Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Year . . .New LIFE . . .New Changes

The clock is ticking . . .
The end of the year is nearing.
This has been a year of big dreams, a lot of love, a lot to be grateful for,
a lot of laughs. . .
and a lot of change.
I mean - a lot of change.
I am going to be somewhat missing in action for the next few weeks.
There are holidays to be celebrated.
Friends and family to spend time with.
And . . .
a move to happen.
Yes it has happened.
I have found a new place for my daughter and I to move and we are going to jump in head first beginning the day after Christmas.
At this point, I have no boxes packed.
I am in no way physically prepared for this.
But . . .mentally.
Oh yes. I am ready to go.
I am trusting that it will all work out.
I am taking everything one day at a time.
Checking off one event at a time.
And by the new year, I will be officially starting my new life in my new home.
Here is to change!

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Prayer in the Wake of Tragedies

This is an older painting.
But the intent had been that, as women, we are all connected.
However - the truth is - that connection is not limited to women only.
And after not one, but two horrific tragedies this week -
I feel the need to remind myself of the fact that we are all in this together.
I live in Portland, Oregon.
Tuesday, December 11th was a difficult day for me.
To help you fully understand my emotions at this time -
I must share what that day looked like to me. Not to have you think - "oh, poor Laurie",
but to convey my emotions in an honest way.
I woke that day with the knowledge that my ex-husband - who has only been my ex for a few months, 
was going into surgery to have cancer removed from his body.
This discovery had been made after he had left me.
I found myself struggling with a multitude of conflicting emotions for several weeks associated with this.
My children were struggling with their emotions.
Any time the "c" word is mentioned and associated with a loved one -
you can't help but feel that your world has been rocked.
And I felt worry and was distracted.
Later that day, I went to a counseling session.
My divorce has brought up a myriad of issues that I have ignored for too long.
And although, the counseling is helping -
each session feels a bit like the hornet's nest of emotions is being stirred up.
And those angry hornets are swirl all over the place.
But that is for another post on another day.
And as I was dealing with attempting to stable my emotions associated with the counseling and the surgery -
The most significant event of all occured.
On December 11th; a gunman entered 
 the local mall and began shooting at Clackamas Town Center.
This mall is right in my back yard.
It is the place I shop at.
It is the place where my family members shop.
It is the place where friends shop - and work.
This tragedy rocked me to the core.
My nephew was in lockdown in one of the stores, my friend was working in the store that the gunman ran through - she witnessed it; my other friend was in the foodcourt having lunch and was huddled under a table praying for her life.
This was too close geographically and personally.
My evening was spent in pain and sorrow.
The weight of the pain I felt for those that were involved in this was heavy and all-encompassing.
Today, another tragedy has occured.
A senseless shooting in an elementary school in Conneticut.
Small children. Teachers.
Terror and tragedy and violence in a place that is supposed to be safe for our little ones.
And even though it is, geographically, on the other side of the country -
it is too close for comfort.
And again - the weight of the sorrow I feel is so very heavy.
I have done my best today to ignore the emotions today.
I am not saying that I wasn't paying heed to the event - but I was choosing not to watch the news and become overly obsessed with the event.
I have stayed busy and distracted with work.
But I can ignore it no longer today.
My heart is breaking.
My soul is aching.
I have no words of wisdom here.
My prayers are actively going to God to hold the families affected by these tragedies in His arms.
My prayers are begging that we remember that we must lift and support and be there for one another.
My prayers are that each of us will reach out and connect with those around us -
lend that listening ear; pick up the phone and call them;let others know that you care; hug them; hold their hands; be their friend -
share your love without reservation and tell them of your love.
Together is the only way that we can survive.
If you are so inclined - take a moment and listen to this beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace",
and bow your head in thought, meditation and prayer for all of us. . .

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Modern Day HERO

A little over a year ago, I received a phone call from Joyce.
Joyce and I had met at one of the festivals I was participating in.
Joyce works at a local elementary school
and I must admit -
has become a bit of a hero to me.
She teaches fourth grade.

In Oregon -
like many other states,
funding for schools continues to dwindle and schools are forced to make budgetary choices.
Translation: CUTS!
Cuts of teachers; cuts of supplies; cuts of programs.
Now don't get me started on this topic.
It is one that is near and dear to my heart.
I have led letter-writing campaigns, attended board meetings and lodged more than one complaint based on the types of cuts that have been at my children's schools.
I'm going to make a few statements here - and they make some people angry -
but I'm going to do it anyway. . .
Why does it always seem that the first programs to get put on the chopping block are the music, theatre and arts programs.
Never the football team or basketball teams.
Because, for some reason, we seem to think of these arts classes as "fluff".
I have worked for private schools who offered none of these classes.
In fact, if the students wanted to participate in an arts related class- they were offered only after school and the parents had to pay a significant extra fee.
I understand the costs associated.
But - not every child fits in to the "sports" box.
I sure didn't.
By the time I was in high school - I have no problem admitting that my participation in the drama department was the primary reason I got out of bed and went to school every day.
And I know that I wasn't the only one -
For many of us, the drama department and the drama room was our refuge from the rest of the school.
In fact for many of my friends - the drama department was a refuge from their homes, where they were subjected to ridicule and abuse.
In the arts department, they were accepted.
And then, don't forget the life lessons that a student learns through participation in the arts.
Problem solving, thinking in a more dimensional manner, self-discipline, cause and effect . . .life skills.
I could on and on.

