Friday, July 24, 2020

What We Have Learned So Far...

Yesterday, while checking on the gardens that surround my small place, we learned that bees were finally using our bee hotel!

They are shy, but I promise, they are there! 
In hindsight, I probably got way too excited about this. But you see, I bought this last Spring, of 2019, I think, to help attract pollinators to my gardens. I had seen some evidence it was being used, but never before seen multiple bees going in and out. So yes, it was an exciting moment to witness.

Prior to the pandemic, I probably would not have been home to see this. It was evening, so I would have been at the gym most likely, but that doesn't happen anymore, hasn't happened for months now.

And honestly? I don't miss it.

I don't miss rushing home, changing clothes, driving out again across town, parking, looking for my lock, going inside, putting away my purse, hanging up my keys, waiting on machines, the inability to avoid the myriad of television screens subjecting me to the news on at least 4 different channels for 45 minutes or however long my workout would be.

No, I don't miss it.

The gym was great, and it got us on track to better health and fitness, yes, but I have learned I enjoy our daily walks so much more, even though we return sloppy sweaty messes. In our addicted-to-comfort-at-all-times, A/C blasting society, we have forgotten that sweating serves a purpose.
A very good one, actually. It increases circulation throughout our organs, muscles and tissues, and helps us release noxious toxins through our skin, which helps our bodies naturally detoxify. I'm sure there's more benefits I'm leaving out, but I can promise I sweat way more on our morning and evening walks than I ever did at the gym. (I'm not sure why, but I think it might have had to do with the fact that the gym was always so cold.)

And I enjoy the fresh air, the sights of nature, waving and speaking to people who live along our route, the many times we stopped and picked wild blackberries and carried them home in our hands, washing and freezing them daily until we finally had enough for a cobbler.

And to compensate for days it rains, or something comes up and we can't walk...we just eat less.

Yup. It's that simple.

We have learned restraint.
We have learned to adapt.
We have learned that there can be a bold beauty to having, doing, and consuming less. To stepping away - not just now, but permanently - from society-driven paradigms centered around having, doing and consuming more. And there's an even bolder beauty to not caring if other people approve of the lives we choose. It takes courage to live outside the norm. That's never been news to anyone.

But back to the immediate moment - we have learned that yes, bees will actually use a bee hotel it you put it up, and wait (be prepared to wait a long time!) and that even if you haven't left the house for more than an hour in weeks or months, there's still something pretty special about the weekend. Here's Stargazer for your Friday! I hope you have a wonderful one!

Stargazer, oil on canvas, 11x14

Monday, July 6, 2020

Whoo Hoo! The Website is Live!

Whoo hoo! The website is live!

 Come visit! Hang out. Explore. Don't forget to scroll down and also check out the sub-pages! And sign up to get updates and other information!

See you there!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Freedom and Mindsets During Pandemics and Global Upheaval

Well, first, let me say, yes, it's been a while!

But the blog is back, and I want to thank you for remaining a loyal reader!

On this 4th of July, I gotta tell ya, I really wasn't feeling very celebratory in the traditional sense - meaning cookouts, time on the water, the typical holiday fare for many Americans on this day.

Many. But not all.

We are learning, during these challenging times, that our society is far from all-inclusive. We are learning a lot. And while I agree that we aren't obligated to process our feelings and thoughts or even share our actions publicly, I do believe we are obligated to do something.

What that something is, that's up to us, as individuals. But this is definitely a time to be bold, even if our boldness is the quieter type. The behind the scenes type. The 'I want to speak out but still remain safe during a world-wide pandemic' type. The making phone calls, sending emails, showing up at the polls, working-on-ourselves-and-our-perceptions type of action. You, too, are bold. And appreciated. And so, so necessary.

This is also a time to reflect, to take stock of our lives, to really think about where we are, and what we are doing, not only as a society, but as individuals. For me personally, it's been a time to embark on a new style of art, new series of works, to redesign my home into a studio, and to finally create a professional website, which if all goes to plan will launch Monday, July 6th. (Just two days away, yikes! Can you feel my excitement?!?! More on this later!) Nothing is the same as it was before, and that includes me. Which makes sense, really. In a time of so much change, why would I stay the same? I can't. I, too, have been forever altered by 2020.

