Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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When The Get Up and Go Has Gotten Up and Gone

Have you ever had one of those weeks? One where you feel like your ‘get up and go’ has gotten up and left the building? That is definitely how I’m feeling right now.

Expectations

I’ve had so many ideas and inspiration the past couple of weeks, starting with the trip we took to Italy last month. After returning I focused on preparing to teach my class at Ink About It. Once that was done, there was an art guild demo at the library, preparing for my first series of classes in my studio, a birthday celebration, trying to edit over 300 pictures taken in Italy, and working on a wholesale order.

I put myself on a more structured schedule by blocking out designated time on my calendar to work on all these tasks. I was motivated. I was focused. I was making forward progress.

And then there was the vet appointment.

Woody

Mr. Woody

Woody is our eldest cat. He is 11 years old. Because he is considered a ‘senior cat,’ I weigh him once a month. Because cats are good at hiding pain and illness and we usually don’t see it until they show obvious weight loss, this monthly weigh-in is part of his care program.

When I weighed him at the beginning of September he was 11.8lbs. At the beginning of October he weighed 10.6lbs. My heart sank. I knew he felt lighter when I picked him up when we came home after vacation. But a whole pound? Not convinced this weight was legit, I kept weighing him at different times and different days and on different scales.

10.6lbs. 10.8lbs. 11.0lbs.

Nope. It was true. He had lost weight. I called the vet and made an appointment. His annual physical would be in November anyways, so pushing it up a month was okay.

The Walk

The morning of Woody’s vet appointment he was curled up on the ottoman in our living room. I talked with him and went upstairs. Later I heard a thud. And then I saw Woody walking down the hallway toward our bedroom. He wasn’t walking right. He was limping, favoring his right side, and his gait was off.

What the heck happened? Did he have a stroke? Did he fall off the ottoman? Did he roll off the ottoman?

I felt a bit of panic set in. This was a definite change in status. At breakfast he was fine. Now this.

I called the vet but couldn’t bring him in any earlier because Dr. B’s schedule was full. I carried Woody down to the main floor. He went down and up the basement stairs on his own, hopped into the dining room chair, and later into his favorite chair in the living room. But any time he walked, he looked pretty bad and in pain.

I decided to work in the dining room so I could keep an eye on him for the morning. He curled up and slept. I worked with one eye on him. At lunch time he hopped off his chair. His gait was 95% better. He wanted to eat. I was so relieved.

The Vet

After examining Mr. Woody, Dr. B told me that Woody may have early arthritis. Woody denied this as he skillfully jumped off the examining table to the floor without any difficulty. It is probable that Woody jumped or fell or rolled off the ottoman, landed hard, and that resulted in the limpy-gimpy walk. A couple hours rest resolved it.

His weight loss wasn’t as bad as our scale revealed. During a May vet visit, Woody weighed 11.14lbs. On this visit he weighed 11.07lbs. A seven ounce loss was a bit better than a full pound drop.

We’ve also been monitoring Woody’s kidney values since January. So a blood test was ordered. A day later we learned that his kidney values have risen indicating early kidney disease. His potassium is low (which might explain the weight loss and muscle weakness) but other values (thyroid, liver, phosphorus are all good.) However, Dr. B also suspected that Woody might have a kidney infection.

Have you ever had to get a urine sample from a cat?

Oh seesh Mom!

Suffice to say we got the sample and it confirmed a kidney infection. Now we’re giving Woody a 14 day course of antibiotics and a potassium supplement. He also has a prescription for Benazepril (an anti-hypertensive) that we’ll start after the antibiotics.

So Where’s the Motivation?

When all this happened with Woody, my focus on work drifted away. I had set an intention to create a small sculpt study on a daily basis. I got three pieces done. I had started editing our pictures from Italy. I only got through a few favorites from our time in Rome. I muddled through a wholesale order.

A friend and mentor told me to take a step back. To give myself some time and set a date in November to start work on these nuggets of inspiration after my classes and holiday show are done. A great idea, though sometimes easier said than done.

