Monday, September 9, 2019

. . . France . . .

Empty seat next to me on the plane to France, blessing.
Heat wave, hotel, find the TGV, packed in like sardines, sweat.
Arriving by bus to Aix, Mount St. Victoire peeks at me from the bus terminal like an old friend.
Villa in the sun.
My over-indulged American self will be without A/C in the hottest month ever recorded in France!
Hike with the dog in the woods.
Hike to get groceries.
Hike to catch the bus.
Hike into town to wander the streets I loved and knew 3 decades ago.
Hike to meet my glorious neice from Nice, two days of non-stop catching up with some good wine and food.  Bliss.
Lay in bed in a pool of sweat.
Sweat more.
Shower often, but mostly sweat.

Teaching from the Villa works! Hallelujah!

Dear 90 year old upstairs neighbor comes to chat each day. I enjoy hearing about her life immensely and she compliments my French. VICTORY!

Family I lived with 35 years ago comes to have carefully orchestrated lunch that I spend the week planning. (trips to seafood guy, trips to bakery, trips to wine shop, trips to market, trips to cheese guy.)  Lunch was exhausting, heat-searing temperatures, but conversation lively and successful.

Owners return, and I am off to the next gig!

NANTES - 105 degrees, hottest day in history. Landlord's helper takes my suitcase, buys me a fan, gets me set. I could kiss him!

Teaching is fine, cat is adorable, apartment is cozy, but HOT HOT HOT.

Wandering medieval streets filled with tourists, cafes, food, restaurants, shops, more food, cafes, some medieval buildings, a cathedral, a fortress, gardens, food!

I am in deep danger when I realize the croissant stand not 10 feet from the front door to my building sells bags of freshly baked croissants 6 for 2 euros 50.  Croissants become my main food source. I triumphantly prove that I am not allergic to Wheat, I am only allergic to American Wheat which is soaked in glysophate, a chemical outlawed in France.
I gorge on croissants.
Heavenly buttery wheaty croissants.

Several lovely visits with locals - my landlady has me for an apero and I hold my own in French for the 3 hour conversation!
Lunch with a Japanese woman married to a French man, so many things to talk about, I love hearing about her bi-cultural life. A drink with the "fixer" Hamish who has taken good care of me, outrageous life he has lived.

Riot police.
A riot.
"Where is Steve" banners plastered all over town explain the Nantoises anger at a young man knocked in to the river at a music festival where he has drown.
Tear gas.
People running and screaming.
My eyes and throat burn.
A cloth to the mouth and I run back to my apartment, which is unfortunately in the direction of the violence, since it is in the ancient, pedestrian part of old Nantes.
Safe in the apartment, too full from croissants, tired of the heat, I check prices to fly home early, via New Jersey, so I can see the new grandbaby born two weeks ago, prematurely.

YES, I score an affordable ticket through Rome.
I leave in a few days.
I frantically rearrange my teaching schedule so I won't get fired, ask a few parents to cancel classes, and start packing.

One more bag of croissants to remember my lovely time in France.
and I head home.

Empty seat next to me on the plane home to the States. Blessing.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Hello Magic Muse, I have missed you!

I took my mom to see the movie "Yesterday." (Fantastic, sweet movie, go see it) and when we got home we watched Ron Howard's documentary "Eight Days a Week" about the Beatle's touring years. (Fabulous movie.) In both movies, the stress on creativity was shown, weather famous and successful or not, our creative process can really be interrupted by life.

In my case, I am coming out of the biggest life changing event I have ever faced. I have always needed creative work, I drew and drew as a kid, in high school I took ballet and dance, guitar lessons, and painted and drew. As an art major in college, I was in creative heaven as painting became my actual academic work. Then, feeling the need to earn a living, I got a second undergrad and then a graduate degree in architecture. But while writing my architecture thesis, I actually started writing a novel on the side, I simply needed the creative outlet to stay sane! (That should have been a clue about my upcoming aborted architecture career. . . )

Through decades of jobs and kids, I always had sketchbooks and visual journals nearby. When we moved to Colorado, I plunged into painting, had some some shows, and 3 years ago published a book about whales illustrated with my collage art, which I think is the best work I've ever done. I took a job teaching English 4-8 AM on line, which gave me my days free for art.

