You can read my latest column for The Crafts Report magazine here:
You can read my latest column for The Crafts Report magazine here:
Part Deux in how to raise the art of procrastination to a fever pitch, my column in yesterday’s Fine Art Views newsletter.
And now, a short break from my regularly serious program…. Trying to stay sane as our giant snowstorm turns into a giant cold and gray rainy day.
Today I read a short news item in our local newspaper about the newest recipient of Britain’s Dickin medal.
The Dickin medal, awarded to animals in wartime for bravery and devotion to duty, is the highest military honor an animal can receive. A bomb-sniffing black Lab in Afghanistan named Treo won it this year.
I was intrigued by this about the medal: “It has been presented to 63 animals since its inception in 1943, including 32 World War II carrier pigeons, three horses and a cat.”
Thirty-two pigeons. One cat. What gives??
Wikipedia says this about the cat’s win:
1949: Simon – the ship’s cat on HMS Amethyst during the Yangtze Incident, noted for surviving injuries from a cannon shell, raising morale and killing off a rat infestation during the incident, by doing this duty despite being wounded. He was raised to the fanciful rank of “Able Seacat” and awarded a campaign medal. The medal was sold by the Royal Navy and is now a valuable collectors item, partly because Simon has been the only cat to win the medal
I don’t know why I think it’s so funny that only one cat has won. For sure there’s just something about them being beaten out by so many birds that tickles my funny bone.
On the other hand, I think this kitty really does deserves a medal!
Yes, you’re invited, and you, and you, and you!
Just in case you’re my mom (which you aren’t, because my parents have never been online. NEVER.) DO NOT call me and ask me if I’m lying dead in a ditch somewhere. A call which always came at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings when I was in college, following a period where I had been incommunicado too long, and which always baffled me, because this was way, way before cell phones and so if I actually ANSWERED the phone, how could I be dead in a ditch somewhere??
I digress…. Because I HAVE been incommunicado. I have a good reason:
I’m getting ready for another open studio this weekend. And you’re invited!
In some ways, I’m on top of this one. The studio didn’t get too, too messy since my last one, there was a lot of publicity because it’s part of the NH Open Doors Tour, and I’m not driving myself crazy about preparations. For example, I’m not going to vacuum again unless the dog barfs. (Keeping my fingers crossed here….)
But in other ways, I’m behind–as always. I didn’t do any personal promotion–no postcards mailed out to my customers. (I’m kicking myself here.) I decided to redo all my signage. Even though there’s not a year’s mess in here, there’s still a mess.
And I’m adding my usual personal anxiety to the mix. I once had a party where only one person showed up. It was traumatic. She was a very nice person, and we did do damage to a bottle of tequila (which promptly did damage to me, which is why I never drink tequila anymore, but that’s a story for another day.) But I still enter each entertainment venture with a sinking feeling that says, “And what if nobody comes this time, either??”
So help me not support my therapist single-handedly. Come to my Open Studio this Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7 & 8, from 10-5, or pass the word on to someone you think would enjoy it. Tell them what you want for Christmas (if I happen to make something you’d want for Christmas) and tell them it’s only available here. This weekend.
And we will be BFF. Especially if you are the only person who comes.
P.S. Full disclosure: To be fair, at the time of that party, I was living in a 10’x10′ room in a rooming house. I think everyone was afraid we were going to stay there.
P.P.S. And I kinda forgot to tell everybody til the last minute. Which is why I probably deserve to have slow open studios, since history is repeating itself here…..
So should you believe everything you read here? Getting to the real “me” can be tricky.
Someone wrote me recently, commenting on the phenomenon that many writers don’t actually resemble in real life the personae they’ve created in their writing (or in their online presence.) People who seem so saintly are actually kinda mean and petty. People who seem so forthright and opinionated in online forums are actually too shy to ever say what they really mean in real life.
How do you know anyone is who they say they are??
Coincidentally, another friend recently accused me changing a word or two when I quoted him in an article. I lied, he said.
So…Are all writers liars??
My first reaction was, Ruh-ruh. They’re on to me.
I try to be calm and loving and accepting, always looking for the lesson, always looking for the other side of a situation.
But sometimes that all goes out the window when someone cuts me off in traffic, or when somebody gives me attitude. Or when I simply don’t get what I want.
I try to to be cheerful and upbeat, and a good friend.
But sometimes I just want to crawl in a hole and die. Sometimes even my best friends really piss me off. Or worse, are highly annoying.
Much as I pour my heart and soul into these articles, you can’t get around the fact that I write them.
I get to decide what parts I put in and what parts I leave out. I get to frame the problem, and I get to position the answer.
I get to be too hard on myself, and I get to fudge the happy ending.
So who IS the real Luann?
