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Posts from the ‘Stories’ Category

Shedding Leaves of Change

Quote by Nora Roberts

One of my favorite quotes by Nora Roberts

We could learn something from the trees.  They gage when the season is changing and know it’s time to shed their leaves.

Do they fret about it?  Probably not.  It’s just what they do.

Humans, on the other hand, have a much harder time with it.  We fear it.

I have my own confession to make.  I’ve got perpetually cold feet.

Every time I am about to put myself out into the world I act like a 5 year old.  My mind says, “I don’t want to” and my brain racks itself, trying to figure out a way not to.

Usually I say to myself, “you’re being childish, snap out of it!”  Then my inner voice (who is very honest!) says, “But I’m afraid”.  This begins the internal struggle to figure out why and calm those doubts and fears.

George Bernard Shaw quote

I’m no stranger to change.  I’ve navigated through many moves, had children, and buried my father.  As I’ve been creating my business these past few years, I’m being forced to jump countless hurdles, and I know that there are an infinite more waiting for me.

What I’ve learned is this.  Change is necessary for growth.  No one has succeeded by remaining an innocent bystander in their life.

Neale Donald Walsh quote

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. How true!

Change is not easy (unless you’re a tree!).  It requires soul-searching, risk-taking, and putting yourself out there again and again.

Want to hear some of my strategies for facing challenges, head on?

1.  Begin…somewhere– Often the task seems overwhelming and it can be hard to know to start.  That, in itself, can lead to procrastination which impedes progress.  Just start somewhere.  Make a phone call, research on the web, tell someone what you are doing- take the first step and often that will begin the process.

2. Be kind to yourself- Allow the 5 year old inside of you to voice it’s opinion but then calmly and firmly state your intentions and follow through, promising ice cream and a bubble bath when everything is said and done!

3. Be Patient- Realize that change requires time to take root and grow.  Know that the earth under your feet may be a bit unsteady for awhile.  Persevere.  Or, as I like to say to my friends who are facing challenges, Hang in there!

JD Houston quote

If you want something in your life you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something, you’ve never done. Tough but solid advise!

4. Seek accountability-  Facebook is great for this.  One friend of mine has been on a journey to lose weight and has set up a Facebook Page for friends and family to encourage and support her along the way.  Another friend has just moved to New Zealand and is posting her observations and travels as a means to bring us along with her during this enormous transition.

5. Learn from the trees- Shed those leaves of negativity, self-doubt, and anything else that is hindering your progress.  Sometimes that also means shedding old ideas or attitudes that impede growth.

Quote by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

And speaking of changes…I have some of my own!  You may recall that I’ve been taking an online web course in an attempt to learn more about WordPress and revamp my own site.  I’ve decided to take some time out to implement what I’ve learned.

Therefore, I will be taking a break from writing this blog for a week or two until I can get those changes in place.  Feel free to check in to see how things are coming along, but beware of all the construction dust!

When I return it will be on a Monday, instead of my regular Friday slot.  I’ve realized that I would rather contribute my voice as the the week is gearing up instead of as the week is winding down.  How’s that for changes?!

Please be sure to sign up to receive my weekly posts in your inbox so that you don’t miss out on my big reveal.  I can’t wait to share it with you!

Have an Evolving Week!  I’ll see you soon!!

What Are You Reading?

The Reading Head in La Rochelle, France.

The Reading Head in La Rochelle, France.

Do you sometimes find yourself in a book slump?  You could have a truckload of books at your disposal, but just can’t seem to find the right one?

That was me at the end of this summer.  I was stuck in a rut and searching for a good book to pull me out of it, but nothing seemed to work.  What I often find, after these slumps have passed, is that I discover a multitude of books to feed my craving.  Then the problem becomes finding time to read them.

Currently, I have a rotation of three wonderful books on my nightstand, each very unique and satisfying.  If I could read them all at once, I would!