Then, the accident. My daughter was in a life threatening car accident. In the hospital for 7 weeks, then the long process of healing from a traumatic brain injury. BOOM, our lives were different. I had to keep the teaching job (medical bills!!!) But something happened to my creativity. It took some time off. My psyche was busy reevaluating everything in life. They always talk about near death experiences rewriting our lives, this one did for me. I just couldn't or wouldn't or didn't, I don't know which, paint or draw or do any creative work. Even my visual journal lay dormant.

Then thinking about these two movies we watched, although not at all about how tragedy interrupts creativity, had a glimpse of where I finally am now in my creative life. Both showed that life events can block us. I am happy to say I am taking a 6 weeks reboot to kickstart my creativity. My daughter is fine, and after 20 months I am able to step back and let her live her life independently again.

In a week I am leaving for 2 dog and cat sitting jobs in FRANCE! Two weeks in the South in Aix and four weeks in Brittany in Nantes. I still will be teaching online there (gotta pay those bills) but it is a chance to reconnect with drawing and painting (or whatever flows.) That little fat cardinal watercolor up there happened last week, I finally picked up my paints, and out he came. Then a friend (love you, Shell) told me she had been seeing cardinals lately and she loved it. Yes, that is the spark I needed to light the fire. That is how art makes connections and gives us meaning. The little cardinal showed me again the joy of creating something that speaks to others we love.

So France, here I come! I will be inviting the creative muse back into my life. The Universe, it turns out, does give us what we need. Trauma can move us forward, although certainly not fun or anything we seek out. I am so filled with gratitude for the outpouring of love, the evidence of the power of prayer and shamanism through the last year and a half, and I understand now that fallow times only make the fields more fertile.

France, HERE I COME!

Monday, December 31, 2018

. . . listen . . .

What if for once you just listened to yourself?
What if you trusted whatever urges you were having as valid, true, and worthy?
What if you slept when you were tired, ate when you were hungry, sat by the fire and read a book all day when you needed that retreat?

What if you traveled when you were restless, and stayed put when you needed to nest?

What if you knew that your body told you the truth, and if you listened?

I am going to listen to my innermost longings and urges this year.
2019 is a good year to regroup.

I am going to clean out.
Open up.
Pay attention.
Listen to my own inner longings.

I am going to work in my journal when I need to.
and not feel guilty when I don't.

I am going to plan adventures, and enjoy the planning even if the execution does not happen.

I am going to apply for amazing house sitting jobs around the world, and not feel sad when they don't happen, because I TRUST the Universe to take me where I need to go.

I am going to look for magic, and expect to find it.

I am going to try new things.
and not make myself crazy feeling obligated to do every thing the world wants me to do.

I am going to care for my family, and urge them to learn to care for themselves.

I am going to enjoy walks.
I am going to enjoy food.
I am going to enjoy sleep.
I am going to enjoy space in my life to just sit and look at the fire.

I am going to Mexico to see whales.

Welcome, 2019!

Thursday, September 27, 2018


Visual journaling gives you a chance to do other than just look at things.

It gives you a chance to make your own things, and that is so important. I can spend hours browsing the internet, maybe being injected with some inspiration, but this time is spent not creating my own work.

I challenge you to limit your looking and maximize your making.

I know I need to challenge my own self!

This last year we have dealt with a near fatal car accident and the resulting TBI of my youngest daughter. I am beyond grateful to report she is healing very well and has started back at college this semester. I can report two major and personal results:

1. An eternal and hopefully ever-lasting knowledge that life is short and precious and precarious. And that I want to live the most authentic life I can. I promised her and myself if she made it we would create the lives of our dreams, and we are working on that.

