Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Lost Art

Years ago, a friend and I decided to be each other’s pen pals. We lived only two hours from each other but like all busy people we only would see each other if lucky a couple times per year. We both enjoyed writing and so through our letter writing our friendship remained strong and nurtured, when time wouldn’t allow for a visit. After years of doing this things fell by the wayside because I moved out State and halfway across the country.  Reestablishing in a new area was time consuming and my letter writing became less frequent. I simply did not have the time to write so email became my way of communication; which was later, followed by Facebook.
The details of my life and its happenings became distilled. As I started to fully understand the nature of Facebook less and less was offered to others.  It got to the point that even our status was not directed to one person as email had once been but to each and every soul that our friend’s friends had as well as our own. So we had no idea who was reading about our lives and at that point even our status became diluted.  
Then entered texting which replaced the lengthy need for a phone conversation and with it a new form of English that is mostly unrecognizable to people who are learning English or people who for whatever reason escaped that trap. A very close friend of mine is an English professor and she actually has to tell her class that they need to write in Standard American English to pass her class. I find this somewhat alarming that by the time her students reach the college level they have to be told this. That acronyms replacing actual terms or words are unacceptable in term or research papers, seems obvious to me. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the ability to send a quick text at times it is appropriate but in term papers, handwritten letters or business correspondence it most certainly is not.
The other day my friend sent me a twelve page handwritten letter. When I received this in the mail it was like someone had handed me a gold bar, a diamond ring or a beautiful work of art. The front of the letter was address to the lovely Kristen Haskell. Immediately, I smiled that someone close to me wrote those words. The envelope was special. It was made from handmade paper, with a soft velvety texture and even the stamp was special. It was the kind of stamp you have to go to the post office to get or buy a whole plate on-line. The thickness immediately made me giddy. I had to dump all my other mail, go find a nice spot with a nice coffee or in my case Ice Tea, settle in and read. You just know that it is going to be good.  It’s the kind of good that doesn’t happen often and when it does it is a treasure.
After the delight of reading my beautiful friend’s letter all I could do was respond in kind. Her letter was thoughtful and grand. It deserved a handwritten letter with as much love and thought as the one that I received.  So I sat down to plan my return letter and my first thought went to the stationery. I have some nice stationery but I wanted something a little different then what I had so I inserted a lovely piece of art work on the first page in the upper left corner, and then I printed this leaving the rest of the page blank. When that was finished I proceeded to write using my pilot varsity dark purple fountain pen. It felt so good to put pen to paper. The crisp white sheets compliment the dark gorgeous ink and the words just flowed with ease. Two days later I finished that letter and tomorrow I will be in search of a beautiful stamp.  It has probably been at least eight or nine year since I last wrote to my pen pal. I think it is high time to get back to a personal handwritten letter. Its meaningfulness is unparalleled.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

She got Galley

Lovingly dedicated to J L Mulvihill who received the galley of her first novel today.

Secretly cheering you on
Sending out waves of positive thoughts
To the powers that be
They finally said yes
To your dream
A big dream
Your dream
Right before your eyes

Funny how that happens
When your wish upon a star
The impossible becomes possible
And it doesn’t matter who you are

Your dreams
Become reality
Because you believed it to fruition
You opened your mind to possibility
You gratefully loved it to creation
Now is the time
A time for celebration

Friday, June 24, 2011

What I Learned Today

Google Images

It would be a crime to declare boredom
I mean never ever
You have squandered time
Have you the luxury of time?
Don’t sit and stare at the road block
Get out and direct traffic
Time is not to be squandered
Squandering time is depriving something
From its creation  
Birthing it later than necessary
Shout in your loudest voice
Thank you
Then mean it
There in that place
You have created
A masterpiece
Live with it for a while and be grateful it chose you
For in gratitude gifts flow in abundance

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Five Year Plan

Borrowed from Google Images
Mount Laguna, California

About sixteen years ago my husband and I went on a mountain drive through Mount Laguna in Southern California. We stopped at a little spot with trails and picnic tables for lunch. We were all alone and we proceeded to write down our five year plan.
Looking back on our plan, I vaguely remember all that we wrote and all that we hoped to achieve. However, the big things I do remember and I am happy to say those things actually did happen.

