Thursday, June 23, 2011

Angel Rising

Some time ago, a friend of mine was truly down.  She was coming to terms with her disability, her partner had left her and her friends were nowhere to be found.  She felt awful, and I was way across the country, so pretty much the best we could do was to maintain a phone friendship.

Turns out, that was not so bad an idea after all.  I think we grew closer during that time.  We would talk for hours and hours on the meaning of life and what we were learning as we went through life.  As my own disability increased, she was able to help me with many parts of it.  I learned what to expect and when to contact a doctor, things like that.   She even sent me a beautiful Purple glass . . um . . . something (I use it as a bookend), for no particular reason other than to say that she cared about me and what I was going through.

But as I said, she was going through a rough time.  I wanted to reach back out to her and let her know that she was not alone.  I racked my brain for ideas.  Then I discovered a book by Laurie Mika, called "Mixed Media Mosaics". 

I decided to build a small shrine for my friend, using tiles that I made from polymer clay.

First, I took a foam core board and cut it to the right size. (I think it was about 12" by 18"  ?)  Then I covered it with a collage of tissue paper.  I used colors meant to ground her and cheer her up. 

Then I made the tiles from polymer clay. I didn't make my tiles the same way Laurie does and I added a few ideas of my own, but I think that is what we are supposed to do with art.  I used all sorts of colors, but kept close to the theme of healing and grounding (my friend has a LOT of strength, but she needed to get back in touch with it, thus, the grounding).  I used sparklies and textures and whatevers to add interest and tried to keep the symbols focused on healing .  I made a few tiles with words that seemed appropriate. 

I found a place on the Internet (which I have now lost) that made cookie cutters to order.  I send them a drawing of a simple angel.  They sent me back three cutters, in different sizes.  I used the middle size for the angel flying in the shrine.

When I started to glue everything together, I ended up using not only my tiles, but a few beads and sparklies also.

And all the while I was working on it, I tried to think healing, joyful thoughts.  I meditated and prayed -- for both of us.

Working on the Shrine helped me.  I felt better about who I was and what I could still do.  Yes, I made it specifically for her, but the good stuff bounced back onto me as well.

She wasn't expecting anything when the package arrived at her home.  She was flabbergasted -- which is pretty hard to do to her.  She called me and raved about it.  Shortly thereafter, she had it framed.  I think she did a nice job with her choices.

Our friendship continues.  Nowadays we often find each other on FaceBook and stop to chat a bit.  We still talk on the phone, too.  I think both of us have grown and experienced some healing of our spirits, due to our friendship.  We have been there for each other.

I am Blessed with my taste in friends.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


  (this was written years ago, before I was disabled)

I think I am a tad too busy.

I drive myself to distraction, trying to juggle two jobs, church work and community service, the household, my animals, artwork, reading, fixing up the house, and trying to do it all perfectly.

Instead, I collapse in a heap on the floor with dust bunnies larger than cats playing all about me. 

I remember when I was a little girl, my mother would set me to folding the towels and then she would tell me a story when she was finished. 

Nobody is here to tell me stories now, to reward my work, so I must remember them for myself.

I remember stories about a faerie named Alexandria who rode chipmunks as her steeds and she glowed when the sun touched her.

I remember stories of a pony named Jack who took his rider by the seat of her pants down a lane to get home in time for dinner.

I remember stories of a pig named Billy Bumps who played with cats til they ran up a tree and left him alone in the grass, crying. 

Sometimes I sit on the porch with a dog under one arm, the little girl who lives upstairs under another, and a cat trying to sit on both laps at the same time.

We sit and watch the birds chasing each other and we tell each other stories.

We go to a place of magic and giggling, and we leave the dishes to sit and the laundry unfolded.

In ten years, in fifty years, no one will remember if my floors were clean this day, or if the cabinets were neat.

 But someone might know the name of the dog who snuggled with us, or remember the stories we told.

The necklace we made of clay & love might still be circling some other little girl's neck.

If you are looking to me for some words of wisdom, some magic spell which will help you to do it all, or to remember that you don't have to do it all, I can't help you.

If I knew it once, I have forgotten it.