But I digress . . .
back to Joyce.
Joyce watched the art program get cut in her elementary school.
She believed that the students needed art -
so she took it upon herself to organize and implement an art program.
By herself.
In addition to her regular teaching.
Like I said - Joyce is my hero!

I was asked by Joyce to come out to her school and do an assembly presentation on my art.
She wanted me to share why I do what I do -
where I get my inspiration from -
why I use words in my art -
to share how words have influenced me and to talk about the POWER of words.
WOW! I was so humbled to have been asked to that.
I mean - who am I?
I'm just a person who doodles - I'm no expert.

I accepted Joyce's invitation and went out to the school on a dreary Wednesday morning.
I used to teach private lesson and classes for private schools and home school groups.
I have never been able to teach in a school as a "teacher" because I don't have a College degree.
But I have been able to share some of my love of the creative arts through more "unconventional" approaches.
And I love to teach.
I love working with kids and helping them gain a love of the arts.
But more than that - I love seeing them develop and navigate through the rough world of adolescence by learning coping skills with their creative processes.
As I stood in front of the children at this assemble, it all came back to me.
I was asked to speak for 45 minutes.
I started to talk and got excited.
We talked about words and how they can affect us.
I talked about finding a passion for something you love.
I talked about dedication and perserverance.

It was so wonderful.
But the point of this post -
to commend Joyce - and all the other people out there who see the importance of the arts programs in their school. For those people who are working tirelessly, often by footing the expense out of their own pocket, to keep the arts alive.
I look forward to the day that we put the arts on the same pedestal as sports.
I am sure I am not alone when I say . . .
Thank You Joyce. The world needs more people like YOU.

UPcycled Table

I met Mary Jane over 2 years ago.
She came to one of my shows and picked up a few items.
She then called to have me help her with a project -
To redo an old chair that had been her mother's.
The idea was to cover the chair with images that reminded her of her mom as a tribute to her.
Several months ago,
she called again.
This time to do another chair - but for her sister.
The chair was just like the first one - it had come from the same set that had been their mothers.
We covered it with images that reminded her sister of her children.
Then came the table.
The table had been mom's as well.
However, it had been subjected to quite a bit of abuse and didn't look very nice.
The finish was peeling off.
There are a few cracks in the wood.
It had been left out on a porch and exposed to the elements a bit too long.
But it was moms and Mary Jane could not bear to see it tossed out with the trash.
So she brought it over.
She wanted it to have the look of the outdoors since it will eventually live in their mountain cabin.
Mountains, a river, fish, a cabin, ferns -
 all of the things that they love about their cabin were to be included on the table.
A little sanding.
A little priming.
A lot of color and . . .
Mary Jane's sad and unloved table has been given a new lease on life.

This little table is still a work in progress.
There is still some detailing left.
And of course - a good finish to protect it for years to come -
But I think I was able to capture the feel of the love and joy that they experience at their mountain retreat!