The Road to Wellville

The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle

The first is T.C.Boyle’s The Road to Wellville.  I really enjoy this author.  He has a dry wit about him, and I often imagine him telling the story with a wink.  His stories lean towards exaggeration and sometimes fall into the extreme.  (I’ve also read his book Tortilla Curtain, which has more of a social justice slant, but was equally satisfying in it’s extremism.)

This novel tells the story of the real life character, Dr. John Harvey Kellog, best known as the creator of cornflakes; but in this novel it appears as if he would rather people remember him as the purveyor of healthy living.

It centers around his Sanitarium in Battle Creek, MI, which he runs with precise attention to detail using his holistic methods of nutrition, enemas, and exercise.  Many of his methods are highly experimental, and his vegetarian concoctions are enough to drive any Vegan back to carnivorism!

There are a cast of quirky characters surrounding him:  a married couple who attend the sanitarium and begin to stir up trouble, as well as a group of “gentlemen” who arrive in Battle Creek to promote their new breakfast cereal, backed by Dr. Kellog’s estranged son, George- who is up to no good!

T. C. Boyle’s novels are like riding a roller coaster.  They begin with a series of wild twists and turns, followed by a gripping climax and free-falling ending.  I must admit, I haven’t gotten all the way through it yet, but from all the book reviews I’ve read, it promises to be quite a ride!

What Are You Looking At? by Will Gompertz

What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz

Next on my nightstand is the nonfiction title What are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz.

The author is a former board director of the Tate Gallery in London, and now a commentator for the BBC.

I find his take on art refreshing, not stuffy and pretentious like many art history books I’ve read.  The author is a little geeky (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and academic, but his tone is friendly and he seems to revel in showing us all the hidden nooks and crannies of the modern art world.

There is a plethora of art, artists, and the stories behind them crammed into this novel.  I would hate to be a student forced to remember it all.  But I’m not, and therefore can let it all run through my brain, grasping at interesting bits and pieces.  (Which are abundant!)

What I have been enjoying the most is how he ties everything together.  He gives brief historical references and reveals how the artists are interconnected; what the artwork meant to that moment in time and how it is still relevant today.

My copy also has full-color plates of some of the art mentioned throughout the book.  I’m glad I decided not to buy it on my Kindle!

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Lastly, I’ve enjoyed sinking my teeth into the historical novel, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  It feeds into my obsession with the English and, in particular, the fascinating King Henry the VIII!  (Are you like me?  Have you streamed the BBC miniseries, The Tudors?  Love.)

This is one of the most well-written books I’ve read in a rather long time.  I feel as if the author is weaving a tapestry as she writes.  The characters slowly begin to emerge with each scene, in rich threads of dialogue, innuendos, and description.  Yet, the author is very cunning and only bestows enough to leave one wanting more.

That, coupled with the fact I know some of the history behind the characters and their eventual demise (i.e.: when King Henry falls madly in love with Anne Boleyn, I know it won’t end well!) makes this a page-turner!

That this novel is written from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell makes it even more fascinating.  Thomas Cromwell, you may recall, became one of Henry VIII’s closest confidants and a devious conniver of the royal court.  He started off as the son of a blacksmith, so his journey to prosperity is quite captivating; and Hilary Mantel’s portrayal of his developing talents and skills to become so powerful is masterful!

Ahh, how I love to read!  Yet often I only manage to squeak in a few pages at the end of the day.  I need a book club where everyone gets to read what they want, dishes out recommendations, and keeps each other accountable.  (i.e.: makes sure we are all reading!)  Would you like to join it?

What are you reading and what is your favorite book from the past 6 months?  (and what is it about?)  I’d love to hear your book recommendations and add them to my list.  Perhaps I can prevent my next book slump from happening!

Have an Engaging Week!

What do you want to be..?

My siblings and I

Hanging out with my siblings circa 1980

My daughter and I had a long conversation the other day about what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Her answer – a vet, singer, actor, fashion designer, and inventor.  You go, girl!

I was very fortunate that my parents never pushed me in any one direction.  They let me figure it out on my own and encouraged all my interests.

