MAKING THE BED

My column today at Fine Art Views, about landscape painting, connecting the work of our heart with an audience, and…well, making the bed!

Enjoy, and feel free to comment.

Tuck on the bed

Still life with dog. Okay, stop looking at Tuck and look at that interplay of patterns and colors!

LESSONS FROM THE MOVE Part Deux: Giving Stuff Away

My column at Fine Art Views on how to ease the pain of letting stuff go. Enjoy!

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CRAZY TIMES

How to relocate without losing your sanity. (Actually, I don’t know how to do that.)

Moving is a bitch difficult experience.

At first, it’s kinda fun. I pick out a few things I can easily let go of, and donate them to a thrift store. Oh, look! I just helped pick-a-good-cause-that-has-thrift-shops!  That works for a few days.

Then I start packing what I call the low-hanging fruit. Extra dishes. Winter clothes. A few pictures from the walls, and some knick-knacks.

Then it gets harder. WHY DO I HAVE SO MANY DISHES?? Didn’t I purge dishes during our BIG MOVE from New Hampshire less than three years ago?? Why do I have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR vintage pitchers? (I donate one–ONE–to the aforementioned thrift shop.) Don’t get me started on the tea pots.

Then it gets really hard. There is now a couch in our living room. One couch. That’s it for sitting. We fight over who gets to lie on it to read every night.

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Near the end of packing, you end up with odd stuff looking even odder. No, I am NOT giving away my trailer truck!

As the deadline draws closer, I get a little more panicky. I pack more boxes. As I unpack them at the new rental, I wonder why I packed THAT and put it in the give-away pile. As I slog yet another box of stuff to the now-overwhelmed thrift store, I guiltily pull out one or two things, and sneak them into the new place.

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My attention span is shorter than the time it takes to pack one box.

And now we’re at the point where the new place is more welcoming and home-like than this place. Probably because the stuff that’s left to pack is the important stuff I don’t really want to deal with. And once I pack them, we HAVE to switch home base to the new place.

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Once you pack the sugar, salt, and toothpicks, you really have to move into the new place. But the bowls of rocks and shells, and odd pots? They can wait a day or two.

As I lay awake at night, reviewing all the things I still have to do/pack/unpack/give away, I console myself:

At least we’re not moving across the country again! (We’re just moving across town.)

The new place is smaller (which means downsizing again), but that’s a good thing at this point in our lives, right? (Please reassure me on this.)

We have had a whole month to do this!  Er…maybe it would have been better to do the oh-God-we-have-to-do-this-in-3-days! thing. More painful, but we’d be done. (Ha! I’d still be looking for the box I packed with the printer toner til the end of days.)

Lest you think I’m getting off easy (in which case you are not my friend), add this to the pile:

I took our 2006 Toyota Scion in to get an oil change.

That was nine days ago.

Every day has added $400 to the bill. Because the worn bushings finally tore. And when they replaced them, they found an oil leak in the transmission. And when they took it to the transmission people, the t-people found a crack in the case. And when they pulled that, they discovered we need a new transmission.

Our oil change people lent us a loaner car, a sedan that didn’t hold many boxes. Like, maybe two. The gas tank is on the opposite side from the Scion, and it unlocks in the opposite direction.

After four days, we got bumped up to an SUV, which holds a LOT of boxes. But the gas tank is on the opposite side of the sedan, and it unlocks in the opposite way of the sedan.

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Thank you, Hahn Auto, for the loan of an SUV that holds a lotta stuff.

At the same time, the front door lock on the new house jammed. After two different people tried to fix it, the second, a locksmith, said the whole lock and handle set needs to be replaced. (Jon had to climb over the fence to let us in from the back yard.)

So I have two sets of different house keys, which ALSO unlock in the opposite directions; have driven three different cars in the last nine days and three different sets of car keys, with different ways of unlocking and gas tanks all over the place; cats who keep trying to trick us into packing them into boxes so they don’t get left behind; two dogs who are alternately bored out of their minds for lack of long walks, and anxiety over moving again….

And yesterday I set up for a new show at Graton Gallery in Graton, CA, a wonderful gallery I’m so excited to be in. They showed amazing patience when I had to make three trips. One to get the jewelry cases I thought I’d forgotten. And another to bring the cases that a friend found IN THE ALLEY WAY where my studio is. Because I’d set them down to talk to a friend, and forgot to pick them back up again. (Thank you, James!)

Meanwhile, my South A Street studio is full of everything that didn’t fit in my new, smaller home studio (which is also stuffed) and I’m feeling a lit-tul bit overwhelmed with it all.

The bright side?

Friends with trucks! Thank you, James, Cory, and West Coast Greg Thompson!

A nice new neighborhood! We’ll be in the charming (Luther) Burbank Gardens neighborhood. Where almost every single resident there has already stopped by to welcome us to the neighborhood.

We have two hyoooge, beautiful porches! More opportunities for large gatherings of friends and neighbors.

We’re even closer to my SOFA studio, and it’s easier than ever to get outta town.