I only know that sometimes, once in while, I remember, briefly.    I remember to tell stories while I wash the dishes, recite poetry while I fold the towels, and to sit on the porch with a dog and a cat and a kid, watching the birds.

 May you find the strength to do the same. 

So Be It. 


        Take what you like and leave the rest. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Creating New Spaces

2' by 3', approx
Needlepoint on 22 canvas

This week, the house achieved record-braking status in the health-department-shut-down stakes.  An unbelievable amount of “stuff” had accumulated while I hadn’t been paying attention.  
So I did the only thing that a rational person can do under the circumstances:  I re-arranged the furniture.
Now, some of you know from previous posts that housekeeping is not in my skillset.  Strangely, though, organizing is.  I can organize just about anything or anyone, given the chance.  It’s the upkeep that is the problem for me.  So my home is organized, but really, really messy.
The problem comes when I bring something new into the home, that doesn’t already have a place.  And I have two big categories of ‘things’ that are added into my home on a regular basis: Books and Art Supplies.  The One-In-One-Out rule is not helpful with either of them.  I mean, you don’t get rid of art supplies just because you have not used them yet!    That’s unthinkable.  And as for books --- well most of my long-term-keeping books are either reference books (usually art ) or old friends that I read again and again.
But the real issue in my home is PAPERS.  They multiply much faster than I can look through them and discard.
So, naturally, my solution is to re-arrange the furniture.
Lest you think I have lost something vital in the logic dept., allow me to explain:  I have a limited amount of space (don’t we all?) and I need to fit everything I own into this space.   Sadly, I do believe in the house-faerie.  She will magically expand your space if only you re-arrange the space available.  For instance, if you turn the bed one way, the room will be much smaller than if you turn it the other way and push it up against the wall.  If you add a small shelf along the wall where the bed is, then you have enough room for your water glass, a book or two, and maybe even clickers for the TV or the latest art project you are working on while in bed.  Corner shelves are nice for taking advantage of space too.  You can even put (Gasp!) Art in one of these nooks.
But perhaps the biggest perk of re-arranging the furniture is the excitement it affords the cats.  Cats LOVE to explore new space.  They walk into the room, looking all wide-eyed, as if they have never been there before.  Sometimes they pause and even crouch down, as if to defend themselves form a horrible  Heffelump  that must be hiding in the new space.  And then their old friends, the dust bunnies, have been re-located (usually to the round-filing cabinet) so they prowl to see what they need to pounce on to put everyone in their place.
Sadly, this morning Addams was chasing Franklin as they zoomed into my room, unaware that I had moved things.  Franklin leaped for the footstool—that wasn’t there anymore.  The look on his face was priceless.  Addams, too wasn’t paying attention, as he leaped to the table – that had been moved.  His face was filled with confusion for a moment as he sailed through the air.  He landed awkwardly and then righted himself and started licking himself in an  I-meant-to-do-that gesture.
The house is not yet finished, I still have a couch and chair to find places for, but when the cats discover then new hiding places, I’m sure we will have adventures with that, too.
 Mean-time, the papers continue to multiply.


Monday, June 13, 2011

CHicken Livers

Light a Candle in the Dark

Chicken Livers
by byrd tetzlaff

Take what you like and leave the rest.

A certain friend (really! it was not my family!) was raised in a home where money was scarce.  They could not afford movies and television held little allure for them. So to while away the time and afford a bit a of amusement for the parents, just for fun, they would torture the children.

This may seem a bit extreme, but bare with me.

This story has to do with a teenager who loved her cat.  She played with him, taught him tricks, and slept with him at night.  The two were very close.

But in the morning, the teenager would jump out of bed, rush around getting ready for school, then leave, pulling the door shut behind her so that her younger brothers and sisters could not invade her territory.  This left the cat in her room for the remainder of the day until she got home from school.

Time and time again, the mother remonstrated her, telling her to leave the door open so that the cat could get to food, water and, most importantly, the litter box. 

The teenager never listened.

One day, both the mother and father had a well-earned day of vacation at home while the kids were at school.  To celebrate, they went to a local restaurant which featured an all-you-can-eat bar which actually figured out to less money than if they fixed the same foods at home.

Mother and Father sat eating, she with her favorite salad, he with his fried chicken livers in gravy, side order of biscuits.