Another person mentioned that in the fall, they are filled with a mix of go-go-go and a desire to simply sit, to contemplate the year, and to draw inward.

I can relate to that too.

I have a list of things I want to do, things I have to do, that I’ve let slip. The motivation isn’t here at the moment. It doesn’t feel like overwhelm and hitting the wall (which I wrote about here.) It just feels like my get up and go, got up and went.

I’m sure the events of the last few days with Woody have had some impact. On one hand, a voice tries to tell me “he’s just a cat.” But the louder voice tells me that Woody is my “baby”, my “kid”, my furry, four-legged companion and I am his steward and his caregiver.

So far, Woody is tolerating the antibiotics (though administering them is a bit of a challenge at times.) I have to get another urine sample after the meds are finished and make a follow-up appointment with the vet. He is back to his usual routine. I’m sure I’ll be back to mine soon too.

Whatever


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Confronting a Wall

As the month of August came to a close, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by all that lay ahead of me this fall. This sense of overwhelm squashed my desire to write on this blog, hence my couple of weeks of absence.

In late August and into September, the Vuelta a Espana traverses the roads and mountains of Spain. This is the final 3 week race in the professional cycling calendar. While all three grand tours (the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta) are grueling events, the Vuelta has to be the hardest. In this race the cyclists will climb mountain roads with gradients of 9%, 11%, and 13%. In some stages, roads have a 22% gradient climb.

You might be able to walk slightly faster on roads that steep than someone on a bike.

Or maybe not.

Hitting a Wall

It was this feeling of overwhelm that hit me a couple weeks ago that reminded me of the riders in the Vuelta. In cycling, it is common to refer to huge, steep mountain climbs as walls.

I realized that I had hit my own wall.

The realization of “hitting the wall” came with both relief and anxiety. It explained why I was feeling this way (the relief.) It also made me confront all the stuff bouncing around in my head (the anxiety.)

Armed with this realization, I decided there was only one thing to do if I hoped to get a grip on the situation. And that was to do a Brain Dump.

The Brain Dump

When I think of doing a Brain Dump, I’m reminded of a scene in Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” In this scene, Dr. Finkelstein, the Evil Scientist, throws open his head to scratch his brain and ponder his next move.

Dr. Finkelstein (image from the book "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas" by Frank Thompson)

Ah, how nice it would be to lift open our skulls, scratch our brains, pick out all those anxious thoughts, and pop everything back together.

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have that ability.

So the next best thing for me to do was to write a list of all the things coming up for the month of September.

Brain Dump

September Brain Dump

Once I wrote it all down, I felt much better. I actually thought “hmm, it isn’t as bad as my sometimes over-active imagination leads me to believe.”

At the top of the list is working in the studio 20-24 hours a week. My intent is to have that time dedicated specifically to making art, though there will be situations where some of those hours will be spent on the business side, such as entering art challenges, photography, e-newsletters, websites, etc. And of course there are other appointments and activities that influence how a week will play out.

Next was listing all those to-dos for the month based on my goals and what I’d already written on my calendar. In trying to get a jump on the upcoming holiday season, I’ve decided to spend 1-2 days on production based artwork. I figure it is better to get this task out of the way first, then I can spend the rest of the time on sculpting heads, making new Spirit Messengers, and learning digital art techniques.

For several items, I have to list out the smaller steps that will help me get to the overall goal. Listing the small steps is something I can easily forget to do. And that makes for more anxiety. It is so easy to say “I have to get X done” and be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of ‘X’ until you list the small steps.

Other items on this Brain Dump are weekly tasks that have become too easy to overlook these last few months as I’ve focused on new areas for my business. Example: updating the books in Quickbooks once a week now will save me time and trouble later on.

I’m also specifying on my daily priority and to-do list how much time I’ll allot for specific tasks, such as replying to or sending emails, working on my website, and writing on this blog.

