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Beach Labyrinth in the Fog

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Yesterday I went to Hammonasset Beach to recenter myself. It is a place that I always return to when I am finding myself too far from my core self and needing realignment. I parked at the Nature Center and walked to the hidden beach carpeted with shells and sharing space with the ever present beach labyrinth. To my surprise the labyrinth had grown and was much bigger than last time I was there.

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I gathered stones at the edge of the tide rolling in. I had noticed that some artists in my online spaces had painted rocks with interesting designs and I wanted to try that. After I gathered a basket full of stones I sat on a driftwood log, listening to the gentle sound of the waves and watching the scenery enveloped in the misty fog. Everything had an ethereal quality and there was remembrance of times past spent on the beach in fog. Except there was no sound of a foghorn, the lighthouse being too far from where I was.

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When the area became empty except for me, I slowly walked the inward spiral path of the labyrinth, thinking about where I was at this moment in time and where I was going. I finally felt at peace with myself after months of turmoil that I mostly kept hidden from view. I am a very private person and find it difficult to share my inner world with anyone.

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Yesterday was the tipping point or turning point for me. While holding space with the beach labyrinth, I realized that I am going to be OK, that I can trust in myself and my own judgement, and that I need to do what is right for me. I can’t be all things to all people – I can only be myself. I need to listen to that still, small voice inside that is telling me I need quiet and solitude, I need air to breathe, and I need space around me so that I can feel my edges and see who I am.

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Contemplation and Renewal

Mercy by the Sea Labyrinth

A few weeks ago I met my two sisters for a picnic lunch at Mercy by the Sea, a retreat and conference center on the ocean in Madison, Connecticut. It is a very peaceful and tranquil place run by the Sisters of Mercy. People come here from all walks of life to seek contemplation and find renewal. We had a wonderful time walking the grounds and the labyrinth, sharing what was going on in our lives, and sitting quietly on the benches in contemplation. We went away a few hours later feeling refreshed and renewed. There was an incredible feeling of the presence of God there, or spirit or higher power or whatever you would like to call spiritual presence in the framework of your own beliefs, and we all felt it.

Even though we were just visiting the grounds as guests and not attending a retreat, I came away from the visit with profound insight. Since the new year I have been struggling with balancing my tendency to do too much with my need to stay healthy. Trying to figure out how to cut back my activities when I want to do it all, and more. Focusing on what is important and what isn’t, and much of it is not important. Learning to let go of too many things being grasped too tightly and just go with the flow.

Art journaling what I love

Last week I art journaled about the things that are important to me. I have not done much art journaling over the past 6 months as I was not motivated and got involved in several quilting projects. There are only so many hours and minutes (86,400 seconds) in the day. I am learning to accept that I cannot do everything that crosses my path and need to follow my heart’s desire and do what inspires me at the moment.

I have been sidetracked by illness the past few months and I need to accept that I need a lot of time to myself right now. I was feeling unsettled and upset with myself that I was not accomplishing much and spending too much time on the couch. I usually like to run around and do a lot of different things. But I have had three medical procedures since July 3, exactly 2 months ago today, all while working full time at a brand new job. I am new baby in the house tired 🙂 Being at the retreat center made me realize that I need to accept what is right now, move through the process with grace and ease, and slow down.

I took up crocheting in July as a way of dealing with everything that was going on and found that it was a calming, meditative, centering activity. Many of my creative practices are like that and bring renewal for me. Crocheting is also very portable. I joined ravelry.com, the Facebook for yarn people, and found inspiration and patterns that I liked. I finished this shawl last week and find it so comforting to wear. I would like to design my own crochet pieces, especially after seeing the international documentary “Yarn” on Netflix, but I need to learn more about crocheting first. One day, one thing at a time.

