Thursday, December 31, 2009

Laughter is Eternity if Joy is Real

Happy New Year!!!

Enjoy the Blue Moon.... but...
Be safe.
Be healthy.
Avoid the drunken maniacs 
(especially if you're one yourself) 
and stay off the road.

Now.... get the party started!

You've just gotta get up 
and dance for this one!

"laughter is eternity if joy is real"
"you don't know how beautiful you are"
"get on your boots!"
~Get On Your Boots, U2

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Shuffle & Deal

As 1975 faded into the USA’s bicentennial year 1976, I recall thinking that the next significant year to come along would be the century’s turn into 2000. I couldn’t fathom it really. It was 24 years away, I was only 15 years old, and my life’s future was a vague, scary thing at the time. Allow me to give you a little mathematical aging perspective: My Mother was the same age then that I am now; My Grandmother was younger (by ten years) than my Mom is now; All of my nephews are now older than I was then. Ironically, I have once again reached an age wherein, if one of my friends were to become pregnant, I’d say, “Oh no… you poor thing! How did that happen? What are you going to do?!” I’ve once again reached an age where I roll my eyes and say, “Aw geez… Mommmmmmmm!” I just don’t get sent to my room for it any more.

1976. It was a time before cell phones, personal computers, iPods, cds and dvds, Wii and Xbox. It was before cable TV - in fact, there were only about 5 TV channels and you changed them by getting up, walking across the room, and turning a dial. It was way before any threat of a Y2k computer panic was even thought of. Aids was unheard of. Pot was cheap. The only synthetic clothing was made of polyester and no one under 30 would be caught dead in it. The only synthetic music was the occasional moog rift (groovy, man). Viet Nam vets were young, unappreciated and misunderstood with some still trying to find their way home (now they‘re accountants and lawyers and part of the fast driving BMW & Lexii herd). Fast food was still a novelty. Microwaves were just a scientific experiment. TV dinners were foil wrapped, full meal concoctions that took 45 minutes to cook in the oven, and were only utilized when the folks headed out to dinner. My piano lessons were $2.00 a week for a half hour lesson. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a perfect time - there was plenty of unease all over the world. Everything was changing and changing fast… faster than anyone could figure things out... yet, most of us wouldn’t have believed a look into 2009 if we‘d had the opportunity to do so, 2009 would have looked like cheesy sci-fi. I don’t recall hearing anyone say they were bored (but then, in my household, those words would earn you extra chores). It wasn’t an innocent time by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t ever recall feeling overly stimulated by a flood of information (as I do now). News came from the daily paper or the 6 o’clock news on one of the three major TV stations (ABC, CBS, or NBC). Any further information required lugging around an encyclopedia (usually at least 5 years out of date, more likely 10-15) or a dictionary.

Now here we are at the end of the first decade in the 21st Century. The year 2000 and the Y2k anxieties are distant past. I’m far from the scared, semi-innocent 15 year old dreading my future and watching the clock turn as I listen to Chicago perform on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve. I’m a (mostly) self-assured 48 year old waiting, with a modicum of anticipation, to see what happens next. I worry, on a basic level at least, about some things - I worry about the future that’s being left to the children in my family; I worry that, with the overabundance of gadgets and information available to them, they won’t get to experience a true innocence of childhood; I worry that we’re destroying so much natural beauty (whether by design or by flaw); I worry that people don’t slow down enough to appreciate their lives; I worry that the seemingly prevalent anger in the world will finally overwhelm the gentler, more thoughtful, more sensible side of humanity; that we‘ll either self-destruct or be reduced to a primitive, survival mode species. But those are worries that I keep at bay, tucked away for those o’dark o’clock sleepless times when I shake my head at myself for fretting over the uncontrollable.

So, here we are. Twenty-ten is just a shuffle away and I won‘t even try to guess at what the cards hold. I have enough hours of tunes on my iPod to carry me days into the next decade without a single tune being repeated. I have meals prepared and frozen that I can nuke in a matter of minutes, should I get hungry. I have DVDs and 300 channels to watch on TV with ease of pushing a button. I have a computer that connects me to pals and family and information all over the globe. It’s a good time to be alive and middle-aged. It’s a fascinating time. It’s a time that is flying by with amazing (and sometimes alarming) velocity. It’s a time when, to borrow from ol’ Chuckie Dickens, we are at our best and at our worst.

Still, I firmly believe that it is a time to celebrate. It is a time to not only look forward, but to look forward to. It is a time that we humans are informed enough and aware enough that we ought to be at our best… if we’d only relax. It’s a time, in my own life, when I understand the grip of mortality - if the USA is still around to celebrate her tricentennial, I won’t be around to raise a glass to her- and I'm okay with that. Everything is flying by so fast. I swear I can feel the earth spin as I watch the stars at night. As much as I want it all to slow down, I know it won’t. It’ll only go faster, and I’ll be reading back on this (gods willing) as we dangle on the edge of 2020. I wonder what my 58 year old self will think of my 48 year old self. Hopefully I’ll be able to look at my grayer, more wrinkled image in the mirror and say, “You’re alright girl. You’re alright.”

It’s a time to celebrate. We’ll never be here again. And so... 

Happy New Year! 
Happy New Decade! 
I wish you happiness and peace.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A New Endeavor

Because I don't have nearly enough to do, I'm starting a new project. I've just launched a new blog site: The Renaissance Ranch. This will give people a chance to send me their art, poetry, rubber stamp projects, digital fun, etc. There are a lot of creative people out there (and I even know some of 'em) who need a forum. I'll do ongoing calls for Mail Art and Poetry, but if you've got anything you want to send me to post, send it along. Either mail it to me, or email it to me (if you need either address, holler). 

Let's start 2010 with some fun! Come join me at The Renaissance Ranch!!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Worth Repeating

I posted the following a year ago. I did use all ten precepts throughout the year... so it still stands. Therefore, I thought I would re-run it. Keep these things with you on the ride through 2010. Now... where are those pastries?!

