just unconventional, which seems to be the way us anderson's like it...

hey why be conventional?

But it is great symbolism to close a chapter then unlock the door to a new one. Especially when the building of this new one will package together everything that has come before it in such an amazing way, as well as provide what seems like the next logical step to our ultimate project in the bahamas, Exnihilo.

So I am posting below a tiny arial view of a space that in the next few weeks I will be transforming from a tiny room into an inspiring space. I hope to teach my first class by mid november which will be a stretch, but thanks to the Glen Echo people I am at least getting into the space a few days in advance of the Nov 1 date which is when I technically take possession.

So, as a way to keep my own record, the desert that has been my blog of late will become a day by day account of the creation of the space that will lead up to opening day which I have yet to decide on. It took a month from the last post, and much was happening behind the scenes before it made sense to post anything. Now the more tangible, visible work will ensue at a break-neck pace.

An artist's "life in balance" sometimes has to rock wildly out of control in order to exist at all. But the full-thruster moments are full of fun.


model of the plan. the space will allow for teaching a class of 8 people.
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before. here is the space as I am getting it.
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big blog gap-big changes coming

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Wow, I think this is the longest stretch I have gone without blogging since I began five years ago.

I realized yesterday when I couldn't remember a particular thing that happened and whether it was last year, two years ago, and what month or season, that I had to keep up with blogging or parts of my life would vanish.

Chalk it up to short memory and a propensity to always be moving ahead, and looking forward to the next thing.

But here are some reasons why there hasn't been a single second for blogging. Bryan and I have been seriously nose to the grindstone on a great big refresh of avisualplanet. The last eight weeks have been jammed with details regarding software gremlins, graphic design choices, content creation, rebranding, and the bain of any web designer...browser testing. We are not quite there yet but I am hopeful. And the knight in shining armor who is my husband has been pulling some pretty late hours (4 am, 2am, etc) which I think is super-human when you consider those wee hours are spent squinting at a computer screen. At that hour I become cross-eyed and mental, and what we use to say... turn into a pumpkin. But we are almost done and the new publish day is looming.

So this particular season of time I have been wearing my digital artist hat without relent.

But that is about to change.

Stepping off a somewhat large cliff I have applied for an artist in residence spot at Glen Echo Park. It is a big deal and would mean some big changes. I worked up my proposal and submitted it last week and I went before the "panel" yesterday for an interview.

The park is really unique in that it mirrors many aspects of artistic journeying that I hope to incorporate in our Exnihilo project. A vibrant and exciting place Glen Echo Park has a long standing pottery studio (35 years i think) an incredible glass fusion studio (where I took a class last year for fun), a traditional glass blower, a photography studio, a fiber artist, a printmaking studio, a children's theatre with a master marionette performer, an established program in ballroom dancing, a painting program with a super reputation, and the new addition of the Washington Conservatory of Music.

But no silversmith.

I discovered this fact last year when I was taking the glass class, and was astonished. Mostly because traditional silversmithing is sort of one of those anchor crafts that is expected to be available. This skill being the third prong in my artistic arsenal, and the most honed and established one, I began to consider focusing on it again. I inquired about teaching and had a class proposal approved only to have it fall through due to ventilation issues in the classrooms they had available. That was last november. Fast forward through a follow up correspondence this summer, and the discovery of the artist residency studio becoming available and we are caught up to today.

It is weird how life's little experiences converge to make big ones.

Here is the studio that may become my artistic home.

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I will know more by the end of the week about this new thing of many in my life that Bryan now calls Blair-ventures. Thanks hon for not minding the "wild ride".

painting day

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Continued progress on this piece. I have no idea the direction that it is going but it is going. Just beginning to add the portals.

The Mystic
The Stabilizer
The Explorer
The Provider
and She

or

Family Connected.

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morning visitor

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I am awake now...

There is nothing quite like looking up from your studio desk and seeing one of these looking down through your window at you. In my solitude I heard myself say "Whoa" at the spit second that it registered in my brain what I was looking at. In fact, I should have shot the picture right as I saw it from my desk instead of going outside to get the shot. But you get the idea. It stretched out to about 4 and a half feet long and seemed happy enough to drape itself all over the stucco wall just outside my window.

Another wild thing to add to my list of critters that we have seen here over the years. Welcome to Blair's art studio and wild animal park.

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paul mccartney

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Thanks so much to friends Phil and Karen for thinking of us and giving us tickets to a little piece of history...

seeing Paul McCartney live.

And it was like walking through history as his song list reflected so much of the last four+ decades.

And he did not disappoint.

I did however find myself reflecting on how much a person can impact their world with artistic expression, for some in great degree. Paul McCartney had reflected his world and all its highs and lows, peace and turmoil, throughout his musical career, and his personal life. I was so grateful to see his exuberance come across on stage, not as a pop icon, but as a real musician communicating with and reflecting back, his audience. It was hard to believe that he is 67, but I have to admit that he appeared older at the beginning of the concert. I could swear that he got younger and more energetic as the concert went along. Maybe it was just the going back in time as the bulk of Beatles tunes was at the end, and it was hard not to picture him in that era as he played those songs. It was also interesting to find out that the Beatles' first gig in the US was here in DC.

And now I get to feel like the family bookend to my sister who actually saw the Beatles live in Indianapolis.

His playlist was a grand mix of snipits of his career which defined the audience which was the broadest group of ages and styles I have ever seen in one stadium.

My favorite was Let it be, profoundly followed by Live and Let Die with complete (and unexpected) pyro effects that knocked this fan off her seat.

It was a well balanced concert complete with very heart felt tributes to both John Lennon and George Harrison. For me that punctuated how special this concert was, and how broad and successful a career Paul McCartney has had, and continues to have. I could analyze his life by pointing to the way he has lived it as an artist, "in balance". Having a long and true love and marriage (well the first one;-) hasn't hurt, and living as a Vegan and promoting safe practices in all the products that bare his name probably hasn't either...

enough analyzing...

it was a great concert.

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Play list:
01. Drive My Car
02. Jet
03. Only Mama Knows
04. Flaming Pie
05. Got to Get You Into My Life
06. Let Me Foll It/ Foxy Lady
07. Highway
08. The Long and Winding Road
09. My Love
10. Blackbird
11. Here Today
12. Dance Tonight
13. Calico Skies
14. Michelle
15. Mrs. Vandebilt
16. Eleanor Rigby
17. Sing the Changes
18. Band on the Run
19. Back in the USSR
20. I'm Down
21. Something
22. I've Got a Feeling (with extended jam)
23. Paperback Writer
24. A Day In the Life
25. Let It Be
26. Live and Let Die
27. Hey Jude

Encore #1
28. Day Tripper
29. Lady Madonna
30. I Saw Her Standing There

Encore #2
31. Yesterday
32. Helter Skelter
33. Get Back
34. Sgt Pepper reprise into The End

what's that sucking sound?

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Its the sound of my brain splitting in half. It is the sound of going from a blissful focus on painting, and creating in the fine-art tangible, touchable and tactile to the cold, dark, digital.

Can you tell which one I prefer right now?

Truth is I love them both when I am in them. Creating with the amazing digital tools that we have today would have made me salivate twenty years ago and I appreciate what they afford now. It is not that I don't love the tools and what they accomplish in both realms...

its the switching gears that I find painful, especially considering my last blog post.

This week I need to downshift back into digital world because I have some catching up to do in my "job". But the more I shift back and forth the more I start to wonder if I shouldn't just stay put in one realm or the other. Once creating full bore, I am just fine..

I guess it is the transition.

Like some sort of creative Stargate, the shift is like stepping into an uncomfortable space with the expectation that you will emerge on the otherside in one piece, powered up and ready to go. Once I am fully applied to something and all focus is turned on, it is great and wonderful and I get so much done.

It just takes some effort to get to that point.

So for the next couple of weeks I need to focus on the digital which means I may be on another planet for a while. I may try to paint in the middle of it, but that might be like mixing matter and anti-matter.

And that wouldn't be good.

We'll see.

new work: family connected

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Started this last wednesday. I was completely ambushed by the muse on this one, with no plans of painting at all. Spending time with our dear friends, the Myers, prompted some sort of depiction of their family and the beauty of their relationships to one another. I was also somewhat confounded by the muse's choice of palette, as it is not what I would have chosen off the top of my head, and I confess really wrestling with it as I painted.

sheesh.

This was a true example of just showing up at the canvas and holding on for dear life. And it is going to required the same sort of follow up as I have NO idea where it is supposed to go.

quite the ride.

So, I will be obedient to the next appointment and pick up my brush and paint and see what comes next. All I know is the "feeling" of the family in our presence, and I am assuming the muse needs to coax it out of me.

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the eyes of vincent

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A wonderful outing to the National Gallery with visiting friends brought me face to face with Vincent again. The last time was at the Musee D'Orsay four years ago where I had to hold back tears viewing his work and specifically his self portrait.

Sure, I love "Sunflowers", and all the rest, but there is something arresting about his self portraits.

It's the eyes.

The vibrant, even joyful colors and energetic, flowing brush strokes of the rest of the painting contrast so strikingly with the solumn expression of his eyes. Looking at his eyes is like sitting in the center of a merry-go-round with the sensation of everything spinning around you while you remain still.

I wonder how he felt when he was painting it.

second sunday project

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The bench.

This is just the beginning of the process to bring this bench back from the brink and onto greater and more inspiring seating. I hope to incorporate some textures and written quotes once the base design is painted. Again, my goal of this project (like the mosaic table) is not to overthink it.

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seven children

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Poised to go out the door for their next venue, the National Children's Medical Center.

Today was a day crammed with stuff, and it started at 8 am with loading up my work and hauling it down to DC for an exhibit titled "Essential Elements". Unconventional as it may be, it gives me some satisfaction that the hopeful and positive themes that seem to show up in my work (thanks to the muse) will be of some use in a place like Children's. Not knowing what to expect, we arrived at the center and entered to a brightly colored lobby with a ceiling about three stories up all hung with large air ballons. Just what you might imagine for a place for kids. In spite of the cheerful appearance of the place I couldn't help the feeling of wanting to cry thinking that this was a place where children were sick. Something that just shouldn't be. Hopefully my art will be just one more healing agent in a place that does such great work for the sake of children.

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mosaic continued...

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In the spirit of using the stuff around the house, my grout selection was a bag of yellow ocre-ish that was the second runner up for our upstairs bathroom. I swore that I would use it for this ever since. Although it totally changes the design by now being the dominant element, I was prepared for this, and am really pleased with the results.

Saturday.
mortaring the pieces into place. My justification of doing this now was to stucco a wall at the same time and use the remaining mortar for this "little project". I almost didn't make it in time as the mortar began to set faster than I was placing the design. It was a race against time, and my own fatigue after stuccoing the wall.
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Sunday.
grouting.
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starting another project while the grout sets. My husband shot this. Proves the ongoing..ness of the stuff we do;-) This wooden bench has been sitting outside collecting debris for years. While I was busy grouting, Bryan took it aside to pressure wash it, then brought it back and set it under my nose. Kinda like bait don't ya think?

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letting the grout set.
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closeup after it has set. The last thing to do is to use a stone or grout sealant on it which I will do in a few days after it has really cured. I love the fact that the finished design makes me want to treat the "paths" like a labyrinth walking it with my fingers.

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inspiration friday-mosaic table

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This is a project that I have been wanting to do for some time. I bought this little table years ago at pier one and was really disappointed after one winter outside the tiles began to crack. So, of course the thing to do would be to turn it into a project. It also gave me a chance to use up some extra tiles laying around from all our various remodel projects. And to turn the unfortunate breakage of a favorite item into an opportunity (yellow glass) Of course even though I vowed I would only use discards, once I got into it I had to bend toward what the design needed.

"Honey, do you mind if I break one of our dinner plates?"

Yea, the creative process is what comes first in this house if you hadn't noticed. I needed something black and so in the last photo you will notice some black in the design. One of our plates sacrificed for the sake of the creative process...no I didn't hesitate.

This is the kind of project that is very easy to do if you don't overthink it. It is a very tactile exercise that bends the brain in a different direction that helps bring more inspiration.


1. demolition of an old table from pier one which in its first year outside began to crack.
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2. prepped and sprayed
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3. positioning the broken glass, tile, and such.
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4. canabilizing a failed ceramic project.
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5. all the pieces in place before mortar and grout.
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I hope to have it finished this weekend.

almost there

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You would think that trying to finish this in a time crunch would mean no time to blog. In truth without a break now and then all the colors start to blur, I go a little cross eyed and run the risk of truly screwing it up.

Breaks are good.


So I am taking a breather for an hour or so and then hopefully the muse will give me a cue as to what this needs. I have learned that when I don't know where to put my brush next it is time to stop for a while. When the muse is in control (I know that sounds kinda weird but it is the only way I know how to express it) I get cues on each step and it just flows. The only thing that takes effort now is that I am still somewhat novice with the execution with the paint. I don't have enough muscle memory stored yet for that. There is also the human frailty aspect (fatigue, hunger, etc) which all contribute to the "work" of it. Another reason that being "balanced" also means being physically fit. If you can't lift that paintbrush for more than five mintes, because the muscles in your arms are flabby then that becomes just another obstacle for the art. (note to self: need to work on upper body;-)


Lifting Hope... not quite done...just a little more.

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show overlap dilemma

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The next venue for my work will be the Gallery at the Children's National Medical Center. It's really great.

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The exhibit is called Essential Elements. Although I am not sure the content I am bringing fits that title (maybe just a little) I do know that the hopeful nature of the content fits the venue. My one problem...

The show overlaps with artomatic by a week. Which means that the work hanging at artomatic will not be in it.

It is a nice problem to have really.

So I am pushing to finish a new piece so that I can have what I think is an acceptable number to represent a body of work. Seven large originals. I could scramble and have giclees of the ones not represented, matted and framed, but I really can't deal with that expense right now. So the seven will have to do.

Dancing in Thin Places
Sisterhood
Sacred Women of Sorrow
Kissed by the Sun (Son)
Finding Ones Self
Lifting Hope

oops that's six.

sigh,

I may be able to paint, but apparently I can't count.


Lifting Hope... still in process. I just hope the paint will be dry in time for next week.

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inspiration friday

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On this journey as an artist one makes discoveries that help along the way. And it seems sometimes like an almost mystical formula that makes a "balanced" life as an artist. For me, the formula includes simple things like enough sleep, and eating right, and more complex things like knowing how to steer your mood, and wrangle the muse. This discovery is one of those tools that help with the latter, more complex issue.

Feeling tired and spiraling into one of those awful episodes of questioning the validity of my work I put this on this morning for a little boost.

INSPIRATIONS

A rare gem even though it is a little old (produced in 97) this series of interviews of a handful of artists tracks their processes (both thought and artistic).A few represented are the glass artist Dale Chihuly, the eclectic musician and visual artist, David Bowie, and the famous pop artist Roy Lichtenstein who died that same year. As well as some others, a dancer, choreographer, architect, and sculptor. What is really great about it is that the producer really let the artists have a voice and didn't over edit for effect. So the result is you get honest answers about the sources of their inspiration, their process, and more specifics like "when is a work of art finished?". Each artist had a different approach to their creative process and by showing them back to back you walk away from the film with a sense of encouragement that there is really no wrong way, as well as a few great nuggets of advice and insights from several different disciplines.

I would highly recommend this to any artist.

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in process

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new canvas

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Began a new canvas today. Lifting Hope.

After a tiring day at artomatic, and prompted by Bryan who wanted me to "sleep until noon and then paint all day", (am I the luckiest girl or what?) I am accomplishing at least the second part of that request. The muse has been activated by an invitation to do an exhibit for Children's Hospital.

Hey, how can you argue with a muse...

or your husband?

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wednesday shift

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I am working remotely this morning as today is my shift day at artomatic. One of the requirements of being involved is to serve three volunteer shifts of five hours each. Doesn't sound like much but each shift pretty much blows a whole day. Especially when it involves getting downtown before noon. So, I sit here at Bryan's office (because we just have the one car) and will run one errand to pick up some new giclees, and will then catch the metro at 11. The volunteer shift involves everything from sitting and monitoring one of the nine floors to taking out trash, to monitoring the loading dock. Most of these tasks rate high on the yawn-ometer unless something interesting happens.

My first shift it did.

Sitting quietly by myself in the loading dock wishing for all the world that I had brought a book (even though they discourage it) the entire group of artists visiting from the UK came in to adjust all their shipping material. I jumped in to help restack the boxes that transported all their beautiful glass creations and managed a chat. What a lovely way to break up a boring day (or any day for that matter) than to meet this talented and very gracious group. Here is just one example of work coming from that group.

http://crispianheath.com

artist Crispian Heath
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Frankly, I can't imagine the effort in shipping some of this stuff. But we are thankful that they did!

meet the artist night-thanks!

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Just a quick thanks to everyone that came out for "meet the artist night" last saturday.

It is always great to get an idea of what you all think and what ways (if any) my work speaks to you. It helps remind me that even though I paint in isolation, and don't have a plan or agenda, that there is some sort of cosmic connection going on from-muse, through-artist, to-viewer. It is great when I see the message of the muse hit the viewer. It makes me feel like a conduit. Kinda cool and definitely humbling.

So thanks for your comments, smiles, critiques, and encouragement!

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the thing about artomatic

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This unprecedented show of approximately 1500 artists in downtown DC is quite the deal. A couple of things that make it so unique?

1. taking over a building that is under construction and giving it a useful purpose for a month.
2. uncensored platform for all kinds of artists to strut their stuff, show there work, promote their cause or vent their angst.
3. great exposure in the DC area. With an estimated 70,000 attendees, you are guaranteed to be seen by somebody.
4. great source of inspiration. All styles of work are represented. Some really well executed and some not-so-much, but a serious bounty of ideas. 9 floors of creative explosion. How great is that?

Some of the examples...
abstract

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whimsical

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humorous

Here the artist depicts a different version of the terra cotta warriors using action figures
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self expression
This artist pours out her angst over a stolen husband by revealing the culprit "skank", giving an alternative to making a life-altering mistake of taking a mistress... buy a "skank" doll instead...$100, quite a bargain.
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fine craft
A whole group of artists came over from the UK and many of them were glass artists. Extremely fine work.
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sculpture collage
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clever sculpture using found objects

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presidents as queens

This display of hand painted porcelain busts was a real hoot. Last year's version was even better though, as the artist used porcelains of Jesus. You can imagine the controversy.
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fine craft-furniture
Some artists were not quite ready opening night.
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and some were REALLY not ready
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opening night crowd at the elevators

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here i am slurping down some "chili-mac" at opening night.

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don't forget the peeps

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Another thing that makes Artomatic special is the peeps. A tradition, this contest is highly competitive and involves creating clever dioramas using marshmallo peeps (yes those easter treats that no one really likes to eat). Posing these confections in interesting scenarios is a popular event.

Some of my favorites...

The China town Peking Peeps

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The Rescue on the Hudson

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And my absolute favorite was the Purple Tunnel of Doom, depicting those unfortunate "peeps" that missed the inauguration stuck in a tunnel.

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meet me at artomatic tonight!

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It is meet the artist night at ARTOMATIC. You can catch me on the 8th floor just off of the elevators. Look for the red curtains (can't miss them). I will be there from 7:00-9:00.

See you there!

Saturday June 13th
55 M Street, S.E.
(at the corner with Half Street)
Washington, DC 20003
Metro stop: Green Line, Navy Yard, Ballpark exit
Free admission.

outdoor projects and training day

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This weekend we got to go outside. This season has been very strange with record breaking rain and so our outdoor projects have been hit and miss, but this weekend we finally assembled the parts of the wall that were tentatively in place last year. This included taking old sections of iron fence and grinding it down, priming and painting it. One problem that had to be solved was the fact that one of these fence sections was seriously bent on a slant. Thinking this would be easy to hammer out Bryan and I were shocked when reality had another plan. Hammering didn't do it. Next course of action... my husband screwing the whole thing to our deck and then hanging off of it hoping that his body weight would bend it...

nope.

Final and last resort... enter the mighty Element.

Yea, I know, sounded kinda crazy to me too.

Bolting the fence to a railroad tie and then chaining the fence to the Element, Bryan hoped for an easy bend...

ya think?

As he backed up the car the fence indeed bent, but once he gave it slack to our surprise it actually bounced back. Determined not to give up, and frankly really needing this section of fence to be ok, he persisted. A combination of pulling and hammering finally got the thing into shape. I really wish I had a picture of it because it sounds like a fish story now.

At any rate, here is a before and after of the fence section.

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At the same time as we were working on our fence and wall something magical was happening. For weeks now I have had a pair of blue jays nested under our deck. And today it was time for flying lessons. This little guy found his first few practice flaps in the safety of my grapevines. He was the tentative of the three babies, and their eagerness ended up being their undoing as they flapped right into our neighbor's yard (the cat people). Stopping our work we cringed as we could only assume that the screeches from the parent jays indicated certain doom for the first two. But this little guy managed to make it. It was really amazing to witness the instruction of the two parents as this newly plumed infant awkwardly took to the air.

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Spent the weekend finishing up stuff for Artomatic, namely the kiosk which is the interactive part of my display. Faced with the small space and wanting in the worst way to show more of the collection this was a great solution. It helps to have a husband that is so technically savy that the putting something like this together is simply a series of problems to solve, which for him is all sport. He pulled off getting the thing to be unhackable while I designed the presentation pages to function almost like a website.

just without the wi-fi.

With that kind of communication tool it became more difficult knowing what NOT to add rather that what to add. So the "site" has a page for each painting, a press page, a bio page, a page that explains my process, and even a page to sign and leave a comment (hence the need for a keyboard). Hopefully it will be a good resource for the folk truly interested in the work and not just a magnet for anyone thinking that it is an open internet terminal. As we were leaving I overheard the 12 year old son of another artist regarding my kiosk with excitement thinking it was a game. Imagine his disappointment when he begins clicking and getting nothing but my art!

At any rate it is another example of us going a little overboard. After designing a single page about exnihilo, as sort of an afterthought I ended up going back and spending a whole day designing four pages for any artist interested in participating in our bahamas dream. And Bryan spent time programming the form to dispense the names into a database.

Yea, overboard.

The hard thing about gauging whether the effort is worth the results is you can really never tell until something is done if there will be results. And so, Bryan and I making fun of ourselves all weekend, concluded that you have to do this kind of thing for yourself, and be happy with whatever the outcome may be.

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Here is the kiosk. I disguised the big white imac frame with a piece of masonite that I painted to compliment the rest of the display.
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finding oneself

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I think it is done, but I am contemplating it as another thin place, which means portals. Unsure. Spurning yardwork and other work I spent all weekend working on it (which was blissful). I don't think it will be dry in time to show for artomatic, but who knows. I seem to favor green when the subject matter is about growth (like formation).

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artomatic setup

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Headed downtown to set up my space for Artomatic. All in all the day went pretty smoothly other than leaving late because we were waiting for my security hardware to arrive via ups. (little screws and bolts that prevent theft of the artwork) Opting to take the chance that there would be extra on site for us to purchase, we went ahead and took the work as well as the display. There wasn't but we decided to hang the work anyway hoping that the artists would be honest.

We will go back next week with the hardware, and the imac that fits in that void that you see in the pics. The imac will be a kiosk with an interactive display containing info and images of more work, bio, press, and other things hopefully of interest. With the difficult choice of what work to hang in such a limited 8'x8' space, Bryan came up with the brilliant idea of the kiosk. Of course us andersons always go to the nth degree with stuff like this so I was onboard with the idea in a flash. So I spent several days building what is essentially a website (that will never hit the web) for this display. With potentially 70,000 people expected to attend the event, I have the slightest hope of getting another gallery to take on the work, and the kiosk will help to represent the whole collection.

Hopefully it catches someone's attention.

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It appears as though my beloved did most of the work, and that is true. My biggest portion was painting the wall and measuring out the space, but he is my electrical/construction/encourager...well he wears many hats and my work would not see the light of day if it weren't for him.

After about four hours of sweat, and one parking ticket (which we are contesting due to conflicting signage) we went seeking food.

Always on the lookout for a good feed, Bryan discovered Granville Moore's. Set in a somewhat seedy part of DC inside an old brick walk-up that used to be a doctor's office is this fabulous place that serves Moule frites (mussels and fries). The chef of this place won a throw down against Bobby Flay, and is destined to be the next food tv celeb so you know the food is amazing. A pile of mussels is served swimming in a yummy broth for bread-sopping. I chose the blu cheese and spinach/bacon, and it did not disappoint. The big bowl is plopped in front of you on ancient timbers that make up the antique bar along with fries with tasty dipping sauce. Yum. Contrasting with the rustic old historic building, the humble food was amazing, and a perfect way to celebrate an artistic day.

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selection process for artomatic

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Time to pick out what to hang for that DC art bonanza known as Artomatic. This is a tough thing to do. I only have so much space and more work than wall. So, I have to choose what represents best which as far a themes go is my older stuff, but of course I want to hang the newest piece (even if it isn't finished ;-).

Of course looking at the work over and over again sent me into a very common emotional state...

"Its all crap".

If you do any kind of artwork and are not some sort of heartless atomaton you know exactly what I am talking about.

It isn't that you don't love your work...

or that you have self esteem issues.

It is just one of those things that happens to every one that has picked up an artist's brush to bare their soul. It leaves you a little vulnerable.

AND, for me my work is only as good as the last painting.


eeny, meeeny, miney...

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blogiversary

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Yup.

5 years today.

time flies.

picking space for artomatic

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The next public venue for my work, I am happy to say, will be DCs Artomatic. Today Bryan and I took the metro downtown for the mad dash for a good space. Artomatic, although having gained a great reputation for gallery scouting, is a bit of a free for all when it comes to artists. You register and then all the artists that made it in are assigned a date and time to come and grab a good spot along with about 30 others at a time. I am really lousy at things like this akin to open seating at a concert. Maybe it is because I am not quite five feet tall, and so anything that requires pushing your way through has no appeal for me, in fact scares me. But I was pleasantly surprised. They actually have a really good system and I was amazed after hearing that 1500 artists will be showing, that they managed to keep it pretty organized. The spaces are either 8 x 8 or 8 x 12 feet, and although I was hoping for a larger space, my first criteria was to get the first space as you get off of the elevator on our assigned floor. Our group had the choice of 3 or 8 and there was a dash for three so I opted for eight and got my pick. Phew!

Having attended this last year I experienced how daunting the sheer number of works is and knowing that the viewer can get a little weary, I was hoping to get a spot that would catch attention early. Last year we chose to start at the top and work our way down, so assuming others might do this too, I have a good spot. 50 thousand attended last year and they expect 70 this year for the 10th anniversary.

here is my space. Each artist can paint or embellish their space however they see fit. Of course this prompted a brainstorming session on the train ride home.

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the view of the Capital from the venue

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last year as attendees

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A digital composite that I did for visualplanet.com a for earth day. It is an image of Orion and earth from Nasa(public domain), a photo I shot of the real exnihilo sculpture from the national cathedral, and my husband's hand.

Being good stewards of the earth was (according to the book of Genesis) our first and only assignment (well, and multiplying). It kind of astonishes me that this calling gets swept aside by many christians just because Al Gore managed to brand it.

While Bryan and I were perusing some galleries some months ago, we entered a potter's studio as she was working. She pleasantly invited us to have a look around and it was only two glances in that it was obvious she was a christian. She had a mirror on the wall in front of one of her potter's wheels that had something about prayer written above it. Little warm and fuzzy "spiritual" things were throughout her studio, and once my husband opened the subject with "what church do you go to?" we were treated with a kitchy church commercial streamed off of her laptop with her pastor as the starring role preaching against ego.

I found that kind of funny.

At any rate we revealed our "kinship" as fellow believers in christ which opened up this woman even more.

That is when things got ugly.

I was admiring her studio space and inquired about the cost of renting a space in the venue. She, continuing to be cheerful, began to talk about the folks in the building and made it clear that her neighbor was the "wrong kind of people" and would love to "send her packing". Wink wink. Then she talked a little about an upcoming event that the co-op was doing and it was "green", which was when she made it clear how unimportant THAT was and expressing her disdain with, "I don't cotton to all that Al Gore stuff". Wink, wink.

I felt like my head was going to explode. And I was reminded AGAIN why our prolonged sabatical has been so spiritually healthy. Backing away from the coolaid trough has helped me see a little bit as one who I would have otherwise labeled "lost" before. How we treat others and the earth is our witness, which is why the scene in the potter's studio made my head spin. In less than half an hour I knew that this woman did not love her neighbor, apparently didn't care about stewardship, found it very easy to judge others, all while christian music was playing in the background.

All because she thought I was part of the "club".

Now before you point out that, ahem..., blair, aren't you judging her?

Yes, I admit It, but what I can also say, is that at one point, I was her. And somewhere along my journey god gave me the choice to take the blue pill or the red pill and ride the painful birthing guantlet out of the plastic bubble.

And it was indeed painful. Identity stripping, crisis-of-faith, which-way-is-up, painful.

But it was also something else.

cleansing.

I am coming up to my fifth anniversary of this blog (May) which also means that I am coming up to the fifth year mark of being outside the bubble, orbiting the giant hairball, being backslidden, on sabatical, or whatever you choose to call it...out of the church, at least as an attendee.

And god is here. On the otherside.

Of course the journey continues, but sometimes there are spots in the road that have a clear horizon and others that make you feel like you are standing in a thick fog. Five years ago the fog had come in and yet there was still a spiritual beacon of light. Being a follower is like that. Today it is easier to look back and see some of the why's that god sought the unconventional from us as a family. And there were things that we had to give up which I still question god about. But having a new lens to look through has been a gift. And I am in no way suggesting that someone else's journey should look like mine. God leads without formula.

But I do know this. Christ called the pharisees of the day, "whitewashed tombs". And I am pretty sure they felt like they were the apex of spirituality, doing all the "right things". In like manor, all the christiany trappings, music, slogans, political affiliations, christianese jargon, and going to church, does not make a follower of christ.

When god peel's back the fuzzy sheep's clothing will he be able to find a substance of faith or a rotting carcass?

life in balance or maybe not

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Been working and clearly not blogging (not that one necessarily excludes the other). With the return of that evil labyrinthitis a.k.a. Vertigo, I have conserved my seeing-straight time to anything work related cuz by three oclock staring at a computer screen has me cross eyed and headachy.

But I also know that in a year I will look back on my blog and try to remember what caused the gap, because let's face it I can't remember what I had for breakfast, so forget a lost month in 09 without appropriate notes.

So, I am still spinny but will forge ahead because a lot has taken place in the last few weeks. Daniel is off at an arcology workshop at Arcosanti in Arizona, the sun is finally out which means the plants are up and this weekend Bryan and I pounced on the opportunity to get outside and add to our landscaping project three years running.

mulch, mulch, mulch...
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a little japanese maple
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why we bought an element...
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20 bags of mulch...
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just show up

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Artist date friday. Many artistic moons have been neglected in favor of chores like laundry, taxes, and a normal work week at my business. The balancing act is a tough one. In return for being a seemingly responsible human being my muse let me know I was not being a responsible artist. Feeling a sense of moody unsettlement and overall anger at the world my muse (and my husband) pointed out (again) that she needed some attention.

It is a balancing act.

And the approach to the canvas is a painful one. Like a potential lover that may spurn you with all of the emotional baggage that comes with that, the canvas looks less friendly. And it is a big one this time, which takes different technique and more time, which means more chance for failure.

I know that sounds dire... don't be so meladramatic. Get with it already.

But like so many good artist sages before me (inclucing my new fav, elizabeth gilbert), I chanted the mantra...

just show up.

The muse isn't disappointing me so far.

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a gift from the universe

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Saw this from my deck last week while taking a break from doing dreaded taxes. I didn't plant them yet here they are in my yard like a cosmic encouragement. Mind blowing when a week before we were covered in snow.

The encouragement didn't go unnoticed. I got my taxes done.

Ok I bumped into this in a couple of places on various blogs and had to add it here too just in case you missed it. This is a seriously great way to view the artistic experience which can run the extremes of ultimate joy to sorrow and self destruction. If you struggle with the creative process and would like encouragement and a healthy way to view the process, or if you just want to understand why your artist friend seems to be a little psycho now and then, this talk will shed some light. I have repeatedly talked about "my muse" and what I think the divine nature of the creative process is, but this author says it so much better i ever could...

If I were to put a camera at my desk and stream a live video feed on my blog, what might one see right now?

Flying splashes of paint on a brand new canvas?

Me, torch in hand, creating some new work in silver?

My camera set up for a shoot for more spiritually infused digital creations?

Nope.

It is that time of year again. The one we all love. Some responsible, on-the-ball folk (like my mother) have already completed this gruesome task, but I have not yet tackled it. Of what dreary, and dreadful task am I referring to?

Taxes, of course.

As an artist this is on par with getting a root canal, or having to go to traffic school.

How do you handle it?

Me, personally... I have to put some serious creative blinders on. This means hunker down and try not to look at my easel that beckons in the corner, or the inspiring trinkets that await formation at my bench.

So today, I will focus the energy to compiling the paperwork. That is the first segment of it. Then I open my books and sort through the numbers, expenses etc. If I don't take it in sections I will go mad.

If anybody wants to share their secret method to survive this lonely ritual yet another year, please feel free to pass on your advice. And if you have finished yours already, I am green with envy.

I am back at the digital easel today creating visuals for the easter season for avisualplanet.com.

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final seal. A great way to recycle old bottles. The little ones up front are actually frosted which kinda makes the wine look cloudy, but it actually came out pretty clear with the color akin to white zinfandel.
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corked
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It should be the end of the process but actually these get to age for at least a year before drinking. And who'da thought that three little vines planted under two years ago could end up looking like this. Granted, this is it... just a few bottles of finished wine, but it sure was fun running with the process. Sure you can buy the juice and make wine from that, but I really wanted to see what it would be like to run the whole gamut, from seedling to bottle. It breeds a new appreciation for the final product. This batch definitely isn't what hopefully will ultimately be produced when the vines get bigger, but it does represent a commitment which really was the whole point. What fun.


Last August they looked like this...

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Then the "not so nice looking" part of the process. The bag in the bucket contains the crushed stems and seeds.

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A month later it starts to clear.
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Even more.
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Then into the carboy and a few other steps before the bottling which I did today. Proof again that the "middle" part of any process tends to be the part that looks the roughest, can be the most tedious, is the least glamourous, and takes the most patience.

snow day is a different day

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It came a little late this year but it doesn't matter. Like little boys everywhere who have no school today due to snow we have a very grateful boy in our house as well.

my husband.

Truly I have never seen a grown man wish for a snow day as if he still owned a sled. Thanks to being employed by the University of Maryland, he and all his other co-workers get to be ten again... and stay home.

Ok, he may not be pulling out a sled, in fact more likely it will be a shovel for clearing the driveway. But no matter. It is a break from the norm... a breath... being forced to stop for just a moment.

which is good.

So I will make a big pot of minestrone and we will all stay in and be grateful for a warm house, good food, and a day that is different.

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one step forward three steps back

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More to report on the Exnihilo project. After waiting a ridiculous amount of time for our counsel to finalize some paperwork to make building on our property legal I finally pulled the plug and changed counsel.

And I couldn't be happier with her (the new counsel) and her office. She is on the case and understands the project which is key. But after getting all of our files from the previous counsel and reviewing them she regretted to inform me that I have to start the process all over again.

Because the previous counsel took too long.

sigh.

Yea... it only makes sense that they need every document to be up to the minute, but that even includes going through the process of getting a police record again... fingerprints and all. Which I did last january (08).

Not to mention we will be owing a couple of years of property tax that the previous counsel neglected to report.

ick.

If you ever wonder why there aren't more people going after their crazy dreams I can tell you from a person who is attempting it... the process can start to suck the helium out of what was once a big bouncy balloon.

Do you think they sell tenacity in chewable form? I could use a bucket full.

And while it feels like we are moving backwards on that front I am happy to report that our BIG building designs are moving forward. Our new project manager is fabulous and was able to take our sketch-up file which we labored over for months and turned it into a viable floor plan that is now in the hands of the engineering department for wind testing. Again we will probably need to make some adjustments regarding the number of windows, but I am still encouraged by the sense that the PM has got it goin on. The plans may not look like much but they represent the culmination of two years of research and all of the self revelation that happens when taking an idea towards reality. It is crazy head-exploding, nail biting stuff. Here they are...

main floor... kitchen, dining, gallery, library, solar-battery room, washrooms, reception, and studio space.
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second floor... our bedrooms, recording studio, exercise room, and multi-purpose room (studio/gallery/classroom/yoga).

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blank canvas... sort of

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A day with clay is what my tuesdays have become on a semi regular basis. It is another medium to explore and let me tell you, when you change mediums it opens up creative options with your existing ones. Maybe because it exercises another part of the brain and therefore shakes loose ideas undiscovered.

at any rate I highly recommend it.

The shifting of gears can apply to any creativity. It is the cross pollination that is the end result.


blank canvas

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the pottery studio (before the buzz of activity)

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It is the pure-ness of expression that always inspires me. Watching the reaction of the actors from Slum Dog Millionaire on the academy awards show was an example of what I mean by pure-ness. The lead actor and actress were not nominated for their parts in the movie but were clear cheerleaders when others involved in the creation of the movie received reward after reward. When the camera tuned on them they did not act demure and calculated as if in hopes for future gain from the moment. Instead they showed honest joy in the success of the others around them in their project.

I find this inspiring.

Maybe it is the lack of politics in their response.

Maybe it is the lack of posturing (a calculated smile instead of an unbridled hoot)

Maybe it was the embrace of THAT MOMENT without thought to the future ramification.

I am not sure.

But when we are far enough down the road in our creative journeys... do we become too jaded and calculating that we forget what it is to be genuine?

Just a question.


On a totally different note...less genuine and more political I am sure... Alicia Keys on stage with that guy from High School Musical? What's up with that?

digital light

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This week found me spurning the tactile creative for the other kind of art I do.

The digital.

But digital or clay or metal or paint, it is the words that make this different.

May this week bring you...

Light,
Love,
Peace,
and of course...
Balance.

spoils of love and craft

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He never fails with flowers. Here they are in my other creative pursuits in clay.


platter and vase

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sometimes it takes cookies

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Artist date today and by 3 o clock I still hadn't tempted the muse. Doing every other left brain activity imaginable (including contemplating taxes) didn't help, and my "responsible side" was winning out. After a full out argument between my right and left brain, my right citing the embarrassing fact that I haven't picked up a paint brush in MONTHS, I resorted to drastic measures...

chocolate chip.

In spite of the fact that I have worked so hard the last few months to get my weight down and been victorious in that regard, I needed to shift gears for the sake of creativity.

Yes, sometimes the muse needs to eat.

Standing in front of a blank canvas with no muse in sight it hit me...

must make cookies.

I have employed the food tactic before but don't make a habit of it. Sometimes it takes drastic measures... sometimes it takes cookies.

Twenty minutes, two warm cookies, one glass of milk later, my paint brush was flying. The muse just needed a little milk and cookies.

Can you blame her?

--------

three spirits

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to grow

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A little like this banana leaf unfurling itself to the waiting world, growth takes a bit of patience, inner peace, strength...

and tenacity.

As we poke and pry at our bahamas plan I feel that we are sort of stuck due to the unforseen economic downturn. And yet every moment of every day spent on the project reveals more and produces more, in itsy bitsy increments. This weekend (and last, and countless other days) Bryan and I worked on the details of the Gathering House for Exnihilo. Yes, we are designing it ourselves within the framework of the oh-so-cool and very green round structures built in NC.

What a challenge.

If you ever want to find out how little you know about something, tackle it head on as if you know everything.

I think this has been the mode for most of my life. It involves the initial gutsy, "let's do this" (the easy part) followed by the "wow, this is harder than I thought," which comes before the..."holy crap what were we thinking"... which then by some miracle gets finished with...

"We did it!"

Getting to that point leaves a trail of newly learned lessons, some newly found communication skills, a lot of nail biting, and a good portion of humble pie.

But it is completely worth it.

It is true what they say about "the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time", and honestly if you knew it was an elephant you were going to eat you wouldn't even start. But here is the thing about not knowing...

you do move forward.

Maybe that is the advantage of this age. We have just enough possibility thinking left to be foolish enough to think we can do this thing and just enough experience to pull it off if we work like mad. While working on this building Bryan and I ran into roadblocks of many kinds. It was an exercise in problem solving of monumental proportions. At one point we were completely steimied working on the second floor. So we stopped working on it for a couple of months. Getting some new info and new ideas while in Hawaii, the solutions presented themselves and the roadblocks came down. And things that we were oh-so-sure about a few months ago got tweaked and changed when we realized there was a better way.

So, this week I sent off our new design to our project manager to review. If it goes anything like the little bungalow design it will endure many revisions to get it to meet up to code. Likely we will have to make some changes, but engineering will let us know what those will be and hopefully the compromises won't change the look and feel of the spaces. It is a long long road to the finish line.

But for today I can celebrate one more bite of the elephant.


Bryan viewing the first floor layout of the gathering house.

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my babe with the camera

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Back in january we were in a sunny place with warm winds and beaches. Today we are in a colder place where there is more activity indoors than out. In work mode I was sorting some of my photos from that trip and bumped into these. I think they are cool.

Not because they are well shot or that the location is beautiful. No.

Its because of that man with the camera.

I love him. That's all.;-)

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A very important day. 21 years ago my baby was born. The journey of life has many art forms along with many benchmarks. How do you celebrate this one?

Along our journey as a family we have chosen to respect certain "laws". While Bryan and I enjoy wine with dinner, we had been clear with Daniel that until you reach legal age in this country you cannot drink(in this country). When we traveled we followed the laws in those places. In Europe and in the Bahamas it was ok, and he was able to share in the privilege when we were there.

So what do you do as a parent when your son is exemplary about respecting those rules?

Without telling him where we were going or what we were doing with only the instruction of "wear something nice and make sure you have your ID", we started driving. What a weird thing to hear from your parents..."Make sure you have your ID".

We arrived at the desired destination... Grapeseed in Bethesda. It was kinda fun to see the look on Daniel's face as we were escorted up to the bar by the restaurants Sommelier, Ernie Brice.

We had arranged a formal wine tasting for Daniel's 21st birthday.

When I had phoned about the reservation and proposed Bryan's idea to the Sommelier, he was immediately on board. "What a great idea"! he said, and then went on to tell me what he would do. And Ernie did not disappoint. He covered everything from how to inspect the color, where the different flavors of the wine hits the different zones of the tongue, swirling it in the glass to oxygenate it, etc... etc.. Talking non stop about all things wine, he set up three flights of three different wines each going from grape to grape varietal and then threw in a few more unusual blends just to get our reactions.

As the restaurant got busier it was fun to see people regarding us with interest. What a great way to celebrate a milestone... learning to respect another art form. When you understand another person's art you are less likely to be cavalier with it, don't you think?

After the formal part of the lesson we moved to a table for dinner. Ernie brought all of our "tasters" over to our table. It was quite a sight being surrounded by wine and very fun trying to keep each one straight after comparing, sniffing, swirling, sipping, etc.

As we sat down to our table the waitress handed Daniel his menu and wished him happy birthday. They had even printed the greeting at the tops of our menus!

By the end of the night we had eaten a three course meal and sampled thirteen different wines and Ernie presented Daniel with a certificate for completing a wine course.

What a great night. What a terrific son. Happy Birthday Daniel!

Ernie showing how to compare color..." the original reason that restaurants have white table cloths".
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The swirl.
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Fabulous food!
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Ernie answering some final questions before we leave.

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blue eyeshadow

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Met this little guy on Kona.

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empty well

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Serious dry spell over here in blair-studio-land. After an intense-extrovert-travel-and-stress holiday season with family and then being sick, and now the snow that puts me in hybernation mode... I just can't get myself powered up. Before the turn of the year I was firing on all thrusters and today...

I got nothin.

It always takes me a few moments of frustration and self punishment before it dawns on me that... "Oh yea... empty well... that's what this is".

I plan to catch up this page with all the goings on of the last month, but for now I need to stay powered down for a tad longer. All part of the rhythm of the art.

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18 degrees here today

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yup. Last week I was in Hawaii.

out of balance-too sick to blog

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Well it never fails. I need a vacation from that extended vacation. We arrived home sunday and I caught a nasty bug and am still sniffling through it. All I yearn for now is to be able to go to the ceramics studio and throw clay, or paint, or even clean my studio. Laying around like a lump or shuffling from the fridge to the couch tethered to a box of kleenex seems to be what I get instead.

sniff.

things that inspire

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Finally unpacking from the Anderson extended family vacation in Hawaii. Treasures from this trip (as with most) tend toward seeds of inspiration rather than souvenir. A particularly good find was some tiny antique(1887) opium bottles that will work nicely made into pendants. Pearls, Kukui nuts, beach glass, and lava rock will also find their way into some new creations. Daniel spotted the batik sarongs for 4 dollars in a little shop by the road, and I couldn't help myself when I spotted this cool hand died capri outfit in a gallery near the north shore of Oahu.

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nothing quite like it

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Floating by an active section of Kilauea, we were greeted with something flying in the air. Newly formed land flaking off into the air at the moment of lava contacting water. "Ash" is more like sections of paper thin glass.

New Birth
Limu born at Kilauea in our presence
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The explosive act of magma hitting the ocean
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age old question answered

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Apparently all of the age-old questions can be answered in Hawaii. Hunting for waterfalls on Kauai I discovered the answer to "why did the chicken cross the road".

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hawaii dec 30 - kona

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ncl behind us

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hawaii dec 29 - maui-nature's palette

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These trees were amazing. A perfect natural palette in its bark.

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hawaii - dec 27- boarding the ship

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Luggage mayhem as the anderson clan line up to board the ship. Did I say that this was the only way to travel with a large family? Notice little Heidi (lower left) even has a pink suitcase.

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considering okeeffe: a day for the senses

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Ever have one of those days that has something for all five senses? Ironically after working on a chapter about this very thing in a new project about living as an artist(in balance!) specifically, how to tempt the muse... I had a whole day that perfectly touched on all five.

Originally it was what Bryan had planned for my birthday several weeks ago, but got bumped due to crazy schedules and commitments. I didn't care, but what a treat to finally experience the day he had planned for me (whata guy). So off we went, Bryan, Daniel and I on to the metro towards downtown DC...

First it was brunch at Co Co Sala Chocolate Lounge and Boutique.

Yea.

It is hard to believe you can have a brunch where the primary focus is on chocolate, but they pull this off nicely without making you cry uncle.

TASTE AND SMELL beautiful food...
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SOUND Between CoCo and the museum was a craft festival complete with live jazz...
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SIGHT
Inside the museum was a show that I had been wanting to see. A combined exhibit of Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams at the newly re-opened American Art Museum. Nothing can replace seeing these works of art live and up close, and as compliments to one another. The two of them had been friends and had similar approaches to their art even though one a painter, the other a photographer.

After being inspired by the colors and brush strokes and feeling like the day was at its close, we wandered through the portrait gallery.

TOUCH, OR BEING
Another surprise.

Walking down the main hall an image caught me out of the corner of my eye in a side room that I was walking past. Having passed it I stopped, and backed up, and entered this tiny room that held an amazing portrait.

I didn't know this was here...

A portrait that I had never seen in person but had an indelible memory of stood in front of me. It is the portrait that Degas painted of the American, woman, Impressionist, Mary Cassatt. I had recreated this painting in detail from a picture in a book as a project in junior high. Funny how a memory like that can rush in like a flood with only a visual prompt.

The assignment was to find a person in history that you admired and create a scene in which you would place yourself literally as that person in a living history museum type presentation. The final presentation was rows and rows of stalls of students siting or standing motionless depicting their chosen person for a number of hours while parents walked through the embodiment of the newly acquired knowledge. What a great way to engage a bunch of seventh graders. Clearly the lesson worked because I will never forget it. Of all the people we could pick I had inquired of my teacher about women artists.

There weren't many, especially in Cassatt's time. I seem to remember being focused on impressionists which also narrowed the options, and I am pretty sure the assignment was for american history... So american-woman-impressionist meant, Mary Cassatt. I fell in love with her work was inspired by her determination at odds with the culture, and for a time even tried to paint like her. Funny, now I paint more like O'keeffe.

What a perfect way to finish a day, standing in the presence of this amazing work of art by an amazing artist of another amazing artist. The air had an electricity around it.

I wonder if anyone else noticed.

Degas' Cassatt
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Smithsonian American Art Museum

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catching the back of Daniel's head on a beautiful night in DC.
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blue?

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This interesting shot selected me last year while walking the streets of mazatlan. So many surprises in places you wouldn't expect. One of my rules when wielding my camera: pay attention to unsung spaces and unexpected moments. They are where the soul shots are.

Here a lonely blue bottle called out to me in a the rubble of a broken down building. Today it reminds me that it is alright to be an individual, to stand out from the norm even if it is sometimes painfully uncomfortable or even…

lonely.


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drum roll please...

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Bryan's new Christmas CD!

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exnihilo beach glass pendants

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Something that brings together my favorite things, the unexplainable soul-healing of the ocean, and divine creative inspiration. As if the muse was born from the sea...

exnihilo beach glass pendants.

Each one is a unique creation suited to the glass that it holds, and each piece of beach glass was picked by this family off of beautiful shores. Each one has the exnihilo swirl imbedded in its design.

I began making them today and got so excited because for me they are totally new and are coming from a different creative space. More like where my paintings come from, these pendants are telling me how they want to be made rather than me having a plan. It is a completely freeing and organic expression.

Perfect symbol for exnihilo.

I will introduce them at the show on Dec 6th and then they will go onto the exnihilo store. Like all of my artwork, the sales of these will go toward building exnihilo. But anyone who buys a beach glass pendent will have their name put on that very special list for a chance to sit on the actual beach at exnihilo helping us unveil it to the world, opening week.

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thankful things

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Things I am thankful for...

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Bryan and Tommy


The annual Tavener Thanksgiving morning outdoor oyster fry.

You heard me.

This dear friend and culinary wizard manages to fill his backyard with neighbors, friends, and family along with fresh frying oysters, crab gumbo, other seafood yummies, fine cheeses, wine, bloody marys... well you get the idea. The food was fabulous (as always) but it doesn't compare to a great and lasting friendship. We warmed our toes next to the outdoor fireplace while chatting with new friends and sampling Tommy's goodies. What a great way to start out the day.

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A cozy home where you may often find wild combinations of things such as these paintbrushes sitting in the kitchen along with the thanksgiving duck that is waiting to be plated. This is what life in motion in a creative household looks like.

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Daniel and Bryan

The biggest thing I am thankful for and treasure above all else... my two guys. The sun rises and sets on these two as far as I am concerned and I can't imagine life without the love, fun, inspiration, and pride that they bring me. Happy Thanksgiving you two!

the winter of your creativity

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When Bryan changed jobs back in june, one of his blissful perks was a flex-time schedule that means he works nine hour days and gets every other friday off.

this is so awesome.

except that for a long time now I had designated fridays as a kind of artist-date day off. That morphed into the day I would typically paint, or do some other creative activity that would fill the muse's well allowing me to continue to do all the other artsy things that need feeding by perpetual inspiration.

So now I am using a more random diversion approach. For now my artist date has taken the form of this tuesday morning ceramics class, that thankfully, isn't really a class at all. It is really just open studio where there is a "teacher" on hand in case you want to learn a particular thing.

How perfect is that.

So after a few weeks, the teacher Mary, has kind of left me alone but interjected appropriate info when she sees I am struggling or when I have questions. The tone set by the other ceramicists is friendly and welcoming, and folk sort of come and go as they please. It is the perfect place to play with mud and get a small dose of a little community.

I am exercising a couple of muscles with this experience.

One, is to get out of the house. This was almost impossible when Bryan was working in Baltimore. Now that he is at UM it is doable for me to take the car for a day and do things. It would be easy for me to end up like the agoraphobic character in Nim's Island played by Jodie Foster. Having some incentive to leave the house/studio is a good thing.

The other is to stretch the "multi" part of being a multi-disciplined artist. This means branching out and adding a few new creases to my brain matter. And so far it is working, big-time. The result has been a surge in inspiration towards other things, a flood of ideas, and an almost manic need to create.

it's artistic purgatory.

That sounds bad, but it isn't really. Anyone who lives the artist life knows that we can function in fits and starts, between blitzes and burnouts. The key is to identify the difference in the two and do two things...

celebrate the blitzes and ride that wave until it crashes...

and don't beat yourself up when you can't produce during the burnout. It is simply the winter of your creativity.

After all these years I still struggle with recognizing the winter of my creativity, and assume that I can produce full-tilt right through it, and then wonder what is wrong with me when I can't.

but today is not that day.

I am in the other zone right now, and the reason that I call it purgatory is because it takes another kind of wisdom to ride that wave without over doing it. There is the temptation to spin out of control and for me, that can trigger a longer "winter". It is like eating ice cream. You may have a whole gallon sitting in front of you but if you eat the whole thing you may never want to eat ice cream again.

The pursuit of balance is a good thing, at least for this artist.

