Today’s story falls into the making life more tender category. It could aptly be described as making life more tolerable, even, for a young mother dog and her eight puppies.
I’m spending the weekend in Oklahoma with family. My niece Ashley, her husband Jon, and my sister Debbie have such tender hearts, especially toward children and animals. They quite literally have a miniature zoo of rescue animals sharing space with them.
Today I met Ashley’s newest additions, a sweet momma dog she calls Eve, and her eight pups. Eve had been passed from owner to owner, without finding a forever home. Her last home didn’t provide a safe and secure environment for the good natured girl, who was discovered to be expecting her first litter of puppies.
Ashley couldn’t leave Eve to give birth in a cold, drafty barn, or worse, outside with no shelter at all. She agreed to foster Eve and provide a warm, loving home for the momma dog and the pups, once they were born. Shortly after joining their family, Eve delivered eight adorable puppies.
I watched the happy brood today, and the care Ashley and Debbie have taken in setting up a nursery in their home office. One could do a quick count of animals and consider these two compassionate ladies a bit daft for taking on more animals and more responsibilities. But I only have to look into Eve’s big brown eyes, and smile over the clumsy antics of three week old healthy, chubby pups, to know that what Debbie and Ashley are doing is making life more tender, at a high level.
Anthony Douglas Williams said, “Be kind to every kind, not just to mankind.” Showing kindness to animals is an act on the level of the heart and soul. He, or she, who is kind to animals has a greater capacity for showing kindness to others.
For Eve, and Sally, Peewee, Jack, Lydia, Edward, Emily, Charlie and Todd, this kindness of being welcomed into a loving home has meant life. For without help, these gentle souls surely would not have thrived, or even survived.
Well done, Ashley and Debbie, Jon, Ethan and Kaleb. Watching you making life a little more tender inspires me. Eve and her puppies will all be spayed and neutered, at the appropriate time, and available for adoption. If you feel inspired as well, and desire to share your life with one of these sweethearts, please send me a message and I will connect you to the proper person to make it so.
Well into the latter half of the month, I still had an undecorated area in my house, post Christmas. The vintage wooden sieve was still empty, in the middle of my little dining room table. The last couple of years, I’ve slowly redecorated the house after putting Christmas décor away, allowing inspiration to guide me. But I was beginning to wonder if a) I should go ahead and create a vignette, even though I didn’t have a clue about what to put there…or b) the sieve was going to remain empty.
What I discovered today was that inspiration always shows up, exactly when it is supposed to.
I was working in the bedroom, clearing space and creating a “place for everything and everything in its place”, when I came across two brown and yellow striped placemats. Pausing to touch the fabric, I immediately felt the tap of inspiration. In moments I was receiving a visual download, an image of the wooden sieve, with a fresh vignette. These placemats were the foundational pieces, literally lining the interior of the sieve, and inspiring the colors for the vignette.
The project came together quickly after that. An old crocheted doily joined the placemats.The simple arrangement within the sieve included a white ceramic pitcher filled with rusty jingle bells and dark red and golden yellow picks, and the vintage china doll with her rustic dress.
The sieve arrangement rests atop a dark red, brown and gold table runner. At either end of the runner, my favorite wire cloches cover fat white pillar candles and red and gold wreaths, centered on white and yellow plates.
I love the way this vignette came together. The nature inspired colors remind me of winter’s more somber attire. The bright yellow plates hint that spring, with its abundant sunshine, is not far away.
My favorite piece in this vignette is the old time piece, displayed in a small cloche. It is a simple gold pocket watch. And its inclusion in the vignette amuses me. Every time I look at it, I will be reminded that I wondered when inspiration was going to show up to guide me in creating this vignette.
The great artist Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
I get that. Rather than sitting around, waiting for this particular inspiration to arrive, I have been creating other art and having creative fun. I’ve wondered when it would be time to create in the wooden sieve. But I didn’t postpone other creations. I was working on creating space, when the tap came today.