 They talked as they ate, she waving her fork, he munching and sopping up gravy with the biscuits.  As they spoke, they noticed something which gave them an idea on how to torture their teenager.  After all, they had neglected her for a while, it was her turn.  So they settled up with the restaurant folks and went home happy, smiling at their planned devilment.

Upon reaching home, they went into the teenager's room and put out the cat.  Then they took out the small container of chicken livers and gravy they had purchased from the restaurant. 

Carefully, they placed three or four chicken livers just so on the teenager's pillows case.  Then they artistically added a few well-placed drops of gravy for the final touch. 

They backed out of the room, closed the door and waited for their daughter to come home.

The unsuspecting teenager returned. 

Parents were angry-looking and unhappy.  Lifted eyebrows, stern looks.  "Well, it finally happened.  I told you not to keep the door closed.  Come see what the cat did in your room."

The teenager rushed down the hall and flung open the door. 

There, sitting on her pillowcase in plain sight, was what looked suspiciously like a Cat's Business. 

The teenager screamed and ran in, followed by Mother and Father, who were trying not to laugh. 

The innocent cat, wondering what all the fuss was about, strolled in and lightly jumped up on the bed. 

More screams. 

The cat sniffed.  Something was very interesting. He walked slowly up to the front of the bed, ignoring yelling and cries of horror.  He stretched out his neck and sniffed at the most intriguing lumps on top of the pillowcase. 

He opened his mouth to take a bite.
Father, who saw what was about to happened, decided to forestall the event.  "Hmmm, " he said,  "These do look pretty tasty."  And with that, he popped a chicken liver into his mouth.

We will now leave the screaming teenager, the mother collapsed on the floor with laughter and the smug father.  They have their own relationships to work out.

I could not have survived in a household like that.  I would have been permanently scarred for life.

But the friend who told the story is unusually well-balanced and even-keeled.  She handles almost any situation with calm and intelligence.  Perhaps that form of torturing children is not so very bad after all.

I shall think on that as I plan the Summer festivities for the children in my life.

So Be It

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rainbow Mandala

Rainbow Mandala
approx 9" by 9"

The Mandala above is my favorite Mandala so far.  I say 'so far' because who knows what the next one will look like?

Mandalas have fascinated me for a very long time.  I know they are a powerful symbol in Christianity , Hinduism, Islam  and many Earth-Centered religions, but what amazes me is that the use of Mandalas is virtually the same in each case.  They are used as an aid in prayer, meditation and healing.  They are always used for positive reasons.

Mandalas are usually understood to have no spiritual value in and of themselves (you would not venerate a Mandala), but rather they are a doorway, a path, if you will, to that which is eternal.  Some see it as a pathway to God.  Others see it as a way into ourselves, the deep, wise, inner self.  Still others see it as a tool to access the Divine, however you understand it.

Mandalas, it must be remembered, use the language of symbols.  Color, shapes and placement all have separate meanings.

In the very middle of the centre symbol is usually(but not always) a tiny red dot.  Ideally, the rest of the piece keeps your eyes moving but lands you back in the centre, focusing on the dot.  This particular Mandala uses a white, fading into black center, with the red dot in the very middle.  This denotes definition, or understanding.  From the center, I created a rainbow going out, indicating an inclusion of all.  The entire design is placed on a soft-focused black and white background, again, representing understanding or knowledge.

In short, this particular Mandala represents brotherhood/sibling hood, based on understanding and appreciation for our differences.

A final note, Mandalas are seldom, if ever, planned out ahead of time.  You may have a vague idea of what you want, but a true Mandala-Maker allows the Mandala to grow as it needs to and does not force it into a pre-conceived pattern.

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was one of those milestone birthdays and it was a good day to pause and reflect.  I spent most of the day doing artwork, part of it with friends also doing artwork.  Very pleasant and comfortable. 

But the times when I was working on my artwork alone I used to think over my life up until this point.  Like most of us, I have had high points that I am proud of and low points I would rather not think about.  I think I have done more good than harm in the world.  I have tried to keep my priorities straight and frankly, the older I get, the better I am at prioritizing.