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Storyworth Brings Questions to Life

My son and his wife gave me a year-long subscription to Storyworth for Mother’s Day this year. Each week I receive a question as a prompt and at the end of the year my answers will be published as a book for me to keep. I have been enjoying my Storyworth writing assignments with the questions that Joe and Aurora preselected and would like to share last week’s entry here.

“What inventions have had the biggest impact on your day-to-day life?”

Without a doubt, digital technology has had a huge impact on my life, from music and video to websites and blogs. Mobile technology has had the biggest impact on my life with my android phone that keeps me connected with friends near and far, and my iPad tablet that opens up worlds for me to explore visually. There is creative inspiration everywhere and there are online communities that expand your social circles and horizons.

You can tailor your online experience to your own wants and needs. I choose to keep my online experience positive and make it an enjoyable place filled with inspiration and camaraderie. I tune out and walk away from any online drama or negativity. I seek out places that are beneficial to my growth and well-being. And I limit my time online… I dip in when I need to, usually in quick microbursts, then put that aside and get back to doing whatever it was that I was doing when I reached for my phone. I write. I create art. I make quilts. I crochet. I hang out with family and friends. I share things. I live my life.

Another great invention that has made my life better is condominium living. I moved to Edgemere Condos by Lake Pocotopaug last year and I am so happy here. I am not handy and don’t want the responsibility of taking care of a house. I live alone so it is nice to have good neighbors nearby. I can walk out the front door and not have to worry about anything. And when I am home it is my own little nest and retreat from the outside world. I have filled my home with all of my favorite things and it is an expression of who I am.

My place

Edgemere condos

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Published in Bella Grace Magazine

Bella Grace magazine

This is magic, like a dream come true! The summer issue of Stampington & Company Bella Grace magazine will be hitting the bookstores and news stands on June 1st and “My Pajama Day”, an article about taking a day for yourself, is in this issue. I am thrilled beyond words. Getting published in a magazine has been a dream of mine for years and now it has finally become real. How did this happen? The 3 P’s… patience, persistence, and perseverance.

Bella Grace - My Pajama Day

In my article I shared the story about my day for myself with readers and I shared my feelings that came up through the course of the day. This was not easy for me to do because I am a very private person living in this world where often too much is shared without much thought or self awareness. I firmly believe that you need to have some boundaries or circles of trust and thoughtfully choose who you share with and what you share. And you need to silence the noise in order to see inside of yourself rather than the reflection of others mirrored onto you like a shiny glass window.

Some of what I shared in the article was quite ordinary and some of my thoughts ran deep. The most important thing is that I shared the essence of who I am and what matters to me. I think of myself as an ordinary person living an ordinary life but I find magic in so many simple things and that makes me not so ordinary. And I share that with others… the smallest thing can make a big difference in someone else’s life. Be the first one to reach out, to take the first step, to say those 3 words “I love you.”

It is said that every cloud has a silver lining. A disappointment or failure paves the way for something better to come into your life. A broken heart can heal and open up again to someone who truly appreciates you for who you are.

Lake sunset

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Celebration of Life

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This Saturday I will be attending the celebration of life for my college friend John, who lost a long battle with cancer this January. He was a vegetarian most of his life, didn’t drink or smoke, and was never sick a day in his life until this. I miss him, his witty comebacks, and his great advice, but I know that he has passed on to another plane of existence.

John was an audio engineer and eventually had his own company designing and building audio consoles for music performance in concert halls and other venues worldwide. John loved to work and he worked almost to the end, with his laptop, iPad, and iPhone going with him for the hospital stays. Work was his whole reason for living, which some people didn’t understand. I remember one summer visiting him at the beach house in East Haven, sitting on a milk crate crocheting a shawl in the electronics lab in the beach house while he soldered little parts to electronics boards. I was fascinated!