So, after three hours of working on the hand built portion of the Kabuki pot (pic below), and a pot that I carved into a bell, and a few other small items, I realized I was exhausted and needed to go home. It was only twelve thirty and some of the other potters were just getting going. Part of me wanted to start on another piece, but for me, it was time to stop.

at least for today.

Tomorrow is another day.

How are you at recognizing your creative seasons? Are you forgiving of yourself when you are in a "winter of creativity"? Do you know how to maximize your "spring"?


Kabuki Pot front

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Kabuki Pot back

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just an example

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One of the new pieces that I will be showing on the sixth of December.

"The Journey In Between"
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a rare chance

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I don't really sell my jewelry that much anymore, except for a rare occasion. So for a few hours on Saturday, December 6th you can find me along with several other fine artists at Mayorga Cafe in Silver Spring. All proceeds will go to funding the dream of Exnihilo Artist Retreat.

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I am reading a great book by Daniel Pink called A Whole New Mind; Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future .

If you have ever been discouraged about why the world seemed to cater to more structured, linear, fact oriented people...

or struggled with those horrid multiple choice questions when the answer was neither a,b,c, or d...

or wondered why those damned government offices couldn't at least paint their walls a pretty color...

or have ever had a promotion or job opportunity go to someone else because you appeared to be too artsy and therefore supposedly less organized...

or wondered why a number two pencil was superior to a purple crayon...

...if even one of these thing apply to you, take heart!

According to Pink the world is changing. At least the North American part. We no longer are seeking excess, but are now craving meaning. Information no longer has the value it once had because thanks to the internet, everyone can get any fact they want with two clicks in Google. What was the valuable information age is now cheap, and those high paying info jobs are now shipped overseas.

So what is the new currency?

Art.

Ok, I am simplifying a bit, but I can't help it. Truly, the new valued commodity is big picture thinking, design oriented problem solving, and touch(story). All things generated from the right side of the brain. Even those horrible SAT's are outmoded.

It is like some sort of cosmic payback for all those folk that couldn't understand that creating beauty in the world had any value. Now that people are seeking meaning instead of wealth, the tables have turned, and the new highly coveted job skill is...

graphic design.

Yea, I was kind of surprised too, but it makes sense when you think of how much of our world is now demanding great design (except for those gov't offices).

Anyway, if you are curious, crack open Pink's book. It takes a good look at what this next age will be, and how the need for meaning has replaced the need for things.

each piece of the puzzle

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As we forge ahead with the day to day, assembling the exnihilo puzzle piece by piece, I feel like things are being revealed. As with any big dream all the details don't present themselves in the beginning, and if they did there would be fewer dreams attempted, because frankly one cannot endure an entire picture. So as if we have finished the outer edge of the puzzle, the frame that will be filled by all the other pieces, Bryan and I are embarking on different projects that will ultimately fill in the center of the picture that is yet unseen.

We don't even have a box lid to compare too.

But that is ok. Because even in my attempt to push things in the direction that I think is right (that usually just means fast) the universe has other plans. And I am glad. Things are aligning in a way that will compel us to take on new skills (or dust off old ones) that will be necessary for the adventure ahead. Like some creative bootcamp that will equip us, the next few years will be like going back to school.

For me this year has been a big one regarding this. Although I am an artist with multiple disciplines under my belt, there have been a few art forms that I haven't tried, and in order to create a "haven for personal creative endeavor" I felt like I needed to delve into some more mediums for the purpose of both networking as well as learning about equipment for a variety of disciplines. And also adding some learned consultants to our team. So this has been the year of the class.

In october I got a taste of glass fusion and shaping glass with a torch. Last week I started a ceramics class and used the wheel for the first time since college (20+ years) and actually remembered how it worked. On the very same day, Bryan, adding to his own stack of puzzle pieces, gave a seminar on recording and sound for videographers in hopes to continue to advance Exnihilo-Music which will have its final home in the Bahamas.

And this last weekend was the absolute dream class... something I have always wanted to learn. Having been a silversmith and honing the skills of small sculpture in my silver creations I always wondered what it would be like to go bigger.

And this weekend I got just that.

To sculpt in steel. Big sheets of steel.

Ok, I didn't actually get to make a complete sculpture in one day, but what this particular class taught was all the different forms of welding and cutting. TIG, ARC, and the old fashioned Oxy/Acetylene. I even got to use a PLASMA cutter.

OMG.

Needless to say this little girl is hooked. And a single six hour session showed me what I need to know for launching a program on our island that will recycle old junk and turn it into art. Another piece just got added to the puzzle. This was a major missing piece.

So as we find the missing pieces and they find us and fall together to create the finished picture, I will continue to try to pay attention to what seems to be divine leading in this regard. And maybe even enjoy the process.

Which is really the spirit of Exnihilo.

All things in time.


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my re-entry into ceramics. two very humble pots fresh off the wheel.

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Bryan teaching at the Baltimore Videographer's Association.

floating on a sea of leaves

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Fall has definitely fallen here in the mid-atlantic. It is truly pretty except when you ponder how much raking there is to do. I am settling into the idea that winter is coming and trying not to throw my seasonal tantrum against mother nature.

Ask me how that's going.;-)

Here is our Element seemingly floating on a sea of leaves.

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The view of our deck.

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making the impossible happen

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It may not be saving the world, curing cancer, or other uber-noble causes, but it is something that I am extremely passionate about...building a place where artists can come and get inspired and learn how to lead a balanced life, creatively, spiritually, and physically.

But there is so much to do to get there...

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Our final quote came in on the cost of the first bungalow for the Artist Retreat, Exnihilo.

Hold your breath...

$57,600.00 (12,000. of that is just shipping to the Bahamas!)

Ok it may be a figure that prompts one to faint, but truthfully it is exactly as expected, so all is good. It is also only the cost of the shell, the insides and finishing goodies will be a little more for those materials, but we are doing all the work ourselves. What we didn't expect in our whole big dreamy plan to make this thing fly was that the economy would go south, taking a chunk of my existing income and our retirement funds with it.

bummer.

So, in the spirit of seeking help from others with the hopes of ultimately building this place to help others...

drum roll pleeeeze...

I give you the Exnihilo Bungalow building fund. (sidebar)

We have set the building fund at a rounded down 50,000 which is a ton to swallow, I know. But we will be updating it with proceeds from the sales of my work not just the donations of others. It is a monumental task to say the least...

MONDO BEYONDO.

So anyone who would love to help us build the first artist bungalow we would be thrilled to take any extra coin lying around. And I am not kidding, check under those sofa cushions and in that ashtray in your car, anything will do and will get us that much closer to making this thing real.

Oh, and anyone who donates $5 or more we will put your name in a draw for a free, one-week stay. Of course that won't happen until all is built... hopefully by our target date of April 2011.

Every little bit counts, and I will be making this annoying plea to anyone who will listen, and probably repeatedly.

Can you help with our MONDO BEYONDO?

That has been the nature of this whole big dream... unrealistic, and yet hopefully inspiring. From the first itch at the back of my brain, to scouting the land, to the very big step of actually BUYING the land, the process has had so many roadblocks to overcome. The highs and lows have been at the very ends of the spectrum from oodles of paperwork and arrogant civil servants that left me in tears, to the joy of planting our first coconut with Gen 1:1 written on it with a sharpy. Who knew where this journey would lead.

The original plan was to be selling our house at this juncture, but a couple of things slowed that down. The housing market hasn't done anyone any favors of late, and we even hit the reset button on Daniel's college education. A lot of discouraging factors that left me sleepless on some nights and mildly depressed on a lot of recent days. In the darkest moments the idea of shelving the whole thing even seemed like the more "realistic" thing to do.

Except for one thing...

The response to the dream has been overwhelming. Every person we tell lights up at the thought of an inspiring place to go to create. People don't need convincing. We have even had a number of fabulous friends (you know who you are!) express an interest in lending a hand in a good old fashioned barn raising on the island- yes helping us build.

And so we press forward.

What will the building of the first artist bungalow do for the whole big dream?

  • It will provide a home base for the development of the rest of the site, a place for us to stay when we are there working on the other buildings to follow, as well as storage. The complexities of freight to the Bahamas makes one prudent about storage.
  • It will provide us with a trial run of building these buildings using the first smaller one as a test before moving to the big building (Gathering House) hopefully curtailing potential problems. (yea, I am an INTJ).
  • It will allow us a finished model (of the rest of the bungalows) for photographing and creating the rest of the promotion material for the retreat as we move into the marketing phase. This will also help us with developing partnerships with other organizations and schools.
  • It will provide a little income as a vacation rental in the one season before the building of the big building ( which will go toward that building).

Our target was March to build, but now we set the date back to May or more probably December. June through November present possible weather challenges in the region (tropical storms, hurricanes).

Our Building fundraiser is set for ending in March. With your help we could meet our goal and be able to move forward.

mock up

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Post election we are back to the business of art, home, and mondo beyondo dreams. Although with a much more hopeful outlook of things to come.

yea.

Final design of artist bungalow mocked up on the land. Albeit it is faced the wrong way... the windows will of course, face the water. This first structure once it is built, will be our home base while we build the rest of this very big dream. The larger Gathering House will be next and then following that, two more artist bungalows connected at the roofline.

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the country speaks

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It wasn't too bad, just a two hour wait in a long line snaking its way through the halls of my neighborhood elementary school converted into a polling station. And two hours is nothing for the privilege. The fabulous part was the feeling in the air. Instead of a lot of grumbling impatient people that one might expect, there was a diverse collection of smiling faces, people chatting, and an over-abundance of courtesy.

I guess it takes a solemn civic duty to bring out the best in people.

Living near the nation's capital, my polling station features a wide diversity of people from the executive dude wearing suit and tie, to the beautiful lady behind me in full India, salwar dress, and everything in between both in age and ethnicity the scene is reminiscent of a rockwell painting. And Daniel in line behind me for his first time to vote was pretty cool too.

It is inspiring to see what patriotism and the privilege of voting seems to do to people. For one day we put aside the differences and consider what a gift it is to be able to be involved in actually shaping our collective future by finding our voice in that little box called the poll.

A little like Ebenezer finding redemption just in time for Christmas, the american spirit rises to the occasion that our fathers, mothers, fore-fathers, (and fore-mothers) faught and sometimes died for.

From free cab rides to your polling station, to free coffee from Starbucks for voting, the generosity takes center stage as people stop pushing and shoving and actually assist one another so that everyone gets a chance to have a say...

that is the nature of a true democracy.

I pray that it continues throughout the day, that as the polls begin to close and the numbers start to come in we will be reminded that as polarized as this country seems to be in our views of the issues, we can take a collective deep breath and recognize that we did it together.

And continue to be like no other country on earth.

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words we can forget

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After roughly two years of pundits, politics, and more recently, joe the plummer, these are just a few words that I hope we won't be hearing after today...

over and over and over and over...

some of these words have even lost their meaning or taken on a different meaning in the process of the repetition...

Liberal, conservative, left, right, left-wing, right-wing, far-right, far-left, left-of-left, left, left, left... ayers, liddy, wright, keating, maverick, polls, bulldog, lipstick, hockey-mom, terrorist, palling-around, socialism, bradley-effect, maverick, maverick, mavERICK, MAVERICK, M-A-V-E-R-I-C-K...

intellectual-elite, redneck, liberal-media, conservative-media, MEDIA, M-E-D-I-A...

anti-american, pro-american,

red-states, blue-states, leaning-states, toss-up states, electorate, popular-vote,

Joe-the- plumber, Joe-the- plumber, Joe-the- plumber, JOE-THE-P-L-U-M-B-E-R

PAC, POW, ACORN, lobby, lobby, loBBY, LOBBY...

pork, pork, pork, PORK!


of course we will probably be gaining a whole new vocabulary starting this time tomorrow.

slinging mud and the last mojito

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Sounds like a movie title. But no, it is just the state of our weekend, and the slinging mud isn't referring to the political kind (phew!).

no... it is the stucco kind.

After a very depressing weekend last week of covering and closing the pool for the winter it was just too cold and dreary for us to do what we had hoped to do and worked for all summer long.

Finishing that damn wall.

So we went into hibernation thinking that the time was lost until next spring. I have to admit being in a real funk all week, and feeling depressed about the change in weather thinking that the sunshine would never return and that winter was at our back door. Thankfully mother nature had other plans. What a gift. With two days of sun shiny weather in the sixties this weekend, Bryan and I set to work, him splitting blocks for the final pillar sections, and me with my hawk and trowel and four more bags of stucco mix.

We pushed until exhausted but managed to put the final points on that project. There will still be the refinishing of the metal fence sections and the cementing of the brick steps but other than that...

the wall is DONE.

And thanks to some great weather, a brilliant idea of Bryan's and the last of the mint from my garden we celebrated with the last mojito of the season.

perfect.

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the metal fence between the pillars is just stuck in place temporarily until we grind it and repaint it (next spring).

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the stucco done this weekend-the walls around the stairs

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a year and a half ago...

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From the other side...next spring's project...the patio.;-)

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five dollars at a time

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What can happen when you have the ability to mobilize a people for a cause that matters to them? Amazing things. I might have even accepted the invitation to drive to West Virginia this weekend to donate time and knock on doors except my early evangelical days reminded me that I really suck at that kind of thing. But I am continually impressed with the efficiency of the Obama machine that gets people off of their butts to volunteer. The creativity is relentless from giving away free tickets to the convention in trade for a few hours of time to the interactivity of their websites and prompting emails tailored to my interests. it isn't any wonder that "we the people" have paid attention. If the campaign is run this way, what possibilities open up if Obama ends up in the White House? I doubt it will involve unicorns and gold falling from the sky but I expect a lot of work will get done.

For those few folk that haven't donated yet here is the affidavit that you have to sign when sending your donation to the Obama campaign.

I am a United States citizen or a lawfully-admitted permanent resident.
I am at least 16 years old.
This contribution is not made from the general treasury funds of a corporation, labor organization or national bank.
This contribution is not made from the funds of a political action committee.
This contribution is not made from the treasury of an entity or person who is a federal contractor.
This contribution is not made from the funds of an individual registered as a federal lobbyist or a foreign agent, or an entity that is a federally registered lobbying firm or foreign agent.
The funds I am donating are not being provided to me by another person or entity for the purpose of making this contribution.

because he is like my husband

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Just a few days away from that sacred civic duty and I am putting some last thoughts together regarding the what and why I choose Obama.

I thought about the style in which I should do this. At first I thought I might compare the voting records of each candidate and cite them side by side, but it is so easy to get into a finger pointing match back and forth that can be unproductive. And when you start looking at what is added to each bill before a vote it makes you understand a little more of how and why one might not vote for something that would normally seem obvious. Its just not that simple. Suffice it to say, I prefer the choices that Obama has made more than McCain.

I also thought about dredging up all the unsavory and gossipy stories and conspiracy theories that have kept us entertained the last eighteen months, but why go there when it really isn't that productive. And haven't we had enough ugliness from those who would rather tear down than build up, cast shadows instead of dealing in the light?

So instead I choose to point out the qualities that I find valuable. Qualities that I think are necessary in bringing this country into the next part of history in ways that will impact not just us, and our children, but the rest of the world for the better. These are not in order of importance, but as a sum complete the measure of what I think Obama embodies.

Team leadership.
Anybody who has done any reading on leadership, either in the church or in business in the last few years knows that the world has experienced a seismic shift from a top down hyerarchy style leadership model to a laterally driven team model. Obama displays this quality in both the economic team he has surrounded himself with as well as how his campaign has functioned. In my opinion the last thing we need is a top down, roguish style leader, even when you give it a sexy brand name like "Maverick". We are a long way from a simplistic wild west where such a thing may have worked. Now we need someone who is willing to humble himself and take the advice of the best and brightest around him. And to be able to assemble that team in the first place.

Being able to inspire.
This is a rare quality that I think we need right now in our leader. This is a characteristic I have seen displayed in my husband during years of ministry and is clearly present in Barrack Obama. When someone has the ability to bring forth the best out of those around them, showing them that they can rise to the occasion and produce great things... well, that is an inspiring thing to watch. Not only does it leave those involved feeling empowered and valued, but it gets much more accomplished for the good. The ability to inspire and to lead in team is another plus for bringing the parties together. Alienating people at the onset by being a "maverick" just wont work.

Quick to listen, slow to anger.
I think this is so important for a leader that has to navigate issues in a post-modern world. Understanding that this time in history where modern thought has crossed into the post-modern is crucial in a host of issues, from knowing how in which to communicate to the next generation as well as knowing how to use language in diplomacy with unsavory leaders that might threaten our country.

He does not deal in absolutes.
Not dealing in absolutes may sound anti-christian. On the contrary, the example Jesus left us was speech and action highly nuanced in persuading each person he encountered. Face to face. So when it comes to making laws in this country that legislate morality I think there is more of a risk of destroying freedom in order to get people to behave a certain way. And history has shown us that it doesn't work. Think prohibition. Don't get me wrong, I am pro-life. But I find it encouraging that Obama comes at these issues from the standpoint that the work must be done in prevention and support and social justice rather than dealing with the absolute... an arguably easier road. Life and the world are multi-layered and complicated and it is very easy to take someone's choices away as a matter of principle until you are faced with that same difficult choice. It is the difference between law and grace, arrogance and humility. And dealing in absolutes so often closes doors instead of allowing progress to be made. Think of Jesus writing in the sand.

How he treats his wife.
This may seem a little weird in regards to the leader of the free world, but I think how a man treats his wife speaks to his integrity, humility, and the way he treats others. Again I see a man like my husband when I watch Obama. It might sound silly and it is in subtle ways that one sees it... following Michelle on to a stage rather than storming ahead of her. The respect that is shown her, the way they appear to be equals. In contrast, I have a really hard time with how McCain appears with his present wife and frankly the way he navigated the ins and outs of his marriages. I don't think being a pow gives anyone a free pass to infidelity. I could maybe even forgive a slip, but it is the abandonment of his first wife for his second that I just can't put aside. It speaks to the issue of trust, vanity, and greed. I don't think being opportunistic is a positive thing for a leader in the times we live in and in my opinion McCain tends to be opportunistic.

Understanding current technology.
This in part speaks to age, but not completely. I think a person of McCain's age could overcome this limitation if they so choose, but he has proven that he has not. We need someone who is well versed in a world of Facebook, YouTube, Google, and even the game Eve. Some of the most interesting economic, moral, diplomatic and social questions may be coming out of that global virtual game. It is a technology driven world and we need someone who can keep up and speaks the language.

Education.
This one speaks specifically to matters like the future of Supreme Court and those selections. Being Harvard law is a real plus for Obama in my mind. Knowing the nuances of our justice system will serve well here. And the fact that Michelle is similar in education is another plus. Two for the price of one. The differences in education of the two candidates(and where they ranked in their class) I think really matters. It speaks to intelligence, perserverance, and hard work.

Obama uniquely represents us in his heritage.
Walking in another person's shoes provides perspective that only experience can bring. Obama embodies many people (black, white, american, and international) and from different economic backgrounds. I think that makes him a greater asset in crossing international and racial divides (yes, with diplomacy). He can speak to many types of people and have true empathy. McCain's privilege puts him at a disadvantage in relating in these broad spectrums.Obama is a living example that what we call "the American Dream" can actually exist.

Judgement.
Walking the tightrope of who to pick as VP made Obama the winner in the judgement category in my mind. Balancing the ticket with Joe Biden, the most experienced of the presidential candidates in foreign policy showed wisdom on Obama's part. Again, willing to work in team with someone his senior and not be threatened or arrogant speaks volumes to me. They display an intelligent synergy that is lacking in the other campaign. In my opinion McCain's pick of Palin was another opportunistic move made for the politics of the moment, and now I think it has hurt him. I won't go into my opinion about her here but lets just say if I had been supporting McCain I would be one of those that would have switched my vote because of her.

Getting stuff done.
For all the commenting on Obama's "inexperience" he sure has accomplished a lot in a short period of time. On par when you compare the ratio of authoring bills, voting, being published, speaking(and we aren't talking about campaigning) the last two years of productivity of both candidates leaves McCain lacking. Maybe it is due to youth, exuberance, or something else... whatever IT is, we need it now more than ever from our leader.

Military vs non-military.
I know that our country is somewhat polarized when it comes to this issue, but I think it is for good reason. Passions are high when lives are lost. What we choose to do in this category speaks to generations to come. If we took an aboriginal approach of making decisions thinking "seven generations out", we might be a little more prudent. I feel that having a born-bred-and fed military man in the position of control will not be good for renewing our honor in the world. Again, a broader perspective of our allies, enemies, and those in between may help reshape and restore. Maybe putting hope over fear will make us wiser and more prudent.

Well, these are a few of my musings regarding why I choose Obama. He is like my husband in so many ways. Honesty, integrity, compassion, wisdom, patience, temperance, intelligence. I have chosen not to use words like left-wing, right-wing, liberal or conservative because frankly I don't think they apply anymore except to be used in an inflamatory slur. The candidates are who they are and do what they do...

From the day that Obama's cousin Kevin sat at my dining room table talking for two hours about home, faith, and how people might be better, I have been watching Obama (just like I promised, Kevin).

And now I plan to vote for him.

what she said

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A great article about inspiring the next generation written by the astronaut, Sally Ride and why she will vote for Obama...

Former astronaut Sally Ride in 1983 was the first American woman to travel in space. She is president and CEO of a science-education company, Sally Ride Science, and she is professor of physics emerita at the University of California, San Diego. She wrote this commentary for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read her article here.

interesting...yet another reason why

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psycho and the state of affairs

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Can you imagine my glee when after pouring over ideas of how to invigorate my stalling business, spending way too much brain power (and sleep loss) on how to explain my position as an Obama supporter to my family and anyone else who wanted to listen, and thinking way too hard about inconsequential things like how much pepper to put in the fettucini because my son's vegetarian girlfriend was staying for dinner, I sat down in front of the tv with a glass of chardonnay and discovered that Psycho was on tv.

the classic Hitchcock version.

and just coming from the Suzie Orman show- her explaining the whats and why's of where the economy is...

time to turn the brain into neutral...

or at least enjoy the craft of a creative genius like Hitchcock...

in blissful black and white.

Simple pleasures are the best.

and another

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one of the many reasons I choose

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the measure of a man: how he campaigns

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I have been a good girl in terms of ranting about the political candidates and their behaviors. I have held my tongue trusting that they will act like virtuous men and behave like we hope they will, showing what we think real american character is. Like so many, I have endured the slosh and slander that candidates are tempted to use to win in the last days.

But enough is enough.

Cutting taxes is not a socialist plot. In fact both candidates have tax policies that use the same principles (but to different classes).

Shame on you McCain for resorting to these tactics. If you had any honor won by your five years in a POW camp you have spent it all on the slander you propagate now and the slander that you encourage your vp to slosh with little care.

Our country is so much better than that.

I am proud that upon sending a letter to "my candidate", I could say, "continue with a clean campaign, we "the people" are watching, and are impressed with the fact that you haven't stooped into the fray.

A tax cut for rich people is conservative, but a tax cut for poor people is Socialist? Shame on you McCain for invoking the "S" word for those less than educated folk that can't tell the difference. The fear factor is the last, worst tactic and diminishes ones character. Especially after the forced bank funding that makes a successful bank like BOA accept funds to equalize it with lesser banks in order to stableize the economy. Essentially stalling a successful capitalist company. Yes, BOA wasn't given a choice by the government.

And you dare to use the "S" word now?

pleeeeeeez.

At one point I may have been on the fence. My family going way back has been hard core republican, but again and again when I see the low road taken by you McCain, I get a creepy feeling in my stomach (and frankly, past campaigns... the ends do not justify the means).

See, I am an idealist. I still believe in virtue. I still believe that one can be rewarded by acting in good character and using honesty and trust to communicate values in order for others to decide if you are worthy...

rather than resort to distortions, fear, and lies to send folk into a fearful frenzy.

The problem is that the past has shown that sometimes these sleezy tactics work to steer people away from fact. If one was to stoop... tit-for-tat...

well just the comparison of Gord Liddy to Bill Ayers...

and yet some people choose not to drag up that dirt to sully their opponent's past...

And frankly, it is the measure of that man that this country needs. Maybe daring to be a little bit above the fray and run a campaign on the issues rather than twisting your opponents' character. To be inclusive and inspirational and productive in your ways...

Thank you Colin Powell for your words about this issue. To call the "r" candidate on the carpet and call it despicable....

it truly is.

And I truly am thankful for someone finally mentioning that if Obama was a Muslim (which the first, knee-jerk reaction is to say... no, no, he is a Christian (which is true)), the other less spoken issue is that... if he was a Muslim... it should not be a problem in the great country of America supposedly founded on religious freedom...

Thank you Colin Powell for finally making that point that so many of us had rattling around in the back of our heads.

And not letting that question sit and stew for folk who don't think any further than their nose.

And having the distinguished (republican) Colin Powell indorse Obama after comparing his friend of so many years (McCain) with the newer offering (Obama) that Powell took the time to get to know and examine...

well it was refreshing to hear an experienced republican general say we need something new...

in Obama.

And he was more gracious than I right now in his rebuke of McCain's tactics.

A man who may soon take the highest office in this government (and the world) should take the higher ground and have a little self control, resist the temptation to stoop to such a low tactic as smearing your opponent with prosecutable slander. Absolute power does corrupt absolutely. Here is proof.

Shame on you McCain.

If I were on the fence before... I am not any more.

it doesn't pay to be stupid

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It would be hysterically funny if it isn't so frightening. When folk who have access to a microphone and apparently an audience that is willing to listen and trusts what they are listening too without a fact check. Of what do I speak?

The Right-Wing-Nut Bob Grant-Rant.

For crying out loud. You think that the man would have checked before making such an ass of himself. But that is the kind of political climate that is emerging right now. Passionate and mindless. Like a toddler wielding a loaded semi-automatic.

If you haven't heard the quote I offer it here for a laugh (or a cry). Grant commenting on Obama's stage as he made a speech in Toledo.

"[W]hat is that flag that Obama's been standing in front of that looks like an American flag, but instead of having the field of 50 stars representing the 50 states, there's a circle?" He then said: "Is the circle the 'O' for Obama? Is that what it is?" Grant later said: "[D]id you notice Obama is not content with just having several American flags, plain old American flags with the 50 states represented by 50 stars? He has the 'O' flag. And that's what that 'O' is. That's what that 'O' is. Just like he did with the plane he was using. He had the flag painted over, and the 'O' for Obama. Now, these are symptom -- these things are symptomatic of a person who would like to be a potentate -- a dictator." '

end quote.

The flag implied to be an "Obama dictator flag" was the Ohio State flag.

Sheesh. Where did this guy get his education?

Truly it does scare me how easy the slander seems to be put out there without conscience. It is unacceptable and irresponsible.

an enduring legacy; moms b-day in vegas

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Sitting in an airport always has the same effect on me. I get comtemplative. Today is no different as I wait for my flight back to my family with an hour layover in cincinnati after a wonderful week with my mom and sis. I even got a little weepy listening to the message my mom left on my cell after dropping me at the airport. It was so good to be with her.

It looks like it has become a tradition, this trip in october.

After the death of my stepdad last year, the traditional trip that he and my mom took to Las Vegas every year to celebrate her birthday morphed into the three of us girls having the time together. It is a time that I truly treasure even though I mourn what precipitated it.

My mom turned 81 this year but you would never know it with us girls trying to keep pace with her.

I don't know if it is her physical health or her bouyant personality that contributes to her energy, probably the latter for all the junk food she consumes. Upon arrival at her timeshare she unpacked a host of snacks and candy that left my sister and I shaking our heads and laughing. She is the only person I know that can polish off a bag of Doritos pairing it with White Zinfindel.

I think she will live forever for all the preservatives she consumes.

But as my sister Marta and I kid her about her poor dietary choices she just smiles as she offers us chocolate covered raisins and miniature milky ways...

I swear.

For a woman who has lost two children, had four miscarraiges, lost a brother and sister to cancer being caretaker to both, as well as caretaker to her own mother until her death, endured a phylandering first husband for 26 years and the dreadful and sudden loss of her beloved second husband who adored her, and whom she adored, she is an amazingly upbeat person.

But that is the fruit of a strong faith.

Spending time with her in vegas, sight-seeing, laughing, and yes...gambling (she loves those penny slots) was a blast but occasionally bitter sweet as she continued to talk about my stepdad in terms as if he was still here, refering to things as "this is how George and I do it", or "We always order this", and other such comments.

But it is all good.

He is still with us in a way. After the trip I heard her greet one of the many pictures of him in her apartment with...

"Hello sweety".

He continues to grace the place in all those pictures that she keeps, and through the large empty red leather chair that was his favorite.

He is truly missed.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Girls At Play

The week started out with a bang as the three of us landed in mom's timeshare just long enough to change our clothes, unpack endless junk food and then head out for a vegas evening. We managed a little lunch of salad and lobster ravioli (split three ways) at the Bellagio. Then playing a few slots (just for good measure), something I know I could not make a habit of, I admit there is a bit of fun to be had when you play a game that suddenly goes into a bonus round that pays off sixty bucks in a blink. In contrast it is not so fun when a machine promises to pay in "just one more spin" only to take that sixty bucks right back.

You win some and lose some.

But watching my mother take twenty dollars and play it for an entire day is a real hoot. A gift I apparently do not have. Not to mention she has an uncanny ability for winning even if it is in twenty cent increments. What fun it was sitting at a slot machine next to her while she coaxed and talked to the characters on the machine, teasing them into giving her a win by waving her hands over them, rubbing the screen and talking to them sweetly...

I swear they listened every time.

I especially liked watching this big guy sitting at a slot machine next to her who kept sending glances sideways (him losing) as she won bonus round after bonus round turning her twenty into a hundred confessing to me later that she didn't even know how that particular game worked.

an angel on her shoulder?

I think it is George.


Mom and Marta laughing in front of Bellagio fountain1vegas08.jpg

Mom taking the picture of me and Marta with her fingers over the lens.

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Me pointing out to mom that she had her fingers over the lens;-)

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The final picture of Marta and I. (without the fingers)

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phantom

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Last year we saw O, and this year would be Phantom. But it wouldn't be as smooth a day as I would have hoped. We had breakfast in the timeshare and chatted like schoolgirls until after three and then scrambled to get ready for the big night. I had experienced a brief panic the night before doing a double check of our reservations and seeing what I thought was the wrong date on the printout (meaning we had missed the show). I had arranged for the tickets and feared I had screwed up the date. So that night I phoned to confirm, talking to a real living person who took my confirmation number, my fears were put aside when she said..."You are all set for tomorrow night".

Phew.

So, after getting ready we walk to the spot where a town shuttle promises to make the rounds every eight minutes. The first bus being too full we wait for the second.

No bus.

Starting to get a little nervous as time gets short, all showing it in different ways (mom stepping off the curb looking for the bus threatening to get hit by oncoming traffic) we decide to opt for a taxi instead.

Good choice.

Lickety split we are in front of the Venetian where the Phantom is playing just in time to collect our tickets at will call.

Handing the printout of our confirmation to the clerk he takes it and ducks into a back room for a second only to emerge with...

"Are you aware these tickets were for last nights performance"?

My heart sank to my feet. Wanting everything to be perfect to celebrate Mom's b-day, this was a complete disaster. Apparently my panic the night before was justified, but why would they confirm it over the phone, I wondered.

Hoping for some way to salvage this...

"I called last night to confirm and the woman that I spoke to said it was tonight".

"Just a minute", and he disappeared back into the little room (at this point I am praying that someone is going to be nice, while still trying to figure out why they didn't tell us over the phone).

He comes back with, "We don't normally do this..." giving me a glimmer of hope that some concession would be made due to the miscommunication.

"Here are your options", He points to a seating chart of what is left. My heart still sinking but at least we are going to get in...

In my sweetest voice I can muster through my disappointment I say, "What would you suggest"?

Without skipping a beat he says, "Balcony".

"Great, thank you SO much" (in my mind I am a little confused because the balcony was what I originally wanted but it wasn't available when I ordered the tickets).

I am starting to feel a little relieved as he finishes by printing out the tickets.

"Here you are, I have put you in the Center Balcony, second row up, which is an upgrade of 30 dollars per ticket which I am not charging you."

God bless him.

Feeling very grateful and slightly stunned I take the tickets and thank him again. We are ushered to our seats overlooking the amazing set of the entire opera house with the stage and the big chandelier front and center.

The seats were amazing and better than what we had before.

The show was wonderful.

The little bit of stress was worth it.

not sure what to do with you

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Some of the sites included living statues. Mom was not quite sure what to do with this guy.

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A lion in the lions habitat in Ballys

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Encountering a blue man in the Venetian

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Trying my hand at a giant slot machine.

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Marta gives it a try.

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Last night Daniel commented to me that I had become more politically interested than before. Why? Good question. After thinking a bit I told him that I think it is because before I always sort of trusted "smarter people" to make the decisions. Now at my age, I am the "grown-up" and that smarter person, and that brings responsibility. And after enjoying the prosperity and then watching the country's economy tank over the last few years, along with our retirement fund evaporating yesterday with the 777 drop, I want my voice to be heard. Maybe its coming of age, maybe I don't like where this country has been and I an kicking myself for not being more informed the last election. Whatever it is it has turned this non-political artist into a political junky.

Here is a preliminary list of resources that I have been using to keep myself sane and hopefully clear headed while candidates run around like chickens with no heads, and media gorges themselves on feverish gossip, mud slinging and lies. I will try to add to this list as the clock counts down the next 40 days and do the "reading" not just the watching. My apologies for not creating the links just now...cut and paste will have to do.

• Keeping the facts straight on both sides of the fence, if you read nothing else between now and the election make it be factcheck.org. They did a great job of dissecting the last debate and pointing out the misleads and mistakes from both candidate :

http://www.factcheck.org

• Up to the minute political articles:

http://www.politico.com

• Keeping slander in the conservative media in check:

http://mediamatters.org

• Obama's voting record:

http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=9490

• McCain's voting record:

http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=53270

Votesmart.org also has all the campaign spending. Although Obama's is in a handy breakdown piechart compared to McCain's 177 page itemized list (making it hard to tell what was spent where at a glance) it is still a great resource.

• Who will actually raise taxes? Skip the rhetoric and do your own math. This is a great calculator that plugs in the candidates policies and your fiscal numbers and spits out the actual taxes you will be paying.

http://www.electiontaxes.com

And if you are interested in the top contributors of each candidate, lobbys and other interesting tidbits try opensecrets.org

• McCain's Top Contributors:
http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00006424

• Obama's Top Contributors:
http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?id=N00009638

• And some more dig deep type stuff on the Capital Eye. We like to think it is all principle and virtue but doesn't it all come down to money? This article was a sobering read..."Finance Sector Gave 51 Percent More to House Bailout Backers":

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2008/09/finance-sector-gave-50-percent.html

• Lots of fun widgets to be had there too:

• Oh and if you want to compare who sponsored, co-sponsored what bills (who was working and who wasn't) there is a handy search engine here:

http://thomas.loc.gov

or Govtrack.us gives lots of this info broken down in and easier read:

McCain's
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=300071

Obama's
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=400629

champagne and roses

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Yesterday was kinda important. Not so important in the scheme of world issues, campaigns and such, or even monumental wedding anniversaries. But we have found that celebrating even the lesser moments actually make the bigger moments possible. It could be the momentum created when small kindnesses accumulate to create big feelings. It could be the act of not forgetting and so allowing those moments to be consistent reminders of what is truly valuable. Call it romance or whatever.

My husband is very good at it.

Bryan came through the door with flowers and champagne last night. Later we went to our favorite sushi place for an elegant late dinner. All to celebrate a moment in time that looked awkward and funny and completely unlikely, but was the beginning of something no one could have predicted.

The moment was our first date.

It was twenty five years ago and we were a couple of geeky kids trying to find ourselves, our way, and our identities. Bryan was a music theory major and I was an art major who happened to play clarinet. We met in the university band.

Our first date was one of those college "bring a date" prom-like events and we went as friends.

Who knew?

It was a night filled with awkward moments and humor but what came out of that first night was a sense of something more, something special, some kind of connection. Looking back on the picture you have to laugh, but recognizing that it is in those fragile unpredictable moments that often hold the greatest possibilities.

Here's to the next 25 years my love.

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25 years ago, Sept 23, 1983.

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Approximately a year later in little tokyo (CA).

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Years later I painted this, the background beach symbolizing that first date.

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from glass to concrete

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This weekend was a little more progress on the outside. I managed a scratch coat of stucco on saturday making me unable to move on sunday. The repetitive motion apparently worked muscles that I don't normally use and so I felt the limitation on sunday. But it is satisfying to see this thing take shape. Bryan is on the home stretch with the upper portion of the wall. This is back breaking work as he has to split and shape each brick up here because they show from both sides. My hero.

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glass fusion is fun

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No Brokaw for Palin but we will do ET?

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No interview with Tom Brokaw, but ET (entertainment tonight) is on the McCain campaign plane?

There are no words.

How to leverage our lust for "entertainment".

sheesh.

I pray that the debates redeem us all.

above the law?

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Feeling a little itchy these days as I see a political climate primed for something akin to the Crusades (1096-1270) and the martyrdom and prideful self righteousness that made those at the helm feel justified to fight a religious war.

Are we becoming Medieval England?

When the honest transparency for justice gets traded for a smoke screen swiveling the focus onto what our democracy created to protect the people...

justice.

It is not something that should be taken lightly and is something that 232 years took to build. A fair and just system with checks and balances that bar those in powerful positions to fall into the temptation of compromise for the sake of gain...

of any kind, economical, social, or... political.

It is an old move really. Classic strategy. That one in which someone points a finger accusing someone of inpropriety in order to mask their own.

Jesus wrote in the sand as every man looked on, holding a stone ready to kill the woman caught in adultery. As Jesus continued to write (assumably their names) in the sand, one by one they dropped their stones and went away leaving the woman with no accusers. Because they were guilty. (The compassion of Jesus always took my breath away in this story.)

So when someone poised to take the most powerful position in the land (world) refuses to be scrutinized by their own justice system...

except it is a woman holding the stone.

You do the math.

playing in the mud

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Thanks to Bryan's new flex-time schedule that allows him every other friday off we have been enjoying more three day weekends than the average bear.

This weekend was true of this.

Making another run at our remodeling projects we tackled a few things both as a team and as individuals.

For example:

I am learning how to mortar brick.

and it is ugly.

But the truth is I am loving every minute. Even in the ninety degree, 80 percent humidity, mosquito fest that it has been, I had a ball mixing mortar and repairing some ugly and hard to solve corners of our old wall. Sometime soon I will stucco what I actually built today, but for now this was a great lesson. And as a team we managed to pour eight bags of concrete to cap the wall to neaten the jagged old brick that was left on the lower wall. This preceeds the stucco and the capping with the tumbled stone.

So while I was playing in mud Bryan was solving a roadblock. When we originally chose this particular interlocking wall product for our project it was because you could use it to build a retaining wall, and then a regular wall that you can look at from both sides. The product boasted that all you have to do is split the block along the handy dandy score line provided by the manufacturer.

yea right.

They also boasted that you could make this job even easier if you rented a handy dandy mechanical block splitter.

ok.

Problem: No one rents these things. The closest one we could find was six hours away.

So Bryan got creative and built his own. And although it still means splitting them by hand, the blocks split more reliably then they did just using the manufacturers score line and a chisel.

We are way past the half way mark on this project of three years, and like a horse to the barn, are feeling a short reach to blissful closure of this monumental task. I am truly hoping that we can actually be finished before the bulk of leaves start to fall and the season is officially changed.

Of course that is what I said last year;-)

Bryan with his "splitter"
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Blocks isn't the only thing that have gotten split. Check out the pants! These things will be shreds by the end of the season.

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Adding concrete to level the top of the brick wall. This will then be stuccoed
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Forms removed.

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I couldn't resist the opportunity to do a test with the fresh concrete. Since this was going to get covered over with stone why not experiment a little.

Texture test for patio design. String, burlap, bubble wrap, canvas, and leaves.

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Written back in April of this year along with "Today I am a Bourbon Democrat", and Today I will be a "No-Nothing"


Today I will be a Christian Socialist.

In the continued saga of making Blair a more informed citizen I tripped and fell over some fun (but kinda disturbing) facts in the evolution of our country's early quest for making our children more patriotic. I can't take full credit for the tripping, as the reference came from a workmate of Bryan's, but nonetheless sent me on an interesting rabbit trail.

And because I didn't know about this before just goes to show you that either the education I got was cruddy, or pollyannic...

or I am just a big dumb dumb.

But the visual person that I am really gets it when shown a picture, somehow making the two sides of my brain connect so that I might retain the information...

ask me in a year.

The topic is the pledge of allegiance.

Ok I knew about the whole "under god" debate, but I didn't know about the origins of the pledge, and the somewhat unfortunate evolution of its salute (being adopted by hitler).

But in reading about all of this it triggered a memory. I seemed to recall that at some point in school Daniel wouldn't do the pledge. I couldn't remember the details exactly so I asked him to refresh my memory.

It was kindergarten and he was five. Because of us moving from Canada to the US in the middle of the year he was thrust into school later in the year(his first year of school ever!) missing the first three months. Although I don't know if the other kids in his class were given an orientation on the pledge I know that he never got one. So when faced with being required to perform this seemingly strange ritual without anyone giving an explanation of "why they do it", he, for the sake of understanding, decided to test it.

He turned his back on the flag.

Now you have to understand that he was a bit of an abstract thinker even back then. These days if you have a conversation with him you may walk away feeling like you have been intellectually left in the dust, but by the age of three he was hardly talking and the few words he could say were garbled. At five in this new classroom setting where he was still trying to figure out what the rules were nothing made sense. As he tells it in his observation of the other kids, most of them looking various directions, hand on their hearts, picking their nose, fidgeting and doing what five year olds do, he couldn't put his finger on the purpose. Employing what he thought would be the process of elimination he turned around, in hopes to see what info he could glean from the reaction.

He got an answer. But not one that gave him any more information.

The teacher firmly grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around to face the flag.

His thoughts: "Well at least I know that I shouldn't face the wall."

But still no explanation for what seemed like cultic behavior.

And I can only imagine what the teacher's point of view had been. This kid just moved from Canada after all...

But it is intriguing to me that children employ judgement on an instinctual level, especially if something just seems wrong.

Today, as a culture we don't think much about the pledge or where it came from, just that we "should" do it and that it represents patriotism. Kinda like trick-or-treating being something fun for kids and forgetting that it originally sprang from a genuine pagan ritual.

In a nutshell (thank to Wiki) the pledge of allegance was written in 1892 by a Christian Socialist and Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy as part of a marketing campaign to sell subscriptions of a magazine called the Youth's Companion. That was it's birth. A bit like Santa's red suit persona being birthed by a popular Coca-Cola campaign.

The beauty of capitalism.

Not to say that I don't think the pledge may have developed into a useful tool to gently remind children what country they live in and are "pledging too". Except that children of certain faiths could not "pledge", having the action be in conflict by being idolatrous. That original intent modified by the later addition of the "under God" text which left out other certain religious groups in the great melting pot we call america.

Oh well.

But back to Daniel's reaction... being faced with having to participate in a ritual that seemed wrong even though everyone else was doing it...

he didn't.

He hadn't been indoctrinated yet. Didn't know the rules, the ropes, the expectations. If you would have asked him if he was american he would of said yes... and canadian (he's both).

Which is why when I hear people pass judgement on someone because they don't look a certain way, have the same rituals, don't wear a cross, or a flag pin, or a WWJD bracelet, I have trouble not passing judgement on them. I used to wear a cross until I got older and realized my faith ran deeper than the jewelry and that a conversation stopper hanging around my neck might not be what god intended. But that is just me.

The world has gotten smaller though and requires more nuanced communication because there is a greater need for understanding when your neighbor has a slightly different way of doing things, and he probably has a good reason based on the roots of his beliefs and a nice long conversation may bring greater understanding...

or maybe his reason is more superficial...

like that flag pin is really tacky.

While living in canada it was appropriate to wear a little plastic, fuzzy, red poppy pin to commemorate veteran's day for the common wealth.

and that pin is really tacky too. And they make a gillion of them every year and sell them like candy corn at halloween. But the donations made from those poppies fund veteran's services.

I don't know if our veterans get funding from the sale of flag pins (i haven't checked) but I do know when my father was given a vet pin while visiting the National WW2 Memorial it had a very familiar inscription on the back...

Made in China.

Maybe tomorrow I will be a Whig.


the original pledge of allegiance salute.

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ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Bellamy_salute_1.jpg

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ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Pledge_salue.jpg

saved by the glass

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Thanks to the encouragement of my husband and the hovering ghost of a past mondo beyondo list item left undone, I am taking two days for my artist date this week and playing with glass. Although my ultimate goal is to some day take a glass blowing glass, the class that I am taking is a great entry point and will be another great addition to exnihilo.

Glass fusing.

The real work is understanding the nature of each kind of glass and learning methods of cutting it which turned out to be a piece of cake for me. Composition is the next issue, and color sense, but those are already in my tool kit... the cutting was new. It was perfect in it was not difficult, but still inspiring.

Like having a new toy.

Cutting.
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Cutting exercise, (straight lines, curves, circles, etc.) Of course the first thing I wanted to do was smash the glass to get a more "organic" look. In quizzing the teacher about this she showed me how to cut it to look like it was smashed. Next time I think I will try to smash it (maybe when she isn't looking).

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Colored glass cut and positioned for the composition.

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Adding Frit. The gaps are filled with a glass sand of various colors. I had planned on using black but the teacher said it wouldn't look good and more specifically the black frit behaved strangely. She preferred red. (Hey, I am just here to learn) So I compromised and used red in one spot and then a more neutral yellow tone elsewhere. (its my project after all!)

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Ready for first firing. Tomorrow it will be put into a mold and fired again creating a little dish. What fun this is!

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sheep to the slaughter; cast your ballot

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Lately I have been really pondering the power of propaganda. Especially in light of the speed in which information (or mis-information) is available these days. As americans we think we have the luxury of believing that it is only other countries that exploit their citizens with slanted information to control the population.That may have been true once.

But that luxury is long gone.

And I think we need to be careful or we may end up not learning from the mistakes of other's past, and then be doomed to repeat it thinking we were impervious to such a thing. I would rather keep a good bead on my government than to end up like a pre-hitler germany.

That may be strong words but I have had a couple conversations of late that make me concerned that the american people (in all parties) are dumping their brains and are buying into mis-information served up by various media made available. I thought it was obvious that any thinking person understands that they can't believe everything they read, hear, or see. But maybe this isn't true for everyone. My age group is probably cynical enough from seasoned advertising saturation that when Pat Boone is advertising reverse mortgages we know that dear old Pat does not have a reverse mortgage himself and doesn't necessarily believe in them, but is just collecting a paycheck as an actor. It is an ad meant to sell a product.

I am jaded and that is a good thing.

I remember lecturing Daniel at a very young age about advertising, pointing out specific ads for toys and such that caught his fancy explaining the motives of the advertiser, the times of day aimed at target age groups, etc...and thus helping him to be wise about how to determine when you are being sold something that isn't really in your best interested.

But discerning advertising is easy.

What is not so easy is news. (or what we call the news)

What our parents once trusted as an unbiased delivery of the facts no longer exists in its pure form. Apparently it is too boring and as a collective voice we have chosen in its place a form of entertainment that we like to point at as our news.

Which wouldn't be a problem as long as we understood the game, and that it is actually not ALL news.

A recent conversation with a dear friend revealed this even further when he reiterated something he had heard from "the news" as if it was fact. This particular "fact" was extremely slanderous towards one of our presidential candidates. A few seconds on snopes.com revealed that it was bogus.

I wasn't surprised.

But what scares me... really scares me is that when something smells of slander or has a clear slant or is worded in a particular way to create guilt by association, people don't always check it for themselves...

they just believe it.

Granted, the checking is labor intensive because even sources that claim they have no bias may slant a tad (or a whole lot...how do you spell "fox".) Usually you can tell it from the language, but using multiple sources for double checking is probably the safest thing to do.

And that takes time. Time that most of us don't have. So we settle for the entertainment and miss the fact that mis-information is seeping into our souls and doing it in such a way that we barely notice.
(Pr 18:8 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.)

Is it any wonder that jesus equated gossip and slander to murder?

I think a telltale sign of this seeping mis-information is "talking points". Sitting in a restaurant and overhearing a heated discussion about the present campaign using only talking points to make a case made me even more concerned. Can't we have legitimate conversations about what each candidate has to offer, how they plan on delivering, instead of passing around gossipy emails camoflaged as fact (without citing the source or author's name) that actually came from some wing-nut blog?

(having said that please don't quote this person's opinion blog unless you site the source;-)

I have called these "political, hit and run" emails in the past and they still bug me. Most of these are designed to make a case that will either provoke the receiver, or reinforce the assumed same belief relationship of the sender. Neither one is productive. I usually try to take them lightly but I got one recently that forced me to send a reply asking the question, "Did you actually want a reply from me on this"? As in "do you really care what I think and want to open a dialogue?" The reply I got on that one was an implied "no".

Too much time is getting wasted in the deluge of heresy and even outright lies meant to steal our ability to make an intelligent choice. This makes me a little snippy, because I hate wasted time. And when faced with talking points I am left speechless because there is no conversational entry point.

So rather than walking around like pull-string dolls repeating what we have heard on talk television, let's have a conversation that deals with the stuff at a deeper level. Breaking down the issues in a detailed fashion, sincerely listening to one another's opinions, and checking and rechecking facts against the propaganda machine's slanderous spin might just give us the ability to cast a ballot that is worthy of the lives that paid for it.

rainy day activities; thanks hannah

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Today we shifted gears from our normal full bore mode of working on the bigger projects on our house (the wall) to some more indoor friendly activities thanks to being hammered by Hannah. Yes we are only experiencing her tail which makes me send up even more prayers for our friends smack in the path of Ike likely to land on top of them at a scary CAT 3 on our beloved island. Here at home her tail is bad enough as we experienced the rattle and crash of a tree coming down in our neighbor's yard and in ours. Thankfully not on top of either house!

So we are holed up inside. Inspite of the threatening weather I am somewhat grateful for the change. Yesterday Bryan and I finished (this time really) our bungalow designs for Exnihilo. Having several revisions inflicted on us by the builder to bring them up to CAT 4 code seemed almost ridiculous until today. Truly these prefabs are overly engineered but the company boasts having never lost a single structure in a hurricane, and they have them built in some of the worst hurricane areas (andrew, katrina, etc). So after going back and forth with the engineering department wanting to maintain a design with big windows and great views without sacrificing safety, we are finally done! Giving up on some original "non-negotiables" actually gave way to solving other problems that the designs were facing. Now our cute little bungalows will actually have a view of both coasts!(the island is only four miles wide and you can see the leeward and atlantic from our property.

But I have to admit it was a great exercise, because these little guys(bungalows) were supposed to be the easy part of the project. As we continue to poke at the larger building I can only imagine what changes we will have to accept when engineering gets a hold of HER!

Still, as I sit here listening to the rain pounding our roof I am ever so grateful for the frustration.

So there is more design to do today, plus hunting and cataloging new recipes for our menu. It is a cooking kinda day so I pulled out my breadmaker and made some whole wheat and a spicy vegi stew to go with it.

And as I wait for the bread to come out, my stomach growling, I pour through other recipes we have used in the past along with new ones appropriate for a tropical paradise.

Grilled Salmon on Gorgonzola Pear Salad

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Bryan and I spent labor day in total inspiration mode. We hauled ourselves down to Glen Echo Park to check out their yearly mega art show. Putting us in this kind of environment on a regular basis is so important because it is easy to forget about what inspires. With non-stop election buzz and hurricanes bearing down on our country and our beloved little island (our prayers are with you my friends, hang in there and stay safe!) it is easy to lose the vision and cocoon. I know I seem totally obsessed with our bahamas dream, and maybe that is what is necessary to get to the next stage, but truthfully it takes a lot of fuel for this fire.

So it is good to take in some external stimulation and going to where creativity happens is key. There is something that hangs in the air in a place like this. Seeing work in process seems to create an electric current that surrounds you.

Bryan and I walked around taking in the sites but were in full fact finding mode. We even discovered a workshop being held in the bahamas (a few islands over from ours) which was a great reminder and encourager that our idea isn't totally nutty, and if you build it they will come.

Me, taken by Bryan.

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Inspiring things...

tie dye good luck flag. I love this which again proves that I am a hippie at heart.
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pots in process...

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glass fusion...

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one of the gallery spaces at Glen Echo... specifically the student gallery. Bryan and I looked at all the great work and then started analyzing the space. I got a weird look from a couple of people as I pulled out my camera and began to shoot the ceiling. Every little bit helps when you are designing space, and we are still in the throws of the design of the big building which holds the gallery space. Having tangible references like this is really helpful. I am sure the folk there wondered what was wrong with us as we kept looking up instead of at the work. The didn't know we were counting ceiling tiles!

