Sunday, December 18, 2016

Mary of Aleppo

Every year some part of the Jesus birth narrative strikes me differently. For the past few years, it has been that the birth wasn't a pretty, sanitized thing, but was full of dirt and muck and loneliness. The song, "Labor of Love" by Andrew Peterson, has been my song of the season in the past.

This year it is Mary's Magnificat that has captured and held my attention. I've read a couple of articles about how Mary was not meek and mild but that she was a revolutionary, a rebel against the occupation.

I'm sure you've seen the video footage coming out of Aleppo. I watched one yesterday that started with a shell-shocked child sitting on a gurney, like so many of the shell-shocked Syrian children we've seen lately. Blood is on his forehead. Beside him was a woman from the same building that had been bombed. She is mourning and crying for her lost children. Her face is bloodied also.

"Omran, Angels Are Here!" by Judith Behr
The camera moves to a teenage boy standing in the door way. He's holding a baby, cradling it, a baby that has suffocated in the collapsed building. He is the last of his family.

The camera returns to the boy, his baby brother wrapped and on his lap. He is sitting next to the mourning woman.

The teenaged boy pats her on the shoulder and says, "It's okay, God will avenge us against the oppressor."

I think: you're going to get yourself killed.

And it hits me. That's Mary.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

    but has sent the rich away empty.
(from the Magnificat, Luke 1:52-53).

It's a gut reaction it is backed up by history.

Nazareth is one mile from Sepphoris, which in 4 BCE (per Josephus) was sacked by Judas ben Ezekias in a revolt against Herodian rule. (This was after Herod the Great.) [Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews] The Roman governor of Syria burnt down the city and sold its inhabitant into slavery. That last is probably hyperbole on Josephus' part. Archaeologists have not been able to find traces of burning. But the governor of Syria surely responded to put down a rebellion. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews]

Mary lived through that. In her village of Nazareth, one mile away, although later tradition also has her growing up in Sepphoris.

One mile from Aleppo would be close enough. She would say "God will avenge us."

It is my hope, that as Mary gave birth, and witnessed all the wondrous events surrounding the birth of her son that as she pondered things in her heart, she realized God had bigger plans than mere revenge, that she had given birth to the Savior, not just of her corner of the earth, but of the world.

But this story has not finished working itself on me and I have perhaps tied too neat a bow onto the end of it.

Mary of Aleppo, hear our prayer and save your people.

[Video link for the last hospital in Aleppo: the images are "upsetting" as the very British news announcer put it.]
[Video link for the song "Labor of Love"]

Saturday, December 3, 2016

What I Learned This Fall

Emily over at chatting at the sky, is now doing quarterly link-ups for what we've learned each quarter. Previously, it was each month and before I knew it the month was over and I hadn't gotten around to posting. So, here's hoping quarterly does the trick!

1. I love painting intuitively.

I took Flora Bowley's Bloom True-course this fall and finished a painting that just glows with color. But the more important thing was that the act of painting (by making a series of marks, grooving, just seeing where the color and marks take you) brings me joy, even when I'm angry or upset. Putting paint on a canvas really makes a difference. Am wondering if this should really be my meditation practice...

2. Being open to other worship experiences can bring clarity

It helped me to remember what is important about worship. In a short time span, I attended an interfaith labyrinth service, a UCC church and three other Episcopal churches. One of the latter is St. Gregory's of Nyssa which has great music and a beautiful way of punctuating the scripture readings with a series of Tibetan bowls. Really magical.

It brought clarity as to what is really important about worship: which is worshipping in community and worshipping in a way that brings joy, whether that is the Tibetan bells, bare feet, or singing from the pews and receiving the music instead of delivering it.

3. It's okay to stop doing church.

By that I do not mean to stop going to church, but to stop doing it. Stop with the committees and the planning and all that and just being in the church and being the church. This is my current season, and I'm really rather enjoying it. 

4. "Sleepy" hand lotion from LUSH 

It is not just dreamy to look at, but dreamy to smell on sleeping and on waking.

5. New Christmas albums: 

I haven't bought a full Christmas album in a while but I've bought two this year: check out Jordan Smith's "'Tis the Season" and Leslie Odom Jr.'s "Simply Christmas"

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Should We Let this Election Continue to Bring out The Worst in Us?

This week I have seen a lot of hate on my Facebook feed. Hate toward Trump voters, non-voters, third-party voters, Clinton voters. Nasty comments in people's posts that are filled with disdain and viciousness. I have read about reported acts of hate toward people of color, women, muslims and LGBTQI people.