After Allen & Heath moved out of Connecticut, John went to work for Crest Audio and he commuted from the beach house in Connecticut to New Jersey for a long while, sometimes sleeping in his chair at work, but he eventually moved to New Jersey and settled there. The beach house was hard to give up, and part of him will always be there at that beach, setting off bottle rockets on the 4th of July or entertaining nieces, nephews, or my kids. John never had children of his own but he had his own toy box stocked full with fun toys. I have several containers of sea glass from that beach as I used to visit quite often that summer when I was out of work on disability. John made that difficult time much better for me.

John was one of my closest friends, if not my closest friend. John was very private and didn’t get close to people, but I never had a problem with that. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that I can’t call him anymore and hear his voice on the phone. He would listen as I rambled on trying to make sense of things, offering insight and helping me to sort through things. His last piece of advice in December was… “Don’t wait until everything is in place. Start now and do what you can, do a little bit at a time.” I am doing just as he said. He is truly a celebration of life.

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Ordinary Times and Favorite Things

friday table

This is what my table looked like on Friday night and it made me so happy. It was the end of another long work week and time for me to do what I want to do, not be pulled this way and that by the incessant demands of others. Sometimes I just want to be left alone in my solitude and listen to the silence that brings peace and a closeness to what is real. I gathered together some ordinary and favorite things that had meaning for me…

the new issue of Bella Grace that came in the mail today… I am awed and humbled that I will be published in the next issue of this inspirational magazine… the supermarket flowers that I bought for myself last weekend… the Pelikan opaque watercolor paints, masking fluid and calligraphy pen nibs that I ordered after hearing artist Lisa Bell talk about her work at my art association meeting…

the bottle of Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 I had been saving for someone special but I decided that now is special… the surprise quilt I am making for someone who is going to be delighted when she sees it… the store bought guacamole because I was too tired to make my own fresh batch…the waning light of day filtering gently through the window.

I am floating through my weekend without a plan although I will admit to making lists of choices. I had another pajama day today which is getting to be a regular thing for me. More on that in the summer issue of Bella Grace. I made beef stew in the crock pot all day (2 cups of the wine went in there and the stew came out heavenly) while I did ordinary things like 3 loads of laundry, pay bills, change the sheets on my vintage maple 4 poster bed, worked on the surprise quilt, and finished the PDF directions for the quilting class I am teaching in a few weeks at the quilt retreat.

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A Quilt for my Sister

Jeanne quilt

I have been spending more time with my sister lately and I decided to make her a quilt. Our mom passed away last year and all of her fabric is neatly folded on shelves in her old sewing area in the basement of the family home where we grew up. I filled a huge tote bag with floral fabrics that would make a wonderful memory quilt.

When I got home from the hour and 15 minute ride, I thought about what type of quilt I should make. I wanted it to be an oversized lap quilt/ couch throw and I wanted it to be different than any I had made before. I searched Pinterest and found a lovely lattice pattern that was perfect for the delicate floral fabrics. That led me to a Missouri Star Quilt Co. tutorial here. Awesome!

The fabrics were all light in value so I decided to add some medium value fabrics to make the flowers sparkle and dance across the surface of the quilt. I made a trip to Joann fabrics and brought my 5 inch strips of mom’s fabric with me to coordinate colors.

It was a lot of rotary cutting and sewing so it took me a couple of weeks to get the top together. The top came out great and my sister loved it! I had a friend of mine quilt it on her big long arm machine. I got it back yesterday and the quilting is gorgeous. All I need to do now is sew on the binding.

I realized that I enjoy making traditional quilts just as much as I like making art quilts. Traditional quilters and art quilters are often at odds with each other and at times seem to be polar opposites. I shouldn’t have to choose between the two camps or make excuses for doing what I want to do at any given moment. I am a free spirit and will go the way the winds of change take me.

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Paint the Sky with Stars

Paint the sky with stars

I am a big Enya fan and after painting this layered and spattered evening sky art journal page and letting it sit for a few days, the song Paint the Sky with Stars came to mind and those words gave me a good way to finish the piece. I like to let things sit and think about them instead of just rushing in and finishing without letting it percolate.

