Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Book Club - April 30, 2010

Happy Friday!  Perking along with Jamie Ridler's Happy Book Club gang, sharing another few instances of what brings smiles into my life.

1st - this mug shot of Marcus.  He was insistent that he have a mohawk hairdo yesterday for school!  I mean when he woke up in the morning and his hair was back to its usual sweet cap of close waves, he broke down in tears until my daughter re -worked it with a little water and mousse.  Then he was all smiles and ready to ham it up! 
2nd - Monday was my daughter's birthday - but I woke up in such a grumpus mood.  I had a slight headache, just in a funk.  I was making my morning green smoothie when my dear husband called me into his little office where he'd just finished installing new speakers.  He put on Judy Collins singing "Someday Soon", put his arms around me and started dancing, his own little version of a 2 step in a 3' by 3' space.  What a sweetie - funk gone.
3rd - A friend invited me to join her meditation group this morning.  It was fun to meet some really interesting new people and they all go out for breakfast afterward - so I tried a delicious ginger peach scone.  My breakfasts lately have been just my green smoothies, so this was a real treat.  And I had my smoothie when I came home.  It was good, too.
Little delights noticed make all the difference in day.  What has pulled a smile out of you this week?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Self-monitoring - Watches, Scales, Sizes. and Other Nonsense

This isn't a very sexy title, but lately I've realized that I'm developing a different system of keeping track of myself.  I know others have already thought about this - and would love to hear what you might have come up with. 
For the first time in perhaps 45 years, I no longer wear a watch routinely.  I needed one when I was working - to check pulses, respirations, how long someone had been standing or doing an exercise.  I still use an alarm clock most mornings, since I need to meet a friend for our early walks, much of the year before sunrise.  And of course I have to check clocks for appointments or picking up grandchildren.  But otherwise, I move to the rhythms of the day. 
When I stretch or work on balance I find myself still counting out seconds - an old habit.  But since I've been doing yoga, I've been changing this to focusing on my breath.  And if I want to sustain a stretch, I count my breaths rather than the time.  It's a subtle difference, but I feel myself relax more when I do this.
I don't use a scale.  When I go to the doctor's they weigh me - but that's the only time I'll step on one.  I hate them.  I come from a family of thin people.  I was never thin - and the scale has always felt like a tyrant.  My clothes tell me how I'm doing with my weight.  When I do certain exercises or movements I can feel whether I need to lose a few pounds - and most of the time that's the case.  Keeping track of body fat with calipers or finger pinches is another thing I don't do.  I've got eyes, and they don't lie.  And it's easy to tell whether I need more muscle strenth by trying a few pushups.  When I can't do even modified ones in good alignment, I need to work at it.
I don't count calories or carbs - I know the things that are loaded with them, I know the foods that are especially good for me.  If I were diabetic, I'd need to count the carbs to balance out my insulin - but otherwise, I don't think it's necessary to do that.
Sizes of clothes don't determine what I'll buy or wear.  It's not necessary to work to get to a size 10. Sizes help to approximate where to look on the racks, but beyond that guide, sizes are irrelevant.  I will not be dictated by them.
I've decided  that the only thing that counts is how I feel - and so it's become really important to pay attention to that.  In the past six months I've been learning a lot about my body through yoga.  I see where the losses in strength and flexibility have gradually developed and have been trying to reverse them so that I'm more comfortable in all my movement.  I have gradually been moving away from some of the cooking that I used to love to do - realizing I have more discretionary time and a better diet when I let a lot of that go.  Our meals are simple, well balanced, nothing fancy.  I use local and fresh food as much as possible, and both my husband and I have reduced the quanitities that we eat.  I've recently been experimenting with green smoothies (thanks to Suzanne at Enchanted Chameleon and find these to be delicious, satisfying, and for some reason inspiring.  After putting such good nutrition into my body, I'm somewhat reluctant to mess things up with a bunch of junk.  But I'm not depriving myself - if I want a piece of cake or a couple cookies or a few chips - I have them.
So this is some of what I'm learning - and if you have experiences of how you're moving to a healthier self, while leaving some old crutches behind, let me know.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Thoughts - April 23

