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They Followed Me Home...Honest!


There's a battle being pitched here in Virginia - Me vs. Stuff

Stuff is ahead by a long shot.

A really long shot, but I'm not giving up. 

I'm determined to clear some of this clutter out, and Phil keeps dropping stuff off at various thrift shops. Boxes and boxes and bags and bags of stuff. Three people live in this house, and stuff keeps following us home.

So, I keep sorting, tossing, boxing, bagging, and more. Even my art stuff, which is a history of everyshiny object that's caught my eye. I've worked really hard at narrowing down what I'm truly interested in, which is still quite a bit to be honest. That being said, how much paper do I truly need? How much washi tape (I really have a thing for washi tape!), how many art books on making stuff? 

I guess that some people might figure that all this downsizing and jettisoning of stuff is happening because I'm 65, and after all isn't that what old folks do? Downsize for their later years.

And, there might be some truth in that, but only a tiny bit. Memories of  clearing out my mom and dad's house still haunt me. Since both were depression babies, they really tended to hold onto stuff that should have been tossed years and years ago. Dad's dementia just added another layer to the mess. I would love to not repeat that mess.

Mostly, though, it's a wanting for things to be restful, for my house to be a haven and not a cluttered mess that constantly reminded me what needed to be cleared up, put away, etc.

Phil and I travel a lot, short distances mostly, but we've seen many a vacation home, hotel room, etc. And, so often, I'd enter and sigh in happiness. Clean lines, empty spaces on dressers where my eyes could rest. Nothing piled in corners. All of it makes me happy.

That's what I want...empty spaces to fill up something that I need. 

Along with this wanting of being able to simply rest easily, to like what I'm looking at, is a nagging feeling reminding me just how much money I've blown on stuff. Stuff that I'm now tossing and donating. I could sell it, but honestly, I just want it out, and I don't want much more coming in.

There's a heaviness that accompanies stuff.

These past several weekends, my daughter and I have been exploring all sorts of antique markets and design homes. We love it, just love it.

I've done so much imaginary spending and fake buying, your head would spin, probably both clockwise and counterclockwise. Maybe both at the same time.

Each market has its own signature; one is mostly restored furniture. Another might focus more on knick knack sorts of things. One is shabby chic; another gives off an edgy urban feel. 

Here's what I love - the inspiration. Color combinations, ways to repurpose things, and more. Dealers arrange their stuff into wonderful vignettes, and when one display catches my eye, makes me stop in my tracks, I stop and begin to analyze. 

What's making me go, "Ahhhhhhhhhh?" Is it repetition? a color combination? all the textures? 

I take photos to remember, print out the photos when I get home, and start jotting notes, because even though I'm certain I'll remember, I most probably won't. 

Most jaunts result in nothing coming home. Nothing. Because the little voices in my mind begin to nag.

Do you really want to have to dust that? Where are you going to store it? How soon before it ends up at the thrift shop? Do you want to pay to move it? Do you need another platter? You already have 4 or 5, and you're just buying them because your mom collected them and it makes you feel better.

And, we have a rule. If something comes into the house, something has to leave the house.

I do slip up every now and then. Those wonderfully quirky red stools/chairs above provide evidence of my all too human nature and the psychology of consumerism.

I could tell you that they are a late Christmas/birthday gift for Phil. I could also tell you that we've been looking for a chair that's going to relieve leg achiness from standing while cooking and baking. And, I did promptly toss a few large items out of the house.

But, honestly? 

They followed me home.


The Taste of Silence



Wherever it was
I was supposed to be this morning-- whatever it was I said
I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field-- I was hurrying
through my own soul, opening its dark doors-- I was leaning out;
I was listening.
- Mary Oliver, Mockingbirds

I love the quiet hush of early mornings; it's not completely silenced, but it seems as if all the sounds are muted, soft, and just barely there. There and then gone, teasing, enticing me to listen carefully. 

Stillness and silence seem intertwined, nearly inseparable. My soul needs both, and treasures the mornings that begin slowly and invite introspection. I miss it all when for whatever reason I tell myself that there's not enough time, that things need to be done.

Yesterday was one of those mornings, a bit rushed, a bit hectic, with things that "had to be done" before I took off to watch over a sick little one.

