Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Five Perfect Words

Five words keep me sane during the holidays. Five words that I always hear in my head in my oldest brother, Mike's voice. Those five words work at all other times of the year as well, but never so effectively as they do at Christmas time.

It's been, oh boy, at least fifteen years - probably more - since I heard Mike say those five words. I was still living in Maryland and had made the trip back to Michigan to be with my family for Christmas. We all gathered for Christmas Eve at Mike's house - there were probably about 16 of us altogether, between the assorted adults and children. My sister, Nancy, showed up a good hour later than anyone else, looking out of sorts, officiously hauling in load after load of cookies and food and presents, all the while complaining loudly about... everything. She, for all the veritable Santa's sleigh loot she hauled in, was clearly not in a holiday mood.

We soon found out why. Dinner with the Black clan is always filled with good sarcastic banter. Shit gets flicked with great alacrity (and accuracy!). We've all developed pretty thick skin and can take it just as well as we dish it out. Such was not the case that day with Nancy. Her feathers were as ruffled as a renegade Christmas goose. Her return comments were snide, not silly. And, what's a holiday gathering without someone falling apart into a cathartic puddle of tears?! Yes, she did.

In my brilliance at dealing with my sister and her emotional swings for over thirty years... which was like wrestling alligators - if you stay away from the teeth, you're likely to get thumped by the tail... stay away from the tail and you're gonna get chomped... anything in the middle is okay, but don't expect it to last. So, as I was saying, I had no clue how to deal with my sister, even after all those years. So, I pulled out my trump card. "Cheer up, Nancy! It's Christmas!" (I know, I'm an idiot.)

This threw Nancy into a fairly complete tailspinning nuclear Christmas meltdown - holy shit, pass the Tylenol. The tearful tirade consisted of none of us having any understanding of what she'd been through ever, she'd been busy doing this, busy doing that, spent way too much money, trying to make things nice, had to had to had to, busy busy busy, doing doing doing.... it escalated in volume and in capacity, and ended with "And I'm exhausted! I was up until 4 this morning wrapping presents and making Christmas cookies for today... for YOU GUYS!"

That's when Mike spoke those five perfect words. Very quietly, he said, "No one asked you to."

At the time, it sent my sister, wailing, to another room of the house. But his words struck me and they've stayed with me. Maybe Mike didn't realize which sister was really listening. Those words have stayed with me and they help me out whenever I start to lose my shit and wonder how I'm going to accomplish everything I "need" to do. I stop and ask myself, "Who's asking you to do all this? Anyone? Or is it just you?" Any time I feel myself becoming frazzled and frustrated and internally (at least) hollering, "I can't handle this by myself!!" I hear Mike's voice, "No one asked you to."

Already I've heard people complaining about everything they "have to" get done in time for the holidays. And isn't it always prefaced with "I have to..."? I have to put up the lights, I have to shop for my folks, I have to bake cookies for the office/school/church, I have to clean the house because company's coming, I have to attend a party, I have to, have to have to have to. No you don't. You don't have to. No one asked you to. No one expects perfection out of you, and if they do let them deal with the disappointment that comes from having expectations that are far too lofty and unrealistic.

Give yourself a break. Stop saddling yourself with unreasonable demands... because when it comes down to it? No one asked you to.


Important Note: I would like to say that my sister and I have both changed drastically in the years since the above event took place. I love her dearly, and it is not my intention to disparage her in any way. She is a wonderful, warm, funny, loving person who is full of life. We've both learned the importance of moderation.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Frantic At Its Best

I'm feeling a little frantic today. I spent a pleasant weekend doing fun things, visiting with friends, watching a movie with Steve, and eating far too much. It was lovely. And now I'm frantic. I'm feeling like an elf on speed... (if only I knew what an elf on speed felt like).

I have tons to do this week, orders to fill, a Christmas craft bazaar to prepare for (it's only this Saturday, no need for panic... ACK!), and presents to make for my oh so lucky loved ones.

But you know what? This is Good Frantic. This is the kind of frantic that puts a fine edge on my artistic skills. I work better under pressure. Always.

I used to work under Bad Frantic pressure. Icky. Forty hours a week of feeling like I was never going to meet my work load, never going to make anyone happy (including myself), 10 - 20 hours of commute time per week, a weekend that was gone in a blink, laundry piled everywhere, dishes in limbo between cupboard, fridge and dishwasher, house never ever clean. I hated it. I hated that feeling of being pulled in a direction I didn't want to go. And I rarely had any real time for creativity. The longing for that was crushing.

Now here I am, doing what I love, all day, pretty much every day - yes, even on weekends. I don't have to battle traffic and, as a result, despise people I don't even know. I'm sitting here in my pjs and bathrobe writing this, my unbrushed hair would be the envy of Witchy Poo, and I took time out of my other tasks to make some bread from the left over sweet potatoes (which is beginning to smell damned good!). I can work whatever hours I want to. If I'm up at 2 a.m. and feel like working, it gets done, and maybe I'll take a nap at 3 p.m.

I think if you figure out what you really love, find your passion, and strive to do whatever it takes to make that your "work," the feelings of franticness will make you happy. Why? Because being busy, and even overly busy, means you're doing it right.

So, bring on the frantic. Me n' my super suit are ready.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dear Readers,

Let's play 20 Questions in December. Ask me a question (just post a comment below or send me an email: blackinkpad@yahoo.com). I'll answer it within the first 20 days of December (nothing policital, please). If I use your question, not only will you get an honorable mention on my blog (wooHOO!), but I'll also send you something wonderful and hand-crafted by none other than... ta da!... me!