2. That it is too easy to let your time slip away, after work and taking care of the minutia of life, slipping into mindless tv watching or web surfing seems like a reasonable way to burn through time. But it is not. I will tell you honestly that I have not worked on my journal or on my art during these last ten months. I've been managing hospitals, doctor visits, and a million dollars of medical bills. (insurance payed most, thank God.)  I have been gardening and knitting to relax, which I do recommend. I have been thinking about my art and my life and what I really want to do and say. I also am giving myself plenty of room and time to think and just be.

I highly recommend just being.

and visual journaling can really focus insight on that. So I hope you can just be. and think about all that you are and all that you can do and create.

In fact, I think that just being is a better use of our time than consuming.

"Mistakes are the portal to creativity."  --James Joyce.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Fallow fields

Hey Journaling friends.
I finally, after almost two years, picked up my journal and went to a coffee shop with my bag of pens, watercolors, and supplies.

I met two friends and we played in our journals. The friendly barista kept coming by to see our art and ask if we needed anything. People love to see creativity! Too much of our lives are spent consuming, not enough creating.

That was some dry spell, and I am happy that I am on the other side now and I am ready to work again in my journal.

I honor the cycles of life the ebb and flow of creativity. I have been teaching on line, and this has subsumed my creative energy for some time now. I have just not felt like working in visual journaling. and that's been okay.

But now, I am ready to open a blank page and again see what happens.


Monday, April 30, 2018

Refreshing your Spirit

My new journal cover.
I am working now in the Traveler's Journal format, a leather cover which can be filled with a variety of inserts - I have a visual journal, a calendar, and a dream journal. I can replace sections if I travel, and I usually make a new notebook with contact info, addresses and info about hotels or flights or things to do. It is just the right size to bring along, not too big, not too small. The pages take media well, watercolor and pencil don't bleed through too much.

I have had a family-intensive year, so not much fun travel planned. But I know I need an adventure to keep my spirit alive and happy. and even just the planning of the adventure really helps me.

Maybe a spa in Slovenia?
Maybe another week in NYC, just wandering around, looking at windows, trying interesting food?

Maybe just a long day at the Denver Botanical Garden to remind me how much Nature heals.

How do you refresh your spirit?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Family stuff

Hello 2018, I am so very glad to be saying goodbye to 2017.

This blog entry will be about personal, family news, so if you are here to learn about Art Journaling, skip on down to previous entries.

2017 started off with the painful election, ouch. But that February, we had a wonderful trip-of-a-lifetime planned to visit my youngest daughter, Kelsey, who was traveling in Southeast Asia. We met in Bali and had a memorable three week trip, for me, experiencing that continent for the first time. Ecolodge, beach, meditation ashram, coffee and chocolate plantation, we saw so much, Bali was simply marvelous.

But the end of 2017 brought us to the most excruciating occurrence of our lives - Kelsey was in a near fatal car accident. The car she was driving had a mechanical error on a deserted Colorado highway, she was going camping with friends. All three were ejected from the car.

Her injuries were very significant and life threatening.

Our community jumped right in - my Vipkid teachers group on Facebook sent me literally a thousand messages and responses that they were praying for her. Many family members asked their churches to pray. So many of my shamanic friends did serious, continuing work for her. I am beyond grateful to say she is fine. Two weeks in neuro-intensive care, three weeks after that on a regular hospital floor, and another two weeks in rehab, and she is home, walking, talking, and regaining her independence.

Lessons I learned:
*our loved ones are everything, and never lose the chance to hug them and tell them that.
*all the money troubles in the world don't compare to having your family safe.
*prayer works, shamanism works, sending healing energy works. Kelsey's doctors are a little dumbfounded at her complete recovery and her exceptional rate of healing. It is quite stunning, and I will be forever grateful for the human intercession she received, and the spiritual support I received in this, really the most difficult time of my life.
*self care is crucial for marathons of caretaking like this, I was going to the hospital every day for 7 weeks. I learned I need to sleep, eat right, and do some yoga periodically, or I turn into a non-functional human being. (Who knew, right?)
*our dog, Simba, really, really loves Kelsey. He was so terribly depressed when she was gone, and he sleeps with her every night now.
*ICU nurses are heroes. Simply heroes.
*so are the Flight for Life helicopter medics, who saved her life, then kept her alive.
*There is a lot of exceptionally compassionate people in this world - state troopers, insurance agents, my employers at Vipkid in China, all the various people from banks to hospital personnel who always were so understanding to my own extreme emotional state. (Strangers have hugged me quite a few times the last two months.) Someone in a pastry shop charged me half price without me even knowing. Strangers from work sent long messages detailing their own experience with Traumatic Brain Injury and answered my terrified questions. Bank tellers stopped to hear my story and comfort me. (crying spontaneously in public will do that. . . .)