1. Is she the compassionate and wise, thoughtful and kind person some people think she is?
2. Or is she the verbally quick and bright-haired woman who always feels she has to be the smartest and funniest person in the room?
3. Is she the loving mother who will fight fiercely for her children’s right to simply be who they are? The supportive wife who is always there for her husband?
4. Or is she the screaming shrew who actually once yelled at one of them, “If I had a pointy stick, so help me God I’d use it right now!” Or the bickering partner who says, “You know I’m right, so why don’t you save us both some time and just throw in the towel on this argument now?”
5. Is she the writer who publicly shares a struggling, sometimes painful spiritual journey to understand her place in the world, with anyone out there who will listen?
6. Or is she the self-righteous indignant and angry crabby person who still has the self-awareness to laugh when the writer Ann Lamott writes,
“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
7. Is she a person with a core of hot truth who examines what role she plays in the sad places of her life, and willingly embrace the lessons she finds there?
8. Or is she the idiot who falls back into the same patterns that didn’t work before, and has to learn those same lessons over and over and over again?
9. Is she the nicest person you ever met?
10. Or is she so empty inside, she still believes that being nice is more important than being honest/whole/self-reliant/herself.
11. Is she brave and fearless in her approach to love, life and art?
12. Or is she hanging on desperately to what she already knows, because anything else is too terrifying to contemplate?
13. Is she an amazing artist whose work with texture, color, mixed media and narrative has resulted in a formidable body of work?
14. Or is she that woman who spent an hour in Home Depot’s paint section, agonizing over what color to paint her bathroom?
15. Is she someone who understands this is her journey in life, accepting it with a whole heart (only having to be dragged kicking and screaming to the next step occasionally), doing the best she can? That it’s not about what others think of us or what we do, we just need to do the right thing?
16. Or is she fearful that others might think she is putting on a pretty good but false persona, too?
a. All the odd-numbered statements.
b. All the even-numbered statements
c. Some of the above.
d. All of the above.
e. None of the above.
If I’m learning anything in this strange journey called life, it’s that we’re all very different, and that has to be honored. And we all have a lot in common. A lot.
We all have our dark side, and our bright side. We all struggle to love and be loved, and by the “right” people, too. We all want to be recognized for the incredible things we do, and we all wish the bad things could go in a closet somewhere, forever.
We all have the “inner work” to do, and most of us will never finish it. In fact, some of us will never even acknowledge there is inner work to do. “Oh, that’s, someone else’s inner work!” they’ll exclaim. (I just corrected a typo here that read “sinner work” & realized, that works, too….)
And they’ll be right, too. (And wrong.)
You see where I’m going with this.
If you met me for the first time, and I were having a good day, you might think I’m delightful and funny. Or you might think I simply talk too much.
If you met me on a bad day, you might think I was thoughtful, a compassionate and ready listener. Or you might think I have a chip on my shoulder the size of a Buick, and I whine too much.
Some people love the fact that three years ago, for the first time in my life, I dyed my hair. A deep, rich, intense auburn color. They think it’s brave and cheeky and fun and artistic. Other people think it’s pathetic that a woman my age is so desperately hanging on to her youth. Who does she think she’s kidding??!
The real me? Your guess is as good as mine. I only know it seems important right now to accept all these things as true. Without judgment or censure. Without pride or smugness.
Because what I do, or what I think, or what I have, or what I choose, are all aspects of myself that could disappear in a heartbeat. What is left then?
And that’s what my journey is about.
Because I think what I’m going to find out is, who I really am–just me–in the end, is something much, much bigger–and much, much simpler–than all of these other things.
And that will be….enough.
Just remember. We’re all in this together, and nobody gets out alive.
p.s. My friend, who has mental illness, objected to my use of the word “crazy” to describe the way he’d “altered” his rented room. So perhaps I should have been more sensitive to his condition and used a less volatile adjective.
On the other hand, the other word he complained about was just way too picky. So I think–you guessed it!–we’re both right.
My main frenzy for clearing out and decluttering has dropped off a little. But the tendency is still there, and I continue to purge in smaller “bites”. (That’s a weird sentence. Sorry.)
A few days ago I attacked my personal jewelry stash on my bedroom dresser. I picked out all the pieces I love and wear, and put them in my collection of vintage 1940’s jewelry boxes. The rest came down to my studio to be cleaned and sold, or stripped for parts.
I came across several pairs of large sterling silver hoop earrings. I absolutely love ‘em, and I had three pairs to prove it.
But I never wear them. As I cleaned the tarnish off, I wondered why?
When I put them on, one look in the mirror reminded me. I’m convinced that my ears lie too close to my head. So when I wear hoops, they stick out and look like a second pair of ears.
I started to put them in the “sell” pile, but stopped.
Every so often I get a few people in my booth or at an open studio tell me they can’t wear a particular style of jewelry because of something odd about their body.