One of those "the world will end if you don't do this" things was taking out the recycling and trash. Bags in hand, I stopped short, staring a pretty amazing, awfully large black bird ambling through our back yard. His feathers glistened all sorts of purples and blues, the sunshine pulling them out of the black. 

I stopped briefly, bags still in hand, to watch and enjoy him. Not a crow...I've seen some big crows, and he outdid them. A raven? 

And, then I broke the silence, calling out a "Good Morning," and away he flew. Immediately, without hesitation, he flapped those large wings and took off, never looking back. The magic was gone in a heartbeat.

This morning, as I read and began to write my morning pages, he popped back into my mind. 

"Time changes, the world goes on changing, but the experience of silence remains the same...the taste of silence remains the same." (Osha Deck)

The taste of silence...I love these words, and as I wrote my pages this morning, thinking about yesterday's bird, another memory peeked through...Sister Delores, my oldest son's second grade teacher.

Sister Delores loved life and loved teaching, making learning come alive. She was on the uppermost floor of the oldest part of the school, the floor that at one time had housed the students who lived at school. Huge windows looked over a tiny town, and through one window, you saw the twisted, gnarled branches of a old tree. 

Beneath the window, she place a table with a log book, several bird books, and a few pairs of binoculars. Students could visit the station at various times, and they worked to identify the birds, logging them in with date, time, and other observations. By the end of the year, my son could identify any local species on sight, telling you whether the bird was male or female. No formal teaching, just putting the pieces into place for her kids to learn.

Her classroom was full of magic, complete with secret clubs you had to earn your way into, one of them having to do with writing. She set her expectations high, and the students worked happily to meet them.

I remember laughing aloud one day...on the door frame outside her classroom, a long strip of adding machine tape traveled the length of the frame. Sectioned off by day, various dead bees and flies were taped to the tape, with each day's tally at the bottom. Wide open AC!...led to many classroom visitors, and Sister worked with what she had.

And from there, my mother came to mind, an image so clear of her hanging out the laundry on an old clothesline, pegged with old wooden dowel clothespins. Each time she hung out the clothes, or came to unpin them to bring them in, a cardinal would alight in a nearby cherry tree. The cardinal whistled; mom whistled back, and on the conversation went the entire time she was outside. 

He only talked to Mom; when the rest of us were on clothes duty, he'd sometimes land softly on a branch, observing closely, but never made a sound. It was mom or nothing!

All of this poured through my mind as I wrote this morning...a stream of writing, loosely bound by feathered visitors. 

The sound...and the taste...of silence let the words flow.

Quieting the Monkeys

Stitch Med 1

Have you ever seen the cartoon that shows a woman's mind vs. a man's? The one where the guy sits in front of the computer, just plodding away, just one tab open. On the other hand, the woman has a gazillion (former math teacher here) tabs open and seems to be actively engaged with each one. That's me. That's my mind.

Another way  of saying it, I've got a lot of mind monkeys, most of them doing some really odd things.

So, I've been looking for ways to close some of the tabs, to oust some of those darn monkeys.

Photography is one; slow stitching is another.

Stitch Med 3

There's just something about it that calms me; the rhythmic in and out of the needle, the putting together of odd pieces to make something brand new. The squares are tiny, just 4" X 4", so technically, it should be a fairly quick project. Technically.

Because, you see, some of the above mentioned monkeys begin to chatter. If I don't listen, they chatter louder.

My stitching is crooked and not evenly sized of spaced.

I answer with a resounding, "Yep." 

The idea is that it shouldn't matte; this isn't the time to worry about stellar stitching or an amazing end product. 

It's time to get lost in the process, to just be.

But those damn monkeys just get louder, and I've been known to tear out the stitches that I'm not supposed to worry about, let alone tear out. 

Sometimes I manage it, manage to leave in all the wonderful wonkiness.

I wish those times were more frequent.

Stich Med 2

Most of the time, I grab a fabric that appeals and just begin. 

I'm not supposed to worry about all the bits and pieces going together, but sometimes I do.

This morning I read/wrote about letting go of expectations in my morning pages. Obviously, my letting go is a real work in process, because I do fuss at times. These tiny squares can take several days if I'm having a really tough time letting go. 

But this last square, "Evidence," was planned. The two background, the blue and the off white with brown stripes, came from Phil's shirts that could no longer be worn to the office. They'd been washed at least one too many times. So, I salvaged what I could. 