Monday, December 10, 2012


When I was five, my mom put me in the car one day and told me she had a surprise for me.
We drove for a while - really just a short distance - but to me it felt like forever.
We arrived at an old school and went inside.
I was confused and nervous.
What were we doing?
We stood in a really, really long line.
And then it happened - she signed me up for ballet lessons.
We then went and bought tights, and leotards, lots of bobby pins and the best part of all . . .
ballet slippers.
I went to dance lessons and learned to plie, and releve'.
I learned about first position and all of the other positions.
To this day - over forty years later - I tend to turn my feet out when standing.
I learned about working at the barre.
We practiced during each class to a live piano player who spent her afternoons playing classical music for us to point and kick to.
And then in the winter - the best thing of all happened -
we got dressed up in our costumes, had our hair pulled back into a tight bun, had our faces smothered in thick make-up and performed our routine on a large stage in downtown Portland.
This was the same stage that the best theatrical performances were given on, and concerts and all the best talent in our City performed on.
And I got to do my simple ballet routine on it.
The lights were so bright and hot.
The audience applauded for us.
It was magical.
And I became instantly addicted to performing.
I continued dancing for years to come - all the way through college.
Besides ballet -
I experimented with jazz and tap.
I played around with ball room.
If it was performed to music - I tried it.
And as I grew - I discovered my love of theatre and my favorite thing of all was to perform in musical theatre.
There, I was able to satisfy my love of acting, music and dance.
There I found my bliss.
To this day - If I hear wonderful music, it is next to impossible not to move in some way.
But somewhere along the way -
I stopped dancing.
I had children.
The family came first.
Money was tight.
Time was short.
Patience were stretched.
I gained a few (ok maybe more than a few) pounds.
And I stopped dancing on stage . . . in public . . .even in front of my family.
The few times I danced, I confined myself to the safety of my own home when no one was around.
Recently - I watched a movie on dancers.
It was a documentary about young ballet dancers who are driven, and passionate and desperate to dance every minute of their lives.
I watched as they stretched and practiced.
I watched as they extended their legs.
They made it look so easy and fluid. Yet - having been a dancer, I understood the dedication and hard work involved. The ultimate athleticism.
I found myself longing for the bloodied toes and the aching muscles. Those things were almost like "badges of honor" to us dancers.
My heart and muscles almost ached for the feel of dance while I watched the movie.
And the feeling lingered for some time afterwards.
We all have that thing that makes us ache inside -
maybe for you it is music, or a sport, or writing or . . . .?
It was that thing that you loved to do more than anything else when you were young.
It's that thing that makes you feel restless when you ignore it.
It calls to you. It drives you.
Do you answer the call?
Do you still do it?
Do you still pursue that passion on a daily basis?
Why do we let these things go as we become adults?
Somewhere along the way, we become convinced that working on those passions is a sign of immaturity.
Or worse yet - it's a sign of being selfish.
Really? Being true to ourself and doing that which makes us the best that we can possibly be is selfish?
As I have grown and changed, I have developed new passions - my art and writing. These
 are passions equal to performing and music and dance.
Does that make me greedy to have more than one?
And if I have such strong desires for my art and writing - am I being greedy to want to pursue the old and forgotten ones?
Does that make me selfish? Or self-absorbed?
I am beginning to challenge that thought in my own life now.
I am wanting to reclaim those lost passions.
I want to DANCE!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fearless Warrior?

"For the warrior, the experience of a sad and tender heart is what gives birth to fealessness. Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that if someone hits you, you will hit him back. However, we are not talking about that street-fighter level of fearlessness.
Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness." Chogyam Trungpa
A short time ago, a friend gave me a book. . .
 a self-help book, which normally I would run away from.
I'm just being honest.
But this one is different.
It's written for a real person. By a real person.
It's full of wonderful life experiences and I have found myself sucked into it -
reading little bits every day and feeling uplifted, inspired and stronger.
In fact, it is full of little sticky notes where I have read passages that jump off the page at me.
The above passage jumped off the page at me today.
I have a another very good friend - who teaches martial arts.
He refers to this craft as being a "peaceful warrior".
Peaceful warrior.
Now normally, I would have heard that phrase and I wouldn't have given it any attention.
But the word "warrior" is not one that I think of or use in my daily communications.
It has a connotation of someone who is fierce and scary and who likes to fight.
Some like the street fighter that Trungpa refers to.
Someone who gets pleasure out of fighting.
Or it conjures up images of Melk Gibson in Braveheart.
And if you know me very well . . .you know that I have never watched that movie because, again -
the idea of a warrior makes me uncomfortable.
In fact - it scares me a little.
So why am I hearing this word so often lately.
Seriously - it seems like I keep hearing and seeing this word.
What I am supposed to learn from this?
Hmmmm -
Then today, I read the above quote in my book.
And there is that warrior word again.
And Chogyam Trungpa states that a true warrior is tender.
A true warrior has experienced sadness and has a tender heart.
And as my friend stated - a warrior is peaceful.
OK - obviously, I meant to learn a lesson here.
I have expereienced a lot of sadness this last six months.
I feel like I have been in a battle every day.
I have also experienced a lot of joy.
Big, little and medium sized victories -
I like to think that I have a tender heart.
Heaven knows - if I am in your presence and you begin to weep over something that is weighing you down . . .
I can guarantee I will be sharing your tears with you.
I tend to be very empathetic to others.
And as I continue to emerge from the experiences I have had over the last year,
I find that anger is one of the few emotions that I am NOT feeling.
Oh don't get me wrong - I have moments of being upset . . .even mad.
But anger is not an emotion that is dominating me right now.
I'm not angry with my circumstances or my ex husband or the universe . . .
quite the opposite.
I am curious as to what I can learn and share from this experience.
I am filled with compassion for my ex husband for the struggles that he is going through.
Does that mean I am being a doormat and am willing to not hold him accountable for his actions?
But I am filled with compassion and empathy.
I am filled with tendernes.
Through this experience I am learning a deeper sense of compassion and tenderness . . .
and I am learning to be more compassionate and tender to . . .
wait for it . . .
Oh boy - is that ever new for me!
Compassion and tenderness and empathy -
those are emotions you have for other people - not yourself? Right?
I mean - as a wife, a mother . . .a woman -
we have a tendency to put everyone elses needs before our own.
To not do that is selfish.
But how many of us keep doing that and then one day we wake up, look in the mirror and find that we are no longer in there?
We have lost ourselves.
I have looked back on all of the things that I removed from my life in order to be the perfect, selfless woman -
I gave up on friendships, interests and passions.
But those were all things that made me who I was.
So - I became lost.
It's almost a new year.
And I have never been one to spend a lot of time lamenting over resolutions.
I don't really see the point in looking at ways to improve myself based on a date on the calendar.
But this year is different.
And I have already been working on those resolutions.
And my number one resolution? -
to put myself first.
Not in a selfish way - but in a way that allows me to be a better person in order to give those around me what they need.
To allow myself to continue to grow a more tender heart.
And I can't emotionally do that without caring for myself first.
I will be more tender with myself.
I will forgive myself for my faults and take responsibility for them so that I can improve.
I will learn to say no to those things  and more importantly - those people -  that make me feel like less of a person - or who seperate me from my true purpose.
I am going to work on becoming FEARLESS.
And - here is where I am going to go out on a limb -
I am going to work to become a WARRIOR!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Power of Angels

