Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Multitasking Tale

I’ll admit humor enters my blog only on occasion, but in the midst of a “filled to the brim and overflowing” schedule this week (I’m preparing to participate in a holiday open studio at Bella’s Studio Monterey), I must take deep breaths and accept the humor that inevitably pops up around here, yesterday evening being a perfect example.
Our daughter asked us if she could play one of her “mixes” (CD compilations of dance music she loves.)  Although I often enjoy the guilty pleasure of listening to these CD’s along with her, I wasn’t exactly in the mood at that moment to be serenaded by Katy Perry and her “Firework” while working on designing and assembling bookmarks for the open studio, but we acquiesced because we didn’t have the heart to stifle the imagination and enthusiasm of our young performer.
I had to chuckle later about how the evening turned into a quirky form of multitasking while trying to remain focused on my project at hand.  Yesterday’s scenario unfolded like this…
I’m cutting and tracing half butterflies for each side of the bookmarks when the music starts.  As I glue the butterflies to the bookmarks, I become fearful that Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue” will be stuck in my head on a continuous loop whenever I wield my glue stick!  Soon I find myself alternating between working on the bookmarks and pretending to be an audience member for our daughter’s performances.  I raise my head and watch intermittently as she performs her own original hybrid of ballet and hip hop choreography, complete with costume changes for each song.  As Lady Gaga sings about being on the “Edge of Glory,” I’m veering on the edge of madness with this creative and parental multitasking!  I’m then asked to play the role of a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and I oblige with the agreement that some of the time she can just pretend like I’m watching and judging.  This agreement helps me maintain my sanity and finish the bookmarks, and by the time Bruno Mars and B.o.B are slowing down the pace with “Nothin’ On You,” I’m wrapping the bookmarks in their protective cello bags and clearing my work space (otherwise known as the dining room table.)
A sampling of said bookmarks

Although it would have been my preference to create under quieter, more peaceful conditions, yesterday evening reminded me that we can access the calm and centeredness within ourselves even when chaos surrounds us (or a spirited young dancer and her “mix,” in my case!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Inspiration Abounds

Inspired by the poppies who volunteer to beautify our backyard each spring

Across the past five months since I launched Paper And Ponder, I’ve shared sources of inspiration for my personal creative projects and healing art exercises, but it dawned on me that I haven’t shared much, if anything, about how I’m inspired to create my Plumeria Papercraft designs. 

Kelp pods collected while beachcombing are unique fuel for inspiraton

Nature and my love of the sea are, of course, powerful influences, but I also draw a tremendous amount of inspiration from the simple moments and “still lifes” of everyday experiences.  Our young daughter inspires me with her wonderful, wonder filled imagination, and others in my life inspire me as well.  The paper itself often inspires me as I enjoy mixing and matching patterns and playing with color.  Sometimes I’m motivated to follow through on a new design in response to a request or suggestion.

As part of a custom gift order, I designed a red cardinal for my client's sister (her favorite bird)

There are short stories behind many of my designs, and they tell of being inspired while on vacation, walking on the beach or hiking, visiting an attraction, engaging in daily activities, gardening, cooking or dining and observing nature or our backyard visitors (otherwise known in our household as “pigs with feathers” because of their voracious appetites at our feeders!)

"Finch On Branch" inspired by our backyard visitors

Inspiration abounds everywhere!  We just have to be present in the moment, mindful, observant and receptive to being inspired.  What are your favorite sources of inspiration?

One of my most popular designs was inspired by scampering squirrels in Yosemite

Our daughter considers the red bud tree outside our front window her very own

My mother-in-law raises and shows pygmy goats

Even our neighbor's playful "peeping tomcat," Hot Shot, got in on some inspirational action

My model, the real "peeping tomcat," Hot Shot!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