Let 'em rip...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I will see you all on Monday...
not that I'm going anywhere,
but I'm gifting myself the rest of the weekend "off"!

Stay safe out there
& don't let the turkeys
(human or otherwise)
bring you down.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Makes It True

Everyone is posting about being thankful this week. It's expected, right? This is the week that, by national declaration, forces us to focus on the good things in our lives, on the things we feel fortunate about and grateful for. Nothing wrong with that... except that it should be a daily occurance.

But, I'm not here to lecture. Not today.

I'm here to express my gratitude. Not because I want everyone to say, "Aw, look how precious she is!" I want to express it, need to, because as my friend Tim so eloquently posted on my facebook wall, "I think that people that want to do good and actually DO it, should be recognized." Amen, Rev'rn Tim. So, that's what I'm doing.

Unless you've been under a rock for the past year or so, or have never met me, or this is the first time you've stumbled across my blog, you know that I'm in a relationship with a wonderful man named Steve.

The other day, upon returning home from work, he asked me how my day was. I told him my day had been great and shared that I had received two more orders for cards and another request for some other art work, plus I had someone negotiating having me make calendars. He hugged me and said, "That's great. I'm so happy to see you getting to do what you want and love to do. It's wonderful that this is working out for you. You're becoming a busy artist!" I smiled back at him and said, "I couldn't have done it without you."

Steve doesn't take compliments like that well. He's a very humble guy. Typically when I compliment him or thank him for something, I get a faked innocent blink and, "What? I didn't do anything. I don't know what you're talking about." This time I forced him to take the compliment. I blocked his escape until I knew he had heard me. I wanted him to know what his support means to me. Well, really, I know he knows, but I wanted him to acknowledge my gratitude. I wanted to be sure that he understood his impact on my life, not just as a lover and a friend, but as someone who supports me in everything I do.

He does support me in everything I do. Really. This isn't just some smarmy "Barb loves Steve" blather. I want the world to know how much being loved by this man has changed my life. He has consistently and unconditionally provided for me in a way that I never expected from anyone, ever. That has given me the freedom to explore the art world and my place in it. He saved me from the mundane 40 hour work week that always left me too physically tired and emotionally lethargic to want to give into my passion(s). It's not just that he puts a roof over my head. He's also there for me whenever I need anything for my work. He drives me around on supply safaris, making sure I have whatever I need. He comes up with ideas and suggestions that are usually spot on.

So, I'm publicly declaring my thanks to Steve. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to turn my avocation into a vocation. Thank you for the sacrifice, hard work, and love that you've put into making my dream come true. You are a great man, and I am inexpressibly fortunate to share this life with you. I love you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dear Barb, Get Out of My Way!

More often than not, I'm the only thing standing in my way. Judging from the response I received from a facebook post where I stated as much, we all feel that way. I think that's why I like a challenge, and I'm pretty sure that's why I'll so readily (and greedily) accept a challenge. I think it's my way of telling that recalcitrant, hands on her hips Barb to stand down and step aside.

Such was the case last week.

My friend Paul Boynton, author of Begin with Yes, approached me about coming up with a design that he could use for lapel buttons, which he would give out at talks and book signings. I was absolutely thrilled to be asked. I mean, geez, what an honor! Before I could give myself half a minute to find reasons to talk myself out of accepting, I said... "Yes!"

And then That Barb showed up. She likes to doubt. She likes to think that people are only being nice, that they don't really see any value in what she's doing. In short, she is full of shit. Even so, there she was, standing in the way. She whispered things like, "Why did you take this on? You know you're not capable," and, "It doesn't matter what you come up with, it's going to look like crap and he won't like any of it."

Silly me, I just took it. I spent the week fretting. I spent a partly sleepless night wondering how I was going to tell Paul that I didn't know what I was doing, and that I really shouldn't have accepted the job, and that there are thousands of people more qualified. Had I done so, I'm sure Paul would have very kindly clobbered me with a full case of his books. I mean, Begin with Yes is all about positive living and taking action. I know, I know - I've read the book three times. You'd think I'd have learned something.

I fell asleep Friday night thinking, "Tomorrow I'll email Paul and let him know that I just can't do it." And I dreamed. In the dream I was sitting by Puget Sound, watching the waves roll in, and thinking about how to approach the whole design and coming up short. Just as I was becoming really frustrated by it all, Paul (whom I've never met in 'real' life) walked up to me. I mentioned my frustration and that I wasn't sure I was up to the task. Paul looked out at the Sound, shrugged and merely quoted Buckminster Fuller, saying, "Each wave has its own integrity." Then he walked away.

I woke up and knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Even though I knew what I wanted to do, she was still standing in the way, still casting doubt. "Okay, so you have a vision for it, but can you really implement it?" I ignored her. Instead I emailed Paul and said, "I am working on your design today!" Then I went upstairs to my studio.

I sat in front of the blank paper, paints and paintbrushes laid out on the table. I mixed paint to the color I wanted, dipped my brush in it and swiped it back and forth on the palette until it was loaded just perfectly, and hesitated, brush poised just above the paper. That was when I heard my Dad's voice - although I can't be entirely sure it wasn't my voice doing a really great Harold imitation. "You're a sign painter's daughter f'chri'sakes! You know how to do this... it's in you. It's always been in you."