Here we are at the last few days of 2008. It's been quite a ride, all things considered. Welcome again to the Church of the Wayward Gypsy. What have "we" learned? I'll try to delineate a year's worth of experience in the few words that I can fit on a 10-point list: Ten Things to Take With You on the Ride Through 2009. In no particular order (except that this is how they've dribbled through my mind):
  • Never mind that the word kindness is a noun - it is an action, and requires action. No one was ever accused of being kind who sat in a corner doing nothing.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Time does not heal all wounds. Nature does. Surrounding oneself with natural beauty reminds one that everything shares an interconnectedness and that sometimes the big heavy stuff (while seeming to require a mental forklift on our individual parts) is but a grain of sand in the grand schema. That doesn't mean that we or our lives are in any way insignificant - keep in mind that a single grain of sand can change everything (ever get one caught in your eye?).
  • Laughter is a requirement, particularly the ability to use it while looking in the mirror.
  • Significant events in life will happen if you're ready or not. Keep these emergency supplies handy: observation, openness, at least one good friend (with two good ears), inventiveness and/or creativity, sense of humor, water, and chocolate.
  • Love, while a useful tool, is not a possession. Give it away. The one who dies with the emptiest toolbox wins.
  • Music is as essential to survival as food is. It can change an attitude. It can fix a mood. It just plain feels good to belt out a familiar tune, or dance (even if it's alone in the living room), or close your eyes and escape to whatever desert island awaits (I hear Bob Marley and I don't care how cold it is - I'm puttin' on a Hawaiian shirt!). And so, as the man sang, "Lively up yourself. Don't be no drag."
  • Physical Fitness, Mental Fitness, and Spiritual Fitness are a triad and require strength on all three sides. Therefore - on a daily "nutritional" basis - Eat Well; Learn something (feed your head); Meditate (dream, pray, whatever you want to call it, so long as you take time to nurture your spirit). Get daily exercise: Walk (get outside!); Think (outside the box will give you the best workout); Experience (give your heart a very long leash, remembering the words of Rilke: no feeling is final).
  • Connect with Pure Innocence, whether it's a child or an animal. Seeing the world through unblemished, unjaded, non-judgmental, unconditionally loving eyes is a joyful thing. If you don't have a child or a pet, visit one - generally speaking, good parents and good pet owners are happy to share.
  • Sometimes the person you need most in your life is (still) a stranger. Sometimes the person they most need is YOU. Say hello (with a smile, dammit!) to people you don't know.
  • There's no rewind, there's no fast forward, there is no pause. There is only Play or Stop. Take care to keep it on Play - you're needed more than you know. (Oh, and there are no subtitles either, so speak up!)
There you have it. Let's meet back here this time next year... see where the journey has taken us...? I'll bring the bean, you bring the pastries.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Beautiful, Beautiful Boy

Happy Birthday Homer!

Today is my nephew Homer's 33rd birthday. (It's hardest for me to believe that 33 years have gone by since I was 15 years old.) Family bias aside, I don't know when I've been prouder of an individual. Homer is one of the finest men I know. He's got that wicked sense of humor that I appreciate in any individual, he's sensitive (unless the 'Bucs are playing, in which case, find someone else to take your bleeding carcass to the hospital), kind, loving and considerate. Either Athena is a very tough woman, or he really is a wonderful husband (or both). Evidence shows that he's a fantastic father to his two children. Most importantly, although he's a responsible adult, he's never lost that sense of child's play. He's also got those handsome Black Clan blue eyes, but that's just window dressing. He's one of the beautiful people of the world.

I've always found it amusing that he went from serving his country in the Marine Corps to working for Disney World. Then again... it almost makes sense. His favorite job with Disney was serving on the Dream Team. He got to wander around all day picking people at random and awarding them various Disney gifts and perks. He was always thrilled at making someone's day.

My biggest regret is that we live 2,559 miles apart... he's the kind of person you really want to spend time with. So's his wife. So are his kids. And I do believe that the measure of a man is the people he chooses to surround himself with.

To my other nephews who will likely be reading this and not trying too hard to suppress a "hey, what about me?!" Your day is coming. I'm proud of everyone in my family. We've all been through some harsh stuff, and we've all come out of it shinier and better.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of you and all of yours

A Very Merry Christmas!!!

I know so many of you are going through troubled times 
and my wish for you this year is ease.
May your path(s) bring you to a peaceful meadow soon. 
My thoughts and love are with you and I am in your corner... always. 
Anything within my power to do, I'll do.

Lots of love and hugs all 'round!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Real Life

I've been pondering a'much lately. It's the time of the year that I do that. It's not because the year is coming to and end, but more due to the deepening, seemingly ever-present darkness. I actually like it. It's as if my mind has opportunity to go into... well, not hibernation exactly... I actually feel more alive. I think the dark, much like being blind, triggers my other senses. It opens me up somehow. As it is, I've been too busy with various art projects to do much writing and I've missed it! As threatened in my last post, I did put up a Christmas tree  (my spark in the dark) for the first time in years. It's fake, but it is pretty. I've been enjoying the twinkly lights and glittery ornaments. Staring at them is a meditative thing.

"For all of a sudden when I saw those lights, I said to myself, Ivy, this is your life, this is your real life, and you are living it. Your life is not going to start later. This is it, it is now. It's funny how a person can be so busy living that they forget this is it. This is my life."
~Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith

It's true. I've been busy living. Busy living a wonderful slice of my life. And it's amazed me how speedily I've come to take the serendipity I'm swimmin' in for granted. I don't want to, and essentially, I don't really... it's actually difficult for me to forget, given my propensity toward waiting for shoes to drop. So, the other day I sat myself down (yes, in front of the Christmas tree), let my eyes wander over the pretties, and gave myself a good internal talking to. And realized (again) that I am who I am and it's all I'll ever be. All I can give back in any circumstance is the best Who that I can be. That's my real life. That's the life I'm living.

The following is my little early Christmas gift to you. I have no words to describe what this little girl makes me feel... words like "awe" and "wonder" come to mind and immediately fall short. This clip moves me to tears and gives me great hope.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Knock Knock

"Who's there?" You ask.


"Cantor who?" You query.

Can't organize my thoughts.