I have a mixed crowd of all kinds of people and politics on my Facebook feed. Over the course of the election, I felt the need only to unfriend one person who was viciously mean and disrespectful.

Now my feed is full of meanness and disrespect. Imagine two monkeys so angry at each other they start hurling their excrement. That's what it is like now and we're starting to stink of shit. I've taken refuge in art (I am having an amazing time taking Flora Bowley's Bloom True e-course), posting photos of my dogs, and I am seriously considered taking a Facebook fast.

So why are my friends behaving so badly? Have we, lost in our hurts, forgotten who we are? Beings created in the Divine image?

First, I am pretty sure that everyone on my friends list on Facebook would go to the aid of someone who is in need, no matter how dissimilar that person is. I am pretty sure that everyone on my friends list wouldn't tolerate someone being abused, verbally or physically, in their presence.

I would hope they realize that we need to continue to speak out against harm coming to our fellow human beings.

Before the election, I wanted to write something about reaching out to those who have been hurting throughout this election cycle. In addition to this hatred of Other, there are those who are hurting economically, those who are crying out to be heard in the face of the establishment.

Who do I want to be in this situation?

I want to be the one who listens. The one who stands with the hurting. I think, despite feeling horribly ill-equipped, this is why I will be wearing a safety pin.

Diana Butler Bass posted this before the election.

I still believe (and trust in) this.

If you're struggling to find your way in this, that's okay. Life is a process and we move through it and our emotions in different ways. I don't know if the links that follow will help, but they are helping me.
And this nation, and probably the one you live in if it's different to mine, needs healing. Hate has been held back, through civil rights legislation and political correctness, and it has burst through, a whole ugly mess that has been there all along, that people of color, LGBTQI, immigrants, and other groups have known and experienced all this time. There's no hiding it now, no stuffing it back into the cellar. We need to heal it. We need to heal us.

To that end, my reading list now includes:
(links all go to Amazon, but are not affiliate links)

Some of these have been in my to-read pile for a while. (The forgiveness book for a year and I haven't been able to find it yet, Bonhoeffer for at least five years.)

I close with the benediction Diana Butler Bass gave at a church the Sunday before the election:

Blessings upon you all. All.


Friday, November 4, 2016

A new creed...

Diana Butler Bass shared this on her Facebook page and it is worth sharing for reflection in these last few days before the election ... and after.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why I am developing my artistic style

ok, so not one of my recent "strong women" portraits.
but this post should give some reasons as to why you don't
get to see them.
Lately, I’ve been working in the Ever After class which, while on the subject of fairytales, is a big step for me. It’s the step beyond “learn this technique” or “follow an artist’s footsteps” to uncovering my own style, and create paintings of my own.

I am loving this — learning what I like and don’t like, struggling to create expressive faces, and coming up with ideas that feel true to me.

I have learned that I like to paint strong women. Women who not only survive, but thrive. And weirdly, the eyes have decided to get larger lately. Maybe because I am seeing more.

But then the question hit me: Why do I want to develop my own style? What is wrong with following along with lessons? What am I going to do this style of mine?

First, I want to tell my own stories. Whether they reflect what is happening to me, or whether they are imagined, creating a portrait is a visual way of sharing that story. Even if they don’t look the smallest bit like me.

Art has always been just for me. Not for anyone else to see, although I do share with some trusted people. It’s to bring me joy and happiness and getting stuff out of my system. It sounds selfish but this is just for me.

I want to do more of it, but there are other demands on my time that I can’t give up. Such as the day job and walking the dog. I’ve trimmed back my television watching and blog reading, for example. I also can’t remember the last time I vacuumed the house.

But — you say — you can give up your job and work for yourself by making a creative business!

That is not for me. This is what I have learned from my last creative business endeavor (which was being published in romance): the moment it is work, the magic and joy goes away. (I also didn’t make a living from it.)

That is a very simple answer. It is more complex than that. Yes, I hated marketing myself and my work. Yes, I had some fear of “exposure” issues that needed work (and have been mostly healed, but the scars remain). And, yes, writing itself was no longer fun. And yes, reinventing myself for the third time just to get another book contract started to feel tedious and where was myself in all of this? Why was I doing this to myself?

Art is a safe space for me to dream, explore, play AND express myself.

I will not buy into the “if it’s good it must be commodified” thinking. That this must be productive work in the sense that it must make money in order to be of value, to be worth my time. I don’t buy that (pun intended). 

Making a product means finding an audience, who wants what you want— or, as I’ve heard it bemoaned among professional artists— going down the rabbit hole of making something that will sell that is not them. That is not me. Even ye olde painters and composers had patrons whose tunes they had to dance to. 

