Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gratitude . . .

It is the week of Thanksgiving. This year is different for our family. Generally we have a housefull of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. This year, the extended family have found themselves traveling to visit others around the area and our family will be enjoying a quieter celebration. I am grateful. With children growing, becoming adults, and moving on in the world, our time surrounding a dinner table is growing fewer and fewer. When we do find ourselves around the table, it seems that we are rushed and not as connected.

My memories go back to the time when the children were all in elementary and middle school. I have fond memories of sitting around the dinner table. It was generally casual. I love to cook, but hate the cleanup. Often our dinners were dished up at the stove and we carried what we needed to the table. In my childhood, dinner required "setting the table" with plates, glasses, napkins, knives, forks, spoons, and all of the accompaniments like butter, salt, pepper, jam, etc. Each meal was an event. And it was lovely. But I often choose a more casual approach. . .

Once we were all settled, I wanted to engage in conversation with the family. We would play "High Low". One by one we would go around the table and tell about the high point of our day, and the low point. Some days, we would have wonderful, exciting "highs". Mostly; however, it would be simple things like who they played with at recess or completing their homework on time. This simple ritual gave me a wonderful glimpse into my children's daily lives when they were away from me.

We will play a similar game around our Thanksgiving table this week. Each place setting will contain three pieces of candy corn. Each of these pieces represent an item of gratitude, which we will take turns sharing. This will be followed by a prayer of Thanksgiving and Gratitude before we begin our meal. Then - considering that my children don't sit around the table together often anymore, I am sure that it will resemble the "wild rumpus" that is oversaw by Max in the book "Where the Wild Things Are",(which is my favorite children's story -and hopefully, there won't be any gnashing of terrible teeth.

Although I try to maintain an attitude of gratitude throughout the year, I wish to take this time to express my gratitude for the wonderful blessings I experience in my life everyday. I am grateful for family - my wonderful husband of 22 years, and my children; I am grateful to still have my parents in my life and my ability to pick up the phone and talk to them any time I want; I am grateful for some amazing friends (you know who you are - I have awesome girl friends!!!); I am grateful for my job; I am grateful for my talents and the opportunity I get to use them every day; I am grateful for my home - it's not perfect, but it protects me from the cold and rain; I am grateful for so many of my daily conveniences like good cooking utensils and my gas stove, a washer and a dryer, a refrigerator, indoor plumbing, a warm coat . . ." I could go on for hours! May you all take time to recognize those people and things which you are grateful for and may your Thanksgiving be a day surrounded by friends and family.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gallery Opening

Last night I attended a gallery opening, complete with great art, music, food, and . . .chairs by me! This was a first for me. I have attended sales and shows, but I have never had my work featured in a gallery show until now. It was quite exciting!
Sometime after the Gresham Art Walk, I received a phone call from someone who had visited my booth. She said she was working as a curator for an upcoming gallery show and was determined that she wanted to have some of my chairs included. What a great feeling!
The theme of the show was Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. I submitted 3 chairs made especially for this show. I think my favorite was "My Blue Heaven" which featured a mermaid playing beneath the waves.
Here is mermaid chair hanging on the wall of the display.

Me, standing in front of the display.
Here's Chrissy Missy attending the gallery show . . .and what is that cool bag hanging on her shoulder?

Is that a Laurie Miller design? Yep! One of my other product lines that you can see at my shows this season. . .heavy cotton tote bags with unique black and white designs. Perfect for groceries, school books, or a bohemian purse.

Thanks for sharing this experience with me. It was really wonderful . . .now I need to return to the studio to finish up all kinds of treasures for my upcoming shows! Hope to see you there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Work in Progress

Pam is a coworker. She is a kind and compassionate woman. One of those people that you feel blessed to have met. A few months ago, she returned home from work to discover that her apartment had gone up in flames. She lost everything but the clothes on her back and her beloved cat.
In the process of rebuilding her home, she asked for a chair to brighten up the kitchen area of her new apartment. Her request was simple - lots of bright colors and lots of flowers. The chair is near completion. There are many details yet to be added, but you can see the main idea here.
Be sure and check back in the next few days and you can see the finished product. Thanks for your patience, Pam . . .it's almost ready.
And as mentioned before, I am currently ramping up for my Christmas sales. Here are a few new items:

This is one of several designs created with pen and colored pencil. Each one is sold in a double mat, ready for framing. You'll have to come and visit me to see the other designs.

Here is an example of my hand mirrors. Perfect for daughters, your hair dresser, a friend . . .everybody needs a hand held mirror. This is one of several designs.