People are good.
Hug the ones you love, life is not permanent.

Welcome 2018, good things in store!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sharing here because . . . .

From my buddy, Frida:

"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you.”
- Frida Kahlo

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Atlantic Ocean!

We got evacuated last week from Hatteras, NC, but we are back.
and it's beautiful.

I haven't had time to work in my journal in a long time, so this week is my chance to reconnect with creativity.

How about you?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Great Pacific Octopus

So I went to the Monterrey Aquarium a few weeks ago, and now I am finally finding the time to do some painting in my journal of this one awesome guy I was able to watch for some time. In his tank, he transformed from day-glow pink to rock grey in a few seconds. Octopuses show their emotions with their colors, and one theory about their use of ink is that it actually provides some privacy for hiding important emotions.

They are one of my favorite animals on the planet.

I tagged this image on my Instagram account, then eagerly clicked on that tag to see all the other cool octopuses. . .

Sad tears because all of the other posts tagged #octopus were images of dinner plates, grills, and bites of octopus going into mouths.

Oh, Instagram. Spoiler of dreams.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The value of art and artists.

The value of art - I don't think anyone disputes it's value.
How about the value of an artist?
How do we support artists? How do we "invest" in them? How do we let them know their effort is valued and enjoyed. How do we express our thanks? with money? with reviews? hanging their work on our walls and on our computer screens? sharing on Facebook?

Most of you know me as an artist - probably as a mixed media collage artist who has the occasional gallery show, and has written a few children's books. This is because our social media selves came into being while that was what I was doing with my life. How many of you know that I was an architect first? One of my best friends here in Colorado, I recently found out, did not know that about me. I have publicly been sharing my work for a few decades, and have identified as an artist for a few decades, but now I am in a new chapter.

I am now a teacher.

Yes, I am taking a hiatus from art. Right now I am teaching Chinese kids ESL on line, and I love it. I love it because it is fun, but more importantly, I love it because I am appreciated and payed. The kids thank me, the parents thank me, the company I work for thanks me (and pays me) and I am pretty sure that my family thanks me for the financial contribution I am finally able to make. Being appreciated in life is not only nice, it is essential. At least, for me.

A few days ago I was offered an illustration job; 20 - 24 color illustrations, the pay? $65.00
For all. For 20+ pieces of art. . . . I had spent about a day, reviewing their story, coming up with a concept, painting some tabby cats, scanning and creating a template for the work, making a mock cover. (I like the work and am proud of it I will post it here.) The art director loved it. I told her my rate was $100 an illustration, she said she would see what she could do. Their offer $65 for all 20 illustrations.

What is it in this world has made us think that art should be virtually free?

Because, in part, it is.

We can open a subject page in pinterest or google images, and see a billion free images. We can copy and paste them, make them a screen saver, print out a version to hang on our wall. Art is everywhere and it is mostly free.

and how about music? Click on youtube, search almost any artist and/or song, and there is a version for you to listen to. I actually get my music at the library by copying their cds. (totally legal if not for commercial use) and listening to them on my computer. At least the library did pay the artist for the work.

I heard of a very influential musician from the 60's that headed a whole new era of music, Nick Drake, , you can listen to one of his songs there. With a few clicks, here was his whole catalog to listen to. In his life, there was no internet, so he did not catch on, and he died an early tragic death from deep depression. If he had been more appreciated, would he have been as big as Bob Dylan?  He slipped under the cracks, as most great artists do. We only hear of the ones who got very lucky and had a public success. They become legends. and wealthy. and deeply appreciated.

So back to my idea of how we don't appreciate artists.