While my artistic Muses seem to be running rampant lately, my writing Muse appears to be gone on holiday. My head is too crowded to come up with something cogently philosophical and witty to say. So, I apologize for my recent blog hiatus. 

Hey, here's an idea. Give me some topics. Share your favorite quotes with me. G'head... push me into the water. Dare ya! Or, maybe you're just as happy to have one less thing to read... *smirk*

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Betides the Present of the Past

It's a glorious morning. Sugar-candy frost coats all the bare tree limbs and blades of grass, the snow-covered mountains glitter like crooked teeth as the sun tries to break through the heavy fog. Here we are in the crisp, cold days of December... and I'm in a holiday mood. Yes, me. No one is writing this for me... still Barb here. And no, I haven't been in the 'nog... yet. Crazy and contradictory as it sounds, for the first time in nearly a decade, I feel like putting up a Christmas tree, hauling out my Christmas sheet music and plunking away at the piano, making and wrapping fun little gifties for folks I love.

No, I haven't turned religious. Rest assured, I'm still the irreverent polyathiest I've been all along. It's just that... well... I feel... uh... I feel... festive, dangit! I know some of it stems from my current feelings of well being, amorous euphoria, and all around jois de vivre.

I think much of it has come from reconnecting with people from my past that I had considered long gone. Some are people that I somehow made an impression on 25-30+ years ago. Back when I felt that I was anything but impressive. It's just weird. I've had people "friend" me on facebook and say, "Oh, I remember you... you were the one who...(insert something positive here)" or "It's nice to be in contact with you, I always wanted to get to know you better." Really? Seriously? Even when I loathed myself enough that I tried to run as far away from myself as I could get? Even when I felt completely worthless? What was it I gave to anyone back then? What good could have possibly come from all that negative energy? When I look through my backwards glancing telescope I don't see the girl they saw. All I see is a sad girl lost in turmoil, raw suppressed feelings, anger and sadness. I'm not looking for answers and definitely not looking for compliments. It's just a bit of a marvel to me. While I always hoped for something better, I wish I had been able to actually enjoy those years more. I wish I had been more relaxed about... everything. I would have been dynamic.

Sure, I feel more than worthy to be anyone's friend these days. I like what's become of that girl. Thirty years later, I see myself as a caring, loving, funny, fun, creative, and intelligent individual. I'm not perfect, nowhere near it, but I sort of laud my flaws (or at least just give them a wry nod) rather than castigate myself for them.

What's my point here? I wish I knew. It seems to come back to my idea that one never knows how or when one is going to impact another person's life. We can't see into other people's memories to find what impressions might or might not have been made. Being a part of someone else's memory and being made privy to it, well... it's like opening a gift. Sure, sometimes it's a Pandora's box of rather startling, slightly discordant, and fairly surreal bits of things, but still a gift.... kind of like getting eulogized before you're too deaf to hear it.

Yeah. A gift. Sort of puts me in a festive mood.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Long Sweetening

"You know what Granny used to call molasseys? the long sweetening. Reach me some of that long sweetening, honey, she'd say at the breakfast table. I can hear her now."
~Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith

Long sweetening was so called because of the time it took to cook and stir the cane into syrup, and also because of the way the flavor lingers. When new, the cane is sweet like white sugar, but when slow-cooked over an open wood fire down to the deep sulfured pitch that we know as molasses... long sweetening. Southern folks used it to sweeten their coffee (and some still do) and poured it on biscuits instead of honey or jam.

We had a wonderful (and delicious!) Thanksgiving weekend in Port Angeles with Steve's family. I really enjoyed meeting them and spending time with them. While there, Steve and I spent one evening parked across the inlet, below the rise of Hurricane Ridge and the glittering teeth of the Olympic Mountain range, watching the city lights twinkle on the water. We could hear the breakers pounding like thunder from the Sound against the beach behind us. It was beautiful and peaceful... and it gave way to an "Aha!" moment. I realized what the difference is in my relationship with Steve. It's not just that I love him, but that I love being with him. I have always wanted someone just to be with... and he makes it so easy, so comfortable, so.... inviting. It doesn't matter if we're doing something fun, something mundane, or even if we're absorbed in our own projects at opposite ends of the house. It's good just to be together. And when he holds me? Well, the rest of the world just disappears.

On Friday Steve and his brother went fishing. I spent much of the day talking to Bob (Dad). We talked about everything, but mostly what it's like to loose a mate. He revealed a man who refuses to be immobilized by the grief he still feels over losing his wife (who died nearly two years ago), but who isn't sure how to proceed (I could relate). He also revealed a man who has such deep love and respect (and hope) for his sons that it was breathtaking. The finest symphony will never compare to the beautiful strains I heard that day. What a lovely man. I'm honored to have shared tears with him.

I feel a deep stirring within me, as if something that has been cooking over a low fire is now ready. It's as if, all my life, I've been sweeping the wooden paddle through this vat of goo and it's finally reached a perfect point of richness, of stickiness even, of something that's worthy at any table. This part of my life is the long sweetening, that acrid rich, sticky-sweet flavor that cannot be ignored, denied, or resisted. As if I'd want to. Reach me some of that long sweetenin'.

"... I said to myself, Ivy, this is your life, this is your real life, and you are living it. Your life is not going to start later. This is it, it is now. It's funny how a person can be so busy living that they forget this is it. This is my life."
~Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Ink Pad Designs

Will wonders never cease?! Three posts in one day?! Let alone one week? Do not attempt to adjust your computer screen... it's all good! I just wanted to take a moment to announce the launch of Black Ink Pad Designs where I'll be selling the cards, art, and crafts that I create. Please stop by, take a look, let me know what you think, and hey... place an order!

Bonus Round!

I couldn't resist sharing this. My friend Fran posted it on Facebook. Her kids decided to very artfully, in an extremely amusing way, rearrange her nativity. It truly made me laugh out loud. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen on the internet. What follows is her description. Enjoy!