Inspiration arrives, every time, exactly on time. I am learning deeper trust.
I love when something unusual happens. It gets my attention, causing my intuitive antenna to go on alert as I hone in on the message for me. When I opened my iPhone to Google this morning, the day’s quirky holidays were listed. I have yet to celebrate one of these unique days this year. But today’s list caught my interest.
Three of the holidays jumped out at me: Artist as Outlaw Day, Tenderness Toward Existence Day, and Women’s Healthy Weight Day. Robust art, tender life, and health are the focus of my journey this year. What are the odds that these three have special days, all on the same date?
I didn’t calculate the odds. However, I accepted the invitation inspiration offered, to spend time thinking on the holidays and how my life intersects with each one. Please read about Weighing in on Ideal Weighton my other blog.
I couldn’t discover any information about this holiday. It seemed a strange pairing, artist and outlaw, until I looked at an alternative meaning for the word outlaw.
Rather than seeing an outlaw as a criminal on the run, a law breaker, I considered the term outcast instead. The word originates from the Old Norse utlagr, meaning banished. Banished, relegated to the fringes of society, viewed as different, a little scary, living by his or her own rules. I could begin to relate!
And certainly, not all artists are viewed as pariahs, as outcasts. But their very creative souls allow them to perceive the world, and life, differently. From that tilted or expanded or deepened perspective flows astonishing music, eyebrow raising art, and powerful words that can change a life.
I don’t know what the original intent was for this strange holiday, but I no longer care. I appreciate what rose within me today as I contemplated the artist as outlaw, as I thought about myself as living happily on the fringes. I am making art more robust by allowing creativity to occupy a larger part of my heart and life. Art is at the forefront of my awareness, growing stronger and more vigorous.
I couldn’t locate the origins of this unique holiday either, which is an unusual occurrence in itself. I’ve never clicked on a link for one of these celebrations, and not found some info. It happened twice today.
Perhaps the personal message to me was to see where my thoughts led me. Existence is another word for life, for the state of living. Its origins are from the Latin ex – out, sistere – take a stand. Existence literally means out taking a stand or out, being.
Tenderness is a feeling of sympathy, of compassion, toward someone or something. Kindness is another synonym. This holiday, then, could be interpreted to be a day of expressing kindness and compassion toward all living things, toward all who are out, being.
I suddenly recalled this evening, another definition for tenderness. The word can mean a sensitivity to pain.
How powerful this bizarre little holiday became for me. Tenderness toward existence, resulting in compassion and a sensitivity to the pain of others…ALL others.
My heart is wide open. I want love, compassion and sensitivity to the pain of others to flow to all of existence, regardless of race, skin color, gender, orientation, economic circumstances, age, intelligence…beyond any perceived differences or imagined barriers. Compassion toward all life, all people, whether they are like me or very different, agree with me or disagree, love me or dislike me. All people.
A couple of nights ago, one of the possums I feed on the front porch, found his way to the back door, and into the utility room by way of a cat door. Fortunately, the utility room door opening into the kitchen was closed. But what a surprise, to have a possum indoors.
Even though the back door was opened so he could exit, he chose not to. He was happy in the corner, beside the washer. I checked on him numerous times. There was a broom nearby. I could have attempted to chase him out.
Instead, I spoke calmly to him each time I checked on him. I told him it was okay. He was safe. He could leave whenever he wanted. I would not hurt him. Whenever I spoke to him, he would raise his head and watch me, listening, blinking his eyes as if he understood. He never showed fear, nor did he bare his teeth or hiss. He also didn’t play dead! I’ve yet to see a possum, “play possum”. He was calm and alert. And so was I. We didn’t speak the same language, so different were we, but we connected in our mutual respect for each other.
Sometime in the night, he returned to the outdoors.