So, selfish it may be. But right now, my art is for me. My style will develop so I can visually tell my stories, and my art journals may all end up in the dust-heap when I die. But then, so will I. I’m not creating to make a legacy either.

I am creating for joy, for happiness, for self-expression, for empowerment. With uncovering my own style, that creating will be with my own voice, not my teacher’s.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

God's love stories ....

Here are some interesting stories and thoughts found on the internets this past month. Aiming for stories of love and thanksgiving...

Have a wonderful weekend...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Grounding with Some Zest

In April, I finished reading "Grounded: Finding God in the World -- A Spiritual Revolution", by Diana Butler Bass. There were many things that were great about the book, and it was a good beginning (it inspired me to write a poem) but by the end it felt like a whole other book could now be written.

This is because I had some reader-baggage / preferences that came up as I read the book, and rather that writing to the author and complaining, I wondered what about the book discomfited me.

Each chapter starts with a theology of grace, even abundance (in the non-prosperity gospel sense of the word!), rejoicing in these gifts that we have been given on "this earth, our island home" (a quote from a Book of Common Prayer Eucharist service) but halfway through a number of the chapters it switched to a scarcity-based theology: good soil and clean, fresh water is disappearing, air pollution, etc. 

It is all true. Good soil is disappearing, air pollution is making a comeback and that needs to be acknowledged. But to be grounded, we need to come from a place of love and gratitude; scarcity and fear aren't the answer. That's the mindset we have now and it makes us grasp ever more tightly.

It turns out I didn't need to write Diana Butler Bass about it. She's on it. In an interview, she said: “Yes, you’re right, this book is ‘urgent,’ but it is beautiful and useful as well,” Diana says. “We’re not at our best when we feel threatened. I want people to know that, if we pay attention to those things, I think that’s where spiritual peace and wellbeing on a global scale will emerge.” (from Read the Spirit) On Facebook, she hinted that her next book that she is working could be called “radical incarnation re-enchantment”, so yes, I will be getting Diana’s next book!

We need to fall in love with our island home instead of treating it like an inexhaustible resource. We and the earth need to flourish together.

Teilhard de Chardin writes of a "zest for life", a passion or a drive to live fully. I read about this in an essay entitled "The Zest for Life: A Contemporary Exploration of a Generative Theme in Teilhard's Work" by Ursula King in "From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe" edited by Sr. Ilia Delio. The essay itself had some issues (not sure if it was Teilhard or King's point of view about humanity's right to use resources), but coming on the heels of reading "Grounded", it was a "Yes. This." moment for me. 
"(The zest for life) relates to an awakening to the fullness of life with all its joys and paints, its growth, diminishments, and sufferings. ... within oneself, in others, and in one's environment. Growing into the fullness of life ... now requires a strong ecological awareness, and a new ecological Earth-consciousness and responsibility. ... Another idea associated with the zest for life is the idea of flourishing, especially the flourishing of people and planet. Flourishing means to thrive and proser. It refers to a dynamic drive rooted in a continuing source of energy which nurtures people's attitudes, motivation, and action." - Ursula King, pgs 190-91 [emphasis mine].
Yes, we need that zest! We need to flourish!

The essay is rather academic (and repetitive, hence the ellipses) so let's unpack it a little. The zest for life is a drive to live fully. It's perhaps easier to think of the opposite to zest: boredom or ennui. Having zest is about living life fully, both the good and the bad, and it means living sustainably. Flourishing, if you will. The abundance is in having enough to live. It's not about the materialistic "must haves, must dos" that the media and commercials tell us we must possess.

If we live fully, with our basic needs met, we can bring that fullness of life to others. An incredibly moving example of this is an article in the New York Times in July, about Canadian families taking in and "adopting" Syrian refugees. Which I will now let you go off and read. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Finding sanctuary

I have gone silent a bit lately because well ... I have dogs once more. Two adorable, smarter-than-me, could-do-with-some-training (and they're getting it), wee dogs that have been taking up a lot of my attention lately as we settle in together. They're shelter dogs, were turned in as strays, and had terrible matted coats so they have some serious separation anxiety issues but we're working on them.

Earlier in the year, I finished reading "Grounded", by Diana Butler Bass. The opening introduction inspired me to write a poem about the two Mt. Calvarys. (Mt. Calvary is a monastery retreat house in Santa Barbara.) The one on the hill top before it was destroyed by fire and its current location. I thought I'd share the poem.