I am full of happy thoughts this morning.  It is another beautiful spring day.  I can't remember when we last had such a gorgeous spring.  So many years it either is cold and rainy or we go right into summer weather.  This has been idyllic - the kind that inspires poetry, painting, dancing, music.
Marcus and I have been continuing our outdoor adventures whenever possible.  These were inspired by a challenge over at 5 Orange Potatoes .  One day this week we were at the lake at Vassar and found a huge snapping turtle resting in the water.  At first we thought it was a turtle shaped log, it blended in so well with the murky bottom.  But then it slowly started to move away.  I had my camera but wasn't quick enough -we were too busy watching it.  He asks every day I see him "Can we go on an adventure now?"
The other great thing I'm enjoying this week is the Green Smoothie Challenge over at Enchanted Chameleon .  Suzanne set up a two week challenge with lots of encouragement, recipes, how - tos, where fores - and I am loving it!  I have NEVER been interested in drinking a meal.  That may go back to my high school days when I was trying to take off a few pounds and the rage was Metrecal.  Awful stuff.  I hated it, I resented having to drink a lousy tasting liquid while my friends were devouring their sloppy joes.  So even when I've read in the last few years how people enjoy their fruit smoothies for lunch, or hear about the raw food revolution and how good green smoothies are for you, I just wasn't that interested.  But lately I've been working on my well-being.  I'm 64.  I sing the Beatles song in my head a lot - "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?"  I've had some back problems  that have curtailed my rowing and have left me feeling weaker and less flexible.  So I took up yoga.  I've also started tai chi - something I did 30 years ago, and am now happy to be relearning.  I'm looking at my diet, wanting to divest myself of a few pounds.  And I want my food to be in line with my desire to care for the earth.  I was ready to hear Suzanne's message.
The first few days of the challenge I played it very safe.  A little leaf lettuce, some banana, mango, papaya; some spinach with banana, papaya and pineapple.  And I've only been drinking half a batch a day - waiting to see how my body would handle it.  But today I'm so excited because I went out hunting in the yard for some greens to add - dandelion leaves, red clover leaves, mint.  I mixed these in with some leaf lettuce, papaya and pineapple, two cups of water - delicious!  I am hooked!
All of these connections have come to me through Jamie's online book clubs - the current one being Happy Book Club .  There are so many wonderful people participating in these, all sharing some of their discoveries with each other.  Thank you!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Great Outdoor Challenge - April 14, 2010

Today was magical.  Our after school adventure  was to take a little hike at one of the local historical sites.  Marcus was so enthusiastic about the idea of following a trail in the woods.  And when he saw that there was a pond, a few streams, bridges of various sizes, insects, fish, birds, and flowers of all sorts, he was ecstatic.  At one point we were walking along quietly and he whispered: "It's so silent.  I like it."  He was very taken by the stillness.  We could hear a bee droning - which he pointed out to me was a wood bee.  And we could hear a distant towhee, I think. 
We came to a tiny stream where he was able to get down to the water level and examine it closely.  There was a single trillium blooming on the bank - a real treasure.
When it was time to go and we were walking back, I encouraged him to be the leader so he could practice his pathfinding skills.  At one point he seemed overcome by joy and came back to me,hugged me around my legs and declared "I love you, Nana!" 
You can read about other participants' experiences by going to 5 Orange Potatoes.  Creating opportunities for children to explore the natural world is a priceless gift - we all benefit.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Great Outdoor Challenge - April 12th

I look forward to picking Marcus up after school on any day - but since we've started participating in the Great Outdoor Challenge set up by Lisa at 5 Orange Potatoes, it's even more fun.  I try to stay loose about what we might do - depending on the weather, how much time we'll have together, and our moods.
Today is gorgeous.  And he chose to come to my house.  We decided to try painting with different weeds and flowers and twigs to see what kinds of textures we could come up with.  Marcus was in his "blue" period.  Day lilly leaves and dandelions seemed to be his favorites - I kind of liked the dandelions, too, and also the dry stems left over from last year's day lillies.  Some of the weeds we chose were too light for the heavier tempera paints we were using.  They might do better if we watered them down more. 
Fingers were good.
He wanted to use the lupine leaves to splatter with - but since we didn't have on play clothes we agreed to try that method another day.
So what will tomorrow bring?