"Here is what they did to my Nativity. Please note the Bionicle in a Horse Stance on top. He happens to be on his "cell phone" calling his wife. (Josh's MP3) The wise man to the right is "camel surfing" and Mary is in the "Honey Bucket". The mini lego figure next to baby Jesus is the nanny and Joseph is catching a nap up in the loft area on the left. There is also an angel riding on a camel and chasing down another mini-figure who is running for his life. I'm not sure why there is an upside down mini figure hanging where the angel is supposed to be."

Saying Grace

First off, I'll get the news out of the way. The craft bazaar went well. Attendance wasn't quite what was expected and sales were slim, but all in all, it was a good experience. I'm looking forward to doing others... lots of others!

This will likely be my last post until after Thanksgiving. We're heading off to the Olympic Peninsula to spend time with Steve's family. So, I hereby wish all of my dear readers a most wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! Keep it simple, don't sweat stuff, and enjoy the little moments.

Now then.

I have a lot to be thankful for on Thursday (and everyday). A whole lot... health, love, forgiveness, creativity, humor, friendship, good bean, warm knitted slippers (thanks Mom!), passion, snuggling, home, tenacity, courage, bed, laughter, rubber stamps, paper, ink, contentment, facebook, this blog, my fleece bathrobe, a good name... so many other things. Needless to say, I'm overwhelmingly thankful for being so graced to have Steve in my life.

Thursday also happens to be my Dad's birthday. He would have been 83 years old. Dad is one of my muses and my favorite picture of him graces my art studio (along with a picture of Grandma Schmutzer and one of Steve). I am so thankful that I'm his daughter, as daunting a task as that is. I'm forever grateful for the creativity that I inherited from him and for the vision to be able to pursue an artistically creative life. I wish I could sit with him and share my work and let him know what joy I find in it... that the creativity he denied himself lives on regardless.

For the time being, I am irrefutably and gloriously happy. It's been a long time coming, but currently the trail is easy and the scenery is breathtaking. It was worth the effort. Isn't it always?

We only get out of this life what we put into it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How Bazaar

It's been a busy couple of weeks getting ready for the craft bazaar tomorrow. I'm excited, nervous, anxious... and I think ready (thanks to much love, support and effort from my mate). It's a strange feeling to think I'll be plying my wares to complete strangers. That ol' demon External Validation is really trying hard to finagle his way into the mix. I've been having whacked out stress dreams all week (when I can sleep), including one about running a flying cow ranch. Yes, the cows had wings. Yes, the cows, like seagulls, shit everywhere! The chihuahuas from the night before were only slightly easier (but much more annoying) to deal with.

The weather has been very supportive of my Muses. It's been raining all week long... the kind of weather that makes me want to hide in my craft room except for necessary and frequent trips to the coffee pot. I've never been so productive. Sure, it's out of necessity, but that unstoppable feeling feels good. It's the old adage of the more you do a thing, the more you're inclined to do a thing.

I had a wonderful birthday. Steve treated me like a queen all day - I actually got yelled at for doing laundry! As in, "What are you doing?! Get the fuck away from that machine!" My present from him was scissors... all kinds... big ones, little ones, titanium coated ones, wire & tin snips. I know he felt it was sort of a cheezy gift compared to the 12-string guitar that he initially wanted to get me that I talked him out of (my playing prowess just isn't worthy of a 12-string, plus I have so little time these days), but all the jewels in the world couldn't have made me happier. Swear, I find romance in the quirkiest shit. I opened the box, saw all those scissors and immediately had to fight back tears. I'm never so dazzled by a guy as I am by one who can see a need and fill a need without a word being said. I don't care if all of the scissors eventually get worn down to nubs, I'm never getting rid of them. He also made me steak and shrimp for dinner and took me out to 31 flavors for ice cream for dessert. All in all, it was a fine day.

Alas, I must get busy. I've lots and lots to do before tomorrow... and I hear the Muses calling my name.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Total Package

Today I begin my 48th year on this rock. My birthday present came early this year... all 6'2" of him showed up on my doorstep one day in July and my life changed for the better in an instant. Wrapped up in one package, I received so many gifts that day... trust, respect, acceptance, support, and not the least of which, love. I couldn't ask for more. I never even dared ask for this much. I am, in short, happily overwhelmed by Steve's presence (and presents) in my life. He brings out the best in me... how can I not shine with that much love in my life?

He spent half the weekend helping me cut paper (he volunteered... I didn't ask) and get ready for the upcoming craft fair this weekend. It blew me away to realize that... I dunno... that not only do I have a man who wants to be in my life, but one who wants to participate in it. Yesterday he pondered aloud, "What birthday present do I get for the woman who has everything?" I replied, "In the words of King Arthur, 'Simply love her...'"

So, you'll pardon me if I wax toward the smarmy edge of things. Hey, it's my birthday... I get to... and a happier birthday there's never been.

Please forgive me
If I act a little strange
For I know not what I do.
Feels like lightning running through my veins
Everytime I look at you

~Please Forgive Me, David Gray

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to Save Your Own Life

Today is the second anniversary of this blog. But it feels more like a decade has passed since I first, with a heavy sigh, posted the words, "Alright, alright! I give up already!! It seems like forever that friends and admirers (no one has any standards anymore, I swear) have been nudging me to slap a blog into existence. So, here's my attempt."

I never expected it to last this long or mean as much to others as it has come to mean to me. As so many of you already know, it began as an attempt for me to deal with the inundating flux of feelings I was floundering in after losing John. It was like riding a tricycle through mud... I was getting nowhere fast. Solo introspection just left me in tears (talk about inundation!). I needed to get stuff out. I needed a sounding board... a wailing wall of my very own. So, bowing to the pressures of others (Thanks, Bill... Thanks, Laura) and creating this blog is one of the best things I've ever done for myself.

What I've learned about myself as I rambled along is: that amid the engulfing sadness there is a deep well of humor; amid the feeling of oh-god-how-do-I-go-on there is a feisty gypsy determined to hack her way through the briars in mere hope of being able spend some time in a sunny meadow again; amid the harsh reality there is a deep, and deeply defining, beauty. All three of those things remain as true today as they did two years ago.  Ultimately though, the notion that was brought home to me (in order for me to be a sane, happy individual) is this: I need to create no matter what whacky rabbit hole that creative force drags me down. I'd like to say I found myself, but if I was lost I was unaware. So, I think it would be more appropriate to say that this blog helped define me. (And I still hate the word blog!)