On a mountaintop
My heart broke open,
filled with God's warmth

In a city sanctuary:
Conversations with bees,
Rubbing wood prayer beads
As storm blue clouds loomed,
bad exhausts and loud music
Whittled away into quiet frog song.

I'll share more thoughts about "Grounded" in a later post.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

God's Love Stories ... listening and loving

My superpower is to get out of a crowd quickly. I'm not a small person, so I do indeed treat this as a particular gift.

While I do have, in some measure, kindness and empathy, it is seasons like the one we're currently in where I wish I had it to the extent that it is a superpower: Empathy Girl. (See, I already have a name for it, and I am longing to do a portrait of her too.)

The articles I've found are about coming together as human beings to love and care for one another.

First, though, I highly recommend this Meditation When the World is Falling Apart by Christianne Squires at Still Forming. It is a beautiful thing.

And for some light-hearted, Pokemon-Go related fun, have you seen this video by Deena Blizzard called Chardonnay Go?  (also a Facebook video)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Happy Pride

Happy Pride!

I’ve never been to a Pride Parade before, let alone walked in one. 

It’s the crowds, you see, and the heat, as I told a friend.

But after the tragedy at Pulse in Florida, I felt a pull toward showing my support for the LGBTQI community, but by that time entries into the parade had closed.

No worries, our new deacon at Good Sam got a small handful of us organized and we walked with St. Paul’s Cathedral, along with about four other churches on Saturday.

Three church ladies walk in a parade...

As we waited our turn to go, we cheered wildly for the various police departments and law enforcement that passed us by. Because, Dallas. I have no idea how San Diego measures up against the reformed police department in Dallas, but in that moment, it didn’t matter.

I looked up at the streamers carried by the St. Bart’s youth, that usually represent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in church. And here they were in the world.

Yes, I thought. The Holy Spirit is here.

Or rather, it was a reminder that the Holy Spirit was present, because the Holy Spirit/God is everywhere.

For me, walking in the parade wasn’t about showing how my church is a safe space for LGBTQI, although it is.

For me, it was an expression of love. 

What I didn’t expect was to be loved back.


There were hugs and high fives. Eyes met and grins were exchanged.

“Happy Pride!” the watchers yelled. “Happy Pride!” I yelled back, waving until my arm was sore and then some.

The parade was over before I knew it even though it felt like we waited forever to get started (we, did, about an hour, I think.)

I can’t wait to celebrate again next year with people who revel in being free to be who they are and to love who they love. Which at the Pride Parade, seems to be just about everybody.

I also want to be a mermaid next year with blue hair and shiny cotton candy pink scales. But I might settle for digging out my fluorescent pink socks.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Update to Where Bloggers Create

I have an update to my overhaul of my art space and it is also an opportunity to link to this year's Where Bloggers Create, hosted by Karen Valentine at My Desert Cottage.

Where Bloggers Create

I found that I needed somewhere to put a palette/paint mixing place, and as the goal was not to use the icon writing space for anything but icon writing, I brought a piece of furniture that had been banished from the space for a few years, put some plastic wrap on it to protect the top and I'm currently using palette paper for the mixing. When I run out of that, I'll look into get some glass or perspex or something for the top.

Here is that part of the space before:

and after (apologies for the lighting, it was twilight when I took the photo):

It's a pine bedside table that I painted and used for storage for a while.

So if you haven't seen my overhaul that I did in June, you can see that at this link.

And for previous instantiations of my craft room now art studio, you can go to this page to see all those links.

I'm off to enjoy looking at all the creative rooms in this year's link party!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

How We Can End Violence

It's been a horrible few weeks in America. There seems to be some sort of madness infecting the population: fear, hatred, anger.

And let's be honest, we've all felt one or more of those things in the past month, whether it's anger at our government for failing to implement protective measures for its citizenry (come on, not even a little gun control?!), fear of being hurt, dispossessed, rendered voiceless, etc.

If you took a good look at yourself, you've probably at least reacted to something in fear, or anger, or frustration. I know I have. It's part of being human. But as a nation, we are out of balance. We are letting our darker natures get the better of us.

After each police-caused death of an African-American, we cry out for anti-bias training in the police forces as part of the reform.

Yes, but where do police officers come from? From our towns, from our churches, our temples and our mosques, from our friends, and from our families. Where do you think they learn this bias? All of the above, plus the media.

So if I were President of the United States (and I won't ever be because I wasn't born here), this is what I would do:

Institute nation-wide anti-bias training.

Train the teachers, the preschoolers, the college students, every person in the workforce, in every religious center and sanctuary, every retired person, every senior citizen's center.