But this is also a time when it's necessary to stay focused and positive, even on the days when it's so, so difficult.

On this day, when America celebrates freedom, many Americans are recognizing that freedom is a relative concept with many, many interpretations. I've chosen today, instead of focusing on freedom, to focus on gratitude. And I am so grateful that I am free to do this! To make the choice daily of where to focus my energy and my intentions. This is one of the most powerful attributes that we possess as human beings - the ability to shift our focus, to change our mindset, to say "I am..." and choose for ourselves what follows those two words.

Photo courtesy of Instagram. Source unknown.
To be able to change my mindset, and in so many ways, my life - this is a freedom that I am so, so grateful for, today and every day!

Thank you for being here! See you again soon!

~ Amy

Monday, July 15, 2019

Throwing out the Ancestor's Trash

I've long been a fan of Turkish Coffee. I'm not sure if it's the cardamom, the bit of sweetness (I usually drink coffee black) or the presentation, or a mix of all three. But something tells me it might just be the presentation. I'm an artist and a visual person, after all. After a friend sent me a Turkish coffee pot and two beautiful mugs with saucers, I set my mind to finding a metal platter to use when I served this coffee to guests. In the meantime, I made use of one of my favorite Christmas presents from last year, from one of my favorite people - a handmade wooden serving tray. But I still kept my eye out for a metal one.

When I say that I kept my eye out, I mean that I looked at second hand shops and the like. I let people know I was looking for one. This is generally how I go about acquiring things I want, but don't need at that immediate moment. It keeps me practicing the art of manifesting rather than simply buying. And it makes what I do acquire generally all the more special, for the reason that it came to me, with a story.

A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out a shed on my parent's property. It was a huge and daunting task, dirty work that I had been putting off for, well, years. My parents were raised by parents who survived the Great Depression. They had been taught to save everything. Because no one anticipates major and debilitating medical issues or dying suddenly, nothing had been stored in a proper way. It was all stored with the idea that it would be gone through by them 'one day.' Letters, old photos, household items, clothes, cookware, etc. Opening the door to the shed was like stepping right into an episode of the television show, Hoarders. Only, this wasn't true hoarding, it was just holding on to things they thought they might need one day the fear of letting go of the familiar, and the difficult work of sorting through it all to make space for what they wanted to keep.

Yours truly, getting ready to roll.
And it was hot, sweaty, buggy, difficult work that took several days and still isn't 100% complete. What surprised me was, how much I enjoyed doing it. It felt great, and not just because of the physical exercise, there was something more. I was sharing this with a wise and wonderful friend and she summed it up in one sentence...

"You're throwing out the ancestor's trash,
 physically and emotionally." 

And that was it. In a nutshell. I was not only physically discarding junk that no longer served a purpose, but I was feeling emotionally unburdened as well. 

My parents never got around to going through the shed.They never got around to doing many things they intended to do. They became masters of procrastination, always waiting on a perfect moment of readiness. 

That moment never comes.

And I was haunted by all the things they never got to do.

The universe knows what you are ready for, and generally presents it to you when the time is right. The trick is knowing when to trust that is what's happening, and move forward in that knowing. In doing so, we can let go of what no longer serves us while making space for not only what's to come, but what we want to keep.

I found my tray in a box of dirty and rusted household items, stored for years without being covered properly, but I was able to clean it up with a bit of work. 

There were many more items that caught my eye, things that brought to mind a moment or memory from childhood, but the tray is the only thing I kept, the only thing I needed to keep. Most items, due to poor storage, sadly, were not salvageable, but I passed on a few that were to those who would appreciate them. 

What I learned from this experience is how much we hold on to out of fear,. how we put off the dirty work because that's what it is, dirty work. And how much junk can build up while we are waiting on that perfect moment of readiness. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Boldness of Saying No....

I have a friend who always inspires me because she's one of the most in-the-moment people I have ever known. She's never without a positive word, even when times were difficult and the situation she was in wasn't going exactly as she'd hoped. And having known her for over 20 years, I have born witness to how she made the best of  her circumstances, even when they seemed impossible. She might have vented about it a bit, but she didn't complain or expect others to step in and save her. She just saw it through in the best way she could imagine, always believing that things would work out. And now, she's in a new and amazing chapter of her life, and talking with her, it's so easy to see how all roads led to where she has arrived, even the darkest and loneliest ones.