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Last weekend was all about friends, great food and inspiration that flows when creativity sparks creativity. Saturday Bryan roasted a chicken on our rotisserie while I made a salad for our new friend Angela who has been kind enough (and brave enough) to embark on a new project with me. We gathered for a brainstorming session after the food and after her gracious offer of giving me a private yoga session. Angela is a fabulous teacher and has a similar approach and spirit towards life. The evening was topped off with Bryan's lava cake and the impression that the meeting of the minds was a fruitful one. It is truly amazing to me what can happen in collaboration when all players are open to giving, learning, and willing to listen to their collective "gut". Good things to come from this. I will give more details and keep any interested reader posted once we get a little further into the project past the fragile state of conception.

Then sunday we were blessed with friends from Baltimore, Dan and Sue, and baby Rex. As you know this family doesn't entertain often, and when we do it is only the closest of friends or visiting family. The afternoon flew by in fun conversation spiced with Mojitos, a london broil topping a spinach gorganzola salad, and yes again...Bryan's lava cake. Daniel and his girlfriend Heather joined us too.

But we also did something a little different.

Five herb ice cream.

I know it sounds kinda like it has the potential for true ickyness, but I have to tell you this stuff is yummy. We (Bryan) bumped into the recipe years ago and we made it right then and never revisited it until now. With all my herbs at peak picking and the summer beginning to wane, it just made sense to give this another go. And it was fabulous. You use five herbs of your choice (and it can be anything) for the flavor.

This time we used Mint, Lavender, Basil, Rosemary, and Sage.

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cooking the herbs into the custard before straining and putting into the icecream maker.
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It is super easy to make and is a very refreshing and intriguing dessert. This little exercise launched me into another project...

The menu for Exnihilo.

Of course I think it is fitting that the first really confirmed "yes we must use this" recipe would be a dessert! Although I have been collecting bits and pieces here and there, this is the first one that landed in the big Exnihilo Proposal. ExPro is my giant scrivner document that acts as both a business plan and an ongoing repository for any ideas that are linked to the big dream. From food ideas to fundraising notions, to the hard core businessy type number stuff that one should have to make something this big fly. The Five Herb Ice Cream launched a whole new file... the Exnihilo Cook Book...Food for Inspiration ;-). I mentioned this to my husband as we were driving and he just laughed and then said...

"You don't stop", while lovingly shaking his head. Of course he was the one later that day(monday) to nearly force me to sign up for a glass fusion class because of the research value it would hold for...

you guessed it,

Exnihilo.

So we continually motivate and countermotivate one another ;-).

new article! perfection vs peace

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I have a new article published by Gifted for Leadership !


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old notions give way to new horizons

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It has been an interesting few months for me. I had to give up something. Something that I don't remember choosing, and don't remember signing my name too, but yet I held tight to. Something that I intellectually knew was not necessary, but my heart would not let go of.

A notion.

As a family we have been incredibly blessed. The culmination of our experiences have created the fabric of memory that I will gaze back on with great affection. We are healthy, we have everything we need and more. We have talents and gifts and interests that constantly give fuel and excitement to our days. We have been able to travel and enjoy leisure. We have a faith that has seen us through the extreme difficulty of having to redefine it and leave the institution we call church. The last few years have been unexpected.

But most of life is like that... unpredictable.

I haven't blogged about Daniel much of late because I was still navigating the notion. This notion was that there are certain formulas for a successful life. And it is funny because if I were to have this conversation with someone I would be the last one to subscribe to a "formula" of any kind. In fact I have always thought of myself as someone who rebels against them.

Except for this one thing.

This last spring when Daniel came home from MICA we came to the conclusion that he shouldn't go back. And that he would take a year off.

For some reason, the idea of him not going back to school right away was hard for me to adjust too. And the silly thing is in this time that we are living in, it really doesn't matter. School, I mean. Granted, my hope is that he ultimately finishes his degree, perhaps via UMD but the point is that my hope is no longer an expectation.

I am letting go of the notion.

Although the phrase, "There is more that one way to skin a cat" is ridiculous when you really think about it, the spirit of it applies to life, and is helping me dispel of my notion.

The notion that things have to be "a certain way".

I wonder how many hidden "notions" live inside our being waiting to be provoked by some little experience life throws at us that makes us wonder where that "notion" came from. But when exposed, what is revealed is something inflexible that needs to be made flexible.

Do you have a "notion" that you need to be rid of?

I am finding a new freedom in putting away some of these expectations. The best surprise is that they give way to new possibilities that you might not think of.

Daniel is doing great in his new way of life. He doesn't miss MICA, in fact when I asked him last(just because I had to keep taking the temperature) he replied without even a blink. No regrets. And as I sit here typing he is presently taking the train to his new job in downtown DC at a design firm that he is totally excited about.

Lessons of life have been happening exponentially since he left school, and we don't even have to pay for them;-)

Our life as a family as it is right now is unconventional to be sure. But I have always liked being unconventional. It keeps things interesting. I just have to remember to dump those "notions".

harvest; a training camp

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The grapes are kinda stemmy but that is mostly thanks to pilfering birds. Even after covering the plants with screens the buggers managed to get past them and feast on the best bunches. Note to self for next year...buy netting.

At any rate, this little experiment continues, as I picked, juiced and began a tiny batch of vino. The quantity is such that I will be lucky to get 5 bottles or ten splits, but I don't care. At this point it is the exercise that I am interested in. To be involved in the entire cycle has a sort of compelling charm. Yea, I admit it is sort of a crunchy granola, get-in-tune-with-the-earth kinda thang, but that's sort of the point. The fact that something takes so much time is a great reminder of the way of things outside an instant culture. And I am working on my skills as a gardner, hopefully to translate that to our bahamas project a few years from now. Everything seems to be feeding into it. Learning new recipes for cooking and feeding visiting artists to learning how to mortar a brick wall(last weekend's project), to growing herbs, and possibly bananas, coconut, and yes, even grapes. It is interesting how past experiences start to culminate, unfolding a bigger picture of what will be. Like the sum of your life. The pieces may look out of place when separate, but added up it looks like you were headed this way on purpose all along. Like you spent your life in training.

It all adds up, and it is all good;-)

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peace almost done

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Friday's painting gave way to what could be considered a finished piece. I couple of details I think I might hone still, but overall I feel pretty good about this one. It looks like this style may stick with me for a while. This one came from a deeper place in the soul. A lot like "formation" this one hit the canvas without planning prompting or preliminary sketching. It felt more comfortable if that makes any sense. It continues to be an interesting journey. And I have to admit being encouraged when Daniel told me he thought that it was my best piece so far. Something matured in this one. Cool that what I was feeling in my gut was actually validated by what he said.

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grapes!

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Well, I wasn't expecting these vines to fruit at all this year since I planted them last year, but apparently my relentless pruning and fussing over them paid off. I might even get a small batch of wine out of them if the birds don't keep eating them.

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project on sunday

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I finally got around to building this thing. I had cut the wood and stained it months ago and the pieces sat around waiting for today. Apparently not doing anything yesterday made the need to finish something even greater today. Of course I still need to finish staining the rest of the deck!!

deck trellis for wisteria

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bye bye becca

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Our special little restaurant will miss this special girl. A going away party was held after hours to say goodbye to Rebecca. After working and managing this place for two and a half years she is moving on to better things. More music and teaching and less serving wine to others. Funny how a little neighborhood haunt can become a hub of cheer, the people, like family.

The owner Walter with Micheal behind the bar, Luis and Ben, Bryan, Becca with champagne, Becca "86ed"

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frivolous but fun

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Weird saturday. Normally raring to go to launch into all projects outdoors Bryan and I instead were meant to stay inside. Although we put on our grubbies and headed outside, a few shovels worth of gravel and we looked at each other knowingly...

I guess after all the work we did last weekend, we needed some time off.

So we headed inside for a somewhat do-nothing day. Actually Bryan can never "do nothing", he just isn't that kind of guy, so he poked away at email issues on my laptop while I regressed back to a kindergarten state.

When I embark on any design ideas regarding remodeling or otherwise I tend to keep a folder of clippings of images and articles that inspire me. I did it for the rooms in our house, and the outside.

So of course I am going to do it with Exnihilo.

But one thing I have never done is put those clippings together in some fashion such as collage. I never took the time or felt the need. But I thought this exercise would be good to shake some things loose and more importantly, land on an exterior color for our buildings. It is a very big decision and I have to give that info to our builders asap. So, saturday I sprawled out on our living room floor with scissors and glue.

It felt a little silly, but also a little therapeutic.

Back to kindergarten...

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peace in process

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Artist date had me working on exnihilo stuff until later in the day when I finally picked up the brush. I am liking the movement in this piece so far.

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serious progress

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Shifting from show night to yardwork can make your head spin, especially if you don't get enough sleep, but we plunged in to saturday and sunday at full speed anyway. The weather was on our side as it was not as hot as before and Bryan and I mustered the strength to haul and set a ton of bricks.

Actually 2 tons of bricks...

Well, 4200 lbs to be exact. Each.

And that doesn't include all the gravel we shoveled and hauled as well.

Of course all that means is that upon getting up this morning neither one of us could move. It is like a crash course in body building. What is that creaking sound? Oh, it is my back.;-)


putting up the newly finished (old) handrail

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installing the drainpipe

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Believe it or not this isn't finished yet. We have two and a half more feet (up) to go on top of this. The design will change slightly as the rest will be a straight wall to be seen from both sides, not just a retaining wall. For visual interest we might just start that wall behind the existing one. Sometimes plans change as you go ;-) And then there is the lower, old existing wall that we (I) will be stucco-ing.

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bread crumbs of life

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Can't go back to sleep. The voices came really early this time. Five thirty I was awakened by what I could call "the replay". I think it is an introverted thing. If I have had a very people interactive day it tends to revisit me the next day in an involuntary playback. Every conversation of the past evening came flooding in at five-thirty. Brain engaged...won't shut up.

You think it could have at least had the courtesy of waiting a few more hours.

Oh well, it is what it is. And it isn't so bad when it was such a great night.

Although this evening wasn't publicized and no invitations were sent, there were still a few folk that came out and viewed the work. And the "magazine person" actually did show up and I actually did give an interview. And I actually had half a brain(thankfully). It was pretty cool to have someone take an interest in the work enough to want to write about it... questions about color choice, motivation, "when did you know you wanted to be an artist"?...things like that.

and then the kind interviewer said...

"Tell me about your artist retreat, Exnihilo, we would love to promote that in the magazine".

yes.yes.yes.yes.yesssssss.

This is the kind of moment I think of as a bread crumb. Not a scrap from the table kind, but the kind that lead you on a journey aka Hansel and Gretel. One activity in life might propel another and in this little sleeper of a gallery, a show in a humble frame shop has turned up more tiny steps forward.

And there was more. One woman in particular mentioned that she thought my work would be great in the Strathmore and gave me a name...

"Talk to Millie".

As well as complementing my work and graciously comparing it to early Georgia O'keefe.(my jaw dropped as she said it)

Meanwhile, Daniel was following his own bread crumb. The gallery owner, Ginger prompted him to go talk to another gallery owner down the street who had seen his painting and showed an interested in his work. So he and his girlfriend Heather headed down there for a bit to make an appearance. Another opportunity door opened just a crack.

You never know where they are going to come from but when they show up all you have to do is follow the trail...

one bread crumb at a time.

tonight!

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How many mothers get this experience!

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show held over for another month!

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I am happy to say that Mcgees Gallery decided to have my show run for another month which includes another art walk reception this friday night. I'd love to say it was because my work was so very popular that it attracted crowds of people but the truth is I think the gallery owner just didn't want to bother taking it down to hang a new show ;-). But I am fine with that as long as it keeps getting wall space!
Having said that I am thrilled(and freaked out) that Washington's Finest Magazine is doing an interview tomorrow night at the reception. Pray I have half a brain to be able to say something intelligent about the work.

And the other great thing is that in all of this we get to promote Exnihilo. All the pennies made from the sales of my work are being funneled into our pet project so we are going to be plugging it to anyone who is standing still and willing to listen. I also embarked upon redesigning our flyer to address those special individuals that would be patrons. It is a new concept for me that used to hold a sense of taboo around it. Not anymore. We will be calling on the help both physical and financial from anyone who has a heart for this kind of thing.

Hey, it cant hurt. We have the passion and creative resources. Maybe someone else out there can provide the cash. We will see...

But back to the show...
Daniel will be joining the reception this time to take questions about his work (he has one piece hanging along with mine), so it is kind of a mother and son show, which is cool. Anyway...anyone who is in the neighborhood between 6 and 9 friday night (aug 8) please feel free to stop by for a glass of wine and conversation.

ignore the dates on the card... reception Aug 8, 6-9

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closet hippie at return to forever

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What is it like to see artists who are truly giants in their craft perform live?

Awe inspiring.

That is what we experienced last night at the RTF (Return to Forever) concert. It is one thing to hear each of these guys on various recordings over the years. It is something altogether different seeing them live... together.

Chick Corea
Al Di Meola
Stanley Clarke
Lenny White

The effortlessness of their performance comes only from a well honed skill, but the child-like way in which they played with each other comes from truly loving what you do.

I bought tickets for Bryan's birthday back in June and we have been looking forward to the concert since then. It was inspiring, amazing, and of course historic as they have not played together on tour in over 25 years.

The other thing that struck us was the graciousness and humility displayed by the players. Both in speaking about one another, and in their actions toward the audience, shaking hands with those at the front of the stage.

I am finding more and more examples of folk who seem to exude humility when they have truly earned the right(if anyone does) to be arrogant. It seems that if you are at the top of your game there is nothing left to posture about!

Stunning.


Bryan and I on the lawn at the concert. I decided to wear my beloved silver sunglasses and tie-dye silk. Can you say, "closet hippie"?

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return to forever site:
http://www.return2forever.com/index.cfm

new work: valley of peace

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This one not quite done but a good start. I reverted back to acrylics for a point of reference and perspective on the two mediums. Had little intention of painting today but as Bryan left the house this morning after a goodbye kiss he smiled and asked..."painting today"?

Feeling so blessed to have this kind of encouragement from my favorite cheerleader, I cracked a few pages of Artist Way and was reminded again to "Just show up at the page". Or in my case, canvas. Having no plan but wanting to tap into what was underneath I hit a blank canvas with my pencil and what emerged was the concept of peace. Internal peace.

sketch

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underpainting

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without the grid

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grid in process

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monday night ritual: Adega

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We have a place that we go to every monday night. It is a little wine shop that serve great food, great wine but is really cheap and we have come to really love the people who gather and work there. It is like a modern Monmarte tucked into our town. If you live near Silver Spring I highly recommend it.

A good wine and some tasty, fresh food, a good desert and some great company...

what could be better than that to start your week.

ZAZIN pairs nicely with a burger.
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Here our friend and artist Luis exchanges a friendly banter with Rebecca, who works there. Rebecca also plays the viola. For some reason the place attracts artists, both working there and eating there. Tonight we chatted with Jared who is in theatre and ministry. We saw some of Ben's paintings via Luis. Both these guys are waiters. Another waiter, Michael who yells out the numbers of orders in a big booming voice was not there tonight...he is a photographer with work hanging in the restaurant. We have been such regulars there that the staff know us as "the andersons" and treat us like family. It is an interesting place.

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This weekend was sort of an odds and ends as we chip away at our great wall project. Someone might think us insane for taking on something so big.

And they would probably be right...
if it weren't for the empowerment that results in attempting something beyond yourself and actually accomplishing it...

or even just the attempt.

And for all of the blog entries over the last few years that look like a "what I did today" entry, there actually is some deeper life lessons here.

These are just a few things that are emerging in this experience. Spiritual, soul changing, character building stuff...

1. Something worthwhile takes time.
We are such a hurry up culture that everything around us from instant cereal to 24 hour news fosters an expectation for obtaining what you want right now without the payment of effort or time. We are an impatient generation. It amazes me that walking through the isles of an art store there are so many examples of "instant" creativity. Kits that take away the process(where the learning is) in order to "make" something that looks good and be able to say that you made it.

That makes me crazy.

The noble value of apprenticing or learning a craft or a skill has somehow been replaced with the idea that everyone can do everything. Which leads me to my next point...


2. Embracing the process is as important as seeking the finish line.
I like closure. I really do. But there is something very special that is gained when forced to live the process.

Wisdom.

There are insights, and knowledge found inside the process of any undertaking that are not found in the "instant". Sometimes we discover our limitations, but I think more often we discover what we CAN do and build character qualities along with skill. Things like patience and endurance.

3. Recognizing that failure isn't failure.
We all know the quotes from various folk, inventors and such that refer to failures or mistakes as steps toward success. And it is true. The problem is we like the quotes but we don't like to do the work. In this grand process we have had many of what I like to call "roadblocks". Someone might call them failures, but when they are added up and the dust clears the finished product will look like a success.

4. Nothing stays perfect/everything changes.
When you finish something you kind of want it to stay exactly the way you finished it(at least I do) but I have learned that reality has things ever moving, changing, sometimes degrading. The change in seasons for instance can do a number on something that was newly built last season, but without the changes you wouldn't be able to grow a garden. So being able to accept what doesn't stay perfect while enjoying and channeling the benefits of change is something I have recently taken to heart. An example is a Wisteria stalk that I stuck in the ground near our fence three years ago. Today I am training it to cascade across the front of our deck and into an arched arbor. I anticipate what it will look like next year when in its tree-like state, it finally blooms.

Patience.

As we move along with our projects, things that I longed to be finished to the point of frustration look more like opportunities for growth now. Setting aside some of my need for closure (notice I said "some") I have been able to live a little more in the moment and seek those benefits in the process, and maybe even feel good about them.

At least that is how I feel today ;-)

Here is Bryan grinding the old finish off of the metal handrail that we will put back in place to finish the wall. The entire fence goes around the pool and is probably fifty years old.

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afternoon visitor

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Had a visitor like this last year around this time. This time there were two, this one was eating out of one of my planters and then decided that my grape vines looked tasty so I stepped outside to make my presence known.

run, run, run.

There cute until they want to eat a prized crop.

then...

not so much.

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one brick at a time

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Painting day on friday shifted into project wall on saturday. The biggest roadblock was the heat measuring in at 94 degrees. This slowed us down a bit but we still made some headway and had fun jumping in the pool to cool off.

You think we will ever get it done?

One thing that I am really pleased about is that the juniper that I planted last year after succumbing to the Costco Dilemma not only lived but doubled in size. Next year they should fill in the wall nicely and maybe even creep over the sides.

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what the hell is that?

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Well, I let the muse loose but she must have been dropping acid.

Or regressing to cave painting, or faux painting, or a combination...

faux-cave painting?

Truthfully I am still exploring the behavior of water soluable oils and today ended up being a series of experiments landing on the canvas. It is a funky medium. You can treat it like watercolor (which I am not that big a fan of) or you can paint like it is oil. One thing I don't like about the water color-like behavior is that you can fall into using "techniques" that lack control but can give you a neat "effect". Like with faux painting (which I never followed the directions for anyway). Somehow I think less of this in a painting than being in full control of the paint.

Yea, I am a control freak.

But... if I was practiced enough then maybe it wouldn't feel like It was a technique.

Anyway, I learned a lot. One thing I am not sure about is what to do with the paintings that I consider practice studies.

Here is "Woman"
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"Woman" detail.

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I woke this morning with the intention of honoring the artist date and stroke the muse and tend to my creative soul. Even though there is work of various kind and the thought of it dares to leave a threatening track through my brain causing distraction from what is truly necessary.

art.

I have resumed a winning schedule of balance that helps bring forth the muse. That being yoga, eating breakfast (yea it does make a difference, at least for me) and compartmentalizing tasks that can encroach if you let them. Truthfully the world and all its needs will always press, so it is up to the individual to make the space to allow amazing things to happen. It is important space and must be protected and nurtured.

Sometimes this space is where you find your truest self.

Remove the noise and the endless static, present your body as it is, a vessel that holds endless possibilities and light shines in.

At this stage in my life I can read what strikes the chords my heart better than before, but recognizing what thrills is not enough if there is no follow through. In fact, for a creative person the place right after inspiration can be the most fragile. In between inspiration and execution is where so many get lost. And a practiced soul may make it through the execution but then feel the depth of depletion on the other side.

Sometimes I fear that part.

After accomplishing a work you can feel as if a piece of you has broken off and blown away into the wind. It can be a painfully hollow place.

But there is potential for elation too and when you have poured out yourself into your art sometimes it pours something back.

Unravelling these things can be a challenge. Discovering the longings of your heart is first. But it is a romantic notion to think that it stops there. The true rewards come from following that longing to its fruition, pouring out the price brings something wonderful.

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A ceramics installation at Artomatic. Hundreds of corkscrew-like shards attached to a white wall.

I had an interesting revelation looking at a series of pics I took at this installation. The craft makes me very happy. In fact that day, viewing the whole ceramics installation turned me on more that viewing the painted works.

Hmm...

Although my journey at this point involves painting primarily, it is harder, requires me to dig deeper, and exacts a greater emotional price than other creative work that I have done. The craft, working with my hands, whether with metal or clay holds a certain kind of ease. I am not sure if it is because it is a practiced skill and therefore flows more easily or if the content of a sculptural work (for me) leaves me less vulnerable.

not sure... just thinking it through.

A few days ago I inquired about a class at a local glass studio.

Again... the craft.

turns me on.

But today...

a blank canvas stares at me from the easel. Time to have a conversation with it.

a few more bricks

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Today Bryan and I were still in serious rest mode, but the wall continued to taunt us as this project only moves forward on the weekends and Bryan's days off. Mustering a little energy in spite of the ninety degree heat, Bryan decided to lay a few more bricks.

Notice I said, Bryan.

I was not much help managing only to tote a couple bricks from one side of the yard to the other and hauling a little gravel and sand. No, I spent the time sprawled on our purple floaty in the pool.(and I am so grateful that no one snapped a picture of THAT.)

It was just too hot, and I was still too tired.

But the heroic Bryan made great strides with the base coarse. It really is the hardest, and most tedious part(aside from the initial excavation last year).

At the end of the row.

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Leveling, leveling, leveling, leveling...

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last night at mcgees gallery

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It is saturday morning, the morning after last night's reception and I sip my coffee while replaying the tapes in my mind of last nights conversations.

It was a great night.

There was a great turnout of folk to this funky little gallery on Bethesda's Art Walk. In fact the evening was a bit of a blur. Once people started to arrive there was really no lull.

Perfect.

And the best part was that people really "got" the work.

Feeling a little strange about hanging some of the older work this time ("girl in a box" and "seeds") I wanted the contrast of the attitude to be seen. People really seemed to respond to the symbolism of the work, and the contrast from "girl in a box" to "dancing in thin places" helped that big picture process.

So, this morning I am uber-tired having over extended my introverted self with three plus solid hours of chatting with folk about the work and doing it in heels none-the-less. It is still a little surreal thinking about those who approached me, hand outstretched, saying...

"You are the artist?"

Yes (weird). I felt like looking over my shoulder to search for the individual that they must be referring to.

Oh yea... its me.

The last show's reception was attended by people that I knew so this was a bit of a different experience being received by strangers. It was wonderful to listen to the reactions of folk and hear the personal interpretations. It was also interesting being questioned about how the work came about, what inspired me, whether I dreamed the work first, the process, and so on.

The first to arrive was a very elderly woman wearing a funny hat who walked in and went straight for the wine...

hmm...

but as I watched her regard the work I approached her to see if she had any questions...

She looked in my eyes and started to speak of the spiritual nature of the work, how it inspired and how things weren't always as they seem...

Wow. so true.

Later, when the room had filled with other viewers she warmly shook my hand and thanked me for my work.

Before I knew it it was after nine and there were still people chatting and sipping wine. Bryan and I hadn't had dinner so we excused ourselves to go get a bite.

The work will hang at Mcgees for a month.

me in front of "girl in a box". Mcgees brightly painted walls, unconventional by most gallery standards were the perfect backdrop for my work.

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coming up this friday night

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a long way from home

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Today I feel as if I am displaced. I feel like I am a long long way from home, which can be a positive thing if it is a way to track if you are moving in the right direction. If you long for the destination you must be going the right way. But tending to the journey has always been something that I have had to work at. I have been very intentional about this through our family life, intentional about our travel, making memories, being present. Looking back I am pleased with what has been, what was accomplished, and where it has taken us. Discernment and following.

But today I feel displaced in a way that can either bring discontent, or be channeled into something more productive. Time to recalibrate. When things seem like they are in front of me too much instead of me infront of them I get a little uncomfortable. A reactive state as opposed to a proactive state just feels yucky to this INTJ. Sometimes it comes from things that are just out of my control, and sometimes it comes as a result of procrastinating one thing to accomplish another, or just because I don't want to do it... today.

Ever get that way?

Employing some reflection and a little bit of focus and things should come clear. Truthfully the target is in sight, but it is a pretty big target and the journey is not a straight line, in fact some of the road I can not see yet.

Discernment and following.

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what to do with the fourth

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Our fourth weekend didn't look very patriotic. Part of the lack of fourth-like activity was due to the fact that last weekend we sort of covered it with Mike and Laurelle and the kids. After they left on tuesday morning (july 1st) I went back to bed and didn't get up until six that evening (its an introvert thang). So when this weekend rolled around neither Bryan or I were in a mood to do anything festival-ish. So we stayed home and worked on two projects.

Exnihilo designs, more specifically, the main building.

and...

the wall.

Exactly one year ago we were attacking that project and ran out of stone. The last few weeks the new stone has been sitting in our front yard begging to be placed. Between weather and lack of motivation it was really hard to get back onto this project, but Sunday we managed to get the wheels rolling again.

Yea we are crazy, i'll admit it. But we sure have fun.

Working in sketchup on the Exnihilo main building.

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The beginnings of the second wall.

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kissed by the sun, done?

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I think it is done (which probably means it's not). It is my first real attempt at using oils which take a painfully long time to dry. After using acrylics I like the versatility of oils to a point, until I want it to be dry and then I lose patience. But here is Kissed By the Sun. I am clearly longing for our little island as this one sort of sprang on me in a moment of discontent. Depicting peace when in conflict is interesting. I guess the canvas was the answer to the question broiling in my soul. Some new elements I am playing with like a not-so-tight approach and some textures that add some life I think. My woman is dancing on the beach, the spirit of peace resting in her hand from the other side.

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Visitors from the north

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A rare occasion this weekend was having Bryan's sister Laurelle, her husband Mike, and their two kids, Jayden and Heidi come for a visit. What a fun time. Not only did we cram a trip to DC, Baltimore, and Six Flags, a ballgame and a movie into four days but our swimming pool has never seen so much action. And then there were the chess lessons for Jayden with Bryan and Daniel teaching, and the "High School Musical" lessons with Heidi teaching. (Heidi is only four but despite her limited size and age she is a fashionista through and through and does a mean Sharpe Evens impression.)


Chess lessons.

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getting on the metro. Notice big brother's protective grip on little sister who kept wanting to step over the line.

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At the Washington Monument Heidi on Mike's shoulders.

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Time in the pool.

Jayden pulling Heidi around in the floaty. Heidi willing to model a bathing suit (she had several) but not wanting to get her hair wet!

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Everyone in pool. Bryan showing Jayden how to put on the snorkel.

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Jayden snorkeling like a pro.

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What do you do when you haven't seen a friend in years and they just happen to be passing through town?

Meet for coffee to catch up on old times maybe? Go for dinner or a quick bite?

Normally the answer would be yes...

Unless that friend is a heavy metal rock star, Nicko McBrain, in which case you get back stage passes to have that coffee...

or in this case tea (Nicko being a good brit).

After a few days of calls and emails of "let's get together", yesterday Bryan woke up to an email that stated there would be passes at the gate for us and a friend that night.

Hey, when you are on tour there is only so much time to go around. Very gracious on Nicko's part, there isn't a sweeter man(at least in the heavy metal industry;-). And even though I am not a metal head, a concert would be fun but the best part would be to see Nicko again.

So our family and our friend Jeff (who is a maiden fan) headed toward Merriweather Post for the"Somewhere Back in Time" tour of Iron Maiden.

After the quasi-strip-search security check we collected our passes. I have to admit feeling somewhat guilty and undeserving. So many metal fans would give an arm and a leg for what I was about to put around my neck... the v.i.p tag. The venue was filled with the faithful followers of this band from the last several decades, and I felt like a somewhat privileged imposter. I hadn't earned this tag from years of collecting Maiden albums or hours listening to Maiden lyrics (I couldn't sing a single phrase). I hadn't worshiped at the alter of Eddie, the mummified mascot of the band. No, I got to wear this tag which allowed me into that hallowed ground (back stage) because my husband discipled the drummer.

Yea, weird I know. Any metal fans reading this just had their heads explode.

So we know Nicko in a very different way, a friend and brother in christ.

If you are confused you have a right to be. These are the weird twists and turns in one's journey that reminds you that god has a sense of humor and loves to be ironic. The back story in a nutshell...

Bryan was working as what we use to call "programming director" which was the equivalent of music director and leader of creative teams while planning services...etc, etc... for a large church in florida. One sunday his friend Adam(pic below) and member of the praise team spots this guy in the congregation and points him out to Bryan who then for some reason is prompted to catch him after the service and talk to him. The guy is searching. A dialogue ensues that becomes a discipleship relationship and friendship. Some great soul searching times. In a nutshell it is one of those cool god stories. Nicko even played on the praise team once in awhile (when he wasn't on tour). We had the honor of standing up for Rebecca and him at the renewing of their vows... spiritual stuff...normal life stuff...ministry stuff...

not rock star stuff...

Fast forward to the present...

the pass

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So now as I look down at this v.i.p tag I marvel at how bizarre life can be. We entered the room that is the "back stage" where food is laid out for the band, looking for Nicko only to get ushered out by one of the band's guard dogs a minute later waved back in by a smiling Nicko...

"Come in, come in... do you want something to eat?" (in that cool british accent) Kissing me on the cheek and giving Bryan and Daniel hugs along with a welcome and a handshake to our friend Jeff. He is wearing colorful and comfy scrub pants and a t-shirt with a cute cartoon character playing golf that says, "life is good".

Nicko loves to golf.

He ushers us in and points out the beverages, "tea?", I grab a cup and he drops a "proper english tea bag" into it, all the while chatting about this and that, lamb and yorkshire pudding was his dinner, "thank you Lord" (it is a favorite, again, being a good brit). We sit down and catch up on the status of friends, his wife and son, and so on. He talks about getting "clobbered" by a golfball that someone "shanked" without yelling four. Admitting that he had to stop and pray so not to get aggressive with the offender, "It was just an accident after all", while his injured wrist begins to swell from the indent of the golf ball. He laughs with that big smile continuing with the story of how he had a show that very night and his wrist wouldn't bend. "I had to adapt a little," showing us the awkward way in which he had to hold his drumstick to play. Smiling and shrugging like it was no big deal... from one of the best rock drummers in the world.

Conversation continues as he pulls out a tissue, apologizing that he has a sniffle all the while as jovial as a boy. He laughs and jokes with Bryan and Daniel bringing up some memories of when Daniel was twelve...

good memory.

We talk of other spiritual things but time is too short...

And then there is someone that needs an interview and although he seem reluctant to he cheerfully tells the guy to give him a few minutes more. We start to say our goodbyes and I snap a quick picture.

He has to be tired and feeling under the weather, or at the very least pre-occupied with having to be on stage in just a few minutes...

but you would never know it. A beautiful soul as unpretentious and gracious as can be.


daniel, nicko, and bryan

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As we walk into the venue and take our seats I can't help but analyze the subculture that surrounds us. Since I am not really a "fan" I sort of sit outside of the experience. Like anyone that is passionate about their thing whether it is a sports team, or another collective event, these people are clearly excited about what is about to happen. Some have flown from other countries to be here, and I am again feeling a little undeserving of the seats Nicko so graciously gave us. After all we came to chat with Nicko, not really see the concert. It is interesting to see some that are here to relive a moment that captured them two decades ago, and others who are new to the "maiden family" too young to have been around at the beginning of the band, but love the music now. We watch as Eddie, the larger than life ghoulish mascot traipse through history via the various album covers from british soldier to pharaoh. As the sets change and the band takes on their rocker poses as they play, I have to laugh at them pursing their lips like super-models...

the fans love it.

Clearly the band does too. They are not only great musicians but the genuinely love what they are doing, and are so in sinc with each other that it is obvious that they have been together for years. What little you can see of Nicko behind the drums is nothing but a blur, except when he pops up from behind with that big smile.

I remember years ago when Bryan and he were meeting to discuss all things spiritual. Being a new believer there was some discussion about the life of a heavy metal rock star possibly coming into conflict with being a follower of Jesus. What does it mean to be transformed? Some might be quickly and self-righteously offended by the ghoulish image of "eddie". To my husband's credit, he was not and instead encouraged Nicko to be the "salt and light" within "the world" that he lived in, rather than to quit, an arguably easier road.

What does it mean to be a witness? What does it mean to speak the language of the culture?

Nicko is not shy about his Christian-ness, and if any fan were to ask they might get an earful.

Let those who have ears let them hear.

And as for what to do with Edward the Head, I remember Nicko saying years ago in that accent of his...

"It's all in good fun, you know, big Eddie the head".


our friend jeff, daniel, bryan and me sitting in row "k"

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nicko sits very low behind the set. you can just see his leg back there playing the kick drum barefoot. the little stuffed eddie the pharaoh bear perched on the kick drum.

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nicko standing behind his drums

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the band pursing their lips under a large Eddie the Head dressed as a british soldier with flag.

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the crowd

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lead singer with golden eddie sarcophagus

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nicko throwing his drumsticks to a hopeful crowd

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And I had to go rummaging for some older photos... blasts from the past...
in Jan 2004, bryan, adam young, and nicko
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back in 2000, the krives, the andersons, and the mcbrains.

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summer herbs

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Herb harvest this year has been great so far. Pesto from the basil last week and cilantro for fresh salsa this weekend (great recipe, Sis), and mint for Mojitos!

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Taking a lunch break from yard work with some tasty grilled chicken sausage and mojitos with mint from the garden.

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Feverfew flowers being prepared for tincture.

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inside layout

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revised artist bungalows

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Ok they won't be grey with a red roof, but this is what the structures will be shaped like. The inside has a kitchenette, bath, and a bedroom area that is on a raised platform. The second story bungalow has an additional loft.

Bryan and I worked on the larger building design last weekend, but barely managed to get the kitchen designed. The larger building is a bit of a brain buster. And although the idea of having a round building is intriguing, it is a pain to design with.

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baby grapes

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gardener's best friend

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Spending the last few days outside in the heat makes me appreciate the life cycle of my garden even more. Spring launched into summer without much warning and my plants took off without my permission. But it is all good, as nature has its rhythm with or without you. Here is a ladybug doing its good work on my feverfew that I harvested for a tincture. Among other lessons this year like learning to grow grapes I am experimenting with the more medicinal uses for herbs. Another useful tool when stranded on an island years from now.

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and on the mint

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kissed by the sun

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I started this last friday and immediately hated it for its colors clashed in the beginning. But the content spoke to me that day so I continued with the experiment. Being a strange week of schedule hiccups and after yesterday's lack of success, I opted to paint today and made peace with some of the colors in the new scheme. I am also working with water soluble oils for the first time, which behave differently than acrylics but I am liking what they bring, although it is an adjustment.

It is good to be painting again.

And clearly thin places is going to be with me for a while. This piece comes from a need to be back on the island where life is simpler and you are surrounded by natural beauty.

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A conference in downtown DC for Bryan sent the three of us downtown to go our various directions to then meet back for an art exhibit of our friend Luis Scotti at the Embassy of Uruguay.

Yea, it is kinda weird living in DC.

While Bryan went to his conference, Daniel and I tucked into a wifi cafe to do a little work... him prepping for a big job interview, me prepping for a cold call on a cultural center and financial institution that has a reputation for funding cultural and environmental projects in latin america and the caribbean. Collecting my promo material for Exnihilo I left Daniel at the cafe while I set out to walk the eight plus blocks to where I thought this place was. Although always directionally challenged when driving, I am much more comfortable finding my way when on foot holding a map. And I didn't have too much trouble finding this place.

I started in the "gallery" that hosts different displays of art and various projects that this institution funds. Hoping I might bump into someone with some insider info I struck out with only a lone security guard staring blankly at the wall.

I asked him anyway.

He directed me to the building next door.

What I was hoping for was a pleasant receptionist who would have all the answers whisking me into the right office with a smiling individual with drawers full of cash just begging for a project like ours to throw money at.

Ok, I admit I come from a Disney generation.

What I got was giant doors I could barely open with all my weight and once I got them open was greeted with a daunting security check point, a tower of elevators on the other side and a maze of departments of untold numbers that went up, and up and up.

This wasn't a place you could just saunter into. It was clear you needed to know where you were going and who you were going to speak to.

I had neither of those.

And the security guard at the door must have thought as much when he noticed me stuck two feet inside the door looking up with my mouth hanging open. He approached me and asked me where I would like to go.

"Cultural and Environmental Grants?", I choked. Giving me a very confused look he ushered me over to a counter with a number of other security people who may know more, and I repeated me request. Since I had no name of an individual they eyed me with suspicion, but one friendly lady wrote a number on a piece of paper and pointed to a lonely telephone over on the wall.

Feeling like I had just been exposed as some sort of impostor I walked over, sheepishly picked up the phone, dialed, and hoped for an angel at the other end.

I got voice mail.

I left a polite message with my number and hung up.

Who was I kidding.

Thanking the guard for his help I decided that maybe numerous phone calls and letters might bring more realistic results than a cold call.

I left.

Even though I had done copious amounts of research online, I apparently needed to do a little more, so I headed back to the cafe.

Eight blocks later I had blisters on the bottoms of my feet (picked the wrong shoes) and realized that my purse was gone.

Ok, the day wasn't going so good.

While checking my previous seat at the cafe while letting Daniel know of my situation a kind stranger overhearing my dismay let me know that my purse was hiding behind the counter.

Phew.

Ok... nothing major gained today, but at least nothing was lost.

Later we met up with Bryan to go to Luis's show. In spite of being the only non-spanish speaking people at the event, we were warmly welcomed by Luis and enjoyed a little wine from Uruguay while viewing his collection of hand printed works.

A great reminder that blisters and roadblocks are worth enduring.


Luis Scotti's work at the Embassy of Uruguay

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Daniel viewing some of Luis's work.

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more sketchup

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Thankfully we got the skylight in last weekend because this weekend there was rain and more rain. So we stayed indoors working on our bahamas dream. After signing the contracts on the 19th I received a daunting packet of info along with the tentative timeline for our building. This included dates for funds required and deadlines for every little thing.

Including our preliminary sketches.

Now I am the time nazi in our house and so seeing dates in print (especially with check boxes next to them!) either totally motivates me or scares me to death. So the sheet from our building supplier did a little of both. A single phone call to our "project manager" put me at ease as although the timelines are helpful they are not written in blood...

still...

someone wrote them down and put neat little check boxes next to them.

And one of those boxes was dated june 4th. Our deadline for sketches.

So with the rain being the best justification for staying in we did a final design of our artist habitats. You'd think that with all the time we'd spent so far they would be done, but we realized that when we took our first design and made it a two-story we forgot that it would need a support pole on the lower floor. So our new design divides up the space, adds multiple levels and a kitchen. The overall layout works pretty well.

But it took us all weekend to finish the "easy one". Because the big building with the gallery, dining area, kitchen, and our living quarters is a whole lot more complex, it will take some real thought. Even though we have the general layout, we had that with the little buildings and it still took us all weekend.

One incremental step at a time.

goodbye may, a month of choices

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May was a busy month with lots of changes. One of the biggest and hardest was the decision for Daniel to not just come home for the summer, but leave MICA altogether. I imagine that the adjustment of living in a dorm/apt situation to coming home to your old room is not the easiest thing in the world. And for Bryan and I it meant adjusting back to being a little more parental and acting less like teenagers and remaining fully clothed when in parts of the house other than our bedroom. Adjustments are being made but there are perks on both sides too. Daniel gets his laundry done and home cooked meals and we get an extra pair of hands on our projects as well as great dinner conversation. He has found work as a design contractor and for the time being it seems to be the right thing.

Another change is Bryan going back to UMD. After much luring they enticed him back with a better paycheck and vacation time that can't be beat (can you say four weeks?). They also have this very sweet program that he plans on taking advantage of... working 9 hour days and take every other friday off. Just the cost of gas we will save will be an added perk. His commute is shorter and frankly will make it possible for me to have the car some days which will be good. He officially starts back next week.

I continue to chisel away at the incremental things that move us toward turquoise waters. We ordered our first buildings for Exnihilo, initializing the design process. It was a small thing that represents big things. And I have another show coming up which will keep me painting... that's a good thing.

All these things represent the act of choosing which is sometimes really hard. Often times when faced with a choice that promises change(therefore discomfort) it is tempting to let things lie and not pull the trigger enabling the change. But for what discomfort there is, there also will be rewards.

Or at the very least, it keeps life interesting.

project skylight

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Finally removed what we affectionately called the "beam me up scotty" sky tube that was cracked the day we bought the house and further damaged by the tree trimmers last year who patched it with duct tape. This season brought some rain that found its way through the tape and onto my hand-tiled bathroom sink making the grout crumble. So it was time to fix the initial problem and replace the skylight. So another project tackled on memorial day weekend. Multiple levels of frustration especially when Anderson Window's tech support couldn't even back up their own instructions.

Hey, instructions are over-rated anyway.

So here is Bryan up on the roof cutting a new hole for the window. Notice our roof... a cedar tongue and grove(yes that is all there is to it). Our Element looking antlike in the driveway down below.

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Me measuring the felt.
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Bryan with the caulking gun filled with tar.

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exnihilo second phase: continued

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A major step today. Scary, exciting, and somewhat insane. Signed a contract to get the wheels rolling on our first and second structure for Exnihilo. Entering into a contract with anyone always makes me a little paranoid but the company we are working with are making the process so easy that I am actually looking forward to it instead of dreading all the potential roadblocks. Working with different companies the last few years in the remodeling of our home has made me a little road weary, but a little wiser. Hiring on anyone to do anything can be a nightmare if you and your contractor are not on the same page, or even if your expectations of quality are not in sinc. That is why after much research the company we chose seemed a perfect fit.

Maybe it is a little unrealistic to want the builders to really care about our project, but I really need the experience to be positive and I already have an overwhelming peace about our initial experience.

And you have to understand our initial experience has been a dialogue with them since January consisting of me pelting them with questions from siding choices to detailed info about their ability to build something for Long Island. I made myself a bit of a pest, but all the while I never detected a single hint of impatience even though we hadn't even entered into a contract. They even got me in touch with another client building on Long Island who shared valuable info regarding everything from getting your container through customs to cautionary tales.

Bryan and I have done a whole lot of the preliminary design work but I am excited to hand off some of that to these new folks who will be working with us and for us in engineering the details like solar power and rainwater cisterns. We will begin the first set of blueprints next week on one of the artist habitats, the first building that will be built on the property. The target is delivery in march 09...

What do I mean by delivery?

Our buildings will be designed and mostly assembled here. Then those components are put into a container along with whatever finishing materials we choose and shipped to Long Island. In the meantime the foundation will be poured. Delivery is when the building lands on our property where a small team of our Bahamian friends assemble the structure on the pad. We decided on building one of the habitats first (instead of the big building) for a couple of reasons. One is to get a sense of how these things go up and possibly experiencing any kinks with the smaller (easier) unit. Also, it will allow us a place to stay when we build the other larger building, along with acting as a shed for storage of tools and materials. And in order to build the big building we will be selling our house, which is another scary prospect, but will be the next necessary step towards this crazy dream.

Check out Exnihilo.


650 square foot artist habitat
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considering artomatic

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This weekend we took a much needed art break and jumped on the metro and headed for DC's Artomatic.

This unique event is inspiring on so many levels. It is a co-op type show that hosts a variety of artists every year in an unused, partially constructed, or warehouse type building that is different every year.

It was great to take in some of DC's best and worst art I had ever seen. Yea, that is the great thing about artomatic, the venue for emerging artists.

As we wandered the halls I was struck by a number of installations one of which was this ceramics installation of small symbolic books. Upon reading the artist statement I discovered that the collection was a result of the artist staying in a residency, and meeting a poet there was inspired to do this piece.

What a great reminder that our Exnihilo retreat could do some good.

Seeing these pieces made me so happy.


Bryan considering sculpture
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Bryan and Daniel at Artomatic
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republished

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The second of hopefully more to come. I am contributing some of my thoughts to this site:

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/giftedforleadership/2008/05/putting_relationship_in_its_pl.html

moving back can be moving forward

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Sunday we did the uhaul dance again ala last year. What I had for some reason imagined an easy move using our element was not going to be so easy.

Oh yea... all those big paintings.

So, early Sunday morning we headed down to the uhaul place and rented a truck to move Daniel home.

Much has changed in the last year, one of which was our satisfaction with the place that Daniel goes to school.

Yea, that amazing institute that just two years ago I gushed about totally in love with their program and their reputation, and the fact that Daniel had been accepted into its illustrious halls.

Some things change.

Planning on doing whatever it took to scrape and scramble to pay for this amazing education started to lose some of its romance the first year when tuition was raised second semester and once more this year. Daniel doing his darndest to help out applied for another scholarship and won it but the celebration was short lived when we receivied the tuition increase letter the next day that completely wiped out the new scholarship and more. The date on the increase letter and the scholarship letter was the same...

which kind of ticked me off.

Another dubious thing that made Bryan and I itch was meeting one of Daniel's painting profs, a newly graduated MICA grad student...

hmmm...

Honestly, I still hold the place in high esteem, but for us normal folk trying to pay for college, the stress factor vs. the hard-to-measure value was starting to make us a little crazy. Spending the last six months in a low grade state of anxiety started to wear, and when Daniel admitted that he wasn't sure it was worth it we took a hard look...

and pulled the plug.

This is a hard thing for a parent to do. For me, personally it felt as if we had somehow failed. But when push comes to shove...

well sometimes it is the most basic things that steer your path.

So, even though Daniel has moved back it still feels as if he has moved forward. It is a relief to put into action a looming and nagging conviction, but it can also leave you wondering what the next right thing is. This is the next part of a hard process.

Now, as a family, we have to navigate what the culture might pressure us to do, or what finances would allow us to do, but ultimately land on some creative solution for future days. In the mean time I am trying to treasure the moments together, tense and otherwise.

to its new home

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Although it is not the first original painting that I have ever sold, it is the first in this collection and one that I deeply care about.

It is hard to see it go.

And I swore that if the individual who was purchasing it (who I hadn't met) turned out to be an ass, I was going to refuse to sell it.

ha. can't you just picture that.

But, upon meeting at the agreed location, after shaking hands and polite introductions the new patron turned out to be a lovely man who really "got" the work, and was giving it as a special gift to his lady-love.

So perfectly appropriate.

So I part with it with mixed emotions. Sad to see it go, but so excited that someone appreciates the work.

And something is gained in the letting go. Although no new concepts for work have ambushed me since the show, I feel a new sense of momentum in approaching the canvas. As much as I want to deny that having someone buy the work is validating, I can't. It is like some sort of weird unspoken encouragement to do more.

And let's face it... having it sit against a wall in my studio does no one any good.


Love, dressed for travel.
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folding fitted sheets

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If there is one thing that I could master in my life before I die it is the ability to fold a fitted sheet.

You heard me...

and you know exactly what I am talking about.

This morning I had to keep from descending into a fit of rage due to a stupid sheet. At one point having one corner draped over my head like a hood in order to stretch it out to create the perfect fold I caught my reflection in the full length mirror and had to laugh, thankfully removing the mounting tension between myself and the unfortunate bedding. Any further and I might have torn it to shreds with my teeth.

So many things in life are like folding a fitted sheet.

1. It is always a challenge
2. It never works the same way twice
3. It can drive you a little crazy.
4. It can give you a huge sense of relief when it actually works.

And I have to admit that this particular monday morning the sheet probably represented more of life than just simple bedding. In every attempt to folding I was probably directing other frustrations and responsibilities at the task, at one point actually wadding it up into a ball thinking that I should just stuff it in a bag.

But I wouldn't be satisfied with that and...

life can not be stuffed into a bag.

I do think that the mundane tasks when piled upon pile can give one the impression that there is no end in sight, or like folding a fitted sheet, is just too damn hard. And sometimes I really struggle at just moving forward with the little things.

I like the big things.

And I am a great starter and a not-so-great finisher and right now the things that have been started far outweigh the things finished which makes me a little crazy...

because I also need closure...

which is why wadding up a fitted sheet just won't do.

And, for as much as the bravado of accomplishing the "bigger" things brings satisfaction, it is the culmination of all the little things that turn into the big things. It all adds up.

But I have a hard time celebrating the little things, and when they add up to bigger things I usually just chalk that up as par for the course not giving myself the due credit for the sum total. Instead I look toward all that is left to do, or what hasn't been done.

Do you do this? Do you forget to celebrate the things that you do, no matter how small? Do you forget that the culmination of the hour-by-hour, day-by-day, adds up to a life?

tearing down the show

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No pictures with this post. When we got to the gallery, my work was already on the floor being replaced by the next artist's work. So the tearing down consisted of mostly loading the car. This, I have to admit, was the not-so-fun part of the process. But the gallery director seemed pleased and mentioned something about next year.

And for me it prompts the question...

what's next?

After dropping off the paintings at home the rest of the day Bryan and I spent playing hooky from chores and responsibilities, choosing instead to brunch in Bethesda, and take in a late movie. By the end of the day I was feeling much better...

and able to consider the question.

artist date; the mood was water

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What fun to see so many friends come out for some champagne and a peek at the whole collection on white walls. What an honor to see people consider the themes that came from my heart when I painted each piece. The thing that meant the most was seeing people "get it".

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lunch at the amish market

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Saturday before the "show", Bryan, Mom, Marta and I ran a few errands and stopped at the Amish market for lunch. One thing about where we live is the variety of variety. While driving you may run into what looks like suburbia on one block, and the next block will be a horse in a pasture. The Amish market functions only wed-sat in an old strip mall. Usually bustling with people, it serves some really good food really cheap. Here I catch the girls with their mouths full.

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tiny little expressions

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These arrived from a supplier today. Mom and Sis set to work boxing them while I designed the back of the box of the set. What fun to see the whole series in this form.

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the real sisterhood

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The original inspiration for the piece, "Sisterhood of Believers". When you put the three of us together good luck getting any words in. Both nuggets of wisdom and riffs of foolishness swirl around as we share the deep things that make up the lives of women. Of course when you come to our table there will be good food and wine to accompany the conversation and this was no exception. Bryan grilled a yummy london broil and I made one of my gorgonzola salads. What better way to share an evening with the two women that inspire me most.

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come have some champagne

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Ok, I can finally check this one off of my Mondo Beyondo list of what... two years ago ;-) Barring something happening between now and sunday things look like they are shaping up. I had cards made of the collection and some arrived yesterday and some will come today. There was a neat sense of satisfaction seeing seven of the collection printed in this tiny format for sharing. And best of all bests was the surprise arrival of my mother and sister from arizona. They walked in the door at 5ish and the talking and laughing didn't stop until we realized it was one in the morning. Bryan managed to navigate around us getting only a few words in edgewise (what a guy). As I type this they are still sleeping, still on west coast's clock. It should be a very special couple of days. I am considering the fact that it is an artist date-day. Maybe I will put a brush in my mother's hand and see what happens.

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show set up, weird feelings

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8:30 am, starbucks in hand, the element is jammed full of my paintings(this time), off to set up the upcoming show of Dancing in Thin Places. A gallery within the tapas restaurant, Ranazul, will be the home of my babies for the next month.

9:30 am,set up was easy, although I have to admit Bryan pounded all the nails and hung the work, while I pretty much just decided where they would go, and hung the title cards and artist statement.

10:30 am, back at home for some final details, namely printing a title sign for the show with my name in letters that seem all too large to me, but I concede to Bryan who seems to think it is necessary. I am great about promoting other people's work, but a big sign with my name on it is a little tough for me.

12:00, back at the gallery to hang the sign and have some lunch(they have a yummy menu). Chad, the gallery director, comments on the work, how well "designed the show is", and seems overall...pretty pleased. And, he likes the sign.;-)

So we stay and have a fabulous lunch and a scandalous bottle of spanish red wine with our lunch as I watch a few folk already meandering in and out of the gallery viewing my work.

What a weird feeling.

A waitress comments to me about the work and mentions her favorite. The collection has been hanging for just a few hours.

Very weird feeling.

But with the final sips of a fine spanish red, I am relishing a moment that is a bit of a surprise. The actual reception is not until the 20th and that will be another day to celebrate. It is great to see the work on white walls, in a space that people may view it, and maybe...

maybe...

they will be inspired.

In light of this show it was time to launch a proper artist site. Eventually it will have a functioning store option for the limited editions, but for now it gives a glimpse of the work in the show, and other stuff. Still, it is pretty cool. Thanks to Bryan for working his butt off to make it happen. Such a guy.
Check out my new art site here.

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i always wanted to join the circus

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What do I have in common with...

med students,
web designers,
and trapeze artists?

a place called Blue House.

