What Are You Afraid Of?

29 10 2014

It’s like we’re all holding onto an electric fence . . . I’ve just let go.

These words were spoken to me by a very young – but very wise – man, describing his family’s behavior during a time of real crisis. While there was no denying the horrible situation that had taken them off the tracks, the response to it only made things worse. Sound familiar?  If it doesn’t, you’ve lived a charmed life.

Let’s face it: we’re hardwired to form habits. When fate steps in and disrupts our plans, we fight to re-establish routines.

Sometimes, especially when the thing that has interrupted us is enormously frightening or painful, we rush into counterproductive behavior patterns – just for the sake of pattern. We don’t have to think. We don’t have to decide. We don’t have to really feel. We just slog along, following the ruts in the road, because it is “easier” than building a different path. We do things, not because they are helpful to getting us through whatever “it” is; we do them because they seem to be the easiest to do.

While it might seem easy, the new “normal” we hastily accept usually isn’t. Although it is easier to make right turns than lefts, continuing along that path is assuredly a vicious circle.  We run out of time and energy and we are left – with our ugly little baggage – on the side of an unpleasant little road, instead of taking a new route and leaving “it” in the dust.

I am afraid of change – lots of us are. Fate does not care what we like or don’t like.  Fear of change does not mean inability to reckon with it.   Things will get in our way. Plans will fall through. Loved ones will leave us. We cannot avoid change.  We can only decide how to respond to it.  It takes courage to let go, but there is no healing in holding on to pain.

Let go of it and embrace life’s goodness; hug your friends.


p.s.  In addition to change, lots of us are afraid of bugs. Happy Halloween from Simon Spiderpig and Ladypig Newton.

halloween spiderpig a halloween bugnewt a

No Experience Necessary

22 10 2014


Experience is a good teacher – inexperience is a better one.      –     Paula Lewis

For every young bright thing out there in the world, here sits one of us old dusty relics to cluck, coo, or complain about them and their unfortunate choices. We, the Learned, the Worldly, the Experienced, stand ready to answer all the pressing questions and resolve all the dilemmas of every young person we know. Hell, you don’t even have to ask for our sage advice; we’ll corner you and give it whether you want it or not!

There is a lot of good and useful information to be obtained from those of us who’ve “run a few more experiments” in our lives. We have marked some of the more treacherous terrain for travelers who follow, so there are fewer casualties along certain paths. Sometimes, though, in our zeal to help others not make the same mistakes we did, the messages end up looking less like signposts and more like graffiti.

We survivors of checkered pasts have wisdom to share. We can only truly share it, though, if we remember, not only the lessons, but the inexperience, misjudgment, errors, foolishness, or misfortune that put us into the experience from which we learned. We must remember that we were once young bright things who made some really stupid decisions.

Respect the teacher, first; then we can share the teachings.

You Can’t Park There!

15 10 2014

There seems to be a spate of blog posts, Facebook status updates, and other public forum messages with a similar theme:

People are mean/rude/ignorant to me because they don’t know my pain.

Yep, that happens a lot. I can speak from far too much experience about the meanness, rudeness, or ignorance of folks – I had a mentally retarded child.  My ticket to ride this train has been punched.

What I have to say here is not to those folks who hurt our feelings by their words and acts; I want to talk to those of us who are on the other side of the situation.

There are many ways one can react to an unkind word or act, among them:

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Respond in kind; say something rude, in return.
  3. Say nothing, but let it ruin your day by stewing about it.
  4. Offer a little help to stop more folks from feeling hurt.

Response #1, if you can truly manage to do it, is always a good choice.

For reasons of common sense and personal safety – and self-respect – I would strongly advise that no one EVER chose Response #2.

Many of us have found ourselves defaulting to Response #3, which does no good for anyone.

In lots of cases, I believe Response #4 is the absolute best choice. Sometimes, people do not mean to be insensitive; they simply do not know any better.  If we can teach them a little bit about a disability, hardship, or handicap that caused the hurtful behavior, there’s a chance they might be more careful in what they say to others.