No exceptions.

And, the training has to be taken every two or three years, once you pass the first course. Just as you would renew your First AID, CPR or Safeguarding God's People.

You could take it in any language spoken in the world, even Klingon.

And you would have to. It would be part of you or a company receiving tax deductions, or a discount on your healthcare plan, or both.

It could expand to include non-violent communication, for example, or other ways we can become a better, stabler, nation.

Facebook has a training program already in place. The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) already has a curriculum for educators and children from pre-K to high school.

We can do this.

We can stop hatred.

We can stop fear.

We can be a better nation.

But it won't happen if I just sit here and write this blog post and do nothing else. It would take a campaign of writing to our State and Federal representatives, of talking about this with our friends and in our wider communities.

Am I crazy? Or could this actually work? Are you in with me?

Monday, July 4, 2016

9 Things I would never had known if I hadn't moved to America

Hubby and I on a rainy day in Disneyland eating churros
The title seems to maybe have the wrong number of negatives, but you know what I mean, right?
  1. How to write romances: early on I joined Romance Writers of America, because that's what I was writing and I didn't know anybody outside of my husband's family
  2. How to spell without a "u", e.g. "colour" vs "color"
  3. fish tacos
  4. churros
  5. I really doubt I would've learned more about my faith, the Bible, Christian history thanks to taking Education for Ministry and from becoming members at Good Sam
  6. Benedictine monastery food is really good
  7. I would've have pronounced "Cursillo" incorrectly. (Hint: it's not Curs-ILL-oh)
  8. How amazingly wonderful Disneyland is 
  9. Judaism: working in a synagogue has taught (and is teaching me) a lot. Not a whole lot of opportunities to work in a synagogue where I grew up
  10. Baseball. Not that I’m particularly interested in team sports, but the first year I lived in the U.S., we were right by the stadium. Never got into football though.

This is not to say I would not have learned new things or grown in different ways, just that this is the path I took and given that it's the 4th of July aka Independence Day, appropriate to share today.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Young Victoria Collaborative Book

I wanted to put all these posts together from 2010 of a collaborative book that we put together:

I posted in three parts:

I handmade cuffs as a thank you to each of the participants:

Where Bloggers Create: Evolution of an Art Studio

I've participated in Where Bloggers Create which is a blog party that shows off various creative spaces. I wanted to put them all into one spot for future reference. If you want to see my past entries, you can click here:

  • 2009 in its barest of bones (I didn't participate in the blog party, but wanted to show in 2010 how my room, which is a small third bedroom, had looked before.);
  • 2010 which is like a complete reveal with an additional post on my homemade hanky curtains;
  • 2011 after an overhaul of the closet (the doors fell off);
  • 2012, where I decided to show some "for real" pictures.
  • 2015, ditto "for real" pictures
  • 2016, rearranging and substantial changes to the space, and a small update regarding the corner with the easel

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Being Tested in Bella Grace

I finally succumbed and picked up a copy of the Bella Grace magazine, because the photos and art looked so peaceful, so mori girl. A special way to treat myself away from the rush of the day.

More than halfway through, I realized something: this magazine, this journal, was bringing grace, beauty and peace into the world. Sure, it occasionally got hung-up on pedicures as being something worth having, but it lingered on summer evenings and sunrises and cups of coffee (or tea). Pauses throughout the day.

And then I realized that all these authors were bloggers, like me, living their ordinary lives, but unlike me, actually documenting it. 

Yes, in a beautiful Instagram way that I could never match (nor do I want to), but I found myself comparing this blog to their writing, to what I proclaimed back in November:

"I am going to be blogging about peace, love, light, joy and transformation, and my struggles to find the same. I figure by sharing struggles and learning to speak and live these things that maybe there will be more joy, more love, more peace and less and less fear of things we don't need to be afraid of."

I have about half a dozen posts written, part-written or planned and have had since February -- and it's July, people! Why haven't I posted (or finished the blogs)

I know I shouldn't compare my writing to others. Heck, I thought I had learned that lesson long ago when I wrote romance novels. I thought I learned that lesson as I learned to become an artist. But here I am, comparing. 

But, no, not comparing. I am not thinking my writing is crap compared to theirs. I am not envious of their being published. (Been there, done that.) Being challenged, I think is a better word. Here is something that I've said I wanted to do but I simply have not made the time to do it and it's because I've been putting all my time into art which is a good and great thing. (And now that I can paint recognizable portraits, a miraculous thing!)

So, authors of Bella Grace, I accept your challenge. I mean, I was going to blog more this summer anyway, right?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Blogging Resuming...