As I touched the brush to paper, splayed the bristles just ever so and followed the line and curve of my design, I knew it to be true. Right then, That Barb disappeared, and This Barb learned a whole new truth about her involvement in the art she so loves doing.

The truth is, I can do anything if I'll step out of my own way...

... it begins with Yes.


PS: Paul loved the design I came up with. Please follow one of the links above and get a copy of his book. I firmly believe in what he has to say... even if at times I'm so stubborn that I have to whack myself over the head with his book to get myself to comply. Really. Read it and apply it. It works.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Head Shot

Sometimes I just need a really good kick in the head.

I like to complicate things, make my own process more difficult, spend lots of time and energy on stuff that could really be a whole lot easier and just as effective. I tell myself that's good because I don't like to do anything halfway. No way baby, not this Scorpio!

As usual, the Universe nabbed my attention in threes - in my book that equals a kick in the head. Thanks so much.

I have this... thing... when I sit down to create a card, I feel like it has to be completely new, improved, fancy and full of color and pattern. I don't for one minute want anyone thinking that my work has gone stale, least of all me. I'm constantly asking myself how I can kick it up a notch. In doing so, I often overlook the beauty in the simple, and I forget that no one but me looks at my work through my eyes.

I had to come up with three different designs for a client to choose from. I worked for hours, embossing, coloring in, sponging, stamping, re-stamping, crumpling shabby work and tossing it. Even so, I was mostly pleased in the end. Two of the designs were fairly intensive in terms of the amount of work they took. The last one, done when I was tired and mostly exasperated, was much less intricate. To me it looked so bare that it was barely there.

I sent my client pictures of the three cards, fully expecting that he would pick one of the first two. Instead, he wrote back, choosing the third, simpler one, and said, "I love this card! It's simple and elegant. Just what I wanted. The other two are nice, but they're a little to art-heavy for what I need." Can a girl lay her head down and cry even when she's happy? Ah, yes. She can.

*cue heavy sigh*

I should know better. I've been doing this long enough, and it never fails that what I think is total crap is what gets the most compliments. Really. Sometimes as I post pictures of my work, I'll think, "I shouldn't even be putting this up. It's really not worthy." Well, I need to stop looking with just my own eyes and borrow others.

The same holds true for my writing too. I can slave and parse for hours and the end result beckons crickets to chirp. The posts where I sort of throw something up on the screen, completely off the cuff and barely spell-checked, gets all kinds of feedback.

I don't get it. Clearly. I just don't get it.

That's my little wrestling match to start the week off.

Why do I try so hard? What is that about me?

I don't get it.

Maybe I just need a good kick in the head.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Scribbles: Ocean of Tears

Ocean of Tears

one day
I will watch
your tears fall
and let them
pool with mine
the ocean
does remember, see?
buoyed upon the water,
in a golden moment
we will look back
across the dreams
we once drew in the sand
we will laugh
a thousand years

© Barbara Ann Black, 2010-2011

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Freak Speaks

I don't dumb myself down for anyone. Ever. I also don't consider myself to be one of the uber intellects of the world. It's just that there's some stuff I know. There's also a whole heap of stuff that I don't know. I think where I do differ from so many is that when I don't know something, and I'm intrigued by it even in the slightest, I have to learn about it. I have to. So, maybe I'm more a freak than an intellect. It feels that way.

I'm the crazy person that can't just sit back, watch TV, and listen to Greg House wax sarcastically about a patient or his staff without wondering what the hell an atrioventricular node is and why his idiot acolytes would know that that's where the problem was if they had learned anything at all in med school about the posteroinferior region of the interatrial septum! Don't they teach you chil'ren anything?! I can't just sit there eating cheese doodles and smiling at his banter, knowing that it's meant to be funny, but resting solely on the funniness of his inflection. I just can't. I have to look it up and learn about it.

So, I find it fascinating when people give me shit for "being smart," or for knowing and using "big words." I've been accused of being a snob and trying to exclude people from conversation, purely by virtue of the fact that I have a vocabulary and I use it. If anything, I'm trying to lead people to learn. Learning is the greatest asset we have in this life. Learning is the only thing that will help us evolve, as individuals and as a group.

It's about more than just reading books and memorizing things. I've known some book smart people and they aren't always very intelligent. One of the most intelligent men I know (whom I have the great fortune of loving and living with) knows how to put things together and make them run. He knows this because he's spent a great deal of his life taking things apart to see how they worked. He also has a keen ability to read and understand manuals and tech-speak. Now there's something that I seem unable to do - just looking at the cover of a manual makes me want to nap.

True learning is about being curious, about wanting to know things. I'm curious. I want to know things. For me, one of the scariest places to reside is that pale, apathetic Land of Ignorance. I cringe when someone asks me what something means, I tell them to look it up (I mean, how difficult is it to google?!), and they say, "Oh, nevermind." To me, that's mental suicide, because learning is life. It's been said that when we stop learning, we start dying.

Why do I tell people to look up things rather than just giving the answer? It comes from a lesson I learned from my baby brother back when I was in my early teens. I don't remember what we were looking at or talking about, but he made the comment that whatever it was had "smegma all over it." I asked him what smegma was and he said, "It's the scummy crust that forms on the top of goat's milk." I took him at his word. For years, at least five years and maybe more, I happily used the word smegma whenever I encountered anything crusty, gooey or just plain oogy. It's not so much that I was misusing the word, but I was definitely misinterpreting it. One day, for no other reason than I was curiously thumbing through the dictionary for (*gasp*) fun, I came across the word smegma. If you're not familiar with it, please go look it up, because it is not the scummy crust that forms on the top of goat's milk. Anyway, from then on, if I didn't know a word, I looked it up rather than ask someone.

