Friday, August 29, 2014

"Everything worth doing is worth doing badly" (Failing and Flying, Jack Gilbert, 2005)

I have to laugh, then I have to cry.

As a new blogger, I have been humming along, putting up blog posts each Friday, finding photos and artwork that I want to share, and delighted with the knowledge that I have readers -- thank  you!!!! I have been pleased that people respond to my blog. Again, thank you for taking the time from your busy day.

Here's a photo to brighten your day.

I have often disparaged myself for not being an 'expert.' I am not a master watercolorist, writer, printmaker, maybe human being. I've dabbled in all of these things. My brain is wired just like the Internet, I think. I find something interesting, start working on that, and then I get caught by an extension of that idea or something totally different, and I am off and running in that new direction.  Sound familiar too?  I envy the people who latch on to something and become masters of their craft -- whether that is teaching, being an artist, speaking in front of groups, or helping people in need.

When blogging was still a new idea, someone suggested that I start a blog. I wasn't ready for it, and pushed the suggestion aside. Now I can see that all my disparate interests give me an advantage. Writing each blog has been the easy part. When I start one blog post, other ideas that I want to write about pop into my head. So far, I have a good backlog of stories to tell.

Now I have to cry. When I set up my blog, I signed up to receive email notifications of each new post. I wanted to be sure that others received their email notifications too. Lately, I haven't been receiving the email notifications. I checked that my email address was still listed.  Yes, it was. So now, I've gone down into the world of 'techie-speak.'  This is just a sample of what I found:

"This feed is valid, but interoperability with the widest range of feed readers could be improved by implementing the following recommendations.

Line 1, column O:  Use of namespace: [help],?xmlversion='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?.,?xml-stylesheethref=""

Etc., etc. etc.  

Now I had to laugh. After reading the entire page, I jumped right to it and made the page-ful of corrections!


What I did figure out:  Blogger doesn't like Word documents. So, next week, I will see if using MacTextEdit makes a difference. 

I remind myself that "Everything worth doing is worth doing badly".

If you have signed up to receive my blog posts by email, I really appreciate it. I hope you will continue to do so! I am still trying to figure out why the text is all squashed together in emails and why my layouts don't always appear in the same way as I've created them on the layout page.  I know I need to start at square one and learn some coding so that I can figure out what they are talking about when they say, "the feed is valid, but interoperability..." So here I go again: the perpetually excited student. I hope you will stay with me on this quirky journey!

Here's one more photo to enjoy over the holiday weekend!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Summers at the Lake

Thanks to Bill again for a great photo!

The beginning:
A silver morning. The lake wakes up slowly, the water a piece of foil stretched taut over glass, no sound anywhere. Then, the call of a loon in the distance; the rustle of a few leaves; the flop of a fish out of the water; the scrape of metal against a sink; a baby cries, refusing to give up a dream; the rasp of a sliding door, soft feet on the deck; a few wind ruffles on the lake; a tree branch sways; children's voices call to each other, mindless of others still sleeping; carefree steps slap on the dock, running to the end; quick splashes; the clap of a tool box shutting; water laps against the dock; the smell of coffee; feet churn through the gravel in the driveway; the squeal of bikes; neighbor calls to neighbor, "Goin' fishing?"; the thrum of a boat. The lake is awake.

The end:
As we drove back to Minneapolis, my eyes sought the old, sagging barns, white, pristine farmhouses with immaculate yards, and the numerous lakes and sloughs. Even the sight of the turkey ranches with white gobblers strutting in their pens made me sigh with a silent good-bye. I looked for the spires of old churches with cemeteries behind them; the cornfields and soybean fields; the cattails lining the marshes; the ducks forming a V as they flew overhead. I watched the thunderheads on the horizon giving a promise of rain; the lines of trees planted as windbreaks long ago; the one-street towns with Walmarts at their outskirts; the grain silos next to the railroad tracks heading for Willmar; the Faribou Woolen Mills in Litchfield selling their warm winter blankets; antique shops laden with farm equipment and depression glass; big green John Deere tractors for sale in large lots along the highway; old tractors chugging down dirt roads. And then, as our car flew along the highway, more and more small towns closer together, until we reached the outskirts of Minneapolis. We headed home and the lake receded to a shimmering memory.

Check out to see where our lake adventures began.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What is a challenge for you?

As we all write less and less, I am beginning to see that handwriting will go the way of dinosaurs.

Maybe that is why I have returned to practicing calligraphy.  I learned calligraphy ages ago, but didn’t stick with it enough to become professional (my excuse: I kept running into teachers who said:  oh, you’re left handed….)