My posh "Call the Midwife" look :)
I know, I know, I go through periods of posting and then ... crickets. My hope is that I'm about to embark on an extended period of posting.

I'm watching CSPAN right now (after watching the House sit-in via my representative's Periscope!) ... and it feels like history (although I've learned that sit-ins have occurred twice before and the Senate filibuster earlier this week was, well, a bust as all the gun control bills were voted down) and while I wasn't intending my first post to get all political, it's what's happening and here we are.

But I'm not coming back to write about that. There are things I want to write about and this summer, I hope to start the routine of writing again regularly.

I will write about art, theology (of various sorts), and life in general.

This has come about because Claudia of Mockingbird Hill Cottage made a remark in a recent post about how much she appreciated her webhost's support and using WordPress.

And here I am on Blogger.

I spent a few days investigating other hosts, including the web host I already had (which didn't have the latest specs) but where I hadn't had an active website for quite a while. That was money I was just wasting. Finally, I realized that to have a proper WordPress blog would cost more money than my prior commitment to blogging could justify. So I downgraded my webhost to an email account so I could hang onto my email and domain name and I'm back on Blogger with a vengeance (hopefully). I might even update the look, although that doesn't matter if you read this via feedly or some other blog reader.

I'm sure you didn't need to know all that, and I hope my future posts will be a bit more riveting, but this blog has become a bit like the blank page. A little daunting and all the lists I post about once a month are really nothing more than doodling in the margin. These are the words that stop this blog from being quite so blank.

It's time to blog.

Monday, June 6, 2016

My art studio makeover

I've participated in Where Bloggers Create a few times, but not the last few years. If you want to see those, you can click here:
  • in 2009 in its barest of bones (I didn't participate in the blog party, but wanted to show in 2010 how my room, which is a small third bedroom, had looked before.);
  • in 2010 which is like a complete reveal with an additional post on my homemade hanky curtains;
  • in 2011 after an overhaul of the closet (the doors fell off);
  • in 2012, where I decided to show some "for real" pictures.
  • and in 2015, ditto "for real" pictures
I've played with various arts and crafts over the years: jewelry making, psanky, painting bird houses, etc and so forth. And I've settled down to three: art journaling, icon writing, and I'm currently exploring painting large canvas. 

I discovered that I didn't have enough space on my desk to art journal (the current one is on the large side) and write an icon. I could set aside an icon in progress for 8 months before getting back to it because it meant clearing a lot of space off my desk to switch from one to the other.

And let's face it, I'd let my room get out of control.

Ready for the before pics?

Yes, I stopped even trying to put things away

I spent a few weeks planning, adding to my Pinterest board, following the 52 Weeks Workspace Challenge, drawing up maps to rearrange things so I'd have room to really paint without falling over something, or getting paint where it shouldn't.

I spent $55 at Michaels buying some new storage items (only that much thanks to a 40% off coupon!) and I still need to buy a couple of hooks to hang up my apron and something else. I spent the whole Memorial Day three-day weekend, moving everything in those cubes out of this room and then back in again, sorting paper (honestly, there is no reason for me to buy paper ever again unless it is Arches watercolor paper), rearranging and moving out furniture too. 

And so the transformation from craft room to art studio is complete:

I stacked the cube shelves (one IKEA, one Target) and removed the pink dresser and the kids storage cubby that had been tucked into the corner.

I didn't put my jewelry making supplies or psanky tools into the donate pile but rehoused them in a plastic container to store (top left). When I retire, I'll get back to those. Probably.

Here's the desk. Not quite as pristine as it was before I started working in the big art journal again but close. It's weird but the OttLite lamp is creating more glare from this angle/proximity than its original placement. I may have to move it slightly. I kept only my most frequently used supplies here, the others are in one of the cubes.

This was one of my new purchases, a Recollections pen/markers storage. I put it together myself (and missed the bit about adding dowels for greater stability but I feel pretty confident that I'm not going to overload this thing.) This is better than having the pens stashed in several different cases in my teal Raskog cart (which just needed a tidy). The black box on top is my set of Faber-Castell markers. The drawers hold Promarkers and Aquamarkers.

And yes, I own only two Copics. I do not love the alcohol markers.

Reorganizing meant I could hang my paintings and mixed media art work (the one on the far left is not mine, neither is the one on the far right), using nails that were already in the wall. I managed to find a place for almost everything that had been displayed under the window, but the sheer sari fabric that I'd used shattered where the dirt had come in through the window. (San Diego is a dusty place.)