Today I was putting in my hours at this favorite free wi-fi cafe along with a very interesting cross section of baltimore's coffee drinkers. And I wasn't kidding about the trapeze artist... apparently there is a "trapeze school" somewhere in town... I couldn't help but overhear.

But the cross section is indicative of Mr. Florida's "creative class"... me included. As I look around I imagine what stories these people have, what they do for a living, and what are they working on right now.

Would they imagine the same of me?

I am working on stuff for the show while snacking on vegan chips and naked juice. I am finishing up all those details I mentioned yesterday, marveling that I can sit at a cafe and get work done. If this were ten years ago I would be scrambling to the printer, running around town, but now I can simply upload a file and have the materials I need delivered to my door in a couple of days. This is not only cost effective (can you say, gas prices?) but is great if you are a last minute type. Things that would take a few months to produce can be done in a week. I finished a portfolio book and am anxious to see how the printing turned out. Its wild.

It is also nice to get out of the house. I have realized again how much I need to do that on a regular basis. I have always loved working from home, but "home" can close in on you especially if you are constantly reminded of chores and projects that need tending at every turn. And the best perk coming up to Baltimore is lunch with Bryan.

So, today it is Blue House. Tomorrow, my house, that's the real circus.

new limited editions

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Finally did it. New signed and numbered limited edition giclees of my thin place pieces. These four are framed in preparation for an upcoming show at Ranazul, a tapas restaurant with its own gallery. The next few days will be filled with pulling some last details together like title cards and artist statement, website, portfolio book, price list... ok, a lot of details. At any rate I am pleased that these things are finally going to get some wall time in a public space with white walls.

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bourbon democrat

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Today I was going to be a Bourbon Democrat, but unlike the name implies, being one doesn't mean you get to sit around and drink large quantities of bourbon and poke fun at the other parties.

bummer.

One of the more prominent Bourbon Democrats was born in Woodstock which gave me a glimmer of hope, but alas he was born before THE Woodstock, and so no correlation could be made.

No, a Bourbon Democrat was a "conservative liberal", who's convictions lay within capitalism, anti-protectionism (pro-free trade), and opposed imperialism (invading other countries). This segment of the Dems stood for limited government, fought for the gold standard and against government corruption.

Nothing about large quantities of strong drink. Although Woodrow Wilson was a Bourbon Democrat I doubt that he was an alcoholic. A graduate of Princeton, he created the League of Nations and won the Nobel peace prize, among other notable things.

And Grover Cleveland was a Bourbon Democrat too, but in contrast was a "conservative", had no college education but didn't do any favors for women's suffrage either, believing that women's roles had been determined by a higher power (sounds like bourbon talking there).

But what's in a name?

A term that would not have done ANY party any political favors if it had existed during prohibition, it was used from 1876 to 1904.

A branch broke off into a more, shall we say, "extremist" (southern) wing called the Redeemers, who opposed the Freedmen, Carpetbaggers, and Skalawags (a trio coalition of Radical Republicans...

(not to be confused with the Liberal Republicans...

or Moderate Republicans, like Lincoln the first republican-Republican president).

In a very complex Reconstruction era, Redeemers denounced high taxes and high state debts, cut government spending, lowered politicians' salaries; scaled back public aid to railroads and large corporations which all sounds pretty good except in a devastated post-civil war the money had to come from somewhere...

The FIRST income tax was implemented by Lincoln, along with printing money (yea, to pay for the war) but I digress....

oh yea, and they (the Redeemers) had, shall we say, a "conservative reaction" to Reconstruction, ...ahem.

So much for "redemption".

In the words of Inigo Montoya, "....that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

So I guess I could be an "unredeemed" Bourbon Democrat. At least for one day. Except I'm a woman, so maybe not.

Cracks me up that a "Bourbon Democrat" was lumped in with "Redeemer". I mean really, if you were a conservative Christian voting in the bible belt, which one would you identify with, not to mention vote for if you went by name alone. And if you were a Christian woman... well you couldn't vote anyway.

I admit cherry-pickin through history sort of takes the names out of the context of the times. And of course as contemporary folk today with greater technologies, a zillion channels and networks that can communicate higher thought, more education, and higher sensibilities we don't take things out of context...

nah...

Don't you love the name Skalawag? Or Carpetbagger? You wouldn't see today's version of the Republican party putting those names on their signs to get elected.

Maybe tomorrow I will be a Skalawag. Sounds fun and sort of pirate-ish. Arhhh!

Invalid login. That is what I got this morning when I went to login to my blogging software. Yes it has been so long that I couldn't remember my password.

And the reasons for the lack of blog of late is because I have always written about what was at the forefront of my brain. The blog for me, has been a quasi-morning pages recommended as a brain dump by author Julie Cameron in her book, Artist's Way. In her world this tool designed for breaking writer's block, is never meant to be read by anyone, but is just a vehicle for clearing out the proverbial cobwebs of the mind to achieve a clearer state in which your art (writing or otherwise) becomes unfettered. And although I have used this tool a little differently, my "brain dump" being inflicted on whatever poor soul chooses to read, it still works the way Julie intended.

Herein lies the problem.

What has been at the forefront of my brain just about every morning of late is of the political nature.

And me thinks the world could use one less political rant.

However, what I am left with in the silence is the equivalent of mental constipation. The problem with Julie Cameron's ritual is that it really works and so left undone has made me less affective in other areas in my art. The thoughts that cycle through my brain these days look like pinballs bouncing recklessly against one another and would probably make for some volatile blog. But at some point spillage must insue in order for me to continue to be the sane lovely woman that I was instead of the woman that my husband is currently living with, not to mention quieting the conversations I currently have with myself in the shower.

Once a mildly concerned citizen who shunned the news most nights, I have now turned into a news junkie and all the reading I have been doing could win me some sort of junior amateur historian award.

or at the very least I could design a trivial pursuit game with political content.

Hey, that's an idea probably good money in that.

At any rate I am on a quest to learn some of the interesting details that brought this country to a two party system against the original will of the founding fathers. Especially since the system in its latest form looks to implode removing the will of the people through the evolution of political devices that have accumulated over the decades. Super-delegates, anyone?

And who completely understands the concept of the electoral college? I went to college and I don't quite get this "indirect element in the process of electing".... thank you wikipedia.

A host of things interest me at this point as I delve into the nature of the dozens of parties this country has had, and I have to say the "need to know" parallels the days of my initial interest in Jesus (some call conversion).

After all we do not inherit our faith.

So we can not, in good conscience, inherit our party.

I had never considered myself a party person and when I went to register I had to fill in the blank, another somewhat "indirect element in the process of electing". Although I think it is interesting that thousands of good folk are currently taking the time and making the effort to re-register their party affiliation, being forced to function in the two party system, they are jumping sides to have a voice in the primaries. Is it covert political strategy, or conviction. Quite a statement.

Looking at the history of the evolution of parties may not inform my vote because I really just look at the candidates, but it may help me understand why people align themselves in such passionate ways to the current parties. I am confounded by the concept of voting your party just because its your party. How many people truly know where "their party" came from? Then again there are a lot of Christians that don't have a clue about the reformation and that most of what they currently practice is thanks to that good Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther, giving us some pretty good reading (the bible) in 1534.

And claiming political affiliation, in a like fashion I would have a hard time calling myself a "protestant". The world seems to be at a new threshold of breaking out of some of these "denominations" both political and religious.

The spirit is larger than the containers that hold them.

And so it should be.

So in light of my new quandry, that being the need to blog, the need to be an informed citizen, and the need to have something to call myself regarding political affiliation when asked at parties...

I am a Know-Nothing.

Don't laugh, it was an actual party. And although I really (really, really) DON'T hold the convictions of this party, being that at that time(1850) in our country the huge fear from protestants was that Irish and German Catholics were going to take over the country, and were wholy anti-immigration (can you imagine, by 1850 already), I DO like their motto when pressed regarding their political activities,

"I know nothing".

So today I will be a Know Nothing.

Of course being just one of the many components that make up the fabric of this country's parties, the Know Nothings merged into what we now today call republicans.

I think tomorrow I will be a Bourbon Democrat.

When Bryan and I came back from the Bahamas we experienced culture shock. After being on a peaceful island where strangers become friends in a blink, everyone is happy, and life is rather uncomplicated it isn't any wonder that we would be hit by some of the negative aspects of our culture on our return.

Of course one of the first things that triggered it was a trip to a shopping mall.

Over consumption aside, there were other things that popped up to make us take note that this country has got to make some adjustments. I can be patriotic as the next person, but there are a few things that have happened in our culture and specifically this country that range from mildly disturbing to morally alarming.

For instance...

Last night I got an email from Daniel's college. A notice sent out to all of the parents of MICA students that there had been a "road rage" shooting on the MICA campus and two people were dead. Thankfully they were not students, but it still made my blood go cold. It happened at roughly six oclock the night before just minutes after Bryan was picking Daniel up to bring him home due to illness.

For the first time in my life I am thankful for the flu.

Right now Daniel is sleeping soundly in his bed, while I make chicken soup, pump him full of orange juice, and nurse him back to health. All the while being grateful that he is alive.

As a country we are not plagued by internal war, and yet we have things like the Virginia Tech shooting, Illinois, and Columbine. What is up with that? There seems to be an underlying virus in our culture that is making people insane, or at the very least, cold and heartless.

It seems systemic doesn't it?

Maybe it starts with rules and laws that were originally meant to protect us that ultimately are hurting us. Being free to be an "individual" has mutated into an unhealthy focus on self that somehow has eroded away the good things that we use to have.

Laws to help the innocent have become lawsuit opportunities.
Technology that is supposed to improve our lifestyle can remove the need to be civil and friendly.

In an average day a person can face numerous situations (motorist honking their horn, a rude teller, recorded phone messages) that by the end of the day can make you feel less than human.

Today I feel that way.

On a third try to obtain a last little piece of required paperwork for our Bahamas registration, I sat at my bank waiting my turn to see someone about a "letter of reference". On the second try after filling out a long menacing form they had issued me a cryptic note with my bank balance on it, and charged me ten dollars. I sent this off and got a reply from my rep in the Bahamas, that they didn't need numbers, just a letter that basically said I was a good customer at my bank.

Ok, seems reasonable. I HAVE been a customer for fifteen years...

So sitting down with a guy at my bank I explained that the letter they gave me was not quite what the bahamian gov't needed, something simpler...

No way. Not on your life. They don't do that.

"Surely this kind of letter is not a problem... I have been a customer for fifteen years..."

Apparently that would require an "opinion" which they legally can not do.

"OK, but this is what the bahamian gov't requires and people do this all the time so... what's up with that?"

The conversation didn't last long but the jist was "so sorry, it sucks to be you". And what I really had a problem with was the attitude in which it was delivered. The particular bank associate that I was dealing with seemed to relish the fact that he couldn't help me. Almost in a punishing way. In fact I got a sense that he didn't want to help me before I even opened my mouth. Anti-helpful.

Which brings me back to my original point(seemed like a rabbit trail didn't it?)

Have we lost the ability to be kind to one another? Has all the hoops that we have to jump through just to have the privilege to live what we call the american dream turned it into a nightmare that keeps us from being human?

Not blaming the associate for the restriction that was out of his hands, but royally pissed off at him for the condescending/almost cruel way he treated me, I left the bank on the verge of tears. Frustrated, hurt and really really mad, I walked over to the grocery store to pick up some groceries. Picking through the produce section and wondering what this world was coming to I filled my basket and headed to the checkout.

I got Virgil.

Virgil is a middle aged, african american man who has worked the checkout and bagged groceries there forever, and he always has something nice to say. Always, without exception. He took my groceries and started his totaling. Still feeling rattled but determined to recover from being pissed and not take it out on someone else I smiled and mustered a..." How are you today Virgil?"

His reply...

"Super-Fantastic! How are you today?"

"Better now".

He helped put my groceries in my backpack (because I was walking home) giving me the heaviest items first, the light items for me to carry in my hands. Then with a big smile he wished me a good day.

God bless the Virgils of the world.

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pink daisies

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Something bright for a winter's day.

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making a difference

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We are well into Phase two of a process that has (at this point) seven phases. Phase one involved two and a half years of research for the right location, and then purchasing it. Phase two involves a. Research on eco-friendly technologies. b. Preliminary Design. c.Partnerships. d. Final Design. and e. Permitting.

We are in the middle of the preliminary design and partnership part of this phase. Tons of practical planning, and projection happening here.

What fun.

This weekend was spent creating some tangible visuals from the initial design for proposal purposes.(proposals for bahamas gov, partners, funding, etc.) It seems weird having to plan something in such a way. I have worked on business plans before(my own) but never something so long term, so large...

or so absolutely impossible.

Enough challenges exist if we were to do this in this country, but another country AND an island...

A good friend of mine has a term for such a thing... "Taking the hill".

Yea, were taking the hill, one phase at a time.


Designing the Mother Ship. Mother has in Her innards, the common area for dining, kitchen, a library, a gallery, studio work space, machine room(solar power), laundry, and our living quarters.

The Artist Habitats (now two story) have sleeping quarters and private studio space (300 sq '). We decided that adding another story was prudent for growth. Four habitats could be transformed into eight if necessary.

Phase three will involve breaking ground and construction of one artist habitat.

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view from the dining room.

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imagine

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While out for coffee with my husband yesterday morning we decided to step into a favorite haunt, Home Goods. So far the weekend had been spent with our noses attached to our computer screens and although what we had been working on together was more detail to our exnihilo dream we needed a change of scenery. Typically in Home Goods Bryan and I gravitate toward different departments. He is lured by the gourmet section with all its kitchen gadgetry, and I usually head toward home accessories or bath stuff. At some point after a bit of wandering we cross each others path, usually empty handed.

But not today.

Rounding the corner of one of the overstuffed aisles, I look up to see Bryan with something in his hand. His face has a look of mischief as he lifts up the item for my consideration.

And this, boys and girls is why I love my husband so much.

In his hand is the word in big black wooden letters...

IMAGINE.

It is an unlikely piece of brick-a-brack, meant for a shelf or mantle. A cheap ornament that screamed out everything we were about at that moment in regards to our dream...

I could hear Dennis Hopper's voice in my head.

Without words, Bryan raised an eyebrow and I responded with, "Of course, are you kidding?"

So like two kids we plunked down 14.99 for this simple reminder in sculptural form. It is a thing like this that keeps the momentum of an impossible dream going.

It may seem silly.

But most dreams do.

proudly perched on our livingroom mantle...IMAGINE

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back to thin places

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Came back to this yesterday and worked on it some today as well for my artist date. I don't remember when I started it but it has been a while. And it is weird to look back at old blog posts for reference only to be reminded again how time has flown.

Most of the day was spent finishing up some forgotten tasks that had to be done, but I did get in about two hours of paint time. Unlike my impressionist pieces, the thin places take a long time.

held in the light

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time really does go by

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Daniel,

Twenty years ago today was one of the best days of my life.

You were born.

The pain of childbirth was shadowed by the overwhelming joy of helping you into the world. My proudest role has been making a place for you to be safe, healthy, and teaching you about your world. Watching you grow, learn, create and begin to make decisions for yourself has made me even more proud.

Now you're twenty!

No longer a teenager!

From reading to you every night when you were little, doing school projects, or the random paper mache for fun, although sometimes I miss those times we spent together I can't wait to see what is ahead for you. I know it is going to be great.

I am so proud of you.

Keep pursuing your art (in all its forms) and continue to stand by your convictions that make you the amazing person that you are. Some day you will be able to look back on your experiences with pride.

And today as you go about your busy schedule just remember how much I love you.

Happy 20th Birthday Son!

Mom

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restoring innocence

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A few years ago I had an interesting conversation with a young man from Kenya. He sat at my dining table for probably two hours as we discussed spirituality and what it means to be a christian.

His name was Kevin.

Kevin's one unforgettable feature was his big beautiful smile. It was the kind of smile that you know runs deep and connects with the inner parts of a person's soul. It was the kind of smile that reflects a preserved innocence but with the tempering of life experiences and hardship that instilled character. It was the kind of smile that reflects joy.

The reason he was in my house may sound like a total disconnect.

He was measuring my windows.

Hired by Home Depot, he was the individual they sent out to measure windows and write up an estimate for window replacement. We were at the beginning of our remodeling process and this would be the first step to getting our "shack" into shape. But what was supposed to be a simple interaction of homeowner and contractor ended up being something I will never forget.

While he sat at my table filling out the appropriate forms I offered him something to drink and we began what ended up being a lengthy conversation. Raised and educated mostly in Kenya he spoke of some of the differences between his country and mine. We compared our experiences in our countries and where we thought the shortcomings were in each, and also the privileges. He spoke of the village in which he came from. As he talked, always with that wonderful smile, I was reminded at how much we were the same. He spoke of hope and possibility and how each person can make a difference. I remember being a little envious at his optimism, in contrast with my own cynicism. At that time I was collecting people to photograph for a sort of "faces of the world" collection, and I asked him if he wouldn't mind playing along. He agreed, promising to come back at a later date. Smiling.

As our conversation continued it shifted from faith to politics. He told me that his family was very excited about a particular person that was serving in washington, and their faith in this particular individual to be able to accomplish real change in his country as well as mine. Kevin told me that I should watch for him and very proudly said, "He is my cousin". Even though I admitted how unpolitical I was I promised to "watch for him", and asked him for his name.

Barack Obama.

The name sounded vaguely familiar.

I never followed up with Kevin to get his photo, I wish I had. That smile of his spoke volumes. But I did take his advice and watch for his cousin. And now, years later, so is the rest of the world. For the first time in many years I don't feel quite so cynical.

In fact I could even say there's hope.

This journey towards a dream has included some winding roads and cryptic messages-puzzles that have had to be solved in order to move onto the next level like some not-so-virtual video game. Thanks to a new found contact gained through Deltec... another dear soul who is building on our very island, I was given an answer to a question that not even my attorney in the bahamas could answer. Like passing secret code via email, my new partner in crime, a pediatric surgeon from michigan, fed me valuable information that he had obtained along his own dream journey. I, willing to receive such nuggets of info like they were some sort of insider secret felt like I had won the mother load, or at the very least the golden key that unlocks the tower to save the princess. Today's particular piece of the puzzle...

How to obtain a police record.

Or more correctly in my case, how to obtain a police record if you don't have a police record.

I know, it confused my too. Welcome to my not-so-virtual world.

Among the many hoops that must be jumped through (some of them flaming) in order to continue the ongoing process of creating our bahamas retreat is a list of documents needed by those good people that run the government of the bahamas. They want to make sure you are good people too so they require a document that says so...

sounds reasonable.

But again... If you have never committed a crime...

So, thanks to my fellow journeyman in michigan who gave me the necessary hints to obtain the magic mushroom...

I found myself being fingerprinted.

This friendly trip to the state police office where every wednesday from 9-11 they print all those good folk looking to obtain their records would hopefully get me to the next level. After entering the precinct and signing in, taking a number and a seat I tried not to feel nervous.

After all it's not like going to a police station makes you a criminal.

After denying my more impish self to lean over to the person seated across from me and whisper,

"What are you in for?"

I instead surveyed the room while pondering the people who, like me, waited for their numbers to be called.

The room was filled with dreams.

Faces from many nationalities sat waiting to accomplish the next step in immigration that would allow them to live in this country. I could only imagine the gauntlet that many of these people had already been through.

Faces of hopeful, would-be parents, seeking the next piece of the puzzle to allow them to adopt a child.

Faces of those climbing the ladder of their careers, government workers needing a simple piece of paper to add another rung.

There was a face of a idealistic young man on his way to teach english in Korea.

And me.

All of us in our various real-life video games in pursuit of something, ironically, some in opposite directions, but all looking for that next piece to help get us there. What was at first a scary room full of strangers became a place where we shared something in common, a place of intersecting at this particular point in the game.

I found myself hoping for the best for each one of them, silently cheering them on.

After all, we really all want the same thing.

"Number 46!"

My turn. I entered through a door guarded by a white haired gentleman who had been kindly giving out instructions on filling out the right forms, being patient with the non-english, and informative to those like me, interjecting humor all the while...

bless him.

Passing him and going through the door to the printing room, which was more like a hallway, I was greeted by another elderly man, short and chatty instructing me on how to ink my fingers. The surreal nature of the paradox of having him place my blackened thumb on the paper while asking me where I went to school made my knees a little weak. I cheerfully made small talk while he finished my fingers, feeling a little awkward like I might say the wrong thing and thus trigger hidden sirens and flashing red lights.

Then he was politely folding my card and giving me instructions of what to do with it, where to mail it...

"You're all set".

Leaving the precinct with card in hand I send up one more prayer for all those fellow travelers still waiting to be called. blessings on your journey.

On to the next level.

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anime octopus or exnihilo site plan?

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Bryan and I had fun this weekend playing with our little dream. Using the round-house model as our guide we started to work up a design.

But we each took a slightly different approach in our method. And if you know us well you would laugh while simultaneously shaking your head.

My approach was with pencil and paper. What emerged was something that will look interestingly like an octopus from a passing airplane. Wanting each cabana to have a view of the water and wanting to create privacy without distance this is what emerged. Like in our home the objective is to have visual focal points everywhere to create a sense of well-being and to inspire. The cabanas are 300 square feet with a loft (and potentially a kitchenette) all connecting via boardwalks to a 2 story "mother ship" that will function as a gathering place for dinner, house studio space(with ocean views) and the gallery, as well as our living quarters. This only uses up the front half of the property. If it wasn't for the fact that we are required to have the buildings connected(we are using trellises for that) I would probably plunk them down all around the property as long as we could achieve an ocean view with each. What isn't shown yet is the outdoor ceramics courtyard.

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Bryan put a more techie spin on his. Taking the weekend to learn "sketchup" he mocked up our little cabana cabins and plunked them right on the property using Google Earth.(yes, Bryan can do anything) It will be really cool to see the larger building done this way as it is much more complex. This will be a great tool to help see what we think might work by doing a virtual walk through.

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Now if we can just find some investors or grant money to get the thing off the ground. Any body want to lend us half a million dollars?;-)

back to artist date

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I promised myself that I wouldn't let this slide. It is a tough thing to do this setting-aside-time business. Just watching the news this morning in all its frenzy might make me shun this sacred time due to "more important things", and yet the contrast of the last few months of 07 with just ten days on the island and I am reminded of the importance of this ritual.

Last week's friday I managed to paint. First time in months and the painting is really really crappy.

But I love it.

Because it is drenched with my desire to go, and stay in that place that those scrappy brush strokes depicts. And the exercise was good, even as a reminder of the importance of honoring a soul feeding ritual. Even if the painting is bad, it felt good to be back.

Last night I felt the anticipation... looking forward to a day set aside. Maybe that is the key. Knowing that there is something to look forward too instead of everyday stretching into the next which can lead you to dread instead.

So today I will ignore the shirts that need to be ironed and the other chores that would be so responsible to do(and boy it is hard to do that)...

and I will feed the well.

really bad impressionistic painting of our beach.
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last night on jon stewart

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While chilling on our couch last night on comes the Daily Show (ok they are calling it "A" daily show because of the strike) and low and behold who is Jon's guest but...

Jim Wallis.

So I snapped these pictures of our tv. Probably not legal to put them here on my blog, but whatever. It felt kinda weird seeing him on tv when he had sat in my dining room for his photo shoot.

And now his book is out. The Great Awakening; Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America.

So check it out. I can't wait to see how the picture I took turned out. Too bad amazon isn't showing the back cover yet.


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road trip

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A little over a week back from the island and we jump in the car for a little road trip.

To North Carolina.

A little research on what to build (and how to build) on our site pointed the cosmic arrow in this direction.

Three things converged.

One prefab developer that has outrageous success rates for homes surviving hurricane climates.

Another that has that going for it, plus its green building practices.

And finally, the architect that I had contacted months ago.

All in the same general area.

So, me wanting to let no moss grow under my feet (at least for now when I can still feel some momentum from our trip) I contacted all three for meetings and in the case of the prefabs, tours of the factories.

Although I had a great phone conversation with the intern at Frank Harmon's office, with the promise of an email with all their pricing info, and being left with the hope of potentially meeting Frank on Monday ("I'll check and let you know", she said very positively), I got neither. And no reply even after I sent another email reminding her that we were driving seven hours (ok I didn't say that, but I did make it clear where we were coming from...do the math).

Oh well, two out of three isn't bad.

Now that the modern/all green/super cool/prefab building is all the rage (or back in with better design) I have been looking at this option for our building. The problem is that now that it is so in vogue, what once was an economical way to go is now costing just as much as a custom built home.

So much for the prefab/everyone should be able to afford a home revolution.

But there were a couple of companies that have been doing the passive solar thing before it was cool. In fact one of them started in the sixties. And since then they have fine tuned their process and perfected their product. And one of them seemed to not hike the price in the process.

So sunday Bryan and I threw a bag in the car and drove to North Carolina. A lovely night in eclectic Asheville with the promise of more info the next day.

Monday morning we met with a kind rep from Deltec, Dave. Sweet and chatty, he showed us around the factory explaining all the benefits of his product.

But really, seeing is believing, and that is why we went there.

When first encountering this as an option I was not excited about the dated look of a round house. In fact I had almost expected to hate it in person, and then at least we could check that option off the list and move on.

So much for that.

The advantages started to stack up as we got more and more info.

• They are hurricane resistant and built to code as standard. It is just what they do.
• Once your foundation is poured, the shell goes up in a few days with a crew of six.
• Having shipped all over the world, the product is built for a shipping container. Shipping paths are in place.
• They have built on Long Island.
• We could erect a shell and then do all the finish work ourselves.
• Because of their special truss system they have no load bearing walls which allows for some really creative options with designing the interior.
• Several round structures might just lend itself well to the vibe of an artist retreat.

Some of the challenges we are facing with building in the bahamas include not being able to oversee the progress. If we were to build a conventional structure we run the risk of things taking a very long time, costing more than expected, laws changing, or any number of things that can spin out of control. That is why this option has some appeal.

The disadvantage in my mind is the perception of this kind of "kit home" for the purpose of resale. The thing is we are not just building a home, but more of a compound. So I may be trying to accomplish one thing while considering another. The people that bought the lots down the beach from us (one doctor, one lawyer) will probably be building big contemporary custom homes, or the traditional bahamian style. It's a guess. What will our artist colony seem like?

Ok, I am regressing into random thoughts. But, reality is that we are not rich folk with cash to burn. We need to get creative, do a lot of work ourselves, so our options may be unconventional.

is that so bad?

little model of a deltec prefab structure

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back to school

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This is what it looks like when the three of us are all at home.

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It was a wonderful break, but all good things....

well you know.

Daniel goes back to MICA. Classes start after the long weekend. Between the Christmas holiday and our time on the island, I think we are all rested and ready to tackle the new year. It was good to be together in this new stage of life. Navigating the nuances of being parents of an adult, wanting to act like teenagers ourselves and attempting to remain respectable parent figures in Daniel's presence was interesting. Interesting too was Daniel attempting to be "the good son" while exercising his individuality in the presence of adult/peers simultaneously with parents present. This became interesting when we were socializing on the island with other people staying at Pierre's. I guess the time has finally come...

it was bound to happen eventually...

it is uncool to travel with your parents.

But I guess as families go we handled it pretty well. Attempting to make space for each other when there was no space was tricky. It was impossible to avoid social overlap which created some tension when either Bryan and I said something that sounded parental. As much as I tried to be conscience of it I know I let things slip.

And even a compliment generated out of pride can sound wrong or condescending when spoken by a mother.

It can be embarrassing.

I know. Not until much later in life does one covet those compliments regardless of who is in the room.

Anyway... the stages of life and relationships are fun.

All in all the month long break was a good time.

welcome home

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Weather today:

Snow...then rain...

which makes slush.

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last night on the island

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Last night to enjoy Pierre's wonderful cooking. Our heads are straddling island life and thoughts of work back home. Travel day tomorrow which we are not looking forward to, but most of all...

we just hate to leave.

More confirmation that this is the right place for Exnihilo. It is one thing to go to a place and come home with big dreams returning to find that it wasn't quite what you had remembered. It is a gift when you actually go back and are reminded of all the reasons that the place is perfect. I have to admit that before coming back I had my fears. Questions and doubts are often encouraged by the distancing of time...

i won't let that happen again.

Because of a new little piece of info that we have to legally build in six months (we thought the start date was when you get title, but it is actually when you sign contract) we will be back in order to get things going. I don't know how, or what that is going to look like, but a trip is in our future this time in june.

So there will be no dulling of memory or questioning of a dream.

One way or another it is full steam ahead.


Oramae on our last night.
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rocky beach

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Doesn't it look like the sand is beginning to return?

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Here we marked the tree that "establishes" Exnihilo. Assuming the sharpie doesn't rinse off in the rain this will help us find our nursery when we come back.

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Although we face the east with the sunsetting behind us, taking in the view we marveled at how beautiful it was. It was good to just sit there and imagine the next few years of the process in light of what there is to be gained. The idea that someday we could look up at this sky everynight was new motivation for me. I had realized early on that we needed to come back just to remind ourselves of the dream, but until now I hadn't known the degree of importance of it.

This place feeds our soul.

We watched breathless as multiple rainbows filled the sky. A couple of crabs scattered across "our rocks".

I was struck with the fact that what would become our home was actually a "thin place".

Garnering strength and encouragement from this trip will help propel me through the next steps which will be challenging. Right before we left I was chiding myself with how frivolis this trip seemed to be all the while instinctively knowing that it was still necessary.

Now I knew why.

It is easy to have a dream.

It is much harder to sustain it.

Like anything, the start of something is the easy part... the process in the middle is probably the hardest...

at least for me.

Even when you are nearing the end of something you have the momentum of the finish line to pull you.

So the middle can "get stalled".*

This visit was important. Not logical, or seemingly practical...

but completely necessary.

Next trip we will have make a point to see the sunrise.


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sunset.jpg

"stalled" is a term that the bahamians use when you have eaten too much and you can't finish your plate. ;-)

oh what a lovely bunch of coconuts

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After lunch at Max's Grill we drop Jimmy at his office and then head back south toward the property. We still have to meet the shipping people and hopefully find some coconuts to plant. I am feeling a strong sense of ritual about planting a coconut palm. So much so that while in a small market to buy a soda, I picked up a Sharpie to write with. We may not be breaking ground this trip, or finalizing design plans (all things I had hoped for) so we needed to do something to "mark" this trip. Much had been accomplished in meeting new friends and I felt that we needed something to remember that.

coconuts.

So all along Queen's highway(the single road that slices the island in half) I kept watching for coconut palms that

1. didn't seem to be on someone's property and
2. had dropped some of their fruit.

We had made it all the way down to Deadman's Cay where we were told we would meet the shipper. This is the man who get's your container from Miami, or Nassau, to Long Island, and then trucked to your property. He is also a customs agent. Very important to make contact with, and as before with so many things, face to face connections with people here are so important.

In the office we meet Marsha. I am not sure if she is wife or secretary or both but she greets us warmly and yells for "Mr. Carroll". He is outside working on a forklift. So we walk out and he greets us. We talk of island things, ask him some questions and let him know that we will be needing his services. back in the office we go to leave and Marsha gives me a big hug.

Yea...I know. You don't believe me. That is because it is pretty unbelievable that a person that was a complete stranger ten minutes before can accept you and welcome you in such a way just doesn't exist in back home.

But that is the way it is here. In fact if you ask an expat that is living here now you will get the same answer to the question, "why here"...

its the people.

Down the road still looking for coconuts as we drive we check the potter's house (still not home) and step into a market for a bottle of wine as a thank you gift for Pierre. Having fulfilled most of our errands we head toward the property to plant Joyce's seedlings and seeds, but we are still without those elusive coconuts.

I really want some coconuts.

As we get nearer to the property we drive by a little restaurant called "The Forest" (which I think is kind of funny for an island). We had eaten here once and now we spotted the owner just outside the left of the building. The front of his building there is a row of coconut palms... with

you guessed it.

a coconut laying on the ground.

So we park, get out of the car and approach him with a greeting. He is filleting three big snappers with a huge machete-like knife. As we greet him he turns with the menacing knife in his hand, big smile and greets us back. His name is Dudley (The contrast of his smile, friendly nature and the big knife almost makes me laugh). We mention the we have a place up the road and so we will be neighbors (sort of) and by the way, do you mind if we take one of your coconuts.

"Oh, no problem Mon. Help yourself...there is more over there behind that wall." And then he goes further by explaining the best way to plant them..."You have to put them face down", swinging the menacing knife the whole time.

Thankfully he shows us which end of the coconut is its "face". More island knowledge.

We thank him...say goodbye, and go check out over the wall...

a pile of coconuts.

So we take what we can carry and put them in the back seat along with the other palm seedlings and the christmas palm seeds.

At the property we look for a spot that would make a suitable nursery for the baby trees. We simply want them to grow while we are gone to get a head start but to be moved later when the real landscaping happens.

We find a spot, and I pull out the Sharpie.

Exnihilo
Genesis 1:1

Honestly neither Bryan and I could think of a verse that was befitting or profound... so why not start at the beginning. And of course "Exnihilo" means "out of nothing".

So after "establishing Exnihilo" by the ritual planting of our "Exnihilo coconut", Bryan suggests we go sit on our beach (ok rocks) and watch the sunset.

Lovely idea.


Dudley filleting the snapper.
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planting seedlings.

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planting coconuts.

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Exnihilo coconut.

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In total disbelief that this is our last day we still have stuff to do. Jimmy, our real estate agent has offered to go out to our property with us and make recommendations as to how far back to build, and to allow himself another round of us bombarding him with questions. So we are meeting him at 11:00. We had hoped to meet with the people that have the shipping company too. Maybe even step into a bank and also see if the potter that lives on the island is home (we have tried to see him on every visit and keep missing him).

Lots to do.

In our previous meeting with Jimmy and Turnquest, Jimmy had recommended getting a couple of coconut palms to plant, so I was wanting to take a walk after breakfast in search of coconuts. At breakfast we were trying hard not to think about the fact that we were leaving tomorrow.

Walking up the beach from Pierre's we turn left into mr Miller's property (he has some coconut palms doesn't he?). The goats are here again and there are two more new kids since a few days ago. We walk past the herd and down the road.

Half an hour and we still haven't seen a coconut. Funny, when you don't need them you see them everywhere.

We walk back to Pierre's to get the car... Soon we have to meet up with Jimmy.

Once we collect Jimmy at his office we are off for the long drive to our property. Long drive here is the other side of the island which from Jimmy's office takes about forty five minutes. To drive the whole island from top to bottom would probably take an hour and a half. Amazingly some folk who live in the north have never been to the south and visa versa. "Its too far", we heard.

Different world.

so in the car with Jimmy we start talking island stuff and then conversation shifts to spiritual matters. We had heard that he was a pastor and so we asked the question...

Yup... instated a year ago...senior pastor of a church near the center of the island with a thriving youth program. He explains that there is a slight divisiveness between the north and the south, and so by reaching the youth on both sides their goal is to keep the island unified.

Cool.

More conversation about our journey with the church and what we used to do...Jimmy seems excited about this...

Hmmm...

I have to admit there was a synergy in the car as we talked about "God stuff". He made it clear that when we came back we had an open invitation for a place to stay with the possibility of us checking out their ministry.

Once at the property even Jimmy is a little surprised at the degree of "beach loss", but like a dozen people at this point reinforce the "it will come back". We walk along the edge of the property (the brush is too thick to walk through) and we note the high water mark, and estimate the place where we should build. A giant agave plant will make a fine marker.

We then hop in the car and drive down to our neighbor's on the south. No one is home but Jimmy says that he knows them and they wouldn't mind us looking at their property and what they built. At this point we were still trying to put to rest what material to build with. The Baker's place is wood construction.

It was really helpful to stand on their deck, looking toward the ocean and getting a sense of what our building might be like. Because there is so much more wind on this side this was a concern. Standing there proved that the wind would not be such a problem. One more piece to add to the puzzle.

It is amazing how much of this process is intuitive. When information is connected with a gut feeling seems to be when our choices are turning into decisions. It is not an easy process and there are so many steps. I can't imagine how hard this would be if people here weren't helpful. Each encounter, conversation, and experience has contributed to the moving forward of our project. Jimmy gave us some more advice on building as we headed back towards his office, and some lunch.

Time to eat.


The Baker's house to the south of us

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scoring the book

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about the book: It is the most comprehensive collection of information about everything Bahamas. In this book you can find anything from the current price of groceries to all the current laws pertaining to moving, building, or operating a business on the islands. It is the most current info, and it is very hard to get ahold of.

Today we were going to head south on a fact finding mission. Meeting people on the island is the key to everything, and everyone is so kind and wonderful, all wanting to help. We had planned on stopping by Joyce and Charlie's at some point and figured today was just as good as any, time ticking away.

Pulling up to their house we see Rudy who yells for Joyce who has apparently just gotten out of the shower. She sticks her head out their glass door, greets us with a big smile while simultaneously brushing her wet hair and waving us in.

It is hard to describe how welcoming people are here. And I mean everyone. We chat with Joyce noticing Charlie's absence.

Charlie is the kind of guy that you can't miss. Last Saturday night he and Joyce had brought a group to Pierre's for dinner and after everyone was finished Charlie pulled out this giant firework (and I am talking a 7 foot stick meant for major fireworks displays) and jubilantly headed out the door to the beach, with the whole restaurant in tow to see. He planted the thing in the sand, mentioned something about bahamian air space and police and then mischieviously lit the fuse with the smoldering butt of his cigarette. We all stepped back as the thing shot into the air with a loud pop exploding with a big beautiful star spray. Laughter and applause.

Now, asking about Charlie, Joyce informs us that he was flown to West Palm Beach with some annoying chest pains the following morning. He was fine, they were doing tests, and thought it might be connected to sleep apnea.

phew.

So we chatted about island stuff and I had noticed a copy of "the book" and asked her if she knew where I could get one. I had ordered it multiple times from amazon, and even the publisher for the last year, and kept coming up empty. A hard thing to get a hold of. At that moment I had Pierre's dog earred 1995 copy in our cabin on loan. Old info.

Joyce got on the phone and found one copy on the island (a 2007!) at the airport on the north of the island.

I guess we would be driving north.

Meanwhile, she gets a call from Charlie, and we wander outside to give her some privacy. A few minutes later she sticks her head out the door and says, "Charlie wants to talk to you".

Ok, I feel a little strange. The guy is in the hospital and all.

So I awkwardly takes the phone and he lets me know in two seconds that he isn't being rude, but he can't talk long but he thought that I had come by to ask him some questions so without pause he launches into instructions for the next thing we need to do, in Charlie speak...

"Ok, so there is this guy you have to go see (turnquest) and"...

I interrupt (not wanting to waste his time, and still amazed that he wants to be this helpful from the hospital...what a guy)

"Hey, I don't mean to cut you off, but we went to see "the guy", and things are cool and you should be concerned about getting well".

"Yea," he says, "They tell me I have to make sure I digest the red wine and chocolate before going to bed."

Ha.

I thank him and tell him to get well and give the phone back to Joyce.

So nice of Charlie to be thinking of our project. What I didn't tell him is that I really came to talk to Joyce.

See, Joyce has a gift.

Her plants.

Born on Long Island she knows them all, and she has a green thumb. She proudly took us through her garden and named each tree for me so I could learn. And then she did something else.

She gave me some seedlings.

Pulling little trees to take with me, we filled a big ziplock with seed and seedlings to plant on our property. And she showed me the best way to plant a coconut palm.

What dear people.


babytrees.jpg

coconut palm sprouting
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After saying goodbyes we headed north in search of "the book". We find the lone copy on a shelf in the tiny airport at Stella Maris.

Score.

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a meeting with the man

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Wednesday. We had set up a time to meet a very important person. On Long Island there is one man that will approve plans, and permits...

and he happens to be the building inspector.

oh yea, and he is the architect too.

Although we had pretty much heard that the way things are done is to have your designs done stateside and then he "redraws" them to meet island code.

yea... ok.

But we thought that maybe he could actually design something, and it was prudent to meet the man anyway considering how much power he seemed to wield on his tiny island.

So upon entering his home, we encounter a white haired man, roughly in his seventies. Pleasantries were exchanged and our conversation began.

It became clear that if he had designed anything it was probably years ago, and judging from what was on the island (other than the newest construction this year) was vary basic.

So we left affirmed that we needed to get designs in the states or do it ourselves. Sweet old Mr Turnquest would redraw what we give him and collect his fees. Fortunately he had no illusions about himself and didn't seem offended by the new fangled plans that were being built. He was fine with signing off on anything that was structurally sound.

Just another hoop to jump through, and another lesson on the process as it is here on the island.

something in the eye

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5 am and Bryan jerks up from his pillow. Scrapping his face with the back of his hand... a crunching feeling...

something had bit him (no it wasn't me).

I turn on the lights...

on his pillow lay a small scorpion.

"Oh, its a scorpion", I say, a little too matter of factly. Other couples had found them in their showers or other parts of their cabins, but never on somebody's face.

I lift the pillow and take it to the toilet to flush the little critter. It is dead, Bryan creamed it when he swatted it.

Now we are inspecting under Bryan's eye, and the small welt on the back of his hand. He seems fine and doesn't have any pain so we are unsure if he was actually bitten.

So we both try to go back to sleep.

yea... right.

adventures on the island.

breakfast at pierre's

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what storms can do

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Visiting the property today brought a shocking sight. I figure on some changes, maybe a little more overgrowth and such but what met our gaze was enough to make Bryan and I think we were in the worng place or somehow lost our minds.

The beach was gone.

No lie.

Surveying the view we found no sand where our beautiful beach had been. Confused we tried to think back on what we knew(or thought we knew) it looked like. The cove to the north was completely filled with churning surf. Below the rocks that once met the sand was now a bit of a cliff with churning surf. As the three of us tried to analyze what this meant, we kept our moods to ourselves. Of course looking at the bright side of everything we checked out the new tidal pools and the beautiful (new) nature-sculpted rock formations and surmised what this might change in our building choices. If any changes were needed.

Ok... we will deal with it.

The sky was still beautiful.

The sea was still its amazing tourquoise color.

But now we had a whole different kind of view.

So, after living with that notion for a while I got down to why we came. I was going to collect leaf samples and photos of the various plants so that I could educate myself on what grows how and how fast...etc. The lot has lots of small (8-10') palm trees, agave, sea grape, and some other trees I am not sure what they are. And a few dilly fruit trees(sopa dilla). So I started collecting and the guys posed for pictures to ad scale so that when we got home I could tell if a tree was three feet tall or ten.

After that we piled into the car and went for lunch, later we went shelling on what used to be the most beautiful beach on the island....

except now it was covered with garbage. Big stuff like chairs, rugs, and old vespa, and lots and lots of clothes.

Had this place changed so much in a year that the locals are dumping their trash here?

Feeling a sense of disappointment we collected some shells (still huge and beautiful) we went back to our car to go take one more look at our sand before heading back. (maybe high tide and low tide made a difference...yea right).

Of course it was still the same rocky, churning surf, only the sun was starting to set.

So we drive the hour back to chez pierre's for dinner. Pretty quiet in the car as we each consider the change in our beach. Our friend Presley happens to be waiting when we get there.

"Presley... Our beach is gone!", we express to him couching our mild disappointment in humor.

He says, "Oh that happens all the time... don't worry mon, it will come back".

huh?

At dinner we mention this phenomenon to our waitress (which happens to be Oramae, Presley's wife)...

"Oh yea, don't worry it will come back. It is the way of the island".

Ok, now we are all starting to feel a little better. And Bryan reveals his relief, as he had been concealing how deeply disappointed he actually was. Now we start to laugh about how someone "stole our sand" (and we are talking tons of sand).

We mention this to Pierre.... same response, only in a french accent....

"Oh it will come back. I lost part of my beach a couple years ago too... it always comes back."

wow... the power of mother nature.

But then the other thing that had been bothering me... the garbage on the other beach... so I asked Oramae...

"Oh that was a ship wreck... three haitian refugee boats crashed there. All those clothes and stuff are from the wreck... I had a friend get a really pretty scarf from that."

"So the locals don't dump their garbage?", I ask.

"Oh, no. In fact we may organize a clean up day for everyone to help...maybe a saturday."

Now I am feeling better. She makes it clear that not only do they like their beaches clean, but the haitian refugees get collected and shipped out... nothing illegal going on here. In fact she jokes that they would have been aiming for Exuma or Nassau and missed. Because the authorities are strict here the haitians have this idea that people "disappear" on long island...

Oremae, laughed and said, "They think we eat them". "Don't go to Long Island because they eat Haitians",...more laugher.

By now Bryan and I are in much better moods and we continue to joke about the disappearing sand. It is clear that depending on the storms and the tides our "paradise" will have an ever changing view which isn't all bad. Oremae comments that some of the advantages to the exposed "shelf" of rock is that the small lobster (they call them crawfish) will crawl up in this shelf and you can just pick them up. Bryan perked up at this idea.

It's all good.

The next several years will be filled with new lessons of what this island is like. Building will be a real adventure and promises to have some serious ups and downs. Part of what it costs to have a dream.


today
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a year ago
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baby lobster

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Dinner tonight. Pierre cooked small lobsters that were absolutely delicious. We always meet the most interesting people here. In the background (pic below) Bryan is talking to some people from Montreal, a film director and a fashion photographer.

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new friends and goats

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goatinbuilding.jpg

I am reminded of the first reason why I love it here. Beautiful sky and sea.

This morning Bryan and I headed down the beach on foot with camera gear in hand with no particular goal in mind just to enjoy the sun and maybe take some pictures. We have spent the last five days doing nothing but eat, sleep, read, and eat and sleep some more. Sleep patterns follow the sun here rather than late night tv. A walk would be perfect today.

Up the beach we head for a little run down shack that has huge photo potential...

and goats.

lots of goats.

As we get closer with our cameras I spot a couple of babies. Absolutely teeny tiny we find out later that they are probably just hours old, one is still not standing.

True to form we start filming and photographing these cute and comical creatures. At one point while standing inside the shack framing up a great shot through a delapitated window we hear a car coming up the road.

I instinctively duck down suddenly concerned about tresspassing.

Bryan instinctively sticks his head out the door and waves, "We're takin' some pictures... I hope that's OK".

The man gets out of his car wearing a big smile, greets us warmly, and makes it clear that we are welcome on his land.

I am reminded of the second reason why I love it here. The people.

We ask his name... and think we hear Carnitas Miller.

I am pretty sure his name isn't "meat" in some other language, so I ask him his name again and thankfully he spells it C-o-r-n-e-l-i-u-s...

Oh, Cornelius!

Neely for short.

We talk further about his herd of goats (he is also a mason) and connect names to people we know and he knows on the island...

"We have a friend Presley..."

"Oh yea, We are cousins. He bought a goat from me to slaughter... said he had some good friends coming for dinner..."

"Was it sometime last year", we inquire, "around July?"

"That's it," he said.

I turn and look down at the precious baby goat and realise what that sunday dinner actually looked like.

Hmmm...

After dispensing the sentimental notion of the cute and cuddly, I think back on how fabulous that meal was. And what an honor it must have been.

newborn kid
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kid at my feet. it was about the size of a small cat.
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Integrity; the island's currency

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Small reminders of what is of value here. A passing comment in conversation may not make you notice, but several passing comments and you can add it up. There is an underlying value placed on a person of good character.

Bryan apologizes for making the taxi driver wait (on our first visit) to fix a slight (in our favor-charged us too little) on our bill. I sit in the taxi and explain...the taxi driver Veronica simply says...

"honest man".

honesty.

While eating at Max's Grill(on our second visit), I inquire to the waitress, Andrea if she remembers us...

Oh yea... you nice people.

kindness.

While chatting with Neely while observing Bryan's camera he mentions that someone had lied to him... promised to film his goats and didn't.

heaven help him.

So obviously Bryan offers to give him some footage (not sure what he was going to use it for but no matter). We have made another friend and would not want to betray that trust.

We ask him about what he knows about the builders on the island. He gives us a name and makes it clear that he would never introduce us to someone who was untrustworthy, and by introducing someone of good character his character (Neely's) is uplifted in that act.

integrity.

Many more slices of conversations from various people come to mind, and created the cumulative effect. They value honesty, integrity, and hospitality. And chances are if there is a dubious character on the island everyone knows about it and one way or another that person loses.

When a person's character is part of everyday discussion is it any wonder that there isn't any crime here?

unwinding takes time

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It took four days.

Seriously.

Four days to really "unwind". Ok, maybe three because Wednesday was a travel day, and a grueling one at that, getting up at 3:30 am to drive to the metro to catch a train at 5:30 to get us to Reagan International at 6:30 which would give us the recommended two hours wait/check/security time for an international flight that was scheduled at 8:30. If this hurry up and wait mentality doesn't make you crazy the shifting of gears from speed-dial mentality to island time mentality will. Our flight (US Airways) was late into Nassau by forty five minutes which meant we had approx 30 minutes to get through customs, get our bags, check our bags on Bahamas air's puddle jumper, go through security...

impossible.

While waiting for our bags I checked the clock (which they have several really big ones at Nassau's airport, but none of the times match maybe this is some passive aggressive way to torture us time-locked tourists) and it already said 12:32 which was two minutes past the departure time for our flight to the island. At that point instead of getting really worked up I tried to resign myself to a night in Nassau (nightmare). But we picked up our bags and headed to the counter on the other side of the airport. Bahamas air having a notorious reputation for being late we forged ahead. Getting in the line behind two other people we tried to patiently wait our turn, not knowing if the plane had already left. Scads of Bahamas air folk were happily chatting with one another behind the counter without really noticing, so my sweet husband broke line and politely went up and asked a young man if we were in the right line for Long Island. The man nodded in the affirmative without cluing into the fact that the flight was about to or had already left. So we stood in line a few more minutes. Bryan broke line again to ask another, hopefully more responsive question. Has the plane for Long Island left yet... we are supposed to be on it. That got results. This is the kind of place that if there are three people that haven't boarded yet...they hold the plane. What a relief.

Thrilled that we weren't spending the night in Nassau I tried to relax. Travel uncertainties can stress me or thrill me but this time I was stressed. Mostly because I think it has been my natural state for the last several months that even when I think I am relaxing, I am really just on hold.

And it took four days. To relax, I mean.

We landed Wednesday afternoon and I am writing this on Saturday. I feel that the tentacles of stress have finally released their twisted hold on my body and I can breath in the salt air, enjoy the view and really feel like some healing is going on.

To be fair the delay to relax may have been caused by some nasty weather that the locals were calling a "terrible cold front". Staying in our open air cabin has little charm when the temp is in the sixties and the rain and wind threaten to blow you away. These cabins aren't heated and you are lucky when you can time the water heater just right for a warm shower. So Wed, Thurs, and Friday were chilly and uncomfortable which didn't help my mood of doom, gloom, and stress.

Why did I come back here?

Was this a complete mistake?

An artist retreat... impossible, I must have been out of my mind.

Not even Pierre's good cooking was jarring loose the funk that I felt.

Until last night.

I woke up (probably about three am) looked out our open air door and saw the most beautiful sky. Millions of stars.

At home I often check to see if I can see Orion. Here Orion was in its glory surrounded by tufts of stars that I had never seen before.

And the meteor shower was still on. Pure magic.

So, after standing naked at the door I rushed back to bed to nudge Bryan...

"You have to get up and see this sky".

So we sat naked in our porch chairs watching the sky. I spotted a shooting star and began to feel better.

This morning we woke to sunshine and a soft salt breeze. The threatening dark green ocean had turned to its magical tourquoise blue. The air was warm.

I started to relax.

But I have to tell you that something is wrong when it takes four days, good weather or not, for a person to totally feel relaxed. So upon reflecting about the activities and demands of the last year I noted a few things that I need to continue to be mindful of regarding self care...

This year I need to travel less. I know, the travel always sounds fun, but even if it is an interesting place, in the name of work it can be a strain.

This year I need to balance visitors with down time. We had lots of visitors last year, and I love everyone of them dearly. I just have to remind myself to not hit the ground running full tilt the hour that they leave, but take care of the introverted empty well and refuel. I was sick repeatedly this year.

And for some reason the last few months of 07 I did not honor the artist date which keeps my creative well fueled. I stopped painting, stopped dreaming, and...well just stopped.

Is it any wonder I felt completely bottlenecked in every way when I arrived here?

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Yup.

Of course we didn't know that until after I had eaten it. Lovely tasting meat with a sumptuous risotto.

Apparently considered food for kings, this pretty fish is mostly unavailable in the States.

Yum.

Happy 21st Anniversary!

what alice could teach us

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The Queen said to Alice, "We're running as fast as we can to stay in place."

Yea.

Reflecting a little on this year has me certain that I don't want to be one of those people who's self esteem is wrapped up in being busy.

Nope.

But it is a tricky dance to dance when so much of what "needs to be done" is simple reality and is just what is required to maintain a day to day, culturally acceptable, american-dream, albeit middle-class household whos denizens are relatively educated, fed, clothed and sufficiently updated with the latest technological gadgetry while maintaining multiple sideline interests along with what actually brings in a living.

Phew.