So, maybe I'm intelligent, or maybe I'm just a freak. Maybe I'm an intelligent freak. I don't know. I don't care. All I know is that I refuse to sit in the dark wondering what that funny switch on the wall is for.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Time Less

I'm still floating on a birthday high. Yesterday was so filled with love that the updraft is keeping me adrift on a warm current of air.

It's making it difficult for me to consolidate a single thought into something writable. Or readable. Or. You see?

I thought, "Eh. So skip the post today. The world can live without your amazing intelligence and wit for 24 hours." But, I can't. I've gotten so used to being 'here' every morning. It's become as essential to my day, it seems, as my morning bean infusion. Sure, some days the coffee tastes a little crappy, or it sits ignored until it's cold, but it's always there, always has to be there.

To not come here and write something, anything, would be like walking with my head down, ignoring smiles and hellos, and pretending nothing matters except my destination. I've done that. That was the old Barb, the Barb of decades past. I can't not write. Just as I can't not make art.

In fact, I'm busier than I've ever been. I've been putting in 8-9 hour days in my studio. Sometimes more. When I worked out in the world, I would drag myself out of bed every morning, sullenly shower and get ready, sigh heavily the whole drive to work, and then spend 8 hours wishing I was back in bed. Now, I have a hard time making myself sleep past 5 a.m.. I get up, sip my bean, do my computer-y schtuff, and then I'm off to The Rabbit Hole to make art.

I fear losing my balance. I tell myself it's okay to just hang for a few minutes, relax on the sofa and do nothing. I tell myself it's okay to read a book or watch a little TV, or even nap for a few minutes. I tell myself that, but my stubborn inner child stomps and says, "I'm not tired! You can't make me!!" And runs off to play. I have such a hard time doing nothing. I used to be able to. I don't know when that ability disappeared. Or why. But I know I've got to get it back to good.

And just as I'm writing this, I see a status update in the other tab that is open to Facebook. It's my friend Sue (of SueDoodles - here) who says, "What if it was your downtime, your lounging-in-bed-too-long time, your walkabout time, and your blow-Friday-off time that made possible your greatest achievements? Would they still make you feel guilty? Or would you allow yourself to enjoy them?"

I accused her of hitting me upside the head too hard. Because I know full well that my so-called "down" time is where some of my best ideas have come from. But I've stopped allowing it.

So, my commitment to myself and everyone concerned... no less than 15 minutes of down time per day. Aw, man... do I have to?!

Yes. I do.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm a Vintage Year

Today is my 49th birthday. I keep saying it aloud to myself. It's a strange thing to hear. Stranger still when I think that this is actually the beginning of my 50th year. Half a century... Me.... Weird.

I'm happy to be 49. I'm not one of those women who feels she needs to hide behind a younger age. I've earned the grey hairs I have. The fine lines that are beginning to show around my eyes and in my laugh lines, are signs that I've lived, laughed (a lot), loved, and cried. They're signs that I'm not numb to my life. Like a well used leather jacket, the stories are in the worn spots.

I'm not old. I'm a vintage year.

The other day a younger friend, mostly teasing, asked if I had any "words of wisdom from my aged perspective." I do, but let me just say that said friend has moved from my Christmas list to my Shit list. Booger. You know who you are.

Words of Wisdom from a 49 Year Old Gypsy:

~ Be kind. Be kind to yourself so that you can be kind to others. It begins within, folks.

~ Good things don't come to those who wait. Good things come to those of us who allow good things.

~ Eat cake = my way of saying, "Do something fun every day." Listen to a tune that gets your toes tapping, read something funny, share a joke, take a bubble bath and play with the bubbles, dance. Do it early and set the tone for the day.

~ You can't walk in someone else's shoes. Ever. But you can offer them a hand up over the big rocks, and you can give them a blanket when they're cold, and a hug when they're feeling alone. Foot rubs are nice too - even our own shoes can feel a little pinchy and uncomfortable now and then.

~ Let people help you. They aren't offering help because they see you as some pitiful charity case, but because they care about you and it makes them feel good to help. Let them feel good.

~ Sometimes the most amazing things to see are microscopic in size. Defining moments are just that. Moments. Be aware.

~ It's really pretty rare that anyone would set out to intentionally hurt your feelings. Try not to greet everything defensively.

~ A sense of humor is as essential to our quality of life as oxygen.

~ If you want true love in your life, understand your own precious worth.

~ Allow yourself to feel everything you need to feel. Just like our physical hot, cold, pleasure and pain receptors, our emotional feelings are there for a reason. If you know how you feel, what you feel, and why you feel that way, you'll know how to react appropriately.

So, that's my basic half a century worth of wisdom. No charge, I've been accumulating it for a while now... happy to share my collection. Easier shared, than done, y'know? Hey, I'm still practicing... I'm just a kid.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Sometimes I think I should step aside and let my readers write these posts. Really, you guys inspire me more often than you know. Such was the case the other day when I put the link to my Blogiversary post (here) on Facebook. My nephew Jason's Dad responded, "I always equated the highs and lows of life to mountains and valleys. While highs - mountain tops - are fine, nothing grows on mountain tops. But things grow in lows - valleys."