Borrowed from Google Images

Years after that I read a book called Write it Down Make it Happen and it touched on this subject and was very helpful with visualization techniques and other tools for achieving what it is you want in your life. But what if you aren't sure what it is that you want?

Often times determining what it is that you actually want is harder than actually getting the thing you want. Taking time to be alone in your thoughts, journaling and meditation are all helpful tools for figuring out exactly what would make you happy with the life you have.

One thing that hinders that happiness is trying to fit your life into a mold or ideal, i.e. Hollywood’s ideal life or the life of someone else. Trying to match or pair your life alongside another person only leads to let down and disaster. Don't be a second rate copy of someone else, take the time to figure out what it is you want and make the mold fit your ideal. If you don't have the foggiest clue what it is you want and feel a little unsatisfied with your life, I'd start there.

Why am I unsatisfied? Make a list with pen and paper. What will it take to fix the first thing on the list? That exercise alone will help. It is super important to write it down. Don't skip that part. You need to see it in black and white. It needs to become real.

Here is a real example of how this worked for me in my life. When I ended an eight year relationship with someone I felt as though I had been through a divorce. In a sense, I had been. I was emotionally spent and I was starting to date again. The one thing that I knew without any doubt was that I did not want to start an endless cycle of bad relationships. I sat down and wrote out exactly what I wanted in a partner and then I did not settle.

I dated three different men.  They were all nice men and viable mates but two of them just weren't right for me. I was only able to fully understand this because I had my criteria listed and things that mattered to me seemed a little shaky with those other two men. The things at the top of my list had nothing to do with what a man would give me. That is not what I am talking about here. What I am talking about is what kind of person that man already is with or without me in the picture. Here are a few of the things that were on my list strong ethics, leadership, a strong sense of self, work ethic, someone who would take their vows serious. When only one of those men fit that list I knew he was the one I would date and should those qualities continue I would eventually marry.

Borrowed from Google Images

I stopped dating other people and decided that Steve fit the qualities that I was looking for. I married him and I am happy to say that through thick and thin, we are still married and happy to be married to each other. It hasn't always been easy but one thing that has never waivered was that he still possess those qualities. His foundation is strong and he takes each of life's challenges head on. These are the qualities that I wanted, they are the qualities that I listed, the qualities that I saw in him and had I not written those things down I might not have been able to identify that he possessed those qualities.

Write it down!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Amature Hour

This is my first painting from my beginning acrylic class. I take this class on Monday evenings at Creative Concepts by Instructor Juli Bland. The class size is small which makes for a nice relaxing class.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sepia Strangers

Magpie 70

So many snap shots

How am I to know who these people are?

I am left with boxes

So many boxes

Sepia strangers one after another

Mysterious relatives or friends long forgotten

Who is that holding me over the seal exhibit?

So I can feed a slimy fish

And who is that I sell framed for a dollar ninety nine?

Sepia strangers

One after another

I am the last one

The oldest one alive

All who can identify

Run free in another plane

And care not for the sepia strangers

Who will eventually fade


Boxed and shelved

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Ambitious Project

All of my life I have enjoyed art. I love viewing it, making it and discovering it. Right now I am going through a creative phase. I have decided to undertake a fairly ambitious project. I plan to paint the photo below.

The first phase is the planning phase. I have photocopied this picture in greyscale. This will help me to see the values. There is a lot of light coming through the feathers all of this will make or break the finished piece.  I am trying to see this as a series of shapes instead of what it actually is. Can you see the right triangle that makes up the bird's body? How about the upside down tear drop? I have never enjoyed drawing but I may need to practice before I actually start the work of painting. Sketch pad here I come. Wish me luck. I will post pictures of my progress.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Morning Pages

I think differently when I first wake up. An entire isle of “junk-food” thoughts are missing. What are junk-food thoughts? They are thoughts that have no value, thoughts that hold you back or thoughts that do nothing but bring negativity to your psyche. The brain has not yet had time to engage in these thoughts. Rather, my brain is not thinking as much as it is sharing with my waking self the visual clues from my sleep. There is a creative outlet there if you will allow it. Writing with pen and paper, sketching or doodling will help the flow of creativity that we are most susceptible to first thing in the morning.
If I remember my dreams and can take a minute to write them down, my writing will be more vivid.  Morning pages are helpful for every writer. I just wonder how many wake up at the last moment, scramble to get ready for the day and miss the opportunity to purge what needs to be written.

