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Friday, April 29, 2016


I have a small bundle of sage that was given to me by an Indian shaman.  Sometimes I burn it and inhale the fragrant smoke. Mostly I leave it in the china cupboard to remind me of meeting him.  I first posted this art in 2010.  You can read about my first experience with a sweat lodge here.  It's not the only time I've had shamanic experiences either.  You can read about my childhood experience rescuing a deer here.

Everybody and their sister told me not to go to California.  I had struck up a conversation with the shaman online and found out he’d been in prison and liked musicals.  Okay, I knew more than that.  We talked a lot one year.  I came to care for him quite a bit and I valued the spiritual insights I gained from his different upbringing and experiences.

He didn’t invite me to California.  I informed him I was coming.  Maybe this is something other people do, but I don’t.  I’m usually far more sensible and polite.  I combined the trip by meeting a close friend.

My girlfriend and her bf drove me about 1 ½ hrs in insane traffic to meet the shaman.  First impressions weren’t good, which just goes to show people deceive each other online.  My friend clearly didn’t want to leave me in his care and asked repeatedly if I was sure about it.  Yes, I was.  I can’t even tell you why either.  All common sense told me I’d cart my friend out of there if the shoe was on the other foot.

He took me to an affordable, clean hotel and left.  This was within walking distance to the ocean, and every day I walked miles along the water.  Every morning he called to find out where I was and picked me up.  We spent the days and evenings together, but not the nights – though one day he slept at the hotel while I babysat his nephew.  He was a gentleman throughout.

I tagged after him as he did his usual things, most of which involved trying to scrounge up money and jobs.  I met friends and relatives.  I shared ceremonial smoke and meals.  We threw food to seagulls and took long, scenic drives, and talked, talked, talked.

I can’t explain the ether of the whole experience.  I felt compelled to go.  I think I helped him?  He was worn from too many ministerial demands without compensation.  I reminded him his flock should feed him and make his life easier.  A dead shaman can’t help anyone.  He couldn't keep a regular job and stay constantly available for his people.

Every bit of common sense told me not to talk with him in the first place, and I'm not encouraging anyone to take risks as I did – but, it was a profound experience for me.  He is kind and self-sacrificing, sincere in his spirituality, and loved by those who know him.  We shared so much I can’t touch it here.   I'm lucky for the experience and the things he taught me.

In my day job I remind people that if you want clergy, please support them.  I'm not sure what my employers would think of my shamanic experiences, so maybe it's stupid to post this online, but I think the absolute rightness I felt about going to California meant it was right.  In the end, I guess what I'd suggest to everyone is to listen to that voice inside.  It's wiser than we are.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


I watched a Prince retrospective on tv and dreamt his songs all night.  I didn't even know I knew that many Prince songs.  I never paid that much attention to him, or at least that's what I thought when I heard he died this week.  I sent a condolence email to a friend of mine who looooved him and thought that's that, but the retrospective reminded me Prince was a changing factor in the world.

I'd forgotten about how he wrote "slave" on his cheek when he was mad at his record company.  He took control of his music, dressed like he wanted, wrote what he wanted, didn't talk to the media very much, and overall, I respected him.  He was role model to my friend, and I'm realizing he played that for me too in subtler ways.  His was a life well lived.  RIP and thank you.

I know, lots of people think they can't succeed for one reason or another.  Prince was an abused 5' 2" epileptic, effeminate black man.  That would be enough to stop most people from trying.  There are lots of incredibly talented people who never make it.  I suspect the biggest reason is because they don't believe they can so they never really try.

Many times I've been told to have "realistic" expectations.  Dream lower.  Don't be so full of myself to think I have what it takes to compete.  The people who've told me these things didn't want me to succeed.  People can be like a nest of hungry birds.  If a sibling gets a coughed up worm, that's one more worm the others didn't get.  They try to keep you weak so you can't lift your head.  Fighting in the nest takes so much work you can't fight for yourself in the greater world.