The statement stopped me in my tracks it resonated so loudly. I thought about little else the rest of the day. On the heals of that was a PBS special about climbers trying to summit Mt. Everest. Clearly the Universe was demanding my undivided attention. I listened, alert.

You know me, I love mountains. It's no secret that I'm a mountain girl. I'm convinced that I could no longer be satisfied living in a place where I didn't have the mountains to rest my eyes upon. I need that solid sureness of them. I need to see something that makes me realize how small our troubles are in the greater scheme of things. Besides, the sight of them rising against the sky just makes my heart soar.

But. Living on a mountain peak is impractical. As I watched the weary climbers trek to the summit of Everest, I realized just how true Willy's words were. There's no air up there, no sustenance, and it's deathly cold. As beautiful as the view is, if you spend too long at it, it will kill you. People die all the time trying to get to the "top of the world." People lose digits and limbs to frost bite, suffer the effects of hypothermia. There's not even water up there. Eating snow only further dehydrates the body, plus it further lowers the core body temperature. Even the most stalwart climbers, Sherpas who've done the climb hundreds of times, don't stay longer than a few minutes.

Does that mean we shouldn't strive for something higher? No. Just like those crazy mountain climbers, we shoot for the bigger things - often just because they're there. Nothing at all wrong with that. We like challenges, we like to further ourselves, test our endurance and limits. And that's wonderful. However, when it comes to where we live, where we eat, sleep, breathe, and yes, grow... we need a valley.

The view from the top of the mountain is gorgeous, but it's the valley that is teaming with life.

Besides, you don't start a climb halfway up, you start the climb at the bottom.

So, if you need me...

I think I'm goin' to Kathmandu.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Getting There vs. Being There

I've been busy, incredibly busy. Card sales are going through the roof lately - hooray for me! Since the beginning of November I've made and sent at least 300 cards and I have five orders in front of me for this week (so far). I also have a craft fair in December for which I need to prepare. Life is good! Really good.

For as busy and artsy as I've been, I miss making art. I miss making "real" art (as some clod once called it). I miss hauling out paint and canvas and getting completely messy with it - literally and figuratively. I miss diving into the deeper recesses of my mind and turning the wild carnival there into something tangible. I think it's the getting messy part I miss the most... the satisfaction that comes from finding paint all over my hands, arms and clothes, and sometimes streaked across my face from distractedly brushing away a wayward hair with painty fingers. I'm longing to paint.

I had an aHa! moment last week as I responded to my friend Jessica's blog post (here). She was lamenting the fact that while her Muses have been talkative lately, they haven't been putting out. My reply was as follows:

I've had those days, weeks, months. It seems to me that it's not so much a "nothing's happening" gig as a "too much is happening" gig. I get to a point where I'm so overwhelmed with thoughts, emotions, ideas, etc. that I can't move. And... yeah... nothing feels right when I put my hand to it. Ugh.

My best advice? At least it's what works for me. Get the yayas out. When I find myself in that mood, I go big and bold and don't care about results. I grab a big canvas and splotch paint all over it until I'm exhausted. Or a big piece of paper and scribble with crayons or pastels or whatever. I don't go for a design... the release is simply in the motion and getting color on the paper. A few times those things have turned into something... which is cool. Even better, doing that somehow releases whatever that stuckification is.

I think... it's like running tear-ass down a hill when walking feels tedious and lumbering. You get to the bottom and suddenly your feet don't feel quite so heavy and you've found a little pep. Yeah. it's like that.

I have, for as creative as I've been lately, been missing that "tear-ass down the hill" feeling.

My second aHa! moment came last night as I watched a PBS special on Dale Chihuly. I'm convinced that one of the things that makes him such a great artist is that he is a great man. Anyway. I don't remember his exact words, but as he was talking about artistic process he said something to the effect of... artists don't have a clear sense of direction when they start a project. They may have an idea of where they want to go, but it's rarely where they end up.

I think that's what I've been missing, that journey to the unknown. Don't get me wrong, I love making my cards - even a bad day of creativity beats the shit out of a good day of crunching numbers. However, when I make cards that are based on a design that's already in place, there is something missing in the process. What's missing is that sense of journeying.

So, today I'm going to finish up a couple of orders that I already have out and started, and then I'm going to allow myself some time for artistic roaming. It's as good for the soul as wandering through the woods. I'll let you know where the journey takes me.

Getting there IS the fun.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Scribbles: Treadmill

Against A Mountain

This is a true story. Pretentious people make me itch worse than pantyhose on a humid, 97 degree day. I don't wear pantyhose any more (celebrating five years pantyhose free! WooHOO!!!), and I don't put up with pretentious people. Ever.


mr. brylcream
jogs next to me
and chatters
about his physique
and how he
mountain-biked Cougar Mountain
in the mud
the ooze
is everywhere
and how if
the weather holds
he'll go kayak-yak-yakking
this weekend
yadda, yadda,
shut up and run

© Barbara Ann Black, 2010-2011

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Blogiversary!

Happy Birthday to Black Ink Pad!

It was three years ago that I started my rambling, babbling journey here. (I find it very apropos that this day hits the day after I finished my 30 Days of Truth gig - thank all the gods we're done with that!)