I liked the idea of creating a stitch meditation recycling these cast offs.

The green, and the pinkish circle, came from a gellli printing class many years ago. 

The black bit and the word, evidence, are the only "new" bits. 

Evidence can be defined as "remains" and "remnants." Discovering that tiny bit buried in my stash seemed to be a perfect find. It fits.

It feels good to be back doing this again.

It does seem to corral some of the monkeys, to close down some of the open tabs.

I'm working on quiet.

I'm working on stillness.

I'm working on letting go.

65 Mornings

Dad's coffee cup

"So, what's next?" Lesley asked. "Now, that you've explored abstract art, where will you take it? Will you be working on another project? What's next?"

Grateful that I fell into the middle of this circle of awesomely talented women, I knew I had a bit of time to think. My first, internal response was that I just didn't know. 

But, Lesley had taught me better. Having worked through her CCGP (Closing the Creativity Gap Program) and finishing up the current Red Thread Retreat, I had one great support system in place. Knowing I had a bit of time, I closed my eyes and throught back to a list of prioritized projects in place.

When my time came, I had my answer, "I want to write. I want to take photos, and I want to put words to them. And, I think I want to put it all into book form and self publish it."

And, then I thought, "Oh, crap. I've gone public, and now I've got to make good on this."

Most of the artists present knew my photos, knew the words I often put with them, smiled and nodded their heads. Yes. Yes. Yes. Go for it. 

So, maybe I can do this. Just maybe I can.

A bit of the prioritized list of projects had to be dealt with first; there was a time crunch, and I'd learned to focus on what really mattered first. I had Christmas gifts to get done, and then, I could move forward.

Last Wednesday, I completed my 65th trip around the sun. Most of the other "significant" birthdays seemed to come and go without much fanfare or even thought on my part. Honestly, I sometimes had to do some math to figure out just how old I was.

But, 65 seems to be a milestone of some sorts. I have my Medicare card to prove it, and the good Lord knows, I had the attention of insurance companies wanting to sell me supplemental insurance.

65, for what ever reason, seems to be a good time to really embrace the fact that I have time to create, time to explore, time to do a bit of what I want to do, stuff that feeds my soul.

I'd neglected my blog; it pretty much faded into non existence. I didn't need to wonder why; Lesley's aforementioned CCGP class etched into my brain the roadblocks in place. Most importantly, I knew I'd put the darn roadblocks there myself, and even more importantly, I could remove them.

I know I have stories to tell, but I always managed to convince myself they weren't important. No one would want to read them. An idea would appear in my brain; I'd shove it aside. Soon, I'd be reading a piece of someone else's writing, on the topic I'd tossed aside, and readers loved it. As, Elizabeth Gilbert of Big Magic wrote, an idea came to me, I ignored it, and it went elsewhere to find someone else. 

When it comes down to it, it shouldn't matter if no one wants to read it; I want to write it anyway.

Knowing my tendencies to think something to death, and then not follow through (another one of my self imposed road blocks), I knew I had to put my idea out there, make it public. So, I mentioned it on my Instagram account, and now, I'm putting it out here on my blog, not an easy step, because you see, out came the stalling tactics.

I told myself that my blog is sadly outdated, no one reads it (Well, why should they if I don't write so something?), I should update it first. Maybe, I should just ditch this blog, begin a new one. 

Yep, stalling tactics. I need to write. I need to start now. The rest can wait, can be done as the writing begins.

Then, some more tactics. Should I begin a new and second Instagram account? What should I call it? A Year of Mornings? Nope, that would set me up to fail; that seemed to say I had to  post every morning, and I knew that as soon as I missed one or two, the whole thing would die a slow death. Well, to be honest, a pretty quick one, most likely.

So, again, I pushed that road block out of my way, and for now, it's "65 Mornings," because after a year of it, I should have 65 photos with accompanying words. That's only about 1 for every 6 days. Manageable, and I liked the idea of having the 65 in there.

For now, I'm just staying with the one account, and making sure that hashtag the appropriate photos with #65mornings. 

Come along with me for the ride, okay? You can find me on Instagram as @paulateach, and I'll be blogging many of the photos as well. 

You know what, I'm proud of me! 


Inspiration in the Form of a Rusty Red Car


Assignment: Create a mixed Media Self-Portrait

Reaction: UGH!