Right now is a very good time in my life.  Despite physical problems and monetary woes, I am happy with my life most of the time.  I like who I am and (when I am not yelling at myself for not being more useful), I like what I am experiencing.  Since I am disabled and pretty much bed-bound, I have a lot of time to think and feel.  But mostly I am learning how to be in the moment.  Yes, the Buddhist ideal of Being In the Moment.  That's what this part of my life is teaching me.

As I type this, I am aware of the birds outside, exchanging gossip.  There must be some very juicy tidbits, because they are all very garrulous today.  I can see the tree branches out of the door to the porch, along with some of my beloved houseplants.  Recently, someone gave me a huge amount of houseplants that I added to my own, and now the porch resembles a hothouse.  I love the different greens and shapes of leaves.  As I get to know each plant, its individuality starts coming through.  They seem to like it here.

Two golden cats are asleep on the bed and a third golden cat is in the basket on the shelf at the foot of my bed.  The two smaller dogs are curled up next to me and are also fast asleep.  Someone is snoring.  The fan softly hums as it moves a slight cooling breeze over me and the day feels lazy. 

I am surrounded by those I love, my plants and the animals.  The humans that I love mostly contacted me yesterday with well-wishes. 

The Mandala above ties it all together for me.  As I worked on it, I found myself feeling a peaceful well-being.  The inclusion of all life --- plants, animals and humans -- together in harmony and trust, that is Peace for me.

May Peace be with You.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Age - James at 15

Embroidery on Crushed Velvet
4' by 6'

Take what you like and leave the rest

Some years ago, a movie was released with the title "James at Fifteen".

At the time, I thought that was very strange-sounding. As if James at Fifteen was somehow inherently a different person than he would be at, say, thirty, or sixty.

Recently, I find that is pretty much what I do think.

How we express who we are, changes. We are not the same person that we were ten, twenty, years ago.   We might not even recognize ourselves, sometimes.  We think  differently.   We have had new experiences.  We have different priorities.

Each day offers us a little different slant on life, each day gives us a chance to start afresh, yet each day follows the days that have gone before it.  Over time, we change and grow (hopefully).  We can build only on that which we have experienced and our experience does include what we have learned by watching the experiences of others.
 It is not possible to say that one age is somehow better or more valid than another time in our lives.  We should not discount ourselves because we are only 5 years old, or because we are 75 years old.  And no one else should either.   

The age we are at right now, is the only time we can speak of with certainty.   Our vision of ourselves when we were younger, is not necessarily entirely accurate.  Our plans for who we will be when we are older may never come to pass.

Now is the only time. Who we are at this very minute is the only one of us we can be sure of.

We may be different tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Age – We have never been here before

Take what you like and leave the rest.

On Raymond's sixty-fourth birthday, he sat on his Mother's sofa, thinking pensively.

Turning to his Mother he said, "Ma, here I am sixty four years old today, and I still wonder what I want to be when I grow up."

Raymond is not alone in his wonderings. Many of us find ourselves incongruent, for when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we wonder when our faces got so wide, or where did that extra chin come from.

We remember our faces when they were young, and ourselves when we were unaware of the future.

Raymond's grandson David was struggling mightily later that day with some problem he was having in school. When he reported it to his grandfather, Raymond remarked that the problem was due in part to David's being only six years old. David answered gravely, "Yes, and I have never been six before."

We are all just learning how to be the age we are at.

We have never been here before, and just when we start to get the hang of it, we will go and have a birthday and have to learn how to be a new age.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mother's Legacy

One of my Favorite Needlepoints.  Done on 22 inch canvas

Take what you like and leave the rest

As much as Mother tried to always do the right thing, there were a couple of areas that were blind spots for her.   For instance, one of her favorite sayings was "A place for everything, and everything in it's place" -- which sounds great.  The reality is that she never did get around to showing me just HOW to Find a place for things.  I do come by my lack of cleaning skills honestly.

One of her rituals was that every so often, she would pull all the toys out of my closet and tell me to sort it into three piles: one pile to keep, one in a bag to throw out, and one in a box for Good Will.
I was confused, because after I had finished sorting, she would inevitably put everything back into one box and shove it back into the closet.

 It took me years to figure out that I was sorting the same stuff over and over again.   (I was not a terribly bright child.)