Three years ago today I started writing my posts here for no other reason except that I knew I had to write something, somewhere, somehow. I had just lost my beloved mate and I was still learning how to breathe in a world without him. Writing was easier than breathing. Writing allowed me to focus on everything I was feeling without having to concentrate on it. If you've been anywhere in that vicinity, you know the fine difference between the two processes.

In looking back over most of my posts, I'm amazed. Really. Just flat out astounded at how far I've come in three short years, at how much my life has changed, then changed again, then changed all over again. All so quickly.

I'm blown away at how much I have changed, at the growth that has come out of some incredibly rocky slopes. I'm dazzled by the things I've discovered within myself. Three years ago if you'd said, "You're a writer, Barb." I'd have scoffed and said, "No. Not really." Now I acknowledge it freely. I am a writer. Three years ago if you'd said, "You're an artist, Barb." I would have looked around to see what other Barb you were talking to. Really, truly. Now I embrace it. I am an artist.

Three years ago I was sad, lonely, alone. Alone like a stone at the bottom of the Universe. I forced myself to reach out. It took real effort. I forced myself to connect. It took some painful stretching. I forced myself to become the person that those who know and love me best have always said was there. It took some incredibly painful soul surgery.

I blossomed. I found friendship and love in the oddest places. I found beauty in the patterns of rock that lined my path. I even cracked a few open and found treasure. I learned to stand up for myself. I learned to speak up for myself. I welcomed the mysterious gypsy that was hiding in me and learned everything I could about her. I learned that I really liked her, that it was time to let her shine.

I'm impressed that this little online "diary" of mine has developed such readership. People I don't even know, or know about, have in depth knowledge of my life. That's a weird thought, but comforting at the same time. I'm being heard, and that's something I've longed for. Still, I'm constantly surprised that people can relate, or relate so much, to some of what I post. You, my Dear Readers, have no idea how much warmth you lend to my day when I read your responses and emails. Thank you.

I've often said that I'm selfish when I write. I write this for me, not for you. Today I confess that this isn't true - at least not entirely. If what I write can change the texture of your day, maybe even a week. If my words can possibly have impact that makes a difference, for the better, in a life... how humbling. It's a weight I will gladly shoulder.

But, I do write this for me. I need to write.

And every now and then I need to read it too.

Just to remind myself that life is full of different days.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day Thirty!!!

You thought it would never end. I know I did! But, here we are on the final day of 30 Days of Truth. I'll be so happy to be done with this albatross. That's especially true considering how difficult it's going to be for me to write today's post.

Here we go...

Day Thirty - A letter to yourself, tell yourself everything you love about yourself.

Dear Gypsy Girl,

Remember not so very long ago when you thought you had nothing to offer the world? Look at you now... writing words that people you don't even know read every day. Look at you now... making art that people you don't know are buying. Buying! Paying their hard earned cash for it. Nothing to offer the world? Woman, your voice rings true and says what is in a way that people can relate to, in a way that makes them find some comfort. Your vision makes people blink and say, "Yeah.... hell yeah!"

Remember, also not so long ago, when you felt completely unlovable? Look at you now... dozens of friends from all walks of life who love and support you and think the world of you. Plus, you're in a relationship with a guy who wants nothing more than to know you're happy, and who will do whatever it takes to ensure that. He loves you, flabby bits, moody weirdness, demanding nature and all. All of this is because you've somehow made a difference in their lives, and that, more than anything, is what makes you lovable.

Remember when you couldn't imagine any kind of future for yourself? You were unfocused, unsure, and without any clear direction. Look at you now, nearly 49, living dreams you never imagined. You have everything you never knew you wanted. You've stood in the fire and you've weathered the storms. You've done more than survive, you've thrived! You never gave up, you never quit believing in a better day (even when you had no clue what that better day was). You're a fighter, you're a tenacious, scrappy, spittin' bitch of a fighter.

Remember back when everything in the world pissed you off? You finally figured out (on your own, no less) that the only person you were really pissed at was yourself. You rallied. You made changes. You did what you could to make kinder days for everyone, which made kinder days for you. You exacted changes, shifted paradigms, and you grew. You're one of the most caring, compassionate people in the world today. You smile at strangers, genuinely smile. You help when you know help is needed, and often without it being asked for. You say hello to a gritty, dirty, stench-filled world and you make it bloom into something lovely.

Remember when your heart was shattered? After John died, you didn't think you'd have enough strength to go on breathing, let alone find any kind of energy necessary to pick up the pieces and move on. Look at you now. You opened your eyes and your heart. You allowed yourself to feel the pain so you could know and recognize the sweet release when it finally came. You're stronger than you know, indeed, you're often stronger than you want to be. The point is, you're an incredibly strong woman. And you know love when you see it. Look at the man you have in your life now, at the way his eyes absorb everything in your soul and give back more light than you can handle.

Here are adjectives I could use to describe you, although none of them (even cumulatively) really catch your essential self: artistic, beautiful, humorous, loving, caring, bold, blunt, honest, open, fierce, intelligent, exploring, unafraid, soulful, deep, passionate... The list goes on, but what it comes down to is that you're a good person. A very good person.

You love life. Yes, it is evident, and that is such a wonderful thing to see in a person. Like the blind woman told you that day, nearly 4 years ago now, "You shine."

You shine, Gypsy Girl. I love you,

Barbara Ann

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day Twenty Nine

Day Twenty Nine - Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.