And then the universe stepped in: within a week the concept of self portraits showed up three times - the assignment in Lesley Riley's 52 Pick Up class, a friend's visit to the National Portrait Gallery, and another artist showing a book of self portraits as inspiration.

Message received, and I got busy.

This "self-portrait" is a veritable mish mash of all sorts of bits and pieces.

The greenish blue background is a gelli plate print created earlier this summer. I generally have a stash of them, and they never fail to delight me.

The brownish black and brown  background is an Iphone shot of this beauty at Lucketts Market.


I cropped it to this:

Rusty car

I cropped it again, rotated it, and then digitally manipulated it using PhotoLabPro on my Ipad, and this!


Is this not ever so cool? I quite fell in love with it, and came up with several other variations on the theme using the same app.

Now, down to the nitty gritty of it. I needed a photo of me, and I really didn't want to start shooting more selfies, so I grabbed another Iphone image shot in a silly moment last weekend.

I began with this:


then manipulated it with the same app to what you see in the final portrait. I cut myself out and glued it to the brown background.

And then the fun began: white Uniball signo pens, black sharpies, a word sticker,  a rub on of the word "Focus" altered with more white pen, a tiny paper butterfly...well, you get the idea!

I threw a black mat over it to look official, and well, just because I could.

Thank you, rusty red card. You can count on showing up in my artwork again and again and again, sometimes altered beyond belief!



Finding Beauty in the Season of Brown

Novthanksgiving2016 012

I'm looking at brown - brown tree limbs, brown leaves dangling and then letting go to drift slowly down to carpet the grass. The same grass bare of leaves just a few days ago. Only the sky differs, and it's gray and heavy with another bout of rain.

A hint of green lingers on the grass but will disappear all too quickly.

I'm not fond of this season; I just want to curl up under flannel sheets with a steaming cup of coffee by my side and just read. Mostly, I inhale books that provide mindless entertainment, the type that I send tumbling to the floor when I fall asleep and roll over. The type that when I pick them up, it doesn't matter if I find the "right" spot, because I won't miss much if I don't. Somehow, they're soothing at this time of year.

Right now, those flannel sheets tumble in the dryer, shedding lint like a dog leaving a trail of fur. I love these sheets, soft and rich to the touch, and ready to cocoon me in layers of warmth. But, being new, they take what seems like forever to dry.

Downstairs, traces of last night's homemade turkey soup linger. Each time I wander into the kitchen, the aroma teases my nose and taste buds. I know I can grab another bowl for lunch, and I just might do that. It's more than a bowl of soup; it's all the love that Phil put into this past summer's herbs, the slow and steady mincing of fresh veggies, and the patient wait for it all to blend into something wonderful. Good things really do come to those that wait.

Last Friday, the infamous "Black Friday" that will find me anywhere but a mall, we went a wandering in Virginia's wine country. A Facebook write up intrigued me, inviting me to "walk off my wobble" by climbing a small hill, grabbing a ticket to prove I'd made it to the top, trotting back, and then claiming a house made truffle. I can assure you that the truffle was well worth my climb!

And, I have to fess up, that Phil and I had avoided this winery for the longest time, visiting several others in the area instead. For some reason, its write up had me thinking that it leaned toward the snobby side. (We've inadvertently landed at some of those!), and blue jean clad me wanted to be able to relax...and to afford some wine! 868 Estate Vineyards...doesn't that name sound snobby?...pleasantly surprised us. It has an onsite restaurant to be explore later, but also tons of picnic tables for casual (and inexpensive!) fun, and just a great friendly air about it. The "868" turns out to be the elevation of where their new tasting room will be built, and where we had to climb to claim our truffle. So, a good lesson learned: First impressions aren't always spot on.

I'm meandering here, but then so are my thoughts. Some of them are working on convincing me that it might be a good idea to get at least one set of my physical therapy exercises done. Other thoughts, and rather louder thoughts, take great pleasure in reminding me that I'm going to hurt when I'm done. And, then the first thoughts come back and chortle, "No pain, no gain!" So, at some point, I'll great my teeth and get them done.

Okay, self, it's time to wrap this up. The dryer's buzzing impatiently. Floors desperately need vacuuming and mopping or both.

And those damn exercises need to be done.