I admit that this left brain approach is not always easy to implement when you spend more time living with a right brain focus. Perhaps I could be more creative in how I create my list or my daily priority & to-do list (though sometimes I use different color pens!) More important was to just get it all down on paper.



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Checking-In

I’m finding this month to be busier than originally expected. That is a good thing because I am immersing myself in my studio. Unfortunately I am not keeping up with the blog as often as I would like. So here is a little update.

New Approach to Tracking Studio Time

In my post summarizing Chapter 2 of Standing at Water’s Edge, I mentioned how I often cringe at the word “productive.” The word carries a bit of baggage for me due to my previous job as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Anyways, I realized that my previous approach to keeping track of time in the studio was also a hindrance.

This week I gave up on keeping track of every little thing I did in the studio.  Instead, I track time on my daily priority and to-do list. It has simplified the process significantly. It means I keep my time and tasks all in one place (ah, simplicity.) And I feel less self-imposed pressure to look and be productive.

OldStudioTimeLog (1)

Old Studio Time Log

NewStudioTimeLog (1)

New Studio Time Log

With the new studio time log, everything is on one page; my appointments for the day/week, priorities for the day, and a to-do list. And if I’m really good, I’ll add habits to remember, such as exercising and drinking water, and non-habits, such as spending too much time on Twitter or mindless busyness.

Mind Map

Prior to making this change I also wrote out my first ever mind-map. I have a long term goal to have my fine art in 10 fine art galleries. Creating a mind-map gave me a tangible, visible map for all the tasks I need to work on to reach this goal. Mind-mapping is neat because you can drill down to the smallest task you can think of in order to reach a goal. And you can add and expand the mind-map as needed.

After creating this mind-map, I took small tasks from the larger goals and created my list of goals for the month. I also looked at my schedule this month and, working backwards from specific dates, wrote tasks to be completed on the calendar. This whole approach gave me a great feeling of clarity at the beginning of the month and decreased the feeling of overwhelm that can easily creep up on me.

Back Update

About three weeks ago I started physical therapy to heal my herniated discs. I also had an appointment with a neurosurgeon who reviewed my MRI results and concluded that I am not a candidate for back surgery now or in the near future. (Yipee!) The herniated discs are not very big. The disc between L4-5 is the primary problem child; however, physical therapy has made a significant improvement in my level of pain. In fact, I have very little pain these days. In about three weeks, I’ve gone from having leg pain and cramping that would start soon after walking to having no pain whether I walk 1/3 of a mile or 3 miles!

The physical therapist uses a technique called the McKenzie Technique which essentially teaches you how to control and understand your body and your pain. In my case, we worked on back bending movements first to strengthen the back and to get the disc to return to its normal position and then we worked on forward bending movements. It really has been awesome because I felt a noticeable improvement in about 3 days.

Book Update

With this busy schedule I’m a bit behind on my own reading. I finished Chapter 4 in Standing at Water’s Edge this morning and will post a summary early next week.


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20 Hour Challenge: Goals and Guilt

The Goals

This past week (ending 6/27/09) I spent 19 hours in the studio; 8.25 hours spent making art, 10.75 hours spent on the business of art.

I completed the final three canvases for the Canvas Project 2.

CanvasProjectPassage1

CanvasProjectPassage2

CanvasProjectSnide

CanvasProjectInstigate

The business portion of my week included:

  • studio clean up
  • bookkeeping
  • blogging
  • phone calls
  • answering emails
  • starting a Flickr page
  • working on my daily schedule
  • a coaching call
  • a visit to the post office
  • delivering inventory

A Little Guilt

In my mind, my discipline and focus fell apart toward the end of the week. I believe this happened for several reasons: I finished all of the 3″x 3″ canvases for the Canvas Project, I completed some production items needed for a local consignment store, and I started preparing for vacation and my workshop in France. I think my muse said “Enough; kick back and relax. You can either dive into some new project or just take it easy.”

Of course, the other muse, the more critical one said “You’re not keeping your end of the deal. You’re supposed to keep working, not get all loosey-goosey.”