So here is the deal - my big sale is in Seattle. If you are in the Seattle area, be sure and visit me on December 6 & 7 at the Phinney Winter Fest. Otherwise, if Portland is a little more doable for you - I will be showing a variety of "giftables" at the Scrooge Lives Holiday Festival on December 3rd and 4th at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. The hours are from 10:00-6:00 on both days. Other than that, I will be doing a private sale - I will post the date when I have more details. Make this year something special and think about a special hand made gift for those people who are close to you. Contact me if you need a special order.

I want to thank those of you who commented on how they are going to try to cope with the chaos of the holidays. It seems like alot of you are looking at doing more service. In fact, I am going to a holiday party the first week of December. We are going to do the traditional "white elephant" gift exchange. But this year, we are putting a new spin on it. Instead of cleaning out junk to pass on to someone else, each person will wrap up a description of a service they are willing to do for someone else. An hour or two of housework, a batch of cookies, an offer to teach something you are really go at, etc. I thought the idea was brilliant. What a great way to share the holiday spirit. Keep those ideas and suggestions coming. Maybe you will share something that no one else has thought of.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas Surprise

*This is a Christmas secret. Only proceed reading if you can keep a secret. . . . . . .

Christmas is coming . . .my favorite time of year. Yet also a time of. year that brings out the worst in me. It becomes so full of stress. Last year I found myself just days before the holiday, and I had yet to feel the "spirit".

As an artist - this time of year requires alot of time and energy away from home doing shows and supplying people with gifts. Sometimes it takes some of the joy out of it. And the joy is replaced with stress. Now don't get me wrong - the idea that someone picks one of my creations to give as a hearfelt gift is very humbling. It is an honor to make my creations and know that they are being shared.

We have a wonderful tradition at Christmas of gathering with all of the extended family on Christmas Eve. We have dinner, a special program/talent show, the reading of the Christmas story, presents, and Grandma's famous eggnog. It is a wonderful evening filled with laughter, family and all that is Christmas. But the commercialism has become more and more taxing.

So we devised a plan - as the adults drew the names of those they were to buy a gift for, it was decided that we would exchange gifts that were hand created. The gifts could be very simple - some home made jam, hand copied family recipes, a photo album, etc. Or in the case of my sis-in-law . . .a home recorded Christmas CD for the grandparents.

My husband has a variety of equipment and we worked this last week on recording several pieces for our family CD - 2 daughters, my sister in law and myself did an accapella version of Silent Night and Still, Still, Still. Later we added versions of other classics. But here was the dilemma - where can we get good acoustics for vocals at home? Answer . . .the bathroom.

Chrissy prepping to sing (notice to music taped to the bathroom wall)

Cierra and Auntie Michele -

Auntie Michele listening to our creation.

Chrissy and Jon working on the mix and playback.

So here is my question? As the season approaches, what is your family doing to keep the spirit alive and to limit the chaos?

Here's to a wonderful and peaceful holiday season!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Vacation Day?

Tomorrow is Veterans Day - I know the reason behind Veterans Day and I am grateful for the sacrifice of those that have fought for my freedoms in this country.

This day; however, is really more of a day off. The kids don't have school and I get the day "off" from work. It seemed a bit odd this year - maybe my memory is fading in my "old" age - but I don't remember celebrating Veterans Day on any day other than a Monday. So it was rather odd when I discovered that it was being celebrated on the actual date this year and that I would be off on Tuesday. Being the practical person that I am, it only made sense to take off Monday as well and make it a 4 day weekend.
And so I have been on vacation since Friday night. Now don't get me wrong - I love having a few days off. But I don't tend to spend them the way most people would. How would you spend a four day weekend? Take a trip to the coast? Go skiing? Maybe a little shopping or a trip to a day spa? Most likely it would involve sleeping in and relaxing.

As an artist trying to grow my business while working at an 8-5 job, my days off have been spent . . . painting. For most, we are entering into the Thanksgiving season. For me, I am full blown into the Christmas season. I am working hard to build my inventory up for the holidays.

Here are a few of the mirrors I have been working on. The studio is becoming a bit crowded as we are lining up new products to take to our show.
While my days are off are spent "working" on my business, I can think of not better way to spend my time than painting and creating art. In this season of Thanksgiving, I wish to express my gratitude for the opportunity I have to develop my talents and use them to bring joy to others. I am grateful for my art and the peace it gives me. When I spend time with my paints and my brushes, the hours fly by. Painting is the first thing I think about when I wake up. I literally plan my day around when I can spend time in the studio.
And I hope that the example I am setting to my children will help them cherish their talents as well. They are all such gifted individuals. I believe that we all come into this world with a talent and drive that we are meant to develop. When we ignore those talents, it affects us in a negative way - whether through depression, or anger, or sadness. We must embrace that which we are meant to do in some way. We must make time for it everyday - even if it is only 5 minutes. Especially as women - as wives and mothers we tend to put everyone else's needs first, and in the end - we loose ourselves. I don't believe that is the way it is supposed to be. By embracing those talents and becoming the best we can, we give our children and families the opportunity to know us as a better version of ourselves.
Whatever your "thing" is - I hope you make time in your busy life to spend time doing that which brings you joy. and if you don't know what your 'thing" is, I hope that you will take the time to discover it for yourself.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Alone In a Crowd . . .