I wrapped a box in fabric and lined the inside of a plastic container (top right), and you can find how I did those two things on the Pinterest board I linked to above. Continuing to move right to left: mediums, large bottles of paint and a purple pottery vase that doesn't really belong there but I unearthed it during my clean out; Paper scraps sorted by color and/or type and/or size into cigar boxes and other small containers; small journals completed and an old tintype.

The next row, coming back left to right: the mythical "Current Project". I will get to it. I will!!; a White Pages that I use when I'm punching holes in signatures to make new journals, canvas and other odd mixed media tools; a "Future Projects" bin; box of stamps with pastel sets underneath.

You can't really see so great at this angle but from left to right: flowers and art case for traveling (it's a large make up case); old books are behind the purple pots which contain glitter Stickles, Flower Soft, and fabric paints; the blue folder holds all my large stencils, which is better than having them out and flat, I hope, and a bin containing all my glimmer mists plus a few more glues and paints; clip art, lessons and journals. On the bottom row, right to left: Somerset Studio magazines, stacked two deep; sewing box in front of more Somerset magazines (Art Journaling and some others, I stopped subscribing); art books; larger journals and a bin of items to alter.

I moved the completed scrapbooks out of here and into the formal living room so I would have room for these four Iris cases which contain book paper, tissue paper, sorted color papers. The stuff lying flat across the bottom shelf are fodder for larger art journals.

It feels a little insecure here but this file cabinet contains flowers (pretty light) and seam binding and lace, with more lace bitses behind.

More lace in the blue suitcase (yes I do have a problem) which I initially used for a Silver Bella trip to store all my travel supplies, a typewriter and the woven box contains unsorted ribbon. Wallpaper, wrapping paper and tulle are in a magazine holder.

But this has given me room to bring in this small table for icon writing:

And space to play with painting on large canvas. I haven't really tried painting in this new position yet, but I am thinking that I may bring in a tiny bedside table that's out in the garage (also pink) to use as a place to put brushes and palette.

Oh and on the floor there is a folded up desk easel for smaller paintings, pushed back against the wall to give a little added protection to the wall, carpet with the drop cloth. I may end up hanging shower curtain liner behind the easel for further protection but don't know if I really need to yet...

And that's my new art studio! If you have questions about anything, ask away in the comments.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What I Learned in May

1. I can still obsess over something. 

Like, really obsess, lose all track of time forget to eat obsess. I spent the Memorial Day weekend emptying out most of my art room so I could reorganize the furniture to better do what I now want to do art-wise. The whole weekend, until I nearly dropped with exhaustion and then pushed through it. (I finally stopped Monday afternoon for a shower, movie and dinner out.) I still have some tweaking to do because I ran out of time, so the grand reveal will have to wait.

2. This icon of Mary (follow the link, I couldn't find a public domain image of it) is one of the oldest surviving icons from the 5th century (the 6th century saw iconoclasm and the destruction of icons). Its tradition is that this is the first icon Luke painted. This exact one. Although most date it to the 5th century, the nuns claim it has been carbon dated to 100 AD, give or take. I find her beautiful and haunting and she's going to be the next icon I write as soon as I figure out the hands. (And have the time.) I found her while doing some research for a talk on icons that I gave a couple of weeks ago.

3. You can get cotton candy mints. (And also, cotton candy is called fairy floss in Australia.) And they are very good. (And were found at a Dollar Tree store by a friend. Am off to find some in the coming days...)

I've signed up for the link-up over at chatting at the sky.

What did you learn in May?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ever After ....

I don't blog much and even less about art or craft these days, but there is a new class coming out headed by Tamara Laporte called Ever After.

I am in the midst of doing LifeBook 2016 and planning a complete reorg of my art space (as I can't move it into the larger guest room) but it's not the fairytale aspect of the course that appeals to me (although, you know, that can be fun and pretty), but being introduced to new artists, new ways of doing things, and in addition, there's a module on developing one's own style (which I'm pretty convinced comes with time and repetition).

One of the artists teaching is Effy Wild, who successfully hooked me on gel pens last year. You can click on her name to enter the giveaway too!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

God's Love Stories May edition

Here's another round-up of thought-provoking stories, hopes, prayers, and discussion on current issues that are worth a read:

And most importantly, Today We Take Back Mother's Day fundraising for refugees in Europe and homeless youth in the United States at Momastery.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What I learned in April

Here's what I learned in April.
  1. My plans are not God's plans.