I don't know what the answer is. I don't want to think of what this world would be with no art.
No great music.
No beauty of the earth captured in photos, film, paintings.
No beautiful voices singing, soaring music to inspire us, drum beats to dance to.

I do know that we live in a time of tremendous access, a time that almost any art and music we hear of can be found and listened to or looked at within a few seconds. That is the most tremendous gift we have.

and I am very thankful for it.

But please, world, please value our artists.
Pay people who dedicate their lives to making art.
Pay for your music.
Pay for the art on your walls.
Pay for the films you enjoy.
Let our government know that organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts are the core of our civilization and it's expression. Have a voice that supports art and artists.

I am happy taking this hiatus, I am enjoying the very positive feedback and the helpful paycheck. I will continue to make art for myself, how could I not? and I do think one day, I might reenter the marketplace. In the meantime, I can work for joy and self expression, and earn my money another way.

and I can also publicly appreciate all the musicians and artists, and I can that share their brave work with the world.

Listen to some Nick Drake.
He deserves our appreciation.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Goodies in the mail!

I love when fun things come in the mail -- this is a coloring book journal that I just received from Kiev, Ukraine!

(An aside: The envelope got my attention, because my Grandmother emigrated from this part of the world way back in 1911, when she was 13 years old. And she kept a diary. Which I still have. But I digress.)

I love the idea of some of the pages having ready-to-color pages, in a detailed zentangle format. About one third of the pages have coloring pages, and the rest are blank.  If you want some inspiration, as well as some mindless coloring material right there already in your journal, this is the book for you. The pages have a wonderful variety of topics: mandalas, feathers, birds, owls, fish, boats, water, so many cute things to color!

I see that it comes with blank pages, dot grid or ruled. So whatever you fancy for the journaling pages, you're covered.

Now I have to get coloring. . . .

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Is it mid-February already???


My last post is from December 2016, the longest I think I've ever gone without posting here, in the eight years I've been blogging.

My reason: I started a new job, and I planned and executed my first ever trip to South East Asia. In short, I did a deep re-boot of my life, and I am here to say YES, yes to a reboot, to examining every aspect of life and changing what needs to be changed, deepening what needs to be deepened, and discarding what needs to be discarded.

My new job is teaching ESL on line to Chinese children, and I love it. Each morning I get up around 3 a.m. and prep, then go on line and open a screen which allows me to chat and teach one-on-one to Chinese children. We laugh and joke around, I review a power point of various words, pictures, and ideas, and they learn to speak English. My job requires lots of smiling and tons of encouragement, and I find that the very positive energy I need to exude for my teaching bleeds into my whole day, and I am happier. The truth is when you make yourself smile, the body learns from that particular muscle action, and then you smile more spontaneously, and become happier. Starting each day like this is almost a prayer and a spiritual practice now. I envision each of my students in a vibration of love, then I teach. It is a profoundly pleasing way to start the day.

My reboot voyage was to Bali. Bali is a deeply spiritual place, I stayed at 5 different locations: at an Ashram, at the rocky coast, at an ecovillage, at Ubud, a town where wood carving and silver making are the most important part of the tourist economy, and at a luxury beach resort. The ecovillage was the most inspiring, the luxury hotel, the least. The ecovillage (called Lumbung Cottages) was deep in the mountains, and walking around the grounds you felt you were living in a botanical garden. Altars and stone figures down hidden pathways, dancing waterfalls and streams, rice paddies and palm trees cultivated in rows to feed the visitors fresh, organic food, sleeping in Balinese intricate wood carved houses, the whole experience was so magical. Living amongst the food you will eat just feels like a very important way for your body to be connected to the land. I am inspired to make my garden create more of the food we eat.

"Let the beauty we love be what we do" as Rumi says, has a deeper meaning for me now. The order of my life has shifted, both with the need to be up so early each day to teach, as well as to focus on my garden and the food and herbs I am growing. I had struggled for years to make my art earn money, and now I feel relieved of that burden. I can now make art and grow food for joy alone. I don't have to struggle with the effort to force my creative work to earn money, and this feels like a huge gift and release for me. I teach, earn the money, then create in my garden and in my studio letting the work be whatever it wants to be, which is such a better balance for me than the stress of always worrying how my art or herbs could earn me a living.