So what did I want to be?

Once, I contemplated being a nun (for an entire 3 hours- then realized I just couldn’t do it!).  Then for a long time, since I was a ferocious bookworm, I wanted to be a librarian.

Girl reading with a run in her hose.

Very characteristic- My nose in book and a run in my hose!

But even before I discovered I had any talent, I wanted to be an artist.

What I didn’t want to be?  A teacher.  For 2 reasons- filmstrips and vomit.  (The latter is the reason I didn’t want to be a doctor, either!)  This makes me sound ancient- but when I was growing up there weren’t DVDs or even VCRs- just these stupid strips of film on a roll that every single teacher seemed to struggle with while winding onto the projectors.  It looked like torture!

An artist- that, in my mind, equalled unbridled freedom.  I obviously wasn’t one to seek wealth in a profession.  Even then I knew that the key to success was happiness.  (Though I must admit that now, as I grapple with how to make a living in my profession, I sometimes wonder why I hadn’t chosen to do something with a few more dollar signs attached to it!)

It wasn’t until middle school, however, that I discovered I had any talent for art beyond just liking to do it.

My middle school art teacher, a man I don’t remember having much affinity for and was even a little afraid of, encouraged my mom to enroll me in a summer art program.  He must have seen some spark of talent, though I feel my work was rather average up to that point.

That class shook me awake. It was based on drawing from life through field trips to various locations- the zoo, a pretty row of houses, the art museum- and suddenly I discovered that I had a way of seeing things and an ability to draw what I saw on paper.

I had access to a language not everyone knew how to speak, and it made me feel special.

Trying to look cool but feeling pretty awkward

I was in an awkward stage for what seemed like a very long time! (Check out that awful asymmetrical haircut!)

Up to that point, I was somewhat lost.  I was the oldest of 4 kids and my parents were divorced.  We lived with my mother who struggled to make ends meet, though always made sure we had what we needed.  I was very shy and always had my nose in a book with wild short, curly hair- and for awhile I had braces and cheap plastic glasses.

I went through a very awkward stage for what seemed like a very long time.

But art became my escape pod.

At the age of 16 my mother remarried and we moved from Wisconsin to Virginia.  Talk about culture shock!  Again, art came to the rescue.  I became involved in drama, choir, and art- even managing to win a few awards and scholarships.

Winning an award for a drawing

Winning a few awards and scholarships led me to seek art as a profession

When it came time to choose my college, it was a no brainer.  I wanted to find a program that allowed me to create art to my heart’s content.

I chose The Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) without blinking an eye or even touring the campus. (a visit from representatives from the college when I was a Sophomore still in Wisconsin made that much of an impression on me!)

Fast forward 25 years- I married a boy that I met on an adjoining campus after my freshman year.  (He was a graduate student at Case Western Reserve U.)  We were married 10 days after I graduated from CIA and moved to London two weeks afterwards so he could pursue a Post-Doctorate position there.  I’ve been following him ever since to Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and finally, back here in Ohio.  Along the way, we’ve had 3 beautiful kids.

For awhile I was a freelance illustrator (the major I ultimately chose at CIA), then became an art teacher. (Thankfully filmstrips became extinct and no one has yet to vomit in my class!)  When we moved back to Ohio after my youngest daughter was born, I chose to put aside my art to concentrate on raising my family.

My 3 kids and santa.

I’ll never regret taking time out to raise my 3 fantastic kids!

But one day, as my youngest was getting older and about to enter school, I revisited that question:  What do you want to be when you grow up?  I had what can be called a come to Jesus moment.  I realized I had to get back to the art that I once had such a passion for, and I had to do it my way.

The question was, What is my way? Good question!  Its still something I’m seeking but this (arms held wide) is the result.  I’m doing it!

I have a lot of people to thank for helping me to answer that question- my husband for his endless support and love, my family, Kelly Dahl who became my life coach to get me started creating goals and seeing them through, and all my wonderful friends- You, who continue to encourage and support me on this quest.