I don't want to get on stage like Prince.  I just want the best successes for the talents I have.  I finally received the Mensa 50th Anniversary Bulletin magazine for which I did 5 illustrations.  I love it when I see my work in print!  This full-page piece is for an article a father wrote about his elevator-loving, autistic son.  It was the first piece I've done like this in a long time, and I pushed myself and fought my inner critic to do it.  (Pat, pat myself on the head.)  Alright, I'm still fighting my inner critic because Isee things I'd like to fix, but enough.  I did it!  I feel a bit like the happy boy in the illustration.

The first step in doing it was deciding to try.  I wrote the art editor, attached samples, and expressed desire.  I got a response and had to maintain that desire.  It didn't help that I hated the first article she sent me.  When I rejected it, I felt like I'd shot myself in the foot, but she came back with this article and I was happy again.  I then went about the illustration in all the wrong ways and had to keep myself motivated to succeed.

My fights were entirely within myself.  The art editor gave me more articles.  Each got easier to accomplish as I went along.  I rejected a cover article because it just wasn't me, and that felt good too.

Prince set an example.  The autistic boy is another.  There are regurgitated worms for all of us if we dream, follow through, learn, and succeed.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Last week I told you about fixing a door in my house.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.  I don't think anyone will notice that it was ever mutilated by Dalmatian toes.  It took a lot of effort to prime and paint the door.  I leaned back and admired my efforts... and noticed that the ceiling looked awfully dingy next to my stark white door.

I hemmed and hawed most of the week about not wanting to get into more projects because I have a new canvas I really want to paint... but that dingy ceiling interfered with my happiness.  Plus, this is the room where I painted the floor last summer and I might have been a bit too enthusiastic and splashed colors on the walls.  I'd just repaint the walls, but if I were to do that, I'd have to do the ceiling first...

My house is a currently a mess again.  I had it clean for about a day, but now stuff is spread all over again.  My goal is to get it all finished this weekend and have a normal house again by Monday, but the weather is finally wonderful and the grass needs cut, there's a concert in Cleveland...

And yet, the woodwork in my nearly 100 yr. old house has been dinged through the years, and fixing the woodwork feels connected to my internal being.  It feels essential.

I've done a lot a lot a lot of thinking in the last year.  That was my intention when I decided to paint the floor.  I wanted a long, involved project that would encourage thoughts and meditation.  I've done a lot of reading, studying, and reviewing my life and relationships.  I came to understand that I put up with too much from some people and situations, and putting up with dinged woodwork has become symbolic.  It's time my outer environment matches my enhanced inner world.

Very little of the damage to the woodwork was my fault.  People moved in and out, and none were careful enough in the process.  They didn't care about my house or feelings.  When I see a chunk gouged out of a door frame I think "You selfish bastard!  You didn't deserve my love, care, shelter _____ (fill in the blank).  Or, "I deserve better!"

I could continue ignoring these things like I have for a long time, but every so often I'll notice damage and feel something between irritation, depression, and anger.  It's a constant reminder of negatives.  When the woodwork is repaired to the best of my ability it will be a reminder that I control my life, and the next phase will be better.  I've learned things to make that happen.

I often write messages that we control our lives and can improve our lives.  It takes effort.  The effort is worth it.

My dad took a humanities class at a community college when I was a kid.  He carved this sculpture for an assignment to represent his "inner self".  I wish I'd asked what he was thinking when he did it.  He smiled with satisfaction and an inner conversation when he looked at it.  Maybe that is the ultimate goal for everything in our lives?

I thought you'd rather look at his artistry this week instead of wood mouldings and flat green walls :)

Saturday, April 9, 2016


I tagged after Dad when he fixed things.  I was great at handing over tools.  Crescent wrench, Philips screwdriver... I precisely handed them over like a surgical nurse in a MASH unit... until muttering and swearing started.  Then it suddenly seemed like a great idea to go to the river instead.  Dad could do carpentry, but the car brought out the "Jee-ee-SUS Christ!!"  That was the sign to flee.

I was a teenager when Dad died, and I became aware that he hadn't taught any of my siblings how to fix anything -- and yet stuff still needed fixed.  I also came to realize that I didn't really know how to fix a lot of things.  I knew my tools and had an idea of what they did, but my fixing lessons had often ended at the swearing, and I didn't see how things were completed.