My reality is that I did not put any tasks into my daily calendar for Thursday or Friday, other than reading my affirmations. I set no specific goals. I ended the week on a very open ended schedule.

I tell myself that this is okay; that giving oneself a break is important.  I mean, I am getting ready to take part in an awesome workshop in France…a dream of a lifetime. The hard part is convincing myself that this is okay without feeling some small amount of guilt for not scheduling tasks for every minute of the day. I know part of that is ingrained in me; that happens when your father is a workaholic.

I know I should celebrate my accomplishments: completing the canvases for the Canvas Project exhibit, setting up my Flickr page, and getting new inventory delivered. And I am happy I got those things done. But sometimes the critical perfectionist muse wants to win by making me feel guilty in the process.


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On The Road Again

CarGPS

Of course, just as my body gets readjusted to being home and rested after shows, we’re heading out again. This time we’re visiting Eric’s mom for a few days. We wanted to see her before we head to France later this month. Thanks to everyone who has sent well-wishes on Gwen’s recovery from surgery. It has been a long journey with ups and downs. I’m happy to say that she is expected to return to her home soon after several weeks of rehab. I’m sure she is really looking forward to sleeping in her own bed!

I have two more quotes to post in the guest artist Monday Reflection series. So check out the site on Monday, 6/8 to read a new, inspiring quote.

In the meantime, can you guess which bridge this might be? If you know our final destination this weekend, you might know the path we take and the bridge we cross over to get there.

TappenZBridge

I love bridges. They are such astonishing structures and feats of construction.


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Day 27

number27-1

Today marks Day 27 of my 37 Day Challenge. I can’t believe there are only 10 more days left. They say it takes about 21 days for a new routine or task to become habit. While I’m not sure if my decreased intake of sugar, especially chocolate, can be called a habit yet, I do find myself making better choices and not denying myself something sweet if I want it.

The big difference is I’m not going for the cookies immediately after lunch. If I feel full after my meal, I stop there and may grab a small snack later in the afternoon. We still have cookies in the house. I don’t believe in a complete ban on them. I just bought two varieties: ginger snaps and chocolate striped. I loved those chocolate striped cookies as a kid.  They’re especially tasty if you keep them in the refrigerator.

I did have a piece of Dove dark chocolate the other day after lunch. It was the first piece of dark chocolate candy I’ve had since starting this challenge. The little voice in my head said, “oh go ahead, one piece will be okay; just make sure it is only one piece.” And it was okay. I didn’t turn into a pillar of sugar and fall apart. Probably the strongest craving I’ve in recent days was for a Dairy Queen ice cream cone. It was chilly and rainy the day this craving hit and certainly not conducive to eating ice cream.  Mother Nature was on my side that day!

With the emergence of spring and warmer weather, I look forward to eating more veggies and fruit. I spied some aspargus shoots in our veggie garden today. Our bodies seem to crave warmer, heavier foods in the winter which, while comforting, tend to reveal themselves on the scale in the morning. Have you ever tried to follow a diet based on foods of the season?

Patti recently posted links to several participants in the 37 Day Challenge. You’ll find the post here. People are challenging themselves to make a variety of small changes from decluttering to walking to engaging in some form of exercise each day to writing each day. It is intriguing to learn what a person chooses as their challenge, why, and how they are progressing and perhaps even changing along the way.

What small change will you make?


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Monday Reflection

10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class expert in anything.

10,000 hours is equivalent to
3 hours of practice a day
or
20 hours of practice a week
over 10 years.

The more experiences we have with something, the stronger the memory or learning trace for that experience becomes.

-Daniel J. Levitin
This is your Brain on Music


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Nature’s Beauty and Destruction

I’d just hit the “Send” button on the final email for the evening last week Thursday and was thinking about heading to bed when, at 10:45pm, I found myself sitting in complete darkness in the studio.  Hmm, this was curious.  My first thought was to figure out where I’d put the flashlight.  Ah, there it is, glowing from behind some shipping boxes.  (Note to self: in the future, do not lean shipping boxes up against the rechargeable flashlight.)

