Thursday, September 30, 2010

“Addition by Subtraction” – Sometimes Less Is More: A Lesson In

“Addition by Subtraction” – Sometimes Less Is More: A Lesson In

I could have written this, I wish I had written this, as this is my newly discovered philosophy. Just yesterday as a matter of fact, I had this very conversation with a friend, how less is more, it's quality not quantity and how being forced to slow down and make choices about which things I use my time and energy on has made me make better choices. Things I thought I was "missing out on", well, it turns out I really don't miss them much after all. I'm savoring the smaller moments. Little things become big. Having your world turned upside down can shake out the things you don't really need and let you see the things you do. A closet cleaning, or yard sale for your life, really. Out with the clutter and the junk. Rediscover treasures you forgot you even had. Young or old, sick or healthy, there is golden words of wisdom for anyone in this article.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Just breathe. yah right.

Yesterday, after my house guests departed, I made a dash for the dock, desperate for a dose of laziness and peace. Not that my guests were anything less than wonderful, but I was ready for some quiet nothingness, anxious to enter the sloth zone for awhile. It was one of those perfect beautiful September days in North Carolina, "California days" I call them. Hot, but not too hot. Zero humidity. Soft breezes and a perfect blue sky. I grabbed a magazine I had no intention of reading and climbed aboard the tube, using it as a raft. Safely tied to the dock, I didn't worry about floating away and prepared to relax.

Stretching out, I sighed. "Aaaaaahhhhhh. This is heavenly" I thought to myself. I decided to attempt the breathing meditation exercise I had tried before, to see if I could get to seven seconds, let alone surpass that goal. I figured it should be easy here, just floating in sunshine, undisturbed. Seriously, how hard could this be?!?  So I breathe. In, out. Smell the rose, blow out the candle, all that lingo is going through my head. I make it to the third breath before a thought intrudes. "What if my sunglasses slide off my head? They'll sink. I just found them after being lost for practically the whole summer." I adjust them safely and start over and try not to think about them stretching. Breathe in, breathe out. Smell the rose... wait. That's not a rose I smell. "Is that gas I smell? I must be over by the boat. We need to get that motor fixed. Oh and there are spiders by the boat. I saw a giant web. I need to get out of here. yuck!" and I push myself away from this side of the dock and back out into the safe zone. I resume my "relaxing", and stretch out, and start all over.

I'm breathing, on breath #2 now and my foot hits one of the handles on the tube I am using as a raft. I slip my foot into it, just to see if it fits, and then the other, still breathing. Then I think to myself "This feels like stirrups. At the OBGYN. I need to make an appointment. I'm over due. mammogram too. yuck." and I quickly remove my feet as my calendar begins to infiltrate my brain. Dammit. This relaxing thing is hard work. I roll over, belly down, trying again. I'm on breath three when a loud boat passes by and the next thought pops into my mind. "I wonder if you can see my big white butt from out there. I need more exercise. Tomorrow I'll start. And the usual diet too. hah." My backside hasn't seen the light of day for quite sometime, so it probably is glowing neon white. Of course I am covered by my bathing suit, it's not like I am mooning people or anything, but still... An alarming image flashes in my mind and I quickly roll over onto my back, assuming the "Hollywood beach pose" - one knee up, arms back, behind head. Everyone looks thinner and more glamorous this way, of course. Except that I am alone, glamorous only to myself and the fish laughing below. M. is watching the Panthers humiliate themselves up on the dock and is oblivious to me, to the world. I could be naked or drowning and he would not notice if a touchdown was in the realm of possibility. He is yelling at the tv again, as if that will fix things for the Panthers, or for Tony Stewart on the other channel.

I try and relax again. I tell myself I can get to measly seven seconds, I can beat the odds. Surely I can relax that long without a stupid intrusive thought in my head. I can do it, I know it!! I can just BE. Whatever that means. Breathe in, breathe out. My stomach growls. I think about the sweet potato fries left in the fridge, my latest addiction, drizzled with honey. Visions of an icy fizzy Diet Coke follow. I try not to think about them, focus on relaxing. It's not working. I look at the shore. I wonder if that raccoon is still hiding in the neighbors dock. I wonder if it has rabies. Rabies...Where's my dog? Oh there he is, sleeping in the sun. See, HE knows how to relax. I see the weeds I need to pull. Are there snakes in there? Forget it. Weeds can stay. I remember the load of laundry I left in the washing machine. Yesterday. And the rest waiting in a pile to get done. Sigh....