I thought about that possum a lot today. He offered me lessons in acceptance, grace and compassion, and in communicating beyond spoken words. He allowed me to exhibit tenderness. I am grateful. I am making life a little more tender by being aware of the sacredness of all life, of all of existence.
If only I had grabbed a sketch book and created a quick possum portrait. I would have been celebrating Artist as Outlaw Day and Tenderness Toward Existence Day, a little early.
I am excited this evening to announce the launch of my second blog, Journey With Healthy Me, a blog dedicated to my ongoing healing journey. My intentions for this year are three fold: to make life a little more tender, make art a little more robust, and continue on the healing journey that began six months ago. This blog focuses on making life more tender and art more robust. Journey With Healthy Me has the dual purpose of sharing about my healing journey, and encouraging others to take responsibility for their own health and well being.
I am excited about both adventures. This is where my journey is currently, and I am open to the possibilities and invitations life, and inspiration, offer.
As I worked on the second blog, one of the first actions I had to take was to create and register a name for the blog. I tried out various names, checking to see if the domain name was available. Taking a break to check my Facebook news feed, I saw a meme featuring a minion…which made me think of Despicable Me…which sparked an idea. What about Healthy Me? As I typed out the words to check for availability, I saw something else. The words Healthy Me could be divided to form the words Heal Thyme.
All kinds of possibilities flashed through my head. I grow the herb thyme (pronounced like time) in my garden. Thyme is a great medicinal herb. I make a health infused tea from it often. What a great icon the plant would make, for a blog about health and healing. And then of course, there is the play on words….Healthy Me….Heal Thyme…Heal Time. It was the perfect name!
I checked to see if there were any websites or blogs in existence using the name Healthy Me. I didn’t find any. However, when I began setting up the second blog, and checked domain names, I discovered that Healthy Me was not available after all. Someone has it registered. Back to thinking up a name. But I kept returning again and again to the words Healthy Me. Needing to make a decision, so I could keep moving forward, I was tossing out possible names, out loud, when Greg called out from the other room, “What about Journey With Healthy Me”? I liked it! I liked it a lot. The more I said the name aloud, the more it resonated with me.
This is a journey I am on, a healing journey. I remembered from my Year of Journeys, that the word journey comes from the French word jornee, which literally means, a day’s travel, or the distance I can travel in one day. This healing journey is indeed taken one day at a time. Day by day, I am becoming more healthy and more vibrant. I am learning, growing, releasing, strengthening and sharing to encourage others.
Hence forth, all posts about my healing journey, about me being the best version of myself, will at www.journeywithhealthyme.com . I hope you will join me, often or occasionally, the choice is yours. Come journey with healthy me!
The Light of Inspiration shines bright, as I am working on my second blog. The blue light of the computer created an interesting effect on my face. It reminds me of the Scot, William Wallace, in Braveheart. A good omen, I think!
Today was one of those days where things don’t go according to plan. I learned during my Year of Firsts to not sweat it when that happens. When something doesn’t come together, something else always appears. I had hoped to share the launching of my new health blog tonight. Due to a computer problem and a question I have, that I am awaiting the answer for, the new blog will have to wait another day, at least, for its unveiling.
Inspiration whispered, “It’s all okay. Make curry instead.”
That might become one of my mottos: When plans change, make curry!
I first tried this yummy curried lentil recipe for Christmas dinner, at my daughter’s house. It was delicious and satisfying, and I’ve been craving it since. Lentils are inexpensive, versatile and nutritious. They provide 25 grams of protein per cup, making them an important staple in a plant based diet.
This easy recipe uses a slow cooker, for a mix it and leave it alone until dinner time experience. It is vegan, gluten and sugar free, corn and soy free. I started the slow cooker late in the day and I’ll enjoy this curry tomorrow.
From Easy Vegetarian Slow Cooker Cookbook
Tomorrow, I’ll make brown rice in the electronic pressure cooker to go with the curry. Tomorrow, I’ll have an answer to my question, and proceed with creating blog number two. Tomorrow, I am open to receiving inspiration, in whatever form it takes.
