Them Thar’s Fightin’ Words

23 04 2014

Whether it’s nature or nurture, it’s undeniable; there are some folks for whom EVERYTHING is a competition. There must be a winner and a loser in every encounter. I understand this, for I am a very competitive person. At the age of old and gray, I now understand that an unchecked competitive nature is exhausting and counterproductive.

When we sit down to play a board game, in my family, everyone at the table is geared up for fierce competition, which we all agree is fun. When we sit down to discuss who should have won the Emmy for best actor in a comedy series or whether Rob Ford is a better mayor than Rahm Emanuel, we also gear up for a fight, which is not quite as much fun.

In some cases, winning is not the appropriate objective. Sometimes, it is more important to learn from hearing a different viewpoint. Sometimes, it is necessary to honor someone’s pain. Sometimes, it is more beneficial to cooperate, and when we can’t cooperate, sometimes, it’s better to withdraw from the fight.

Withdraw? Seriously?

as in Retreat?



An excellent bit of special-needs-child-rearing advice, received years ago, has proven to be invaluable for me in a much broader application:

“Ask yourself, Is this the hill worth dying for?”

I don’t deny there are things worth fighting for, but not EVERYTHING. Most of the time, we just waste our energy, make ourselves look foolish, or end up on the canvas, bloodied and broken for no good reason, except that we fail, before we step into the battle, to ask whether or not it’s a fight worth fighting.

The biggest fight is often the one inside our own heads, where arrogance and hurt feelings conspire against reason and restraint. Ask yourself whether or not it’s worth it to try to take that hill. Pause before pressing the More Adrenaline NOW button. It is not a mark of cowardice or weakness to walk away from a competition you deem unworthy of your effort. It is a mark of self-respect . . .

and don’t let that bastard Hubris tell you no different, neither!

The First Child

16 04 2014


April: time to pay taxes; hippity-hoppity, Easter’s on its way; and it’s spring.

The first two of these will come and go without her notice, but April has a mind of her own, when it comes to the idea of spring. Actually, April has dreadful manners, a terrible attitude, and throws the occasional hissy fit, just because she’s April.

I get it. April is spring’s first child.

May will come along, the cheerful and pleasant one, filled with big ideas and the potential to fulfill them. June, the baby, will be ebullient, raucous, and loudly colorful. Alas, April, the first born child of spring, behaves like the spoiled child she is. Welcomed with such enthusiasm by those of us bone-tired of winter’s shenanigans, but knowing she is not going to remain the center of our attention for long, she does everything she can to imprint her identity into our minds before we are swept away by May’s sweetness and June’s bombast; mostly, she cries.

It’s hard being April – so much is expected of her and she has only thirty days to do it. She’s the bridge between seasons; the detour we must follow to get around the construction being done to get us from blizzards to shirt-sleeve weather; the not-quite-pretty-enough one we trifle with, while we wait for her more desirable siblings.

It’s no wonder April is mercurial. No one could stand up to her tasks without the occasional outburst. April is doing the very best she can, so we should cut her a little slack when she sleets on our heads or frosts our daffodils. She doesn’t mean to be naughty; she’s just being April.

While we’re at it, we should try hard to cut each other (and ourselves) a little slack when we have a less-than-graceful moment. We’re all doing the best we can, we have a lot on our shoulders, and we just want to be recognized for whom we are, even if we’re April.

Consider the Source

9 04 2014

Miss Muse read this on Facebook, this week:

Somebody gave my book a one star review. It’s the only one on Amazon that’s so low about my book. Does someone not like me? Are they trying to ruin all that hard work I did? Or just make me feel bad?        Kerin Gale, Artist                

What makes us cease to process all the positive things we know about ourselves at the drop of one negative remark?

When we receive a compliment, even from someone whose opinion we respect – and especially from someone we love – we brush it off as undeserved; but we immediately embrace whatever crap some clueless bully launches at us as valid. Many of us seem to be wired to ignore good and positive affirming statements from valued friends, but take to heart the ill-educated, mean-spirited, worthless venom spewed by someone we would not trust to tell us the correct time of day.

Is it a design flaw? Nah. It’s operator error. We need to stop driving with one foot on the brake! Let the wheels roll: forward, fueled by compliments and encouragement and away from the negative nonsense not worth a glance in the rear-view mirror.

The Goodness of Impermanent Art

2 04 2014

As an artist, I often hear and read discussions pertaining to the archival qualities of one medium or another. Longevity is an important factor when making art with a capital “A,” but it is not necessarily always a critical consideration. I’ve found that I’ve begun to appreciate less permanent works, from the ephemeral to the last-a-few-decades stuff.


This sort of snuck up on me, so I figured I should ask myself what the heck happened. With the first buds in my perennial gardens beginning to open, I had my answer. I love flowers and annuals provide blooms for months on end, so why do I love perennials, with their much shorter floral displays, so much more?


When my hellebores are fading, the pulmonaria are ready for their close-up. When the clematis begin to fade, crocosmia begins to sing. Part of the charm is the change. There is joy in the beauty of the present and in the anticipation of what’s the next act. I think that’s why I have begun to enjoy less durable works of art. They are not intended to last forever, so there is the “live in the moment” excitement and the pleasant (and a little bit naughty) awareness that, as one work fades, there will be room to love another.


