Spring Cleaning and Separation Anxiety

22 04 2015

Time to tidy up, refresh, and declutter, right?  How’s that going for you?  I can hear the self-talk:

I know, it’s been in the (choose your favorite place where stuff goes to be “saved for later”) for the last twelve years, but:

It’s still got the tags on it.

It’ll come back into style.

My great-aunt’s downstairs neighbor’s brother-in-law gave it to me.

Let’s just get this right out there.

That place where you “save” the stuff that you never even look at, except when you are (theoretically) decluttering, has a name. Whether yours is a lovely walk-in closet with all the detritus neatly boxed and labeled or just a big pile-o-crap in a corner of the garage; if it’s filled with stuff you don’t use, it’s a trash bin.

It’s spring. Time to clean. Time to throw stuff away!

Commence the wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Protest that it is wasteful to throw away all this “perfectly good” stuff.  That’s like eating every last bite on your plate, even after you’re full – and ruining your health with those unnecessary extra calories – because you don’t want to “waste” food. Kids, whether you store it (fat or junk) or put it on the curb, it’s trash!

If you truly have things that someone else will use, donate them, right now. Do NOT store them, “just in case.” Haven’t you already yard-sale-d yourself stupid?  Aren’t all your relatives self-reliant and not in need of your 7-11 Star Wars Big Gulp cup with the chip in the rim? Throw stuff away!

Perhaps it’s my inner claustrophobe, or perhaps I don’t like to dust; but I am sure that, even if there’s room to store that stuff, it’s not a good idea to keep things that we don’t use.  You say you don’t want to waste anything, so you keep everything  . . . well, that is a waste . . . a waste of space.

But . . . . but . . . but . . . it’s still “good.”

Shelf life is not the same as useful life.  Seriously, some of those polyester leisure suits and Happy Meal toys might survive as long as cockroaches and Keith Richards – doesn’t mean you should let any of them live in your closet.

It’s spring – fling it!

Good Form

15 04 2015

Although you’d never know it by my looks, I lift weights.  I am not very strong (yet) and I am age-flabby and a bit – ahem – on the high side of my body fat ratio goal. I do, however, remember, from thirty-odd years ago, when I was a real gym rat, how to work out.

I know the proper technique, the right exercises for each muscle group, gym etiquette – yes, there IS such a thing. I also know when someone is headed for a serious injury because they don’t know.

Such was the case a few weeks ago, when two early-teens-ers visited the weight room on spring break. They looked more like future computer geniuses than athletes. There was something about them that stirred my  mommy senses, so I kept an eye on them. It took less than two minutes for me to see they were going to hurt themselves, so I did what I had to do, even though I wasn’t at all sure how they’d take it.

“Don’t lock your elbows. You’ll damage your joints.”  I cheerfully called across the room. What I got in response was stunning. “Thank you!  Thank you for your help,”  replied the older boy, with a direct look into my eyes and an earnest braces-sparkling smile.

When their mother popped in the get them, I introduced myself and congratulated her on raising two polite young men. She smiled. “My younger son is autistic.” I knew; so was my daughter.  I seem to have radar for folks on the spectrum. I know what it is like to parent a child who is “different.”

I love the weight room.  I love the energy and inspiration that the strong and fit bring to the place. I love the determination of the beginners.

When someone who strikes us as “out of place” comes to our playground, we should try hard to fight our initial judgment – which is usually, driven by our bratty inner child who operates out of jealousy, fear, or too little coffee – uncharitable, to say the least.

Jumping to conclusions is the one exercise we all seem far too willing to do. Let’s practice good form and exercise kindness. Lots of reps. Strengthen our hearts.

And Another Thing

8 04 2015

I’m the kind of person who believes in actions, not just words.

I get involved with the stuff in my life. I believe it is only right to play hard, not just watch the action. After all, if it weren’t for those who lace up the cleats, don the helmets, and get banged up on the field, there’d be no game to watch.

Problem with volunteer groups, though, is that there are lots more cheerleaders than players. There’s often a very small group (sometimes a group of one) with the job title community organizer-carpool coordinator-busboy-cruise director-financial manager-welcome wagon-and another thing . . .