I grabbed the flashlight and headed downstairs.  Eric and I met up in the kitchen.  The generator has kicked on which re-powered several lights in the kitchen and the clock on the microwave.  It was hard to hear the wind blowing over the whir of the generator and the subsequent snapping of branches.  Looking out the front window, we see that our neighborhood is pitch black.

Neither one of us has a good feeling about this.

Friday, 12/12 Day 1 Welcome to the 2008 New England Ice Storm

At 6:00am the power is still out, the generator still whirs and I realize that the time on my alarm clock, with its battery back up, has drifted a good 30 minutes.  The alarm goes off thinking it is 6:30am but it isn’t.  I lay in bed listening to the news.  The report isn’t good.  We are one of at least 300,000 people without power.

The vision outside is unbelievable.  We are living in an ice forest.  Every tree and bush and plant is covered in a thick coating of ice.  It is raining.  The temperature hovers around 31 degrees.  We are fortunate.  We have heat, hot water, limited lighting, a microwave and refrigerator.  The phone, internet and cable are dead.  Out come the cell phones and the battery operated radio.

is08-front-yd

is08-back-yd

As the morning progresses we listen to the creak, crack and crash of tree branches.  Our yard alone has four tree branches splayed on the frozen ground.  It is a stunning process with stunning results.  Branches rip, tear, and shred, landing on the ground with a dull thud and a crash as the icy coating shatters on impact.

I cancel my chiropractor appointment.  While the situation is fine at their office, getting out of our town is next to impossible.  Eric attempted to go to work.  Driving in our small neighborhood is fine; getting on the connecting road is not.  Look to the right and you’ll see downed branches, ice, and wires.  Look to your left you’ll find even more branches and wires.

It looks like a battle zone.

Eric heads back out on foot with a small saw and loppers in hand.  After the fourth tree limb fell in our yard, I, too, decide to head out and see what things look like.

is08-back-yd-branch

The Kindness of Neighbors and Strangers

I was surprised to see several people out on the street assessing damage not only to their own property but talking to neighbors and commenting on the stunning damage.  People who knew each other and those who do not are out cutting down branches, pulling tree limbs to the side of the road, and checking on each other.  “Oh man” and “Look at that” and “Wow” are said frequently.  We are all amazed at what we see before us.

The road which connects to our street is practically impassable due to the shear number of tree limbs and wires.  Walking up the road is an adventure in itself as ice falls from the branches and limbs continue to break.  Power and cable lines lay tangled together.  Other power lines hang like limp spaghetti.

leaning-pole

tree-and-wire

Two men driving a Range Rover make their way up the road.  They pull off to the side every few feet, climb out, rev up their chain saws and start cutting.  Several of us are like the second crew, pulling and pushing branches, limbs, and fresh cut wood off the side of the road, cutting back those branches that still stick into the road, and shoveling debris.

The most stunning tree damage, however, belonged to two trees in a neighbor’s field.

held-tree-2

One neighbor’s son described it like a flower with four petals that fell open.

held-tree-1

We joked that it looked like the “Whomping Tree” got whomped.

It took a few hours to cut, clear, push, and shovel debris.  And it seemed like the further we walked, the worse the damage.  Post lights were busted when branches landed on them.  Mailboxes were crushed under the weight of tree limbs.  Whole trees were uprooted.  And the only sounds you heard were chainsaws, generators, the falling ice, and the cracking of more limbs.

It was beautiful and devastating all at the same time.

In the afternoon Eric did get out to pick up some provisions for what would prove to be the longest power outage we’ve ever experienced.  I dug through closets and boxes looking for board games to keep ourselves entertained.

That night brought us a full moon.  On my calendar for 12/12/08 were the following words:

Be still and listen on this full Long Night Moon

How true.

is08-full-moon

Next: Beauty and Destruction Part 2