Writing is an excellent tool for releasing feelings and as the day progresses if I had the chance to write a bit, everything else that I enjoy doing painting, jewelry making or more writing seems to flow easier. If I just wake up with say conversation or television the opportunity or flow will be lost.
Journaling your thoughts and feelings is an excellent way to start your day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Feeding the Soul

Night Feed
Kristen E. Haskell
Watercolor Pencil, Tempera
June 14, 2011

There are areas of this painting that I intentionally did not finish. I liked the effect as it was, so I stopped. Knowing when to stop is difficult. I can always change my mind but once you go too far you can't go back with watercolor. I am calling this painting Night Feed because it was in the evening that I shot a picture of a Monarch feeding on my marigolds. I took that picture years ago and just found it recently. 

Last night was the first class in beginning acrylic. Sometime next week I should be able to post a photo of the painting I am working on for that class. The subject is flower - the Iris. I am taking the class through OTC; however, the class is being taught by Juli Bland, Studio Owner and Artist at Creative Concepts.

If you live in the Springfield area or are visiting and have ever desired to try painting, I highly recommend Juli. The studio is inspiring and non-threatening, her instruction is excellent and it is impossible not to leave happy. Friday nights are adult paint, BYOB for cocktails and creativity. Prices are very reasonable. How fun is that!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Forward Momentum

Magpie Tales 69

Twist and turn

The change of events

Anticipating what is next

May prove folly

Connecting what came before

A deeper understanding

Making each day as special

As your last

Living, breathing, sharing

How will you spend it?

Will it enrich your soul?

Or suck the life right out of it?

May today and everyday

Refresh your spirit

Listen to the pull of

Your own tide

Be grateful for its

Ebb and flow

Its change is constant

And cannot be stopped

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Day of Contentment

Daydream by Jane Sutherland, c 1895
(Oil on Canvas)

A gentle summer rain has ended
The sun peaks through pillows
Crystal drops hang like tennis bracelets
On deep green, chartreuse and moss covered leaves
A symphony of birds singing
Pretty, pretty, pretty
Accompanied by the cicada’s hum
The air is soft

Touched with moisture
The warmth penetrates my skin
It is a slow day
A day made entirely of daydreams
A day to thrive

A day of contentment

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Female Friends

There are several women in my life that I have grown to really feel a kinship with. Not often do you find women friends that you would want to turn into a quartet, much like the gals in Sex in the City. These women are nothing like those women, they are real women with real women issues. They are not concerned with $700 shoes or pocketbooks. In fact, they would view much of that as a tremendous waste of money. I doubt any of them would be Samantha, Carrie, or Charlotte, and not one of them is like Miranda.
Well that is really not the issue. I am not trying to find three other gals to talk about sex with or over indulge with alcohol, shopping or men. I just want have a few women friends over for an afternoon of drinks and socializing. It would be nice if by some miracle we could all start doing things together. It would be nice to have time to paint together, thrift shop, antique browse or even start a book club.

I find it curious that all my closest women friends live in other parts of the country. After taking stock of this I realize I have some very wonderful friends right here where I live. Those friendships I have not fostered enough. I guess I was too wrapped up in my own grief  and all of life’s little surprises to reach out. Well I am feeling better and now I am reaching out locally. All the ladies I am thinking about are so very different from one another. I wonder if they ever think about groupings like this. I think it could be tremendously supportive to find comradery with a fun group of other women who need to have that time together. Friendships are important and I’ve felt for too long that I needed to stretch my wings a little and make more friends. Not just have one really close friend but many.

In the movie Enchanted April four woman, all very different from one another, take a villa in Spain on the coast for a month stay, it is there that they give up their misgivings about other women and become very good friends on a deep emotional level. It is there that they learn to love the people in their normal lives and learn to appreciate them. They are able to do this because they the can see in each other their own misgivings and because they are forced to live together and choose to do so in harmony, they forgive the pettiness that surfaces naturally in the beginning.