I recently had to serve on jury duty. This was a first. Not that I haven't been called before, but I always had an excusable reason. I was a nursing mother, a mother of very young children, I was self-employed and it would be a financial hardship, I had just started a new job and it would endanger my employment . . .This time was different and I showed up for my civic service.

I actually didn't mind the concept of serving. In a way, I was kind of looking forward to it. It was a new adventure! An opportunity to go downtown and feel the energy of the city. I used to work downtown every day - in fact it was where I met my wonderful husband - and I sometimes miss that energy. Nowhere else can you find that feeling. The "city" has it's own sounds, feel, and smells. So I gathered a few items to occupy my time while waiting and headed off on my adventure.

The first thing I encountered was the traffic. Oh my goodness!!! I had forgotten what the morning rush hour commute into downtown is like. I was a bundle of nerves. How do people do that every day and keep their sanity?!! My daily commute to my job is 15 minutes with very limited traffic. And then there was the parking. I found a smartpark garage near the courthouse, but those things are nervewracking. I drove around in circles forever trying to find a spot where I could park and then actually have enough room to get out of the car!

At the courthouse, it was the security check. They ran my bag through 4 times. I carry basic art supplies with me everywhere I go. In my pencil pouch was a compass for drawing circles. They finally decided that I would not be able to do any serious damage with it and let me go - the lady behind me with the miniature scissors for her sewing was not so lucky. She had to surrender those or not come in. What a sad world we live in.

Once in the courthouse, I checked into the jury room. There was a sea of people - a few hundred of us. I walked around looking for a space to become my home for the next few hours. I found my piece of real estate at a round table surrounded with chairs. I sat down and scanned the room. All types of people were there - business professionals, students, retired people . . .and not one person would look at another. No one said hello, or engaged in small talk. In fact it was so quiet, I felt self-concious moving my chair.

People had books, mp3 players, laptops, cell phones, knitting, and crossword puzzles. We were all there together, confined to a single room. According to our instructions, we could most likely be there for the next 8-9 hours. But we were all alone. Obviously people wanted to talk to someone - so they pulled out there phones and talked, completely ignoring the people surrounding them. Others buried their faces in their computer screens rather than making eye contact. It was truly one of the most isolating feelings I have had in a long time.

Now don't get me wrong - I love technology. It frustrates me, while at the same time amazing me with it's power. But as we have embraced technology, we have forgotten how to be human. People would rather communicate through a piece of machinery that to make the human connection, soul to soul. My children send over 3,000 text messages a month. They prefer that to talking on the phone. Emails have replaced handwritten letters.

I never did get called onto a jury - no one did. In fact they ended up releasing most of us by noon. But I left there with a renewed desire to connect with friends and loved ones. I challenge anyone reading this to call up a friend and go meet them for lunch, or coffee, or hot chocolate or tea or whatever you like. Pick up the phone and listen to each others voices. Or handwrite a special note. Let's remember we are all in this together and share the most valuable asset we posses - ourselves.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I think as an adult I have finally realized that I have ADHD. As a child, there wasn't a name for it - And it was probably a good thing. My daughter has been diagnosed with ADHD and although it has it's "issues" for the most part it is very manageable. And maybe even a good thing.

The biggest thing I noticed as a child was my need to be busy. My mother was very wise and she noticed that my hands wanted to be busy all the time. I remember my very favorite Christmas. All of my gifts were crafts . . .embroidery projects, a kit with yarn to crochet an afghan, some art supplies. I was about 10 or 11. She told me years later that she noticed I had a hard time sitting still unless my hands were busy. Not much has changed today.
I hate to sit. I love to go to lectures, to church, to other things that uplift me. But I find that my mind wanders very easily. I love to watch movies, but get very fidgety. One day, reading a book on art, I discovered someone who spoke my language. "Always have a travel kit of supplies with you where ever you go . . ." I began collecting things - a special sketch book, a great pencil pouch, my favorite pencils, erasers, etc. At first I was self-concious about drawing in church or while waiting at the doctors office - but not any more. It brings me joy. It helps me make the most out of those moments when we feel like our time is being wasted by others. It helps to listen and absorb what others are saying - I think if it wasn't for my "ADHD" - or whatever you call it, I would not feel the drive to create.