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Happy Book Club - April 9

Happy Friday, everyone!  It's rainy and cool after a gorgeous, warm week - and it's ok.  The little changeups in weather keep me appreciating the special aspects each day.
I have to tell you about a few notable happy times.
First, though many people I know ask me "Why on earth do you bother with Twitter, etc., I have made some wonderful acquaintances through those networks.  The picture above illustrates this point.  These lemons are from Quinn McDonald's tree in Phoenix, Arizona.  We've been in contact for over a year and recently someone in the group was commenting on the scent of lime blossoms in their yard.  I remarked how I used to love having a lime tree when we lived in Mexico when I was young.  And Quinn wrote back adking if I wanted some lemons.  Her tree had an abundance and she'd be glad to send me a box.  That package came just before Easter - and it was like unpacking sunshine!  The lemons were huge, juicy, delicious.  She'd left some of the leaves on them so they were also gorgeous.  I have had fun sharing them with special friends, making sauces, putting zest in my coffee. On this rainy morning I have a ginger cake in the oven to serve later with a warm lemon custard that I made a couple of days ago.  Boy, everytime I walk into my kitchen and see those lemons, I smile.
Second, through my connecting here with Valli, I found my way to the blog Five Orange Potatoes.  This woman writes a lot about sharing her love of nature with her daughters and since this month has been declared Children and Nature Awareness month she's got a challenge going - each day people take their kids, grandchildren, friends or neighbors' children - and go outside.  And then write about it.  I started doing it with one of my grandsons whom I see regularly, and we've been having a wonderful time finding new ways to look at our surroundings. You can see a couple of things we did on an earlier post on my blog this week. Valerie's own blog on children's books instigated a flurry of buying some new additions for our little library, too.
And third, with a small push from one of my friends, I ended up painting out of my comfort zone, and have discovered that I do like painting larger than I thought I could/would.
As I sit in my studio and listen to the birds, watch the bright colors of blossoms and new leaves against the gray day and smell the ginger cake baking, I am experiencing a few moments of bliss.  That is a wonderful way to start this day.  I so hope that you, too, can make room for something precious today.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Children and Nature Awareness Month - What Fun!

One of the blogs I've recently discovered is 5 Orange Potatoes.  Lisa writes wonderful posts showing how she spends time with her children doing art projects, exploring nature, living a life that pays attention to what's important.  April has been declared Children and Nature Awareness month and she's suggested a challenge where readers send in photos of how they are spending time with their kids outdoors, preferably learning something in the process:
So here's what my little  5 year old grandson and I have done so far this week:
Monday we had the whole day together because he still was on spring break.  We took a short drive to Norrie Point Nature Center on the Hudson River, where we first went in to see what animals, trail maps, and resources they might have.  We saw tanks of fresh water and salt water fish, different species that live in the river (which is still an estuary here).  And we saw mud puppies!  They were very cool.  While not uncommon, we hardly ever get to see them because they blend in to the water and mud so well and they are very quick.  Then we got trail maps and went exploring for a bit.
Tuesday we had less time, so we made a map of his yard and started cataloguing all the plants and animals we could find there.  We found we have a lot of research to do!  And some waiting for more identifying characteristics to appear.
Today's adventure was a quick trip back down to the river where the main lesson might have been why we don't want to throw rocks at geese.
But this is just the best month to be encouraging discovery - there are new plants shooting up every day, more and more insects hatching out, which will mean more fish and birds coming around for the feast.
I hope you're enjoying spring delights wherever you are.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Little Push

What is it that makes you push your boundaries? Where do you get stuck?

I see over and over how I limit myself. My scripts go something like this: "I don't do that (paint large, paint certain subjects)." "I don't have time." "I don't have the skills". And underneath is the fear "Oh, I'll try that and make a fool of myself."

Fortunately, I get prodded with challenges that make me take a leap. Sometimes it is through one of the artisan's guilds that I belong to. They'll throw out a theme and ask people to come up with something either in their own medium or something new they'd like to play with, and create a piece of work. Those usually have a pretty lengthy warning time - so I mull and stew - and eventually decide that I do have something to say about the topic - and stretch a little. Voila!

Sometimes it is through a commission - "I like what you've done here, and I'd like something like that but ..." and I'm onto a new adventure.

Two weeks before Easter, my dear friend Marge asked me if I would consider doing six simple paintings to accompany the Flood narrative at the Easter vigil. I was seduced by the "simple". I like to accomodate Marge. I was flattered that she thought I could do this. So I agreed. Then she said, "They need to be visible halfway back in the church." Oops, they'll have to be bigger than I usually paint. Poster board was acceptable.

I tried to come up with the six quick and effective illustrations. Storm and lightening, dove, and rainbow - they were pretty easy to envision. But the ark on the waters, the animals and people gathering to go on the ark, and the one where they're disembarking - I couldn't come up with anything that would avoid a fair amount of detail and I didn't have a lot of time.

I ended up devoting several days to the project - but I found myself playing with new forms, and textures. I had a great time doing it. Painting larger has become less intimidating, and I really liked doing the animals, figuring out how to arrange them to show off their attributes.

It is precisely this kind of push that keeps me growing as an artist - and I suspect, as a person.