Tonight, I am enjoying the tantalizing aroma of Madras Curried Lentils, as it simmers in the slow cooker. Life is good.
I love how inspiration calls to me, as I maintain an open mind and heart. It can arrive and nudge me, or drop a creative idea into my head, in unexpected places, and through unexpected sources.
Today my sister Linda and I took our granddaughters to lunch at one of their favorite restaurants, Chick Fil A. School begins tomorrow, after a long four day weekend. We wanted to get the girls together again before London headed back to Oklahoma.
A card game came with the girls’ chicken nuggets. Intended as conversation starters, Aubrey opened her deck, selected a card, and read the question:
If you had free time today, to enjoy a favorite hobby, what would you do?
We took turns answering. London wanted to skate. Linda picked reading. Aubrey decided she would draw. After sorting through several enticing possibilities, I answered I’d like to color.
That idea stayed with me the rest of the day. As I drove home, well after dark, I thought about the new coloring books I received for Christmas, from Greg, and from grandson Jonathan and his mom. And I tried to recall when I had last enjoyed the meditative art of coloring. It had been too long. The thought deepened into an intention, and I looked forward to gathering my colored pencils and a stack of coloring books when I arrived home.
What a perfect way to settle in for the evening.
While a cup of hot tea brewed, I returned to my last unfinished project, from the Doctor Who Coloring Book. I felt inspired to add to the coloring page by sketching in a TARDIS in the background. The Doctor’s time machine, cleverly camouflaged as a blue police box, is the quintessential symbol for this long running BBC television show. I like the idea of creating a subtle TARDIS, by way of shading, behind Doctors 9, 10, 11 and 12.
I became so absorbed in my creation, I forgot about the tea. I am sipping on one strong, and cooled, cup of Scottish tea.
I will enjoy coloring in all of my new books tonight. As I laid color onto the Doctor Who page, I smiled from the pure and simple joy of coloring. I connected again with the pleasure and artistic satisfaction of this hobby, carried forward from my childhood.
The Lord of the Rings coloring book has rich details and many colorable quotes throughout its pages. It will take me a long time to finish this book, and I am okay with that. It is art, and it will be a work in progress. As I am typing my blog post, the LOTR coloring book is open on my lap, where a scene from the Shire beckons to me. For the first time, I feel drawn to color the pages in chronological order. I will honor that inclination.
I am grateful for the fun game we played at Chick Fil A this afternoon. And for the invitation that Inspiration offered through a simple question read by a sweet child.
Yes, I will return to coloring, and open further to where this journey takes me.
In these weeks after Christmas, my house is in a sad state. I love the Christmas décor, and when it’s packed away, the rooms feel empty and somewhat bereft. After I put my creative studio to rights, so I can work in a supportive environment, I turn my attention to the rest of the house. I like to freshen things up, as everyday items are brought back out. So it becomes a bigger project than just returning pieces to where they were before Christmas.
I enjoy such creative challenges!
My first inspiration came for the vintage suitcase in my bedroom. An idea formed for a new vignette when I picked up a little tea pot and cup set for one. Adorned with butterflies and dragonflies, I was gifted with this cute set after the Halloween party at my niece’s house.
Both the butterfly and dragonfly hold significance for me. Both have been symbols representing my journey in previous years. I was thoughtful as I held the tea set. And then peered into the bedroom at the empty suitcase. A vignette created by using these two symbols strongly appealed to me.
I had fun gathering items I already own, with butterfies or dragonflies on them. Greens and blues were the predominant colors. I assembled a variety of pieces and played with arranging them.
The butterfly painting belonged to Greg’s mother. As did the green glass bottle beside the suitcase and the little brass baskets. Greg bought the metal dragonfly for me in 2013, my year of believing. The fabric is a silk pillow case with appliquéd butterflies, that I found in the bottom of a chest, as we were packing up Greg’s parents’ house. It is delicate, and beautiful. I wish I knew more about its origins. I bought the dragonfly plate in 2013. The green candle was left over from Christmas this year.