She will tell you that she ended up on some of these dark and lonely roads because she was afraid to say yes a few times, when life presented something unexpected, because saying yes would mean change. It was easier to say no. No shuts doors. It closes avenues. It keeps things the same. Saying yes can mean an adventure, but saying no gets you home in time for your favorite television shows. 

In her mind, saying no would keep things from getting out of control. It would prevent drama. It would prevent failure. Only, it didn't, because the things she said no to weren't replaced by things meant for her...they were the things meant for her. And no is so often a default, a word we say out of fear, because we think something is going to be too difficult, too challenging, too much.

But sometimes, it takes a bit of boldness to say no. Because no can also mean no more
I'm done. 
I don't want this

It can be as bold a move as saying yes. 

**stock image, not generated by me**
Saying no can be one of the ultimate ways of setting healthy boundaries and caring for ourselves. It can also be how we honor our intuition and respect divine timing. 

I recently read an essay by a lady who makes her living primarily online. As business swelled, she had to hire more staff, but over the years, the work had taken too much from her personal life and the office environment she had created became toxic as the business grew. The money was pouring in, but everyone was stressed and overwhelmed. Her first initial thought was to hire more people, but then she realized, though it contradicted everything she had learned about running a business, that she needed to say no to this. She needed to say no to the life she was currently living, the toll it was taking on her health, her well-being, and the well-being of her family. So she restructured the business, let go of her entire staff, and went back to the level she had managed before. It was a difficult decision, as it wasn't what others wanted. But her staff found new jobs and her family is thrilled to have her back, the old her, the her that isn't always tense and on edge all the time from running a mega-business. Her smaller-scale business is now enough, her income is enough, and she finally feels like she is enough. And it all came from saying no.

I have said no to many things over the past couple of years, things I knew seemed like logical, rational choices, but in the end, weren't meant for me. Or they were things I had been doing for a long time, but they didn't bring me as much joy as they once had. It was time to step away, to say no, to clear a path for new things to come by releasing what was no longer serving me. Sometimes it was hard, because I knew my no was affecting the lives of others. However, in saying no to these things, these situations, these possible life paths, I cleared the way for change not only for myself, but for others as well. 

Saying no. It can be just as bold as saying yes, if not more so. 
Happy Monday!

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Power of Stating Our Intentions

I have been an avid knitter for almost 10 years now. It's more than a hobby. Might be bit of an obsession....
Still, there's many skills related to knitting that I had not yet attempted to tackle. And there's no real reason why. I had been knitting for a couple of years, making primarily simple scarves, wraps and such before I braved following a pattern. Even then, I didn't go beyond the comfort zone of basic. That took a while, but once I moved past the comfort zone of basic, I moved on to skills using multiple needles at once, following charts, complicated lacework, etc.

The comfort zone of basic. Basic is one of those words that's taken on new meaning in our society. And it's not one I want to define me.

As my skills and confidence in knitting grew, I took on more challenging projects. But despite my love of all things Nordic, I had never yet attempted the intricate colorwork that knitting style is known for.
From the book, Nordic Knits: 29 Stylish Small Projects. Link follows post. 
Colorwork of any kind was something that seemed so intimidating...the grand poohbah of knitting skills. Master level stuff....

...until I actually did it! Isn't that the way it goes? Things can seem so overwhelming, so out-of-reach, so impossible...until we just sit down one day and say, okay, I'm going to do this.

Not "I'm going to try to do it," but, "I'm going to do it."

The intention in our words matter.

I recently taught a healing art workshop and we discussed the importance of intention in our words. Not saying, "I hope to do this," or "I'm going to try to do this," but stating clearly "I want to do this," or "I'm going to do this." There's a power in words that affects to the wiring of our brains. There's something about stating an intention, through writing it down, saying it aloud to others, or just saying it to ourselves, that sets wheels into motion.

This summer, I was going to learn colorwork. I stated it to others. I put it on my list. I told myself.

Of course it takes more than stating an intention to accomplish something, but it's a powerful first step. We open a door. We move into accountability. We started planning. We begin visualizing.