Clearly, if you've read any recent posts, my life is vastly different today than it was two years ago today. As I read through my old posts (all of 'em, pretentious twit that I am) it struck me (again and again) just how fast life can change. There is no real way to be prepared for any of the changes, good or bad. The best I can do is to keep defining the who of myself and hope that who will be a woman of honor in any situation. All I can do is all I can do, y'know?

And you, my Dear & Faithful Readers, I can't thank you enough for journeying with me; for keeping an eye to my telescope; for holding me accountable for my shit; for not being afraid to say "hey, wait just a damned minute, Barb!"; for caring enough to care that I'm okay; and for loving me whether I showed up crabby and unkempt, wiped out and wandering, or smiling and silly. Thank you for your ideas; for bouncing the ball back into my court; and for throwing me the occasional lifeline. I couldn't do it without you. Thank you.

Two years ago I sat here typing, my heart overflowing with sorrow, pain, and restlessness. Today as I sit here typing, my heart overflows with happiness, ease, and verve. Sure, I'll continue... *smile*... I can't not. Stick with me... I promise you good bean, an open mind, and a willing heart.

~You Are the Best Thing, Ray LaMontagne

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mad World

I've been in a bit of a pensive funk the past couple of days. It's unlike me and I don't like it. I'm not entirely sure what's up. Some of it may be lack of sleep, or maybe the lack of sleep is a result of the funk. Hard to say. But the world seems to have gone particularly mad lately, more so than usual... shootings everywhere, crazed hostility, wacky weather, poverty. On top of it all, I've already witnessed some of that oh, so unlovely pre-holiday apatheticly nasty behavior (And holiday shopping commercials already?! Give me a fucking break!) .

Even through my snazzy rose-colored glasses, the world has gone a slightly darker version of madder, and it's getting to me. It's messing with my usual laissez fair way of dealing with things (a nice way of saying I prefer being a hermit). It seems like every time the news is on lately, I'm found to be muttering, "Oh, just shoot the bastard in the head!" So much for pacifism. So much for compassion. Hey, it's not lost on me. I find it ironic that at the smarmy heart of me wanting everyone in the world to just get along and play nice, my dark half is screaming for viglilante justice.

And yet. There is so much in my world that is right and good and beautiful. So, who am I to feel funkified? Sigh. It's just the weight of heavier things, the gravity of it all. It's the chill wind and the sky going dark at 4 p.m. and... and what? A longing for innocence. Yesssssss. That's it!!! Innocence. You can't un-know a thing once it's known; you can't un-feel something that's been felt. Innocence. We've lost it. Twice uses the word freedom in its definitions of innocence. In losing innocence, we've lost freedom.

Interesting side note: in checking definitions, there is a flower in the "madder" family that also goes by the name "innocence." Irony. Gotta love the flavor of irony... sort of like the taste of burnt tin foil.

~Mad World, Gary Jules

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm Spatial, So Spatial

I'd like to say that it's been a long week. But no. It feels like a missing week. Suddenly it's Friday night and I seem to have lost a day or two. Or three. I don't know where they went. My muses seem to be playing with my continuum... rat bastards and rat bastardesses that they can be. Serious. When Steve mentioned something about it being Friday this morning, I laughed. I said, "Wrongo, Hunnybunches. Friday? What the fuck happened to Wednesday?" He looked at me like I'd gone off m'crumpet. Indeed, I seem to have. So it is.

I've been lost in my craft - thoroughly and utterly immersed in my projects. Not that it's a bad thing to have happen, but I don't recall ever losing track of days before. Hours, sure. But days?! No wonder my neck and shoulders are achy. It's all for a good cause though. I'm doing a craft fair in two weeks (gads, but I have ever so much more crafty crapola to do!). I'm really excited for it. Although I've sold some of my work before, this will be the first time I've sprung it on a woefully unaware public.

I've never been more thoroughly content... even if it is a little more than odd to wake up and not remember the middle of a week. I'm fine if I have to work out in the real world (although with a current 10.2% unemployment rate, the chances of that happening soon is a bit slim), but what I want - and more than I've ever wanted it before - is an artistic life. I don't care what art form produces income for me, so long as I can create. Sure, there are others far more talented than I. Sure it's a competitive world. But if every artistic person on earth lived by that ridiculously cloying truth, we'd have no art. Imagine if Clapton said, "Well, Muddy Waters plays far better... why should I even try?" Or if Dega said, "No one will ever understand this funky oozing clock shit... it's not even particularly pretty!" Or if, putting down the pen forever, Sandburg said, "Hell, I'm no Shakespeare." Tragedy.

Even for the unknown artist it would be a tragedy. I've known plenty of non-famous artists in my life and my world would be lesser had I not had the chance to swim in their ponds. Besides, I'll stand by what I've said before. Art is necessary. It's as necessary as breathing. You've got to find an outlet for the soul gunk whether the by-product is good or bad.

I want it. Shit, I can't live without it. November is my birth month... my chance to reaffirm my existence. So, I claim it. I am an artist. I will make it viable.

I am an artist... I am a gypsy... coo coo catchoo....

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fear Knot

Happy Halloween!

I don't have phobias. Nothing is as frightening to me as the monster that dwells within. There's a creature (or two) that inhabits my mind that keeps me on tip-toes and whispering so's not to wake the hideous beast. It leaves me with that fumbling in the dark egads-what-is-that-thing feeling. Call me crazy, but you know you've got one (or two) as well.

My biggest monster is fear itself. And it's all intangible fear. I'm not afraid of anything I can see, hear or touch. I'm afraid of things that defy definition, of things that I know will try to mentally hobble me.

Mostly I'm afraid of the thing John forgot to tell me about when he made me promise to love again. By allowing myself to love Steve as deeply as I do, I've set myself up. I fear the day I'll be forced to say goodbye again. As I watched Steve move around the place yesterday I thought, "I don't care if it's 3 days, 3 months, 3 years or 30 years. It will come much too soon and it will be unbearable." Utterly. I know, I know. Really, I'm optimistic and I don't think doomsday thoughts (I'm so Pollyanna sometimes that I sparkle). It's just that I've met the inevitable and I never forget a face.