I enjoyed creating this unusual vignette. This is the first time I’ve created one so strongly connected to symbols from my past. The butterfly was from my Year of Transformation in 2010. It represented change, growth, emergence and beauty.
And the dragonfly from 2013, my Year to Believe, is symbolic of walking in two worlds, transformation, wisdom, joy and adaptability. I look at this vignette and recognize how important these years, and their symbols, were to my journey. I see, from my current vantage point, how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown. This vignette, which is so imbued with symbolism, now represents crucial milestones in my journey, making it a special symbol in its own right.
Alfred North Whitehead says, “Symbolism is no mere idle fancy…it is inherent in the very texture of human life.”
Symbolism has been an important part of my journey. The symbols for each year come to me by way of synchronicities and repetition, and give me guidance for the months ahead. There is deep meaning for me in each one, and many ahas and magical moments connected to these little signposts scattered along my life path. They assure me that I am headed in the right direction and contribute to my ongoing conversation with the Divine.
My symbols are indeed woven into the very texture of my life. And from my life two of them inspired the creation of a vignette…which is a short piece of writing or music, or a grouping of items, that clearly represents something or someone.
This vignette clearly represents me, and a significant part of my journey.
It was a girls’ day today, an opportunity to get my granddaughter Aubrey together with my sister’s granddaughter London. These young ladies, who are technically second cousins, consider each other cousins/sisters/bffs. They love each other unconditionally, play earnestly, and entertain their Yaya and Gigi endlessly.
For there is always singing and dancing.
The girls spent a fun afternoon playing together and laughing, walking the mall, and jumping at the Spider Jump. They ate at the food court, and checked out a few stores, and giggled through a photo shoot in a photo booth.
The highlight of the afternoon was their song and dance performance at my sister’s house. My mom joined us and Aubrey and London had an appreciative audience of grandmothers. Using songs from YouTube, the girls sang and showed off their dance moves.
Which led to today’s creative inspiration. Aubrey introduced us to musical.ly, available via a downloadable app. Called the world’s largest creative platform, musical.ly allows users to sing, lip sync to popular songs, and create their own short videos to share.
Aubrey’s account is private and protected, due to her age. However, we enjoyed watching the videos that she has created. I was quite impressed, actually, with her creative expression and her moves!
Linda and I downloaded the app, and the lessons began! I marvel at how knowledgeable kids are about technology. My grandchildren have been teaching me tips and techniques for my iPhones since they were toddlers.
Amid much laughter, Linda and I took turns joining Aubrey in creating our first musical.ly videos. You can see mine HERE. I love musical.ly’s tag line: “live with passion, live musical.ly”. I’m not sure yet what I will do with this new app. But I enjoyed Aubrey’s enthusiasm and her willingness to teach us a new way to be musical!
It was a fun day. I am inspired, always, by being with Aubrey and London as they interact and create. I love that they don’t hold back as they sing and dance and play. They are talking about creating a YouTube channel together. Anything is possible, with these bright young stars.
I received an electric pressure cooker for Christmas, from my daughter Adriel and son-in-law Nate, and two cookbooks. I’ve been excited, and a bit nervous, to try out this old method of cooking that has become new again. This evening, the shiny cooker came out of the box!
Pressure cooking is a method of cooking food using water, or another liquid, in a sealed container. Pressure cookers cook food faster and use less energy. Pressure is created by boiling a liquid inside the closed cooker. The trapped steam increases the internal pressure and allows temperatures to rise.
The first pressure cooker was invented in 1679 by French physicist Denis Papin, known for his studies on steam. Various inventive people adapted Papin’s design over the centuries. In 1938 Alfred Vischer presented his invention, The Flex-Seal Speed Cooker, in New York City. His pressure cooker was the first one designed for home use. One year later, National Presto Industries introduced its own pressure cooker at the New York World’s Fair.