Part of the Dad lessons had involved sitting in the shade with iced tea and contemplating our next project.  He encouraged me to think innovatively and considered my ideas, so I understood the theory of fixing stuff, if not the real experience.  When he was gone, I had to try on my own.  I quickly came to understand that swearing is an actual part of the process.  I got creative with that too, but left out the blasphemy.

I started feeling pretty good about myself for my home repair skills.  I may not have known what I was doing, but found ways to make the plumbing work and repair things Bro1 broke.  Just because I know how to replace a broken window doesn't mean I will.

When I bought an old house after college, Bros3&4 were old enough to get into trouble or help with projects when they came over for the weekends.  I reinstituted shady iced tea contemplations, and me and 2 little boys managed electricity, construction, wallpaper, and moved large objects.  I didn't actually need to do all this, but it was a good way for us to spend time together.  We went to the hardware store and talked to old guys who knew how to do things the right ways.  These are happy memories for all of us.

This week, I really looked at a door my Dalmatians scratched up about 20 or so yrs ago.  It's a nice door, with lots of panes of windows and decorative mullions between.  Looking at the deep scratches was depressing, and I was tempted to ignore it like I have for so long, but this time I decided to try fixing it with wood putty.

I did a pretty decent job of it.  I spent the entire day today painting it -- even though Ohio weather has gone back to winter and the whole project was lousy to do on a day when the daffodils shiver.  Not to mention I'm noticing all the other woodwork that could use wood putty and new paint.  I wish Bros3&4 were coming over for their weekend project.

Not knowing how to do something isn't a good reason not to try.  Nobody is born knowing how to fix anything, create something.  Encouraging children to think instead of merely existing and obeying is a gift that stays with them throughout their lives.  Thanks Dad!

I'm pooped from painting the door, so office tools are good enough for today.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


I had a pajama party with a friend from high school.  When I mentioned the word for the week is "Sparkle" she brought out sparkly markers and mandala coloring books.  Coloring and talking was a pleasant way to spend the evening together.

She enjoys her coloring books, and I hear this has gotten pretty popular.  It's a way for non-artists to get the right side of their brains into the same zen happiness that artists get into when they're working.

I started to write this when my guest is still sleeping on my couch, but she woke up and now we'll get breakfast, go antique shopping, or maybe get spring water, or whatever it is she'd like to do for the day.  Maybe we'll go to the river and watch the sun sparkle on the water.  It wasn't too hard for me to abandon my plans to clean house and do yard work this weekend when I heard she was in town for a funeral.

I hope everyone has a sparkling, fun weekend!

Saturday, March 26, 2016


I keep the Serenity Prayer on my office bulletin board.  It keeps me from strangling certain people and helps me stay centered (or advises me to get centered).  It reminds me wisdom is a goal, not something I've already achieved.

I was walking on a beach by the ocean once and suddenly everything made sense in a whole new way.  I was overwhelmed by the understanding and by the beauty around me.  Even the squawking of seagulls seemed to affirm my new truth.  The receding tide pulled the old reality away.  I was totally in awe and full of joy in that moment.

Having had that experience once, I wanted it again.  I tried to make more epiphanies happen, but epiphanies are unhelpful that way.  You've just got to make your new reality solid by working through all the pieces of your life that need remodeled -- which can be quite a drag to tell the truth, but the end result is a better life than the old one.

Last week I talked about narcissism.  I've continued to think about it, and kismet intervened by a friend's facebook post about gaslighting.  I know the word because my house was repeatedly broken into and things taken or moved, but nothing so serious to be anything other than crazy making.  I changed locks repeatedly and filed police reports but it was a long time before it stopped.

The article about gaslighting talked about (guess what?) narcissism.  Ahhh... the universe is telling me something.  I spent days reading things online, and then switched to youtube.  There's more narcissists than I imagined, and I'm realizing I've had a LOT of them in my life.  I started my research with one person in mind, then two, several, and OMG him too?  Epiphany!  Actually, it was a series of epiphanies without the benefit of ocean and seagulls.