An After-Thanksgiving Homebody

This evening's sunset

The holiday season is upon us, and I prefer to stay away from the crowds during this time of the year.  Although my former career was in the retail and wholesale fashion industries for numerous years, the last place you’ll find me now, especially during this long weekend after Thanksgiving and the days leading up to Christmas, is out and about at malls and large shopping centers.  I even try to avoid busy grocery stores during holiday weekends.  The frenetic pace of holiday shoppers creates a stressful, rather than lively atmosphere for me.    
To meet my gift giving needs, I keep an eye open year round for unique items that would suit specific family members or friends and store early purchases in a large bin until Christmas.  A large percentage of my gift shopping is also accomplished at local small businesses or with artisans who offer their handmade or vintage wares via Etsy or other websites.  When I was on bed rest during my pregnancy, my only option for Christmas shopping was to become more familiar and comfortable with the online process.  Since I couldn’t make my usual visits to locally owned gift shops that holiday season, I discovered Etsy and other creative sites.  In the process, I also discovered how rewarding of an experience it can be to shop with online artists and artisans despite not interacting in person.  Not only are you making a purchase, but you are often making a personal connection.  Sometimes those initial connections can blossom into friendships!  Sadly, many local gift shops have shut their doors as years have passed, so much of my shopping now takes place online.
The calendar is quite full during the holiday season with family gatherings, get togethers with friends and an increased level of activity for my small business, Plumeria Papercraft, layered on top of the regular weekly schedule of working, volunteering and parenting.  In an attempt to remain centered during the holidays, whenever I can be a bit of a homebody, I admit I enjoy the more subdued environment.  After a couple days with family, today was a low key day of working on my notecard designs here at home, placing a few orders with favorite Etsy shops, walking along the beach at sunset and indulging in another simple, (but oh, so satisfying!) meal of fresh cracked Dungeness crab and salad.  Choosing creative time and beach time today over early bird specials and doorbusters definitely helped me stay centered!
How do you stay centered during the busy holiday season?


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful For...

Thankful for the success of my squirrel design!

Thankful for…
The love of family,
The nearness of the ocean,
Many fond memories,
Old, new and “in between” friends, friends nearby and far away, friendly acquaintances and kind strangers, kindred creative spirits and heartfelt connections, those of you joining me on this blogging journey,
Renewed health,
Each baby step on my creative entrepreneurial path,
The amazing beauty encountered in nature,
The opportunity to change the course of my life and head in a more positive and fulfilling direction.  (A conversation while hiking with a friend at Point Lobos a few years ago came to mind earlier today.  She asked me if I could do anything, what would it be, and my response was about following my creative dream.  At the time, I highly doubted I would ever be able to do so, and now, here I am, despite the twists and turns, so very thankful to be doing just that!)
I feel happier, stronger, more hopeful, more empowered and bursting with gratitude for this second chance to focus on living life in a way that’s truly good for my soul and hopefully making more meaningful contributions to this world in the process.
May you enjoy your own "bursting with gratitude" list on this day of thankfulness.  Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Finding Grace

As I've been paying closer attention to finding grace in simple ways, I included a list in my art journal several weeks ago (I'll share more of its pages's been a while since my dragonfly post.)  

Feeling gratitude for finding beautiful grace in…
Pelicans gliding silently overhead

The solace of a redwood forest
A loving hug
Dew drops
The tiniest seashells

The heartfelt stories of others
The brilliant green of a lush forest
A newly opened blossom

A quiet moment
Feeling peace within

Where have you found grace?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crab Season

My crab notecard designed this past summer

My family eagerly awaited the start of Dungeness crab season last week, and when my husband came home, successful in his quest for a couple of these locally caught tasty crustaceans, I felt giddy with delight!  Fresh cracked crab, steamed artichokes, small dipping bowls of mayo (I always regress to Best Foods) and crusty garlic bread = simple, seasonal bliss!  I happily bounced in my chair after the initial bites!
Similar to my experiences with the dragonfly and the penguin (and Yoda!), the crab is seemingly another symbol that has made me aware of its presence…or is it that perhaps I’m just latching on to these random subjects I happen to notice?  In either case, the crab has recently been not only food, but food for thought! 