 I breathe in, I breathe out. I give up. I get up. I get out.
This relaxing thing is just too much work.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes even more.

 While volunteering in art class at our local elementary school this week, I had the privilege of spending time with a true Folk Artist. Theresa Gloster, true to traditional folk art style, one day simply began painting the stories of her life, untrained and from the heart. Bright, vivid images of her childhood leap from her canvases, shoes, belts, spoons, and any other surface that will hold paint. Even the clothes she wears are a work of art. Her simple denim overall dress was transformed into an extraordinary costume, embellished with numerous sparkling pins of every size and shape, a tradition she carried on from her grandmother. Hand painted children dance merrily around the hem of her dress, having a party at her feet. One cannot help but smile and feel happy in her presence, whether it's from her engaging smile, cheerful outfit or magical stories.

As a guest speaker/demonstrator for the art class, Ms.Theresa captured the hearts and imaginations of the children who sat before her and myself as well. I had admired her work before, but never knew the real stories behind the paintings. I could only look at the simple colorful images and just imagine. Hearing them told in Ms. Theresa's own words, and seeing a smile that made her whole face twinkle made them that much more wonderful. She entertained us all with tales of of her childhood, guiding us through time, back to the days when baths were taken on Saturday nights only, so that everyone would be clean for church the next morning.  Little ones got in the water first, she explained, and hot water from the stove was added for each person as they traded places. It was just too bad for you if you were the oldest; all you could do was wait your turn, and by the end, that water was not very clean! she said. The children in the classroom groaned at the thought of this. Until that moment, their daily shower or bath with fresh clean water had been taken for granted or perhaps even complained about and was now considered a luxury.

Ms. Theresa displayed paintings of her childhood home and yard, where several children played outside, some still with bubbly halos of soap bubbles on their tiny brown heads, while others played or were seen sweeping the yard. The students looked at her, curious again. "Sweep the yard?" they asked. Ms. Theresa explained.  With 13 children in the family, the grass didn't stand a chance with all that playing, and if they told Mama they were bored, they had to sweep the yard to keep it looking nice. She went on to show scenes from school, of swings and merry go rounds and told tales of how the teacher would give them a lick for each check they had on their hands.  The students in the art class looked at her with puzzled expressions. A lick, she explained, was a hit. A check, she added was for misbehavior in school. Suddenly  they were relieved to be living in a time when pulling tickets, getting time outs, and enduring a silent lunch were the biggest threat in their school day.

Finally, the painting began. The students were instructed to paint a memory on the special object they had chosen from home, whether it was a shell or a ball or anything at all. They were all excited to begin, inspired by what they had just seen and heard, and you could tell that they felt empowered. The classroom teacher wisely noted that Ms.Theresa had surely worked her magic that day, not only by sharing the simple beauty of her art and the stories of her life, but more importantly by removing any barriers standing between each child and the artist within them. There was no more classification of whether you were or were not a "real"artist, or had any talent or gifts. She had just shown them that if you create from your heart, everyone is an artist.

If only we all could be touched by this simple wisdom, embrace it and free the artist within, our inner child. We all have one. We all have gifts to share, stories of our own waiting to be told. We simply have to see it, and believe in it. And that day in the art classroom at Sherrills Ford Elementary, Ms.Theresa showed us all how.

If you are reading this and want to see more of the wonderful art by Theresa Gloster and other folk artists, come to the Lake Norman Art Festival in Sherrills Ford, NC Oct 2 11-4 pm. It's free!

For more information go to http://www.hickorymuseumofart.org/festival.php

Thank you to http://www.banglemagazine.com/files/pdf/April_201012.pdf, where I found examples of Theresa's artwork.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Black Cat Luck

Today I let a black cat cross my path. Willingly, almost defiantly, because I really don't believe they are bad luck.  I believe that they are just sorry little creatures who get a bad rap in life. Surely there are plenty of bad orange or brown kitties out there in the world too. So, I slowed down,  and I let it saunter across the road in front of me. I laughed in the face of superstition. Ba-ha-ha- ha... and cruised around the corner and into a perfect parking spot just waiting for me. Even the over the line space hogging SUV parked beside me could not ruin this moment. I was not late, it was a beautiful day, and things were looking good. All these factors combined to reaffirm my belief that maybe black cats aren't so bad after all.