But. I'm not in a gloomy mood at all today. It's a beautiful Fall day. I'm having fun watching all the costumed kiddies wander around. My mate is off working on the other side of the mountains and I'm going to clean and bake some pumpkin bread. Life is wonderful.

Life is wonderful, Barb. Shut up and stand in it.

Just for fun.... (for you prudes [*what?! in my audience?!*] don't worry, the title isn't what it seems)

~Wet Dream, Kip Addotta

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Alis Volat Propriis

A couple of afternoons a week I've been watching the track team train on the field behind our place. There are two runners who always catch my eye. One of them is the boy who is always a few yards ahead of the pack. He's wonderful to watch. He runs like he was born to do it; runs with all the sleek grace of an animal. His arms are always perfectly positioned, shoulders and back straight, and his legs move as if he gives it no thought at all.

But, my favorite to watch is the girl who is, without exception, the last person in the pack. She runs like it's work, like it's strenuous and painful exertion. She pants heavily as her ponytail flops up and down on her back. She runs without appearing to want to catch up to the rest of the pack. She's just doing it. Just running. I often wonder what's going through her mind as she trains.

I know what's going through mine as I watch... besides, "good for you for trying... keep going." As graceful as the lead boy is, I think she's the one who truly understands what's required. I think she gets that it's not about the winning of a thing. It's not about the destination at the end of a thing. And it's most certainly not about being lauded. It's all about the doing of a thing.

It's all about the doing of a thing. Yes. The satisfaction that comes with plain old perseverance. The self-pride that comes not with saying, I'm hanging in there, but with saying, I'm doing it. It's having deep enough belief in oneself that it doesn't matter if your stride matches another's, because the fact is, you have your own stride and that's enough. It's about having the fortitude to not quit. It's about saying, "I'm doing this because I get to." And that's a worthy reason.

I hope the girl who always finishes last keeps running. She inspires me. Alis volat propriis. Every area of our lives has a different level of potential. Fly with your own wings. Run at your own pace. Dream at your own depth. Eventually we all cross the same line anyway, right? Just be your own best. It's all the Universe requires of us.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Free Fall

I was just outside watching people jump from an airplane. Yeah, they planned it that way. We get a good view from the back deck of a local jump area. Today, being a particularly clear day, I was able to see the jumpers actually depart from the plane, shoot toward earth for a few seconds, and then slow into an easy drift as their 'shutes opened. I was grinning the whole time, nodding and whispering a "right on..." as I watched. It was beautiful.

It occurred to me just how much in my life has been similar to jumping from a plane... from the decision to just go ahead and do something (over thinking it, but basically confident all the while), to the thrilling plunge into who-knows-what for sure, and finally (with any luck) that sweet unfurling sound of the fall being caught, and the gentle ride to a somewhat bumpy, but satisfying landing.

And oh. The view along the way. The knock-your-socks-off beauty that this life brings, yes, often right along with abject terror. There's no way to get to that beauty without some risk, without jumping, without daring to allow for the total experience.

I have no doubt that, one day (because it is on my bucket list) when I get to sky dive, as I step from the plane I'll likely pee my pants and scream until my throat hurts. Will I be scared? I'm certain I will be. Terrified. But I also know that as I make my way back to earth, my eyes will be filled with tears of joy as I take in the panorama that such an experience affords. I know too, that I will kiss the ground at the same time I glance with longing at the sky. C'est la vie. C'est moi.

~Free Falling, Tom Petty

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mind Less Argument

What, oh what, is on my mind? Too much of late. Interestingly, specifics elude me. Were anyone to ask, I'd likely say, "Uh.... um... dunno." I've been whethering (*wink*... intentional misspell / play on words) a huge creative surge lately. There just aren't enough hours in the day to do all the creative things I have swirling in my head. That would explain my sleepless, restless thang I've been going through lately.

What I find interesting about it is this: in the past when I've been happy and in love, my creative Muses have wandered off on vacation. So, it's intriguing to me that I can be this soupy n' sappy and still have so much creative drive and inspiration. Perhaps it's because (in my old age) I tune in to the sadness in other's lives... or maybe it's because I can still get down and party with my own sadness at the blink of an eye.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. I'm hardly even questioning it. For me, it's a gift. Absolutely. It's just odd to be in creative mode using positive energy. I've always thought my dark half was the creative one... that anti-social, irreverent, moody gypsy that likes to hide out in the woods. I never suspected Li'l Ms. Cheerful had any artistic talent. (It seems there's no end to my self-perceived psychoses.)

Why, I actually made an entire set of cards using bright colors! I actually used the word "cute" in reference to one of my creations without uttering it like it was a pejorative. Yeah. Me. Go figger. What's next? Writing poetry about puppies and daisies?! Evidenced by the fact that the ol' sarcastic gypsy seems to be typing this and questioning it, I'll probably be just fine.

So... there's the current color of my brainscape... as wild and changing as the blazing trees outside my window. John once quoted a friend of his, "What does it matter, and so what if it does?" Time for me to dive into that luxuriant lush depth of October, wherever it takes me.
~Bach Break, from the movie August Rush

Monday, October 12, 2009

All the Best Freaks Are Here

I know I've been absent lately. I've written a dozen posts in my head... no consolation, I know. I just haven't been able to make myself sit down and solidify anything in writing. I've been busy too, designing cards (for actual orders.... YES!), and trying to come up with some marketing ideas.

I've also spent much time watching Autumn come in and enjoying that stirred up feeling I get... that thing inside me that feels like so many leaves swirling in the wind. As I stood on the deck this evening, cold wind stinging tears into my eyes, catching that luxurious scent of autumnal "death"... I whispered, "Where are you taking me this time?" My spirit dances and skitters like a kite.