I am happy to move into the future, and to share some of what happens here.

and here are a few images of Bali:

At Mundung Cottages ecovillage, surprise statues, beautiful plantings, and natural materials were down each mystical path.

At the Gandhi Ashram in Candidasa, these blue door greeted you into the compound. 

The view from our balcony at Mundung Cottages.

Balinese celebrate and honor Nature each day, this young woman was taking offerings to a small stone temple just below our house by the sea. 

An example of beautiful Balinese wood carving.

Our cottage at the Ashram in Candidasa.

Giving thanks for the beautiful experience of living in the ecovillage for a few days.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

from the archives

Another year nearing the end.

I found these photos of some pages from a stack of journals in the folded book format I used for a few years. Fun to look back, and if you are a journal keeper, you have a pile, a stack, even a bookshelf full of memories to revisit.

Another advantage to this practice!

"Whether you're keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it's the same thing. What's important is you're having a relationship with your mind"
--Natalie Goldberg

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not thinking too much, just doing:

Okay, a little thinking:

Why do we journal?

Why are there diarists whose words get shared and passed on and repeated and quoted? (Anais Nin, I'm looking at you!) Because when we are brave enough to express our own inner truth, when we are brave enough to value our own experience in our own voice, when we are brave enough to know that it is a valid way to spend our work life, our leisure life, our creative life to simply express ourselves, we give a gift to everyone who happens across our work.

Sharing ourselves is not narcissistic or entitled. Sharing ourselves is a gift. We are all made of the same stardust, so why not realize that whatever our own unique voice has to say is going to connect somewhere, somehow, deeply to another bit of stardust? That maybe our little expression might compel that other bit of stardust to be brave enough to have a voice of their very own.

If you need a creative outlet, then you should have that outlet. If you need to write or collage or doodle or ink or draw or paint, if you need to sew or sculpt or express -- then it is your gift to the world to share this. You don't have to wait until it is refined or perfect or finished. It's the act of sharing that is the inspiration.

SO, friends, go out there and express yourself! I happen to do it in Midori journals with words and collage and stamps and ink.
What is your way?
What is your voice trying to say?


Sunday, December 4, 2016

be a joy junkie

Being an artist is to be of service.
Being an artist is to notice.
Being an artist is to find your own authentic truth, and work to share that.

Because if you really notice, you will fall in love.
The standing people (trees), the rooted people (plants), the two leggeds (us), the four leggeds (lots of other animals), all of these beings, if you just notice them, you will love them.

and to start with loving yourself is a pretty awesome way to begin.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Relax the mind with some journaling

Yesterday I was getting ready for an interview.

So naturally I got out my journal and procrastinated!

But what a fun way to procrastinate. I started with the little watercolor painting (on the right) of flowers. Then I scanned it, and made a repeat pattern. Then printed it out, and added some washi tape, a few words, large and small, a date stamp.

My mind felt at ease and I felt good about the beauty I had created. So this is another very helpful way to get ready for an interview.

Journaling as therapy -- hooray!
and if you want to know how to make a repeat pattern in photoshop, here are the steps:

1. create an image.
2. go to filter, other, offset. Set the pixels to 1/2 size of the original image.
3. fill in the center with more of the pattern.
4. go to edit - define pattern
5. open a new image (make it pretty big so you can see lots of the pattern.)
6. edit - fill with the pattern you made.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Check in

How has it been a whole month?

I have too much going on, a book in the works, an on-line job I am busily applying for, stacks of books to read, cards to make, ornaments to construct and hang on our mantle, blah blah blah.

and Winter has set in here, cold wind, some snow, the need for hot drinks and warm sweaters which leaves me wanting to hole up in bed with a book.

So, all that is just to explain why no entries these last 4 weeks.

I miss working in my journal, and will aspire to get back to my hard-earned habit of spending time cutting and pasting and collaging and inking and writing random thoughts as they occur in my little booklets.