An hour later or so, I left the lot, survived the evil traffic circle and headed to the dreaded Wal Mart. My deep love/hate relationship for this store is topic for another blog. Things are still going my way. I found another perfect parking spot, in front of the entrance, one space over from handicapped, beside the cart corral! It doesn't get any better than this, believe me. I was actually smiling as I headed into the store. I was a fool.


Other than being stalked by an aging hippy Willie Nelson look alike in the customer service area, things went as well as can be expected in such an environment. I didn't even get mad at the people who blocked the aisles with their carts and kept me from accessing the cheese, toothpaste and other items I needed. I did not pitch a fit when there were no paper towels in the bathroom. I didn't care that the plums look like raisins and there were no power bagels left. I even managed to find a short line to check out. Any of these events occurring are like winning the lottery on a normal tour to Wal Mart.


Then, it happened. I should have known it was too good to be true. My luck turned. As I unloaded my groceries onto the conveyor belt, my egg carton tipped over. Out plopped an egg. Into my cart! Egg goo dripped through the metal cage and all over the chicken below. The cashier chuckled, and found this amusing. "It's dripping on your chicken. It's like the question, chicken or egg!" I smiled, as nicely as I am able to, and assumed he would have enough sense to flash a register light or yell "Clean up on aisle 7!!!" No. Nothing. It continued to spread into a gelatinous puddle of yellow liquid. I asked for wipes, paper towels, for anything to quickly stop this flow. With a shrug, he offered me Windex and a single paper towel. I grabbed it gladly and begin to spray my can of green beans with windex. I asked for more and he tore off another small square, as if I were asking to use fine linen to mop the mess up with. I thought of Ellen on Seinfeld. "Can you spare a square?" Remember that, lol? I stared him down, reached over and grabbed the entire industrial sized roll of cheap brown paper towels. I then had to beg him for a plastic bag to hold the shells and dripping paper towels. I should have just handed it to him. The man is a moron.


I can't believe my luck. Damn cat. I should have known.

Tranquility

Beautiful Lake Norman
I am a water person. I have always lived near water, with the exception of those crazy college years. Even then, I found myself searching for it. I could not have chosen a more land locked educational facility if I tried. Ironically it was in a city called Waterloo. Maybe it means "city without water" in some foreign language, who knows. Whenever possible, I visited my grandfather and aunt and uncle who lived on a river in a nearby town and it seemed like home. Actually it was the same river I lived on growing up, only several hours away. The same flowing waters connected us in a way, although our geography was totally different. Perhaps the memories of childhood adventures (a topic for another blog for sure!) and endless views of the majestic weeping willows have something to do with the sense of peace that water gives me.

I am lucky. I live on a lake now. Literally, it is in my back yard and I am blessed to be able to look at it every day. Every night, I am treated to a beautiful sunset. I chose the correct side of the water for sure, because I am not a morning person, and all those glorious sunrises would be wasted on a lazy sleepy morning sloth like myself.  I save sunrises for vacations at the beach and even then, they are rarely experienced unless I am coaxed from my bed with promises of coffee and photo opportunities. But truly, the colors the sun paints the sky and clouds as it enters and exits the sky each day is something to be marveled at, appreciated and is just plain awesome.

I started writing this to tell you about my kayak experience last night and now I find myself rambling about the sun. Oh well, if I am to digress off topic, visually,  it was a pretty departure, would you not agree? Well, yesterday, while looking at my lovely lake, still and calm, I realized it would be a perfect night for kayaking. I have never done this. I don't own a kayak. But a friend does and we just happened to have it in our possession for reasons I won't go into here, so we took advantage of the situation and went out on a last minute whim, my husband and I. We don't do adventurous athletic things together, so this is very unusual. I'm more of a dinner and a movie kind of date normally. We paddled away, across the lake and down the cove. Not used to such physical endevours, I thought my arms might fall off before we got there, but I kept quiet about that. I wasn't going to admit that fact out loud. Soon I got used to it and even Mr.Athlete paddling behind me slowed down to take in the awesome view before us. A quiet cove meandered around the bend, ending in a marsh area. Dead trees and their gnarled branches dangled in the water like abstract sculptures, and rose from it at times, looking dangerous, like alligators. The water was perfectly still and smooth like glass, except for the occasional fish jumping up, and the light was beginning to fade. Up ahead, a single heron stood guard on it's muddy platform. We stopped  and drifted as close as we could, hoping it wouldn't notice us, the two giant humans encased in blue plastic, armed with bright yellow paddles. Perhaps herons are color blind like dogs or near sighted like a moose. Either way, it granted us permission to sit a for a few minutes and watch it, although it wasn't long before it began to pace, getting nervous. Slapping the water with the paddle and ending the serenity, M. sent the bird off in flight. If you've never watched a heron take off or land, it's an amazing sight. Perhaps Wilbur and Orville were inspired by one of these creatures before they hit the workshop one fateful day long ago.