Late night phone calls.
Dinner with friends.
Spontaneous visits.
An unexpected note in the mail.
A text message.
A hug. A tear. A laugh.
 A shared joke or experience. . .
With my new life, I have found myself in circumstances that I have never experienced before.
Being alone.
Remember - I was married for 26 years.
But beyond that - I have four children.
Over the years we hosted over 10 long-term foreign exchange students.
We have had, over the years - 4 dogs, an iguana, a guinea pig, too many cats to count, 5 chickens, and we  fostered hamsters and rabbits for school projects.
We gave refuge to a young girl who was struggling to find her way, a nephew who needed a stepping stone and others.
For almost my entire married life,  there was always, about 7 people living under the same roof as me.
(And that does not count the animals.)
And growing up - my childhood home - was very similar.
A little over a year ago, things began to change.
the oldest daughter and grandson moved out, my son moved out, daughter number 3 moved out.
That left the husband, the youngest daughter and myself and the dog.
Then he left.
Now it is the daughter and myself and the dog.
And that means . . .this lady is left with a lot of time in a big house alone.
With the quiet.
Now this is not a whine session or plea for sympathy . . .
this is a realization.
For years - my life has been noisy and chaotic.
And I like chaos.
In fact - I kind of thrive on it.
But in the midst of the chaos, it is important to find those quiet moments to stop and listen.
But sometime - when we stop and listen,
we begin to hear the messages that we have been avoiding for a very, very long time.
And that is where I am right now.
I am on a personal quest to answer and acknowledge some issues that I have kept buried for too long .
And this has found me, on more than one occasion, needing the connection of others.
And that is when the angels seem to appear.
They come in the form of amazing friends and family members.
It continually amazes me -
I will be struggling to work out an issue, feeling alone -
and the phone rings.
Or a text message comes through . . .
or some other form of contact is made.
And the other person is responding to a need to reach out to ME.
And that has made me really stop and appreciate those amazing connections that we have with each other.
A friend recently commented to me that everyone comes into our lives for "a reason, a season, or a lifetime."
I liked that statement -
many of the people that are in my life are just that . . ."lifers".
I am reaching a point where very few are here for a "season" only.
Some were here for a season years ago - but they have returned now.
And I know that now - they will remain for the rest of my life.
We are not meant to go through this life alone.
We are meant to have connections.
And with the upcoming Christmas season, I find myself reflecting even more on the importance of these connections.
I have found myself feeling so much gratitude for these special people, that my heart feels as if it willl burst.
I feel like the Grinch when his heart grows and grows . . .unable to be contained.
And to these special people - I say thank you.
Thank you for following those prompts and for helping me fly during this time.
Thank you for loving me regardless of what is going on and teaching me the lesson of unconditional love.
Thank you for being my angels.
Who is in your life that needs to be reached out to?
Who reaches out to you?
Are you taking them for granted?
Have you told them you love them and appreciate them?
My hope, this holiday season, is that we take the time to slow down and acknowledge those special angels in our lives.
And I don't mean with "gifts" of things - although, I admit -I love gifts.
But I mean, with those all important words of "i love you" and "thank you".
I pray that we take the time to listen and follow through on those prompts.
I pray that we share our wings so we can all fly to our highest potential.