Yes, it is our fault – those of us who believe we should work for the privilege of membership (or are control-freak-megalomaniacs) – that we end up wearing more hats than our necks can support. We set ourselves up for an ever-growing workload by Doing The Work.  We’re committed and we’re good at what we do.

That’s great for the group, while it lasts. It is, however, very bad long-range planning to have so few hamsters in the wheel.  When we burn out – and it happens fast and hard – organizations that do not have a good spread of essential duties across the membership and willing and ready successors to key roles often find they’re scrambling to restart from a standstill.

I love the few groups to which I belong. I have allowed myself to be exhausted by having worn too many hats for too long, though.  I see, now, how unfair it was that I did not say “no” to a few more things along the way to this point. By having a few people do everything, it takes the pressure off the rest of the group, but it also robs folks of the opportunity to learn and grow by taking on responsibility and to feel good about actively contributing to the whole.

Should you volunteer to take on some responsibility in your circle?  Sure.

Should you take on one of those “other duties as required” roles?  NO!

Play on the team, but don’t feel you have to takes the snap from center, drop back, throw a perfect spiral downfield, make a great block, run a perfect slant, and catch the pass.  Division of labor and well defined roles make for much better games.

Let someone else catch the damn pass, once in a while.

Thanks for Asking – I Feel Great!

1 04 2015

Do You Feel Inadequate? Good.

This is the title of an article written by Rod Judkins and appearing on the website Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/connect-creativity/201503/do-you-feel-inadequate-good

I am sure that Mr. Judkins, whose Google search reveals that he is a successful artist and writer of self-help-y creativity tomes, might have some good ideas, but this piece touting self-doubt as a necessary motivator for creativity missed the mark for me, to phrase it gently.

As my friend Sarah Bush, https://www.facebook.com/MakeGreatStuff?fref=nf, whose March 30th Facebook post drew my attention to the article, commented, this sounds a bit (too much) like “the old thinking that you have to be miserable to be a great artist…”

There as an enormous difference between being “smug and self-satisfied” (Mr. Judkins’s pejorative) and in just generally feeling good about yourself. Questioning individual decisions and reviewing their outcomes produces actionable information on which to base future decisions. Questioning your worth as a human being simply produces angst.

The opposite of complacency is not angst.

The urge to do better is not the same as angst.

Creativity, for me, does not flow from malaise.  Creativity is not some cruel taskmaster who forever denies approval, while demanding that I try to gain it.  Creativity, to me, is that energy – sometimes a pulse that pushes me ahead and other times, a magnet that draws me forward – that always drives me to be me.

Me – not “better me” – just me.

I am not self-satisfied, but I most certainly do not feel inadequate.  Creativity lives and thrives – with Joy, Grief, Charity, Humor, and Love – in my imperfect but totally adequate self.

Confidence does not repel creativity. Sure, it’s April 1st, but don’t be fooled.


Hey, That’s MY Idea!

25 03 2015


You’re only as original as the obscurity of your sources.  Pablo Picasso

I am a visual artist; before that, I was a (very minor) professional musician.  I have come to my own ethical conclusion regarding originality – not a valid legal one, to be sure – that, as long as I am making art that comes from and is imbued with my personal perspective and my voice, I am not taking anything that is not mine; I am giving something of me to the work.

The recent legal dust-ups in the world of pop music (Sam Smith/Tom Petty and Estate of Marvin Gaye/Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris, Jr.) have given me more than a bit of creative heartburn, so this morning, I took a Google stroll through the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the word original, which led to the definition of the word copy, which led to the word similar . . .

Except for making my brain hurt, this exercise did very little to help me understand the extremes to which it seems we have gone, as a society, in terms of what determines that something is an “original” idea.

It’s hard for artists, sometimes, to see that their work might be (who am I kidding – IS) derivative. Sometimes, our sources are so obscure that we aren’t conscious that we are drawing from those works, ideas, concepts, and techniques of those who came before.  Other times, they are more obvious.

