I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
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Friday, August 28, 2015

"Work"

Bro4 was out of work several years ago and slowly taking on every attribute of the couch.  The remote control melted into his hand, and his depression was a black fog staining the walls and shortening the life span of anyone who breathed it very long.

"Get a job!"
"Nobody's hiring."

That conversation went around in circles.  I snapped "There's more than one reason to have a job!"  It's grounding, gives you a reason to brush your teeth and get dressed.  It's a place to go every day and be social with others.  You can do something useful and feel accomplishment...

To be honest, I don't really remember which gems of wisdom I spit out in frustration, but I can be really eloquent when I lose it.  Wish I could remember all of it and could be that eloquent without the emotions.  Also wish I'd follow my own advice when I've melted in the couch.  I know about the importance of work because I've been laid off too.

This morning one of my ladies listed why I like my job.  I love my ladies, close to home, use my writing and design skills, use my mind.  Thanks for the reminder and a voice of sanity!  (Especially important since we're still in the process of office moving.)

Anyway, Bro took the lesson to heart and got himself a job.  He was better for it because in the end he agreed with me; he likes to work and likes accomplishing things.

I've thought about this conversation through the years because I've been laid off a time or two since then.  It's hard to think about the other rewards of employment when you can't pay the bills, but once you have a job it's easy to get mired in the situation and forget about those other things that make work important.

It doesn't have to be a job with a paycheck, but we need to do something to feel fulfilled.  One of my volunteers asked for a raise a while ago.  "Sure!  We love you and will give you anything you want.  50% raise for you!"  Which of course made everyone laugh because 50% of 0 is still 0, but we do love and appreciate her.  That's the important thing.

I currently work around a lot of older people.  Many can't get around very well, but they're involved and contribute.  They do what they want and what they can.  It makes me very aware how long people actually live and how important their contributions can be.  I really want to keep this in mind when I'm their age.

I'll always work in some way, but I hope at some point my "work" is stuff I choose like painting my floor, saving trees, baking pies for orphans, or something.  No matter what your abilities, there's always work worth doing -- and you will be better off for doing it.

This spider posed in the bathroom for a couple of days.  I was concerned Bro2 would evict it, but he asked "Why would I get rid of it?"  Clearly, we're from the same pod.  I wonder if anyone will try to kill the painted version when they come to visit, or if other spiders will run away or try to mate with it.  I'll admit I got creeped out after printing full-page reference of it, but generally, I get along with them as long as they eat the bugs I don't like.  Besides, my spider is only 1 1/2" long instead of filling a full piece of paper.  My camera doesn't like taking pictures of my floor, especially details.  Sorry things are a little blurry.

Completely unrelated, but connected to last week's word "people", I went to a slip and slide kickball party last weekend.  It was hosted by my nephew and his wife at the house where I grew up and where Bro3 currently lives.  No, I'm not stupid enough to actually play, but I had fun watching.

Big ball for the game because this certainly wasn't about athletic skill

Hostess makes first base!
Cheerleaders
Host makes second base!
Great nephew and his girlfriends, playing games of their own choosing

And then there's this last photo of my great niece in the apple tree where I spent quite a bit of my childhood escaping things.  The party was a bit rowdy for her and she went up the tree, just like I would've done.  Stretching out on a branch I used to stretch out on.  She's an absolutely adorable child, beautiful in both appearance and personality.  The sun came through the trees just right and all she needs is to unfurl her fairy wings.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

"People"

Last week I gave a link for a paper describing "super feelers" and was struck by the part about rescuing others and denying my own needs.  A cascade of self-harming decisions flowed through my mind, and I thought about how ungrateful a lot of the recipients were when I fell on the sword for them.  Obviously, not one of my better life strategies.

This has been a very current concern for me this week because my office is downsizing space and I had to move my office into a large, busy room (with 30 yrs of hoarding).  Adding to my concerns, this room was the domain of a very nice woman who has been getting her hours cut.  I really, really didn't want to add to her unhappiness and I have been sleepless with worries about how to make the space work for everybody.  I sternly kept telling myself not to sacrifice myself in office design, but so dreaded the disappointment  or tears when my coworker found herself shoved in a dark corner.

The construction leader yelled at me to vacate the other office immediately or he'd put all my stuff in storage, despite the fact that there wasn't room to turn around in the other room.  It was jammed as we tried to take things out of it to make space for me.  That super feeler paper clearly says I don't respond well to raised voices.  Then I wrenched my shoulder.  Yeah, this week sucked.

But, I managed to situate both myself and my coworker by the windows, and she's thrilled with the new arrangement.  I'm not happy to lose my privacy, but I feel like it's the best I can do.  Our desks face each other, and she chattered happily while drills and saws echoed through the wall in my previous sanctuary.