I recommend you look things up online too, but I don't want to make this post a narcissistic tutorial when there's so much better info already online.  I put some key points about them below.  Where I'm going with this is "wisdom".  Gaining more information leads me to see certain people in a new light, most especially myself because I am still living in response to others' behaviors.  New knowledge is giving me a new way to look at things that I couldn't see before because I didn't know what questions to ask.

Studying narcissism makes me look at the Serenity Prayer again.  "Accept things I cannot change." Narcissists won't change.  The professional advice is don't try and run like hell.  "Courage to change the things I can" -- which is my own point of view and with whom I choose to have in my life.  "Wisdom to know the difference."

I don't want to sound ungrateful for guidance and kismet, but next time I get an epiphany, I want seagulls and ocean, or maybe a forest.  It would be nice to have an empathetic someone with me too.

Don't care about your feelings.  Really.  They act interested to manipulate your feelings more effectively.  They use your words to twist your reality and to make you question yourself.  They cripple you in every way to make themselves feel more powerful.  They won't change and won't get help.  Any sign of change is manipulation.

Dealing with Narcissists...
Flee.  You don't have to be nice to them, you can even be rude, because they don't have regular feelings.  This doesn't hurt them because they honestly don't care about you.  If you can't leave because it's your boss or someone like that, make it all about them.  "I need a day off so I can work more effectively for you."  (Something I actually said to my last boss.)  End the conversation quickly to limit abuse.

Group Dynamics
Narcissists will manipulate others into criticizing and ostracizing you, even if the others aren't narcissists.  The things narcissists do seem unbelievable to others outside the group, so you won't be believed when you talk about it.  It's best to have no contact with the narcissist and also the rings of people involved in the abuse.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dragon 2

I got a beau into a creek once.  He stood ankle-deep in the water with a charmingly miserable expression before I relented and let him put his shoes back on to walk on the path.  Maybe we were both at our most elemental in that moment?  We both wanted to please the other.  I wanted him to enjoy the beauty of a waterfall accessible only by sloshing downstream.  He went along, but after 20 years in the Army he'd had enough of wet feet.  He'd rather get a pedicure and foot rub.

We are alike in doing things we may not enjoy for the benefit of someone else's pleasure or needs.  I'm thinking about this a lot after reading The Drama of the Gifted Child.  I'm not really recommending the book, but I learned some things.

Dragon wall pocket
Maybe all parents are narcissists, some more than others.  Parents teach their children values of "good" and "bad" based on the parents' needs.  Some parents teach their kids not to cry through neglect.  Some carry children obsessively.  Either way, the need of the parent is more important than the child's.  The infant becomes good at recognizing what the parent wants and adapts.

Whoever the child might've been is lost because satisfying the parents' needs is more important than what the child wants.  As kids get older, layers of beliefs and values are plastered all over them, especially the message to please their parents.

Who or what would I have been if I'd been raised by someone else somewhere else?  It's an unanswerable question, but I've been wondering about it a lot.  Maybe I'm more me than other kids could be because I spent so much time alone running loose in the woods?

There were times when I looked at my parents and thought "You people are crazy!" and consciously chose to continue thinking whatever I believed in the first place.  I'm sure there were many more times that I absorbed what they wanted me to absorb.  Childhood is a long time ago though, and how do I know what was the original me and I'm thinking and living because of them?

Dragon by G. T. Vaughn
Somewhere I read that we spend our adult years trying to get back to our original selves, who we were before the world made us into something else.  I think of my beau's wet feet and see that both of us wanting to please the other so much is a sign that we both put others' needs ahead of our own.  That's sweet and nice in a way, and totally wrong in another.

I laid awake in bed this week thinking about what other people want from me and trying to figure out how to get it all done.  I know they don't waste much time thinking about me.  I want to find a better balance.  What do I really want, not what I'm "supposed to" want?

I intend to achieve maximum happiness in this life.  It seems that knowing what makes us happy is the ultimate key to the mysteries of ourselves.

Illustration Friday didn't give a word this week, so more dragons.  I seem to own a number of them.  The clay dragon at the top is something I made from river clay.