Which all, apparently, relates to something about "the pursuit of happiness", or was it haplessness?

Okay I think it is a house of cards.

No disrespect to the demented mind of Lewis Carroll, in fact I think the Queen of Hearts had it right.

And coming to the end of this year I feel a bit like the mad hatter.

So, thankfully, although not financially prudent right now, my little family is headed to our sand in a few days for some serious, do-nothing, rest. Off to our bahamas plot to accomplish little more than survey the plantlife and maybe some rock removal. Otherwise it will be a time of being unplugged from the pace of DC. I know that for me I need to spend time there to remember a few things. Remember why we started the big dream, because like the gorilla in the cage in the movie "Instinct", the dream has gotten pretty clouded by what we call real life, and I need a refresher on an idea that seemed insane at the time but was probably the antithesis.

The insanity is the reality, and I feel as if I have been brainwashed.

Truly, I have heard so many people express their life in terms typically found in stress management manuals.

Why is this?

Do you ever have moments where an activity like cleaning out the sock drawer might seem like climbing everest?

Too many socks.

So as I continue to reflect, I notice a common (probably nauseating to anyone reading) thread through my blog this year. It is the desire to simplify. We talk about it and yet it is so hard to do without implementing huge wholesale change. And that can be shocking at first. And complicated. Paradox.

So I hope to come back with a fresh perspective and new wisdom on how to strive for simplification and balance while living down the rabbit hole. Maybe the experience will be a productive reminder on the stark differences between island life and here which will help inform what we are aiming to create.

A peaceful place to foster creativity.

pjs all day

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Morning dutch pancake and mimosas.
Reflection on what this day is about.
Opening gifts. Books, dvds, more books.
Afternoon hors douvres.
Reading on our comfy couch wrapped in a chenille throw.
Duck for dinner at nine prepared by my wonderful husband.
Watching the Nativity Story as a family.
Being with my two favorite people.
Staying in my pj's all day long.

perfect.

Back on the upswing (at least from an attitude perspective). Still swimming upstream, but there is going to be a lot of that for a while. Bryan has been quietly and consistently putting in some late nights rebuilding some of our programming (bless him) while I rebuild graphic source material during the day (I make a lousy night owl). Truly, I can't lose sleep or I wont function which just makes things worse. Long gone are the days of putting in an all nighter for me. Although with enough creative motivation I might be able to, but it would take some serious inspiration to create the adrenaline for that.

For now I am hunkered down. But loss brings opportunity. I have always felt this when it comes to moving from one place to another. You may mourn what you once had, but you can't always imagine what can be gained. So with the loss of so much creative work I mourn, but what I might gain is a more organized more streamlined business in the losing. I am faced with a choice to just patch things, or put on my entrepreneur hat and really work the whole scenario. Wearing that hat is what birthed avp in the first place. The real question is...

Is there anything left in my hat?

I don't know. Maybe I have gotten complacent and comfy and forgotten how to hit the gas.

Those wild creative ideas that create a burning in the belly that forces me to go further may no longer be there...

begging to be pushed, prodded and strategized into the light of day.

I do know that if loss brings opportunity, fear can keep you from seeing it.

One of my fears is unsustainability. I think that our culture sits inside its cradle, and creates a lack of peace. Careers, consumerism, McMansions, and such often tip the scales from american dream to unsustainable nightmare. How many exist within that second world?

And so this fear of mine is probably a healthy one. Common sense even. I thrive on peace. My art comes when there is peace.

So having my business be sustainable is important. But sustainable does not mean complacent. There should still be some challenges. There should still be creative goals...

Time to get creative.

Where is my hat?

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trying to get up

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Well, I am trying to get back on my virtual feet after the fatal hardrive crash. And upon reflection this was just an added boot to a number of setbacks that has me feeling like I am swimming upstream. This year has had many ups and downs, victories and disappointments, joys and sorrows. I think I am ready for something on an even keel. At this point I feel like the set backs have outnumbered the leaps forward. So much to rebuild and there are too many places to start. I get stymied just deciding what to pick first.

eeny, meeny, miney...

moe.

I'd rather be counting the waves here..

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I am sitting here at cafe blue house taking the first steps after having the rug ripped out from under me. After having a very bad day of reflection on what was lost I have one thing to say if you happen to be reading this...

Are you backed up?

And I am not referring to your kitchen sink or toilet.

That computer that you are using right now to surf, read blogs, check email, and possibly run a business on... is the information backed up?

Aha...see I know I am not the only one.

But if you are one of those smart people that have this under control, my question for you would be...

When was the last time you backed up? Was it yesterday...or a month ago? If it was a month ago, think about all the stuff you did over the last month that sits on your drive right now that could be gone in a blink.

What about it? More than a month?...

Be honest.

I know, it can be a hassle, and in our case because of video storage it can be extremely expensive for a proper system (like buying a car). And hassle and expense can both be what you use to justify not doing it.

Hey its just a few files right?

Think again.

If your hardrive was a closet would it be stacked to the ceiling? Would it be as big as a warehouse?

Mine was like that.

The virtual world is a beautiful thing. It keeps things smaller and neater, but if you translated it into the real world and looked at it would that make you think twice about the possibility of losing it? Isn't it funny how much we will spend on insuring our car, our house...

but our files?

So as I start today with the first steps of rebuilding I am trying to ignore the flashes of things that can't be rebuilt or replaced... creative files and such. (in the tangible it would be like someone lighting a match to my paintings). I am trying to focus on what can be done, one step at a time.

Back up your hardrives... don't wait... do it right now.

Or you might run the risk of becoming a cautionary tale.

Think about it.


(I shot this photo of these whimsical bronze sculptures while in Puerto Vallarta)

clean slate...literally

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The data retrieval gods have amazing track records. Their superpowers can work miracles.They are wizards at recovering lost files.

Except this time.

I am always saying that us andersons never do anything half way, apparently my hardrive figured if it was going to commit hari-kari that it better live up to the anderson reputation and do its best.

which it did.

It is all gone. Absolutely nothing left.

What is lost is immeasurable.

There are no words.

snow snow snow

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The first snow started last night and it is still coming down. It is hard to believe that only two weeks ago it was 74 degrees outside. It is pretty but always effects my mood. Although I have tried to embrace the romanticized aspects of winter (hot chocolate, for instance) but even that tactic doesn't really work anymore. The great thing about our house is it has windows everywhere that lets in a view of nature no matter what room you are in (even the closets!). This becomes less of a feature when you feel like you want to escape the view...especially when you are surrounded by snow on a backdrop of overcast sky.

I guess I will always be a warm weather girl.

time for some hot chocolate.

to the rescue

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Sitting on pins and needles about my sick hardrive, but had to laugh at this image forwarded by my husband from the company that currently has my drive in its hands. The message...

"We are working on it".

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its not good...

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Those were Bryan's words to me yesterday morning. His way of communicating something catastrophic while putting a positive spin on it. Gotta luv him.

"Its not good? So does that mean, really really really BAD?" I said, knowing his MO.

It's not good.

The target of our cryptic discussion is my G5 hardrive.

The computer that contains my life in its steely innards.

The computer that I run my business with.

The computer that holds at least five years worth of productivity.

Not to mention all my accounting files.

Yup.

It's not good.

So here I sit with my laptop, blogging.

Yes, in the past we were very careful about backing up...especially the business stuff. But one gets careless or lazy after awhile, trusting in a hardrive like will be there for you as sure as the sun rises...

until it isn't.

And you remember why you used to have a back up.

But, the big business of data retrieval proves that we are not the only ones to have slacked off. Others have risked the loss of years of work taking for granted that it will always be there.

Truly it would have been better if the house had burned down...

At least that is insured.

So the mood is a little glum here today. We will send my poor hardrive off to the retrieval gods tomorrow in hopes that they can score some files.

But for now I am trying not to think about all that is lost.

it's not good.;-(

returning to reality at 43

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Upon rereading this post I insert a warning that it is a real meanderings of thought which further demonstrates how scattered I am right now. Backposts of our trip to follow.

Today I am 43. After arriving home after midnight on thanksgiving eve, celebrating thanksgiving, and then taking the next day to basically unpack, I find myself at today amidst the mess that is what was left of our house and my studio in the wake of preparing for a conference and extended trip.

can you say, psychological whiplash?

What would normally be a day of introspection and reflection and projection toward the next year of my life has been replaced with the basic desire to clean up the mess.

In the last post I expressed that our avp show went well, in truth it was just o.k. A few new opportunities were the real fruit, but the original goal of more subscribers came up woefully short for the expense of the show and all the advertising. Other vendors that had exhibited previously complained that this show was not as good because of the new location being a new building far removed from the normal foot traffic. But I knew going in that it was going to be a bit of a calculated risk, but with many unknowns. So my expectations weren't high, but hopeful.

ah well, live and learn.

At least I may get a book deal out of the deal.

But I was again reminded of how much big business there is in the church business. In fact the first day in which we set up the show I felt like running away screaming. Especially when the booth next to ours cost the vendors fifty thousand dollars.(they were pretty proud of their business success)

In contrast our little display fit into a golf bag and a suitcase and took approximately 20 minutes to set up. Nonetheless, we still managed to look pretty professional even on a shoestring. And I would have a serious crisis of conscience spending oodles of dough on something that didn't either feed, clothe or directly help someone, and you can't eat a booth display. (but our promotional t-shirts ended up in an unexpected place that could never have been planned or predicted)

I was grateful however, that the unconventional multiface image that I chose for our booth banner, advertising, t-shirts, etc. was what seemed to attract attention, even enough to prompt an interview from Rev magazine.

And there were glimpses of real ministry in the buzz and whirl of the business. A woman approached us admiring our t-shirts said that she lead a group that helped to transition young women out of prison into a new life by giving them a place to stay, a stable job all while giving them the tools not to go back to their addict boyfriends, abusive fathers, or whatever evils lead them to prison in the first place. It later became clear to me when no subscribers were materializing (to get a free t-shirt) that no one would appreciate our t-shirts more than her and her girls, so that is where the whole lot of them went.

So, in a nutshell...
lots of conversation
one interview,
three potential publishers for "art for worship basics"
reconnected potential partnerships
and one annionting with oil (another post)

All in all an interesting foray into what has become an industry of outreach. Lot's of good people doing their best to do what they think is important or morally right in a world that pivots on a pinhead of commercialism. It is a bag full of paradox.

and now I am home.

our show display
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display packed

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day six: mazatlan (part four...night)

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Time for dinner.

One of the many interesting things about ship life is the fact that you lose track of what day it is. The elevators helped you counter this with carpets labeled with the day of the week which the crew changed out accordingly.

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Tonight was the "Master Chef's extravaganza," which apparently included a mandatory napkin waving ceremony.

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Tuna Tartare

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Back at our stateroom we are greeted by a towel elephant.

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Leaving NidArt and wanting to immerse ourselves even deeper into the normal rhythm of the town we headed toward the central market. Again, the fundamentals of life tend to show how cultures are more similar than they are different. I love this.

And I am realizing that this immersion is exactly what is missing when you take a tour. Along with the fact that you can't take your time stopping for the perfect photo.

Lesson learned.

Perusing the market with all it's great sights and smells, I wanted to sample everything. But silly, me we had just eaten...

so we will just look.

One of the things you often find in these markets is comfy cotton clothing. It isn't hand made or anything, but it is sort of signature mexico. I had tried on something several days before at a quick stop (from our tour) but can't make decisions that quickly so I kind of had an eye out for something similar. Then I spotted something that would look great on Bryan. I encouraged him..."this would be great for you"... just as a girl approached us to make a sale. Now unlike our friend Rak at NidArt most vendors (especially at the local market) don't take credit cards. Bryan realized after leaving the ship that he had left most of his cash onboard, and we had already used some for the taxi into town. As we spoke appologetically to the girl about our limited cash she thought that we were bargaining...the shirt was priced at 23 dollars.

Bryan had twenty and change and we needed to get a taxi back. So we started to walk away.

So the girl started coming down in price...

"No, no, you don't understand, we don't mean to be negotiating, we are really honesty short on cash and don't want to short change you..." We expressed. This was embarrasing.

So the girl went down in price again...

Now we are feeling kind of guilty when the girl lands at fifteen dollars...

"That's ok", she says, "I sell it for that much all the time".

We laugh, suddenly guilt free. Neither one of us make good bargainers. The last time we bargained for something was a trip several years ago in Marida, the item was a hammock and we got a great deal because the shop owner mistook Bryan's urgent need to find a bathroom (yes we got really sick that trip) for holding out on the best price.

Apparently it takes forces beyond our control for us to get a good deal.

Anyway, the girl seemed happy with the fifteen dollars, and we were thrilled with Bryan's new shirt.

The sun was beginning to get low and it was time to find a taxi back to the ship.

What a fun day... and we still had dinner on the ship to look forward to.

produce.
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cheese.
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pig.(who apparently died happy)
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seeing me snapping the previous picture, the butcher grabbed another "head" to pose for a picture.

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Our taxi driver whisks us back to "balco touristico". I have found (with very few exceptions) taxi drivers are the best people in the world. In florence, rome, dublin and now mexico, they continue to impress me as the most warm, friendly, and genuinely interested in you, often giving the best history of their region than any tour guide ever could(ok I know I need to get over the tour thing).

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day six: mazatlan (part two...afternoon)

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After parting ways with the school children we wandered further down the street taking in some of the amazing architecture. Some being restored and some reduced to rubble it made for some great photo subjects. One of the beautifully restored homes we encountered had been turned into a gallery called NidArt. (nest of artisans)

A family of leather artists lived here and showed their work and the work of other local artists. I was enchanted immediately. Not just because the father, Rak, was so proud of his work and gallery, but because we were seeing something original and with heart. It is easy to recognize a kindred spirit. He had accomplished here what we hoped to do (sort of) in the bahamas. We even described our dream to him and watched his eyes light up.

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www.nidart.com


The real challenge was selecting something from all the beautiful work this family did. Because (I expect) of their proximity to the historic theatre they created masks, mostly. But their one deviation from this was scuptures of the female figure. Swirled in different colors of leather each one was a little different. They also incorporated snake skin and even snapper skin(yes the fish) that they had dyed. I fell in love with two of the works but couldn't decide. Explaining what had me torn to Bryan he proceeded to speak to Rak...

"We have a problem," he said sort of in jest... and continued to explain how much we liked one but it lacked the snapper skin that the other one had.

I cringed... hating to ever put my personal preference against another artist's creation.

Rak expressed cheerfully that he could incorporate that extra detail without compromising the original design. And he could have it for us in a few hours.

wow.

But it didn't stop there. Rak was also very helpful in steering us toward a great place to eat...

"Something, NOT touristy"? Bryan inquired. Having walked through the center of the historic downtown we saw what appeared to be oodles of good looking restaurants...

Mentioning these to Rak, he politely shook his head in the negative while scrunching his nose...

message received.

He directed us toward the water, about four blocks walking distance, to La Copa La Leche.

We were so glad that he did.

Along the way we encountered other great little places that held tempting promise of treasure, but it was time to find food...
And if you haven't figured it out yet...

it is always about the food.
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Having amazing seafood on the ocean is always a good thing. And there is nothing better than the perfect margarita. (Although this one isn't as big as it looks...being in the forground made it look like I could stick my whole head in the glass and wear it like a hat).

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Making friendly conversation with the restaurant people and finishing with flan... we headed back to see our final artwork by Rak.

Perfect.


More images of the studio and gallery of NidArt.

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day six: mazatlan (part one...morning)

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Our sixth day took us to the port of mazatlan. And no tendering(thankfully) as we are docked. Getting off the boat we are greeted by a gauntlet of folk aggressively vying for our attention to buy or book whatever they happen to be selling. This particular day we are resolute and a little wiser. We wade our way through them trying to politely decline all their offers (truly you feel as if you are carrion recently discovered by a flock of vultures) until we find a simple taxi driver. Here the taxis are golf carts, and in just a few minutes we are wisked away to the historic center of town.

Free to wander at last.

This ended up being my favorite day of the cruise. Aside from the diving experience, wandering around mazatlan was perfect.

We checked out the church first and proceeded inside just before a service. Beautiful and serene, we sat down in one of the pews to take it in. In front of us an older woman greeted a younger man, crossing him and kissing him on the cheek. Mother and son. A beautiful moment. We sat for a while and then quietly got up and took a few pictures.

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As we exited the church a large group was entering. Narrator loudly leading a tour of folk....

all wearing bright green stickers.

I smiled to myself as we left.

We headed for the historic district where we found an interesting arts area and noticed big posters with dates on them advertising various arts events. Tonight there was a ballet...

But the boat left at seven. That is too bad.

Curious we crept into the theatre building and was first discouraged by an elderly man, but then tried another entrance and was met by a woman. Broken Spanish and English brought us to the understanding that there was a performance of tonight's ballet going on right now for all the school children.

Can we see?

Sure... so we entered the theatre and went up to one of the balconies. Opening the door to a darkened theatre was weird and seemed almost illegal...but we had permission. A few vacant chair among a sea of school children.... we took the seats and began to watch.

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very cool. Now I was enjoying the trip and feeling very sorry for the people we had seen earlier on the tour.

We watched the ballet feeling very priveliged to be the only foreigners in the building. Exiting with scads of kids we looked a little out of place, but no body seemed to mind.

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I was reminded that the fundamental things that people care about seem to be universal. School kids are school kids in any culture (although these seemed to be much more well behaved than their american counterparts). The need for education and how that is accomplished is pretty much the same. We watched as the teachers guided the children out of the theatre and down the street back to school.

This morning was filled with anticipation. Today we would be going diving. If you have read previous posts of mine regarding this you know that the idea of diving carries a certain amount of anxiety with it. Fear is one of the reasons that I got certified in the first place. My hope was that some day I might not be so afraid, but we don't get to do it enough to erase that and so each time is always a little scary. This time was no exception.

But the site we were going to was extra special, a colony of sea lions that would swim and play around you. And the group of divers was small which helps take the pressure off because diving is always a bit of a group event sometimes leaving a less experienced diver feeling inadequate.

like me.

Although this would be around my eighteenth dive, that is like infancy in scuba years and so I still struggle with some of my basic skills.

like breathing.

But really it is always like another test due to the time span between the last one. Our dive master was very patient as I paused when he told me to jump off the boat...

"no ladder'?

"Haven't you jumped before?" He asked me.

Of course I had but it had been a while. And for some reason I was the first one off the boat this time (which was really freaking me out) instead of someone going before me so I could at least watch...

so I bucked up, grabbed hold of my regulator and jumped.

(I am freaking out right now just typing this)

I know that any dive master worth his salt probably wouldn't let me dive if they knew how nervous I got before a dive. Determination tends to be the tool of the day to go from step to step...Getting in the water, then releasing the air from your bcd making you sink... feeling the slight drag as you breath in from the air tank(its harder than breathing normally), and then regulating your bouyancy by how much air you keep in your lungs. That is how you control your depth which unfortunately on my second dive went completely haywire.

At any rate this would be a shallow dive of only 30-40 feet which was of some comfort...

until the dive master lead us into a cave.

Now cave diving takes another level of testing and certification which neither Bryan and I have so I was kind of shocked that he was leading us into a cave. Until I realized that the top of the cave was above the surface line which made it technically not a cave.

But it felt like one at first. Until the sea lions.

This is where the sea lions came to play. We were six divers and not all of us could fit at one time but took turns. Quite a magical experience being inches away from these amazing creatures. The dive master would spin and they would swim around him. The snorklers above us could actually pet the pups (although one lady confessed to me that she got belly bonked by a big mama out to protect them).

More magic was the sardines. The giant school dodged and weaved around us like a flock of birds. (mom this would have really freaked you out). Athough they were often inches from you they never encrouched completely into your space, almost as if there was an imaginary line they couldn't cross.

An then there were all sorts of variety of fish, eel, and sea coral.

beautiful.


prepping the gear.

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trying to get into my wetsuit.

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me with the video camera.

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Bryan with some aquatic friends.

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Bryan with a sea lion.

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sardines anyone?

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dolphins at eve

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dolphin.jpg

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Today we are docked. Although rumored to be a port that is not worth getting off at I can't quite understand why the cruise line would port her for no reason.

I later found out.

The fact that the name of the city has five "o"s in it should have been a clue.

But determined to get off and have a free day to explore, rest, and possibly get some beach time we disembarked. By now I was in some serious need of water after seeing two days worth of desert.

So there was talk of a "free shuttle" to the beach provided by the locals so Bryan inquired to a lovely young woman that seemed to have all the info. It is free but you need a ticket (which I didn't quite get, but oh well I guess it is their way to keep a count of passengers.)

Although our wait may be an hour we got a ticket for the next available time...

Garnering what we thought was enough info about the "shuttle" what we understood was that it went into the downtown but would eventually get to the beach.

I envisioned a loop like a lot of cities do providing courtesy transportation.

I am convinced now and after the last couple of days that I must learn spanish. Shuttle doesn't translate well apparently as we were to soon find out.

The next shuttle was filling up and not wanting to wait a whole hour we thought we would be smart and stand next to the door in case there just happened to be a few extra seats.

There were. The seats weren't together, but one at the very front (jump seat) and one in the center at the very back.

That's fine, what will it be... fifteen minutes maybe...we thought. We can sit apart for that long (I had been playfully calling this trip a second honeymoon). And I can stand a bus for just a short time...it is not like it is a tour... it is a "shuttle".

So I took the back seat, the doors closed and we were off. Wearing my swimsuit I was so ready for a little beach time.

Then the lovely young lady at the front of the bus began to narrate.

No problem, I thought, she just wants to keep us informed as we get on and get off at our various destinations.

Not so.

As I watched us drive away from the port and straight inland I started to get a funny feeling. Wedged between to very elderly men I leaned forward to speak to one of their wives inquiring about "how long do you think the ride is to the beach".

"Oh, I don't think this goes to the beach," she said. "I do know that it is two and a half hours long".

Suddenly I couldn't breath.

Meanwhile upfront Bryan was getting some similar information.

So here we are, not even sitting together stuck on a bus for a "free tour" of downtown topolobompo...

complete with burger king and walmart.

Now normally I can find something good in every situation, but the cumulation of little things at this point, magnified by having been sick after a hard work week at a trade show...

I was pissed.

(And by now you are wondering if I complained throughout the entire trip. Usually pretty uncharacteristic of me...the trip does get better. Again, glad for the ten day cruise.)

For some unknown reason the mexico government thought this "tour" would be a good idea, but I am not sure why because it wasn't informative, they weren't making money on tickets, and it ultimately didn't drop you anywhere to spend your tourist dollars therefore boosting their economy.

I couldn't figure out the logic. The tour took you through the most unattractive city and deposited you back at the ship at the end. They did make two stops that didn't warrant sight seeing, or shopping. One stop was a park, one was a "light house". When I heard this I thought, Ok... let's make the best of it, maybe good photo opps... I can dodge and weave... when you get lemons make lemonade and all that.

Well, the "light house" was a leveled brick monument covered with graffiti (no, not even good graffiti or I would have photographed that).

Believe me I was looking for anything to redeem this "tour" and it just wasn't happening.

Back on the bus as the young woman attempted to narrate over a sound system that was flawed (I found out later that Bryan having the seat upfront was literally holding the worn out mic cable in place so the woman could be heard...he's such a sport) we endured the drive back to where we started.

We did find out later that this was only the tenth time (in total) that a cruise ship came here, and only Holland America. So that shed some light on things.


Back at the dock wanting desperately to redeem the day and not just give up by getting back on the boat (I could get a massage)... we grabbed a taxi. Five minutes and ten dollars later we hit sand...

what a relief.

And we had what was one of the best meals of the whole trip (including ship cuisine). This little hut on the ocean served fresh snapper. Willing to please and working so hard was "Sergio" our cook, waiter, and bartender. After placing our order with his recommendation I asked if he served wine. He said he didn't have any but could see if they had some next door. Barely a split second after my reply he was running down the beach kicking up sand while heading to the establishment next door. I was a little embarrassed at the uber willingness to serve, but it was a nice contrast to being trapped on a bus.

He came back with two bottles but was unsure of the price because the owner wasn't there...he had to charge us an outrageous sum so I appologized for his effort and declined...

and settled for a corona.

Hey it's mexico.

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saved by snapper.

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a much happier blair.

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day three: Loreto (evening)

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Back to the ship for a lovely dinner.

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day three: Loreto (part two)

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Loreto, a 300-year-old town that was California's first Capital. So it is around one thirty and we have been in this lovely village for probably half an hour when we are approached by some fellow cruisers wondering if we would like to see the old San Javier mission and share a taxi to get there.

The mission had been an excursion offered on the ship which sounded interesting except for the outrageous ticket price. Sharing a taxi to the same destination seemed a good idea. We would still have some control and it would be considerably cheaper, and not "canned". Even though I was feeling a bit reluctant to get in any vehicle of any kind at that moment, we agreed and headed for the taxi van. We had read that the mission was only about 30 minutes away which I figured I could handle.

Our taxi mates Jeff and Joyce had negotiated terms and that our driver would indeed stay around while once at our destination. When asking the taxi driver if he would stay with us for two hours, he replied four and a half.

This should have rung a bell in my head that the language difference may have been clouding the details, but everyone seemed set and we piled into a van heading for the mission.

Friendly chatting while we traveled first on the highway, then turned onto a winding dirt road that then landed us driving down a dry river bed.

interesting.

Gleaning some info from the driver and after viewing several "pit stops" that seemed weird in the middle of nowhere we discovered that we were traveling on the baja 1000 raceway! And the race was going on!

http://www.score-international.com/baja1000/index.ihtml

And the driver of the taxi seemed to enjoy this very much as we sped along, dust and rocks flying.

At one point he stopped to point out that there were cave paintings and would we like to see them.

yes.

So we piled out and checked out these interesting markings, took some pictures and got back into the taxi. At this point I am sure that the mission must be just around the next corner.

We drove and drove and drove. As we went further up into the hills at some point we looked back an saw the Ryndam way off in the distance. As fun as this drive had been I began to feel a little uncertain about our communication skills and whether the taxi driver meant the trip would take four and a half hours total, or that he would wait for us for that amount of time.

Well, you can guess which one it was.

It took approximately an hour and forty five minutes to get to the mission. When we finally came upon it I felt such a sense of relief. Even though the adventure of driving on the riverbed had been fun I was still hoping to get back to the town to wander before the ship left at seven.

But the mission was well worth it. Begun in 1699 with a chapel, the mission building was completed in 1759 making it the second oldest but most well preserved in all the Californias.

our taxi mates Jeff and Joyce, and our baja raceway driver.
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me filming the mission through these lovely bouganvilla.

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Once our filming and sightseeing was done we piled back into the trusty taxi. This time knowing how long the return trip was I relaxed and enjoyed the rough ride back. The taxi driver enjoyed passing other drivers which became a bit of a game. We were all amazed that his van didn't fly apart in the rough terrain. Even with the miscommunication this was still much better than a bus tour. And we didn't have to wear a silly sticker.

We arrived back in the town in time to take a few more pictures before boarding.

Quite the adventure.


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day three: Loreto (part one)

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This morning we emerged from our stateroom in search of breakfast only to discover that we were too late for main dining. The alternative was a buffet style on the Lido Deck which was fine.

If you have never cruised before then you might feel a bit like everyone knows something you don't as life on a boat has a lot of structure. As flexible as you might think it is there is a system of time in which things are done, and in order to enjoy your trip it is good to be informed.

I thought I was.

But each day brought on a new knowledge of the way things are done and today was no exception. Since the ship was not docked and we had not selected and paid for a shore excursion that day(which gets preferential treatment) we had to wait to be "tendered" off of the ship.

This was a new term for me. I found that getting "tendered" is getting transported off of the ship by a smaller boat(life boat) to a pier.

And in order to do this you had to meet at a particular place on the ship, get a ticket, and wait for your number to be called for you to then go down to the gangway to board the "tender".

What surprised me is that this excercise took about forty five minutes. Wanting to get going and not lose a day in port, this was a wee bit frustrating and I had to fight the notion that this was a passive way to punish passengers for not buying a shore excursion. After feeling somewhat trapped on the bus the day before, I was now feeling a bit trapped on the boat.

But sitting with all the others while CNN was playing on a big screen tv we waited for our turn.

Once "tendered" we could explore to our hearts content, and I was so ready for a little freedom to wander. Loreto promised to be a "gem" according to the cruise director's narration that had been repeating itself on our stateroom tv.

it was.

Finally feeling like we could really enjoy our setting and wander this lovely town, Bryan and I pulled out our cameras and began taking pictures and film.

us newly "tendered" with the Ryndam in the background

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some sort of festival that day...the children were performing.

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day two: hotel california

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The first day in port had us at Cabos San Lucas which probably has many fine features but because we had two whole days scheduled later in the trip as dive excursions we felt the need to balance out the trip by booking an inland excursion...

to Hotel Callifornia.

no, I am not kidding.... it isn't a glib joke, I am referring to the real Hotel Califormia.

It seemed like a novel idea and apparently the cruisline thought so too and is why it was included as a "shore excursion". Up in the desert, an hour plus busride away from the waters of Cabo brought us to Todos Santos the location for the famed spot that the Eagles creatively wrote into a hit song.

I learned that day that an important mantra when confronted with a travel choice involving a bus is...

"just say no".

But I didn't really learn this fully until it was really reinforced later in the trip (yes this means you have to read a later post).

What can I say, I am a slow learner. And apparently have a cockeyed optimism that thinks that the next time will be different.

This is how more experienced people become set in their ways...for good reason.

So... back to the trip...

Bumpety, bumpety on a dirt road in a bus as the beautiful coastline disappears in the distance behind us we head toward a small mexican village with the promise of artisans, history, an ancient church, and the famed, "Hotel California".

On the way, the narator, Armando Cortez regaled us with all the untrained trivia he could muster including the building of the new Wal-mart.

They are so proud of their walmarts.

hmmm.

So... for an hour and a half he talked of the terain, and other less interesting tidbits of the desert before we parked at our dusty destination, Todos Santos.

At this point while sitting in my cushy bus seat I was getting a sinking feeling that I would never get back the next eight hours spent on this excursion.

I like quaint small towns where you get a sense of something removed from the world, something unique and special, pristine and untouched by the masses.

ha.

Instead of that, I got a bit of a canned experience. Hey, should I be suprised? Scads of elderly travelers pay big money to have someone put them on a comfy, air conditioned bus and deposit them at a perfectly packaged concept of local culture.

Painless and palatable.

Nothing risked and nothing learned.

boring as hell.

and not real.

So was my first entry into the cruising industries' gift of deception. Maybe that is too harsh, because what the industry tries to do is meet demand. Which often means diminshing a cultural experience into the equvalent of vanilla. But if your job is to supply what people want, and people want vanilla...

you get my point.

Although our little family hasn't traveled the world we have traveled. And the point of that travel has been to enter in to a culture and experience it as it is, not as we would want it to be. I think part of the reason americans have a bad world travel reputation is that they(in general) expect every other culture to somehow cater to their needs or expectations. We saw glaring(and embarassing) examples of this when traveling in europe. Part of traveling in a larger group probably diminishes the ability for individuals to interact and a group can be perceived as a bit of a threat, or an insult, even though it is coveted for its economic value.

So, getting off the bus, at this point recognizing that this would be a " canned " experience, we tried to graciously follow the bus driver around the displays designed to convey the "culture". Then we were ushered to our hotel california breakfast which was a packaged plate that may have impressed someone never to have tasted mexican cuisine. Bryan and I spotted the restaurant's actual menu that held major promise only for those not commited to a "tour". The food looked amazing. but what we got was disappointing.

But we ate, and enjoyed and quickly got up to take a quick independent tour of the town.

key word...independent. Mental note for me...this is what we always need to do.

We walked past stalls and stalls of "artisan wares", the kind that may infact be made somewhere in mexico, but probably not by anyone local then finally bumped into a cool gallery where the husband of the gallery owner happened to be a belgian chef teaching the chefs at...

Hotel California.

"They let you out"? He joked with us implying the lyrics of the song. We had a wonderful interaction with this man who worked part time at the hotel. We talked of our Bahamas dream while watching his eyes light up. He gave us his card, "call me".

Walking further with limited time now because we had a bus to catch...

grrr....

we stepped into the "ancient church" which is one of the reasons we picked the tour only to find out that it had been remodeled two years before.

no wonder it didn't look like the pictures.

Catching the bus and taking our seats I secretly hoped that our trip back would be in silence but that was not to be. Armando was intent in giving us our money's worth of narrated trivia. Unfortunately it would be the same content that he gave on the trip up.

At least we were sitting closer to the back of the bus.

So, our first port experience was not that special, but we still had several days left. And getting back to the ship it was time to get dressed for dinner.


Bryan playing air guitar to the eagles hit "hotel california"(yes the hotel plays eagles hits 24/7). Notice the cute little green sticker that he is wearing. Apparently branding tourists this way gives the locals a way of distinguishing them from other travelers while making them feel silly at the same time.

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unlike the creepy lyrics of the song, the inside of the hotel was actually really charming and hip.

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day one: at sea

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Coming off of a trade show that involved three days of standing (one for ten hours) while fighting off flu symptoms and jet lag and (for some reason) inability to sleep well brought both Bryan and I to a ready place for some R&R. Packing our gear up, getting a taxi, and heading for the cruise terminal should have been exciting, but I was feeling a deep sense of exhaustion that at a point of reflection in our taxi, had me wishing we were going home.

This is only because the hoops that one often has to jump through while traveling just seemed overwhelming at that moment.

But, gratefully, upon getting out of the taxi we were greeted by someone willing to deal with our excessive luggage, and because I had filled out all of our cruise immigration info online the process of getting on the ship took about fifteen minutes.

miracle.

This is when I started to get excited.

This evening, however, needed to remain low key as Bryan was burning off some bug that had him running a fever that night in our stateroom.

This is when it is really great that you are on a ten day cruise instead of a wimpy 4 day or even 7 day. You feel as if you have a few spares to burn on "off" days, or seasickness, or whatever.

The next day was a day at sea which was absolutely perfect except for the very early room service that I ordered to surprise my mate (oh yea there was an hour time change at sea). He seemed pleased even with the early hour as we relished breakfast in bed at 5:30 am and then went back to sleep to awaken to a leisurely day at sea. The rest of the week would have us enjoying breakfast this way with the exception of one day not having an order card available to hang on our door and another day wanting to see what breakfast in the dining room might be. A few extra items on the menu but apparent by the rest of our trip spent getting room service, wasn't worth getting out of bed for.

Seriously, I would go on another cruise, just to have someone serve me breakfast in bed again for ten days in a row.... personally I think that is what heaven will be like.

A day at sea represented a "you don't have to do nothin'" day in my mind. It is weird, but when you purchase tickets for a cruise, if you are like me, you may be tempted to cram every thing the ship offers in "included" whether you want to do it or not. For instance, there were broadway style shows every night. We caught part of only one in our 10 days. Again the duration seemed to give us permission to just chill and not feel pressured to catch every event.

We did, however attend the art auction, which I am particularly fond of after doing it on Princess. I love these things, I don't know why...

could be the free champagne.

But on such a small ship it became clear who would be at the art events and wine tasting, or the chipping challenges(golf), or the sing-alongs.

Ok, it was definitely an older clientele, but we knew that going in.

We fit into two catagories. Art auction, wine-tasting, library-lurking, cappucinno drinking clientelle. And, scuba divers...

which pretty much put us in a class by ourselves.


here is bryan in our stateroom getting fitted for his tuxedo. three nights were formal.

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show was good

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In the hotel room between show and boarding our boat. The show was interesting. No sign ups but lots of interest and good connection. An interview from Rev magazine which was nice (good advertising), and a publisher that agreed to look at my manuscript.

yea.

So by this time tomorrow we will be sitting on deck chairs nursing the colds that we picked up at the show. Hopefuly they are gone by the time we dive.;-)

ahoy!

Leaving soon for an all or nothing style marketing, ditch effort to put avisualplanet back on the radar for potentially new subscribers (Outreach Conference in San Diego) Bryan and I have been poking at all the last minute things that need to be done for such an event. Just like any other business trade show, there are all sorts of media-ish things that need to produce, one of which is the booth design. This presented a few challenges as I really wanted everything to be as portable as possible. So (being a media resource company) we needed a small projector and a screen that could go on the plane. We also ordered large banner signage that compact into a carry-on. Of course a person can get a really spiffy full-blown trade show booth set up at the conference site if you are bathing in moula...

we are not.

So, as always we get creative in the approach.

Like finding that a hard case designed for transporting golf clubs would work to carry our projector screen and banners.

And finding the office depot iron on transfers that you run through your ink-jet make really spifffy t-shirts (these are give aways at the show).

But things came to a halt when we decided to take an imac along to show off our website remotely.

How do you pack that?

And throw into the mix that we are jumping onto a boat after the show (with all of our stuff in tow).

I have gotten very intimate with airline luggage requirements.

So last night we run out to costco (don't laugh) because of some inexpensive luggage that we remember seeing there and think that it will do the trick for the imac and our cruise clothes, 30 show-tshirts, etc...

Except when we get there the luggage seems a little flimsy... could work but maybe we will find something better (really quick). So we head toward the mall to find a luggage store and find some great hard cases that might has well have been a million dollars.

But looking over this luggage with the clock ticking (things are about to close) we are approached by a short, cheerful salesman that starts trying to be helpful.

key word...trying.

Because he wants to fulfill what ever need we have he starts drilling down to what we are using this for.

Because, as usual we are not being conventional, this could be a long conversation, in order to hopefully shut down the conversation when the guy (and his name was Guy which made me laugh later) asked what conference this was, Bryan answered...

It is a church conference.

Typically this can be a conversation stopper, but depending on where a person is at with "church" you can have the reverse response.

which we did.

Of course it may have helped if we would have noticed that the "guy" was wearing a "Bless the Lord" neck tie.

You can imagine what happened next.

It seems when you show your "C" card (and I am not referering to the scuba kind, but I do have one of those as well) that people make lots of assumptions about what flavor of "C" you are. And in this particular instance the salesperson's concern to fulfill our luggage needs morphed into telling us his life story along with the recent close call with an anuerism that he was miraculously cured from- doctors couldn't explain it-praise jesus.

sigh.

Recognizing that we were not getting luggage tonight (unless god intervened with a miracle;-) I sort of settled into the old "pastor's wife mode". Listening intently to this dear man's faith language trying very hard not to be put off by some of the tell-tale signs of us-vrs them, saved vrs-lost speak. But finding myself putting on the gloves of what his flavor was and dusting off the christianese in order to communicate with this man based on his needs. I think I have developed a sensor that detects when someone is searching for you to "use the right words" in order to size you up.

It is kinda like parachuting into a remote village and trying to remember the five native words you know to prove you are friendly before they cut your head off.

And what I have found in our journey outside the church is that the subcultures of "C" can be a bit of a hoot.

You have your weekenders. These are the people who feel that stepping into a church on sunday is "just the right thing to do" and this pretty much takes care of the rest of the week. Their speech is very general and probably has a very low quotient of "jesus" sprinkled in. They throw up the occasional prayer and life motors on.

The other end of the spectrum are the people that tend to apply a hightened, almost melodramatic approach. They tend to see the face of jesus floating in their morning cheerios. Their christianese is a finely tuned dialect that is recognized mostly by their own kind (think appalachian twang vrs bostontonian). The "jesus" quotient is very high with these folk and as much as they think that more is better in order to get their message across they really just need you to sound like them in order for them to feel secure in their mission and in your salvation. They tend to illicit a gag reflex from anyone outside their circle. Even other "C"s.

miraculously, both have a "C" card.

In a similar way you might have two people who love mountain climbing. One may get the chance to climb during his vacation and rents his gear while the other has a climbing wall on his back porch and owns all the latest in climbing toys...

but both are climbers and love to climb.

And sort of like with climbing, "C" has every flavor and intensity in between.

So after telling all about the survival of his premature daughter, "Guy" finally realized that the mall was soon to close and actually tried to help our situation by phoning another store that was open even later. I found myself saying all the right words finishing off with a sincere "God Bless You", before running out the door.

Bryan and I walked out reminded that in just a few days we will be surrounded by those like "Guy" who speak a certain dialect that we once knew so well. We may not use the same lingo any more but we still carry the "C" card. Fortunately Jesus trandscends all of the flavors of "C". If only we could all recognize that and not just be poised to hear our own language spoken, dismissing those that don't sound the same...

Time to dust off the phrase book.


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blogging and life

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Blogging for blair may be sparse in the near future. Aside from a must-do back post of our girls adventures in vegas, there won't be much here in the next several weeks...me thinks.

two reasons.

work.

play.

Yes I have an excessive amount of prep leading up to a conference in san diego (final booth design touches, web content uploads, t-shirt printing for give-aways... and that pesky book I swore I'd finish. Now I think I will be smart and reduce some of it's unfinished pages into a book proposal. I will be surrounded by publishers at the show, so why not troll...)

and on the play end of things...

well one doesn't pay the high cost of airfare to san diego just to come home from a four day show without utilizing all that its destination has to offer.

mainly cruises.

so, yes Bryan and I will be sneaking off for our first true empty-nest fling, and the first childless trip since...

well, our honeymoon, I guess.

(Sorry Daniel, you know we love having you around, but you are in school and so we just can't take you with us this time.;-)

So once work is done (conference) then there will be play. Lot's of it.

10 day mexican riviera.

yea.

And I am oh so ready for it. The last blue water I saw was a year and a smidge ago on our exnihilo sand.
I miss it.

So... blogging may be in spits and spurts for the month of november.

I promise to play catch-up with some underwater pics of pretty fish and all things exotic.

woohoo.

going with the flow

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Shifting gears again today after discovering the Solar Decathlon on the mall. Heading down there for this last day of the event to gather more info for our mondo beyondo bahama project. The Solar Decathlon is a contest of what college team can build the most solar efficient home. The last week was spent in the assemblage of these homes up and down the mall. Judging was yesterday and today is the last day to view, so we are dropping our normal weekend projects to go do some research, touchy feely style. It is one thing to pour through books, quite another to walk through a real live building. Bonus: University of Maryland won second place.

Maybe we should have students build our retreat.

For more info on the event goto Solor Decathlon (here)

catching my breath for the next thing

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Back from vegas, I hit the ground running. Coming off of a red eye flight I spent most of tuesday sleeping. Then it was photographing Jim Wallis for his new book. No I am not a highly published photographer, no I don't have a swanky photo studio, but via a series of connections I ended up with this great man sitting at my dining room table right next to the unfinished drywall from our new patio door. Taking his picture was such an honor, and I am thrilled to add another author photo to my whompin list of two. He didn't seem too phased that there was no studio, but was gracious and polite in his handsome black suit as I bossed him around telling him smile, don't smile, sit up, lean forward...

you get the idea.

I tried not to get ruffled by the fact that just days ago he was sitting with Katie Couric under professional lights being tended to by a makeup stylist.

But I have found that the most effective thing that captures a person's "soul" isn't a swanky studio or tons of merle norman. No instead it is strategic questioning. So having a wee bit of knowledge about his family and having met his wife at a women's leadership thang that I was at three years ago, I had a few questions that made the right connections.

The eyes of a person change when they are thinking of the things that they most cherish.

So, if all things converge, the angle of your camera, the settings, the lighting, and then that fleeting second of expression...

you have the picture.

The one that really matters.

But it is a sweat fest to get there and I did my share. Even shooting digital I can never quite tell if I have hit the mark until the person leaves and I can truly examine the work. I guess I just can't multi-task with another body present.

But I am relieved to say I got a shot that they saw fit to use. I would post it, but that might not be appropriate so soon, just watch for his next book and my name will be next to the itsy bitsy copyright symbol that says "author photo by".

Aside from the nerves I just enjoyed the presence of the man.

I asked specific questions about special moments in his life (which is what got the shot) and then other questions for fun...

like what was your favorite interview?

Jon Stewart.

What was your least favorite interview?

Hannity & Colmes.

Hmmm...

Handshakes and he was off to his next interview, catching a plane, or political event.

I realized I forgot to have him sign my copy of "God's Politics"

Darn.

Maybe he will sign me his new one. Right next to the picture.

some of Jim's interviews on youtube.

a great lady at 80

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My mother turned eighty today.

And I can hardly keep up with her.

Her charm can warm up the coldest room.

Her presence makes things seem alright.

Her sense of fun makes you take yourself less seriously.

Her laugh makes you remember that life should be relished.

When you are with her you think that you are the most important person in the world...

these are her gifts.

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girls time out

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A little travel time for me... meeting mom and sis in vegas for a very important event.

Mom turns 80.

So we three are getting some girl time this week. At this moment I sit in borrowed pjs due to the airline losing my luggage. So hopefully the airline will find it. If not I may spend a week in a t shirt that says What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.

Oh well.

No matter how I am dressed it promises to be a very special time. Some gallery hopping, shopping, a Cirque show, and champagne on the 10th (mom's b-day). Already (after my arrival) we stayed up all night talking like three teenagers at a slumber party.

What fun.

So for the next week we celebrate.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas;-)

what a night

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I didn't have to miss it and I am so glad. Two paintings of Daniel's sold out of the total of ten that sold (out of 50 showing) from a dozen (more seasoned) artists. What made the evening truly special (especially for a fund raiser) is that the individuals that connected with Daniel's work really connected with Daniel's work, one even shed a few tears.

It is interesting when you stack up a collection of work from different artists what tends to emerge. The super representational...

and the stuff that really moves people.

Well, as you might think I was fighting back tears of my own(of pride), my own opening virtually forgotten. It was great watching Daniel interact with the crowd and with what would ultimately be...

his first real collectors.

Congrats Daniel. Bravo.

Daniel with show curator Luis. Later Luis was calling Daniel "my boy", but here Daniel is politely pointing out that his work was hung upside down.

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Bryan assisting Luis with some last minute labeling

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Daniel talking with viewers(at the top of the crowd)

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Daniel discussing his work with what would end up being his first buyer

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caught in the crossfire

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My show is off.

At least for now.

I haven't blogged on it because at first I was so disapointed that I didn't know what to write. And then life went on and I just sort of got ok with it. I was mad, and then relieved.

The gallery in which my show was going to be held was in the middle of a change in staffing. It is a community gallery that needed a facelift, but apparently when art meets politics things can get ugly. My show was to be the first show after this changing of the guard and like most change, some people didn't like it. Those in the community that were opposed to the change were going to boycott. Nothing personal, they don't know me from a hill of beans. I am an innocent bystander. The prudent thing to do was put things on hold.

So my show was caught in the crossfire.

There is talk of postponing it but things are still up in the air. Maybe november. Frankly right now I am overwhelmed with business stuff and would probably be having a meltdown if the show was a day away as originally planned...

so all works out.

And the best part of it all is I will get to attend Daniel's show.

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I had to share this portion of a post written by Daniel on the voices of god. It was both humbling and inspiring to me. How much of god's voice do we filter out because of a stereotype? What messages do we miss when expecting to hear only a masculine voice?

......

"while i had been viewing and expecting god to act in a very masculine sort of way, i instead found a god that talked to me, or was trying to talk, in a way much more similar to the way my mother first spoke to me when i was young...quiet whispers, close by and into the ear. i, like then, am staring off into space. but perhaps i'm beginning to pay attention.

and as such, this Mother-god who first imparted to me love (as well as my name, and repeated it many times so i would know it), thereby defined love, and set me on the journey towards love. yet love has an end in relationships, and ultimately a completion in not just human flesh, but divine creation. if we are agents of spirit, then there is work about and present in our day to day lives that is at once beyond our control, yet also dependent. like a child to his mother, we may choose to listen closely to this spirit, bringing about good things in relationships and the earth itself. but if we do not listen, we may not just forget these things...we may also forget who we are, for it was our name that was first called into being, into existence, and that with a mission...a mission implied in love...for us to complete."

.....

Beautifully written son. Made me cry.

You can read the entire post and view the painting of Regarding the Prayers of Mothers for Newborn Children

reverend gladys

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You'd think that the polite way to retire for a gentle clergywoman at sixty five would be to pull up the rocking chair and knit.

nope.

or maybe settle in and do some baking.

ha.

or what about joining a bridge club?

think again.

Our iconic Reverend Gladys retired from her pulpit on september first and was at our doorstep on the 28th, via car all the way from Manitoba. Embarking on a journey that loops the continent we were only one of the many stops along the way of what will be a three(or was it four) month trip that also includes a cruise.

I am not kidding.

I coerced her to let me scan her map. That green line is her travel path.

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Of course she had her share of naysayers. Those voices citing all the reasons a single woman of her age should not be driving alone across the country.

pish.

When she arrived at our house on friday I had to laugh at the technology she was packing. Laptop, GPS, digital camera, power adapters...

she is as wired as we are.

She even had this nifty little plug-in mini fridge in the trunk.

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She showed me how she had a different piece of luggage holding clothing for all four seasons(because she would be encountering all of them).

But in spite of how utterly prepared for every situation she was there was no denying the nature of this trip...

pure adventure.

Which actually isn't new to Gladys. Having seen many parts of the world during her sixty five years thus far has just been par for the course.

But that isn't what makes her so special. Rev. Gladys has had one of those unsung ministries that keep the angels watching. A consistent focus on the needs of others without the applause of man (sometimes with their opposition) has been the benchmark of her life. Maybe it has been her travels that has enabled her to see past the unlovely parts of people and embrace them in love...

seeing with the eyes of jesus.

Maybe it has been the opposition that she faced as a woman ordained that empowered her with more compassion.

Maybe it was the encouragement of a father (both earthly and heavenly) who believed in her that keeps her going.

For certain the sum of all these things has been used to change lives in ways that she may never see and out of humility would never take credit for.

But the angels know.

Forsaking the more alluring styles of ministries involving big programs, big numbers, big money, She chose the broken and blind, unwashed and elderly, touching one life at a time, making space for the spirit.

And so while visiting our family and during many of our discussions involving what it means to be a follower I pestered her relentlessly about her experiences...

"You have to write a book".

I am sure she got weary of me saying it, but retired or not I think she has something to say. I know that women in ministry need the voices of other women to sustain them, especially the ones that forged the way.

like Gladys.

So as the modern ego-centric mega churches of our day begin to tumble I believe there is hope. There are others like Gladys, women out there doing the unsung work, the hard work, one person at a time.

And regarding Aunt Rev. Gladys...

I don't think she is retired...

I think she is just getting started.

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baby squirrels

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Sunday morning coffee on the new deck. We were entertained by a nest of baby squirrels who had apparently just discovered the world outside the nest.

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postmodern walking-kindred spirits

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The end of the day. Daniel and Gladys walk ahead of us deep in animated conversation. Standing back and taking these pictures I marveled at the similarity of spirit in these two. Although their earthly packages couldn't be more contrasting (65 year old woman vs nineteen year old male), at their very core they are disciples of christ in its rarest human form. I guess that is why watching them connect was so special. Witnessing how god transcends our trappings is one of those thin place moments.

What a great day.

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any given saturday in dc- sept 29

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On any given saturday in dc you may encounter a festival and a protest. This saturday was no exception. The national bookfair was on one end of the mall while an antiwar protest was at the other. We were headed for one of the smithsonian museums. The National Museum of the American Indian.

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I am always inspired when we go downtown, and this museum is a favorite. The new exhibit this time was an installation of dresses called Identity by Design

dcsaturday2.jpg Check out the link if you want a walk through. The web version of the exhibit is just as inspiring as the real life (without the crowds). The main thing that struck me about this presentation as well as the museum is the value of being tied to a heritage. While looking at one of the displays, standing next to Bryan, I leaned into him and said, "What is the contemporary american's equivelant to a right of passage."?

All I could think of was getting your driver's license.

Doesn't it seem that cultures that are able to hold on to their heritage seem to have a rich sense of family, community, and grounding? Sometimes I wonder if some of the components of the "american dream", have stripped us of some of our richness in order to be rich.

One display in particular talked about a tribal practice of government(I don't remember which tribe, shame on me) that when making decisions of consequence, the elders always considered the ramifications of their decisions thinking forward to seven generations.

Wow.

What if we did that? Would our decisions become less self serving? Would we pass on wisdom?

Hmmm....

Leaving the museum with lots to think about we made the trek back to the metro.


gladys on the mall

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crab night- sept 28, friday

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A visit from Bryan's aunt Gladys prompted an evening in baltimore with Daniel, and an overnight at home for some time to spend together chatting over inconsequential subjects like postmodernism, love, and the end of the world as we know it.

But first we had to have crab.

And if you have ever gone "pickin crab" you know that it is a very messy ritual involving a hammer.

After ordering the number of crab you would like, the waiter brings you a big piece of butcher paper to cover the table and then dumps a bucket full of crabs all over it.

The rest is up to you.

Introducing Aunt Gladys to this maryland tradition, she was more than just a good sport but embraced the experience with fervor. Unlike Daniel (who is normally adventurous when it comes to food) who had to leave the table to get some air. One can get kind of squeamish after the lesson of how to disect the little beasties. Pulling the tab (breastplate) and then popping their top (pulling the shell apart) is hard enough, but removing gills and brains and other such muck to get to the good stuff can sometimes turn an appetite inside out.

