Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You can go home again

On Sept. 28 I returned to my home stamping store, Stamp Your Heart Out in Claremont, CA, to demo a new collection, The Un-Usual Suspects. My timeline may be off, but I think the last time I did a demo there was around 1998 or 1999. Sunday's pencil coloring was scheduled to run for two hours and when it was over, I wished I'd signed up to be there at least all afternoon, probably all day. Not that there would be a day's worth of coloring tips to share, but if there was an ebb and flow of viewers, repeating the same information for each new group would have been a pleasure.

It was a day so filled with the most yummy goodness that I can hardly process it and I thank everyone who attended, Joan Bunte who invited me and who offered the hospitable welcome that SYHO regulars have come to know and appreciate. I thank the staff, those who were working, those who showed up in support. Familiar names and faces from classes and demos long, long ago. That I was there at all is the result of support from so many friends and family members and the good fortune which came my way when Stampington wanted to take an odd bouquet of characters and share them with the world.

Going home again, in the very best sense, is how the day felt, as though many missing elements had been found and restored and I could only wonder at the state of body and mind that caused me to let them slip away. It may not be home in any precise definition, but I believe we can find a place and a piece of ourselves, familiar as a childhood lunchbox turning up at a swap meet, where we can be comfortable, welcome, happy and grateful.

From such seemingly ordinary and unimportant acts as drawing and coloring on envelopes - busy-hands, quiet-mind - a life, a passion, a calling have emerged. It is a life I share with people who bring their dreams out into the open, people for whom half-measures are unknown, people who are sometimes willing, as my cousin would say, to let their freak flags fly (and long may we wave), people authentic and kind, endearingly unique, people who have never really lost sight of home for they carry it - and everything that matters - in their hearts.

My then-adolescent sister had a book she read over and over, "The Luckiest Girl." If they need an updated version, I have a suggestion about whom to call.

Let's do this again...soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let me direct your attention

Because I could not possibly state it any better, I shall refer you to

and her newest posting about the Un-Usual Suspects and a demo I'll be doing on Sept. 28 in Claremont, CA at Stamp Your Heart Out. Lisa offers links to the store, to me and to Stampington for anyone interested in ordering. Thank you, Lisa, for such a generous showcase. Anyone in the vicinity, please stop by. It would be wonderful to meet you and have you get to know Joan Bunte and her colorful, creative shop.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Making way for something new often demands moving (I used the term intentionally) outside the familiar or comfortable. I live on the second floor of a two-story apartment building, up (and down) 16 very steep steps. I have arthritic knees and I spent the summer drawing, coloring, staring, drooling, reading and not going out much. I did not practice my stair walking. I am having to come up with a whole new plan.

Approach tried and rejected: wake up, shower, dink around with e-mail or the newspaper or phone calls, then suit up for The Stairs, by which time I am tired and unfocused, sometimes totally intimidated by how far down the courtyard looks, and how high the second-floor walkway will seem from the courtyard.

New approach: a baseball cap to hide hair that could frighten the neighbors, getting suited up and ready to march as soon as the leaving-for-work traffic has thinned out. In more disciplined times, I learned to avoid the stairs during the high school lunch period; I am slow, a truly generous description, and hungry teenagers have not a minute to waste or wait. Always polite, I knew they felt that anything under the speed limit should be off the road. A carefully selected window of time, after rush hour, before midday heat. I am wobbly and wish I were more brave, strong, young, fit and never, ever procrastinated. But in this moment, I am and I do those things.

The Clean-Your-Plate connection. For me it requires becoming very clear about what matters most. If I had one wish and that wish would be greater strength, endurance and agility, there is my answer. First things first. If I find that I am tired after doing other tasks of dubious virtue before I exercise, I am not putting the top item at the top of the day. For me this assignment is plain, hard work and a baseball cap with simple, comfortable clothes makes it somewhat easier. Shower after the exercise? What a notion. There was a recent day when we had an earthquake, luckily far enough away to do no damage in our town but the thought of having to scramble down those stairs in an emergency...it seemed that rolling me down them like a log would be easier and hurt less.

This may seem like a foolish, completely self-induced problem to the young, the fit and the never-put-off-until-tomorrow crowd. We all have our demons and the holes into which our good sense falls from time to time. Over the years I have had numerous well-meaning friends who, on a vast list of my obvious shortcomings have started sentences with, "...but couldn't you just..." If I could, I would. I can't imagine any of us choosing to feel so insufficient intentionally. I really believe we each do the best we can. When that best becomes better, we do it that way.

I have to own neglecting something vital. By staying occupied creating art and stories, I tried to embezzle myself a little slack, ascribing virtues to what I had done and shrugging my shoulders at the things I had not. And now important dates are looming for which I want to reach my car, drive off to see people and do things. I missed one significant event because I had not prepared and felt heartbroken for it. I hope to take inspiration from your stories and carry your determination with me as I make those downward steps, asking mercy from whatever protectors look out for imperfect joints. And imperfection in general.

Thursday morning P.S. I took my words to heart and did 12 of the 16 steps, the top, last one with a neighbor's assistance. Yesterday I barely managed 3. When I posted my entry yesterday I felt terribly exposed. Today I feel encouraged.

Monday, September 8, 2008


What is more desirable than skills or mad skills which would be the hyperactivated version of an ordinary, utility-grade skill? A friend's recent e-mail about being adrift in a sea of downsizing and the question of where to go, how to market one's self and the very real doubt about whether the job you are trying so hard to win is one you could even imagine getting up in the morning and going to, reminded me of a favorite quote (paraphrased and unattributed), which says, "Not everything that counts in life can be counted."

Quite a few years ago, a shift in circumstances turned my life from one of end-to-end activity - family, job, volunteer work, freelancing, 12-step meetings, workshops, interning - to one of simply being. In that state of being, I realized that I had what I call a capacity for stillness. I can spend time with myself without distraction and have discovered that useful information, perhaps it is guidance, comes to me in this state. It is, for me, an essential skill, yet how likely is it that we'll find it on a list of desirable qualifications for any job? Unless you know of a place that is hiring contemplatives.

Is it our skills, learned processes for accomplishing tasks, or our essential nature that we need to recognize as the gift we bring to any situation? Yes, I wish I'd gone to trade school and learned how to repair cars. Yes, I would like to be brilliant with a computer, rather than occasionally lucky. Yes, I'm glad I learned to type when I was an adolescent, glad I had the experience of learning something about video taping and editing, back in the old analog days, glad I learned to drive a car, glad that once upon a time I could edit a story while reading it backward in metal type. Skills matter. But so do the odd, unclassifiable, arcane and quirky talents we bring with us. Think of us all as "...strange visitors from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men." A soaring imagination, a gift for remembering the smallest bit of information, a (some might call) peculiar sense of humor, being able to know how ingredients will taste when combined in a recipe, intuition, a capacity for stillness.

In honor of all who, at this moment, are looking for a job, a better job, or to discover their life's calling, regardless of age, I offer this: bring the best of you, your authentic self, the desires of your heart, and the knowledge that no test or interview is a measure of who you are, never has been, never will be. Celebrate all your mad skills.