Thursday, October 30, 2008

God Bless the USA

It's voting season. This has been such an interesting year with the upcoming elections. Two candidates that are so very different, our nation in a financial crisis, and serious choices to be made. Living in Oregon, we have the ability to vote early. We are a state that operates with all mail-in voting - no long lines or going "to the polls". We received our ballots through the mail a couple of weeks ago. I decided that tonight was the night to do my civic duty.

I came home from work, got something to drink and pulled out my voters pamphlet. Some choices were easy - I had made my decision months ago. Others were more complicated.

Later my son came home. He just turned 20. He wasn't able to vote in the last presidential elections. We've had alot of conversations about the duty to vote. It's easy to take the attitude that "my vote doesn't count for much". After all, when you read through the manuals, alot of the language is hard to understand. But if you don't want to let your voice be heard, then you don't have the right to complain.

As we were reviewing the issues, Collin and I had some wonderful conversation. It really is frustrating - so many of the issues were not easy choices. Here in Oregon, we had three issues that, if passed, would require increases to our Property taxes. Now recognize, Oregon is a no sales-tax state. So we pay extra property taxes. The first issue is to pass a bond to fund much needed upgrades at the Oregon Zoo. The second issue is to pay for funding that would support foster child programs, after school programs, and a variety of state funded children's programs. The third is for a bond for our local school district to fund overdue repairs, improvements, and construction of a new middle school (there are over 1,000 7th and 8th graders in one school). My budget can only support so many increases to our property taxes - but all three issues are important. What would you choose?

Collin found himself in a unique position - he agreed that all 3 issues were important. He could vote for all three; afterall, he doesn't pay property taxes and probably won't for a very long time. So it doesn't really affect him, right? We found ourselves having a very interesting conversation. I made my choice, explained to him the implications of each option and he made his choice.

Other issues were equally difficult - many of them appeared smart on the surface, but through further reading the reality of what these choices would cost made them look a little less attractive. Many choices would reduce funding to schools. How can we do that? Our schools in Oregon are already sinking. How can we take more money away from them? Choices - spend billions of dollars to build more prisons and keep that money in the schools. These are not easy choices. Many things seem like the lesser of two evils.

But the reality is this -I get to have a voice. I get to vote. People fought for that right and I want to honor the sacrifice that they made on our behalf. The system isn't perfect, but I am greatful to live in this country. I am greatful that I have choices and can walk down the street and pursue my passions and go to a job. There are women throughout the world who will never be able to do those things. Let your voice be heard this year. Get out there and vote!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I love words. I have always loved words. When I was young I would write short stories, and write in my journal, and write letters (remember those?). When I was older, thanks to a "helpful" college writing teacher, I lost confidence in my own written words. When I would read I found that I gained alot of inspiration and strength from others' words. Remember Richard Bach who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusion? I practically had those books memorized. Or the Little Prince. That still remains one of my favorites.

For several years I kept a book full of interesting and uplifting quotes. I gathered them from all kinds of different places . . .movies, books, lectures, bumper stickers . . .Somewhere along the way, I stopped collecting my quotes. In fact, I lost my quote book altogether.

Over the last few years I have rediscovered the power of words again. I love to incorporate them into my art. Originally I started with just single words. Words like hope, dream, create, wish, imagine and more. But I wanted more - so I started adding phrases and then full quotes, poems, even lyrics from songs.

I collect quotes again. I have a wonderful handmade leather journal that I purchased from a local artist. I fill it with quotes, and poems, and words. I sketch ideas and I pull it out for inspiration. Friends send me wonderful quotes; family members call me with something they have heard or read. One day I received a text message that just had the words of a saying this person had seen. It was like a gift. People have given me books of inspirational quotes and sayings. The books are beautiful, but I find that I "feel" the words more if I copy my favorite ones into my quote journal. That way they become "mine".

I love to watch people get lost in the words as they look at the art pieces I have created. They will stand for long periods of time and read. Some people smile; some people get teary; some people are reminded of a friend or a loved one, some people feel the words on a spiritual level. Words - especially written words - are so strong. When they are written, you can read them over and over again until they become a part of you.

I was working in some small canvases (8 X 10) this week. I decoupaged some old sheet music for texture and then layered on some color. Then I pulled out my book of quotes and chose a few of my favorites. Here is what I came up with . . .

"If I could reach up and hold a star for every time you've made me smile - the entire evening sky would be in the palm of my hand".

"We are each of us Angels with only one wing and we can only fly by embracing once another."

"We all need music . . .Without it, we cannot Live."
Take some time this week to think about the words that bring you the most strength. Here's to WORDS.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

There has got to be a better design . . .

Allow me to rant for a moment. There are certain parts of the body that were just not designed for long term use . . . The knees and the back. Last week, I felt a slight twinge in my lower back - I figured I had sat at my desk too long. Working at an office job, that seems to happen sometimes - I get carried away with the project I am working on and forget to move. Unfortunately by the time I left to go home, I was in a great deal of pain and had a hard time walking.