He Sang to Me

Nov2016backyard 058

Just 7 days ago found us on the road to Pennsylvania and to my dad.

Dad's beat the averages several times; most patients admitted to a dementia ward live about 18 months. Dad's well past that, and although the mental decline grows rapidly, he's a strong old man and a force to be reckoned with when he doesn't feel like complying. Having blood drawn or his fingernails cut invoke his wrath, but so does simply getting out of bed some mornings. The nurses and aides learned to read his moods years ago, and they know when to let him just be.

I never know which dad I'll find; I do know, with certainty that it won't be the one I grew up or the one I knew even 10-15 years ago. I enter through Wallingford's doors just hoping that he'll acknowledge my presence. During many visits, he's simply sat in his chair, not making eye contact, not saying a word, even when spoken to. Other visits, he's slept through, so I just sit vigil for a bit and then leave.

This was a "good" visit. I found him wide awake, a twinkle in his eye, and full of things to say. His voice is weaker now, and so soft, that we have to lean forward to begin to figure out what he's saying. Most of the time, it's sheer and utter nonsense, random babblings of a mind that's gone missing.

He talked, talked, and talked some more. At times, he was back during the time of WWII and on a naval carrier. Other times, he'd gone dancing and looking for girls. He proudly informed me that he never had trouble finding a girl since he could dance so well. And, when they got tired of dancing, they'd go walking and do "other things." Usually at this point, I'd try to distract him, because it's definitely uncomfortable to hear those exploits from your dad!

He informed Phil that he had some lovely daughters back in Parkesburg and invited him to come home with him and pick one out. Phil assured him he'd do so, and then turned and grinned at me.

Dad then turned to me, and softly said that the best thing he'd ever done was to marry me, and I knew that he thought I was my mother, so I sat up a bit straighter and really tried to hear what he was saying. In all his years since the stroke that accelerated his dementia and landed him in Wallingford, he's very rarely mentioned my mother.

And, then, he began to croon songs to me, mostly nonsensical words, but I rarely heard Dad sing while growing up, and I never heard him sing to my mother.

Did he sing to her while he courted her? I'll never know for sure, but I think he must have.

His voice shifted a bit, a subtle change, and as I listened I heard, "I love you, I love you, I love you."

I don't know what look was on my face; it must have been a mixture of sheer and utter disbelief mixed with happiness.

Dad was definitely a product of his times; he never said, "I love you" aloud. I knew I was loved, well and truly loved, but the words never got said, on his end anyway. Even well after I grew up, when I'd kiss him, he'd nod his head, and say, "mmm...hmmm."

I wish I had thought to record him, but I was so completely caught up in the moment, I just sat, smiled, and told him that I loved him back.

He'll never know the gifts he gave me last Friday...being present to me, his voice and non stop chatter, his talking of my mother. But, most of all, those words.

"I love you, I love you, I love you," he sang, complete with a few blown kisses my way.

Oh, Dad, I love you, too. Somewhere in the deep nooks and crannies of a mind gone astray, I hope you know that.

I love you.

Muddled Thoughts

October and November 2016 105

I've been sitting with the election results for nearly a week now. Each time that I think I may have come to grips with it...not liking it...just sort of internalizing it, something else happens. And, before I know it, my monkey mind is spinning like an unbalanced load of laundry. It's gone completely amok, trying to process it all.

Full disclosure here: Trump was not my candidate of choice. Not because he's Republican, but simply because he made my stomach clench with what I perceived his character to be. I'm not okay with public bullying, poking fun at others, etc. He simply goes against so many of my own personal beliefs, and this is where I'll ask you to not post any sort of hateful comments. I just don't go there, okay? And, my hope is not that he fails big time, so that I can go...Aha! See?

Because if he fails, we all go down big time.

Don't get me wrong; I'm scared. I'm just not going to let that fear control my life. I want to somehow harness this fear, make it fuel me to work for change.

I've written and re-written this post so many times in my mind. I still don't have the right words, but here is what I do know.

I loathe and detest the hate filled comments I've seen, before, during, and after the election. There are ways to state your case, what ever that case might be. It simply does not have to be hateful or demeaning. I've seen both parties do it; both are still doing it.

Public shaming is awful; people have a right to be disheartened, to grieve an outcome. And, I think that they're grieving far more than Secretary Clinton not being the president elect. I'm one of those people; it's just that my grief happens to be more private. People are grieving what seems to be a complete rejection of values important to them, a way of life.