We have a few more years to figure out our next stepswithout worrying about the house being sold out from under us. Good friends own the house, but they won’t be moving up here for a few more years. This works out to everyone’s advantage!

I’ve also discovered that a mixed drink in the evening does wonders for easing my busy, buzzy brain these days. (Don’t worry, I’m not normally much of a drinker. Desperate times call for desperate measures.)

So if you see me, and I seem confused about how to gas up the car, or strangely reluctant to pick up the restaurant tab, or my key ring seems to baffle me, or you here me muttering about “pitchers” or tea pots, or wondering where the paper towels are, please have mercy.

And when the dust settles (from dusting all the knick knacks that never got dusted during our 30 months here on Boyce Street), come on by and see us!

Er…bring bourbon. Jim Beam’s Red Stage will do just fine.

LESSONS FROM THE MOVE Part Deux: Count Your Blessings!

In case this is news for you, we are moving. Again.

We’re not going cross-country this time, thank heavens! Just a mile or so away. Our rent was raised to where we simply can’t afford to stay here.

This was scary on many levels. We have pets, which is increasingly a total shut-out when it comes to renting here. The new house is much smaller, and I still have a lot of stuff. We don’t have a big circle of friends to lend a hand with the physical end of moving. I don’t have an audience for the stuff I have to let go of, like I did in Keene. And it’s even harder to let go of the stuff I chose to bring with me.

Fortunately, old friends of Jon’s recently bought a house here in Santa Rosa, and offered to rent it to us until they move up here themselves. The critters are okay, too.

But even as we breathe a sigh of relief at our good fortune, we’re still putting in a lot of sleepless nights filled with anxiety and fear.

Will my knee hold up?? (It’s been getting steadily worse.) Will the pets adapt to a smaller space? How are we going to move all this stuff?? We have to sell our washer and dryer, and the fridge we bought less than three years ago for THIS house. (I know…how can a rental not have a refridgerator??)

In the midst of this, I gave up that great display space a fellow artist offered to share with me, and though I am excited to have been in two shows this month, in a few days I have to bring all that artwork and display back home.

No room. No room. No room!! OMG, there is NO ROOM!!!

In the midst of this frenzy, I sat down with my journal this morning, with one intention in mind:

What are the GOOD things about this new house, and this move?

And soon I was able to consider 30+ things that will be better.

I felt better. I showed the list to Jon. He feels better, too. He even had something to add to the list.

I’m not saying there’s a happy side to every hard thing life throws at us. That would be thoughtless and without compassion.

But when we are trying to unwind our brains to cope with the stuff that’s just not as hard as the really hard stuff, we give ourselves more bandwidth, more oxygen, to deal with it.

Do you have a happy side to a tough life moment? Please share–I need all the happy-ness I can get!

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I even added some Noddy-chewed cardboard bits for your amusement! We have a jillion of them. NODDY!!!!!!

The Story You Tell and the Power of Your Tribe

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

 A month ago, my husband was cycling on a bike path, when he ran over a stick. It jammed in his derailleur and broke it. Fortunately, I was a phone call away and retrieved him (and the bike) quickly.
Yesterday, the exact same thing happened AGAIN. (He swears it was the same damn stick, but I don’t believe that.) Unfortunately, I am thousands of miles away, in Keene, NH. And he had to walk home, in his bike shoes.

Life has a lot of sticks just waiting to jam up our derailleur…er, life. And in the last month, we’ve run over a lot of them.

The already sky-high rent on our home here in Santa Rosa, CA was raised, eating up almost half our income. We now have two large dogs and three cats. The rental market here is as tight as it is expensive, and it will be impossible to find a landlord willing to rent to us. As former home-owners for 27 years, it’s embarrassing to find ourselves here. (We did find a place, a much smaller place. As soon as I get back to California, we have to pack up and move.  My art will be on hold for awhile. Again. But bookmark this, I’ll return to it later.)

My husband’s employer’s company has 3-4 months of funding left, and there will be no more in the pipeline. All sources have been exhausted. The tech industry does not readily employ people in their 60’s.  Jon’s best option is to strike out on his own. But this is an expensive place for our second reboot in three years, and it’s a little scary.

My art sales have slumped. (This is not unique to me, I know, and not entirely of my making, but there you go.)

One of our children is struggling here in Keene. It sounded urgent enough for me to book a flight out here, to see what I can do. It is cold here. Really, really cold. Like 10 degrees when I woke up, and more snow, with winds gusting to shove that snow right up my nose.

My daughter just announced she’s getting married this summer, in the middle of Tennessee (best spot for the solar eclipse).

And that wonderful shared studio space at that incredible artist enclave has disappeared. My friend and I have extremely different visions for how the space should work. To preserve the friendship, I told her I needed to step away. But it all blew up in my face. My friend is deeply hurt by my decision. With all the other setbacks on my plate, I can’t afford the oxygen to fix this, even if that were possible.

That’s one story.

But here is the other side of the story I chose to tell.

My old tribe here in Keene is holding me together in so many ways. They know who I am, they know what to do.

These trusted friends will hold my tender heart, and my huge artistic vision, in their gentle, loving hands, until I can take them up again.