A friend of mine kept asking me every time I saw her, “Did you finish that [whatever it was that I was working on the last time I saw her]?” and I finally had to explain that is not why I make things. I enjoy the creative process and I just want to have fun. I don’t care if I finish an art or quilt piece at any given moment unless it is intended for a specific recipient because that is not my raison d’être [reason or justification for existence]. I am a process person, not a product person. I love the process!

I have big news! I will be teaching 2 mixed media art workshops for teens through adults as a volunteer at Epoch Arts in East Hampton, Connecticut in March and April. The workshops are Art Journaling and Inspirational Cards and each workshop will have 2 sessions. I am very excited about this opportunity to teach at this “arts for youth” nonprofit organization in my home town. I am working on handouts which will be shared on my offerings page. Teaching art has been a dream of mine for a long while and now it is coming true!

I have been thinking about vulnerability a lot lately and why it is important. Brene Brown has done a lot of work in this area and her Ted talk on vulnerability is one of the top ten most viewed TED talks in the world. Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Her research uncovered a common thread in those who embrace vulnerability: “They talked about the willingness to say, ‘I love you’ first… the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees… the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram.” This really resonates with me right now and I wanted to share it with you.

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Follow Your Dreams

Exuberance

I walked down to the lake on Saturday afternoon wearing just a sweatshirt because we had an unusually warm sunny day for a Connecticut winter. There are a few park benches where you can sit and look at the ripples in the water and let time slowly pass by. It was so peaceful.

When you let time stand still like that you feel rejuvenated and renewed. You gain perspective on your life. Later on, when I was home, I went downstairs to my art studio and exuberance is what came out in my art journal. Giving myself space to just be let the feelings flow through me.

I had attended a volunteer meeting at Epoch Arts that morning and I am happy to say that I will be teaching two mixed media art workshops there in the next session of classes, art journaling and inspiration cards for ages 12 through adult. Teaching and sharing art has been a dream of mine for a long while. You need to follow your dreams.

Tonight I decided to relax and not do anything but daydream and listen to the rain on the skylight. My thoughts drifted like the ripples on the water at the lake and I realized I need to spend more time like this and less time rushing around in busyness and activity. The world isn’t going to stop turning if I miss a meeting. The dishes in the sink can wait until tomorrow. The To Do list will always be there and most items on the list can wait another day, or longer.

What is truly important? The people you love – your family, your true friends, that special person in your heart and life. And you are so important – that person inside of you who needs to take time for self, to relax, and to just be.

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Art Journaling – Medicine Wheel

Art journal wheel

This piece was loosely inspired by the Medicine Wheel which is used by Native American tribes for health and healing. The four quadrants of the circle represent the Four Directions: East, South, West, and North.

Different tribes have different interpretations for the Medicine Wheel. Each direction typically has a distinctive color and each direction can represent a number of different concepts, for example stages of life, seasons of the year, aspects of life, or elements of nature.

On Friday night, while drifting off between awake and asleep, I had a vision of what I wanted to create the next day. I reached for the pad and pen on my nightstand, drew a circle with a horizontal and a vertical line, and wrote the words four seasons. When I looked at the piece of paper the next day, I realized that this was a Medicine Wheel.

I went through my day thinking about this in the back of my mind. I work intuitively and don’t have any plan when I sit down to make art. Then I thought about what my special friend said to me the other night when we were talking about weekend plans. And he said… “No plan is the best plan – just go with the flow. Something good always comes up.”

When I was ready, I decided to work at the dining room table instead of in my art studio downstairs. I gathered up my new Canson CP 140lb art journal, my portable art tote, my Derwent intense blocks, and later on my bin of stamp pads. I don’t know how to explain how this piece happened, because it just did.

It’s a very simple piece and it reflects how I feel right now. It also reflects who I am as an artist. I was quite happy with this when it was finished. It marks a lot of new beginnings for me, both in my art and in my life.