But, I'm seeing the term crybabies being thrown around, and people being told to "grow up" already. Photos, of course, are nearly always attached.

The grief may seem excessive to you or to me; it doesn't matter. Nothing gives us the right to shame the ones grieving.

Much of this type of shaming comes backed up with comments on a generation that has been always given their trophy, always told they're wonderful, that have been excessively coddled. I happen to agree with some of this; I've seen it far too often in a classroom setting. The thought has crossed my mind that we're blaming the wrong folks here; these people didn't raise themselves, and sometimes, they were never given the tools to "get over it." And, I bet that the very folks posting this sort of crud would be horrified if someone publicly shamed them or theirs because the shamer felt that someone had been too easy on them, or raised them poorly.

Public shaming is just not the answer; it sure as hell is not going to cure anything.

I also believe in the right to protest peacefully. It's built into our government; our voices always need to be heard.

What I don't agree with is violent protests, the burning of the flag, or defacing property. Destruction solves nothing here. Nothing.

And, let's stop the public gloating, okay?

So, where does this all leave me? Like I said above, still confused, still grieving, and worried about my the direction my country seems to be moving.

I'm worried about minority groups, about children, about the lack of respect given to women. I'm more than worried about this white supremacy bit. It makes my skin crawl.

For me, it comes down to this. I need to get more involved with what I care about - the hungry, the poor, human rights in general. I need to get active in a big way, and to do it more than at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I need to do more than what I'm doing now.

I need to do more than "talk the talk." Talking is easy; sometimes, doing is not.

I need to stand up for what I believe in, and I need, at least for now, to limit my contact with Facebook rantings. It's not sticking my head in the sand; I'll be reading and researching, but choosing the sources of my information carefully. Not that I'll just stick to what I happen to agree, that would be sticking my head in the sand! But, I need to not let this hate soak into my pores and fill my days.

Do I need to address this hate? Yes, there's not doubt that I do, but I don't think slinging words back and forth on Facebook will do the trick.

I'm really tied up with what to do with this one...I do need to be able to say "I don't agree." But, it needs to be more of a conversation, not what could well be perceived as a public attack on a person. So, how to do this, I'm just not sure yet, but I need to begin with my own corner of this world.

Most of all, I need to take that good hard look at me, at how I'm living my life, at the prejudices I didn't think I had in any way or fashion. I need to decide the person I'm going to be in what feels like a really bad situation. 

I refuse to say that nothing good has come out of this seeming mess, because I believe that the first step in moving past the ugliness in acknowledging it still does exist, whatever form it takes. Logically, I know this; I've always known it, but I buried it.

I need to step up my game, that's for sure.

And, I refuse to let go of hope.

I'm still sorting this all out in my mind, but I just refuse to let go of hope.





Do You Remember?


I love snail mail, the making, sending, and receiving of it. Not much else that appears in my mailbox makes me smile the way snail mail does, and certainly not the bills. The junk mail, at least, has the possibility of ending up in my journals as "art."

I also think that life's simple moments make the absolutely best memories.

So, a few weeks ago, I conned convinced my most awesome sister, Denise, to participate in a project where we would snail mail each other memories from our childhood or more (much more) recent past. The snail mail could be note cards, letters, post cards, whatever fit the moment. We'd do it when we could, no specific timetable. I wanted this to be workable, or as we say, the most "awful fun."

A few days ago, I received the card you see above. Denise wrote, " Do you remember peeking inside the trunk of the cherry tree near the kitchen? A mama bird would build a nest in a hollow spot in the tree trunk each year. We would wait for her to fly away and then run to steal a peek of her babies."

And, yep, that long forgotten memory came flooding back. We've each sent two now, and I wish I'd thought to document and share them here before.

I first sent her a postcard of Chincoteague, reminding her of the time where we swore to my dad that we'd be sure to take the rental key with us, since he'd not be around to let us into the house. You can see where this is going, right? We left it behind, and when we got back, sure enough, Dad was gone, and we'd locked ourselves out. No way on God's good earth were we going to wait for him to return and suffer his laughter. So, we broke in, all the while laughing like loons and hoping no one would see and report our efforts. Long story short, I tumbled through a window we'd prodded open, fell onto the kitchen floor, and could not stop laughing to let her inside. We kept that secret from Dad for YEARS until my husband blew it wide open in casual conversation, which immediately ceased while Dad raised his eyebrows and just gave us the "LOOK."