Let’s go way back, to the beginning of my art career. I took a workshop from wise woman Deborah Kruger, on creating an artist support group.

The premise was, “Women can do it all. But not necessarily all at the same time.”

When life throws big effin’ sticks in our path—sickness, death, divorce, job loss, a big move—there is only so much we can handle. Sometimes the first thing that gets put on hold is the very thing that nourishes our heart and lightens our soul: Our art.

Good friends will hold that vision of you: Your goals, your process, your abilities, your path. When you are ready (even if you think you’re not), they will gently remind you who you are. And help restore you to yourself.

Now let’s look at the other story I choose to tell:

Gift #1 Though we have not built that precious network of friends here in CA, it’s in process. And a friendship of 20 years led to our next home. It will only be available to us for a few years. But that will give us the space to figure out where we go from here. They know we have pets, too. Yay!

Gift #2 The painfully broken friendship gave me clarity on a better way to be there for my child. I will not force him to take care of me during this difficult time, no matter how hard it is to listen sometimes. I need only be present, for now. If that hadn’t happened two days before I left, I would have blundered on as I have done in the past. It was a lesson that arrived just in time to be a better mother.

Gift #3 As I make time to meet up with these good friends, each one has an insight for me. I hear the exact words I need to make it through the day. As I bemoaned the fact that I’d fallen into another situation I should have recognized—again—a friend exclaimed, “I just LOVE my life lessons! I love them so much, I learn them all over again. And again. And again!” I laughed for the first time in days.

Gift #4 As I share such wonderful insights with the next friend I meet up with, it’s just what they need to hear, too!

Gift #5 We have already realized the rewards of our life reboot. Jon’s got his game back, reconnecting with old allies, and finding new ones. The work he’s doing is the work of his heart—collaborating with users to create the tools they need to make their own work easier. The projects are timely, extremely relevant, and deeply-rooted in bettering our culture.

As we consider our next steps–as our reboot is rebooting–Jon and I realize it will be easier this time. For example, we are only moving across town, and we can break it down into small loads. And the new neighborhood will have all the features we treasure in this one.

Gift #6 My art will go on hold again, though hopefully not for long. OTOH, if we should have to leave Sonoma County down the road, I’ll only have to walk away from a few years of audience-building here. Not three decades, like our first move!

Gift #7 My Keene tribe is still here!

Gift #8 I’m passing on the gifts! When I was living in Keene, I never thought of connecting my tribe members! (I know, I know—“DOH!!”) Two of my meet-ups organically overlapped yesterday, and two friends met each other for the first time. The synergy was astonishing. One had the exact information the other needed to take a step forward in a new career. The other recognized not only a new, rich resource in the first friend, but an ally. Both were validated anew to themselves as they recognized the same qualities in each other: Passion, integrity, professionalism, creativity, emotional maturity, and a wicked sense of humor.

I’m now working on getting all of these core people together, if not on this trip (though we’re trying!) then the next. In between, there’s Skype and Google Hangout. We’ll figure it out.

#9 And now I’ve shared this gift with you, faithful readers.

I’ve shared how sometimes, the seeds of a new beginning are buried in the deep past, and sometimes, even in the most recent hardship. The way to your next step is not carefully hidden in the great universe; it is often right under your nose. The words you need to hear are already sitting in the heart of someone who may cross your path—today.

And when the world feels like a hard and hopeless place, there may be someone standing next to you who will offer exactly what you need to get through it. Holding your dream, your beautiful vulnerable open heart, tenderly and lovingly, until you are ready to pick them up again.

Your bonus gift for subscribing today! Here are some of the wonderful words I’ve heard, in addition to the ones I’ve already shared. There will be more!

“Breath until you’re surprised.” This came up in a conversation about an ancient breathing/meditative practice that helps people heal from trauma, grief, and abuse faster. I sense there’s something deliciously deeper here that will reveal itself in time. It’s still sitting with me, and I love it.

“It’s only blood.” In a discussion about letting go of old family conflicts that may never be healed. If the family we’re born into is difficult, we can choose to create our own family.

“This ain’t your first rodeo. You don’t have to be the clown.” A discussion about me trying to make myself smaller so I can make insecure people feel better.

“You don’t have to go to every fight you’re invited to.” No explanation needed.

 “I sit with uncertainty everyday, until Clarity makes her presence known.” Every. Single. Day.

(If you’d like to see the published article and comments, go here.

My work! At Corrick’s! In March!!!

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So very last minute! I’m filling in for an artist who can’t participate.

Fortunately, as you who have visited my open studios know, I have plenty of stuff available to show. Like, a LOT. LIKE I COULD FILL THE WHOLE STORE (if they’d let me.) (But I don’t think that would be fair to Linda Sorenson.)  (BTW, oddly, I also know a New Hampshire artist named Linda Sorenson. This confuses me sometimes.)

But I digress.

The opening reception is Friday, March 3, from 5-7.

Come on by, say ‘hey’, I’ll be there with bells on. (Okay, no bells, but maybe a ponytail?)