I still struggle with my ‘lefthandedness.’ As a left-hander, I can't easily see the letters I’ve just written, which creates problems with the slant of the letters and thick and thin lines.  There are many well-known, very talented left-handed calligraphers who practice and have overcome this hurdle. I’m still working on it.
That's Jellica the cat inspecting my work.
I am in the middle of a class where we are using large instruments such as sponges and balsa wood to make letters and words. Usually, using a different tool releases my inhibitions or self-imposed restrictions. Not this time.  

At the end of the day, I was wandering around the class feeling down. Several other students nodded their heads in agreement. I took home my practice pieces and tried more at home with pretty much the same result.  

To rescue them, I cut the practice papers into 5” squares, mixed them up, and laid them on the carpet in our entry way.  Put together as a collage, the pieces looked like the word 'memory' to me — those moments that you can sort of recall, but are disjointed and not complete.

I never know what I am going to discover from an experience outside my comfort zone.  

For me, Lesson #300,000+:  Try a different point of view.  Use scissors. Square shapes are good.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Jambalaya, Crawfish Etoufee,
Catfish, Hush Puppies
Jerked Chicken, Funnel Cakes,
Jazzy Juicy Drinks 

Food banners proclaimed good eating from every booth 
as we strolled along downtown Oakland last weekend 
at the Art and Soul Festival. 

We hadn't been to the festival for several summers. This year we decide to say "Yes," and we're glad we did.

Oakland's fete is a place to see beautiful people dancing and singing to music. Vitality, confidence, and strength showed in the faces of diverse groups who gathered on the streets. When we looked into each other's eyes, there was neither fear nor hostility -- equality instead. People were proud to be from Oakland.

Diversity is the heart of Oakland. African Americans predominated the festival, but the food banners --Teriyaki, Thai Sticks, Lumpia, and Hawaiian BBQ-- spoke of other cultures too. A large contingent of LBGTs wove itself in the throng, enjoying the dancing and music with everyone else. Latinos helped others learn the seductive steps to the mambo as the Pacific Mambo Orchestra played. Young men swaggered by with baseball caps tilted backwards -- just having fun and jostling each other.

What a weekend to take a moment to celebrate what is good about people. Good food, good music, good dancing brought everyone together. 

As we left the fest, we were greeted by a street band jubilantly playing. We're glad we said "Yes!" to the Art and Soul Festival. See you there next year!

Thanks to my husband Bill for sharing his photos of the Art and Soul Festival.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Monsters in Suburbia

Are you ever afraid of what is outside in the dark? Me too. Let me tell you a story:

The lights were out. I was alone in bed. Something was loudly rustling outside in the dark. I got up, reached for the flashlight and jerked it out of the wall socket. Like any responsible adult,  I went to see what was there in the bushes. As I stood in front of the window, all my old childhood fears of someone outside in the dark came back.

As a child I often woke up towards morning to a rooster's haunting call. Because we lived in a suburb near L.A., the rooster seemed out of place and made me think that there was someone unknown, some kind of apparition, not a real rooster, filling the early morning sky with his call. Now, as the thrashing continued outside, I halfheartedly shined the flashlight through the window, barely lifting the curtain for a look. I didn't see anything so I hastily backed away, put the flashlight down, climbed into bed, and pulled the sheets up over my head.

The next day I walked in the backyard wandering about the Thrasher, as I had already named my visitor. The creeping fears of the night before seemed silly in the bright sunlight. All summer long I had seen evidence of wild things around our house because of the drought. The deer were eating our bushes in the front yard, we had hundreds of mouse holes pock marking our back hill, ants trailed through our house in search of water and food. Moles left their wandering mounds in our vegetable garden as they nibbled through the melons. Gophers pushed the dirt in pellet-sized balls around their holes. Yet none of these visitors made the noise of the Thrasher from the night before.

As I checked the backyard for the Thrasher, I saw a corner of the lawn had been pulled up, as if someone had peeled the dead skin of a bad sunburn. Earthworms struggled to find new paths back to their sanctuary. I rolled the earth back and tapped it down. It fit back together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

My Thrasher, though, must not have liked my gardening techniques because he was back the next night thrashing around. I thought once again of my childhood and how I had overcome my fears of the night. Instead of listening to the rooster's call, I had told myself stories with me as the hero. I overcame all sorts of obstacles and battled many bad guys until I fell asleep before morning. Tonight, as I went downstairs, I had my flashlight in hand and a purpose to my walk. Once again, I was the hero after the bad guy. I shined the light outside, but with determination this time. I caught a glimpse of two bright eyes looking back at me. A black mask surrounded the eyes. Then the brown and white furry flash disappeared into the night. 

Back upstairs, I jumped into bed and pulled the covers up to my chin, content to know that once again I had battled the scary visions and won.

How have you overcome your fears in the night?