Thank you!  May you have a glorious week towards realizing your own goals and desires!

Evolution of a Painting: Banyan Tree Series- Part 1

References for Banyan Tree Paintings

Drawings and Photos that went into creating my Banyan Tree Paintings- Shown here as a work in progress

Its been waaaaay too long since I’ve shared my painting process!

I should know since it has been way too long since I’ve actually been able to paint.  But not for long- 1 more week until the kids are back to school!!

Once that happens, I may have to go into hibernation to create more work and catch up on my business.  Don’t worry, I’ll leave you with my Banyan Tree series.

I’ve decided to break this post up into 2 parts.  Part 1 will be a is my trip to China last year (where I discovered Banyan Trees) and a crazy story that explains why I created a separate page on my website for archived posts from a previous blog.

I think I’ll start with the blog explanation first.  (Those of you that subscribe to my newsletter may have heard part of this story already- I hope you’ll stick around for the juicy bits!)

Not too long ago I had a blog on another, non-Wordpress site.  It was named after my one of my favorite artists, Marc Chagall.  I called it “The Flying C_____. ” (Except it didn’t have a ____ after the C!  There is a reason I am being careful about repeating his name, as you shall see..)  He was an early modernist artist and his style and use of colors had been a large influence on my art up to that time.

Screen Shot of The Flying hippo

A Screen Shot of my previous blog with a name change to prevent any more legal trouble.

I had created my previous blog while I was in the process of rediscovering my creativity and forging my art career.  This was a very exploratory period for me, and my blog reflected it.  It began with many starts and stops, but as time went on, I became more confident and my blog started to reflect it.  I even began to gather a small but loyal following.

That all changed one day when I received an email from a law firm in Paris, representing the artist’s family, asking me to Cease and Desist from using my blog title and domain.

Once I verified that this was for real, I was caught with two emotions.  A part of me was flattered that I was singled out by the The Artist’s family (Chagall passed away in 1985) and part of an international exchange.  I was honored to be contacted by them, even though I knew I was a peon, just getting in their way.  I couldn’t help but feel a little star struck!

The other part of me was frustrated.  There was no doubt in my mind that I would comply, but that didn’t change the fact that the blog name was on all my business cards and marketing materials.  Luckily, my business name had nothing to do with my blog name, or I would have been in real trouble!

Then there was the problem of what to do about my blog.

I could have just created a new blog on the same site and redirected everyone there, but I knew that I needed a website and it would only be logical to include a blog into that site.  My problem was, I had to give myself time to create a new website and blog- And I couldn’t publicly tell anyone why I was doing it because of the pending Cease and Desist!

So I stopped writing blog posts and attempted to lead my followers to my new website, which was still a work in progress (with construction dust flying everywhere!)  It was not the seamless transition that I had hoped for, but I did the best I could.

There is a point to this story– There were some darn good blog posts on that previous blog site, some of which I’d love to link to when I talk about certain topics.  (Like the Banyan Trees!) But these links are hard to do with a now blocked site.

But I think I’ve found a way.

I still have access to that closed site (Now called The Flying Hippo, to avoid any further confrontation!) and was able to carry over relevant blog posts to a new page on my current website called Archived Posts.  This is an imperfect process and I’m still working on the formatting, but if you read my blogposts: My Travels to the Other Side of the World and Back and Finding Inspiration in China you’ll understand why I felt they were important to my story.

Again, please excuse the appearance of these blog posts as I try and work out all the formatting bugs!

Banyan Tree on side of Railroad Tracks

In my previous blogpost, Finding Inspiration in China, I describe the fascination I have for Banyan Trees.

They’ll explain about my trip to China last summer and the Banyan Trees that I encountered there.  Then it will make much more sense next week when I explain my paintings based on them.

I hope you don’t mind the extra reading!

Join me next week as I delve into how I created my Banyan Paintings and what I envision for them in the future.  Also. let me know what you think about this crazy story and if you have any suggestions on how I could better link the 2 blog sites together.

Until then, Have an amazing week!

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