Monday, November 26, 2018

Re-release of The Absence of Anyone Else

This is just a short post to let you know that The Absence of Anyone Else has been released as a second edition, just in time for Cyber Monday! It has a new cover, book club questions, and a forward by Cassie Premo Steele, author of The ReSisters. You can follow the link below to order your copy today!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Say Yes to Green! My Collaboration with Hippocampus

The synchronicity, or as it's called in the new Deepak Chopra book I am reading, SynchroDestiny, of life never ceases to amaze me. If you pay attention, you learn that coincidences are generally anything but that. They are actually minor miracles, little nudges and pushes to get you on the right path and, once you are there, remind you that you're on it.

Back in the spring, I met a lovely lady at our local Farmer's Market selling natural beauty products. We had a great conversation and I bought some of her goods, which I very much enjoyed. I also followed her on Facebook (Dittany Nutt)  and Instagram, because we live in the digital world and it's what we do :-) And I also wanted to be in the loop of new products and such that she might be posting about, or given that she's a pretty cool person, I thought she might be posting about some pretty cool stuff in general. Which she does!

One of the posts that caught my eye was a skirt she had purchased from a company called Hippocampus. The skirt featured a drawing by a child, and as a former elementary school art teacher,  I thought that was very cool. I followed the link to the site and saw designs by adult artists as well, and almost on a whim, I decided to send a query to them, asking "Hey, are you interested in any new artists for your company?"

The result of that query, sent on a whim after just happening to see a post about the company, is the skirt below, based on my artwork titled, Say Yes to Green!

I'm not including any photos in this post because I want you to click on the links, and see not only the skirt featuring my art, but also all the other amazing items they offer!

This is very exciting opportunity to me and I owe it all to the little series of events that led to my discovering Hippocampus and to the events that led to creation of the artwork...I'll share the story of that next time!

Finland, Home of my Heart

My son and I spent summer in Finland and during that amazing time, were able to meet in person Mari Penanen, author of Finnish lifestyle blog,

Below you will find the link to the blog I wrote for SaimaaLife, aptly titled Home of my Heart. This just covers our adventures in the Lappeenranta area, where we stayed for a bit of our trip. There were so many others in and around the Helsinki area as well. But I will cover those another day!

Finland, Home of my Heart

Be sure to follow Mari's blog for insight into Finnish culture and lifestyle and suggestions for visiting the area (which I do highly recommend!)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Standing up to Live

Tallinn, Estonia, 3am

"How dare one sit down to write...when he has not yet stood up to live." Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was 3am in Tallinn, Estonia, and the white night was too mesmerizing for sleep. Couple that with the time difference in the States, or rather, my corner of the States, which had led to a flurry of text messages from abroad during the wee hours, and you had the perfect recipe for a sleepless night. Which could become a problem, because....

...I'm not a night owl. To the great annoyance of many who know me, I'm a early bird. Though I have my moments when I stay up past the bedtime of most nine-year-olds, truth is,  I like to go to sleep early and wake up early. There's a few reasons for art school, I worked several jobs and was generally exhausted by evening. If I didn't rise at dawn for a little time in the studio before heading to class or one of my jobs, I would't have any time in the studio. Rising early became, in my mind, interlinked with determination, dedication, success...

Fast forward a few years, and I'm parenting a young child solo, while working a full-time job and a couple of freelance jobs to make ends meet. I learned an entirely new definition of the word 'exhausted.'  Rising early then became, in my mind, interlinked with sanity, self-care, a window of time to myself, just to breath a little...

Now, the young child is a teenager and I've managed a balance between work, home, and all the other things I fit into my days. But the early bird in me is still going strong. Even during this 10-week vacation, I rise around dawn, no matter what time I go to sleep.

Morning coffee in the window of the Hotel Metropol, Tallinn, Estonia
I find myself apologizing for it a lot when I am in the company of others. It seems I'm always tip-toeing around, trying not to make any noise, wanting to be courteous, but tired of lying in bed wide awake, waiting on everyone else to stir about. But regardless of the motivations that set the pattern into habit years ago, rising early has just become part of who I am. And while habits can be broken, this isn't one I want to break.

This works for me.

"How dare one sit down to write...when he has not yet stood up to live," is one of my favorite quotes by Emerson. I found myself thinking about standing up to live this week, how I do it each day, and I've come to believe that rising early is simply one of my ways. It's not a big thing, but apologizing for how we stand up to live...well...that might be dangerous ground to tread. That might be a big thing.