We turned the kayak around and headed back home to reality. In that hour after dinner and before morphing into couch potatoes for the night, it was a pleasant departure from every day life. I'm glad I listened to that little voice that told me to go, to do more than just admire the lake from afar last night.
Now I know what the word tranquility means. When I hear that word, I will see that heron in the fading light, just being in the moment. As I face another busy day, I will try and be like the heron at some point today, I will make an effort to find a moment to just stand still, to just be. And then take off flying again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

WOL - Write Out Loud...

Okay people, whoever you are, this is my first ever official blog. I am not even sure what it is I am going to say, but lately I have found that I am unable to keep myself from commenting on other people's blogs, so it's time. I've become somewhat like that annoying kid in the classroom with their hand up, remember them? Always waving their arm, and having something to say, the one we all hoped the teacher wouldn't call one, but they always did, albeit with a discreet eye roll.  Then they turned into the grown ups we roll our eyes at or avoid at parties. (Just for the record, I was never that kid in class, quite the opposite, and I sure hope I am not that person now). Well, these days, blogs exist to take care of that need for those of us exploding with something to say, and there is a blog type for everyone. Will that make getting cornered by that certain person at a cocktail party an better? Probably not.

Once, not so long ago, I got the privilege of being a guest blogger. It's addicting. I found myself having blog envy. I figure it's time to take a leap from the blogging nest and write something of my own. I used to wonder why in the world people wrote in journals! Thoughts are private, to be kept in your own head, I used to think. pfffhhht. Not anymore. Tweet? gasp. What could I possibly have to say? (Turns out it is too brief a venue for someone like me...) Then later, I wondered... what is a blog and why would anyone want to write a blog? Who would ever want to even read some complete strangers words about who knows what. Turns out that would be me, lol. I find these glimpses into the lives of strangers not only entertaining, but comforting, educational, inspiring, amusing, supportive and enlightening. On some days they ensure me of my sanity; other days, my lack of it, but they all have their value. It makes the world a smaller place and that's a good thing. Some of the best friends in my life are ones I have never actually "met". You know who you are and I love you. (she sniffs, wipes a tear from her eye, savoring the emotional moment, sappy, but true...) 

WOL. I chose this to start.  (Is it an acronym? I should have paid attention in grammar class.) I like its funny little cousin LOL - overused I know, and no longer considered cool, discouraged if you are over 21, but I still use it. Guess that makes me not cool. Uncool. Who cares?!? Not me, lol.  LOL. Do we really actually laugh out loud when we type this? I do, most of the time, or at least I smile. It's a call to action. Just do it. LOL. So, it's time I WOL - write out loud. I like writing. It's fun. It challenges me. It keeps my brain busy on good things. It's cheaper than therapy. I can do it in my pajamas, looking at the lake, in bed in the dark, eating Dove Chocolate, in a carpool line, anywhere. If no one ever reads a word of it, so what. But WHAT IF they did? We shall see. I only allow myself good, forward thinking what ifs these days. This one counts.

So... No more wondering "What if I had my OWN blog?" Now I do! I can't promise you it will be a good one, nor will it be regularly filled with profound inspiring words of wisdom. In fact, I can guarantee the opposite. It will be full of random thoughts, some deep, some trivial, hopefully lots of photos, art, things I just plain like and think are cool, and who knows what else, all posted in a random manner, from a person who should have random as her middle name.  I am going to write it anyway despite my lack of knowledge on such things. After all, I had kids before I knew how, and look how that turned out. (don't answer that, lol)... And reading is always optional, right?  Please, know that you are welcome to and encouraged to respond. I want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the funny. Laughing is good for you.

I am going to end this post with a quote, some words of wisdom from my ten year old daughter, who hates recognition or identification of any kind, but it's too much of a gem to keep on a scrap of paper in the drawer any longer...

"If everyone could read minds, people would go around thinking about ponies. Just in case..." 
CB. 04/10/10


I want to know what you think. If we don't write out loud, how will we ever know?
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blog with art and photography by Joelle Broughton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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