Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Support

Earlier this month I joined a coaching training class. Coaching is something I’ve become interested in over the past year. Upon reflection I realized that one thing I’ve always enjoyed is teaching and sharing. That is part of what I hope I do with this blog. When I worked as a speech-language pathologist, the one part of the job I really enjoyed was teaching and training the staff.

The first topic in the coaching class focused on support which naturally made me think about how support is essential to our creativity, to our businesses, and well, just about anything we pursue in life.  This includes not only external support from friends, mentors, coaches, and family, but internal support within ourselves.

I recall when working in healthcare that I often felt minimally supported in my job. This may have been due to the various managers I encountered, some who were better than others. Or the fact that I was often the only speech therapist on the team where it was common to have multiple physical or occupational therapists in the department. Finally, it also could have been due to my own inability to seek out support at various times.

I’ve also realized, as I write this, one other thing that I remember about my days in healthcare that may have influenced the support issue: we did, quite frankly, complain a lot. We commiserated quite a bit and I’m not sure how often we really celebrated our successes. So how can someone feel supported if one of the things that binds us together is complaining?

But I digress.

Support has several definitions: to bear the weight of; to hold in position so as to keep from falling, sinking, or slipping; to be capable of bearing; to keep from failing or yielding during stress; to provide for or maintain by supplying money or necessities; to aid the cause of by approving, favoring, or advocating; to endure, tolerate.

Wow! No wonder we sometimes have difficulty supporting ourselves and one another. Support can be a heavy burden to bear.

Since leaving the structured life of working in a cubicle or office and turning to my art full time I have found more support in this community than I ever thought possible. I know some will debate this opinion, yet overall, I’ve found artists to be a supportive lot. I wonder if this is because many of us work in isolation. So when we gather in small or large groups we want to learn what each other is doing, how someone solved a particular problem, and to share resources.

I find that self-support is sometimes harder because of the negative or ego voice that likes to make itself known. My friends can tell me I’m doing great but if I don’t believe that myself all their support can be for naught (or at least that is what the negative ego voice would like me to believe.) On the other hand, it is those same friends who can kick my butt and, in the words of Mary Englebreit, tell me to “snap out of it.” I love my friends and family who have my back and who don’t let my pity parties turn in to extravagant balls.

So here is one of the questions, slightly paraphrased, for you: What kind of support do you need? Pick one area and think about how you can help yourself and what help others may have to offer. What small thing(s) can you do to better support your creative life?

And enjoy this John Cleese video on creativity.


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Remembering Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent on the Western Christian calendar. Lent occurs 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter.  The name “Ash Wednesday” comes from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. The ashes are created by burning the palm crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday and then mixed with oil to create a paste. When the ashes are placed on your forehead, the priest recites “you are dust and from dust you shall return.”

Growing up, Ash Wednesday was the day when the nuns would gather us in groups and walk us over to the church. Inevitably, someone would act up and get pulled aside for a mild scolding. I remember the expansive feeling of the church as we walked in; how quiet and somber it felt. Then we’d wait in line to have  ashes rubbed on our foreheads in the sign of the cross, some of which usually fell into your eyes. I remember the sensation of the priest’s finger or thumb gently pushing against my forehead and how it felt itchy.  I always wanted to look them straight in the eye while they smudged me with ashes.

After the smudging, you returned to the church pew to say prayers and ask forgiveness. I usually sat there trying to think of something to say in my head. Scrunching my eyes it seems I’d usually fall back on a rote prayer like the Hail Mary or something and add “Forgive me God for I have sinned.”

After services we’d return to class and check-out each others foreheads to see who had the biggest cross-like blob. I remember how I couldn’t wait to get home and wash my face that night to remove the ashes. I also remember having this slight fear at what would happen to me if I washed them off too early.

I think Ash Wednesday reinforced my early fear of death. What else could I think of after being told I came from dust and would return to that form? Here I thought I came from my mom’s belly and now you’re telling me I’m just a speck of dust? (And this was not to be confused with the sparkle in my father’s eye from where I also supposedly came from.)

As a young child I took offense. I certainly thought I was more significant than a speck of dust. (But I guess that was supposed to be the point. I was no more significant that a speck of dust.)

On Ash Wednesday, we were expected to abstain from meat and to abstain from meat on every Friday up to Easter for the whole of Lent. I was not a fan of tuna so we usually had some other type of fish for dinner. PB & J’s were pretty popular for school lunch too. I remember some people fasted on Ash Wednesday. That was not expected of me nor was I ever asked to do so.  It was more common for us kids to think of something to give up during Lent. Chocolate, gum, and other sweets were always popular choices. Sometimes you’d promise not to pick on a sibling or to not mouth back at your parents or to eat all your vegetables. Of course if you failed at any of this, the wrath of God would come down, swoop you up, and turn you back into that pile of dust.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that extreme but as a young kid fear is a pretty powerful deterrent. In reality, giving up something for Lent was like making a New Year’s resolution. You were lucky if you kept it. 40 plus days is an eternity as a child.  However, the draw of the promised Easter basket at the end of this time period (filled with all those sweets you gave up) could be a pretty good incentive.

As I grew older, participating in Ash Wednesday services became a rote activity. In high school it was a nice break from class. In some ways it became less meaningful to me. It became an obligation; an expectation.

I don’t remember taking part in Ash Wednesday services once I entered college. After college I remember the guilt I felt for not participating in services.  (Somewhere Yoda was saying “The Catholic guilt is strong in this one.”) It took several years to get that out of my system.

Today I can look back on Ash Wednesday fondly, without guilt and without fear of some giant hand of repercussion. I recall some beauty in the moment as we were called to reflect and to pause from our busy schedules. Lent can be a time of cleansing and an awakening to the renewal of spring.