May I suggest – may I encourage – you to use some impermanent media in your studio. There is a freedom in making things that won’t hang around and haunt you for a lifetime. You and your muse can play with reckless abandon because there’s no long-term commitment. Working with things that fade, rot, or decay can reduce the seriousness of your work, which can give you a fresh outlook on your more important pieces.


I’m going to make some extremely ephemeral art this weekend. It will probably smell like chocolate chips. Miss Muse will work for cookies.

Dot Extension Dotty

26 03 2014

Fresh from the Facebook, it’s time for an episode of “What?!?”

Here’s the post:

So I get this e-mail from that some company in China wants to register my name – (Insert well known and respected artist here) – as their domain name. They want to buy up all the extensions I don’t have. . . this is weird. . . any suggestions?

Well, the responses were almost all variations on the theme:

“Call an attorney . . . must protect your name . . . it’s your brand . . .”

Just what I’d expect – and WRONG. Boys and girls, there are a number of problems with this approach. Let’s dispense with the obvious ones, first:

  1. Copyright, trademark, and patent lawyers are a very specialized bunch, because intellectual property law is an extraordinarily complex body of laws; which means they are EXPENSIVE. Unless you’re Coca Cola or Nike, the retainer might be a problem . . .
  2. Even if you are Coca Cola or Nike, you can’t keep (insert nefarious evil-doer here) from stealing your stuff. Seriously, ask Spielberg or Hermes or Rolex, if you don’t believe me. They can’t stop pirates – do you think you’d fare better?
  3. If some company offers to “protect” your domain name by selling you all the available extensions, tell them to bill it to the Nigerian  prince, who handles all your finances . . .

Now, let’s get to the important issue.

One of the things we seem to forget, in the internet age, is that we are more than domain names and avatars. Regardless of what organization might call itself, there is only one of you and that’s not for sale. No patent or copyright necessary – you’re unique.

Yes, artists, you are your brand. Okay, let’s read that again: YOU – not your name – are your brand. Your clients, customers, students, and collectors value your work because it is something of YOU. Yes, it’s frustrating to think that someone might unfairly use your great name to their advantage; but imagine how frustrating it must be to be the pretender, not able to pull of the genuine article, to be the cheap knock-off.

That old Charles Caleb quote, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, is true. Take it as a compliment, dive happily back into your life, and keep being the Original YOU.

Ooh, She’s Intimidating

19 03 2014

When someone evokes a feeling of awe in us, I think we often mislabel that sensation as “feeling intimidated.” Professional athletes and musicians excepted, I believe we fight against be awed by others. Why?  I think it’s to protect our egos; if we are awed by others (whom have not been properly anointed by the masses), we might feel less awesome . . .

How silly.

We need to loosen our grip on our “Wow!” response.  We need to revel in the glow of  the greatness of others, especially in those moments when that greatness presents itself right in front of our noses – not from two hundred rows away from the court, field, or stage.  When so much of our life is relegated to the mundane tasks of everyday routine, how does it make sense to ever miss a chance to be awed?

Next time you find yourself feeling “intimidated,” make sure that’s really what’s happening. You might, in fact, be feeling amazed – awe-struck – by some other regular guy’s very real talent, ability, grace, intellect, or unexpected-but-dazzling smile.  I am purposefully tuning in, looking for, questing after that feeling of being awe-struck.  It’s occasion for celebration, which is always awesome.

Here’s a link to my inspiration for today’s post – a video by an awesome artist, Gwenn Seemel.

Who Would You Miss?

12 03 2014

I awoke to this nugget from NBC News.

Facebook’s headquarters was locked down late Tuesday after authorities received a threat against the company.

Perhaps, Miss Muse was receiving signals from the Universe; this one’s been in the works for a few days.

If Facebook were to go away, who would you miss?

Facebook has enabled me to “meet” a lot of folks I’d likely never even have known about; much less have shared any exchange of ideas, recipes, or –critically important – jokes and cartoons.

Just as we don’t want to be best friends with every kid in camp; don’t want to invite the entire congregation to our son’s wedding; would not want to have every member of our gym come over for a dip in our backyard pool; we surely have many arm’s-length, but interesting Facebook “friendships.”

But, aren’t there some who you’d miss if they weren’t trundling around your Newsfeed; a few who you’d meet for lunch or a game of Scrabble, if they lived nearby?  I have come to know a few folks through Facebook who have added real value to my life. They inspire me. They teach me. They lift my spirits. They challenge my brain.  I like them; I really like them.

But, if Facebook were to disappear, so might some of them.

I do not lose sleep over the fate of Mr. Zuckerberg’s baby, but I am happy to have had this awakening, this awareness raised, this consciousness that there are folks within my Facebook circle who are important to me – important enough for me to take steps to assure they are not lost to me, in the event of some internet hissy-fit. It’s a simple back-up plan – an old-fashioned one, for sure, but it will work. Starting now, I am going to keep a (gasp!) physical record of the names, websites, and contact information of the few Facebook folks whose words or work or wisdom or wit make my life richer.

Surely, I will never need it, but the act of putting pen to paper to create this list will be a worthy one, if for no other reason than to remind me of how lucky I am; how much richer is my life because I know about these wonderful people.


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