...Carefully arrange bird skull, feathers, and nest on my shelf...

For my facebook friends who saw that one of the priests gave me blanket absolution for swearing, well, can you see why?  Someone told the construction leader to lay off.  His workers gave me a hand with some things behind his back.  A coworker helped figure out how to make the space work.  Someone gave me a shot of bourbon.  I don't approve of drinking at work, but I felt gratitude and the warmth of kindness spread through my bloodstream.  Another coworker loaned me a book by David Sedaris which actually made me laugh out loud while cuddling my puppy in our cocoon at home.

It's a moment in time, but it shows people in their true form.  There was no need for yelling and adding to the stress of things.  One person behaved badly, but all the other people either stayed out of the way or helped.  Sometimes it's hard to remember percentages, but small acts of kindness go a long way. When multiple people do them they add up to a larger quantity of kindness.

We can choose whether our experiences are positive or negative based on which people we focus on.  When we choose our side, it effects everyone else.  We either gripe and complain, or we smile and pat an arm in sympathy.  We all have the power to effect someone else's life.  Choose to make their lives better.

Just to show you a better sense of scale
Still on corner 3 of my floor project.  This is not a snake in the grass, because clearly, there's no grass.  This is a garter snake, and they won't bite unless you abuse them and stick your finger in their mouths.  (Which I know from personal experience.)  I think I must've done a good job on this corner so far because a mosquito got in the house last night and it was disturbed by the snake and tried to hide under a leaf :)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"Heart"

Sean didn't understand the rules for tag very well.  We were about 3 and he was "It" when he chased and tackled me, hugging me tight and kissing me on the mouth.  I was in love.  His game was WAY better than playing with my sisters.  For some reason my parents didn't approve, and I wasn't allowed to play with Sean anymore.  I was heartbroken.

A sociologist beau told me about "super feelers", people who feel things more acutely than others.  Shoot, just what I wanted, to be my beau's test study -- which didn't soften the blow at all when he later rejected me for what he admitted were "superficial" reasons.

I am who I am, and I don't feel apologetic about it even though there are plenty of people who like to say us sensitives ought to toughen up.  I don't regret having a tender heart except when I'm crying a river over losing someone I love.  At least I can love, and you know Dumbledore said love is the highest form of magic.

I've been trying to decipher what parts of myself and my beliefs are self-created, and which parts have been put into me from others.  Happy memories of a playful, loving boy makes my heart feel more open and healthy.  Loving that boy was true to my heart.

When I was in college, I fought with myself to create art that I thought would earn good grades.  I wasn't doing the art that came naturally and easy to me.  I was following someone else's vision instead of doing what makes me different than everyone else, and I was often stressed and unhappy.

Perhaps one of my best lessons came from a bad teacher.  He favored modernistic simplicity.  My highly rendered work got Bs and Cs while what I considered lazy art got As.  I fought the good fight for a while, but eventually caved and made lazy art too.  I got an A.  Fine.  I learned better things from better teachers and quit stressing about the stupid drawing class.  In fact, since I no longer cared about that class I had more time for homework in classes I respected more.

Making lazy art let me do what came easiest to me.  In a way, this lousy teacher was inspiring me to be truer to my own nature.  I started taking more shortcuts in other classes.  My grades remained good and I ended up with enough free time to get my first job in advertising.  I had everything I wanted: time, money, self-expression.

I am sensitive.  For some people, too sensitive.  Okay.  I'd rather be empathic, and I can't change my nature anyway.  I'll use my sensitivity as I see fit and express it in my art -- and while I'm making that art, I'll discover other aspects of myself that are true to me instead of what I've been told to be.

When we're true to ourselves, our hearts are happy.  We leave positive footprints in our world and in the hearts of others.  This is why we're here.  It's why people are different from each other.  In the words of Dr. Seuss...

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Saturday, August 8, 2015

"Pointy"

I've come to realize that painting my floor is going to take 4 lifetimes.  I'm pretty sure nobody wants to examine each leaf as lovingly as I am, so maybe I can combine them with IF words in ways that don't pull me away from my latest obsession project.

I wanted a lengthy project so I could think.  I think a lot better when I'm painting.  I have happy thoughts and unhappy thoughts.  Seeing how it is all connected helps me move forward.

I used to play chess with Dad.  I'd move a piece and he'd sit back and study.  I wished he would just move along so I could go, but he was the type to think on things.  He read a chess book and the weekly chess column in the newspaper.  Sigh.  I'd put some Legos together until it was my turn again.  It wasn't like I expected to win because Dad didn't play down his abilities for my child status.