Now, Mother was not cruel or demented. She was merely suffering from well-meaning-itis. She really meant to send things to the Good Will, but she would get very busy, and the stuff would be in the way, so she would try to get it quickly out of sight. She would see the Good Will box just sitting there and, not thinking, she would dump everything into it and shove it back into the closet to get it put away.

To this day, I find that 'things' pile up. They multiply when I am not watching them. especially on my desk or work area.

But this week, it all caught up with me.

It started as an ordinary week, with lots to do, but not nearly enough time to do it all. My one day off was eaten up by family needs and the rest of the week had to be fitted in between various responsibilities. Thursday evening, I finally got a chance to get to my art-work, but I couldn't find my desk.

I supposed it was still there, there was a lump of papers and 'stuff' where my desk used to be, but no desk in sight.

Now, I am used to working in a small area. (Which is absurd, for my desk is quite litteraly 13 feet long--it's the side of one room. You would think this would be enough room for anyone. But most of the time, I end up doing my art in about six square inches of space.) But I couldn't even see what color the desk-top was. I remembered it being a white, I think. But there was no desk-top in sight.

I knew what this meant. Obviously, I had to (shudder) organize and clean.

My first Husband used to say that I would rather eat worms than clean--which is saying something, since I am a vegetarian.
He was right.
I hate cleaning.

But strangely enough, under certain circumstances, I love to organize. The circumstances are that there has to be some small place where I can start to put things away into. Otherwise, it is just frustrating.

So I decided to organize my desk and the shelves that surrounded it.

Starting was a problem. There was nothing that I could see that I knew where it went, so, I dove into the bags. (In our house, lots of things end up in bags)

Ah, last years taxes! I wondered where they went to.
Oh, yes! And that picture of Scottie when she was just a puppy.
Oh, look, the card Michael gave me for Christmas last year, and right next to it in the bag, the hand-colored picture that my niece made for me.

Slowly, I began to make headway. But all too often, I would come across something that would tug on my memories, or I didn't really want to chuck, but couldn't justify keeping. I managed to throw out at least seven paperback books that had no covers (legacies from Mother) and several half-finished drawings of my own that I never wanted to see again.

I mentally cursed every teacher who ever said "Now be sure to keep these papers, you might need them someday."   I actually found a report card (mine) from 1957.

I figured it was finally safe to toss it.

I even managed to throw away some half-finished art projects that I never wanted to go back to.

It was exhilarating. I felt so virtuous! After finding several inches of space on a shelf or two, I managed to make room to put some things away. And after a mere several hours, I had found my desk-top!

I was right, it was white.

In profound relief, I flopped into my reading chair and stared at my handiwork. By no means was the desk cleared off, but progress HAD been made, and I had almost a whole square foot of space to do my artwork!

As I mentally patted myself on the back, I thought about my Mother. She had tried so hard to give me the skills that she thought I would need, but this was an area where she, herself, was lacking.

I looked at the desk, which still had far to go before even the most generous person could call it cleaned. But the wastebasket was full, so I got up and carried it outside to the trash.

Mother would have been proud.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Age - Gifts

 Take what you Like and Leave the Rest

Each age gives it's own gifts, but it is not realistic to generalize. All twelve-year olds do not re-act the same way to being twelve. All sixty-year olds do not re-act the same way to being sixty.

Each of us is unique in our experiences. And each one of us here must answer for ourselves how this particular age feels in our own personal lives.

The great American obsession with youth is very strange. The young are the standard for beauty. Yet is it not true that each age brings it's own beauty? A babe is bald and bowl-legged and toothless, and we call that beautiful.  If that same child were to have those characteristics at twenty, he or she would be far from beautiful.

Each age does bring it's own beauty.

Yet we, as a society, label the beauty of only one age as the beauty we should all endeavor to have, as if it were possible to stop your body from its rightful journey through time.

I have earned my wrinkles, and I like them.  I am not quite so fond of my double chin and jowls, but they too are my friends. I would not look twenty again, for that would be to deny to myself the wisdom and the joy I have gained.  And, it would be false advertising.

But it should be added that although we honor youth as beauty, we also deny that youth has wisdom. That is unfair, it seems to me. If we see that each age has its own beauty, then surely each age has its own wisdom as well, to teach us. Yet we often fall into the trap of thinking that some ages have no knowledge, that they have nothing to teach us once we ourselves are removed from them. Certain ages are not valid, the feelings and emotions somehow, do not count.