Within the past couple months, I’ve also been intrigued by empty crab shells I’ve found along a couple local beaches I frequent, pale yellow with maroon markings in a symmetrical pattern,.  Over the many years I’ve beachcombed in these same locations, I’d not noticed these fascinating souvenirs until recently, so I’m wondering if they were there all along, but escaped notice?  Are these crab shells actually a tangible sign that I am getting better at immersing myself in the moment, being more present and observant? 
With these sea creatures on my mind, I started delving a bit deeper into the crab’s symbolism, similar to exploring the significance and meaning of other symbols that have been popping up and making themselves known.  My astrological sign is, in fact, Cancer, and although I’m not at all well versed in astrology, I’ve always believed that I embody many of the crab’s most well-known traits.  I’m definitely emotional, sensitive, intuitive and admittedly moody sometimes, and I think I am fairly tenacious.  Establishing roots and building a sense of home and place are very important to me.  I believe (hope!) I am nurturing, sympathetic and helpful to others. 
Beyond the crab’s significance in astrology, I found some other interesting associations with this creature like how it always scuttles sideways, opting for a lesser known path and reminding us that not all paths are direct.  The crab values the security of its shell, but will cast off an old shell for a new one, exemplifying rebirth, transformation and cycles.  I can identify closely with the concept of transformation as I continue to work on transforming how I live my life, more creatively, more mindfully and passionately.
What symbols and signs have recently captured your attention?  Have you had a chance to contemplate their significance in your life? 
(In the case of Dungeness crab, its significance in my life is that it may very well be my favorite food!)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Became Of The Pasta Scoop

The pasta scoop became "The Floating Jellies"
watercolor and construction paper

Before I attend the CHOMP healing art retreat each month, I never know how the day will unfold.  Sometimes the art created that day stirs up some heavy emotions, and in the days following the retreat, I gradually sort through and make better sense of those emotions.  Other times the mood is lighter, and the focus for the day is to simply enjoy the process of making art.  Sometimes I am pleased with the art I create, while other times, my inner critic hovers too closely.  Whether I’m creating art in a heavy or lighter mood and looking at my artwork in a positive light or with a critical eye, I always gain valuable insight and perspective whenever I allow creative energy to flow, regardless of the outcome. 
During one of the lighter, “just for fun” exercises at a past retreat, the directive was to select a gadget and interpret it in three different ways – drawing the gadget in its literal form, creating an abstract version of the gadget as an animal and drawing a freeform version of the gadget, cutting out the image multiple times, then including the cutouts in the third piece.  Similar to my experience creating “The Wisdom of the Penguins,” my initial reaction was one of feeling challenged and thinking “how on earth do I transform a pasta scoop into so-called art?!”  My inner critic reacted by declaring my resulting pieces very juvenile but  despite their juvenile quality, I decided to share these three “just for fun” pieces to illustrate the point that when we tap into our creative energy, we can often achieve more than we may realize we have the ability to achieve (in my case, transforming a pasta scoop!)   

"Pasta Scoop" : )
marker and pastel

"Pasta Scoop" morphed into "Sleepy Anteater" (or "Sleepy Dinosaur?!")
marker and pastel 
I'm actually considering playing around with this one and turning it into one of my notecard designs!
May you scoop up a large serving of creativity and enjoy your resulting accomplishment!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Press The Pause Button

My Thursday treasure

The best time to press the pause button is when it feels impossible amidst a busy schedule of commitments and responsibilities.  I'm learning that if I prioritize that pause on an equal level with everything else during a hectic stretch and simply set my mind to following through just as I would on my other "to do's," balancing that sense of franticness with calm and centeredness is indeed possible. 

This week I’ve been trying to manage a full work agenda with a string of minimum days at our daughter’s school, and I’m feeling challenged by the limited time available to focus on tasks and projects without interruptions.  The last couple afternoons, I could have easily returned home directly from the bus stop and continued to tackle my "to do's" while our daughter completed her homework.  Instead, we took advantage of the extra time by visiting our favorite place (you may be able to guess from my past posts…the beach, of course!)  and indulging in a bit of relaxation each afternoon before resuming the typical after school routine.  On Wednesday, we were entertained by the exciting activity of otters, seals and a large number of dolphins in the bay, and we spotted a fascinating (seagull’s?) skull on the sand as we walked along Seaside Beach.  Yesterday, we meandered along the shore at Ribera Beach, beachcombing to our hearts’ content.  These midday pauses renewed my energy, and I believe I accomplished more each day than I would have had I not "pressed the button." 