Thus began my week . . .my week of lying flat and doing very little. Now you understand that I am perpetually busy all of the time. If I am not at my day job, I am working in my art studio creating designs and filling orders or getting ready for an art show. And if I'm not doing that, I am running kids around, making meals, grocery shopping or completing other mommie-related tasks. Yes - I know my kids are growing up, but motherhood doesn't end at a certain age!

So - how does a person who is perpetually busy spend a week of bedrest? By watching alot of television. I think I have seen more home decorating shows on the HGTV Network this last week then I have in a year. And you know what - it got to a point where it was a bit depressing. I was watching people pay for these remodels and it started to remind me of the Brady Bunch. You know - how all of life's problems can be solved in less then 30 minutes?

This week was incredibly frustrating - the Holidays are fast approaching. Now in the "real" world, no one wants to think about that in October. But in an artist's world - the Holidays are a time of business. I generally spend a couple of months frantically working to build up my inventory for holiday sales. I am already filling orders for chairs and stools for Christmas gifts. As I was complaining about my frustration with not being able to sit, let alone work in the studio, my daughter put things in perspective. "Mom," she said, "maybe the Lord is telling you that you need to slow down and rest once in a while. If you aren't willing to slow down on your own - maybe He felt the He needed to make you slow down." Hmmmmm.

My back is improving - slowly. I was actually able to spend a few hours out in the studio yesterday and today. I'm not back to full function yet - but at least well enough that I have been able to turn off the tv! And as my back begins to return to normal functions, I will use this time of being an invalid as an opportunity to remind myself to slow down a bit and enjoy the moment.

So today, I left my desk and walked outside to feel the sun on my face. It may be the last time for several months. I stopped and looked at the changing leaves - the colors of orange and gold were spectacular. I kicked a pile of fallen leaves and listened to the crackly sound they made. I found an acorn - a whole acorn! And I took a deep breath and smelled autumn. Because remember - "it's not about how many breaths you take - but how many moments take your breath away."

Friday, October 24, 2008

This week we celebrated two birthdays - my niece and my son. They were born 6 days apart and both turned 20 this month. It is so surreal when I think of how I have become the parent of adults.

Allow me a few minutes to reminisce about life with my son - he was born the second of four children, and the only boy. His favorite things when he was small were the classics - Legos, Lincoln Logs, cars, and puzzles. For the first 4 years of his life he communicated with his own language. In fact, some members of the family thought perhaps he had "problems" and we should get him tested. But Mr. C is, and has always been a bit of a perfectionist. I think he just decided he wasn't going to talk until he knew exactly what he was doing. When he started to speak, he spoke in complete sentences. One of Collins favorite activities was to have puzzle races. He would take those cardboard puzzles that fit in the "trays" that are for children and he would challenge his dad and I to a race. We would dump the puzzles out on the floor, upside down - mix up the pieces, and see who could put it back together the fastest. He always won. He could tell you exactly where the pieces went just by looking at the - backwards - you know, on the cardboard side that is plain. That concept still fascinates me. He has always looked at things differently than me.

A few more things about him - he is my reader, he is very artistic (more so than he admits), he's very musical and taught himself how to play the bass guitar, he gets bored very easily, he is the "social director" among his friends, it's hard to keep up with his wit and humor, he doesn't like people to wake him up - he prefers to get himself up, he is loyal to his friends and family, his best friend is his older sister, family means everything to him, he prefers to work for himself rather than someone else (wonder where he got that from?), he loves adventure and he loves to be spontaneous, he could probably live on peanut butter - but really hates it if someone contaminates the peanut butter jar by using a knife that has butter on it, his favorite meal is lasagna, he has an enormous music collection, he craves "alone" time . . .he's my son! Happy birthday Collin.
These were the birthday cakes - chocolate with 7 minute frosting for Chelsea (her favorite) and homemade german chocolate for Collin (his favorite).

While at our family dinner on Sunday, it was so wonderful to watch the cousins all intermingle. Growing up, we didn't have alot of extended family events. On one side of the family, everyone was spread out over different states. The other side . . .well that's best left alone. When we did get together, I was the youngest. Several years seperated me from my cousins - so while my brothers and cousins hung out together, I was sitting with the adults felling . . .well . . .bored. I feel so blessed that my brothers and I live relatively close. One brother is in another state, and it always feels like someone is missing when we are together.

Several years back, we started having family dinners. The first Sunday of the month, we would get together and have a potluck dinner. The cousins would wrestle and play, the adults would catch up, and the grandparents would bestow some of their wisdom on us. I'm not sure why we stopped - life gets busy, and no one seemed to have time. The cousins have commented that they miss it. So last Sunday, my oldest brother put together a dinner and we vowed to get back on track. I am pleased. I like family dinners.

Grandma and Auntie Michele

The cousins - Jacob, Jordan, Chance, Angie, Chrissy, and Cierra
Chelsea (the birthday girl) and her brother Ron - he just returned from a two year mission to Rome, Italy - welcome back