Their neck is too short, their ears are crooked, their shoulders are too big, their neck is too thin. Then they put that piece of jewelry on to prove it to me.
They look beautiful.
I can with perfect honesty say I have never looked at a person wearing jewelry and thought, “Her neck is too short to wear that.” I have never ever noticed that someone’s ears are crooked. (I only notice if their ears are missing…)
I rarely notice if people have big feet or not. I don’t even remember ever looking at someone’s feet–until they say they have big feet, and then, of course, we all look.
The shopper won’t believe me, of course. I might just be trying to sell her something. So I ask other customers. Sure enough, everyone chimes in with positive feedback.
Of course, we’re ALL shaped a little differently. And we’re all beautiful in different ways. I’m always taken aback to hear a woman I think is drop-dead gorgeous complain about her nails, or her ankles, or her eyebrows. My daughter, who exudes health and confidence, told me recently her hair is too thin to wear in braids.
She looks adorable in braids.
I don’t know where this comes from. I don’t know why we do it. I don’t know how to make that critical little voice go away.
But I took a deep breath, and left the hoop earrings in.
If I side-swipe someone with them today, okay, I’ll take them off.
But maybe I’ll buy some more, too. Some really, really BIG ones.
p.s. Oh, I forgot–hoops get in the way when I’m on the phone. I just tried to call someone and the earring hit the “end” button. That’s why I don’t where them at home.
And the latest p.s. I just saw an magazine ad in OPRAH magazine featuring Catherine Zeta Jones (for Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Fragrance) and she’s wearing big hoop earrings and one is sticking straight out! And it accentuates the lovely curve of her neck….
That does it, I’m gonna wear my whoppin’ big hoops somewhere tonight!
I’m slowly returning to normal activities, and my spirit continues to mend, too.
It was a shock to learn that the spirit can take longer than the body to recover from a long year of injuries and setbacks. It was a good lesson to learn, though. I think I’ve gained more compassion for others in the same boat. You can handle one setback, another and another. But at some point, your soul just wants to hunker down and run.
We’ve always heard that when we are down in the dumps, it can help to reach out and help others. It’s a good way to get us outside our own heads, a way to move and act without being totally self-referential.
But if even that seems like too much, here’s a lower-threshold spiritual treatment I can almost guarantee will provide the same benefit:
There’s something about kitten antics that makes everything else weighing on your heart just fly away.
Everything is wildly interesting to them–the hem of your jeans, the tie on your robe, the cord on your window shades, the dryer lint in the waste basket, the bug crawling on the floor.
They jump, bounce, flounce, roll, and cry piteously when their tail is, in turn, mistaken for a toy by a sibling.
And if you get tired of dealing with a hamburger-sized ball of fuzz that sees everything in the world as attackable, there’s always an exhausted yet hugely grateful mom-cat who’s happy to simply sit and be petted.
Now, you don’t have to rush out and buy kittens. In fact, there’s a great way to have an (almost) everlasting supply of kittens on hand.
You can be a kitten foster care provider.
One of our favorite family volunteer projects is to act as a foster home for our local humane society. When they receive a pregnant cat or a mom-cat with young kittens, they quickly place them in homes for temporary care–about one to three months, or until the kittens are old enough to be safely adopted.
This gives the mothers a calm, loving environment outside the shelter. It gives the new family a haven from all the diseases that course through a shelter. It ensures the kittens get maximum socialization with humans, critical to their emotional development as family pets.
And as a side effect, our family gets to enjoy kittens in all their glory for two months.
Just when they reach those teenage years (in kitten time), they are all ready to go back to the humane society. The mom cats, unfortunately, may have to wait for new homes. But at least the kittens are adopted quickly, usually within a week. Although I confess, our current pair of cats, our clown-cat Chai and our nervous-nelly cat Moxie, were both former mom-cats in our home.
The layout of our home allows us to set up a foster cat station apart from the other critters. Our two regulars know something is going on, of course. Suddenly, interesting food is delivered to a room that’s now off-limits to them, and they aren’t allowed to drink out of the bathtub faucet anymore. Their bewilderment is palpable, and their attempts to convince us that they need that extra nice cat food, too are amusing.
Our latest batch came to us last week. The mom-cat has been christened “Juno”, after the movie with the young pregnant teen heroine of the same name, because she is so outrageously young herself. (A visitor, on seeing her emerge from the “nesting box”, exclaimed, “That’s the mother??
The kittens are tiny, and just now starting to open their eyes. Three golden mackerel tabbies (probably male), two black torties (probably female.)
They’re really too young to play with yet, and Juno waits anxiously nearby when we handle them, ready to snatch them back at the least little peep out of them.
But already, everything is delightfully right in the world.
P.S. This works with puppies and bunnies, too.