This didn't come home with us, but we were fascinated.  Gull's skull?

Sunday's mysterious find that we admired, then returned to the beach.

Although it’s been a very busy, full week, pausing to indulge in our beach walks (three so far this week!) has been refreshing and rewarding.  We’ve also been rewarded with new additions to our ever expanding shell and sea glass collection!  Yesterday's best find was a pristine sea urchin, one of those "little things" that brings me joy!  

Finding tiny nuggets of perfectly polished sea glass is like finding gold!

Chiton plates remind me of fairy wings!

Ribera Beach in Carmel
I need to remember I'm never too busy to press the pause button for this view!

When you press your own pause button,  where will you go...what will you do?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Little Things

“It’s the little things

And the joy they bring.”

-          India.Arie


These days it doesn’t take much to fill me with delight, with gratitude…with joy.  Often it is indeed the little things.  Today I celebrate autumn, its rich, earthy colors, its seasonal beauty and abundance and “harvesting” the little things!

The whoosh of the wind through the trees,
their leaves changing, fluttering, falling

The redbud outside our front window

Crisp, invigorating air

Sunday's sunset during a family beach walk
A golden sunset

The comfort of a cozy scarf
on a chilly day

Donning a pair of boots

Sipping hot tea

A pot of home cooked soup atop the stove

Late harvest tomatoes
(Not a typo!  Our tomato plants apparently don't realize summer's over!)
Enjoyed this bounty in salads & sauces last week

Last fall similar gourds inspired my notecard designs

   Pumpkin pie,
   pumpkin ice cream,
   pumpkin spice latte,
   pumpkin galore!

   Shapely gourds

   A warm spot of sunshine


Discovering a fall treasure trove in the nooks and crannies of our daughter's
backpack - acorn tops, broken twigs, remnants of leaves, wilted flowers  

Our trees bestow us with many of these little gifts

Simply feeling thankful

What little things bring you joy in this fall season? 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

She's Circling Around To Her True Self

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  

- e.e. cummings


I created a second mask at one of the healing art retreats I attended last summer, and its circular patterns came about without much initial conscious thought.  Since then, I’ve given the significance of the circles some further thought.  The circle often symbolizes wholeness, completeness, unity, cycles (in life, in nature and the seasons), centering and focus, so there are many meanings to ponder.  For now, I’ve settled upon the idea of coming full circle and how we can strive to come full circle when we aspire to grow into the most authentic version of ourselves, listening to our hearts, pursuing our dreams, fueling our passions, expressing ourselves from deep down within our souls, loving fully and making heartfelt connections with others. 
This mask was without a name for a while after it was finished, but has become “She’s Circling Around To Her True Self”...

Friday, November 9, 2012

From Yoda To Mary Oliver

"One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,"  

- Mary Oliver, "The Journey"