What's on my mind just now though? My heart is with my dear friend Shelley. I learned today that her father passed away last night. I only got to meet "Skip the Bear" once, three years ago. He was doing a marathon to fund leukemia research. The fascinating thing there is that Skip had actually been fighting leukemia before he did the marathon. I recall the emotion I felt watching him come across the finish line and feeling astounded at the resilience of the human body. (At the time, John had just been diagnosed with his cancer, so my emotions were all over the place anyway.) But, when Shelley finally had a chance to introduce me to her dad, he looked at me in awe, began to weep, pulled me into a hug (you ain't never been hugged 'til you been hugged by The Bear!), and said, "I can't believe you stood around all day for me!" It was an incredibly humbling moment.

That day played on my internal film screen all day today. It was one of those wacky Seattle weather days where we had a whole lot of every kind of weather - wind, rain, sideways rain, sleet, snow. Suffice it to say, it was freezing cold and damp and standing in the stadium for 6 hours was a project in itself. But, that was before Shelley and her hubby moved back here and I had wanted to spend the day hanging with her, so that's what we did. We cheered the runners, tried (unsuccessfully) to stay dry, and made countless trips back and forth between the stands and Starbucks. We talked a bunch, we laughed, we cried. We became all-weather comrades.

Shelley is one of my favorite folks on this planet. We can go months without talking and finally get together and it's like we're picking up a conversation we left off on yesterday. So. Irreverent as it might seem, I'm dedicating this song to Shel. I know she'll understand my intent, and I'll be damned if she's not likely to boogie around her living room while it plays.

Here's to you, Shel... I raise a hearty cup o' bean to that big-hearted, funny man I will always refer to as Skip the Bear.

In my life... well.... all the best freaks are here. Wouldn't want it any other way.

~Freaks, Marillion

Friday, October 2, 2009

Be Aware

Happy October! It's Breast Cancer Awareness month. Please, please everyone... take good care of yourselves and your loved ones. Let's not suffer more loss. Let's find a cure. Let's live and live well.

I'm dedicating this song to those who have fallen -
Cindy Simon, Roxan Wynn, and Mary Johnson

They will always carry on.
I will keep on speaking their names.

With this song, I'm also sending a special hug to Tonto and her daughter Mandy.

Keep surviving... I love you!

~Hymn to Her, The Pretenders

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Never Let an Angry Sister Comb Your Hair

Rather than write a whole volume today, I thought I'd share something fun that I've been working on. What follows are pages from an altered book that I made for my sister (shhh, any relatives who might be reading this... she hasn't received it yet!). It was a blast to make it, and I can't wait to do another one!

The cover quote (and title of this post) is a quote by Patricia McCann. I chose that because there's an ancient story about Nancy and I when we were kids... she decided it would be fun to curl my hair. With a comb. Bad decision, and hence the beginning of my pixie haircut phase.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sky High

I caught a blurb on the news yesterday about a 92 year old woman who went skydiving to celebrate her birthday. She shrugged it off as just being something she'd always wanted to do. I relayed the story to Steve who said, "Everyone should do something they've always wanted to do on their birthday." I love that statement. I love it so much that I'm adding it to my Gypsy Paradigm.

In fact, last year I did do something on my birthday that I'd always wanted to do (
Stones From the River). So, with my birthday coming up in about a month and a half, I'm contemplating what thing I've never done that I want to do. Sure, skydiving is on my bucket list, but it's not financially feasible at this point. Besides, when I finally do get to go skydiving, it will be with Timothy. My leaning, should the day arrive and be calm and cloudless, is to go somewhere with Steve where there's no ambient light and watch the night sky. I've been so drawn to the stars since I met him, and I've always wanted to go out to the middle of nowhere and stargaze. Knowing him has made me want that more than ever (we're both big on watching the sky).

I want to do something on my birthday (or at least in honor of it) that challenges myself too. (Last year's above-mentioned "celebration" worked along both lines.) But what? Art is where my mind is and where I most desire to challenge myself. Hoo boy. Glad I've got 48 days to plan. Well, "plan" is a ridiculous way to think it. More like... glad I've got 48 days to seek enlightenment, to wait for The Universe to reveal this year's birthday present.

Today is my big sister's birthday. It's a special day. I only have one sister. While we haven't always seen eye to eye, there is huge love there. She's a beautiful soul with a great big giving heart. I love you Nanc... Happy YOU Day! It's your day to say "fuck it" to the grind and do something you've always wanted to do.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
~John Muir

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Rest Between the Motes

I'm doing my restless thing again (and not a full moon in sight!). My brain is overly full, my spirit twitchy, my skin itchy and I seem to have all but given up on sleep. I was awake at 2:30 this morning, then again at 3:04, again at 3:57, again at 4:29 when I finally gave up and got up. I tip-toed downstairs and made some bean and wandered out onto the deck to enjoy the fridgity cold, crystal clear "night" sky. It was beautiful and well worth the lack of sleep. I even saw some shooting stars. Of course, I spent much of the time contemplating. Is there anything else like the dark of night to encourage contemplation? Not for me.

As is fairly typical, I thought about the path... about the way things wind together; about how often we fight the journey even when we know it's a journey for the journey's sake (anyone out there waiting to "arrive" is in for a lifetime of disappointment, and probably an afterlife of disappointment). Of course, being the young starry-eyed, head-over-heels-in-love thang that I am, I spent some of that time thinking about how beautiful it is to have a hand to hold and a soul to share the path with. I've always had a great appreciation for the path, for the journey, for all the brambles and sunshine and rocks and water and meadows and forest and mountains and dirt and flowers... all of it. There is so much, if we're paying attention, to take notice of and in which to find the beautiful.

Did I feel a bit disgruntled about my current insomnolent tendency? Sure. I distinctly recall, as I tossed one last time and flipped the covers back with a heavy sigh, uttering, "E-fucking-NUFF!" Yet, mere moments later I was completely thankful to be seeing such a (pardon the pun) stellar display. Oy, the lessons The Universe teaches... it was as if the night sky was saying, "So there! Grump about it, will ya?! Hmmm...."

I'll find a solution to my sleep contrariety. In the meantime... it seems I'm to wander the path during the very early morning (or late evening if you're just leaving the pub) hours. My artistic side has an appreciation for the shadow play and deep color... it's pretty to see the path twinkled o'er by starlight.