I can hear some of you shrieking at me, “It’s not my responsibility to tell those jerks anything. It’s none of their business.  I don’t owe them  . . .” You’re right, but that position does no good, UNLESS you can sincerely ignore it, which, by the looks of your posts, I know you can’t.

Any time you can, with a simple comment, like “I appreciate that you are concerned about keeping handicapped spaces open for the truly handicapped, for, although it is not obvious, I am one of them. Thank you for your concern,” you give the person a chance to learn that not everything is as it looks on the surface. No, you don’t owe them a thing. No, it does not always do any good.  Yes, you can, if it fails, fall back on Response #1, 2, or 3 . . .

In those times, when I have used Response #4 – and I admit I have had a LOT of practice – I felt better for having offered some helpful information. Whether the person on the other end of the conversation accepted it or not was immaterial; I had tried to make it better.

Whatever response you choose, aim to make things better. Please.



HOORAY!!! We Lost!!!

8 10 2014

Well, you must think I have finally lost what was left of my mind.

Last night, the Washington Nationals, “my” baseball team, lost in the playoffs. If you are not a sports fan, this is the equivalent of watching your favorite ice cream parlor close at the end of summer.

No, wait. It’s more like having your favorite ice cream every day for months and months and then seeing the “CLOSED FOR THE SEASON” sign being hung on the door, just as you drive up for one more double scoop.


I was devastated by this tragedy (for a few hours) until it dawned on me . . .

For the last few weeks, until last night’s loss ended the chance, I’ve fretted about whether the Nationals would make it to the World Series. What kind of charmed life am I living for something that trivial to be my biggest problem?!

My family is healthy (Happy Birthday, Ken!).

My friends are true.

My house is secure.

My refrigerator is full.

So, I say Hooray! We lost! because it reminded me of just how good things really are. It reminded me to be grateful for my comfortable life. It reminded me that things don’t always work out just as we’d hoped, but, overall, there is always more to be happy about than to bemoan.

Oh, and Spring Training starts in just a few months!

Help! I’ve “Fallen” and I Can’t Get Up

1 10 2014

Alright, I give up. It’s fall.  Some people call it autumn, but it’s fall to me.

Fall, as in:

  • Fall-ing temperatures
  • Fall-ing leaves
  • Fall-ing from grace
  • Fall-ing out of favor
  • Fall-ing flat on my face


Fall also (when I overlook the overcast skies and remind myself that Daylight Saving Time always returns in the spring) means:

  • Fall family holidays on the calendar
  • Fall Into Fine Craft – my only craft fair exhibition this year
  • Fall Ball – the World Series, which might/better feature my team, the Washington Nationals
  • Fall menus –  happy husband because it’s pumpkin pie season
  • Fall television season – we LOVE TV


Yes, fall is like the rest of life – good and bad, happy and sad, here and then gone . . .

Hmmmm . . . okay.


Even though I will never be your fan, Fall, I will try harder to focus on your (few) positive attributes.

  • You’ll be refreshing, not cold.
  • The leaves will not be dropping; they’ll be dancing in the wind.
  • You’ll be my third most favorite season, not the one I dislike most, next to winter.
  • You’ll bring feelings of nostalgia; it won’t be melancholy.
  • I’ll step lively, not drag my feet, so, this autumn, I won’t be falling.


Happy October, everyone.

The Good, the Bad, and the Snarky: How to Speak Arts Festival

24 09 2014

I’ve seen this list - 10 Things Not to Say to an Artist or Crafter - being shared around Facebook by quite a few artisans and artists (although none I know would ever refer to themselves as “crafters.” – blechhhh!) It concerns me that some of us might think we are owed more courtesy than we display; so, I respectfully offer you the list, with some responses that might cross our show-addled minds and some gentler and possibly more productive replies:

 10.“I’ll just get my friend to make me one of those.”


Clearly, you are too boorish to HAVE friends, much less talented ones.


Oh, you have a friend who’s familiar with (insert your medium or technique here)? Who is he/she? I’ll bet we might know each other!

 9. “You know what you should make . . . ”


Yes, a sign that says “Don’t tell my muse what to think.”