The character Lottie is heartly responsible for demonstrating goodwill as a first gesture when confronted with this pettiness. It is her response that sets the tone for the whole vacation and the tone each woman takes for herself. Each woman is allowed to be themselves without apology. If they are brash it is treated with courtesy not defensiveness and suddenly the brash woman finds herself realizing that her feelings were respected. The brashness dissolves and in its place a kind and considerate person evolves. If they are aloof and need the space to be alone it is granted, respected and always followed up with an invitation for gathering at a later time. If she is pensive or worried she is listened to and understood and never ever criticized or made to feel foolish. Those small gestures that seem so trivial are really a lesson to us all.

Our feelings are not trivial. Our life’s experiences might be the reason for the initial response of brashness, pettiness, aloofness, and pensiveness that exists in the first place. It is the exterior we’ve developed when life has knocked us down. It is not judgment that will save us from ourselves or allow us to look passed these undesirable behaviors in others.

Those behaviors will sink us unless we try the Lottie approach. Respect and understanding first reserve the judgments for really bad stuff like, theft, lying, adultery, murder, or other such behaviors that woman of integrity chose not to associate with. I would rather spend my time forgiving brashness or pensiveness and get to the great heart of a female friend, than accept someone who by the very nature of their behavior, I will never be able to trust. What a person does to someone else is a pretty good indicator of what they will do in general.

If the woman is outgoing and fun to be around well that is bonus. But no one need be perfect to keep a solid friend, no one is perfect. This is just a fact of life. The women that I have befriended have never showed me a side of themselves that was perfect because I don’t expect that from them. I expect them to be them. However, what they have all demonstrated to me is that they are women of integrity. These woman live by a moral compass; one that I have no problem following or taking lead of. Those are the friendship I choose.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Personal Take on Mixed Nuts

Not all nuts are equal!

In fact, there is a hierarchy to nuts.

You have your basic peanut

A good nut but not the kind of nut that if you give as a Christmas present. If you do you might find that you are not at the top of their list with a thank you card. It’s a nut that barring an allergy we’ve pretty much all tasted again and again. It is a filler nut. Planters has downgraded it by advertising on their mixed nut can in big yellow letters LESS THAN 50% PEANUTS. So you see it is the low nut on the totem pole of nuts. It is the serfs in the kingdom of nuts, still a viable part of the kingdom but a serf none-the-less.

Almonds another terrific nut but again we are milking it, pasting it and we put it in so many recipes that it is losing it place at the top of the nut hierarchy. Don’t get me wrong I love almonds and really love almond milk. It gave me back cereal when my lactose intolerance all but removed raisin bran from my diet. It is the trade people in the kingdom. It is the worker nut.

Cashews, again a good buttery nut and at times a cherished gift during the holidays but fairly popular and added to a lot recipes. I still do enjoy a jumbo cashew. The flavor is creamy so it does move up the scale a bit but there are certainly others that need to be considered above this nut.  This nut would like to be the Monarch but will never get invited to court.

A small grouping of nuts Brazil, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts all have distinct taste but their texture when you are chewing them is similar. Great nuts but not at the very top, these nuts are kind of like the people who get invited to court by a Monarch. Just an invitation not a permanent arrangement, they aren’t going to given keys to the castle. Still they are a fine group and very definitely have their place in the nut hierarchy. They are the exotics and hold a little mystery when they present themselves for consideration. 

Another small grouping of nuts are the walnuts and pecans. These are the dukes and duchesses of nuts and very definitely have the keys to the castle. True they are not unique or exotic but they lend themselves well for fabulous recipes, the kind of recipes that are only made fabulous by their existence. They dress the monarch by their presence. They wear the latest fashions and they never go out of style.
Finally, introducing the Monarch, the Mac Daddy of all nuts the one nut that you can eat and eat and eat – get ready for it, are you ready?

The pistachio cherished for its fabulous flavor and texture. No other nut holds the keys to the kingdom like this one. So good in fact, the best steak I ever ate was served with a pistachio sauce. In addition, the restaurant that prepared this pairing was fit for a Monarch.
So you see hands down the Pistachio is the King of nuts or at least it is in this nut’s opinion.

I Feel Like a Million Bucks

I responded to a friend's email today and I said, "I feel like a million bucks. Have you ever heard me say that?" Well the truth is I haven't felt this good in years. I think I am finally getting my health on the right track. I am happy. I had a wonderful lunch date with a new friend today. We laughed and had a great time just being together talking, being silly and enjoying the time spent on a Tuesday noon in a quaint tea room with delicious food.