~When the Stars Go Blue, Ryan Adams

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's Just Another Day

Today, John would have been 49 years old. Needless to say, he's been on my mind all day. That would probably drive him nuts too. Whenever his birthday rolled around, I'd give him a big hug and smooch and wish him a happy day. He'd always shrug and say, "It's just another day."

In some ways, I can agree with that. I know whenever the calendar clicks over to my birthday I enjoy the special greetings, presents, cake (oh yeah... the caaaaake!). But in many ways, it is just another day. In years past, most of my birthdays were spent going to work, maybe doing mundane errands or chores. No big deal, no special thing... just another day.

But I started thinking about John's birthday today, and especially about his claim that it's just another day. I just flat out don't agree with the man. One of my favorite sayings since John's death is: Weep not that he is no more; rather live in joy that he ever was. In the face of that, John's birthday is indeed a very special day, a day for celebration. Only once in the history of our entire universe did the date September 24, 1960 occur. Just one time, never to occur again. On that day, John Philip Johnson was born.

Still, today was just another day. However, it was a day that made me smile in a wistful, whimsical way. Having not been out of the house much for the past couple of weeks, I joined Steve on his errand running gig today. We stopped to get some electronics stuff (don't ask me what), some envelopes for my card sales, stopped at the day old bakery place and munched on a bagel as we drove along, and finally came across a vegetable farm that's still selling fresh corn and other good stuff. As we chatted with the farmer, pet his friendly cat, and picked out vegies it dawned on me. This is exactly the kind of day I used to spend, and loved spending, with John. Just driving around doing... stuff. No special day, just another day.

Yet, it's this kind of day that is special to me. This is the kind of thing I look back on and remember when I think of the time I spent with John. So, as Steve and I drove back home along the river, windows open and wind in our hair, watching the fish jump and the big, fluffy clouds hover o'er head like sheep in the sun, I reached over and squeezed his leg. As he glanced at me, I just smiled and said, "I love you." Then, turning my head to look out the window at the mostly blue sky, I murmured, "Happy Birthday... it is special."

~Keep Me In Your Heart, Warren Zevon

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mondays with Murphy

This morning, like any morning lately, I stepped out onto the back deck (wearing only bathrobe and slippers) to watch the sunrise across the valley. It was a nipply morning, having dipped all the way down into the upper 40's last night. Still, it was beautiful and quiet, and I felt a deep sense of well-being as I watched the light come up behind the foothills and paint the sky in myriad colors while the fog crept across the bucolic valley on its proverbial cat's feet. Steve was bustling around inside as he got ready to head off to work. Around 6:30 a.m., with a few minutes to spare, he joined me on the deck, then gave me a goodbye kiss, headed back in, and shut the sliding glass door. Moments later, he emerged from the garage below, and with a wink toward me, got in his truck. "Love you, Baby... be safe..." I said from on high. I watched as the truck turned the corner and sped off. By that point the slightly damp chill in the air had wound itself around my ankles and as well, had made its way through my fleecy bathrobe. With a slight shiver I decided to go in and get another cup of coffee...

(*cue screeching dischordant halt*)

...only to discover that Steve had inadvertently locked the door when he went in. So, there I was on the back deck, 15 feet off the ground, a bit cold in only my bathrobe and slippers, not a cup of coffee in sight, and wondering how long I could hold out without a bathroom. I was actually even amused that it had happened at all, rather than feeling disgruntled. What would have been the point? It was what it was. Shit happens. Murphy strikes again.

I was out there for almost an hour and a half when The Fishin' Slut pulled up next door. As he got out of his truck, he looked up and said, "Mornin' Mrs. Bubba!" "Mornin' Slut!" I sounded back, and then, "Hey Danny... you got a spare key to this place? Steve locked me out on the deck!" Danny stood, mouth agape, and asked, "The fuck he do that for?!" I assured him it was merely force of habit and not at all intentional. Then I asked him to give Steve a call on his cell phone, which he promptly did. Of course, as a wise man once explained, Murphy never sleeps - he got Steve's voice mail.

The message went: "Hey Steve. I usually call you Bubba, but you only get to be Steve now. You went to work and left that poor girl on the deck and she's locked out in the cold with just her jammies on. Call me back!" He then assured me that he'd keep calling every few minutes until he got through. By the time he came upstairs and out on his deck, Steve had called back. Danny had him on speaker phone as he came through his door. I heard him say, "No, she's stuck out there, she can't get in..." Pregnant pause followed by Steve's inevitable, "Fuuuuck." I couldn't help but giggle. He apologized and explained that he had to deal with things at the jobsite and then would be home to let me back in.

When he showed up about 45 minutes later, he hopped out of the truck, ignominiously shook his head, then looked up at me, and said cheerfully, "Hi Hunny... enjoying the view?" I smiled at him and shot back, "Oh yeah, lovely morning!" I heard him open the garage door, clomp up the stairs, and then he was on the other side of the slider and opening the door to let me in. "I'm soooo sorry!" I silenced him with a kiss and told him, "It's ok... I only have one thing to say..." He lifted an eyebrow in question. To which I replied, "I have to pee!" as I barreled past him.

When I came back out I poured a fresh, hot cup o' bean - I was still a little shivery from my previous encampment. Steve needed coffee too, since in another covert op pulled by Murphy, he had managed to leave his travel mug o' bean on the table instead of taking it with him, and then left the cup of coffee that was given to him at the jobsite on his tailgate as he pulled away (Murphy was his close personal friend this morning!). He snagged a couple of cigarettes from his pack and asked, "Care to join me on the deck, or have you had enough for one morning?" I said, "Of course I'll join you! Just don't lock the door, Brat." And he wrapped his arms around me.

Like I said, I was actually pretty amused by the whole event. It could have been worse. It could have been pouring rain, Steve could have forgotten his cell phone rather than his coffee mug, Danny could have been gone for hours, I could have been wearing my light cotton bathrobe instead of my fleecy one, or gone without slippers like I usually do. Eh. It's all good.

Shit happens. Rama llama ding dong. Party on, Murphy. Party on.