One day I did win.  I was completely surprised by this unexpected turn of events, and Dad was clearly surprised too.  We played again and I was thoroughly trounced, but I now understood that Dad was fallible.  The possibility of winning existed.  I don't think he wanted me to know that.  I eventually won often enough that I could see Dad's internal conflict between losing to a child and pride in his daughter.  We usually solved this by fishing.

Many years later, my brother and I played chess.  I didn't think about my preconceived ideas, but rammed straight into them when Bro crushed me.  Whoa, wait a minute!  I'm supposed to win.  I'm the elder by 9 years and I win games.  My ego was bruised, and I felt ashamed of myself for it.  A little humility can be a good thing?

Bro is like Dad and actually thinks out his moves in a painfully rational way.  Bro says he played chess a lot when he was trapped on a Navy ship.  Perhaps my slap-dash method is flawed?  I decided that Bro as 5th child needed something to excel at, so I choose to let him have this, especially since getting better at chess would require effort on my part and I don't intend on allowing myself to get trapped on a Navy ship.

Almost done with second corner
See, painting leaves on the floor is like Dumbledore's pensieve.  I pull off excess surface thoughts so other thoughts can bubble to the top for me to consider.  For instance, yesterday an Indian man told me about women's current status in India, which seems a lot like how it was when I was a child in the US.  He is concerned about his daughter's future and I see the connection of playing chess with Dad.

Chess with Dad was a lifetime ago.  It seems like such ancient history that I wonder about bothering to think about it at all, but it allows me to see how I think, what motivates me, how I can use that knowledge to improve my present.  The project isn't the floor, it's me.

Tired of being blamed
BTW, my dog smells much sweeter, but I still catch traces of skunk in my house despite washing everything twice and the dog many more times than that.  Wikipedia's map shows skunks are an American thing, so you folks in other parts of the world just don't know the horrors these cute little critters can inflict!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Grow"

My horoscope today says not to be so hard on myself.  It also said something about cleaning house, but you know, we can't take these things too literally.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about negative messages playing in our minds and how we need to exorcise those thoughts.  I quit reading that book in the middle and have been rereading Harry Potters instead because HP is pleasant and soothing instead of that other horrible book that makes me think of dark things crawling through my brain.

I keep thinking about that unfinished book though.  I want to earn my emotional fitness merit badge, and complain to myself that I've paid my dues and done my time and truly want to quit giving effort to all this.  The finish line seems mythical, and graduating to the next grade is a punishment because achieving some mental health only qualifies to the next, harder level of study.

The happy stories I've shared on this blog are true, but I'm hard on myself because I was raised with unrealistic expectations and severe punishments.  I'm not allowed to be "good enough" even though most of the world thrives in subperfection.  I need to get out from under decades old, irrational demands.  I know this, understand it, feel it, and still can't seem to stop those voices from playing in my head.  I get frustrated at my limitations and very angry that I have to deal with this stuff.  Just give me the damned merit badge for trying.

On the internet, everyone posts their best photo with only the most flattering information about themselves.  That's sensible.  I do that too.  My resume doesn't mention jobs I didn't get or conflicts I couldn't resolve -- but it's all so unrealistic and sets ideals that can't be met.  People feel like they don't measure up and never will, and that spawns a whole lot more dishonest self-promotion, socially and professionally.  It's no wonder 1/4 of the US is on anti-depressants.

We don't know what anyone else has to deal with.  A long time ago, a woman told me about getting smacked with a paddle ball paddle.  I laughed.  Recently, another woman told me she got hit with one of those paddles and I didn't laugh.  See, I grow.  It doesn't matter that I know what it feels like to get hit with worse things.  It isn't a competition.  I hope these women deal with their ongoing issues with balsa paddles.

As long as we only show our positives, we can't resolve our issues or help each other set realistic expectations.  In the last several months, 3 suicides have touched my life.  Gunmen shot up crowds.  People went into irrevocable debt to buy things to impress the Joneses.  Stop it, stop it, stop it!

Let's stop trying to impress each other so much and find ways to help each other.  Each of us has the ability to work on our own problems, share what we learn, and give someone else a hand.  It all starts with honesty, with ourselves and with the people around us.

As it turns out, I do have to do housekeeping today since my dog got skunked and she rubbed stink all over the place before I pinned her down and gave her a bath.  Maybe my horoscope is right today?  I'll try to be less hard on myself, and I hope you are too.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"Nature"

Get your kids muddy and let them discover lady bugs.  "Nature" is meant to be experienced and loved, not simply watched on cable tv.  This is clearly obvious to me, but just as obviously isn't being lived by enough people.