Stating our intention in a clear, precise, definite way is one of the boldest things we can do because it  moves us forward, out of fear, into possibility.

Happy Monday!

**The Snowflake pattern I followed is in the book, Nordic Knts: 29 Stylish Small Projects and can be found here

***The second colorwork pattern is called Leaded Glass Mitts and is available here.

Monday, June 24, 2019

On Being In the Driver's Seat...

My last post, On Doing It Scared, talked about the amazing book I recently read, Do It Scared, by Ruth Soukup. I have been exploring this concept a lot the past few weeks, after seeing a quote that read, "Sometimes, you have to do it afraid."

In my 20s, I lived in Detroit, and I would regularly make long distance treks across the country to visit friends and family back in South Carolina. I didn't think too much about these drives. I just did it. I began to know the route like the back of my hand, and I had favorite places to stop, landmarks that helped me keep up with the time left in the drive. These were also the days before GPS, I might mention. My handy roadmap was always nearby, just in case I got tired and missed a key exit, or suddenly everything seemed unfamiliar. These long road trips to and from South Carolina, as well as other places in and around the Detroit area (including driving in Detroit itself!) just became part of my normal. 

But at some point over the last few years, I started telling myself the story that I was afraid to drive in heavy traffic. On Interstates. In big cities. 

I don't have an explanation for this, the closest thing I can come up with is the osmosis of  'group think.' I have noticed that driving outside of the general area where they live seems to be a 'last frontier' for many women. If they are married or in a serious relationship, they often don't do any long distance or heavy traffic driving. It's left to their husband or partner. I have had many even tell me directly, "I don't do any more driving than I have to."

I think, somewhere over the years, I began telling myself this was my story, too. But it isn't. I had to step out of this story and own the one that had been mine before, years ago - that I am a competent and capable driver. That I can navigate long distances, interstates and heavy metropolitan traffic now just as easily I did in my 20s, when I lived and drove in one of the biggest cities in the United States.

The result of this mindset shift was Summer Road Trip 2019! We took off to visit a place I have wanted to see for as long as I can remember - Amish Country in Pennsylvania. 

Lancaster County, I love you!!!
Lancaster County Yarns and Wools/Labadie Looms. Best yarn store ever! 
We also visited some friends who live in New Jersey, but very close to Philadelphia, so we were able to spend some time in Philly! It was great to see them and experience the city.  So many fun and happy memories made!

Philadelphia by sunset, from the Cooper River Bridge in Cherry Hill, NJ
These friends were kind enough to take us north a bit to visit another friend who lives right outside of New York City. I haven't seen her in over 10 years, and it was great to be together again, see her area of the world, have a chocolate raspberry coffee at the shop where she performs live several times a month.

It was such a great trip and amazing time there...I could easily digress and let this slip into a travel blog, so I will pause here to say, yes, I did it afraid. Totally. Afraid of getting lost. Afraid I would have car trouble and be stranded. Afraid of having an accident. Afraid of driving in heavy traffic. But none of these fears were founded in anything other than the abstract concept that these things can and do happen. Not just on long road trips, but also driving around our own towns and communities. And I will tell you a secret - there's an amazing sense of empowerment that comes from rewriting your story, changing your mindset, rephrasing your current dialogue. 
Yes, there were times the drive was scary. But not outside of Baltimore, MD, a city so big that the Interstate runs through a tunnel underneath it; not outside of Washington, DC, where there's exit signs for Pennsylvania Avenue; not outside Richmond, VA. It got scary outside of Charlotte, NC, a city I have driven in and around numerous times and is somewhat familiar to me. I would never have imagined that this was where things might get a bit hairy, but that was the reality. Thank goodness for GPS and roadmaps, and older highways that take a bit longer but can still get one home. 

I'm so glad I tackled this before "I don't drive more than I have to," became a permanent loop in my mind. And I'm sure that like so many others, I would hand over the wheel in an instant if there was someone else there to drive. It's much easier to be a passenger, after all. But being a passenger because someone else wants to drive is different than a fear of being in the driver's seat. Fear shouldn't hold us back if there's places we want to go and things we want to see and no other driver to take us there. We should be able to slip into the driver's seat, not only of our cars, but of our own lives, when the urge to see and do and be someplace new is the one we need to follow, and we are the only means of getting ourselves there.