The first pressure cookers were stove top versions, and they were considered noisy and somewhat risky. Later generations of cookers have become more and more safe, with built in safety features. Today’s electronic pressure cookers, introduced in 1991, have a digital control panel and programmable features.
I remember my mother using a pressure cooker when I was a child. Although I don’t remember that she ever had an incident, or explosion, I have had an uneasiness about these cookers. However, I have been reading about how wonderful electronic pressure cookers are, via social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. I was excited to receive one, and even more excited to move beyond any apprehension about using one.
The two cookbooks that Adriel and Nate gave me have many mouthwatering, plant based recipes in them. For my first experience, I decided on preparing pinto beans. Normally, I use a slow cooker to prepare a pot of beans, which can take up to 9 hours of cooking time on the low setting. To prepare beans in under 30 minutes seemed amazing!
Since I don’t use any meat to flavor my beans, I add half of a chopped onion and two minced garlic cloves. I ran the pressure cooker through a test run, as per the manufacturer’s instructions, and then added 3 cups of pinto beans, that had soaked all day, and the chopped onion and garlic. The recipe suggested 3/4 cup of water for every cup of beans.
The pressure cooker beeped after just 5 minutes of cooking time. This is where I messed up. I didn’t understand about naturally releasing the pressure versus a quick release, using the valve on top of the cooker. I released the pressure. And sampled the beans. They were not quite done. What I discovered, after more carefully reading in the Vegan Under Pressure cookbook, was that I needed to let the pressure release naturally, which takes 15 minutes or so.
I got it right, eventually! After a little more cooking time, and allowing the pressure to dissipate on its own, the beans were perfectly cooked. I am learning! And it was worth the lesson. These pinto beans were the best tasting beans I have prepared, since beginning a plant based diet.
I am looking forward to trying many, many more nutritious recipes. And I love trying new things. Even better, is when I try something new and dissolve a fear at the same time. The electronic pressure cooker was easy to use and didn’t feel risky at all.
Next up will be cooking a pot of brown rice…and then…well, the possibilities are endless!
It is Vision Board creation time. My mom and sister Linda and I gather over several evenings, in the month of January, to create these visual representations of where we are…and where we are headed. Tonight we began with looking through magazines, and cutting out the pictures and words that captured our interest while also capturing our visions.
I love these times of companionably sitting together with my mom and sister, discussing life as we look for the perfect images. We laugh…a great deal. We share what’s on our hearts, and the hopes we have for the upcoming year. We discuss our chosen words for the year. Mine, as I have shared, is Inspiration. Linda’s word is Freedom. And my mother chose the word Grace.
My pictures and words collected so far.
I realized this evening, amid the animated conversations, that while I believe these fun boards to be important, as they provide daily visual inspiration, there is great power as well in the spoken word. As we chatted, ideas were shared for the first time. The new thoughts took on form and shape and clarity as we talked back and forth about them. Or…they quickly died! Those creative intentions that began to live and breathe took hold, and deepened in our minds and hearts, as we found visual images to represent them, in pictures or words.
The beginning of Mom’s collection.
Carl Jung says, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
Tonight our dreams began the transformative process of becoming visions, as we delved into our hearts. Our conversations helped us to examine the dreams, and then hold them up to our heart-driven desires. They helped us to awaken to who we are and what we can accomplish. I look forward to completing our vision boards over the next week. And I so appreciate having these two companions to journey and create with.
We took several selfies, to accompany my blog post. The one I have chosen to include best captures our evening. We are laughing. I can’t keep my eyes open, in my mirth. Linda can’t keep her head held up as she is consumed by giggles. And my mom is beaming with jovial joy.
Yep, that is the kind of evening we had! I think laughter is not only good medicine for the soul, it also fosters a fertile environment for creativity and visions.