Denise replied with memories of running and jumping along a pile of rocks that created a jetty in Rehoboth. I never could understand why this activity caused my mother to have near heart attacks, until a few years ago when I stood and looked at that jetty, wondering where in the hell my mind was all those times! We had absolutely no fear back then, and we did it as often as we could.

I then sent Denise a card reminiscing about the time that Mama Cat and her daughter, Katie, each had a litter of 6 kittens withing days of each other. Two mamas with 12 babies between them. My mother wept, and even my dad's face blanched. Another sister proudly told everyone that we had a "real cat house in our garage."

And, now, I've got another memory ready to be dropped off at the post office, and in a few days, when I think she's gotten it, I'll reveal its contents here, because I don't want to ruin her surprise.

I love the idea of all of this - the memories surfacing and being shared, the cards that brighten our mail boxes, and the thought that after a period of time, we'll each have a wonderful bundle of memories, for us, and for our kids after we've gone, not that either of us plans on making our departure any time soon!

As we say, it's just the most "awful fun!"


Don't Let the Noise Stop You


We all have stories to tell and art to make, and it's so very easy to let the voices inside and outside of our heads stop us.

But these stories, these pieces of art...collages, paintings, batik, potholders, and more...well, each and every one deserves to come into to being. And, yet if we listen to the naysayers, to the "let's be practical" folks, to everyone who wants us to toe the line in some way, well, most of what lives inside our heads and hearts never comes into fruition.

Last weekend, I listened to Jon Katz and Tom Atkins talk about creativity, most especially writing. Commonalities emerged, and they emerged when I listened to Maria Wulf and Carol Law Conklin as both worked with fabric in some way. These precious bits we need to internalize run right across the spectrum of living creative, not substitute lives.

We need to remember to create for ourselves and to keep creating whether folks approve or disapprove. We are gathering the bits and pieces of our lives for us, to make ourselves whole, and a part of us ends up in anything we create. How could it not?

What we create is important; we need to acknowledge this - well, more than acknowledge it. We need to honor it, make it central to our days. It doesn't need to be huge, it might just be 20 minutes as we can grab them.

It doesn't need to be a huge finished project, but we need to do it, to trust what we have to say. We might go astray, even produce something we think should never see the light of day. (Although, others might just disagree!)

So many of us, myself included, find all sorts of reasons to not sit down and write, make art, sew, etc. Sometimes we're afraid of those external voices judging us, judging what create, or judging how we spend our time. They create so much noise in our head, that we just want to clap our hands over our eyes and give up.

More importantly, it's really the internal voices that stop us. Maybe we don't feel that what we have to say or create is anything new. All of it seems to have been done before, right? So, little old normal insignificant us - well, why bother? It's all been said and done before. I heard this over and over as our groups met.

But, as we began to listen, to talk, to share, we found out that we had unknowingly touched each others' lives in so many ways.

Sometimes, it's okay to put ourselves first, to claim what's important to us. Easier said than done, I know, because you see, I know I've apologized for taking my time to be creative.

We all need to stop this apologizing; we just need to stop. Everyone in our group love how being creative made them feel; we felt joyful and complete. Creativity nurtures our souls.

We need to push the judgemental voices, internal and external, right out of our heads. As Jon told us over and over, "The space inside your head is very very precious."

I'm lucky; I've found my safety nets, as Tom would say. I have so many supportive people in my life: a husband who understands that dinner might not make it to the table at a prescribed time because I lost all sense of time as I worked in my studio. I have Jon and Maria, who gently push, prod, and encourage me to claim my creativity, and even more so, to share it. I have Tom, who listens and then reminds me to invest in me. I have a wonderful sister, Denise, who reminds me over and over to let myself soar. I have family who tells me that what I create is pretty darn cool. I have the Creative Group, who leave positive reinforcement and gentle suggestions about what might make something better.

Plain and simple, these are the voices I need to listen to.

Photo of Mary Kellog and Jacqlyn Thorne, members of "The Creative Group at Bedlam Farm." Both ladies write beautiful poetry, and I am so grateful to know them.