I have to admit fighting back the squeems but my big issue was patience.

I just don't want to work that hard for my food.

But putting the work aside, with hammer in hand, once you get a system going it is kind of fun.

And very tasty.

poor little beasties.

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dropping the ball

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Doing business lately has been a drag, like swimming upstream everything seems to have resistence and take more effort then usual. I am trying hard to not get tweaked. It seems like everyone (including myself) is dropping a ball somewhere. In going to pick up prints from my printer he had neglected to do all of them and made us make a second trip. After spending countless hours at the dealer and filling out all the forms for our new car, we drove away only to get a call that they needed another signature on something. Little things left and right that just seem to pile up into annoyances that chew up time that could be spent on better things.

people dropping the ball.

Bryan and I are exhibitors at the National Outreach Convention. avisualplanet.com is a sponsor and so early november has us trotting off to san diego for three days to stand in one of those little booths and make eye contact with future subscribers. This is great. One of the things we get to do as sponsors is add something avp to the swag bag. We were throwing in our Crown of Thorns CD. It is a project that I am personally proud of and it gives us a chance to reduce old inventory.

So I go to ship said inventory(2500) units to its destination and realize that somehow I had miscounted. Thinking that each box stored in my studio held 500 CDs I realized at this late date (stuff is due next tuesday) that each box only holds 100. How in the world did I miss this?

Ever have one of those moments that you really feel like you have lost your mind. That you are so sure of something that you make plans around that something only to find out that your initial "something" was wrong?

dropping the ball.

The horrible thing about dropping the ball(for anyone, I think) is that it leaves you scrambling. Plug in whatever scenario you want but that remains the same. When I pointed out the number of prints to my printer, he realized his mistake and apologetically kicked into scramble mode. My missing my count will delay our shipment, probably launching someone else into scramble mode.

so sorry.

I hate scramble mode. For anyone. You can feel a person's state of calm get sucked right out of a room when they have to launch into scramble mode.

I am presently in scramble mode.

And what is worse is that there is a domino effect that gets passed on.

Like "pay it forward", only not in a good way.

Maybe it is the season. The summers end leaves everyone a little lulled and not quite on their game. Fall demands its upgrade and...

we all drop the ball...

and launch into scramble mode.

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I photographed these little guys at an orphanage in cordoba mexico. They are a reminder to me that nothing should ever rob our peace enough to treat one another any less.

been kissed

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This weekend was spent doing one of those uber stressful things. Buying a car. Since our trusty Sebring could no longer be trusted it was time to replace it. For this family a major purchase like this is almost traumatic. We are very careful shoppers ( despite the costco dilemma) and have a track record of purchasing that might drive others insane.

Like the time we spent an entire weeks vacation deciding on the perfect dining room table...

or the time we went to five different stores to compare blenders...

and then there was the vacuum cleaner...

All these purchases were made with strict attention, so you can imagine if it takes us a week to buy a table... well, let's just say buying a car is a really big deal. But we did our homework and with financing in hand we confidently walked in and out of a few different dealerships touching the options that we had already seen available online. By Friday night we had narrowed it down to two different options, the Scion, and the Element, and by Saturday morning we had landed on a used Element.

But then we looked at the new ones.

We have never bought a new car. It was (yes, was) sort of a policy of ours. You know the whole depreciation thing in the first year and all. But as we shopped we found that the models that we chose were not depreciating in value to make it worth our while. So following a certain train of logic (reliability + features+ cost) this family ended up with a bright shiny spanking new, kiwi-green, Honda Element.

Now one of the reasons we bought used cars is the "kiss" factor. (not the keep it simple...this is something else). When Bryan was younger his uncle told him that if he ever got a new car he needed to get a hammer and give it a whack, hence giving it its first dent.

In other words "kiss" it.

His logic was that if it was already "kissed" then all that fuss and stress over having something new and trying to keep it new would evaporate into practical everyday life.

practical. sensible. Would I do it to our bright shiny spanking new, kiwi-green, Honda Element?

not on your life.

However the downside that is left without the kiss on our bright shiny spanking new, kiwi-green, Honda Element is that I, in fact did feel a certain paranoia about keeping it new. A weird low grade anxiety. And that is not our family's MO. When we get something, blender, luggage, whatever...we use the snot out of it. And part of the reason we got an Element was to be just as practical (you can hose the thing out...I am not kidding). And there are a number of things already against it staying bright shiny spanking new, kiwi-green.

For one, we don't have a garage.

And another, the oak trees in our yard throw golf-ball size acorns this time of year.

But there was one that I had not considered.

my sweet husband.

I had driven it home from the dealership Saturday night and then Bryan carefully parked it across the lawn (away from the acorn chucking trees).

Sunday morning we have to take the Sebring to that great carlot in the sky (carmax). The plan is Bryan is going to move the Element and then I will drive it following him (for his last drive in the Sebring). I realize that I forgot my camera.

I run back in the house, grab my camera, and run back outside just in time to see...

The bright shiny spanking new, kiwi-green, Honda Element with its bumper squared off against a tree.

yup, you heard me.

In absolute disbelief and a total sense of denial, I look at my husband who is getting out of the bright shiny spanking new, kiwi-green, Honda Element to check the damage...

Knowing full well that he had just backed into the tree, I hear myself saying...

"you didn't, you didn't"...

Now this is one of those sort of pivotal moments that tells you alot about yourself. Looming on my emotional horizon was a dark cloud of disappointment, blame, and something even uglier...

placing something of material value over a relationship.

Snapping out of my "you didn't", chant and looking at my husband's expression of utter disbelief I started to laugh.

Examining the damage, "It's O.K.", he says... "Its just a little scratch on the bumper."

We both laugh.

I guess its been kissed.

Now I can relax.

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the last haul

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But wait there's more...

Upon using our trusty Sebring in its maximum hauling capacity it began to make a horrible wheezing sound. It lumped along throughout the weekend hauling a total of 46 plants.

But after taking it to the shop on monday we got the sad news...

Apparently the Junipers were its last haul.

This family vehicle that we have driven for years in all kinds of weather, hauled countless projects, moved stuff, top up, top down...

has breathed its last.

We will miss you Sebring.


Hey, do you think they sell cars at Costco?


in 2002 hauling lumber with bryan's dad.

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The Costco Dilemma

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In keeping with the efforts of a mammoth remodel project like our backyard, we have been scouting for the right low maintenance plants to put in our tiered walls. As is our nature we have looked for the last couple of years comparing and pricing so that when the time was right we could purchase. A ground cover juniper was where we had finally landed but to fill our walls was going to take a lot of plants and so the sticker shock of the local nursery of 37.99 per plant had held us back.

Until this weekend.

We needed to replenish our supply of grilling spices. Costco is where we get this. So hoping to pop in and pop out with one small container of grilling spices we were suddenly faced with what I like to call the Costco Dilemma.

And you know what I am talking about.

Unless you put blinders on and make a bee-line for that single purchase you are bound to have been faced with the Costco Dilemma.

Unless you have no-buy superpowers and are impervious to the temptations that are available at the consumers mecca you are bound to have been faced with the Costco Dilemma.

But we went and what did we bump into(no blinders or superpowers here) but pots and pots of Blue Rug Juniper.

at 11.99 ea.

crap. The Costco Dilemma. And it is even worse when it is not an "impulse buy" but something you were actually shopping for.

So you can probably guess the end of this story. 4 trips to three different Costcos and we had enough plants to fill our back walls and landscape the front of the house.

yea, we ended up getting the giant Leland Cypress and Nandinas that they had too. Oh, and the Heleri Holly that will make beautiful hedges.

Lord knows we have more important things to do, but fall is the right time to landscape and so one needs to consider timing when living in a four season part of the country. And of course there was the Costco Dilemma. It kind of forced our hand.

And since I know we are not the only ones, and confession is good for the soul...what thing did you buy when faced with the Costco Dilemma?

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mid coffee finance travesty

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Blech.

In the middle of my morning coffee I return a call to a card company because someone has apparently been spending our money. It has happened to everyone at least once, but this, in fact is our first.

such a violation.

But

I can handle the fact that maybe our number got stolen off of some internet order somewhere.

I can handle the fact that this is the price you pay for the convenience of not using cash and shopping online.

I can even handle the fact that some dishonest person decided to go on a spending spree using our card.

But what I CAN'T handle is what they bought...

a DELL computer.

I may never recover.

However, I am sure that the fact that this family are mac fanatics to the point of religion alerted the credit card gods. I am certain that the bells and whistles and sirens that sounded the minute that the word DELL hit the credit airwaves is what alerted our card company.

clearly not an anderson purchase.

From our very first mac plus and my beloved LC to Daniel's blueberry and lime imacs, to various powermacs, powerbooks, all the way to my dual G5 not to mention all the other apple products, monitors, ipods, etc...

The apple hardware we have in this house could wire a small country.

So upon being asked various security questions in clearing up what purchases we have made in the last two days, the card representative said the word DELL and I began to laugh.

He figured.

Our consistency is apparently what saved us.

If only we had bought stock in apple along with my LC.

autumn walk

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Another offering from the muse last night. (apparently she has been indulging in heavy doses of caffeine cuz I am having a hard time keeping up with her). This one follows the impressions series that seems to be the style I am locked into at the moment. It is a small canvas (18" x 18") compared to the flowered pieces which were 24" x 48".

This one is called "Autumn Walk".

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today the torch

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I am probably going to be sprinkling creative days in with business days a bit more in the next few weeks. The muse was very clear when last night I filled three pages with sketches and this morning the torch was the only thing I could think about...

i guess a multi-disciplined show is a good way to get inspired. So today's offering is a newly smithed pendent. All that is left to do to it is polish it.

I guess I can still do the really challenging pieces. This one has a dozen solder joints. I am struggling with one handicap...I don't see as well as I used to. Bifocals weren't part of my toolkit twenty years ago. So I feel a bit like an old woman and probably look a little silly holding up the work at arms length and right in front of my nose, all with a lit torch in my hand.;-)

At least I didn't burn the house down.

or lose some eyebrows for that matter.


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turquoise and rose quartz

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ta... da

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So I can check off number one of my mondo beyondo list of 2006. Yea, it took a little more than a year (ok almost two) but it is still in the spirit of the mondo beyondo, and who is keeping track anyway...its my list.

Ok, so we still have far to go, but this summer marks a real dent in our ongoing remodel project. We took the plunge and hired pros to put in new windows and siding, and splurged for the deck. I guess it sort of offsets the big DIY project. The wall(s) are still in progress and double as our summer exercise program.

Hey, why pay somebody else to tell you what weights to lift when you have a backyard full of bricks?

So, I am happy to report that labor day weekend marks the finishing of the biggest of the three walls. I can't even tell you how much work this represented, but as tedious, backbreaking, and frustrating as it was, it was also very rewarding. And what I have lovingly called "the trailer" for the last five years turned a corner this summer toward the status of "house".

before the new siding, windows, and deck

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after

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second wall finished

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iris

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today's offering from the muse is clearly part of a series (albeit somewhat involuntary on my part, but hey who can argue with a muse). Irises is almost finished here but needs a little tightening up. Third in line behind poppies and tuscan sunflowers, (grass is not done yet) this could almost be a triad except this one has more texture. That is thanks to Daniel using the canvas originally only to be unsatisfied with the piece he painted and gessoing it over.

So I guess technically this was painted by two artists ;-)

That texture was kind of fun to work with and around although it did take me in a different direction that may feel too frenetic compared to the more fluid other two.

Anyway, I am friends with the muse again. Yea!
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friday painting, jewelry, what?

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After yesterday I am so jazzed that I am stuck between being uber productive and completely ineffective.

Is that even possible?

Truthfully I am inspired and look forward to what today has in store. Aside from one expected interruption at noon I have the day to focus.

Now I just have to decide whether I pick up the brush or the torch.;-)

a day in the life

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a cappucinno and apple turnover (because it is all about the food) and a great internet connection brings me to my first silverspring haunt...mayorga cafe. Today is a unique day for the normally house-bound blair. Bryan drops me near here and then drives his grueling(in my opinion) commute to baltimore. I have to meet Brenda at 11 to check out the gallery space for my show. In the between time I have to design an ad for avp and write some publicity copy for a local newsletter for my show.

talk about split in half.

And in all honesty right now the thing that has me charged up is the local-community, tone of what my art show will be. Not the work (if I could only take credit for that) but the fact that this particular gallery is going through a metamorphisis, and my opening is going to be the beginning of its new life.

cool.

So, meeting with Brenda, in the space that will be the gallery, we evaluate a number of things.

This is when parts of me in the deep recesses of my being kick in. It is interesting when you have certain experiences and skills that accumulate in your life that make you able to connect the dots in ways that others with other skills would not.

oh yea.

You see, way back when, I had a gallery of my own, and add that to a number of experiences I....

well, you just accumulate info and stuff over your life, ya know?

So, as I look at the space, my stuff kicks in....

It has good bones, great walls, good angles

bad paint, bad ceiling (must change the lighting) bad floor (garage grey)...

but oh....so...much...potential.

Honestly, a person could put on a decent art show in this space in a day, but the potential to make it something special is really there.

So Brenda and I discuss the options and I take some pictures of the space and sketch it out so I can devise an appropriate flow for an installation... not to mention an overall look that might transform the whole space.

Why do I feel so excited about this...

from a business perspective I know from experience that this kind of thing is never a huge money maker. And I would be exttremely arrogant to assume that I am going to sell a ton of work... and even if I did sell everything it would pale in contrast to some people's daily take...

ok that sounded like nonsense...

so my practical side and my artistic side are having one of those warlike conversations.

regardless...I am thrilled. I love the idea of transforming a space, and the fact that my work will be displayed in it is really cool.

So Brenda and I continue our discussion, she talks about a vegetarian caterer and a celtic harpist for the opening and I do my best not to swoon.

She hadn't clued into the fact that my entire collection jumps off from a Celtic spiritual concept (thin places).

hmmm...

OK. so she has stuff to do, and we chat a bit, part ways and I jump on the downtown shuttle.

Next stop Borders in search of a book...

God's Politics, by Jim Wallis.

No it isn't that new, but I haven't read it yet and I have the priviledge of photographing the author in a couple of weeks for his upcoming book. So I figured I needed to catch up on some research.

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And then it is off to Adega for lunch. Yummy things and a good book. What can be better.

A walk through the downtown, I head for the metro station where hopefully I will find the right bus.

This is another new thing for me. I have pretty much mastered the metro, but riding the bus is another story...what if i get on the wrong one?

But I magically find the one that seems right and I get in and deposit my quarters and we are off. I read my book occasionally looking up to observe the facinating collection of people that are traveling. The man siting in front of me is wearing a cap that says west virginia, and I notice that his shirt is inside out, the "L" tag sticking out at me. Two rows up are a latino couple having a very animated conversation...I wish I spoke spanish. The bus stops and lets on a couple of children in private school uniforms apparently on their way home.

So I watch to see if we are getting close, and sure enough I picked the right bus. I have been curious about the bus stop that is outside my house(literally at the end of my driveway) and now I know. As we approach, I follow the example of others before me and pull on the wire to alert the driver. Ding. And again as if by magic the bus stops right in front of my door.

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This wonderful day ended with me surprising my husband with a candle light dinner on our deck. What a great day.

other than ones of the gallery, these pictures were the only three I shot along the journey of the day. What does that tell you?

what are the odds?

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You know those moments when your mind receives information in a sort of slow-mo fashion?

I had that experience last night...

and then spent the rest of the evening laughing at the statistical odds, not to mention the moral dilemma that faces my husband...

but a bit of back story first...

A few weeks ago I was delivering my new work (poppies and sunflowers) to the little shop in silver spring (Alchemy). Brenda the owner informed me that she had been asked to manage the Heliport Gallery, a gallery established by the organization that planned and revitalized the downtown. Anyway, she informed me that for her first show in that space she wanted to feature my thin places collection. (God Bless her)

My opening night will be October 5th!

So going home that day, I was on a bit of a high. My own show, with my paintings, on white walls...

very cool.

Fast forward to last night...

Bryan and I are in our favorite little wine shop,Adega, having a bottle of red, and some yummy tidbits. We run into a man named Luis Scotti, an artist that Daniel had seen here several months ago. Back then the man was looking over some pictures while having his lunch, and something about him just screamed "artist" so Daniel went up and introduced himself. They struck up a conversation and Luis was curating a show of some sort at the time at one of the embassies, and expressed an interest in seeing some of Daniel's paintings. The potential was very exciting, emails were exchanged but nothing ever came of it despite running into Luis several times later at Adega.

Until last night.

Luis spots Bryan while ordering cake, and asks..."Where is Danielle (very strong accent-he is from Uruguay), I need to speak to him right away, I need his work..."

hmmm.

Forgoing the cake order, Bryan invited Luis back to our table for a glass of wine, and to clarify. Communication is a bit of a challenge because of a slight language barrier, but we manage to get the info...

He wants three of Daniel's paintings for a show he is curating...

this show!

It is an international initiative that involves artists from several countries. An auction for a great cause. Very cool.

So, as we get a little more info, what work, pricing, sizes, etc. As the conversation continues I am more and more excited for my son, great opportunity, exposure...how wonderful! And then I ask the question...

"When is the opening?" (and this is where my mind received the information in slow motion in some sort of movie fashion)

October 5th.

What are the odds of that?

tapas and sangria

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The perfect thing after moving you kid back to college...

tapas and a pitcher of sangria on the porch of a favorite baltimore restaurant.

yea.

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sophomore move in

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Summer flown and move in day has come. Two days worth of back and forth and again we prove that you can move just about anything in a convertible.

At least with the top down.

But there were some challenges with timing between downpouring rain on saturday and a heat index of 105. It was like swimming in a fish bowl. But we managed to get Daniel tucked into his new digs in his new on campus apartment. Bryan worked his magic as usual hanging lights to shine on the big work wall (for all those artistic creations) making sure the direction was just so because we all know that...

"its all about the lighting".

A few pictures down you will see how hard I am working trying out the new papasan chair. Yes, those are my feet.

All in all this moving of our dear one was less traumatic this year as last. Fewer unknowns, we have all grown up a bit this year, and so the goodbyes were not followed by the lump in the throat but by, a more casual see ya later, have a great year...

Man did the summer fly by.

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don't force the muse

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I woke up this morning really wanting to take advantage of an "artist date". The paint was calling but the muse was not budging. I completed an entire canvas that went absolutely nowhere(which I will not show here). Apparently this day she would not be forced but instead rallied for a nap.

So I obliged.

It may seem like the apex of indulgences, or at the very least a little lazy, but I have to tell you that I have become a big one for taking naps.

And it seemed to help the muse, because I started something that felt right. A continued exploration in the impressionism vein.

grass.

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bible bonk

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Woman: "I hope you haven't DAMAGED it"...

Me, turning to woman: "What... what do you mean..,"

Indignant, Woman: "YOU are leaning on my car, You BETTER NOT have DAMAGED IT"...

Me, backing away from car(that I was not leaning on but standing next too), "I am sorry, we were just standing here talking...,"


This was the diologue that took place in the street as we were dropping Daniel off at a friend's apartment in baltimore last saturday. He had generously offered to help this friend move her stuff into her new apartment and so upon spotting her, and her parents, Bryan pulled the car to the side of the road to let Daniel out of the car. Her parents approached, and while the car was running we all got out of the car for a quick impromptu meeting. Handshakes and pleasantries were exchanged at the slight side of the road, but sort of in the middle of the street next to a row of parked cars. No traffic on this somewhat quiet street and so we felt comfortable to chit chat a bit without rudely jumping into our car. The six of us talking briefly about the upcoming year. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and then...

two african american women approach us and the dialogue begins...

In a very snotty defensive and unnecessary tone of voice, "I hope you haven't DAMAGED it".

and you read the rest of the diologue. Actually there was more but that was the jist. Daniel's friend, Cara's father was leaning against the mirror on this woman's car, and I was standing beside him when the verbal pelting insued.

I realize that personal space in our country is very important. I also realize that the value that we place on our material posessions is at an all time high. I even realize that when living in a stressed out environement of sheer entitlement one can become a little testy.

But there was one thing about the diologuing woman that really pissed me off...

she and her friend were holding bibles.

Starving children in the world, war, disease, pain and suffering, but this woman gets unnerved because this guy is leaning against her car.

I guess I have so much higher expectations for the christian class. But what I really wondered is that if this woman had been aware that I was a "fellow christian" would she have behaved differently? And this is where the real rub is for me... the us and them. I am guessing that in her pious state this woman had one of those "I must be better than you" moments that is sometimes perpetuated by the wholier than thou. Making the assumption that this group standing next to her car was in the "lost" category she mustered the righteous indignation to put us in our place.

I wonder which lord gave her the commandments to do that.

While holding a black bound copy of "Holy Scriptures" she managed to do everything opposite of what they teach.

OK, maybe she was a newbee.
Or
Maybe she had just got the book off of Amazon and hadn't had a chance to crack the cover yet.
Or
Maybe she had just broken up with her boyfriend who had an annoying habit of leaning on her car.
Or...

well there are a thousand excuses. Except they are all pretty lame.

And the level of importance placed on a behavior compared to what we are called to be as disciples...well...

Call me crazy but I don't think "love thy neighbor" is anywhere near "defend thy car".

Anyway, fortunately I did not have the tongue to lash out at this woman, just the unnecessary apology while partially paralyzed by astonishment. Which is kind of a drag because I thought of ten very eloquent things that I could have said to her about an hour later. Ok maybe that was fruit of the spirit kicking in.

But seriously it makes me sad that somewhere along the line something sinister has crept into people who proudly wear the banner of Christ across their chest. Is it any wonder that some of us have stepped away from the institution that is producing these people. Of course I am brandishing my own brand of judgement here, but I have to ask the question...

What if it were Christ leaning on her car?


Mr 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Php 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

"In order to seek one's own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary life." -Plato

or

"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans,".. or whatever that quote is. Life has sped right by me of late which means a few things get left in the dust.

Like blog.

But it is always a good indication for me that I need to re-calibrate and balance out the things that may be taking too much time. Sometimes things happen and you kind of have to roll with it, but other times need choice applied...

there is a time for every season under heaven...

anyway, getting back in balance is key for me this week. I can always feel it in my bones when there is too much and crisis mode kicks in which means you are functioning only on the "what needs to happen or get done at this moment", mode. Not good. Fortunately I am not there yet. The usual indicator for this is skipping morning coffee...

bad, very bad.

But like I said, not there yet, but there is much on the horizon to consider. We are approaching fall and I have a conference to prepare for, a book to finish, and a planet to manage ;-). The list from 07 needs to be revised due to some things sort of being out of my control but a couple of the biggies are still on my must do list...like finish the backyard. and complete the designs for Exnihilo. So, keeping the big ones in mind I may cut back on a few other plans in order to stay balanced. I need to blog, and I need to paint, and neither of those have been in their proper place for several weeks. They feed the well that enables the rest of it...

the art of living.

You know things have gone completely south when stuff ends up on my dining room table...

but I am not there yet either. Close? yes. Looming? maybe. Good time to catch life becoming business and snap it back to art. Otherwise life becomes no fun at all. How does one snap it back?

Good question. What I have found is that sometimes it takes radical measures like cutting some major commitments out of your life that seem to be sucking the joy out of things. Of course some commitments are unavoidable(like a job) but sometimes there are those that may have gone on for years and you wonder why you are still doing it. Time to rethink. Then there are other little things that we sometimes choose to do that may be unnecessary. My personal favorite example of this is grocery shopping.

yea, I have mine delivered.

Some people LOVE to shop. But for this introvert the grocery store has never had much appeal. Maybe it stems from the early married days of going down every aisle with calculator in hand pinching pennies until they screamed and buying the generic brand not because it was the "green" choice but because it was all we could afford. Maybe it stems from the fact that the whole activity of going through a grocery store (or mall or other shopping place) always leaves me tired and tapped. So it makes sense for me to go online, check off my list, and then go about my business until the doorbell rings with my groceries.

This is not an extravagance, but a practical choice. It enables me to apply that otherwise spent energy to something else. Something I value more. But it took me years to understand that.

The "keep life in balance" principle is not easy. I think it requires an intentionality that can feel like swimming upstream against the flow. And there are so many contributing factors that can knock things off kilter. Some are tangible, some psychological, some uncontrolable, some are even self-inflicted. But I have found that artful living is a worthwhile pursuit and I continue to throw myself at it. So this week I am going to employ my favorites...

My top ten ways of living an artfully balanced life:

1. Have at least one room in your house that is meant to be a disaster. For me this is my studio, and as much as I like it to be clean, the rule is that there is permission given for that room to be whatever it needs to. Sometimes it looks like an ikea show room and sometimes it looks like a tornado hit and dumped an art supply store in the process. That is the point. There is freedom in having a place where martha stewart would dare not enter. Relish it.

2. Have at least one room in your house that is always put together. For me this is our dining room. It is where we gather for dinner and every other room in the house can be a bit cluttered as long as there is this haven at mealtime. It is a place of calm. Having another room as a private haven of escape is also a good thing. I have a bathroom that we remodeled with an old clawfoot bathtub I got off of ebay. A lot of my best ideas have sprung from a good soak in that tub.

3. File the mail the moment you look at it. Toss the junk and file the bills. This seems silly but it helps things from getting out of hand. For me mail is an icon of the world spinning out of control and taking care of it everyday gives me some sort of peace. Weird? Maybe, but three days of unattended mail is a bummer. Now if I could just apply this principle to email...hmm...

4. Never say yes right away. Always give yourself some time to think before making a commitment. "I'll get back to you on that", can make the difference from being impulsive and making a mistake to thinking something through and being wise. We have all committed to things that end up taking more time than we initially realized. Taking a few minutes to ponder the ramification of a choice can serve well later on.

5. Never answer the phone. Ok this doesn't work for everyone, but I have to screen my calls or I would never get anything done. The mental energy spent on sales calls alone would be a waste.

6. Eat right, sleep right. This seems so silly, but who does it? Eating good food at normal times helps the body to run smoothly. Sleep? Duh.

7. Delegate things you hate to do. This may sound selfish, but it is actually a very practical approach to time (and sanity) management. We all have stuff we have to do, but if there is just one thing you can hand off... for me it's grocery shopping. Get rid of overcommitment and strive for simplicity.

8. Never forsake a creative moment. When given the opportunity to do something creatively, do that. This one is hard to explain. For me, a recent example of this was that my grape vines needed a trellis. Hence the picture below. A more daily example would be simply setting the table with cloth napkins, but for some people that extra laundry would tip their balance meter. Depends on the person.

9. Have a time set aside every week to recharge. For me it is my artist date on fridays. Sometimes it is an hour, sometimes (if I am lucky) it is the whole day. Having a time designated for rest is something to look forward to and balances out other times of the week that get mundane or tedious. If you have trouble justifying this think fourth commandment. If God thought it was a good idea, maybe so should we.

10. Practice being grateful. This is sometimes hard for me because I often get bogged down in the details and then get sullen. Popping my head out and looking at all that has brought me to this point in my life, the who, the what, and the how, is something to be grateful for. Cherishing the people in my life is the main thing, then all the other things, material or otherwise, are just a bonus.

"Be content in all things..."

Anyway, just a few of my favorites. There are more quirky things that keep things going in my little world, but this week we are keeping it simple.


handmade copper trellis for the concord grape vines
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Created this image some time ago as a metaphor for racial diversity but am considering it for an ad. The planet keeps spinning and if genuine original art has any voice I have to advertise to get it heard. And the church world has too many flowers, sunsets, and fluffy bunnies.

But I hate advertising.

I always feel a little sluty doing ads for something that I consider a ministry.

But it is my bread and butter too. And creating the art doesn't have much meaning if nobody gets to see it.

Kinda like if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it... or a bear....

Well, you know.

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This series also evolved into the image of christ as a woman covered in blood...

definitely not fluffy.

fruits

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Much better than what you get at the store, my two plants are now inundating us with produce.
Salsa, anyone?

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more than a step

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When I went away to college in 1983 a new person stepped into my mother's life.

And into mine.

Although he had five children of his own, he readily included me as one of them.

Sitting in the service that memorialized him I contemplated the word.

Step.

From the phone call that said "you need to come home", "he isn't doing well", to the call a few hours later..."he's gone", to the plane ride and the planning and preparations... during it all I kept contemplating the word.

Step.

He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, moved my stuff in college, helped with my first art show... all those things a father would.

Through the years he took that place that my natural father never would have. He became the ideal of the word father. Our relationship as "steps" always made me keep things cordial, and polite. It is funny how a simple word can lay boundries around your heart that keep you from recognizing the fullness of a relationship. Through the journey of the last week from the sad news to experiencing my mother's tears, and my own, I felt as though my own emotions had ambushed me. The word step could not allow me to completely identify with the emotions of his real daughters and yet the emotions were there laying claim without permission.

The emotional protection that would be caused by the distancing of the word...

was not there.

Confusion about what I thought was appropriate to feel compared to what I was feeling sat within me.

I am only a step.

For twenty three years he made my mother happy, cared for two families...children..grandchildren...great grandchildren. Clearly he had enough love to go around.

Countless hours were spent discussing life, spirituality, politics, and protocol during the many visits to wherever we were living at the time, Alberta, Florida, Maryland. He was always ready to give advice but only if invited to do so. Mostly he would listen. Except when telling his stories of the war which everyone loved to hear even though we had heard each one many times before. He taught the things that my natural father never could. Integrity, honesty, loyalty.

It always felt good to make him proud.

In the time that ticked away from the moment that he became my mother's husband something happened to the title. What seemed a firm definition of a relationship by term became a thin and meaningless word last wednesday. Watching the flag folded and handed to my mother I wrestled with this word that was not giving me full permission and something became clear. The culmination of time and love had erased the meaning.

He was not just a step...

He was my father.

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George Callihan
1924-2007

6 bricks short of a...

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We are a few bricks short. Actually six and a half. And you are nodding to yourself, "yup they are a few bricks short..."

By sunday night we just couldn't muster one more brick. Its not that the bricks weigh eighty five pounds each, or that they are almost impossible to get down to the second tier level from the pallets...

its the leveling.

The painstaking part of getting this first course level almost drove me insane. If there is one pebble that is making the brick lean even a sixteenth of an inch you are screwed by the time the wall is four feet tall, because that sixteenth will get magnified. So this part is like the most important part of the whole process.

And it is soooo boring.

It is like the bottom part of an iceberg. You know, the two thirds underwater part that you don't see? You are unaware of it but it is holding the whole thing up. Apparently the same is true for dry stacked, pinned retaining walls.

And leveling these things is nuts. My little bullet level got full use as we placed brick after brick, testing, nudging, beating with a rubber mallet, brushing, and some of them we had to remove multiple times to get it right. There were moments that I wanted to chuck that level into the woods.

Argh!

So after working through the heat and frustration, at about five oclock the mosquitos started to come out, and it was clear that it was time to quit. And a few rain drops provided us with the perfect excuse (again saved by the rain).

So we ordered a pizza.

And much later after the sun had set as we were drifting off to sleep I had to give Bryan a nudge because apparently in dreamworld he was tapping blocks into place using the rubber mallet. But in reality his hand was the mallet and my arm was the block. Kinda funny. But maybe a little crazy too.

It helps me to keep in mind what this stage represents: many weekends of digging, and hundreds of wheelbarrows full of dirt hauled. What we have got at this point is a very level portion of a first (the most important) course.

It is just six bricks short.

So you know what we will be doing next weekend.

saturday morning

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crusher run

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sand

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sunday night

bricks!!

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hairy tomato

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sunflowers

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practicing patience

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I woke up this morning impatient. Trying to pinpoint the feeling was difficult. I can only describe it as a feeling of discontent that things don't move, resolve, or have closure fast enough.

And it only got worse after my morning coffee.

The feeling is familiar though. It tends to be the poker that prompts me to go about the daily things of life, get things done, keep things going. And that can be good...

but it has a darker side.

Want.

This is the opposite of being "content in all situations", and I think it stems mostly, or at least is fed by the tone of the culture that we live in. Not that culture is completely to blame. My own desires factor in for sure. The question is where does desires intersect with the functions of daily life, and at what point does having a particular thought that evolves into a desire become a want?

Every human everywhere, we all desire basic things. But want is something that seems to throw things out of kilter...

robbing your peace.

And for me right now, I just want everything to be done, finished and resolved.

And I want it now.

Looking outside at my herb garden and my tomato plants that have gotten five feet tall I am reminded of what it means to be patient. One thing that gardening does is teach you patience. Everything about it requires pause. Composting is a process that takes months, even years. Plants that fruit or flower only after years of cultivation can remind you of where you are in the scheme of things. If you really contemplate it that is.

Good things come to those who wait.

I hate waiting.;-)

diggin the fourth

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In the last episode our heros were somewhat discouraged by the overwhelming nature of the task and the seeming lack of progress. Taking full advantage of the holiday (being a day off from work) our dynamic duo takes another stab at it.

This time employing a bit of a mind game motivational tactic of counting.

Simple and effective.

Using increments of ten wheelbarrows hauled, we took a break between sets. It may sound silly, but having mini finish-lines made the difference. It did two things; made us push to each number ten (you get tired at about seven) and, more unexpectedly, it kept us from overdoing it. Last weekend we were sore and exhausted from the fits and starts, sprints and endurance runs. It took its tole. Today was sort of a rhythmic cycle that kept us motivated but not overextended.

85 wheelbarrows hauled and 16 old bricks removed by five o'clock and we were feeling pretty good.

by noon

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by five

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The trench is well on its way. Another day and it will probably be ready to put in the crush, sand and then...

maybe a brick or two.

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then it started to rain

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So, of course we ended the day with some good food, wine, and a movie.

Work hard. Play hard.

new plan for planner

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Ok, I think I am going to make the transition from my shiny green notebook (that used to keep me organized) to this.

When it comes to making my lists I have always been a pen and paper kind of gal. Right down to using a purple pen to check things off to give me the added satisfaction of finishing something. (yea its a quirk, I'll own it). But the notebook has lacked the sophistication to keep up with the oodles of projects I've added to my life of late. And when a system doesn't work well, it doesn't work at all. Stuff starts to lag, or fall off the table and that is frustrating. Fortunately during one of Bryan's regular surfing sessions he bumped into this great piece of software. Its features are perfect for this intj. It even links to ical.

And it is free. Gotta love the net. Two clicks and I was setting up my new system.

So now I am officially going high tech.

Someone want to break the news to my purple pen?

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celebrate anyway

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How to embrace progress (or lack thereof)? Celebrate it.

So with the weather being so beautiful lately that was grounds for a picknic by the pool in the shadow of the unfinished walls.

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diy insanity

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This last weekend we took another stab at our backyard "project". Right now that word just seems way too small for what we are tackling. And yes I can see you shaking your head as you view these pictures, and I can read your mind as you think...

they are crazy.

yup.

Today I will totally agree and shake my head right along with you. Because we are at that awful stage...

the middle.

You know the middle. It can be any project, but bigger ones it is more pronounced but either way when you hit it you may hear that sound, like the grinding of gears coming to a halt.

The middle is that desert of motivation. You spent all of that on the inspiring idea, and all it took to get the thing going, but now the momentum has stopped and it feels as if you are stalled. The middle is also far away enough from the end that if there is light at the end of the tunnel you don't see it because you are busy looking at your feet.

Or in our case a whole lot of dirt.

As we sat down by our pool in one of our many water breaks, looking up at the would be wall, I tried to remember that the scope of this project and its labor is in direct proportion to how great it is going to look when it is done.

ha.


A few weekends ago Bryan actually finished this first corner wall which was a challenge. This is the wall that he worked on with his dad. And seeing this helps us remember why we started this in the first place.

before
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after
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When we bought this house that had "good bones" we also inherited some failed systems like the big brick retaining wall. This side section was a particular eye sore having been rotting wood held up by steel rods. That was holding the dirt back from falling into the pool, and as you can imagine, not only did appear in disrepair, it didn't work. So now we have the spiffy new corner wall.

Onto the big one.

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The plan is to terrace it in three sections using the stone for the upper two and stuccoing the exiting brick wall. The front wall that used to be six foot high, will be three feet and stuccoed. That is the plan anyway. The stone we are using is Versa-loc mosaic. It is pretty cool.

The most disheartening part of the process is moving dirt away from where the center wall has to be built, only to bring the dirt back again for back fill. And although our property is visually more interesting because of the slope, it makes for a real challenge when your are hauling wheelbarrows full of dirt up hill.

digging the trench for the center footer

The only reason I am in this shot is because Bryan grabbed the camera when I actually had a shovel in my hand. Most of my job was hauling the dirt away. Bryan has been heroically doing the lion's share of the digging.

Hey, he has bigger forearms than me.

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I have to laugh thinking about how we started out the morning. Laying in bed with the tv on trying to muster the energy to dig some more, we watched a few of those diy shows where some unsuspecting couple lets a team of tv people come and redesign their yard involving them in the process. So what you see when you watch is this amazing amount of progress from seemingly a handful of people. What you don't see is the crew of laborers that jump into action when the cameras are off. So we watched a few of these shows and laughed at "those people".

Then we went out to dig.

One thing I suggest for anyone trying something this large is not to say on a given day, "this is how much we are going to get done". It might be too much and that might get discouraging. Being stuck in the middle this weekend, we had hopes of at least having the trench dug.

Hmmm.... it was a bit much to shoot for.

Anyway, I do hope that by the end of the summer we have the walls done. Unrealistic?

Maybe.

Haven't been blogging in a while. Too many projects, too many options, each one edging out the other until I am often left standing in the middle of my studio unsure of what to do next. I told myself a few years ago that I would not let this happen again, but when you have so many interests it is often times hard to let them go (even one) without remorse. And then there are the things that must be done...tasks that revolve that give no satisfaction unless you slide them into some sort of meditational exercise, which sometimes works for me.

Yes, even laundry can be a spiritual discipline.

But the last few weeks have flown due to cram packed weekends of working on the yard.

And the weekdays have been crammed with running a business, writing a book, photographing this guy (again) for his new book (just the inside jacket, no cover this time) trying to grow tomatoes, learning to compost, stacks of finances to finish, an architect to call...

jewelry to make(cuz apparently it is selling)...

paintings to paint...

food to cook...

toilets to clean...

ok this sounds like some sort of weird domestic rollercoaster. Actually, this weekend my husband and I dubbed it "the wheel of projects". In that case we were giving a name specifically to the overwhelming amount of projects left to finish the remodel of this house. But in fact the concept could apply to my world in general.

But really, I probably wouldn't have it any other way.

Even though I wistfully imagine a simple apartment with nothing needing fixed, working with my laptop with no clutter of any kind...

well that would last for about ten minutes and then my head would implode.

Truth is I need my doors. Some are fun, some are tedious, some are great candidates for procrastination and others I can't wait to get to...

So today I sit with so many doors...eeny meeny miney moe...

How many doors do you have, and how many of them do you actually like?

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turtles, deer, worms and hail

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Last week it was snapping turtles. Yesterday I caught a worm munching my grapevines. While I was outside tending my plants I felt something fall on me like a mist. Tiny bugs. I had to shake them off. It was ninety degrees then it rained, then it hailed. This morning it was below sixty and felt cold. The forecast is back to ninety in two days.

Typing away I looked up to see a deer looking at me through my studio door. I nearly jumped out of my chair. Whats next? Raining frogs?

or something out of a steven king novel?

weird.


deer spots me with camera and bolts

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grapevine pest
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milestone

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When Daniel came home from MICA for the summer we pointed out that in order for him to go back he needed to get a job. We laid out a dollar figure that he had to come up with by the end of the summer "somehow". It was a sobering day for him reflecting on how he was going to raise our said dollar figure having never had a real job before. A little stressful, a little scary. I am sure at the time it seemed impossible.

But then again when he does something it is never small.

Let's just say the planets aligned for our little family to tackle the situation. There were a number of factors to consider, one of the big ones is that we only have one car. If Daniel was to get a job he would either have to ride the bus (and the job would have to be near public transportation) or we would have to get a second car(which we really can't afford with the cost of tuition which is why he needs a job in the first place).

About this time Bryan was experiencing a real crunch at the office, and they were about to troll for design contractors.

Enter Daniel.

At nineteen he has got some pretty good design chops. Having lived under our roof, combined with enough technology to dink around with over the years, plus multiple family projects that have sort of honed skills by osmosis, one electronic media course at mica and add to that a real talent, and bingo.

So for a portion of the summer Daniel is working as a hired designer at the firm that Bryan works at. What a godsend this was. Not only was the transportation issue eliminated (cus he goes to work with his dad) but he is making a really good dollar because of his skill. Although he has freelanced, this is technically his first "real" job. All those years in front of the computer tinkering with programs like Bryce and Photoshop are starting to payoff. And he is totally rising to the occasion of a challenging deadline driven atmosphere.

While the guys were at work, his first paycheck arrived in the mail. We went out for a bite to eat that evening after work at our favorite little wine shop, and while we were waiting for our food I pulled the envelope out of my purse...

"We have something to celebrate"...

And so this day marks the day that Daniel got his first paycheck.

So proud of you son!

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hash

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at the risk of this blog turning into a running list of what i had for breakfast... sunday brunch with the folks...

Bryan's home made corned beef hash...

need i say more?

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bryan and his mom

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very special cake

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Bryan's 43 today.

A very unusual birthday request from my husband was to spend the day outside laying bricks. Doesn't sound like much of a birthday but the key ingredient to this was that his dad was here to help. So for Bryan's 43rd birthday, Bryan, Dad and I worked on our backyard while Mom was in the kitchen secretly making something very special.

The birthday cake.

It isn't just any cake. It is a cake that Bryan used to ask for as a boy. It is a cake that has fond memories attached to it. And it is a cake that takes a pound of butter to make.

yea huh.

And since it has been ages since I have made a birthday cake, it worked out great. After Mom finished working her magic in the kitchen she joined us outside, watching the antics as "the boys" tried to outdo each other in who could haul the most bricks down the hill without killing themselves (or each other). Dad won hands down with five bricks stacked on the handtruck. Keep in mind each brick weighs 82 pounds. Bryan's dad is bumping up against age seventy but can run rings around us younger folk and lift more than his own weight exponentially. It is always a hoot watching him but be careful not to blink because while you are standing around trying to figure something out he will have it done without skipping a beat.

So finishing up with bricks and such we settled in for a nice evening barbeque. An unconventional birthday indeed, but ended with the sweetest of desserts.

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the oh-so-yummy french-filling cake.

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take me out to the ballgame

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Bryan's family was visiting from canada, and it turns out that his mom is a baseball fan. So friday night we decided to do something out of the ordinary for my little family and go to a game.

It was pretty cool.

We are normally museum and gallery folk, and lord knows we have dragged them through a number of those, so baseball seemed in good form for this visit.

If I have ever been to a game before in my life I can't remember it , so I guess this qualifies as a first. Another experience to check off of the list of must dos in life (like scuba diving or seeing a broadway play). The evening was a balmy 90+ degrees until it cooled slightly when the sun went down, but it was totally worth it just to see the smile on Bryan's mother's face. And of course in order to embrace the full experience we all had hot dogs (something I don't even buy).

It was a blast.

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it was quite a hike to our seats. here's the fam on the fifth level of the stadium.

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mother and son.

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the view was great.
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and to top it all off the O's won.

writing your own fairy tale

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I realized in reading beautiful blog stories this morning that a person can really frame ones life (or reframe it) in the blog. This can be a very good thing. (It also could be a bad thing and has the potential for a good psycho-thriller if the re-framing is off the deep-end ;-). The art of storytelling of ones own life can be powerful. Such is the blog.

What was originally a vehicle for me to just do "morning pages" a-la julie cameron-artist way has evolved. Of course the point of morning pages is to brain dump and are never supposed to be read by a soul. But for me this (blog) vehicle created an incentive. Then it became a way to really work things out. Then it became a beautiful way to record the adventures of my family which I will be able to treasure when I am eighty. But it does something else too...

keeps my accountable.

The books say this. You know all those books that have all that wisdom... pick one they all mention the act of writing something down as a necessary step to making something happen.

I have always been a list maker, a goal setter, and a planner. Sometimes this practice has granted me the fulfillment and satisfaction of something accomplished and other times it has been a source of torture. That might depend on where I wrote it. Did it land on a sticky that was easy to toss... or one of my fine sketchbooks that you wouldn't dare tear the page out.

Sounds kind of crazy doesn't it?

Maybe so... but sketchbooks and stickies aside... what about the blog? Doesn't it have even more power than a piece of paper, no matter how fine?

It is like making a promise to the world that you are going to do something or be a certain way. And I wonder if when proclaiming to the world what you plan to do, or who you want to be motivates you to do that much better...

or be that much more.

The idea that someone someday (or tomorrow) will read about what you are up to may make you think twice about what you do or neglect to do today.

Like a cosmic accountability group...

or a promise to god.

But how precious it is to understand that we have choices. Whether we write them down or not, we have choices to make every day. And those choices are like pebbles in a stream that direct the flow. That may sound like a scary idea but even the smallest act of kindness can have big results.

But I digress...

A few months ago I started reflecting on the idea of versions of the self. If there was a possibility of having other versions of you what would those versions look like? How can a person help or hinder the creation of a good version versus a bad version...or even a mediocre version.

Mediocre...hmmm is that what it means to be "luke warm"?

Anyway, I became fascinated by this concept of versions of self. Maybe it is my age that makes me suddenly reflect upon this. I am statistically in the "middle" of my life, and I guess that means looking back and looking ahead which makes your reflect on what you have done in the past and more importantly what you still have the power to do with your future.

What a beautiful opportunity to imagine what the best version of "you" might look like and go for that.

Which makes me absolutely stunned when I bump into blogs where someone writes about making choices towards destruction. I don't get that. To willfully choose to proclaim to the world how bad they want to be... I guess that is a notion of youth that will catch up to anyone.

That might make me sound hypocritical, because of course no one is perfect...

but to try for a better version of self seems more sane doesn't it? Unless you are locked into some romantic notion that self destruction might lead to something better... the hollywood ending...

Thelma and Louise, anyone?

And then there are those beautiful blogs where letters are written to babies by their moms and dads for future reading by the child. Hopes and wishes given in love for prosperous futures. Sort of setting the scene and launching pad for the child to become the best version of themselves. These are the best kind of blog posts.

This thing we call blog is such an interesting phenomenon. Ok... it used to be journals, but truthfully I never kept a good journal until the blog. Pictures are key. And now, whether anyone reads what I am up to or not I feel accountable to it because of my own future readings. What a great thing to be able to read about all the richness of your life when your memory might fail you. And in the here and now, isn't it wonderful to be able to write your own fairy tale while you are actually creating it?

If you had the ability to frame your life and write your own fairy tale what would it look like? What would you change?

What version of you do you want to see when you look in the mirror?

morning visitor

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The guys have left for the day, I finish making my capp, grab the cup and hear a strange noise. I look out my kitchen window and see this...

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He may not look like much but it was about 18 inches long, so proportionately large compared to my brick step. The split second upon spotting it took my brain a beat to translate what I was seeing. What..big brown lump(no)...groundhog(no)...baby dinosaur(hehe)...ITS A TORTOISE!

What strange creatures travel through my yard after a good rainstorm.

artist date: tomatoes and poppies

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So today I get to play. Taking my friday was a challenge because other tasks keep calling, tugging at the responsible side of me... wait, isn't taking an artist date the responsible thing to do? oh yea... i keep forgetting that to function as an artist and a human being i need to keep honoring this ritual. someone just hit me over the head please.

So... outdoors to get my hands dirty. Learning about organic gardening has sent me down the trail for home made insecticides. Tomato leaf tea... kills aphids. And to my amazement the tomatoes I planted a few weeks ago are HUGE. Waist high so I caged them. This is another added victory for me...another plant I didn't kill. Though lets wait to see if I actually get any tomatoes ;-)

Then going inside from the heat I picked up a brush and did my best impression of blair doing impressionism. Poppies in a field emerged as I painted. No thin places today, the other muse was the one awake this time. She seems to like broad strokes, bold colors, and big canvas. The thin places muse must be on summer vacation or maybe she has moved on completely. Who knows.

Field of Poppys

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herbs and tomatoes

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digging....

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more digging....

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digging...daniel smiling for the camera...

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who put up the wall?...

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so excited

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In my (what seems like) perpetual research regarding design for our artist retreat I bumped into an architect that might be perfect. Alas the friends made on the island last year are apologetically overwhelmed in their own architect world to help us, so I have been scoping far and wide for someone who might sympathize with our little dream. I ran into Frank Harmon. His work is amazing, artistic, insightful...

and probably out of our price range. But you never know until you ask.

Of course looking at the work of a world class designer is one thing, actually talking to him is quite something else.

What the heck, I'll send him an email. What is the worst that can happen? (You think I'd learn about adventurous emails ;-)

So a few days ago I did. I described our little project and what our hopes and dreams are. And his firm replied back in a very friendly fashion. Frank was out of the office this week but will be back next week. Our proposed project sounds "very intriguing" and the eco-friendly part is "very appealing". So they prompted me to send more specific property details to be followed by a phone call with Frank.

One more step closer to mondo.

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momentum sensation

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It has been a busy week. I have been packing in the projects and my body is sore and my house is slightly askew, but all is well because I have that momentum sensation.

Momentum. Moving forward. it is something I need and upon reflection it is probably how I gauge if I am living successfully (or fully). While experiencing the sensation of momentum is when I am at my happiest.

Working hard on avisualplanet.com and our new Espanol section has been business. Digging in the dirt to prep for building that three-teired retaining wall has been household. And of course I have been doing various forms of art which is what keeps me inspired. It all flows together, one inspiring the other.

But I am not the only one. Someone else in our house seems to be experiencing momentum. Right now I am sharing my creative space with him which is working out much better than I thought. Daniel is going off to work in the morning with Bryan, having landed a gig doing some design/media work. So by day he is working off some of that hefty MICA tuition. Which means I get the space during the day. By night he is using the space.

This is what greeted me this morning as I entered my studio stretching and yawning. I guess Daniel was up pretty late.

It is about six feet tall.

And if that isn't enough, since he has been home he has redesigned his website. It is very cool and shows his work very well (i think, but you know how bias us moms can be).

Here it is.

Don't miss the art pages.

I have to say he is firing on all thrusters. Learning how to balance life with art is one of the biggest challenges of the creative soul. Once you have found the sweet spot the creativity flows exponentially. It is a place of balance that some artists work a lifetime to understand, and some never get it, choosing to work in the extremes instead. It does my heart good as a mom, to see him seeking this balance.

It appears that Daniel is experiencing a sweet spot.

gallery update

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Today was my day to deliver my first batch of jewelry to that sweet little Silver Spring gallery called Alchemy. My paintings are soon to follow in giclee form, as I spent the morning with the fine art printer going over the fine tuning of the shots he took of my originals. Upon leaving the photo studio I rushed home to finish pricing and creating an inventory list of the small batch I had finished the day before. I gave the gallery owner a call asking if I could bring the work over and she expressed her excitement over the phone.

Every experience should be like this.

So I gathered my stuff and off I went. Alchemy is only about 20 minutes from my house which is such a great thing. But the super great thing is the gallery owner, Brenda. She is genuinely excited about every artist in her shop. After greetings and some chit chat, she showed me my display case, while grabbing some windex to spruce up the shelves. She let me arrange my work as we talked. After I had set my work out she excitedly showed me some fabulous hand died silk shawls that another artist had brought by earlier. I even tried one on. Beautiful stuff. But it is her excitement that makes the place so special and helped motivate me to get my stuff together. Upon our initial meeting I had left one necklace with her for her to wear (because she loved it so much) until I came back with inventory. So last week I get a frantic email that informed me that someone had seen it and wanted to buy it, except that I hadn't priced it. And I hadn't given her my phone number! So when I got the email I gave her a quick call and we priced the piece and it sold that day. At that point she gently inquired when she would be getting more.

So last week's artist date was spent with torch in hand.

And I have to admit, it is fun again. After years of doing this and ending those years because of a combination of pain in my hands, business burnout, a couple of bad gallery experiences, and getting really ripped off by an international dealer (which was the final straw) I can say it is fun again. This is a big deal for me, because for so many years after quitting I could walk into a gallery and not even feel a spark of interest.

But the spark is back.

Apparently time does heal all wounds.

And so does kind and excited gallery owners.

Thanks Brenda.

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Alchemy

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this summers uber project

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This summer's uber project is that pesky retaining wall over our pool. Last year we managed the tearing down part, which left the lovely mud piles and random bricks throughout our yard. Now we pick up there and start to hopefully make progress. And what better motivation to get things going than to have tons of stone delivered.

Now it has to go somewhere.

Now you might think that this is an exercise in perpetual frustration. But really it is a choice. We like a challenge, and it has the potential of being a good workout. And some people pay big money for that.

So Bryan and I spent a good part of the weekend digging, tamping, digging, measuring, and digging some more.

I think projects like this are good for the soul. Looking at the big picture is too overwhelming so you kind of have to take it one chunk at a time. As much as I love closure, this kind of thing is a good exercise in patience, concentration, problem solving, and the value of the incremental.