When I was little, I lived outside most of the day.  Watching morning sunlight sparkle the dew on opening flowers was magical.  I listened to the rustling ripples of the river sliding into the day amid the first bird calls.  I smelled the damp earth and the green of grass.  I felt the soft fuzz of a bumblebee walking on my leg.

We've separated ourselves from what matters.  Children are programmed from dawn to dusk, and adults scuttle about their business in climate controlled homes, cars, and offices without time to touch flowers and stop to listen to the crickets and frogs.

We make other experiences, which in our human vanity we think are more stupendous than anything "natural".  Louis XIV wanted square trees at Versailles to show man had conquered nature -- which is another way of saying that man had conquered God.  If you're rich enough, you don't have to be exposed to nature.  Nature is available to everyone, so it can't be special enough if you can afford to get out of it.

We're animals.  We live, we die, and no amount of insulation is going to prevent it.  We even embalm our dead to stave off that reality instead of letting our bodies fertilize trees.  If you spend time outside you can experience the logic and peace of it all.

All this rushing around that we do, does any of it matter?  In a 100 years, will anyone care if you won a video game, typed a great report, gave a presentation, or painted something cute?  For a very few of us, the answer might be yes.  For the rest of us, no.

Human vanity causes mountains to be pulverized for profit even though we all know "you can't take it with you".  I know a guy who won't open his windows on a nice day because a bug might find a way inside.  "You have screens on the windows to prevent that!"  Doesn't matter.  He won't run the risk of nature touching him in any form.  I have to wonder if any of our current mass shooters spent enough time outdoors.

I came home from work the other day pissed off.  My brother said, "Maybe you need a walk in the woods?"  Yeah, probably -- but I'm pissed and walking in the woods will make me feel better.  I'm angry.  I want blood!  We took a walk.  I raged for about 1/10 of a mile and got distracted by cattails, chipmunks, cute dog, cute guy, birds over a pond...

I came home and painted my floor at an average rate of 4 leaves/hr plus a leg cramp.  Since there are hundreds of leaves, this project will take 4 lifetimes, but maybe at the end there will be something that survives me in 100 years.  Maybe I'll achieve a higher peace in the meantime?  But one thing I know for sure is that in 100 years I'd rather be fertilizer for a tree that holds a bird nest than to be remembered for pulverizing a mountain.

Go outside.  It helps set your priorities straight and makes you live better and longer.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"Treasure"

A book I've been reading says to journal our worst experiences to bring to light faulty messages we’ve absorbed that are so ingrained in our thoughts we don’t even notice they’re in the muzak of our minds.  We’ve all got these kinds of crap thoughts.  How often do we actually look at them, or consider who put them in our heads in the first place?  Why do we allow them to poison our lives?

I have been called a lot of names in my life.  I was told the bad in my life was because I "deserved it".  I certainly won't say I'm perfect, but a lot of this is just blatantly untrue and unhelpful, and mining memories can either feel like I'm suffocating in an avalanche of negativity or mining treasure, or perhaps a bit of both.  There is gold in finding a better way to think and feel, but sometimes you've got to go into a very dark cave to get it.

But, when we look at the source, and question the statements, we can get rid of the running diatribe of verbal abuse someone else started and we continue in our minds.

If I am any of the nasty things I've been called, then let me challenge myself to improve those areas -- but that's not why someone said those things in the first place.  They are/were bullies who want(ed) to make themselves feel better by knocking me down.  I'd rather take self-improvement tips from someone who sets a better example.  Since the only person I control is me, then I need to set a better example for myself.

Somewhere I heard the advice to talk to myself as if I were a child I loved and wanted to guide in helpful ways.  For instance, I wouldn't call a child selfish.  It's a normal phase of development, a time when I'd encourage the child to understand the good in sharing.  Hoarding a game of checkers is less fun than playing it with someone.  Pushing the swing is sometimes as fun as sitting on it.

Doing these kinds of mental exercises makes me aware of things I like about myself no matter how much other people have tried to contain me.  That's the real treasure.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

(Sorry for venturing into a biblical quote.  I really get enough of that at work, but it's on point and explains Dumbledore’s sister’s grave, something I’ve wondered about.)

Let's share our treasures this week.  Make the world a better place by saying nice things to others and especially to ourselves!

SLOW progress report on the floor, made slower my tendency to use a tiny #2 brush.  It doesn't help that I'm still a bit sore from falling off the deck and the realization that as I age the floor keeps getting harder and farther away.  I remind myself that the point of this insanity is that I wanted a long-term project for contemplation.

I told Bro I was going to paint money amongst the leaves for "treasure".  He said not to do that because he'd keep trying to pick it up.  When my friend John heard that he said I should definitely paint money on the floor.