Well, I have had great success and I get immense satisfaction out of making (insert your art/craft here), but I’m always open to an on-the-fly idea . . . you never know what might spark my muse.

 8. “Do I get a price break if I buy two?”


Did you get lost on your way to the garage sale?


My show prices are non-negotiable. I will, on occasion, offer special pricing to my collector clients, as a way of thanking them. I’d be delighted to add you to my mailing list.

 7. “I can make that myself.”


Can you make yourself pipe down?


I’d love to hear how you handled (insert media-specific issue here). It’s always so helpful to hear how others resolve problems like this.

 6. “Why does it cost so much?”


Because questions like this require that I buy ibuprofen by the case.


The raw materials in my work include (quick list of basic supplies), my education, my life-experience, my time, my inspiration, and my willingness to show a part of my soul to others, in the hopes that they find some beauty or meaning relevant to their own lives. That’s how I value my work.

5. “How do you make this?”  NOTE: I kind of like getting this question. A little bit of inside info can help someone better appreciate and understand the value of a piece.




I start with (very basic list of supplies) and an idea – something inside me that needs to be expressed.

4. “Will you donate your artwork to our event? We can’t pay you, but it will be great exposure.”


Are you nuts? I need to sell my work to pay the rent or I could die of exposure this winter!


I support selected charities with monetary donations; it is my practice not to donate my art. Best of luck to you in your fundraising efforts.

 3. “My nine-year-old makes this kind of stuff too.”


What art school is the precocious little bastard attending?


How nice that your child has recognized her calling so early; I must have been at least thirteen before I settled on making my living as an artist. 

 2. “Kids, this is what happens if you don’t go to college.”


Yep, cause if you go to college, all the creative joy will get sucked right out of you.


Matter of fact, I graduated from (insert alma mater here). My art is infused with and informed by my education.  My house is paid for and furnished with the money I earn by doing what I truly love.

1. “I can buy that at Walmart for $3.99.”


If you know Walmart’s pricing structure, you are way outside my client demographic!


Have a lovely time in the funnel cake line . . .

Oh, well, sometimes, you just can’t do any better.

I am thrilled to discuss my work with anyone who’s interested enough to spend their time with me at a show. Circumstances might require that I excuse myself, temporarily, to attend to others in my booth; but I do not take folks’ attention lightly. This is not to say that I think we artists are fair game for intentionally rude people. We should absolutely take no crap.  We just need to be sure we’re not taking the wrong attitude into a discussion.  Look for the good, ignore the unintentional slight, and direct the truly rude ones to the funnel cakes.

Time for a Palette Cleanser

17 09 2014

Have you ever had the joyfully gluttonous experience of a major multi-course dinner? If you have, you know the value of that little sphere of frozen citrusy goodness that appears between the chicken and the meat courses:  the palate cleanser.  That small gesture of refreshment – that complete break from what has come before and what is about to follow – amplifies the deliciousness of both.

Fine arting is a lot like fine dining. To keep the experience exciting and fun, we need to refresh our appetite, from time to time; otherwise, we can find our senses dulled and the delight we usually feel in our studios has turned to tedium.

For a long time – many months – I feared I had lost my passion for my chosen medium, enameling. I had works in progress that I couldn’t look at; the kiln was long cold; maybe I wasn’t an artist, after all . . .

When I mentioned my doubts to a few very good friends, who happen to be very fine artists, they suggested I try different media – just for fun. They encouraged me to play in their toy boxes – to experiment with their materials and working styles – just for the fun of it.

Boy, was it fun!

It was also refreshing. Without even realizing it, I found myself back in the middle of my begging-to-be-finished enamel works, looking on them with a very different perspective.  As I put the final touches on the things I’d been neglecting, Miss Muse is whispering in my ear (okay, she’s hollering) about all sorts of new enamel works to be created.

tourmaline detail 1


Feeling a little bit stale? Cleanse your palette and your palate. Squeeze a few bright new colors from some fresh tubes, pick up a crochet hook or a pen or a box of scrap wood – dive into the toy box for a while.  When you clamber back out, you just might find your old familiar tools are, once again, your very favorite toys of all.

counter sift



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