Lunch by artist Itzchak Tarkay

After lunch I stopped by an art studio Creative Concepts. It is in lovely Galloway Village here in Springfield, Missouri. I am enrolled in a beginning acrylic class starting next Monday night. The owner/instructor Juli Bland was there to greet me and we hit it off immediately. She is upbeat and talented. I am so excited about her class. I got to see the project we will undertake. I really enjoyed the vibrancy of the studio and the art work displayed there. My immediate impression - talent in abundance, with four instructors each teaching their technique to the lucky who dare try.

I want to go to bed to tonight and have it be Monday tomorrow. MONDAY tomorrow, I know you are saying bite your tongue, stealing away a whole weekend over an art class but it is honestly how I feel.

Monday Funday I can't wait! I will take a photo of my painting and post it no matter how untalented I turn out to be. I just don't care, right now I could take on Matisse. I just hope I can translate these feelings of happiness to my painting. Wish me luck!

The Goldfish by Henri Matisse
I am unable to make any distinction between the feeling I get from life and the way I translate that feeling into painting. ~ Henri Matisse

Monday, June 6, 2011


This is an older poem that I recently revised. I might have posted the older version before; however, I like the flow of this version. I wasn't sure this eyeball would find a place within my poem but oddly enough I kind of like it paired with this piece. The eye after all is one of the minds ways of receiving memory.

Magpie Tales

Dust settles everywhere
It clings to us
Reminding us of the life moving beyond our walls
All our little trinkets collect
Hiding their shiny self beneath

It moves in with alacrity
And returns with frequency
No polishes will ever conquer it
For it sneaks back when no one is looking

Even contained we keep its host
For it bares memory

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Ultimate Writing Tool

Do you wish you could write?

“quarter of the population flow outword again, many of them victims of soul-grinding”

The cover of What It Is by Lynda Barry

Its cover alone is a plethora of images and thought provoking words arranged in collage.  What It Is – what is it? The best descriptor I could come up with were the neatly arranged words in the authors collage, written in cursive writing on a torn bottom edge of a yellow legal pad and pasted directly below the book’s own title, “the formless thing which gives things form.” The book in its entirety is designed this way, collage after collage, images, questions, phrases, words all there just sitting there on the page waiting for the reader to absorb. What happens when that kind of information is absorbed? Amazing things happen. It sparks thought, giving a dead spark plug new life or in simpler terms it unblocks writer’s block in the most delicious way. It satisfies the strongest craving; at least it did for me.

Cartoon of Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry gives us a powerful tool but it is not without consequence. Don’t expect to stay the same weight if you eat and entire chocolate cake in one sitting; as such don’t expect to do anything else but write if you take in thirty five pages in one sitting. I can’t seem to stop writing. I have multiple things to do, important things, like my weekly budget, food shop, balance my checkbook. I don’t even know if I’ve over spent this past week. But sadly I don’t seem to care that much about anything, except writing.

Last November I started a novel. It is my first positive start. I wrote for the entire month and at the end I had 52,700 words and the beginning of a story. I just didn’t know where the story was going or how I was going to map it out. I had no idea what path it would take. It was far from a finished first draft. It just did not have its form yet.

Then in December my mother passed away unexpectedly. I was crushed and I put the story away believing that it was probably the end a month’s worth of work. I couldn’t help but feel that I should have spent that time with her instead of writing. I wasn’t even writing anything that was anything yet. In the six months that she has been gone I have not touched or added one word to the story. Oh I opened it many times, I looked at it for all of five minutes and I closed the document, disgusted and remorseful.

Lynda Barry
Last night I took What It Is out on my deck and studied the pages and read each word not fully realizing what this would do for me. Sure the pictures were interesting but was this really a tool for writing? I did not even get that far to question this at the time. I pulled out my steno pad and my favorite pen and wrote and wrote and wrote. Then it clicked, I suddenly knew what direction my 52,700 words would take and my story was mapped in my mind. This morning I took those pages and typed them adding to my 52,700 word an additional 1,800. In addition, I had the added bonus a story that I would actually like to read, a story that is mapped and paved with a path with which to journey on. Coincidence or not, I don’t know but I’m going to go ahead and say for arguments sake that my day filled with writing is Lynda Barry’s fault!