I would love to stop procrastinating. I'm so adept at procrastinating that I'll put something off for a good cause, knowing that I'm not really doing a bad thing, but also knowing full well that I'm not doing the right thing. I allow my priorities to be out of whack. A friend of mine once said, "When I know I'm not doing what I really should be doing, even if I'm still being productive, I just feel... off. Y'know?" Oh. Boy howdy. Do I ever know.

I write when I know I should be working on cards. I work on cards when I know I should be writing. I work on cards and write when I know I should be doing laundry. I paint when I should be making cards or writing. I use the jejune excuse "there's just not enough time in a day."

There would be if I'd set time goals and stick to them. I wake up with that intention. I open my eyes and think, "Ah. 6 a.m. ...a good early start! I'll drink a cup of bean and wake up. Check my email. Say hello to the facebook world. Write a quick blog post. Throw in a load of laundry. Figure out dinner. And be back in the rabbit hole by 10." Right? No. Not right.

Somewhere along the way I end up writing two posts, or getting sucked into a conversation, or deciding to bake something, or.... you see? I'm not doing bad things! I'm just not doing the things I really need to be doing. I'm procrastinating.

I'm procrastinating right now, writing this. That's just how good at it I am.

I hope to change that. I hope to end my propensity for procrastination. I've tried before, and I can be successful at it for a couple of days, and then I backslide. Completely.

I'll work on it. I promise I will.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day Twenty Eight

Day Twenty Eight - What if you were pregnant, what would you do?

You're kidding me, right? You're not kidding. Next time I'm writing my own thirty days of questions...

Let me just say, that if I were to become pregnant now, there would likely be a new star in the East and the medical community would be talking miracles. Giving birth, much less being pregnant, has never been in the cards for me.

And that's okay!

Even though there was a time when I wanted to have children, it was more because it was the next indicated thing rather than me really, truly wanting to be a mother. There's a streak of selfishness in me that makes me love my autonomy. I've been able to pick up and move and live where I wanted to live without considering the impact on children. I've been able to explore relationships (lets face it, not all of them good) without worrying that my children would be hurt in the process. If I'd had children with my ex, would I have had the chutzpah to leave? Probably not. I would have wallowed in my misery for the sake of family. Without children I've been able to travel and have the "hobbies" I've wanted to have. I haven't had to worry that my inherent lack of patience completely wrecked a young life. Thank all the gods.

That wasn't the question though, was it.

What would I do? There is no question that I would birth and keep the child.

I would love fiercely. I would nurture. I would play. I would sing. I would feed. I would clothe. I would read. I would hug. I would kiss. I would cook. I would dance. I would talk. I would listen.

I would teach respect, especially self-respect. I would teach tolerance. I would teach the difference between passivity and acceptance. I would teach the difference between hope and expectation. I would teach that imagination is the greatest toy in the world. I would teach that wisdom is better than intelligence. I would teach that humor is an asset.

I would bleed myself dry if necessary.

Monday, November 8, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day Twenty Seven

Day Twenty Seven - What’s the best thing going for you right now?

There's no guessing about this one, no question about it. My relationship with Steve is the best thing I've got going for me right now. It's the best thing I've ever had going for me. Ever.

I know some of you expected me to say art, artistic creativity, something like that. That's just stuff I do. Stuff I do passionately, yes, but still... just stuff I do. Sure, it feels good, but there's really no choice in it for me. I have to create or I'm miserable.

Steve. What do I say about him without sounding pretentiously smarmy, without making all of my readers run screaming for an insulin shot? He's wonderful. He's a great man. He's a good man. He's funny and sweet and strong and charming and caring and handsome and intelligent and... a thousand other superlative adjectives that fall short of who and what he is to me. All the adjectives sound hackneyed, feel gloppy, and taste like saccharin.

I can't believe I get to be with him. Really. Most days, at least once, I catch myself looking at him and thinking, "How did I get here? How did this kind of tremendous fortune find me?"

It's not that I feel undeserving. It's... um... how do I explain it? It's as if I was tumbling down a rocky mountainside with nothing to grab onto, no mercy in sight. Suddenly I landed, somehow, crazily, in a soft meadow, took a look around only to be utterly amazed that not only was I not dead, but relatively unhurt. And there was this man, standing there in the sun just waiting to help me up. Just waiting to care for me. Waiting to love me.

Stuff like that just doesn't happen. It feels like a fairy tale, and I feel silly and naive for even saying that. But I'm not silly and naive. And it's not a fairy tale. It's all real - the relationship, the love, the life together - and it's the best thing I've ever experienced. The very best.

I love this man named Steve. I adore him. He's my lover. He's my best friend. His touch leaves me breathless. The look in his eyes is my anchor.

I have a favorite thing I like to do and say. We typically drift off to sleep with his arm around my shoulders, my head on his chest, and my hand resting on his ribs. As we drift away, I say in my sleep-diving voice, "Know what my favorite time of day is?" His nearly slumbering query rumbles, "Hmmm...?" I say, "This exact moment." And he hugs me tighter.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Scribbles: Harold's Song

Morning Fog

This has long been one of my favorite things I've written. My Dad would have been 83 years old this month. He died nearly 29 years ago. This poem perfectly captures the longing I feel for his company, particularly on a cool, crisp Autumn day.

Harold’s Song

your colors are
an Autumn sky and
trees that clash in peace
fire is beauty dying alive
in a smoke-filled
evergreen breath
as crisp air singes
tears on my lashes
clouded grey artistry
pulls against the blue
and twines fingers
thru a palette of leaves
leaving me fogged by
a canvas scented memory of you

© Barbara Ann Black, 2010-2011

Friday, November 5, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day Twenty Six

Day Twenty Six - Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?