I think for the most part, soulwork is incremental.

Ok yea, sometimes you get the giant life changing events that are like spiritual earthmovers that make big changes in your spirit. I think of these as defining events. Things that fall into this category are usually painful, or at the very least so challenging that they bend you just to the breaking point. But the incremental stuff is, at least to me, the way most big things get done, spiritually speaking, or in the practical.

Moving dirt definitely falls into the latter.

But with each shovel full I am reminded that the work of the soul happens in the day to day workings and often the mundane. God teaches us so many things in these less than glamourous moments. It is in this that the practical informs the spiritual. So this weekend as we poked away at this huge project I was reminded not only to pay attention to the value of the incremental but to welcome it and sit well with it.

And just like with big backyard projects, the spirit grows one shovel full at a time.

Here i am with the tamper. Notice the big pallets of stone above my head. The cinderblock portion of the previous wall still has to be taken down.

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Bryan creating a border for the crusher run.

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a little progress to celebrate.

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laughing my head off

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I am presently laughing my head off. Today brings another breed of tree "man" into my yard. This one is the kind that grinds the stumps with big machines. And they are apparently not nearly as macho as the climbers. I just left five of them in my back yard after hearing them scream like little girls. I looked out the window from my desk and saw them scatter. Loving a mystery I ran out to see what the fuss was.

A snake.

Next to the offending tree stump (that they are going to grind down) was a stack of bricks. Nestled and coiled in between the bricks was what had all of these burly men "rattled".

I happen to like snakes. Ever since my big brother handed me a black snake when I was five I thought they were intriguing creatures. But I do understand the need to rid your yard of them if they are a threat. And this one although undefined, was about three feet long. So, as the five men stood around reluctantly poking the snake with a stick, I ran to get a shovel. When I returned they had managed to encourage the thing out of its nest only to slither down the hill toward our shed. I had the shovel at the ready and considered dispatching the thing right there but figured that might be insulting to either their environmental sensibilities, or their macho sensibilities. Who knows. But when I left the scene they all looked like they had seen a monster and were doing heebe jeebe style body language which is what got me laughing so hard before typing this.

The big sissies.

Too bad I didn't get a picture. But it looked like this

It is a common eastern garter snake. Totally harmless.

the best mom

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The older I get and the older our son gets the more I realize that my mother is amazing. The more years that tick by the more amazing she becomes because with the passing of years comes my own experience paralleling hers. Each experience has me reflect and think...

how did she do this?

We all have our unique gifts and challenges specific to our time in history, our place geographically, or educational restrictions or whatever, but there is something about being a mother that brings out the true grit type stuff in a woman. My mother just exemplifies what is possible.

moms day 07

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What can I say? It's all about the food. Here you see my sneaky husband adding Reeses to the flower arrangement. The man truly has the keys to my heart. Mimosas in the morning followed by french toast and a cap. Yummmm.

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Flowers and two lovely cards from my guys. Touching things written by my son that brought tears to my eyes. These are the moments that make being a mom the best thing ever.

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Then we got ambitious and hung Daniel's new painting in the living room. Which then facilitated completely rearranging our bedroom in order to find a home for the artwork that was in the living room ;-). I call this the domino effect. It happens pretty frequently in our house. The start or change of something often times effects other things that have to be tended to. So the new painting in the living room... changed our bedroom.

Go figure.

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My sweet husband made divine lamb chops for dinner. Lamb chops with cherry and fresh mint from my garden, and couscous. Like I said... its all about the food.

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Other special acts of love on this day included Bryan hooking up my new torch for silversmithing. Then we took a trip to Pier1 for some new pillows for the couch...

because the old pillows clashed with the new painting in the living room. ;-)

Many things still exist on our home remodel list but this year we are finally putting a dent in the outside. What I lovingly refer to as "the trailer" is getting a makeover. Yes this will probably take another few years with all that needs to be done, but this particular day brought a special breed into our yard...

The tree trimmer.

What I did not know about this particular stereotype is not only does a tree trimmer trim trees, they climb them. Witnessing this improved my mood that had been previously tainted by the tree guy starting the morning asking me for coffee "cuz he had a big job ahed a'him) a la "little lady" speak which can be really annoying. But I just had to laugh as Bryan and I watched out our kitchen window that looks down on our "urban forest" (that is tree surgeon speak-who knew). I wasn't expecting this guy to climb sixty feet into the air and start whacking branches. His previous macho-cheuvenistic type attitude suddenly became novel and maybe even likable in a westworld sort of way. I kept thinking that his poor mother must have had a time when he was four or five because judging by the zeal this guy had for his job you could just picture his mom scolding him for climbing to hazardous heights.

Now he gets paid for it.

So all day we watched as the big trees in our yard that had become deadwood, or needed a trim got some attention. The hard one was the HUGE oak right in front of our front door. Bryan and I both were having a slight moral dilema over that one but was reassured that in its current state (leaning toward and over our house) a good strong wind might spell certain disaster. Sure they make their living chopping trees, but these guys loved what they did, and knew a thing or two about an "urban forest".

Here is tree climbing Chuck with nothin holding him up but spike boots and a tiny rope. Yikes!

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more Chuck.

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Here is tree trimmer "Bobby" who's expertise seemed to involve the bucket truck. I was disappointed that nobody yelled, "timber!". Maybe that is lumberjack-speak.

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Bobby choppin the big tree.

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coming home

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Ok there are a bunch of photos in this post, but it basically chronicles the day. Except the first one picks up at a CLEANED out apartment. So I didn't chronicle the packing, which, to his credit, Daniel had most of it done when we got there. Most of the work involved hauling boxes and canvases down two flights of stairs and out to the Uhaul. We had to rent a 10' truck to accommodate the huge canvases. I teased Daniel that if he were a musician he would be the tuba player. I also asked him if he was the only freshmen doing work this large. He hadn't really thought about it until then but realized that, yea, he probably was. In our many trips up and down stairs, passing other parents moving their kids, we were clearly the only ones with GINORMOUS canvases. He didn't really have an explanation for the "why so big" question. It is apparent that for some reason he just does what he does. Overall his professors were pleased with the progression of his work over the course of the year. One said that in one painting (posted below) he had jumped from freshmen to junior level. He is now a declared painting major (who knew), and I currently have a living room full to show for it.

empty room

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a stop for lunch

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the packed uhaul

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unpacking the uhaul

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the amazing painting (but bad photo)

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our living room, Yikes!

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Ok, now I really wish we had built that garage!

uhaul day

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Off to pick up a Uhaul this morning that will then go up to baltimore to pick up tons of books, canvases, sculpture, and of course a cappuccino machine.

Oh, and of course, Daniel.

He comes home for the summer...

Today.

Lots of feelings happening in me right now. A mixture of excitement and a weird sense of not knowing how to behave. I've missed him, but I have adjusted. Now I have to adjust back.

For some reason I didn't sleep well last night. This has happened twice now in the same week. Waking up and not being able to go back to sleep because my brain wont quiet down. I wonder if this is related.

Oh well. Today should be an interesting day. I hope I don't get snarky from lack of sleep, and that the tone of the day is celebratory not pensive or stressed.

Ok so I just up and composed an email to the owner of a local gallery/shop about my work. I attached a few images of my paintings and some jewelry from my former life as a metalsmith. I gave a little backstory about being a metasmith and giving it up and yet after walking into her store I kinda got the itch, but was not interested in becoming a slave to it again. Just wanted the fun of creating and maybe to make a little cash if someone saw fit to buy something. And as for my paintings, well..(I wrote) I really had no intention of pursuing anything with them, but the stack of finished canvases is growing and they need a home. So would she consider taking them on, or maybe at the very least some prints of them. I hit the "send" button on my email, heard the familiar whoosh sound as it went off, and went about my business.

This is how I do things sometimes. Setting something in motion in the normal course of a day without calculating the possibility of a positive outcome. That day was tuesday(three days ago).

What the Hell was I thinkin'.

Well, you guessed it. The owner emailed me back wanting a meeting ASAP (her words) and could I come in wednesday (the very next day)? Or thursday, or friday...

Crap.

Ok so now I have opened the door and have to take steps to walk through it. We set up a time for thursday. She wants to see whatever jewelry I have left, five paintings, five prints...

wait, I don't even have prints yet.

Crap.

So I start googling for places that do Giclee printing (that is that fancy word for new tech inkjet printing used for fine art prints these days...used to be lithographs).

I find a place in Wyoming that seems to know what they are doing and make a note, but over dinner that night Bryan reminds me of a little local place that may do it too...mental note. I thought they were mostly a photo processing place because it is where we had all of Daniel's slides done for his art school/scholarship applications. Hmmm... maybe.

Wednesday, I dig out what I have left of my former life as a metalsmith and ponder what I REALLY want to do with this experience. I need a new torch if I am going to make anything new...

I go online and order a torch (I swear, what would I do without the internet?)

At this point I vow that I am not going to allow this to become a high stress situation and seek the fun and joy that I used to get from my craft instead. So whatever I have to show is what the shop owner gets to see. But I still need to have a plan in place about the prints before we meet. At this point I feel like my brain is going to split in half because these two art forms have to be handled so differently. The jewelry thing I did for years, but the painting thing is new and makes me feel somewhat vulnerable.

Ok, just be cool.

Thursday.

Our meeting is for 1:30. So the normal morning routine of making coffee for Bryan, but this time I fill two 'sippy cups" (as we lovingly call our coffee transport containers) and I get in the car with him (because we only have one car and in order for me to go anywhere I have to ride up to baltimore with him, and drive back). Anyone who knows me understands that I hate to drive. Partly because of my height (4'11') makes it hard to see in some vehicles and I have never really like Bryan's car. Anyway, this is an added stress (I know I sound like a BIG BABY but hey, it is part of my reality...)

So I drive back from baltimore (and get lost, ha, yes more stress) to prepare for my meeting.

I still haven't solved the print issue, so I go online and check out the local place that Bryan was talking about. Sure enough they do the printing. But are they any good, can they shoot the work...

I get on the phone and call and speak to "Dave". Yes to all of the above. And judging by the way he talks, he loves what he does and conveys a feeling (through the phone) that he really cares about the artist.

Perfect.

So I do the math and suggest that I drop the paintings off after my meeting with the gallery/shop owner. I have the car today (the last time was in january) so I have to maximize my time.

Can you feel the momentum? At this point it is about 11:30.

I collect my paintings from around the house. Some were hanging, some were stacked in Daniel's room, and set them by the door. I pack up a small collection of jewelry that has been siting in a box for years. At this point I can't believe how unprepared I am, nothing is priced...and it has been so long...

Be cool.

I put the box by the door and it is 12:30. I need to load the car and go spruce up a bit and change my clothes. I'm cool.

Loading the car. I am putting the last painting in the back seat, adjusting each one, bent over with my butt hanging out the door when from behind me I hear...

"You must be an artist".

I pull my head out and standing before me is a young african-american man with a big smile on his face.

"Yea, but that is pretty clear since I am loading my car full of canvases", I say and smile back.

"So am I". And he pulls out a slide sheet filled with slides of some pretty incredible artwork. I take it from him, lift it to the light, and marvel at the work while simultaneously do a mental WILD TAKE of the moment, how weird it is, and being slightly aware of how little time I have for interacting with anyone, but this is such a unique situation.

I feel myself pulling away from what is coming up at 1:30 and instead mentally being fully present with this young man. Of course the reason he is even in my driveway is because he is in one of those programs that kids accumulate points to go to europe by selling so many magazines...hey that's what brought him to my driveway, but clearly there was more going on here.

One of those cool cosmic moments that REQUIRES pause otherwise to be missed in the fray of life. Missing that kind of moment would be a shame...so I take a breath.

I ask him about his work, tell him how wonderful it is, ask about his plans, tell him what I do and shift into avisualplanet recruiting mode. Of course while doing this I am hastily filling out a form for a magazine subscription (hey when these moments come along-they are my offerings). All the while I am encouraging him about his talent.. I hand him the cash (he can't make change, oh hell just keep it) and my business card and encourage him to email me. Thank you's and god bless you's...

Its now 1:00 and I haven't changed my clothes, (or brushed my hair for that matter).

This in NOT how I normally do things. Ah well...

be cool.

So I throw an artsy shirt over my artsy t-shirt and jeans, pull the pony-tail thingy out of my hair and fluff while grabbing my keys praying that there is no traffic.

There wasn't. I made it. I was even a few minutes early.

I met with the lovely lady that owns the gallery in question and the meeting was great. Her shop caught my attention a few months ago when Bryan and Daniel and I bumped into it after a breakfast outing in Silver Spring. It is not where I would have originally envisioned (if at all) my paintings to land (think white walls and snooty gallery keeper). Instead it is a mishmash of handmade art goodies from a bunch of local artists. Charming in its eclectic nature with a grass-roots kind of feel...that is what caught my attention. The owner (Brenda) is very involved in the Silver Spring community, doing an outdoor market twice a month, and various community minded type functions. And she's really into the artists. The artists set their prices and create the art THEY want to create which is probably why the place has an eclectic (bordering on trashy) feel. Once you are in, you do what you want.

So, after determining that...yes of course she wants my work, but seeing that she has limited wall space, I tell her that I will get back to her about the originals and promise giclees at the very least. She was also excited about getting an appointment with Daniel to see his work as well.

It may not be SoHo, but there is now (officially) a place that wants my paintings.

And now, of course, the ramifications is to follow up which is a whole 'nother chapter.

So when you are in an impulsive mood to click SEND on an email that might take on a life of its own...

think before you click.

creation

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Artist date. Last friday and today and I am here. This is the first piece that is somewhat representational that I didn't sit around and think about or sketch first. I literally showed up at the canvas, grabbed some yellow paint and began, having no idea what would come out. As I worked the content became clear and that directed me toward the "creation" theme. I stopped for today, and have no idea how it needs to be finished.

Maybe I just need to show up again next week and see what "it" thinks. ;-).

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big sis's belgian waffles

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What better way to celebrate a weekend morning then with these. Thanks sis for giving Bryan the recipe! Belgian waffles, blueberries, whipped cream and french press. Yikes!

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the work keeps getting bigger

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After leaving the conference in Philly at noonish, Daniel was due back in Baltimore for a 4 oclock class involving an important final critique. So we zoomed back. The real trick was that the piece that needed to make an appearance was in his studio space in his apartment. He had planned on grabbing a friend to help transport this work by hand, four blocks and three flights of stairs to its destination.

Dad came in handy in a pinch. Me...

well someone had to hold the camera.


Walking down the street...
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...up the stairs...

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good luck with the critique!

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mind-blowing emergenty experience

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It is great to encourage Daniel in his spiritual journey. Our paths as parents have been to go before him. Now as he is finding his own direction (just as we did) it is fun to see how our paths criss-cross, interact, and otherwise support. We played taxi and upon dropping him off we bumped into this friend (the godfather) who kindly introduced Daniel to some others who do serious ministry "on the ground".

This particular conference was one that (even though we would have loved to attend) we intentionally excluded ourselves so that he could be there among those heavy thinkers that inspire him without a parental presence interfering. If god gave us a path to follow that looked different from our parents, then Daniel's surely will look different from ours. All moves forward. Here he is right after the event, exploding with ideas.

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Last week while Daniel sat at the feet of the great philosophical minds of our time (and even had a face to face chat with one of them), I sat at the feet of so many masterpieces,the artistic equivalent, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, beginning to glean meaning.

It is hard to believe.

That it has taken so many years for me to embark on this part of my artistic path, the understanding of the masters. Granted, there is a lifetime's worth to learn, but I guess this cracking of the door for me is in part the recognition that there is something to learn, and then getting glimpses of thoughts that come together making sense. It is a unique sensation.

Like being in elementary math when the teacher explains some equation for the fifth time and suddenly the clouds begin to lift and you get it...really get it and it is like the proverbial light bulb went of in your head. Along with that tiny enlightenment there is a sense of wonder and hope and yearning for more. (Ok I admit that a math metaphor is probably not the best example coming from me because I sucked at math, and still do unless I am working in tangible shapes, but you get the idea)

There is a sense of ah...ha.

It starts with a complete humbling. A stripping away of the incessant need to evaluate the skill level of someone's work. This requires something that somehow the general culture doesn't teach us. It isn't in the water, or the food. We actually have to use our brains.

I have heard a comment spoken from a number of people at various times in several museums while standing in front of a Pollock, a Miro, a Mondrian, a Picasso...name your modern artist. It is...

"I could do that".

Could you really? Then why didn't you?

That comment spoken out loud, when heard is the one sound that can rip me out of a sublime moment of contemplation. Contemplating the life of the artist, the profound statement that he or she is trying to make, the political opposition that was faced, the influences, limitations, economics...

safe to say they didn't just pull the artwork out of their ass.

To really benefit from the art of any artist, I think you have to get into their lives a bit. And I am not talking about the novelty factors (like cutting of an ear or commiting suicide). I am talking about really looking at what was around them in their lives and viewing the progression of their work in light of as many variables as you can find. The great artists were in pursuit of something just beyond their reach, always moving toward it and forging new paths and discovering new ideas.

Scratching the surface of the divine.

And many artists sacrificed so much for their art. Understanding, or appreciation for their work happening only after they died. That alone punctuates the prophetic nature of art.

So the next time you are at a museum and are tempted to say something smug about a work of art, try employing this little tactic that I have been using...picture yourself saying it to the artist, and imagine the conversation that might follow...

You might find it enlightening.

Half Past Three (The Poet)
Marc Chagall

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This work touched me because Chagall seems to be expressing a common artist's moment. Late night musing with a coffee cup in hand, the cat licking at you, a tipped wine bottle, and his notebook as he writes.

Painting With Two Balls
Jasper Johns

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This piece just cracks me up. I can't boast to know much about Jasper Johns yet, but this piece done at the beginning of his career makes at least the most basic statement to anyone caring enough to criticize.

considering lunch

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What to have...what to have...

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The food at the museum restaurant was a masterpiece.

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considering duchamp

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Here is Bryan in front of "Nude Descending a Staircase"

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off to philadelphia

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Today we are headed towards philadelphia for the emergent theological conversation at eastern university. Actually, it is only Daniel who is registered to attend. We are using his need for transportation as an excuse to go do some filming in the city of brotherly love. While he is engaging in the topic of "what would jesus deconstruct", Bryan and I will be looking at the liberty bell or the king tut exhibit or the Reading Terminal Market. No doubt the drive home will be filled with interesting conversation.


http://www.emergentvillage.com/events/the-2007-emergent-theological-conversation

can't talk and blog at the same time

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Apparently I can not be social and engaged with others and maintain a blog. Only so many words in my head I guess, when they are use up in conversation there are none left for writing. It is hard to believe I have let almost a month go by without spouting my thoughts on this virtual page. But there was much fun and special times had over the last many weeks.

My dear friend Anita made our house her launch pad for her fabulous europe trip. Many evenings were spent talking over cheese and a nice red. The days were spent checking out museums or shopping, and we even managed to have a good cherry blossom festival downtown with decent weather, and cherry blossoms! We sent her on her way and then two days later Bryan's brother Brent, his wife, Valerie, and their twin boys arrived. It is a new chapter in my life when I can report that I actually enjoyed cooking and entertaining all three weeks. The boys were so cute, but despite being twins they are nothing alike which presented a real challenge to their parents.

I will write more and post pictures soon but It was all I could do to just get these few words on the page before it looks as if april didn't happen in blogworld.


Anita and I at the National Gallery
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Cherry Blossom Festival

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visiting twins

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Clearly a future engineer in the making.

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Kiss for cousin Daniel.

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Brent and Silas with the cherry blossoms.

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twins in dc

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It is a silly little thing really, but every little inch forward makes me smile. Bryan registered a domain name for our dream.

Exnihilo (out of nothing)

So we have a little website for our mondo beyondo project. Right now there is really nothing there except some rotating pictures. I will begin working on the branding of it in my spare time, but for now there is a shell...it makes me smile. It has no content yet, except the groovy weather info. Later we will add all the updates as we begin to build, some text about what we are intending for artists as they visit, etc...

Ok it is kind of silly we are years away...

But Bryan woke up this morning and, referring to the traffic noise outside our bedroom window, said, "Can you change that to say... the sound of waves crashing on the rocks?"

Yes we are obsessed. Both of us.

We are 42 years old, and if when we are fifty we can be listening to our waves, awaiting to greet our visiting artists and other hungry souls giving them space for inspiration while being inspired in our own work... I'd say that's worth a little obsession.

True, hard reality pushes hard in the opposing direction which is probably why a dose of obsession is necessary. I decided a few days ago that I was going to start some sort of journal that specifically tracks each step, the dates, and the gritty, not-so-fun details of the progress of this little dream. Because this stage (the dreamy part) is easy. Of course there have already been challenging steps taken, but my gut tells me that the truly hard stuff is in front of us. One of the big roadblocks is finances.

Truth be told, we are insane. ;-)

So I figure a journal that tracks the ups and downs might be fun to look back on one day. And it might encourage others in the possibility of following their obsession...

one step at a time.

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This picture is an icon for a dry painting spell. It is a shot of the bottom of a coffee can that I use to swish my brushes. Long since dried it has created an art form of its own. When I picked it up to fill it I looked inside and was enchanted by the image that was created (which sparked the need to take the picture). It reminds me that even creativity can have its cycles, and I have had a dry one for the last few weeks (regarding painting anyway).

Really creativity just shifted gears. I have been working on the sketches for the buildings for exnihilo (the artist retreat). They are only prelim sketches, and they will probably be altered again and again, but it was such a good feeling to get a few lines on paper. These simple lines represent major decisions. Walls, dimensions, walkways.

I remember when I was a little girl and a friend of mine and I would draw little worlds in her driveway with chalk. We would draw each of our "houses" and then the little roadways that would connect them and try to ride our bikes on them(she had a big driveway). The blissful world of pretend brought to life in pink, blue, pale green, and white.

Fast forward to today and I am drawing on special paper with blue squares, designing a very similar kind of thing.

But this one is for grown ups. How cool is that!

But I have to admit I wouldn't have gotten very far without the other half of the development team. Last sunday while staring at the page I threw some ideas at Bryan while we sipped our coffee. He has this keen way of ordering his thoughts and is a quick problem solver. Where I got stuck he simply pointed out a few ideas and I was unstuck and off to the races. He went off to do other projects while I penciled my way back into childhood. We make a good team. We later went to the library and picked up stacks of books on design. By no means do I have delusions of acting as architect on this, but I get stubborn about wanting to know something well enough to at least speak the language when handing off my simple sketches to a pro.

Having been inspired as well, Bryan was wandering the library isles searching for recording studio design (yes, exnihilo is going to have a studio too). The same spark that was in my eyes earlier was now in his as he began to imagine the space, the gear, and the potential of the studio doubling as a hurricane shelter (again showing his gift for problem solving). Later he told me about when he and his brother were kids and the family was going to remodel the basement for their new rooms. The boys drew up plans for various work stations for all their favorite activities...

sound familiar?

Hopefully exnihilo will foster the same kind of childhood inspiration in those that visit. That is the whole goal. Making space for creativity to blossom, exnihilo (out of nothing). Hopefully a few years from now we will be inviting you all there.

Ok at the risk of just adding more momentum to a trend that doesn't need any I woke up this morning needing to blog in the worst way ever and "the secret" was on my mind. Further prompted by bobbie's good words here, I felt the need to make a comment or two in light of my own life and what I have discovered which may overlap her post some (sorry bobbie it must be the fact that this "secret" is so volatile it needs lots of voices to balance out the insanity).

If you haven't heard about "the secret" consider yourself blessed, but clearly you have been hiding under a rock or living in a monastery because it seems to be inescapable. And if you have been spending blissful moments in a monastery then you have missed out on the latest "name it and claim it-possibility thinking-american dream/gnostic revolution with a juggernaught packaging campaign endorsed by Oprah. It is the Pursuit of Happiness available to the masses. Welcome to adult peer pressure.

And what about the name? Talk about a teaser. Hey it got me to pay attention enough to check out utube and find out what all the stuff was about. Everyone wants to hear a secret (which plays on the human nature aspect that I point out more down below). I have to hand it to the marketing machine for the enticement.

A few things as I see it... the secret isn't all that secret. The good parts aren't that special. The bad parts are destructive.

I don't have a problem with the think positive part of it, but the whole "master of your own universe part"...hmmm....

not so much.

I do happen to believe in thinking positive for two reasons. First, scripture teaches us that we are to focus our minds on good. (I was workin this one hard last friday because I was struggling with pesky negative self-talk). Second, because of the pithy little cliches my mother fed me early on that interestingly enough are like paraphrases of actual scripture and will never leave me...

• meet trouble as a friend (james 1:1)
• when life gives you lemons make lemonade
• count your blessings
• don't count your chickens before they hatch
• treat others the way youwould like to be treated
• don't cry over spilt milk
• birds of a feather flock together
• people in glass houses should not throw stones
• stop and smell the roses
• kill them with kindness

what a hoot, but they work. Most you will find in proverbs if you look hard enough. My mother is the picture of positive and that kind of person is just...well, fun to be around. Uplifting.

And we have all met people who for what ever reason, do the opposite of at least attempting to be positive. They are negative beyond imagination. It is an art form for them. A girl I knew in college had this. Under the pretense of christian love she would verbally pummel you with all of her daily problems. Every detail, every time, life was horrible, life was shit, give me a hug. You could feel the life being sucked right out of you. You know the person. When perceived hardship rarely crosses into actual hardship, and in an altruistic christian environment that might not call her on the carpet there is lots of attention enabling. Hey I was at fault, I was doing the hugging. But I can now spot this type of person from a mile away.

So I DO think it is a good idea to focus on all things good when one can (barring major disaster, pms, bad weather, etc ;-)

But...

And it is a very BIG but...

I also believe in the sovereignty of god, and this other pesky little concept that most people like to ignore...

sin.

ick, not that word.

Ok let's use a different phrase... human nature.

This is where "the secret" breaks down. The assumption is that everyone is pure enough to know what to "ask of the universe". So many simple stories in literature and film depict what a falsehood this is. I won't even go into the scripture that deals with this, there is too much. Instead let's use pop culture.

Forgive the sci-fi metaphors, but hey...it's me.

Think three wishes from the Genie in the bottle (which ironically "the secret" uses as a visual icon in their media). Several versions of the genie story end in the wisher sealing their own fate with a wish that is ultimately distructive. I think of an old twilight zone episode called the man in the bottle where the main character wishes for ultimate power and becomes hitler, ultimate wealth that is taxed away and that ends with the moral of the story being content with what you have.(hmmm...more scripture could be applied...)

Another more current example is the Micheal Crighton movie, Sphere. I know I have blogged on it before so forgive the repetition. The basic story is about a team of experts sent to investigate an alien craft at the bottom of the ocean. The alien left a gift, a sphere that acts as a conduit of everyone's thoughts or "wishes" manifesting all that potential "goodness" into reality. Unknowing that they have this gift the member's of the team's subconcious run amok and one by one they die horribly at the hand's (thoughts) of each other (instead of saving the world, stopping famine, curing cancer). The survivors finally put two and two together and realize that there is no way to do pure ultimate good with this gift and humbly decide to "wish it" into non-existence (which is actually the only real flaw in the story because based on that scenario following it to the logical conclusion they all should have died, but hey, everyone prefers a happy ending-it sells more).

The point being, even the best person with the best intentions can screw this up. So if you employ the concept of "the secret" to, let's say... have your neighbor's wife (because it is what you really want and you are entitled...etc) the dominos begin to fall.

Of course "the secret" wants you to believe that there is enough "good things" to go around, that the universe wants you to have everything good...yada yada yada. The problem is that your idea of what is good for you might just come at the expense of someone else.

And what about disappointment.

Granted, "the secret" does try to frame life challenges as character building, but it seems like it is viewed(or allowed) only as a measure of hindsight, and once you are practicing "the secret" life will be hunky-dory forever, amen. Or you screwed up somehow and then it is your fault anyway.

pish.

Call me crazy but there are some simple common sense things that just don't seem so "secret" that a person can do to help move their life in a forward direction. For me it has been setting goals and then attempting to acheive them. For me if I don't have a goal...(well If you don't know where you are going you will get there every time.) And, (very important) the underlying assumption is that goal comes out of an exercise in discernment, seeking god's will, and other such checks and balances which are often hard and are part of a long spiritual journey.

Now, scripture teaches how to make good choices, but it also recognizes that sometimes/manytimes/always, we are powerless to make those choices without god. Enter jesus. Enter grace. Enter the power of prayer.

Not quite the same as "placing an order with the universe".

So as much good that may be produced from employing "the secret", because so many of its concepts originate from scripture and other common sense wisdom, there is a dark side that may cause a lot of pain and confusion. What if you don't get what you wish for? Because frankly our will and desires don't always line up with god's. Thankfully if we pay attention (to god) we are offered "realignment" through obedience which often takes sacrifice or acceptance of crushing disappointment, or sobering truth about one's self...

but ultimately leads to peace.

Because when you know that you are in line with the will of the universe (rather than the universe lining up to you)...

there is no better feeling.

And that is a happy ending.

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planets by daniel

warm at last-at least for today

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It is 76 degrees outside. Bryan is coming home to take me out to dinner. It has been a rough two weeks of him workings really really late nights (one was 4am) and so a normal evening is absolute bliss. I put on a white shirt and plan on wearing NO JACKET.

Ahhh, the relief of warm weather... relishing it here...

even if it only lasts a day.

Obviously I am EXTREMELY influenced by climate to be so happy about a little sunshine. I'll own it.

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I approached my beloved artist date (friday) with a sense of anticipation and reluctance today. The anticipation comes from a place of well fostered joy built day by day, out of bricks made from celebration of being an artist. The reluctance comes from negative voices shouting against that divinely given identity. Voices which have been a recent plague on my psyche.

This is an old old story for me and it always surprises me when it crops up now and again presenting it's all familiar creative roadblock.

Negative self-talk. That is what it is, and scouring scripture this morning reminded me that there is no room for negative self talk in an identity that is gifted from god.

Consider this...
Phillipians 4;6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

Or this...
Galatians 5: 22-23
the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

or this...
James 1:2
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Why this tangent today? Because I recognized that although I have so many things to be thankful for I have not been so thankful lately. Instead I began to focus on the stupid little things that tend to rob the joy from life. I also began to focus on all the negative aspects of myself (example;need to lose weight, aging, etc). What is amazing about that activity is that it doesn't help readjust ones thinking or motivate one for improvement. Being dissatisfied doesn't move me forward. Being content does.

Php 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

But practicing contentment is hard for me sometimes. And then there is the embarrassment that comes from having plenty and being discontent, which spirals into feeling like you have no right to be content because you don't appreciated what you have already. Which just points out the "bad person" aspect and makes it worse.

Vicious cycle. Negative self talk.

Does anyone else struggle with this?

Some of these feelings (I am sure) comes from (still) adjusting to a new identity in not having a child at home anylonger. My moorings are being realigned and while I wasn't paying attention some of my internal speech shifted. Little things. Seemingly inconsequential words spoken in my head. So quiet that I might not even hear them.

But I do, somewhere in the back of my head...

stupid.

ugly.

fat.

useless.

Or phrases...

you used to be so good at this.

you have gotten so lazy.

self indulgent.

Wow, where did that come from.

So while I wasn't looking my brain decided to slip in these one liners that started to make me doubt my newly forming identity threatening the things that I knew before..

That I am...

fabulous artist,
resourceful,
creative,
insightful,
great mother of an incredible son,
great wife of an awesome husband,
beautiful,
efficient...

I am grateful for...

my health,
my family,
my home,
my work...

There will be more to my positive self-talk list, but for now these words will quiet that negative voice that was steering me into a negative version of myself.

I learned years ago that negative self-talk just perpetuates the negative. It is amazing to me that scripture even addresses it.

So part of my artist date today was a reminder to myself. Creative activities that encourage rather than convict. Low pressure projects that don't need perfection just imagination. Journalling. The artist date today consists of reminders of who I am and all that I have to be grateful for.

snowing again

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Last week weather.com predicted that this week would be in the mid 50s.

As I type this it is 27 degrees and snowing.

Argh...

Looking out at the falling snow I have a choice. Contemplate the beauty and peace that the freezing temp causes in making everything dormant until spring...

or rail against it and be frustrated because it is just so darn cold in our beloved but drafty house.

sigh.

At the sight of mid fifties last saturday, I had pretty much shifted into spring being oh so ready to play outside on the overwhelming number of projects we have at the ready to finish this house. Those plans were somewhat thwarted. Truth be told I should be grateful because I still have tax docs to gather and bookwork to catch up on and if it was sunny and warm outside...

can you spell procrastination?

So instead of blaming thwarted plans on the weather maybe I should be thanking it for the reminder of what I really should be doing. Perception of reality makes all the difference don't you think?

Ok, time to contemplate the peace.

back to work.

paperwork=the end of the world

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Totally hunkered down this week attempting to power through a huge to do list. Soon spring will be upon us. Though I can hardly wait for spring, I am painfully aware that the household chores planned for outdoors will take over and so I need very much to get some serious indoor work done. Photo collections to assemble, digital art to produce, and of course...

paperwork.

FAFSA, taxes, and the mundane everyday stuff that I have let slide and pile up is all... well, piled up.

Its an icky feeling and it wont go away until the papers do. I would much rather do the creative stuff, but even that seems overwhelming right now.

Why in the world is there paperwork? I mean really. The amount of energy alone it takes to sift through daily junk mail could be used for much more noble causes. Wouldn't the world be a much nicer, healthier place if we didn't have paperwork? No paper work would mean people's stress levels would go down and that would mean less heart disease and premature death. The earth would be healthier too because of the reduced waste and therefore less pollution. As it is we are burying ourselves in piles of papers advertising things we don't need(more mental energy convincing yourself that you really don't need that big screen tv). Ugh.

Simplified life is calling. And of course it is on a beautiful sandy beach.

Sigh.

But for now, patience,

and paperwork.

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weekend visit

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Daniel came home for a short weekend. We celebrated Daniel's much belated (thanks to me being in mexico) birthday with a dinner out on saturday. Here are the two guys discussing some point of philosophy as we wait for a table at a favorite haunt, eggspectations. Although these photos seemed to capture the intensity which is typical of the anderson conversations, there was much laughter and simple joy of being together.

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The weekend was low key and relaxed. Time for r and r for Daniel, and some poor weather indoor activities for us-working on video footage for the planet.

All too short, but its back to baltimore in a blizzard. I am SO ready for spring!

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sniffles texas style

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There is a saying that goes "They make things bigger in texas."

Apparently that includes flu bugs.

The last ten days I have had a whopper of a bug. Coming back from mexico I was feeling in the peak of health having sucked up some fresh mexico humidity and my share of fresh black beans and rice. I had even lost a few pounds.

But a day after I had arrived home it knocked me on my butt, leaving me sniffling on the couch pumping in orange juice and chicken soup until I was floating. The thing is I didn't get the bug from mexico. It was a little treat that one of the lovely texan gals was carrying around and apparently (unknowingly) passing on. Bryan had mentioned to me a couple of days into my flu that he saw a CNN report on flu season showing one of those maps that show which states are being hit hard by the flu. Texas glowed red. So of all the nasty potential bugs I could have gotten from mexico... I actually got one from texas instead.

I just had to go all the way to mexico to get it.

And what a lovely souvenir to bring home to my husband along with the hand painted terra cotta espresso cups. Yes he caught it too.

So for five days Bryan and I looked like bookends on our couch passing the box of kleenex back and fourth.

What can I say...

Don't mess with texas. ;-)


lovely little espresso cups and a wool shawl were the take home items from my trip.
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mexico adventure

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almost missed it

first evening Jan 31

the orphanage Feb 1

going door to door Feb 2

when women gather Feb 3


What a great time I had. And I came back with oodles of pictures. I am still getting used to the new camera but for the most part I got some good shots. More importantly I came away with a soul reminder of what powerful things can happen when women gather.

Colorful laundry and chickens were a consistent sight.

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The "gals" from texas.
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when women gather

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It is interesting to me that there can be an underlying sort of unspoken foundational understanding between women. Maybe it comes from the common experience of motherhood and rearing children that brings about this rich sense of being. Maybe it is other common experiences, but I do think that it is unique to women. And this deep sense of understanding transcends language. This was very clear to me on this journey. First with a group of texan women that I didn't know, and then later with these beautiful women of mexico. The gracious group from texas welcomed me into their group without missing a beat. I was comfy cozy from the first night and by the last I was laughing at their sarcastic jibes and good humor like I had been with them for years. This is what happens when women gather. The walls go down.

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a walk around town-an invitation

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Today was the first day of the two day event. Women would be arriving at roughly four oclock (and I do mean roughly). Time is a very fluid thing down here and I learned quickly that you either became laid back about it or lost your mind. I chose the first.

But before the festivities begin some of the girls from the school are going to walk through the surrounding town going door to door to invite women to the event. I am struck by two cultural differences right away, the last minute nature of this wouldn't work on american soil, and the door to door thing, well...

I was assigned to two girls and we were off to walk the town. I was amazed at the response. The girls would simply come to the front of a house and call out "buenes dias" and women would come out smiling. It was amazing.

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Here is Lesa with Rosbi and some of the girls that we walked with.
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tugging on my heart

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The group from texas comes down often to help the school and the other ministries that the school are involved with. One of these was an orphanage. So today I am told, we are off to visit the kids.

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Susie holding one of the newest additions
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The girls performed songs for us and then included us in dance lessons. I was spared putting on a skirt because I had my camera and wanted shots of the dance. It looked like a lot of fun.
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The women from texas brought gifts for each one of the children. This was a very moving thing to watch. The kids were so joyful and happy. I guess the place didn't exactly fit with what I expected an "orphanage" to look like. Still, celebration aside, these children either did not have parents, or were taken from bad family situations, or were abandoned. Their smiles tugged at my heart.

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These guys liked my camera but this beautiful little girl was kind of shy. I later found out that she had arrived just days before, was thirteen years old and had never been to school.

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settling in

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I spotted Lesa through frosted glass that divided international arrivals with Mexico. Her and her group were making their way through customs. After they got to my side there were general introductions, and then we began rolling our luggage through the airport, stopping for a brief lunch. Boarding a bus we embarked on a four hour ride taking us from Mexico City through the mountains to Cordoba.

Her "group" is a women's group and they are from texas. Their mission was to put on a "women's conference" for the women in that region. Partnering with a small private seminary, who's students would be involved in pulling off the details of this event, they brought the theme, content, structure, and even crafts.

I was simply going to take pictures.

Or so I thought.

After the bus ride we were shown our sleeping arrangements. Eight of us to a room with bunk beds, two toilets, and a shower.

If I didn't know this group before, I sure would by the end of the trip.

We settled in and were off for the evening meal in the seminaries dining hall.

Here are the students praying over the meal.

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The school is free but the students apply and are chosen to be here. When they aren't studying (which seems like all the time) they keep the place going. They do the cooking, the cleaning, the maintenance, the laundry...

you get the idea.

They come here to learn the gospel in order to take it back to their communities.


shot from the bus
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we've got a runner

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We've got a runner.

That is what the woman at the mexicana check-in counter said into her walkie talkie after looking at me like I was nutz.

It was 6:33 am

My flight was supposed to be in the air at 7:05.

Do the math.

Normally I am the kind of gal that totally follows the two hour rule for arriving at the airport for the security gauntlet but not today. I overslept.

at 5:57 I woke up and realized what time it was and that it would take a miracle to get me on that flight. Jumping in our clothes and grabbing my stuff, Bryan and I got in the car to drive the normal 30ish minutes it takes to get to BWI airport.

Of course this seemed hopeless.

Bryan dropped me at the gate so I could run in and check in while he parked the car hoping to reconnect for a goodbye kiss after check-in. At this point I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that I was too late. Stressed but trying to be gracious, I gave the woman at the counter my most pitiful expression as she ruefully scanned my passport while inquiring to the plane via her walkie talkie if there was any hope.

Yes.

Miracle.

I was flying Mexicana air and not checking any luggage so the woman escorted me to security where there was only one person in line in front of me (another miracle). I went through the security routine (take off shoes, put laptop in bin, put cameras in bin, put jacket in bin, put all on converyor, walk under scanner, get hand scanned by attendent) still stressing a little but encouraged so far. Then reassemble on the other side (jacket, cameras, laptop, put on shoes). I grabbed it all and bolted for the gate. About fifty paces I was greeted by a smiley young man (that I would later find out was a steward on my flight) who motioned to me that I didn't need to run. Sure enough, another fifty paces was my gate.

Phew.

I waved at Bryan, who was now standing on the other side of security.

And got on my plane.

Miracle.

The flight was fabulous. I even got enchiladas for breakfast. Awesome.

In Mexico City airport I have a few hours to kill before I meet the group that I am literally hitching a ride with. A few months ago I met Lesa Enganthaler at a gathering in Seattle, and listened to her express her excitement at a new work that she was involved in (leading) in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. I asked her if I could tag along in order to photograph these beautiful people. Laidback, flexible, and with a keen insight for making room for the spirit, Lesa was totally open to it. It was a simple, "what if" idea that lead to this moment. Me in the Mexico City airport.

So with some time to kill I walked into an airport bank to change some money. An older man in line in front of me turned around and looked at me...

Tu habla espanol?

No.

He regarded me with raised eyebrows and turned around.

I actually do know spanish. Four words. Olah (hello), Adios (goodby), Gracias (thank you), and the all important, Bano (bathroom).

I waited in line until my turn to the teller who I smiled my biggest smile at and said.

"Exchange"? while handing her my dollars.

Without skipping a beat she converted my money and I was on my way to wait for Lesa and her group. I had some time so I dipped into (of all things) a coffee shop with signs advertising espresso. Something I knew how to order. Sipping my coffee I pondered what kind of adventure was in store for me.

On my own in a foreign country where I don't speak the language.

I love this stuff.

here's to adventure.

mission accomplished-sort of

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Back at my temporary desk at the blue house cafe (wireless internet and awesome tea keeps me coming back here) I am trying to warm up after freezzzzzing my touchee outside. But I have to say, even though the new gear is uber intimidating, I got good results even on the basic settings. I haven't lost my mind and I can still take good pictures. This new camera is going to be a challenge but it may very well teach me the real art of traditional photography with its handy quick stats readout feature that reminds me how I got the shot. For me this is one step closer to actually retaining the info that has always been accessible in previous file formats, but frankly was just too much trouble to get to. Yes, I am that lazy. But it is also my learning style that tends to be a friend or enemy depending on the tool.

Anyway, only one minor mental meltdown when Bryan tried to teach me something technical over our lunch date, and after that I was fine. I am a difficult person to teach anything to. I seem to have to learn something from the inside out for it to stick, and then it takes lots of repetition to REALLY stick. That and my own insecurities can get the best of me occasionally. And my sweet hubby is just SO smart about everything. Anything he tries he just seems to become an expert on in no time (this might be really annoying if it wasn't so handy and he wasn't so charming;-).

So, my slow learning process aside, I think I will be able to get comfy with this new tool. Testing it on the streets of Fells Point (mostly shooting seagulls) proved successful at making me feel like I will be able to master the tool and get good results-again. I will have to take another day (at least) before my trip to feel confident enough for shooting those beautiful faces in mexico.

I will post a few pics of my "test day" when I am back at my home desk.

a grey day with the birds...

test one composition...

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test two, close up, depth of field...

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test three, this one lacks good composition, but I would not been able to catch this bird mid-flight with my old camera.

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my name is blair and I am a photographer

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I am off this morning to remind myself that, yes, I am still a photographer. The last few months have been abysmal in this category of my creative life. One of the culprits for this phenomenon may be that my current camera actually had something gradually going wrong with it. Where this left me was akin to the frog in the frying pan metaphor, only instead of getting fried, I just gradually lost confidence until I wondered how in the world I ever thought I could take good pictures. I have never been technically inclined and my cameras have always served as a tool for my ability to create good composition. If you asked me to rattle off what shutter speed I used for a given shot I would probably look at you like you had ten heads. This fact (which I have never been proud of) helped contribute to that lack of confidence and just had me doubt myself even more, instead of the camera.

My husband, observing that I took approx 200 pictures (instead of my normal 2000) on our trip to Arizona realized that something was up. While I spiraled down into creative self pity, he dug into consumer reports of the latest technology.

He's a take action kinda guy.

Days later he had me in a RITZ store putting the results of his investigation in my hands to test out the feel and function of these new machines. This was a big deal because frankly, some cameras would just be too big for my little hands. Like not being able to see over the dashboard being a reason not to buy a car, having a camera body that I couldn't hold would make no sense. Other issues for me included being used to the view screen on a strictly digital in contrast with actually looking through a viewfinder in a digital SLR. Hey what can I say, I am one of those people. Half of the work that I created for launching avisualplanet.com in 2001 came off of the little nikon 990 coolpix. Like I said, the camera is just a tool. In my creative funk I completely forgot that I have done some really good work in the past. It just goes to show you that I am a "now" sort of person and don't tend to rest on past accomplishments. In this case however, I needed to give myself a kick in the head and get out of the present funk.

Bryan compiled his info and ordered the stuff. Honestly, what would I do without him?

So today I am walking the streets of Baltimore to test out my new Nikon D80. A week from today I will be on a plane to Mexico to photograph a gathering for women of the Chinotecos, so I better be comfy with this new camera. My husband in his wisdom also thought it best to supplement this camera with the Nikon coolpix S10 the latest generation of my beloved 990. The contrast of these two cameras will allow me the flexibility to take serious planned shots with the D80 and those candid shots with the S10 which fits in my purse. It also takes great macros too.

So by the end of today I hope to have a restored confidence so that I can say...

my name is blair and I am a photographer.

We went to see Pan's Labyrinth last night.

This is not a movie for children. This is not a fairy tale fantasy. It is about war. I was expecting something akin to Mirror Mask. It was more like Apocalypse Now.

Again I feel as if I was a victim of misadvertising. You know the kind. When a movie is sold to its potential audience via a trailer that totally spins it in a direction away from that targeted audience.

Trailers sometimes do this. Or they tell you the entire plot in two minutes making you feel as if you don't need to see the movie because you just saw it thanks to the trailer. Or they show you all the best scenes which misleads you to think that there is more great scenes to come only to be disappointed(comedies often use this).

But the trailers that mislead are the ones that probably annoy me the most because they are deceptive for the sake of a sale. Not that the other trailers aren't sales tools, they are, but some seem more informative than others. Like letting you know that this is a movie you might want to see. Pan's Labyrinth trailer made it seem like pure fantasy.

It is actually about civil war Spain. And it is really more of a war movie than a fantasy. So if you were thinking of taking the kids, think again. It is rated R which I might have overlooked because of the fantastic fantasy driven effects on the trailer. It looks very much like a fairy tale from the trailer. But it is graphic and gut wrenching in its violence. It is grisly and dark, and breaks a few rules.

Having said that, it was an awesome movie.

It makes a deep statement about the evil of war by contrasting it with the imagination of a young girl. This made it truly profound. The visuals are wonderful and the story is not predictable and formulaic. I was on the edge of my seat, holding my breath for most of it. It was thought provoking and well crafted.

I just didn't like the bait and switch.

http://www.panslabyrinth.com/

07 list and the new Mondo

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Having recapped I can now move onto what I would hope for 2007. And I do realize that my list is more of a realistic list of goals than a truly MONDO BEYONDO list that should include only the most outrageous hard-to-reach goals.

But hey, it's my list.

And it is amazing how writing something down makes it one step closer to reality. I'd swear by it. Something about declaring your intentions to the universe even if in a simple blog gives a little push that gets cosmic wheels in motion. Maybe it is simply taking the prompting of the spirit seriously when otherwise we might set aside such dreams because we feel undeserving, unmotivated, or even afraid. Pish-posh.

So here are my hopes for 2007 in a handy little no-pressure list;-)

The big ones...
1. Complete the designs for the buildings for Exnihilo. This involves the help of architects and advisors along with oodles of research on my part regarding bahama law, green building, and a zillion other details. If this time next year I can check this off the list it will be truly MONDO.

2. Turn the tables on father time. Or more concretely, get in shape. I know, I know it is the ultimate in trite new year's resolutions, but I can honestly say for the first time in my life I am absolutely disgusted with the way I feel physically. Yes there is a vanity component because I don't like the way I look, but the larger issue is the way I feel. I have stuff to do, things to build, and feeling tired and weak does not fit into those plans. It is silly to have inspiration to paint this or create that only to punt the idea because of being too tired. Must fix this. Last year's yoga plan got derailed so this year I am going to try a more aggressive approach.

3. Take a class. This may seem like no big deal, but being in a class setting kinda freaks me out. But now many of my motivations are coming from the first item on my list and supports the building of that amazing place. So this year I am going to take a class on glass blowing. Chalk it up to research.

4. Finish the back yard. Our remodeling of our "shack" continues to be overwhelming so attempting to divide the projects up into pieces seems to help on some psychological level. Shooting for the completion of the back yard may actually be replaced by a bedroom remodel, or exterior improvements, or... well you get the idea. Last year we redid the pool and one bathroom.

The minor mondos...

5. Continue the painting journey. This requires being true to my artist date and not belittling the process. Remind myself not to fear the blank canvas and paint with the sole goal of exploration not results.

6. Continued collections creation for avisualplanet.com. Vague, I know, but, like I said, its my list.

7. Learn how to compost properly. Ok I know this sounds really funny, but it goes along with learning how to build green, being eco-friendly and all that stuff that in four-five years time we need to have nailed down to live bahama style. Plus I have a backyard full of leaves that could be a gold mine if I just intentionally put the stuff to good use.

8. Visit my FABULOUS friend Anita in France. Ok my minor mondo is now intersecting with her MONDO BEYONDO dream of living in France for a year. I plan on crashing her pad for a week or two with my guys in tow. Oh and by the way this list isn't in any particular order. France should never follow compost;-).

9. Photo trip to Mexico. End of January I am off to take pictures in vera cruz for a women's retreat. The challenge: get good pictures of faces. This is something that I want to be able to do better without staging. I want to learn how to get truly good candid shots.

10. Have more fun. Ok this sounds really silly and honestly I just needed a number ten. But my husband had this great idea of creating a weekend "options list". Unlike a to-do list which implies chores and obligations, we are compiling a list that includes fun things that we might like to do on the weekends. This can be anything from checking out a new exhibit at the smithsonian to driving to new york for a show. The point is to have something to refer to when we just have to get away from the house which is a bottomless pit of musts and should-dos that can drive us both crazy if we let it. We love all of our remodeling projects, but sometimes you have to step away to get some perspective. Why do we need a list? Because when those moments hit us we are always asking each other..."What was that thing we wanted to do...you know that thing we saw the other day...what was it?"

Ok, that is the list. There are a zillion other little things that I hope to do but that would just reveal what an absolute list nut I am (like my 101 little project list-no lie) and that is not what the Mondo Beyondo is about. The big thing this year is the first one which has so many tentacles to it that it may be the only thing that actually becomes a reality. Even so that would be MONDO BEYONDO enough. Don't ya think?

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january reboot and recap of 06 mondo

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Wow. Time does fly. Here it is the beginning of the THIRD WEEK of January 07 and I haven't even reviewed last year and set goals for this year. So here I sit in baltimore's Blue House with a moment sans distraction other than the musical selection piped in for the hipster clientele. Truth be told I absolutely love this place. It is a combination of coffee bar and recycled retail products for your home. They encourage clientele to plug in your laptop for indefinite periods of time as long as you plunk down three bucks and change for a Naked Juice. That is fine with me as the environment is worth more than three buck in inspiration alone and so it is the perfect place for me to regroup my little head in the direction of 2007 goals and a new MONDO BEYONDO list. The environment is inspiring, the juice is good, and there is no laundry here to taunt me.


So first a recap of 06 and what DID happen.

Last years (2006) list...

1. Continue to paint and have my new work in a gallery (somewhere) by the end of 2006.

Ok. I made strides in the right direction but honestly did not put the pedal to the metal on this. Although there is a local gallery that would probably take my work at the drop of a hat, I have kind of been holding out for someplace that really shows well and doesn't play mind games with the artist. During our trip to AZ I was on full scout alert having printed out postcards of my entire thin place collection ready to hand to any gallery owner that seemed interested. Once faced with each gallery I realized that in my gut I didn't just want my work to hang on any old wall that would take it. Touring several different galleries I became pretty selective. The advantage of being 42 is that I am not desperate for approval or hungry for attention. In the process of cold calling, I ran into some very nice helpful people and those that did look at my work didn't laugh in my face. One gallery owner did shut right down when I asked her whether she took emerging artists. The response I got from her was not sisterly at all despite the artwork that covered her walls espousing female empowerment and sisterhood. She instead regarded me more like an undesirable bug that had found its way uninvited into her sacred space. She didn't even get past the question long enough to see my work. Twenty years ago I would have taken it personally but those years gave me the ability to laugh at the woman who was clearly wound way too tight (not to mention a face that had seen too many face lifts). And frankly I have learned that I have no need, or room for someone like that in my life. And I can smell a sinking ship wrapped in the pretense of snobishness. That kind of behavior is a big red flag. Face-lift, bug-lady aside, I did find a couple of potentials in Sedona that I plan to pursue further. A good step in the right direction, which is the point after all...moving forward.