Everything we do in the course of a day has the power to set plans into action. In preparation for pending life changes, I cleaned out some files this week, purging old papers, receipts, bills, letters. Opening space, clearing paths for the new. I also removed supplies for crafts I no longer do, purging a shelving unit and several storage bins, opening a lovely space, and freeing myself of the burden of creative guilt that came from looking at the unused supplies. Dreams change, after all. Sometimes standing up to live is a bold move; sometimes it's baby steps. Sometimes it's something as seemingly mundane as the ritual of pre-dawn coffee in a quiet house, an open book in the hands and a bouquet of flowers on the table.

Today, for the first time in a while, I sat down to write, thinking about how, each day, I stand up to live. I often say, I'm a work in progress - I think we all are. But however I choose stand up to live each day, one thing is for certain...

Morning kahvi (coffee) in a Moomin mug, Hytti, Finland
I like doing it early.

No apologies.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

How It Is Now

There is some work being done on the grounds of my townhouse. Everywhere one looks, there are piles of gravel and pipes; bulldozer-type machines parked in random places; and that lovely red mud the South is known for. Overturned in clumps and ridges, it scars the landscape, making it virtually impossible to walk anywhere without getting stuck in the muck of it all.

So there is a new system in my home to taking out the garbage and the recycling. One must first don the large, rubber boots that now have a place of honor by the front door. It has been like this for weeks, and there is every reason to believe it will continue to be like this for weeks to come.

We don't fuss. We don't complain. We simply put on the boots when we need to toss the garbage. That's just how it is now.

We didn't used to need to do this. We could walk out across the soft grass in bare feet if we wanted. My herb garden - composed mostly of souvenir plants from Colonial Williamsburg -  lined the way to the bins. Now, the soft grass is gone, the herbs destroyed by machines, and hard red mud that lay beneath it all is exposed in the place of what was.

Putting on boots to take out the garbage. Such a minor annoyance, really, in the grand scheme of life. In just a few weeks, it's become an instinctive habit, and soon it will just seem normal. Like it's always been this way.

Subconscious Adaptation.

Even to the smallest change.

We adapt to big changes, too. The ones that break us, even. The ones that create new landscapes in our lives. We say we will never adjust, that we will never get used to the way it is now. But we do, because deep inside of us, the primal that remains knows that like the city hawks and suburban coyotes, we, too, must adapt in order to survive.

We could miss what used to be. We could miss who used to be. But we would get bogged down in the muck. Some part of us knows that we have to simply have to plow through to get where we need to be.

I won't lie, I miss the little pathway I created. I miss the herbs so carefully selected on one of our favorite travels. But these things are gone now, and missing them does little to restore what was. The new landscape, barren as it is, has become normal to my eyes...but it, too, will change. By spring, the work will be done. The ground will be leveled back to normal, and grass will grow again. I will recreate the pathway and replace my tattered garden with new plants.

I don the boots without even thinking and walk outside, bag of trash in hand. I lift my eyes upward,  past the barrenness of the landscape. I see trees alive with autumn fire. I see a pileated woodpecker gliding from one tree to another. I see emerald green moss covering a fallen tree. I see leaves drift slowly into the creek, where they spin and float away. Captivated by it all, I move forward, remembering that I will miss what beauty remains if I avoid plowing through the muck.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

This Summer. These Moments. These Days.

How do you sum up that which seems impossible to sum up?

How to express concisely that which is so, so far from concise?

I read once that it seems years and years will go by without many changes at all, then suddenly everything changes all at once. That seems to be the way of it, I will agree. My last post, on Palm Sunday, we were looking forward to Spring Break trip to Legoland, summer vacation and well, just the joy that comes with the spring blooms and warmer weather.

A few weeks later, I was hired to teach a class at a local university. One of my long-time goals. Just one class, not a full-time position, but still, thrilling. In the midst of this, however, my mother passed into spirit.

My mother, in her late teens
We all hear about how difficult it can be to lose a parent, but until we go through it, it's impossible to understand. I won't write more about this now. But it happened. And in the midst of processing this, something else happened...

I interviewed for, and was offered, a dream job! Another long-time goal, finally realized. A bright spot. However, the very day after I accepted the position, my father was hospitalized with a massive stroke.