Yes. Twenty two years ago. I had feelings that were bigger than I knew how to handle, bigger than I knew what to do with. I was young and completely alone in the crowd.

So, I thought it would be easier to just check out.

What stopped me? The surety that I would fuck it up somehow. That I'd end up living out the rest of my life as a non-contributing vegetable. That I'd somehow end up making a bad thing worse. That I would fail beyond all failure.

Besides, deep down, I knew there was better out there somewhere. I knew there was better in me somewhere. There was the tiniest spark of a voice in me that said, "Oh please. Don't give up just yet."

Turns out it was my inner gypsy, calling long distance. It took her nearly two more decades to really show up, but she would occasionally leave me clues that she was around - the bitch is such a tease. But, show up she finally did, in all her tenacious glory.

I'm glad I listened. I'm glad I waited.

I was worth it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day Twenty Five

Day Twenty Five - The reason you believe you’re still alive today.

I believe I'm still alive today because there is someone (or someones) who needs my love and/or because I still have lessons to teach, knowledge to pass along.

Because really? I've loved my life. It's been wonderful and wonder filled. I'm not looking for an out, don't get me wrong. I still have a lot I want to do, a lot of living and loving to do.


If the dirt nap starts today, I won't have regrets over missing out on a possibility. I've done more than enough of the things I've wanted to. I've been very fortunate. While there are others on my list, there will always be others on my list no matter how long I live. The more I live, the more I learn, the more I want and require. So. I don't have a bucket list of things that I insist must be accomplished before I breathe my last breath.

I don't have a bucket list because I live my dreams every day. I've learned that no matter where life takes me, I get to be the person I want to be, and that is what's important to me.

I'm still alive today because there is only one me for all time. Right now, this is where the Universe has me placed.

In the words of Matchbox 20, "think I'll just hang."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day Twenty Four

Day Twenty Four - Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs.

To those who are going to be present to celebrate my life after I'm gone. Please play these 10 songs, have a shot or three of tequila, and think well of me. And dance.

Roundabout by Yes - because it is the one song that captures the love I feel for the Pacific NW and the home that I've found here. "In and around the lake... mountains come out of the sky and stand there..." and remember, "You'll see I'll be there with you..."
(listen to it here)

Sunshine of Your Love by Eric Clapton (Cream) - because the love of my friends and family has been the light that guides me.
(listen to it here)

Life is Wonderful by Jason Mraz - because it is and I want everyone to know and be reminded of how much I loved my life.
(listen to it here)

In Spite of Ourselves by John Prine and Iris Dement - because humor is as vital to any relationship as love is.
(listen to it here)

Smoothie Song by Nickel Creek - because it's impossible to feel sad during this song and I want people to know how much joy I always felt.
(listen to it here)

Fishin' in the Dark by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - because it's the simple things in life that are the best. Really. Trust me on this.
(listen to it here)

Shambhala by Three Dog Night - because every day is a step on the road to Shambhala. How does your light shine? Make it bright. I tried to.
(listen to it here)

Seasons of Love from the musical RENT - because I measured my life in love. I hope in the end I gave more than I received.
(listen to it here)

All the Same by Sick Puppies - because we all have flaws and twists and scarred hearts. "I'll take you for who you are if you'll take me for everything." I hope I was gentle with the flaws, twists and scars in others. I tried.
(listen to it here)

I'll See You in My Dreams by George Harrisson - because every memorial needs some ukulele music. And because I think this is one of the most lovely, sweet, simple songs ever written.
(listen to it here)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day Twenty Three

Day Twenty Three - Something you wish you had done in your life.

I wish I had paid more attention to what my Dad was doing artistically. I wish I had watched him more. I wish I had asked questions. I wish I had learned art from him as well as inherited art from him. He was a true master. I wonder how much more or better we would have bonded (if at all), had art helped to connect us.

In my early adolescent years I picked up a pencil and sketched the shed in our backyard. I showed it to Dad. He said, "Not bad, but you need to learn shading and shadow." I know now that he was probably proud of me, probably being encouraging, probably would have even taught me if I'd said, "How?" But, he had scarred me so badly in the past that all I heard was his usual drunken, "You're no damned good." So, I put art away for the next three and a half decades. I saw it as someone else's territory and there was a big bad bullet riddled sign posted saying, "STAY OUT! NO TRESPASSING!"

I never took an art class.

It's not his fault. I'm not laying blame.

I'm just wishing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day Twenty Two

Day Twenty Two - Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.

Truthfully (heh... that's a joke... get it? Day of Truth...? *sigh*). Truthfully, I wish I had never signed up for this 30 Days of Truth gig! Don't get me wrong, some of it has been interesting. But some of it has been... just... stupid. Like this question.

I know, I know. I could quit. I could walk away and go back to my "normal" blogificational ramblings, but I can't. I have to see it through to the end. I'm just that way. It's the same as my twisted need to watch a movie I hate until the end, or read a book that annoys me (or is just plain bad) until the end.

Maybe it's that thing in me that always has some hope of a redeeming quality coming to the surface.

Maybe it's that stubborn thing in me.

Maybe it's like all the other failed ideas in my life that end in the phrase, "Well... it seemed like a good idea at the time..." I have to at least try. I have to make something positive from my choices.


Happy November... Happy Day of the Dead.

This is my month.