Back in my bar band days, our trio used to sing these three 3-song medleys to show that lots of  old music is new and new is old:

Louie Louie 1955, Hang On, Sloopy  1964, Wild Thing 1965

Cherry, Cherry 1966, What I Like About You 1980, R.O.C.K. in the USA 1985

Here, There, and Everywhere 1966, Sunshine on My Shoulders 1971, Longer 1979

Go ahead.  Pull up one on You Tube and sing along – sing any one of the three along to any other.  Big Fun! (and Paul McCartney never called for John Denver’s head on a platter.) My musician’s ear hears that, while they are not exact copies, they are surely as close as Blurred Lines is to Got to Give It Up.

Every human being is an original, yet we have common component parts, much the same as those who came years before us . . . We’ve been walking this planet with pretty much the same hearing and sight abilities for a very long time.  Let’s all just lighten up a little and acknowledge that we did not invent color or sound. Let’s be grateful for what we can see and hear and all play happily together.

Our band, Crippen, in 1983. We played happily together for (too) many years. Thanks Ken and Hank.

The Will to Bloom

18 03 2015

I’ve been a plant-geek, dirt-digging, landscape lover for a long time.  It’s a little bit embarrassing that it’s just now occurred to me to appreciate these lessons from my little yard.  Guess the March winds finally blew (open) my mind.

How hard must the tender first shoots of spring fight to press upward through frozen earth to find the light; to right themselves after one of March’s windy tantrums has battered and beaten them down. What fierce and unquestioning dedication to their task – to grow, to flower, to share their beauty with the world.

It is easy to forget that we carry within us a bounty of potential blossoms – love, compassion, kindness, generosity, laughter.

We are meant to bloom.

Why, then, do we often stunt our own growth?

Are we sure that we are not meant to bloom because we are being discouraged by others (or our own brat of an inner child)?  Check the daffodils who’ve broken the soil surface by several inches this week and who will likely be covered in snow in a few days. They’ll not take the snow as an omen they are not meant to bloom. They will – literally – rise above that hardship and fulfill their glorious destiny.

Are we afraid that if we let ourselves bloom we’ll look like we’re showing off?  Does that rangy ancient lilac, the one that perfumes that corner of the garden to the point of drunkenness, care what its neighbors think?  Does that harlot red peony worry it might be too old to wear carmine petals?

Perhaps, we just feel like we don’t have the energy to bloom.  Plants don’t blossom in a vacuum; they depend on nature – the sun and rain and workings of soil microbes – to help them fulfill their destiny.

Don’t stunt your growth. You have energy you haven’t tapped.  You have beauty to share with the rest of us.

Don’t let unfriendly winds stop you; you can outlast them.

Don’t worry about what others might think; the only fair assessment of you is you.

Don’t think you have to go it alone; cherish friends who feel like sunshine to your soul.

Spring is the time for renewal and growth and hope. Let’s do this!

3-1--8-15 1

Of Lions and Lambs

11 03 2015

March is a month of emotional highs and lows for me.

My mother, who is strong and healthy and happy and funny, celebrated her eighty-fifth birthday yesterday.

3-11-15 b









My sweet daughter would have been twenty-five on the first, but she’s been gone for almost five years.

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To honor my Jessica, I am sharing this (just ignore the commercial lead-in) video of another child with challenges she does not deserve to have (Jessica was autistic) and let you in on some lessons I am so fortunate to have learned from the experience of mothering one of these special children.


The lessons are:

  1. Special needs kids get to do some awesome things “regular” kids don’t, but never forget all the things our special kids will NEVER be able to do, and don’t ever begrudge them a single gleeful moment.
  2. Special needs kids are capable of great joy, so never assume that “they don’t understand,” or that their feelings can’t be hurt. Every kid deserves our attention, respect, and kindness. Don’t dismiss any of them as “less than.”
  3. There are a lot of really great people in the world. Some of them are professional athletes; some are doctors; and many are the folks who work at the grocery store, live next door, or drive the trash truck.

Be nice to everyone.

Chances are most of us deserve it and, without a doubt,

ALL of us need it.


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