Today, I think I’ll have a fish sandwich for lunch, something vegetarian for dinner, and something sweet thrown in for good measure.


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Back in the Saddle

I haven’t felt like blogging since returning from NJ earlier this week.  Almost two weeks ago we left to be with Eric’s mom and family prior to my MIL’s surgery. Her surgery went well but her recovery has been tenuous at times. Blogging and creating art seemed trival.

It took a few days to get back in the groove. It started with focusing on the business task list and returning to yoga, then getting a hair cut, going grocery shopping, and finally putting my hands on the clay. Where I really felt the stress of the past week release was when I put together several bald, faceless “heads” for my art guild’s polymer clay sculpting demo. Creating these “heads” even gave me an idea for a future moderately priced art item.

Another thing that has helped me return to a routine was taking my goals for the month, breaking them down into smaller steps, and putting those steps into my task and to-do list in Entourage. I can attribute this wonderful suggestion to Leslie Shreve’s teleseminar The Road to Peak Productivity (I’ll blog more about the teleseminar in a future Tuesday’s Business post.)

Today was an art day which included a visit to the Danforth Museum to see their mixed media fiber art exhibit featuring Lisa Call and Faith Ringgold’s Story Quilts, lunch at Bruegger’s Bagels (a gloriously gooey 4-cheese and tomato panini and butternut squash soup), and a visit to Barnes and Nobles. The sunshine and clear blue sky also contributed to the great day.

Oh yes, we had new carpeting installed this week on the second floor. I love the carpet, the color and the pattern. It feels real good underfoot. So it was really disappointing to learn the carpet has a defect which wasn’t detected until the installers started to vacuum it. The owner of Century Carpet, where we purchased the carpet, even came to the house on request of the installers while they were still here to confirm the defect. How often does that happen? Century Carpet will file the claim with the manufacturer. Unfortunately it means that the carpet will have to be pulled up and reinstalled in a few weeks. Century Carpet gets high marks in my book for the way they’re handling this situation. Kudos to them.

Finally I replaced a couple white switchplate covers with switchplate covers I made several years ago. They fit in well with the new wall color.

Silkscreened Dragonfly Switchplate

Silkscreened Dragonfly Switchplate


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Let The Line of The Rope Guide You

I’ve wanted to write this post for a couple of days. It wasn’t until I saw a line of preschoolers crossing the street while holding onto a rope that I felt inspired because they provided the name of the post. (Yes, sometimes I struggle with writing a post because I can’t come up with a catchy title. That holdover known as my ego expects me to say something profound.)

Anyways, there they were, all bundled in their winter coats, hats, and mittens, being led by an adult who held the rope at the front of the line. Each child held onto the rope with their left hands while walking across the street (in the crosswalk of course) and another adult brought up the rear and held onto the end of the rope.

I wished I’d taken a picture but my position in the line of cars didn’t make a clear shot feasible.

This past week, however, has been like those little preschoolers, escorted, and guarded by adults who guide them along the line of rope. This past week has been challenging as we’ve learned that Eric’s mom must have open heart surgery.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the universe works in mysterious ways. Eric’s mom had rheumatic fever as a child. So did my dad. Rheumatic fever has a direct impact on the mitral valve in the heart.  The mitral valve directs the flow of blood from the left atrium into the left ventricle of the heart. From there blood flows to the aorta and into the body.

My dad had mitral valve replacement surgery twice; once in the late 60’s-early 70’s (I was pretty young and have vague memories of the time line) and again in the late 80’s. And now my mother-in-law is in the same situation.  Is it coincidence that Eric and I met, married, and both have one parent with similar medical histories?  Is part of this ‘coincidence’ knowing that I’ve been through this situation before and can therefore offer knowledge based on that experience, understanding and emotional support?

And what does this have to do with a bunch of preschoolers holding a rope while they cross the street?

Well, this past week was like trying to hang on to that rope. You put trust in doctors and nurses to guide you in this situation. You remember how your parents were there to guide you and protect you. You watch intentions to stick to a schedule in the studio go flying out the window because making art is the last thing you wanted to do. You try to refocus yourself on paperwork and mundane tasks only to have your thoughts trickle back to the situation at hand.

And then you come to accept that this is the situation. This is the now and you need to be present in order to face it as best as you can.

Once a decision about surgery was made and a schedule in place, we were able to return to some normalcy and it felt quite good to work with clay again.  In a couple days we leave to be with Eric’s mom and family. I know my role this time is to offer emotional support; to get food and coffee, tea or soda, to provide a laugh, to say a prayer. I will be following the line of that rope as it guides us through this process.

I don’t expect to be online much next week which means the blog will be quiet during my absence though I may check in on Twitter.  Until then.

handrope-1

Photo from http://www.casahamaca.com


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Patches

Patches is made from polymer clay remnants. He symbolizes variety and diversity. Through variety and diversity we discover ourselves, we discover love and we are bountiful.

Patches is currently on display as part of the Bolton Artisans Guild‘s Heart display at the Nashoba Valley Winery. You can see all of the Guild’s heart themed art February 2 to March 2, 2009. The winery will host a wine and chocolate reception on Sunday, February 8, 2009 from 3:30pm to 5:00pm.  Patches will be available for purchase after the display ends on March 2, 2009.

Patches

Patches

patcheshead

He brings you a bluebird of happiness

He brings you a bluebird of happiness

He gives you his heart unconditionally

He gives you his heart unconditionally

patchesbountiful

patchesbase

Materials: Polymer clay, aluminum foil, wire, beads, acrylic paint

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