Why is this? Simply because we as adults know that certain youthful experiences will pass, does not mean that they are not painful or valid while someone is there.

Surely the point where we are in life, wherever it is, this point too shall pass. Yet our time is valid while we are here.

It is where we are now.   Let us not waste the experience.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Age - Lists

A Phoenix from Scraps 
Applique and Embroidery

Take what you like and leave the rest.

List-making is one of my skills.  Every year around my birthday  I make an inventory of my expectations of  myself .  And I am often surprised with some of the things I come up with.

Take my expectations for my 39th birthday ( many thousands of years ago):

1) By thirty-nine I should have been well on the way to being a Grandmother.  That was always been one of my primary goals.  Unfortunately, I did not have a similar enthusiasm about being a Mother.

2) By thirty-nine I expected to find myself comfortably secure.  But life was quite different from what I expected, not always for the better.  There is the temptation to try to control the situation, to create a safe haven from outrageous fortune which will prevail against all hazards. This is your basic exorcize in futility.

3) Before forty, I wanted to be established in my field, hard at work.   I reached that goal.

That same year, I also noticed some strange feelings I didn't expect to have. Here are three of them.

 1. Relief. I was off the hook.  I was too old to be the world's youngest best-selling author, or youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner or the youngest person to ever have won an Oscar for best original screenplay.   I could relax now.

 2. There was a drive to hurry up and get done the things I hadn't yet done.   But that is always foolish.    If everything I wanted to do was listed, right now, it would take another three or four centuries minimum to accomplish, and that's not counting whatever I come up with tomorrow.

3. There was a temptation to let go of the dream while I got mine. World Peace, Justice for all and Ecological Balance is not going to happen in my lifetime. It was a very real temptation to concentrate on my own life and let somebody else do the dirty work.    Yet I knew I still had to do my part.

With the new understandings, I found myself, surprised, relieved and musing at how my priorities were changing.  I found myself thinking in new directions, which felt good.

And then the truth dawned on me.  All our lives, we meet or change or get rid of goals for ourselves.  All our lives, we set new goals.  It will never end – nor should it.  Even on our deathbeds, we are still learning and going forth to a new adventure.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

String Theory, Challenge # 24

 I'm taking a break from the posts on aging to submit zentangle challenge #24.

Age - Expectations

Take what you like and leave the rest.

What is the age of your body? What is the age of the spirit that lives within it? For most of us, the two are not the same. And our inner age can change very quickly.
·        Sometimes we are five years old, with the wonder of life about us.
·        Sometimes we are sixteen, standing on the threshold of new experiences.
·        Sometimes we are two, mad as blazes at the world which will not bend to our expectations.

Whatever age we are at right now, it is a good age, and it will be, at least to some extent, what we make of it. It is our expectations of ourselves and our situation which will determine whether or not we are happy with our age.

Certain ages have become beacons, hallmarks as it were. 16, 21, 30, 50, 65, 80, and 100. Something magical seems to take place. A threshold has been crossed, a metamorphosis happens.
We are somehow different, or at least we are seen as being different.

When I awoke on my thirtieth birthday, I had no wrinkles on my face, By that same evening, I had obtained my very own set of parenthesis which I carry to this day.
And somehow that seems deeply meaningful of some obscure fact which I do not fully understand. Some change had happened because of the magical age of thirty.

There are many magical ages. Ages which give us grandchildren, respect, & security; ages which give us excitement, challenge and wonder.
We expect that by a specific time we will have experienced a set number of things, accomplished specific goals.
But I would remind you of what that Great American Philosopher, Tom Smothers, once said:  
         "Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Age - Permission


I have been thinking a lot recently about age.  So many different ramifications to each age and to aging.  I started writing down some of my thoughts and taking bits from previous writings.  I will be sharing some of them with you in the next few days.

Sometimes I think the worst part of any age is how other folks treat you.  Different ages are expected to have different rules of conduct.    Permission to have a cookie, permission for a drink of water, permission to go to the bathroom.

One of the nicest things about being an adult is that I no longer have to ask permission to have a cookie.