2. Trip to the bahamas. Not just for a vacation but to scout. My really MONDO BEYONDO idea is to begin the process of buying a piece of land that will ultimately become a retreat center for artists to come to and renew themselves.

Ok. This one, hands down, blew the rest out of the water. The original goal was to "scout". But this mondo went out of control when "scout" became BUY. So in a way, the energy that went into this baby may have stole some thunder from the other items on my list but WHO CARES. This one surpassed what I originally planned and has taken on a life of its own. WOOHOO! What can I say, I am really proud of this one. If there was a golden mondo award to be won this one would be my winner.

3. Double avisualplanet.com's subscription base and artist's community. This is a lofty one because frankly I don't know the steps to get there.

This one remains elusive. Maybe because (like I said with the last item) I didn't put much energy towards it. My little business continues to hold its own and we did increase the artist community but as far as income...not so much.

4. Start a project with avp that involves a whole new concept of video for churches.

Strides was made in this in the form of collecting footage but no more. The idea may be too big from a production standpoint, and so I am reevaluating this one.

5. See my son off to college.

Mission accomplished. Although when I put this on last year's list I had no idea he would be going to MICA and so this one unfolded in ways unexpected. It may seem like a simple thing... just the normal next step in life, but this (from a parental-letting-go standpoint) was truly mondo. And Daniel's first semester was somewhat life changing, growth-wise, spiritually, and artistically. And he made the Dean's list. We are so proud of you Daniel!!

6. Adding a garage to our house. Getting the addition built that includes an apartment for young son if he goes to college locally.

Obviously this got completely tabled.

7. The continuation of an incredible spiritual journey.

This one continues in a somewhat natural, non-stressed fashion. Perfect.

8. See my husband begin the process of getting his master's degree in Ethnomusicology.

This one completely fell off the table because he changed jobs and therefore going to UMD was no longer in the picture. Life happens.

9. Continue yoga, but add more advanced moves and some other aerobic exercise.

Ok this one came to an abrupt end when I got Vertigo. Not only did yoga have to stop altogether but I was just so glad when I could simply walk straight without feeling dizzy.

10. Buy a red dress.

This interesting fascination with red continues to show up in weird ways. Although I never did find a red dress that I loved I continued to paint my thin place girl in red. Then while experimenting with abstract expressionism I painted a break through piece (for me) all in red. So this color continues to be symbolic in a very big way for me. As for wearing it...hmmm... not so much.

I bought a green one instead. 2007 is definitely going to be a green year.

Oh, and I flew over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter and that wasn't even on my list.;-)!

Outside of my comfort zone I drove from Baltimore to Rockville (to use our car-being the one car family that we are) in order to fulfill some final hoop jumping required in the ongoing process that is land possession in the bahamas. Yes we signed a contract way back in July but like all things tropical even legal stuff happens on "island time". So having finally received the thick multi-signed document that will ultimately declare my ownership in this beautiful piece of sand I found myself wandering around the circuit court of montgomery county this particular friday. Notarizing, sealing, and various other requirements had me asking complete strangers about what I needed to do with the documents in my hand.

This is the tedious part of fulfilling a dream. And yes, it is just the beginning.

But considering that I had ultimately braced myself for a DMV kind of experience I was pleasantly surprised to have a day that was simply a series of steps that were not too painful.

Like driving an hour, going through security, getting the first set of directions to the notary's office, going to that office only to find that their notary was "out that day" but to find that there was another to be had at the "Sir Speedy" a block away. This little piece of info came from a humble civil servant manning the info booth in the court office. Before declaring the day a failure I bothered to ask this woman where I could find a notary outside of the court building, figuring that she may in fact be the wisest most well informed person in the entire building. I was right, she had the info. Onto "Sir Speedy".

So the notary at Sir Speedy made her mark, and me having need of a witness employed the only other person at Sir Speedy as a witness (again a total stranger). Keith, made his mark as witness to the notary.

2 dollars please.Transaction complete.

Back to the courthouse for the next hoop.

Through security (again) and into a long bleak room with a man in a blue shirt behind a big bleak desk with a gadget hovering over his head, "take a number". My luck that day had not another person in the room, so I sheepishly approached the man in the blue shirt clutching my precious documents like dorothy meeting the wizard.

"I need a authentication from the County Clerk, please, am I in the right place?". Until this moment I didn't know the function of a "County Clerk". The man lethargically grunted, took my document, attached the appropriate pre-stamped certificate declaring the approval from the elusive County Clerk. The contrast of his lithargy with my excitement was only punctuated by the muffled applause heard in the next room from the wedding that was being officiated (weddings 25 dollars). He completed my document...

That will be one dollar. (I felt like I had stepped into Terry Gilliam's Brazil.)

Wow, this part of the legal process is really cheap.

So with two of the three hoops jumped, I walked the two blocks back to my car. The next hoop involves the Secretary of State. Again another office that I have no clue what their function is. This hoop however, involves FedEx. So filling out the appropriate cover info I release my precious document in hopes that they come back to me soon so that I can forward them off to their final destination.

This particular day only highlights what has been an interesting journey in dialog with attorney and realtor regarding this property. It has been an up and down sort of experience so far. But one of the ups came while I was pouring through the documents and came across the survey of our little piece of paradise. What was originally supposed to be 1.18 acre...

was 1.54.

Someone made a mistake...

in our favor.

Here's to red tape.

nini goes to france!

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No backdated posts yet from me, still trying to dig out of post vacation work but I HAD to jot a note to direct you to my good friend Anita's new blog...

Nini Goes To France.

If you ever wanted to live vicariously "under the tuscan sun" style only in Provence, now's your chance. Fearless girl that she is we all know that taking that first step into your MONDO BEYONDO is the scariest part but my gal pal mustered it and bought her ticket. She has been given the opportunity to live in this beautiful town for a year.

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Taking an opportunity like this may seem like a no brainer but how many of us actually take the chance and jump of that cliff. Sometimes it is easier to sit in the car than to step on the gas.

Anita's story is already inspiring enough, having raised twin daughters as a single mother working as a freelance artist. Many years of sacrifice for family and friends have come to this crossroads - the girls are eighteen and soon to be out on their own...

It is Anita's turn to fly.

But if you have ever been faced with your ultimate dream you know that in the reality of day the details can sometimes make you doubt and in my mind that is when the women are separated from the girls, when words become action. Most people settle for dreaming, but action speaks louder as they say.

Go Anita!

So if you tend to read my blog I encourage you to visit Nini Goes To France and give her a big "YOU GO GIRL". There is much to follow her in this big step and she could use our support and encouragement as she embarks on this new, awesome, and scary adventure. So go over and give her a sisterly hug by leaving a comment or two. I for one plan on visiting her over there... and I am sure she would welcome guests...

hmmm...

Anyway, she goes in April so leave a comment and wish her the best.

Anita, we are so proud of you!!

Back home from an amazing few weeks. Us Andersons tend to pack in the fun when given the chance we don't waste a moment to cram in memorable experiences. I am such a lousy blogger (in the universal rules of blog-being daily upload) that I have to back date my experiences as I record what I can remember from the last few weeks of fun. But in a nutshell here are some highlights until I get a chance to fill in the blanks...

1. Amazing cherry waffles on Christmas morning made by my Sis.
2. Scottsdale art galleries
3. Dinner out with family-cowboys and indians
4. Mom's delicious rum cake
5. Fireflys at Phoenix art museum
6. Chats with mom
7. Arcosanti stay in sky suite
8. Meeting cool artsy people there
9. Info gathering for Exnihilo (bahamas project)
10. Sketches of nine new works at sunset
11. Montezumas Castle and Sedona red rocks
12. Shooting the moon
13. 20th anniversary massage
14. Many heartfelt spiritual conversations
15. Driving past a vortex
16. 6 gallery cold calls
17. 2 helicopter rides
18. 1 crunched rental car
19. 1 Soleri Bell
20. and a bright new shiny diamond ring.

playing didgeridoo over the canyon

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We took the lovely scenic route toward the canyon in hopes to get some interesting footage. Here we are near Sunrise Crater a volcanic crater (who knew Arizona had volcanos?).

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Jan 4th had us driving up to Grand Canyon for yet another 'copter ride. Here we parked while Daniel tested out the acoustics of the canyon.

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ready for take off.

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20 years today!

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As if our Arizona trip could be any more special this particular day marks 20 years married to the man of my dreams. To mark the occasion I booked a special "couples message" in the hotel spa. What that amounts to is that two message therapists work on two clients in the same room.

This was pretty cool.

What a way to treat yourself for 20 years of bliss. Punctuate it with more bliss. Even though we were in the same room we were both pretty quiet as our therapists did their work, leaving us literally unable to move when the session was over. Bryan and I laughed as we each tried to pry ourselves up off of our tables knowing that our therapists were waiting outside the door. We dressed and were greeted with a couple of glasses of sparkling cider in little champagne glasses and "congratulations". Taking our time (truly time had stopped) we each used the spa steam rooms and met for lunch in the hotel restaurant. Later that day we took the cameras and went hunting for the perfect shot of the moon (full moon on our anniversary). This became the ultimate joke as the moon kept moving and although we waited with cameras rolling for the moon to rise at the published time, alas we got no moon.

So finally we quit and ran back to the hotel to change for our night out atCucina Rustica.

This is where my husband broke a promise.

We had agreed not to do gifts (even though I booked the massage-that doesn't count) he pulled out a little black box.

Ok, some back story here. Picture two kids twenty years earlier struggling to get through college, dirt poor, etc. When we knew we wanted to get married I was making jewelry and gave Bryan a wax ring design to cast as my engagement ring. He had it cast with a cubic zirconia as the stone. I was not into diamonds anyway, and honestly the fact that it wasn't a real diamond actually seemed more romantic at the time-we loved each other that is what mattered. He and I against the world, and that sort of thing. So over a plate of potato skins (cuz that is all we could afford at the time) at a TJIFs he proposed with the ring that I had made.

Years went by and being the jeweler that I was I added another stone-an amethyst (Daniel's birth stone) after Daniel was born. More years went by and after 12 years of metalsmithing taking a tole on my hands I stopped wearing the ring because it first became uncomfortable and then it ceased to fit.

Fast forward twenty years and you can guess what was in the little black box.

A perfect diamond wedding band.

What can I say my husband has always been a romantic.

So now I have a diamond ring AND twenty years of bliss to back it up. The stones in my new ring are truly beautiful but they pale in comparison to being cherished like a jewel which has been my husband's greatest gift to me. My ring is so pretty but what it symbolizes is what makes it really special, the love that we have expressed for twenty years that seemed to pass in a blink. And it symbolizes the next part of our journey together.

Bryan I love you so much I don't have the words. And I forgive you for the broken promise.;-)

Happy anniversary my love.

sedona red rock from a helicopter

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daniel ready to fly.
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blair, scared to death.
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All of trips tend to be working trips and this was no exception. This excursion found us filming from a helicopter. If you are ever in this part of the country and have the inclination, seeing the red rock splendor from the air is awe inspiring. Being in the presence of these rock formations is humbling from the ground, but from the air...

well, they are just too cool.

So today I managed to be brave enough (in spite of a fear of heights) to board one of these things and go into the air with only a seatbelt and a windshield between me and 300 feet of air to the ground. Crazy stuff. It is a good thing that I had a camera to keep me distracted because otherwise I probably would have freaked out.

What fun

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rental car has a fight with a tree

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whirligig forest

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We moved on to Sedona and spent a quiet new years in our hotel. Jan first we went sight seeing and gallery spotting at a cool place that had some fun things to look at. This hacienda style complex of shops and galleries is plunked down in the desert sand among big trees that are part of its charm. These trees are lofty and beautiful and even grace the parking lot.

Which can be a problem when you aren't looking.

Our rental decided that a union with one of these trees would be a good way to start the new year.

After having a nice day of low key shopping and sipping coffee. We ended it by crunching the back right fender of our car. What can I say...

Life comes at you fast.

So vacation was put on brief pause to take photos to send to progressive (great insurance company) and a few phone calls later and we were on our way.

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Arcosanti inspiration

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We spent a few nights atArcosanti.

This portion of our trip was an intentional break from reality. Having spent a wonderful Christmas time with family I knew we would need some down time in a quiet place that didn't make us feel the need to do anything (because there isn't much to do here). This place is in the middle of the desert between Phoenix and Sedona. It is a place where students come to take workshops on urban architecture under Paolo Soleri, the man who founded it. Because they consider it an "urban laboratory" it has never been a huge tourist attraction but still offers overnight stays for those who can put aside their expectations and slide into a more layed back attitude. Even though the place (built in the 70s) shows its age it still has an inspiring vibe due to those who live there and care for the eco-friendly vision. Having been here when Daniel was 12 we also knew that we could probably get some unique building ideas for the bahamas.

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As if viewing the sunrise through this window wasn't enough, we also managed to make some new friends. We connected with Jim and Carrie. Jim gave us a tour of the foundry where they make the famous Soleri bells. He is the foundry director and his wife runs the Cafe. Another layed back concept, a buffet style set up that for eight bucks you eat your fill. Sharing with both of them our bahama dream left us with the promise of keeping in touch, possible foundry workshops in the future at our artist retreat.

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Daniel, being a repeated point of connection with people (it seems that he just looks like someone you want to talk to) we met up with this very cool cat named "Sparks" who was the onsite electrician. Not sure if the nickname was a positive or a negative we soon found out that Sparks knew his stuff in the field of solar and wind energy. So over breakfast he was gracious enough to allow us to pick his brain regarding our site. An hour later with oodles of information we promised to connect again when the site was ready Sparks would come and consult.

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So what started out as a simple getaway ended up being a wealth of info for our project.

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its the time of year is all

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Just like every other average jane out there I am low on blog due to what seems to be "that time of year". Ok, granted some of you are so faithful to the daily writ that I am in awe of your commitment. For me, the lack of blog is an indication of things more pressing and that I am less organized than I would like to be.

Big surprise there.

Lots of thoughts have been tripping across my brain of late considering worthy news items that need poking fun at, or the normal cultural holiday misunderstandings that inevitably rear their ugly head this time of year... so much fodder for the blog.

But instead I am shifting into overdrive to do all the mundane things that must be done before the fun things. Like eating your broccoli before dessert, I am doing... business books, laundry, dusting, prelim packing, wrapping, cleaning out the fridge, more laundry, addressing envelopes, blah blah... you get the idea. It is probably similar at your house too.

The wretched part of it is that yesterday the UPS truck finally delivered my HUGE shipment from CheapJoes.com. So I have sitting in my studio a years supply of different sizes of crisp white virgin, waiting-to-be-painted... canvas.

sigh.

And, just like I advise all my artist friends, I DO have a place all set up on a perpetual basis in order to pick up a brush on a whim. But today it just sort of taunts me.

There are other things to do.

But the happy side is the anticipation of travel and seeing family. Daniel is home from MICA, Bryan will be taking time off, and we will all soon be off to the desert to visit family and spend time together and get a little rest to help gear up for 07.

We could all use the break.

sacred women of sorrow

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sacred women of sorrow

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I began this last year and walked away from it. I recently was prompted to add it to the thin places series (which continues to grow in spite of my thinking that I was done, this proves to be untrue) by adding the grid and portals. The idea of visually depicting the "other"(spiritual) realm continues to fascinate me. Our real tangible world is always intersecting with the spiritual and here again the portals are punching through while these two women support each other in the act of sacred prayer (swirling around them).

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painting for the soul

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In my exploration of the place where art intersects with the spirit I have in the last few months opened a door in me that has allowed me to put deep feelings into paint. It is just an exercise for me to not intellectualize or try to illustrate how I feel but simply connect with the sensation and see what happens. The first one took me by surprise, in fact it utterly ambushed me. It was a few weeks after Daniel had gone off to college and I was experiencing some strong feelings of separation in spite of telling myself how silly it was to feel this way. The only thing that gave me a sense of comfort was painting in red. I don't remember if I blogged on this at the time, but I know I didn't post the painting because frankly it didn't photograph well, and it was after all, just feelings spilled out in paint. Akin to Julie Cameron's morning pages exercise, only in paint. If you have read her book "The Artist's Way" she strongly encourages never to show anyone your morning pages.

But I am continuing to try to honor this new awareness so I am going to start to post my explorations of this (in spite of Cameron's advice). In no way do I feel that these are "real art" but what is that anyway? Maybe it is and there is just so much more work that needs to happen in me to acknowledge that. It is all process and that is what I am focusing on. Soul work as my friend Jen puts it. It resides on a very subconscious level.


Red (or Separation) Even though this was prompted by feelings of loss, when I look at it now it makes me really happy. I have no idea why.
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This next one I painted on Nov. 28th. I was having very intense feelings of personal failure as well as a strong sense that there was a "strange disturbance in the force" ;-). That is a silly way to express what is a feeling of foreboding that I sometimes get that involves the perception that a loved one or someone that I care about is struggling. This sensation tends to be a prayer prompter. In this I felt a pressure, or oppression. It was even difficult to breath.

Soul Struggle
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The idea of observing advent (or even knowing what it was) is a pretty recent thing for our family. The problem with alot of rituals that even have a whiff of christmas "holiday" on them jerks me right out of the meaning and into some sort of sugar plum fairy-land where all good christian girls and boys get nintendo from Jesus dressed like santa. It all gets mixed up into the swill of the large church/macy production mentality that I think this year (finally) I can step back from and see through. Wanting to create something that was thought provoking but not in a way that the cheezy christmas carols piped in at the grocery store is (in shopping for thanksgiving turkey this phenomenon nearly drove Bryan batty) I came up with this.

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The wood came from an old barn that I used to play in as a child. The Crown was something I had gotten (from the holy land) as a prop for a series of easter photos that I produced two seasons ago. And the candles were as far away from the traditional looking wreath candles as possible. Assembling it was easy, but I have to admit the crown pierced the purple candle pretty bad when I put it on which was thought provoking in itself. This visual reminder on our table will hopefully allow us to look past the birth onto the sacrifice while still celebrating it.

So this first day of advent with Daniel home for the weekend, he lit the candle, Bryan prayed and we shared a celebratory meal of duck. This contrasted in such a funny way to last week's thanksgiving meal in which the size of the poultry by nature screams "excess". I think I was more genuinely thankful for the duck because of what this meal represented. (Ok so it isn't really fasting, but at least the focus isn't on christmas shopping).;-)

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One in the series of the crown of thorns imagery...

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bday 06=42

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Out with my two favorite people on my birthday. My super, awesome, wonderful husband woke me up in the morning and told me that I better hurry up and get ready.

"for what?"

"the spa".

If there are any men lurking on my blog you can take a few lessons from my husband in the realm of gift giving. He never misses the mark and this b-day was no exception. Last week a big box came via fedex with a brand spankin new easel in it. As if this wasn't enough, he had scheduled a day here for a massage and facial. I came home from that to a bouquet of red roses and a birthday card perched on the dining room table. Then we were off for dinner out on the town. What a perfect day. Thank you my love.

Here is Bryan and Daniel in Bethesda checking out the shops after dinner at Jaleo.
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signing off for awhile

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Bearing down on work this week (after my unproductivity last week) I am giving into the blitz and need to focus. Oodles of work to prepare for seasonal stuff on the planet which begs the need to sign off for a while. Blogging is my sanity brain dump and my form of "scrapbooking" of life, but it is time to unplug for awhile. Preparations for thanksgiving break, Daniel being home from school along with Bryan being home next week before starting a new job at Laureate as their new "Senior Multimedia Producer", has me wanting to get a boat load of work done before the end of the week. I also need to power-up in order to "be present" for that week. So... time to fly silent for a bit.

Shhh...

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an afternoon at the symphony

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We we graciously given tickets (by Celine's mom) to join Daniel and Celine, and her mother Mary Beth to a performance of Night on Bald Mountain, Pastoral, and a new piece that used themes from Hildegard von Bingen at the
BSO.

We all went out for dinner at this cool place that "the kids" love and go to often. I shot this while Celine was playfully moving Daniel's mouth like a puppet. Alas the shot is with a nasty flash because the room was so dark and I was trying hard not to laugh, so not the best pic but you get the idea. In fact, now I really wish I had got a pic of them at the concert hall. Everyone looked so beautiful all dressed up, a rare occasion for Daniel who would never be caught dead in a pair of dress pants. Celine managed to have him looking pretty gent-like in a velvet long-coat of hers. Go-girl! Although I felt like I had stepped back in time or into an interview with the vampire . Daniel's long hair made him fit into the victorian look very well(Lestat or Louis?). Celine had this sleek black gown with a back that did this sort of criss-cross strap thing that was cool. Topped of with long velvet gloves. Very pretty. We all chatted about the concert and other things over a bizarre menu. XS serves this amazing looking french toast which Celine ordered and I should have. Instead I defaulted to sushi which I should have known any restaurant with such a broad menu would not have good sushi, but oh well, the chai was good.


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I have had an emotional rollercoaster of a time adjusting to Daniel being gone, but it is getting better. Watching him with Celine was good for me. They seem pretty good together...

and who would have thought that he would ever find an INFJ?!

A rare breed if I do say so myself!
(if this stuff leaves you in the dust check out the meyers-briggs reference ).

(I think I have been coaxing out my "f" after years of stuffing it in order to function in business acting like a "t". My "f" was so close to the fence that, as a female, I have always regarded myself as a "t" and have a lot of the behaviors to match. That has changed in the last 10 years)

Seeing Daniel with Celine, who is an introvert (I) and especially an IN (intuitive) is the real plus though because I think that is the difference that probably causes the most tension in relationships (extrovert vs introvert). Introverts tend to be misunderstood more easily because let's face it, every aspect of society tends to favor extrovertism. Labels like "shy" as opposed to "outgoing" (the latter being the more favored characteristic) never actually validated the uniqueness of a personality just enhanced a negative stereotype.

There is no such thing as "shy".

Growing up I was never "shy". Quiet, yes. Shy...no. But I wore that label for a while. It took me years (and that MB test) to realize that I wasn't crazy. What a relief to discover that it is a valid personality not some mistake of nature to be introverted. It royally ticks me off now when I see someone extroverted trying to change or "fix" an introvert, especially if it is in a disciplinary way, like an extraverted parent trying to "draw out" an introverted child. Argggh.

I have had a number of people try to "fix" me over the years (including myself) so I know how important it is for Daniel (as an IN) to be understood in this way. It may sound superficially biased but I think it takes an introvert to fully understand one, or at the very least makes it easier. I am so grateful that Bryan is an INTP. When the other person understands what it means to be socially tapped as an introvert, or that you have a social limit, then they don't try to force you to be more "outgoing". That word used to bug me so much because it always seemed to be the label for the popular, or those that were perceived to be successful. Expectations of culture can be pretty crushing for someone who does not understand that they don't need to fit into that mold. For me (until I finally took the test) I just kept trying to be extroverted, only to repeatedly crash and burn and feeling like a failure for doing so.

The test was pivotal to finally understand myself. Of course the knowledge would have been oh-so handy when I was in school when one is faced with so many of those pressures. But the knowledge has been very helpful over the years (I took it at 29) for continued self awareness and for understanding the nuances in relationship. I would recommend taking the test to anyone.

Anyway, it does my heart good to see my son so happy. Ahh... to be young and in love.

spirit wind

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Friday painting went pretty well. Although this was such a departure from the original thin places series that I wasn't sure what to think about it. Exploring another dimension I guess. The thread of ribbon represents spirit and the freedom in which she moves.

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tea with musolini

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At the urging of my oh-so-smart older sister I netflixed Tea With Musolini and watched it last night. A great movie with a wonderful cast of women that I all admire, I loved it. But not just for the acting but for scene after scene shot in florence and the surrounding hill towns of tuscany that I fell in love with two summers ago. Throughout the movie I kept saying, "oh look, we stood right there!" Or "Yup, sat on those steps". Amazing feeling watching it. Then Bryan and I watched Michael Tilson Thomas narrate the Right of Spring. This series is making me interested in classical music again.

All work aside for today. Now I am off to spend the friday-artist-date in front of a canvas with a brush in my hand. Woohoo!

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same image further developed.

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photo I shot of a sculpture of mary then photoshopped with a painted canvas background

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I feel better. I guess I can't deny my creative side too long or I go insane. Maybe I need to hire a bookkeeper.

is that you, salvador?

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Today I felt like I belonged inside a Dali painting. Despite the fact that I adore Salvador's work, having the sensation of being inside one of his paintings is not pleasant. At least the way I felt today. I think it began with me taking in all things political which seemed appropriate after an election. I even listened to Bush's address. And I checked out a bunch of political blogs and probably overdosed on information (which I won't retain anyway). It is the multiple shifting of gears that has got me feeling like I am losing my mind. Business chores like paperwork and bookkeeping, paying bills and the like being the tasks for the day, just added to the messed up feeling. So I dropped everything and painted for a while. Trying out my new waterbased oils was a great break but it didn't give me any more solid a feeling, in fact shifting gears like that (from being responsible business owner to creative) may have worked against me. Multiple times today I attacked different tasks to shake the feeling but nothing seemed to help. Just grinding gears.

I get this way sometimes. I get so frustrated with myself when I am not uber productive. It is a sort of push-pull self expectation that I have struggled with since I was five and it often preceeds a blitz of super productivity which renders the satisfaction wiping away the feeling that I am having now.

Let's hope so.

I could use an uber moment or two.

The problem is that I have a hard time forgiving myself for unproductivity even if it is fueling the future blitz.

Information overdose is not good for this little introverted artist, and I should have known better. Makes things seem surreal. And let's face it, I hate paperwork.

yea, what he said...

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Some great thoughts on the wielding of "morality" for the sake of politics here.

And continuing the discussion (while home for the weekend) about the "New Atheists", Daniel has a powerful (even mind-numbing) post here.

going on a date

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Can you go on a date if you have been married just shy of twenty years? Hmm...

Yes.

Saturday morning Bryan and I headed out for just that. What we call playing hookie (from all the domestic chores like yardwork) is essentially going on a date in our new normal of being empty nesters. For some reason Adams Morgan has had an appeal of late so we went down there and checked out some of the cool shops, street vendors, and restaurants.

Here is Bryan checking out the tambre of a drum in this shop that imports goods from all over. Not just trinket stuff but really awesome fabrics, furniture, and clothing. I found a yummy all wool sweater made in Nepal.

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Stuff at the Brass Knob, this great little shop that specialized in restoration of old brownstones. Scads of antique hardware.

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Here I am at L'enfant coming up from having my head in a bowl of capuccino. Swallowing and trying not to laugh as Bryan snaps this oh-so-flattering picture. No one looks good mid-swallow!

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The crepes at L'enfant.

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I am worried. I have been worried for many years about something that is often elusive and always confusing.

faith.

I am worried that the evolving world will no longer permit it.

First off defining faith is slippery because everyone has it but not everyone is willing to admit it. And everyone's looks different. You can have faith in god, faith in yourself, faith in your car, or faith in gravity. Some of these things don't require much (like gravity) but all come from a sense of conviction, of sureness, of knowing. Everyone on earth has an individual experience and a shared one and the combination of these experiences are the building blocks which create that sense of conviction. It is a feeling of confidence that you know something true.

So what if what you know is "true" comes in direct conflict with someone else's faith?

As the world continues to get more connected and communities that were once closed systems get cracked open these conflicts will increase exponentially. If you live in a closed system where the common experiences fortify a belief structure then you might find it easy to criticize another system and another faith. If that closed system keeps you protected from ever having to come face to face with another person's "faith" it might make you pretty confident in what you know and have known all along and will keep knowing. But most of the world doesn't deal in closed systems. Instead we have the intersection of various evolving ideas that merge together to create new-in-the-moment ideas.

All moves forward.

But I am afraid.

I am afraid that the things that often motivate a person (human nature) will not allow enough patience and tolerance required for everyone to have their flavor of faith. Because it requires everyone to play nice in an increasingly shrinking sand box. In an article in Wired Magazine, called Church of the Non-Believers , a group of scientists portray atheism as the only rational choice and the choice that, by eradicating religion, would bring about world peace. Although these "New Atheists" as they call themselves would never claim that their convictions might just fall under the umbrella of "faith", I can't help but see their conviction as just that, a belief. They are, however making it clear that inside their convictions there is no room for anyone to have an opposing "belief" and that is where the sand in that ever-shrinking sandbox really makes me itch.

A recent South Park episode displayed the end game of this concept in a hysterically brilliant way (as only South Park can). Cartman decided that he would freeze himself because he found it unbearable to wait three whole weeks for the release of an anticipated computer game (Wii). But his plan was foiled when Butters neglected to thaw him and he was instead thawed by people 500 years into the future. All religion in the future was banished and everyone were atheists. But the truly funny part (and this is where the guys that write the South Park scripts are so gifted) was that there was no peace. Instead there were warring factions of atheists. Denominations of atheists if you will.

That cracks me up. In fact, I laughed my head off. Because I think it is absolutely true. Faith is as unique as every person. Yes there are common groups of structured belief systems and rituals but each individual has a different lens in which she sees the world. And so even the loftiest notion of a "pure" faith (even atheism) will not stay put.

But what fascinates me is that the basic teaching (I mean really foundational stuff) found in most "religions", that humanity got from somewhere, actually addresses how to get along and play nice in the sand box.

We just aren't paying attention.

And so I try to abide by those teachings and listen and tolerate other kids in the sand box. By listening it is amazing how similar we all seem to be. Same desires, same needs, pretty much. And those basic teachings seem to show the way of unity and love. It is the deviation from mutual respect and that nasty inclination to push back at someone with a little different view that seems to cause trouble.

One fist-full of sand thrown and it is all over.

And as much as I try, I know I fail. It is hard not to look back to the closed system that once protected my fragile perspective and judge it harshly for doing so. I have wielded many fists of sand at my own faith "traditions". But if I am to help encourage tolerance (not relativism) then pointing out some of the inconsistencies of practice to those from that tradition in order to collectively seek perspective in order to "love thy neighbor" then it is the "how" that seems the most difficult. But when I am truly following those teachings (for me they are christ's recorded words) the "how, what," and even "who" all becomes pretty clear. Christ was radically inclusive. And if I choose to follow those teachings, then my particular lens will allow me to see everyone in the sandbox as a beloved creature of creation.

The hard part is that they might not see me with the same respect. It does not feel good to be judged by anyone. Being the judge of someone is a special kind of racism. If you look down on someone because they are different (in whatever way, faith or otherwise) you are judging them and putting yourself in a higher position. This is ungracious and uniquely ugly. And not one single person can claim to have all the answers so arrogance can actually make one appear stupid. Humility is beautiful.

So I worry about religious persecution on both ends. Being the perpetrator or the victim. Both leads to a kind of death, but I can only strive to control one. Being responsible for my own actions and then giving grace to others is what I hope to continually strive for as I act out the teachings that form my faith in my ever expanding sandbox.

still recruiting

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Two days ago the doorbell rang. I opened the door to a marine in full uniform.

He asked if he could see Daniel.

I politely informed him that my son had gone to college. The marine, realizing that his recruiting opportunity was gone made a couple of polite comments and then handed me his business card before turning around to leave. Nice young man, but the whole thing pissed me off.

I know that during Daniel's junior and senior year there were recruiters of all military flavors scouring the halls at his high school. Promises of free education, monetary bonuses, and even free clothing were used to entice the students to sign up to serve. We still get post cards in the mail that paint pictures of prosperous futures and glorious careers in return for serving in combat. I am still a little shaken that the marine actually showed up at our doorstep, looking for Daniel by name, knowing where he lived.

It is so messed up.

Don't get me wrong. I think that anyone who has longed to nobly serve their country in the military has the right to do so. They have a right to that choice. And I am grateful for the brave souls that do. But that choice is not meant for everyone.

And so I hate the recruiting tactics. Especially the ones aimed at those who might feel trapped in an economic structure that may prevent them from going to college any other way. I wonder if our sons and daughters are given all of the information up front, not just the bright shiny enticements.

The brother of one of Daniel's friends was killed in Iraq recently. We had never met the boy but we know the family. The boy was 20. (2- years older than Daniel). He was old enough to vote but not old enough to drink. He was old enough to die but not old enough to get a discount on car insurance. He was old enough to make the choice to go into the service but we might raise an eyebrow if he had chosen to get married (because for some reason our culture thinks that at that age you are hardly mature enough for such a commitment).

Of course there is a sense of pride for his brave service and there are no words to express how grateful we must feel for his sacrifice and all those like him.

But I just can't entertain it personally. When I think of that loss I feel outrage instead of respect. I would never want to demean another's sacrifice because that sacrifice was a choice made by that individual. But when I think of the recruiters in the schools I can't help wonder if so many children are misinformed. It frightens me. There is a picture that I can't get out of my head, I don't know why... some sort of visual metaphor for how I see it...

Baby sea turtles when finally hatched instinctually run like mad towards the sea. The sea equals survival. The sea equals life. The sea equals a future. But the majority of these baby turtles are picked up by predatory birds in the midst of their perilous journey never to live life in the sea.

Whenever I hear news of another one of our sons or daughters being lost in Iraq I picture baby sea turtles. And I am haunted by the thought that we might be needlessly setting them out on an endless stretch of sand only to be picked off by predatory birds. Is it natural selection or the result of arrogance and pride?

Let it not be so.

I would hate to think we are feeding our children to the birds for the sake of our own pride.

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Proverbs 11:2

mac and cheese

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What do you get when you merge great apple advertising with the disparity between being a christian versus a christ follower? Check out these very funny ads on Marko's blog.

all good things...

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Rare times together are important. I was reminded of this so much with my big Sis. So much of life is spent speeding onto the next thing only to look back and wonder why we are all moving so fast. The ten days that we carved out of our schedules to just be sisters was well worth it and will be treasured...

but it was too short.

Ah well, ten days well spent at any rate. Museums, food, wine, galleries, antiques, girl talk, food, mommy talk, art, and of course more food.

Such a good time.

But the airplane was waiting and so was her family on the other end of a long flight so I had to let her go home. Bummer. Left with hugs and promises to do it again, soon.

Sis and artist date

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Last day with my big Sis visiting. We stick to my normal routine and do an "artist date" which for me has consisted of painting. In truth the last ten days were like one big artist date visiting museums and doing all things stimulating. It made it easy to pick up a brush this day. Marta took over my dining table working on illustrations of a children's book while I took my normal place downstairs at my rickety old easel.

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sightseeing the national mall

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Hopping the metro we headed toward the mall in search of lincoln. We found him and in the process tripped over the WW2 memorial, the Wall, the Washington monument, the smithsonian Museo Soumaya and finally the The National Museum of African Art. We ended the day at the Hirshhorn .

Marta with Lincoln.

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antiques with Sis

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A day of fun with art and antiques. Later we had dinner at Franklins who judging by my sister has the absolute best garlic mashed potatoes on the planet.

Here reflected in a massive mirror my Sis and me, the "davenport sisters", marta and blair.

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Savage Mill

ONE

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Check out The ONE campaign video. Bono's soccer mom, Shayne who I spent time with in seattle at Sally's conversations is at the front of the line! Way too cool!

It is so easy to get involved. And who wouldn't want ONE of those sexy RED t-shirts?

national archives and NMAI

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Marta and I hopped on the metro bound for The National Archives for some more DC sightseeing. While in the NA we struck up a conversation with a gent from turkey who asked our opinion about a photo of the lunar landing. The subject of speculation was the apparent non-existent shadow of the american flag. Dispelling any conspiracy theories, Big Sis proudly informed the man that she had seen the landing live on tv. The man seemed duly impressed. We then chatted differences in our foods, culture, and what his travel suggestions might be if we ever came to visit turkey.

We spent most of our time in the archives but finished the day at the National Museum of the American Indian. The weather has turned cold the wind was bitter walking back to the metro station. Between that and all the walking we arrived back home fairly worn out.

monday curled up with a book

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Monday felt like a good day to chill. I did some work while Sis curled up with a book wrapped in a chenille blanket on our "magic couch". We call it that because it is a big, comfy, soft leather couch that tempts you to sleep if you dare to stretch out on it. Personally I think every house needs at least one piece of furniture like this. Something that you can snuggle to on a cold day, or be soothed by when you are sick. Marta took advantage of the "magic" catching a few zzzz's while reading.

The calm in the house was later broken by a call for help from Daniel. He had exhausted his supply of contact lenses and had thrown out his last pair before realizing it. We had some old prescription lenses stored away (for just such an emergency) so Bryan, Sis and I ran up to Baltimore to the rescue. We found Daniel in front of one of the main buildings at MICA setting up a sculpture assignment on the sidewalk. Somewhat handicapped by his semi-blindness, he still managed to finish set up in prep for a class critique minutes away. We delivered the lenses, gave quick hugs and were off.

Since we were in Baltimore we ended up having a bite at Legal Seafoods. Couldn't resist some raw oysters. YUM.

And what better way to finish off a day then with Bryan's chocolate lava cake.

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shooting pretty food

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We finished our day by driving into crystal city for dinner at this cool little place called JALEO. Bryan and I had seen Jose Andres on tv the night before and thought his cooking style was really cool and then while wandering crystal city, bumped into his restaurant by accident. Amazing food served tapas style.

The food was so pretty we all pulled out our cameras which elicited laughter as we simultaniously shot the food and each other. Here is Marta pre-shot-mid-laugh.

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Bryan aiming at me while I aim at Marta.

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Wandering a bit in Crystal City.

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Then we drove back (top down) through DC to see some of the buildings at night.

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a day at arlington

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A visit to Arlington National Cemetery is something that Bryan and I had not done and so it seemed like a good idea and was something that my big Sis had an interest in. So we set out to visit this sacred place. A beautiful crisp day made for a great setting of quiet contemplation as we walked this park that houses the remains of over 250,000 souls, an emotion prompting place to be sure.

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laid back foodie saturday

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Saturday Marta got in on our weekend tradition of french toast. Proving to be a very laid back day, we didn't venture out of the house until about four-thirty, and then it was in search for more food. Bryan and I had schemed early on that we were going to put Marta's taste buds to the test during her visit and tonight was no exception. The food experience for this particular night would be ethiopian. We love it but it in not for everyone especially the style in which you eat it. You order your food and it all comes on one communal plate that is placed on a short table in front of you. Then you are given a bread that is sort of like a pancake that you tear apart and use as your utensil for picking up your food. Very tasty and very tactile. Makes for a unique and sensual food experience.

Our plate of food. Bryan's and Marta's hands tearing at the "bread".

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After dinner we kept the theme low key and went and saw "The Prestige" . Very good movie with a somewhat surprise ending.

My friday was an extremely special as I get a rare visit with my sister Marta. She arrived Wed afternoon and Bryan and I took her to one of our favorite little spots for dinner. And then chatted our way all the way through thursday night. So friday we set out on the metro toward the national mall to check out some art.

The National Gallery can be as overwhelming as it is inspirational, especially if you try to go backwards in time starting with contemporary art and finishing off with 13 century italian. We stopped for lunch at the fabulous cafe that sits between the two buildings. At least we mellowed the feeling of time warp by eating before jumping back in time.

Here is Marta in front of Lavender Mist.

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Considering Diego Rivera.

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After indulging on picasso, mattise, calder, warhol, rembrandt, and the huge "sketches" of
constable we met up with Bryan at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum for some live jazz and great food at the Jazz Cafe.

It never fails to surprise me, what inspiration can come from experiencing great art, music and good food. Good time.

the perception of beauty; misguided

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I absolutely love this dove campaign. Using photoshop on an almost daily basis makes me well aware of how we idealize anything visual but this is true deception. Check out this video on bobbies blog. Thanks bobbie!

trivializing the sacred;life on speedial

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This morning my thoughts were drawn to all the things that we value within and for ourselves and more importantly what makes us value those things. Maybe it is because it is tuesday. Maybe it is because it is raining.

I am presently struggling with (when am I not) how western secular culture trivializes things that are sacred. And even worse, how the machine of christianity has trivialized the teachings of Christ by turning them into a well packaged commodity. The end result of both of these things has lead to the trivialization of...

life.

I am not talking about life as in some sort of fundy rant against abortion or some soapboxy subject that people latch onto to make themselves feel superior or make trendy political platforms. I am talking about something entirely different and easily overlooked.

The sacredness of living. There is an art to it. A pilgrimage. A discipline.

The sacred holistic way of living that employs balance in all things.

And there is nothing balanced about prevailing western secular culture or consumeristic christianity. Both seem to end at the same road where over consumption, brought on by greed, or the notion of entitlement make us live in an unbalanced manner. One common factor seems to be selfishness. Living selflessly is not vogue in either culture.

But what bothers me is that the teachings that allow for holistic living have been lost in the fray. The misconception that christianity is equivalent to the teachings of Christ has caused a pendulum swing that risks throwing the baby out with the bath water...

or throwing the teachings of Christ out with the church. Many well intentioned (but misguided) believers over history took profound mystical wisdom and boiled it down into digestible bits to make it more palatable to the masses. Easy consumption may have prompted complacency which in turn justifies a lack of sacrifice and a sense of entitlement. It is just too hard to delve deep into truth-we just want the bullet points and make sure it only takes thirty minutes-thank you very much-I have stuff to do...

Life is on speedial. And so is our spirituality.

We expect it quickly, we consume it quickly. We treat life like an all you can eat buffet and wonder why we have indigestion after the mass consumption. While "good" church-going christians point their judgmental fingers at secular "heathens" they may be attending a six week course on discipleship that promises spiritual maturity lickety-split. At the same time the secular "heathens" may be pointing their fingers at the "hypocrites" as they themselves may be going down in the flames of mass consumption.

Both abide inside a mentality of instant gratification. Both trivialize the sacredness of life. Both leave it dis-functional. Both have negative ramifications that will be passed down for generations.

Deep spirituality is a lifetime pursuit and that makes it unheard of inside a fast food culture.

And so we settle.

We settle for a life that is less. And just by using those words it sounds like I am back at what may be heard as "entitlement". But no. Real life is much deeper, more sacrificial, more humbling, and therefore more beautiful.

But much more difficult.

But only so if we look through the eyes of a culture that seems to require our very soul just to fuel the pace. If instead we look as an apprentice who gains an amazing gift through the process of living each moment learning from a master, the process itself may seem more inviting. I guess for me that doesn't seem so difficult because any truly valuable thing is worth an effort. And how much effort is the living of life worth? Although I live in a disposable society that does not mean my faith is disposable. I can't escape the presence of an eternal being even when I listen to the rain.

So how do I follow in the footsteps of a being who's teachings are not accepted in a church that he came to teach? When the theme of the teaching is love while the church spends so much energy on the surface matters simply to judge, how then do I live?

I do. But maybe I have to do it within the ebb and flow of humanity which now exists outside that church. Because those teachings are still profound and should not be sacrificed because the church so often gets it wrong. The teachings speak to humanity's core. They breath life into life and protect it. If I can take the time to look past the fumblings of "christianity" and into God then there is something worthy. Connecting with the creator. Connecting with the very Source of Love. Enabling me to love. Loving god, loving my neighbor, loving myself.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

Even though these words get overlooked because we have heard them over and over, I focus on them again for direction. If everyone who ever read these words spent a lifetime focusing on them and somehow strived to actually live them, how might that change the world?

Might there be hope in the next generation of god-followers? The wind is shifting and history marches on so I become hopeful in the future of faith. I become hopeful when I listen to the rain. I become hopeful at the invitation of a friend's sacred day. I become hopeful in talking with my son.

Surrounded by a culture that seems to trivialize life...

I am hopeful.

fall break; its all about the food

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We started out Sunday morning (well it was actually noon) with spinach and cheese eggs and the comfy feeling of eating together at our table.

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With the throws of fall upon us and a lovely bright day we ventured out to do something fun and creatively stimulating. Bryan had stumbled upon this new little gallery practically in our own back yard that we had somehow missed. It was quirky and cool with a focus on local (silver spring) artists. It is called Alchemy and while we were looking at all the great art we managed to reveal to the very talkative caretaker that we were all artists, her eyes lighting up she invited us to contact the owner for further information.

After this great find we walked across the street to a local seafood haunt and had some lunch making plans to head into Adams Morgan for some more gallery scouting.

We bumped into the Nevin Kelly Gallery which I put on my list of galleries to send samples to in hopes to find a home for my thin places, or at least a brief showing.

We finished of the day by having dessert of green tea cheesecake and mango sticky rice at a cool little place on U street.

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Saturday night out

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We picked Daniel up Thursday night late and brought him home. Friday was a quiet day of resting reading and of course, eating. Lots of conversation about school and the challenges of college life, getting to know the quirks of various professors and what their expectations are. I did fall into some old habits like calling him sweetie and bud.

Ah well, old habits die hard but he didn't even seem to mind.

Saturday we went back to Baltimore to pick up Celine to spend a day with her. Plans shifted slightly as she was suffering from an awful cold and it was apparent that gallery hopping would not be a good idea. Opting instead for soup and salad at our house and just chilling, watching the movie Mirror Mask was just the right thing. Both of these art students have been working full bore after all and so "fall break" really needed to be a break. After a low key day of rest we headed north for dinner and to take Celine back to Baltimore. With the chill in the air this will probably be the last time we crave sushi so we headed to our favorite place Sushi Sono.

Here is Daniel and Celine at Sushi Sono.

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Bryan was called back to his home town to attend his grandfathers funeral. I never sleep well when he is gone so I am a little sleep deprived (but nothing compared to him because of a crazy flight schedule). The last few days have been spent finishing projects and preparing our house for Daniel who is coming home for fall break. Bryan arrives this evening and we pick up Daniel shortly after. A bit of a whirlwind.

I am both excited to see my son within the context of our home again, but I also know that things may feel a little weird. Having been "out on his own" for a month-and-a-half though seemingly a short period of time, has been life changing for him. And so I contemplate what that will feel like inside the shifting role of parenthood, even simple things like how we speak.

Can I still call him kiddo? sweetie? bud? All the things I called him when he was five?

Maybe not.

But even more important, will I be able to hear, between the lines of speech and conversation, the longings of his heart? Will I be able to know his mood simply by reading his subtle body language and minute facial expressions? Or will those things be different? Will I be able to express wisdom in a way that will be heard for future choices.

Or will I have any wisdom?

It is interesting that Daniel made a choice at a very early age (I think he was eight) to pray for the characteristic (or gift, or whatever you want to call it) of wisdom. It was his idea an so over the years I have prayed for that for him. And through the years I have prayed for other characteristics too, like...

Discernment.

Discernment and wisdom are probably the two most useful tools to navigate life. And if prayers are answered (and I believe when you ask for godly characteristics they are) these two tools sharpen each other and enable you to make choices that benefit your life. I think that is where blessings come from. I have never thought that if you pray for blessings that you will get them randomly dumped on you. Instead there is more of a spiritual pilgrimage that takes place when you start with simple things.

Like wisdom.

And there are pivotal moments in life when those characteristics kick in. These are typically times of great transition when the landscape is foreign and new and so you pull out that moral compass to check your position, make a note and decide which direction is the right one.

The act of checking this compass is important and totally counter-cultural due to the fact that it requires pause. So many great explorers relied heavily on a real compass to keep from getting lost possibly endangering their lives. Checking the compass takes time and contemplation. The spiritual discipline of standing still to feel the wind before moving forward may seem quaint but only because we are now used to high acceleration SUVs with automatic GPS systems.

Have I exhausted the metaphor yet?

So this weekend as we enter another phase of what our family looks like, I will pull out my compass (maybe we all will) test the wind, and look toward the horizon that is our future.

spirit wind progression

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My artist friday merged into saturday as I continued work on spirit wind (or super-hero girl). Still much detail to finish, but it is progressing nicely. Thin places seem less restricting in this character, plus there are multiple dimensions that I am experimenting with. She seems to move fluidly thru all.

Hmmm....

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tossing the kitty

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It is not a good start to a day when you go outside to set out the recyclables and discover that your husband has run over a kitten with the car...

and it isn't dead.

Cats in our neighborhood run wild (mostly due to my next door neighbor). They breed every year, a fresh batch of cute fur balls play in our yard every spring only to grow into mean, ugly, scavengers missing tails and eyes and are general pests that use our yard as a litter box.

But this is just a kitten, a little black and white only a few months old. I cringe and realize that its injuries are severe (parts coming out) and so it will be dead soon, then I will get the shovel and take it into the forest behind our house...

breaks my heart.

So later in the day I have to get the big blue bin out of the driveway so that Bryan can park the car, and I get a shovel to move the fuzzy corpse and there lies the poor thing...

and it still isn't dead.

The humane person in me feels horrible that it must have suffered all day long and now I am faced with what must be done...

but I can't bring myself to do it. The right thing would be to put the little suffering thing out of its misery but I am both grossed out by the grisly sight and yet can't eve fathom whacking it with the shovel.

This is horrible.

So I take my shovel and scoop up the animal trying not to hurt it further (who am I kidding). I carry it down the hill to the forest behind our property and try not to look at it. But the few glimpses that I get reveals that it seems to have a broken back. At this point I am feeling huge amounts of guilt for not killing it in the driveway. Giving the shovel a swing I heave the poor thing into the forest praying that it died on my shovel, or at least on impact from the toss. I feel awful.

Would I feel as bad for a lesser creature?

What if it had been a rat instead of a kitten? Would I have had the same hesitation? The same compassion?

seattle window

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I shot this in at SeaTac and then applied a ps watercolor filter to it. The whole window seems to be a depiction of origins (i think-could be wrong on this) with the sun and moon as father and mother pouring out their gifts of splendor on to the rest of creation including the dreaming couple at the bottom. Truly beautiful. I just love the expressions. The artist is cappy thompson.

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you can see the whole window here

re-defining church

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I believe in the gathering of god's people. Conversations (in gig harbor) was such a gathering. However, the unconventional nature of this kind of fellowship of believers flies in the face of the majority of thought regarding what the "Church" should look like. I do feel the tectonic shift and the roll of the earth even as we sat, 16 women, faced with a simple question of...

how do you define church?

I wanted to shout..."It's this"! but remained quiet as discussion went from the ways in which one attends church... to accountability, to... "it's not about you". All important comments on the stages in which most North American churches ebbs and flows, but the core question which was placed at our feet was...

how do you define church?

Maybe why a discussion like this is so elusive is because, simply...

church is being redefined.

We are those that sit primely on the timeline of church history and need not look around us and recreate what was, or create a modified version of what was, but must look instead, outside of ourselves.

Until just a few years ago I had never been prompted by my own religious traditions to truly examine the history before luther. And I dare say most evangelicals (outside of seminary grad school) have either, or unfortunately ever will. But as the world expands and borders dissolve what it means to be a fellowship of believers has/must/will expand as well. The very definition is as broad as the world but coming to terms with that broadness is very hard for some people.

Maybe there is an underlying question that should be asked. Something that would prompt a response more foundational to the core of faith. Maybe instead of asking, "how do you define church"? we should ask...

What does Christ require?

Picture the being who for the sake of the patriarchal historical context in which he was deposited was packaged in the form of a thirty year old virgin man. Try to picture the being inside this package. Christ. Strip away the many ways in which Christ has been depicted over history...

the sad eyed pleading Christ,

the white-robed fluffy shepherd Christ,

the long-haired historically inaccurate anglo-Christ,

...you get the idea.

Try to strip away these depictions, these notions that are comfy because they are familiar or understandable or touchable, well packaged. Instead, picture...

the being.

The being that is a third of God.

The being that is beyond cultural context.

The being that is neither male nor female.

The being that is the foundation of the "Christian" faith.

Now imagine sitting in the presence of this being and ask the question with your whole heart...

What do you require?

Imagine that.

When we look at the text that has been passed down through generations the vehicle in which the answers came, the package that delivered wisdom to humanity (the thirty year-old virgin man) being Christ answered a question posed to him, "Which is the greatest commandment in the Law"?

He answered,

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, Love your neighbour as yourself.'" Matt 22:36

Luke 10:25 has him answering a different question with the same answer. The question being "what must I do to inherit eternal life"?

So might this be the answer to the core question of "what do you require"? And if that is the answer how does it influence every other question one can possibly ask? Like...

How do you define church?

When I reflect on the great "being", sitting in the presence of that being, and asking eternal questions, I get mental whiplash picturing what Church has become because of the vast disparity that seems apparent between what is trapped inside a building and what is let loose. But I no longer feel paralyzed by the shock, left only to criticize. Instead I can reflect on the wisdom that came from the "being" and go to the core. How then do those of us (so many many of us) of good conscience live out that command and truly love? So many of us have left the buildings because the "being" isn't there anymore. And the building was never meant to contain it anyway.

We are the church.

a few pics from gig harbor

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I took woefully few photos while at such a visually inspiring place, but the point was not to be working. I gave myself permission not to be "on" which was a great thing. I did snap a few pics the last morning but in my haste I did not get a pic of everyone. Conversations continued even then, unprompted, over breakfast and that lovely view.

a view from the porch of the bed and breakfast.

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Meredith, Heather, and Becky.

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Grace, Lesa, and Deborah.

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the quilt.

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