My father, in his 20s
And all the while, regular life went on. Animals had to be fed; children had to be cared for and kept in the age-appropriate spaces between knowledge about what was happening and protection from the knowledge of what was happening; homes had to be tended; bliss and joy had to be found and shared. I reconnected with old friends and reacquainted myself with things I once enjoyed but had, for whatever reasons, not found time for lately. I shed the skin of a former profession and, through workshops and training, stepped into a new career. I found moments of laughter with family I'd not seen for years, and depths of compassion I didn't know I possessed as I watched my beloved, rugged, lumber-jack like father struggle to feed himself.

Though I am in my 5th decade of life, my mother's passing, my father's stroke, and my career change have all left me feeling a bit lost in the world. A strange mix of grief and emancipation. I miss my mother and long for my father's return to a healthy independent state. I am nervous about learning the ropes of my new job and a bit more sentimental than I expected to be about leaving my old one. I feel as though I am leaping without a safety net, and at the same time, have a rush of creativity that has me doing everything from creating new works on my easel to making jewelry from found objects during quiet summer-citronella-incense-coffee-friends evenings on my patio.

Autumn Puddles, diptych, oil on canvas
And all the while, the birds sing, the cicadas hum, the sun rises and sets. Nothing waits for us to catch up or be ready. Eventually you being to feel normal again. In time, people quit texting or calling to see how you are. Cards quit coming in the mail. You are able to forget that terrible things have happened for moments at a time, and you can fully reach out and embrace with joy the new things that are coming your way. As Robert Frost so eloquently said once, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on."

I sit with my toes in the sand while my child rushes the waves. I am grieving and I am happy. I want to both hide from the world and revel in it. I want to sing and laugh from excitement and I want to be silent and still with sadness. And in this summer, in these moments, during these days, all of this is normal.

All of this is sane.

All of this is me.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spring Rolls In...Some Exciting News...and Palm Sunday!

Spring is rolling into Carolina! Hooray!

This past week was a bit tempestuous, however.

We were treated to two days of dramatic storms that brewed flash floods and tornadoes all across the Southeast.  If you remember fall 2015 as well as I do, then you know I do not take flood warnings lightly. Not anymore. Amazing how some things stay with us, even long after we are healed from the trauma of it. Still, we were blessedly safe and all the anxiety resulted in two days of coming home early from work. I'm not going to complain about that as there was plenty to do here as always!

During the worst of the weather, I finished up my dad's birthday slippers. He turned 70 during the week but we celebrated yesterday. On Thursday, my son made his gift for my father, which was a homemade fruitcake.

Now that, my friends, was a true labor of love. We made the little one so we could sample it. My oh my. Definitely keeping this recipe for Christmas gifting. Here it is for you!

In preparation for the special day yesterday, we went out for strawberries last Saturday! This time of year many local farms let you pick your own, which is backbreaking work really that reminds us to truly appreciate and thank all of those who play a part in getting our food from seed to table.

These strawberries were used to make the strawberry shortcake for my dad's birthday party yesterday. It was a big hit. A spring and summer dessert staple around here. Luckily the storms this week didn't do much damage at local farms and we'll be able to go gather more throughout the season...

...because nothing beats strawberry jam, right?

 I was up to my ears in strawberries last Saturday it seemed, but so worth it to have several jars already for enjoying and gifting to others. We are still moving towards more and more homemade and handmade gifts for all occasions and nothing beats yummy foods! Everyone already seems to have so much stuff, don't you think? 

I also made a shoofly pie last weekend, and let me just say,! This is one I will definitely make again, maybe even today.

The recipe came from a little book I have been enjoying reading a bit of each evening. Because no one does simple living quiet like the Amish, correct? 

It's a great little read, filled with great traditional recipes from Amish country and reminders of how to slow down, step out of the hectic, consumer-drive pace of mainstream society and embrace the things in life which matter most.

Which brings me to a bit of excitement...I have secured a monthly meeting place for the SC based branch of Radical Homemakers! I am really excited about this and busy planning the year's curriculum now! What would you like to learn about and enjoy if you attended these meetings? I'm thinking of everything from learning to keep bees to making Christmas garlands from old cards. Oh, it's going to be delightful! Learn more about the Radical Homemaker movement here and if you are local, join our SC group for updates and meeting times/location!

Today is the Palm Sunday Procession and service at our church and since our priest applied for and received a parade permit, and we know bagpipes and donkeys are going to be included, we are pretty excited about attending! Afterwards, a slow Sunday with lots of playing outside and a bit of painting for me. I've a commission to complete and a few new pieces, including this one, Pine Moon, to varnish for upcoming shows. 

Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a blessed and happy Palm Sunday!