Hopefully, you’ll follow my thinking on this post, or you may just think I’m still under the influence of last week’s medications! 
Have you ever experienced that situation in which a person, place or thing suddenly pops up and keeps frequently reappearing?  I’ve often wondered about this occurrence.  Is it a sign of some sort?  A message?  Is there some significance, or is it simply a coincidence?
Last month while my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in San Francisco, we were on our way to dinner and walked past the Industrial Magic and Light headquarters located at the edge of the Presidio.  After hearing about this landmark, we stopped to visit the Yoda fountain outside the offices.  The following evening while we were relaxing in our room at the inn, my husband turned on the television to check if there were any movies playing, and guess who appeared on the screen?  Yoda!  (“The Empire Strikes Back” happened to be airing that night.)  The following week as I was walking through a local shopping plaza, I caught a glimpse of a large scale Yoda canvas hanging on the wall of a gallery, and I had to chuckle to myself, as I did again just the other day when, while window shopping online for nutcrackers (on our daughter’s Christmas wish list), I saw a Yoda nutcracker!  Lightheartedly, I questioned what wisdom I could gain from Yoda, so on a whim, I searched for Yoda quotes, and I came across one which gave me pause for some serious contemplation – “Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”  With my recent forays into SoulCollage®, I had been collecting images with the intent to create a “Fear” card as a way to face some fear I haven’t fully addressed, to stare that fear down until it shrinks back into the corner and cannot gain too much power or momentum.  I think, as strange as it may seem, Yoda is reminding me how important it is to follow through on this exercise.
As you may already know from one of my posts last week, Mary Oliver’s poetry has been speaking loudly to me this month.  After recently checking out several books of her poems from our public library, her powerful, yet graceful words have continued to reach out to me.  I was reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed last week (for the book club to which I belong), and she included a quote from Mary Oliver, then earlier this week, I was reading an illuminating post by writer and yoga instructor, Jennifer Pastiloff on her "Manifestation Yoga" blog.  Guess who she quoted and referenced in her post?  I began to wonder what Mary Oliver's poems are trying to convey to me,and I believe they have quite a bit to convey.  So many of her poems resonate deeply, and one in particular feels as though it is describing where I am in my life  - “The Journey.”
Regardless if these are signs and messages or merely coincidences or perhaps manifestations of my own awareness, I know I can gain insight and clarity by paying attention and contemplating their meaning.  It's as though I am listening to and learning from the wisdom of elders, from Yoda to Mary Oliver!  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A More Colorful World

To pass the time during my (maintenance) chemo treatment last week, I brought along a batch of saved magazine images, so I could indulge in some quiet collaging.  As mentioned in a past post, I welcome the calming and comforting “safe haven” of creativity during treatments.  This time, despite the medications which bring on a woozy feeling, I managed to remain fairly adept (albeit a little slow!) with my scissors, creating this collage I’ve titled “Coloring My World.”
Across many years, my spirit often felt dull, muted by the constant barrage of demands, pressures and chronic stress.  Now I’m beginning to live the different life I couldn’t even imagine back then.  There’s still a long road ahead, but by listening to my heart and believing I can (and will!) reach some of my dreams, my spirit is lifting and brightening, and I am enjoying a more colorful world.
Wishing you much color, too!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Visit The Sunflowers

One of my favorite places for exploration, discovery and solace…a library.  Sometimes I visit our public library with a specific subject, author or book in mind, while other times I enjoy wandering the aisles and allowing an intriguing title to catch my eye. 
On a visit last month, a couple books containing collections of poems by Mary Oliver, “Swan” and “Red Bird,” captured my attention, and after introducing myself to her poetry, I was so captivated that yesterday I checked out three more volumes of her poems, “New And Selected Poems,” “Evidence” and “Why I Wake Early.”  Mary Oliver’s poems mindfully, gracefully and beautifully draw the reader in as she describes nature’s power to provoke, in her words, “sublime thought” and contemplates love, life’s mysteries and our mortality.  She has quickly become one of my favorite poets, thanks to the library!
As my gaze has often been drawn to the sunflowers recently blooming in our garden, it seems fitting to share Mary Oliver’s “The Sunflowers.”
Come with me
  into the field of sunflowers.
    Their faces are burnished disks,
      their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
  their green leaves,
    so heavy and many,
      fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
  Come with me
    to visit the sunflowers,
      they are shy
but want to be friends;
  they have wonderful stories
    of when they were young –
       the important weather

the wandering crows.
  Don’t be afraid
    to ask them questions!
        Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
   will listen, and all
     those rows of seeds –
       each one a new life! –

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
  each of them, though it stands
      in a crowd of many,
        like a separate universe,
is lonely, the long work
   of turning their lives
     into a celebration
        is not easy.  Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
  the simple garments of leaves,
    the coarse roots in the earth
      so uprightly burning.

Sunflowers have always seemed like wise, strong, resilient flowers to me.  In celebration of their beautiful brightness amidst the earthy tones of autumn!