    Okay, technically this fell on the first of May but as I do these so rarely, I figured you wouldn't hold that against me. I had it all planned out: a relaxing cup of tea before finishing packing and preparing my room for departure and then heading off to Eucharist (I was on retreat here). I am enjoying my cup when the Mission bells start, shortly followed by the monastery's bells. Hmm, I think, I wonder if Br. Timothy is checking the clapper again? No, it was the one day all week when Eucharist was at 9 instead of 11:30am because Sunday.

    So much for the lazy cup of tea and serene packing.

    Fr. Adam's sermon was all about going with God's flow of life instead of imposing our will upon God/life. Yes, God, I heard you the first time.
  2. A lack of fresh air and not sitting with nature leads to me feeling depressed and unworthy.

    It's amazing how 15 minutes sitting in the shade and enjoying a cool Santa Barbara breeze and watching the woodpeckers swoop will clear my head of that AND inspire creativity. I already knew I had to sit in a place of beauty but now I can add "outside" to that.
  3. Believing in the resurrection of the body and what that means for THIS life.

    Resurrection is new transformed life after life after death. Heaven/Paradise is a halfway stop. Meantime, Christians are outposts of God's new kingdom breaking into this earth. Ok, so I believed in the resurrection of the body, but I had never before considered what that meant for now. (My retreat reading was N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope".)
  4. The Hamilton cast's reworking of their opening song to pay homage to Sweeney Todd is sheer genius (and 16 Tony nominations! Wow!)

    Here's the link to YouTube to watch it.

  5. I found a salad I 100% like.

    Carrot and jicama slaw. And I really don't like salads. (Similar to this recipe, but swap out jalapeƱos for dried cranberries. And add cilantro.)

  6. What knocks out fresh skunk smell?
    This stuff. All natural Lime Mate mist.
  7. Meditation works you guys.
    I was getting antsy as I always do waiting for the time to leave the retreat house, bags packed and everything and I thought, no, let's stop and be present to now. And I sat, and I breathed, and prayed the Jesus Prayer and imagined God's light coming into me ... And managed to not be anxious for 15 minutes.
#6 thing that I learned
(And yes, there could be prettier pictures from my retreat that I could share but who needs an image heavy post?)

I am linking up with Emily's chatting at the sky's What I learned in April linkup! What did you learn in April?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

God's Love Stories -- Listening for God

What's next? What's the right choice? Is this what I'm called to do? Is this all?

If those are your questions, hopefully, the following links will be helpful.

And on another matter (as Passover is coming up):
What interesting articles have you read lately? I still have a stack in my "Pocket" app so there may be more to come.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Listening with Love

When wisdom or ritual occurs across traditions, I tend to pay attention. 

Listening. It seems like a lost art. I think I've been less skilled in this recently. For example, I used to listen really really well. But my husband keeps talking about the Leicester City football team, so ....

No, seriously, I was a good listener mainly because I was an excellent introvert. Not having to talk was great. But that also meant that the person doing all the talking never got a response out of me. Now, I'm a trained extrovert so I talk more.

Recently, my church's bishop came to speak to us and one of the things I got out of it was that we need to start modeling dialogue, not these polarized opposites where we fling insults and sneers (and worse) at each other. That we need to come together and learn to listen to each other, really listen, reflect on what we have heard, and move forward together in a way that is life-honoring. There may be an agreement to disagree, but we are still honoring the other person by hearing them out, and they have honored us by hearing us out.

And it's a process. I admit I can be easily triggered into a defensive mode, should anyone cast aspersions against, for example, immigrants (as I am one). Part of what I am trying to do these days is to actually try and listen and share my thoughts without starting with "you're wrong ..." or rolling my eyes. 

These kinds of conversations are not easy, and are very difficult for me to begin (see introvert, above), and I'm not even sure I'm doing them correctly, but we have to make some sort of start to listen to each other, to get beyond the surface claims of whoseever corner we are in, and understand what is truly going on and how we can find solutions and ways forward.

There is a technique called active listening where one reflects back to the person what they have said in a non-judgmental way. "I hear that you are saying..." Sometimes hearing it can cause a "that's not what I meant!" and sometimes it can lead into a deeper conversation. Imagine if a conversation had two active listeners, taking turns to hear the other's point of view ....

It does takes two, however. As a friend of mine commented on Facebook recently (and I'm greatly paraphrasing), boundaries need to be set. If the other person isn't willing to listen, or insists upon verbal attacks, you don't have to take it on the chin in the name of love. (Or turn the other cheek.) And she's right. Nothing will be achieved unless both parties are willing to listen and respond in love.

This is not something that can happen instantaneously. I have a feeling that it can be quite the journey and investment in time to get to a place where two people can listen and respond in love. It can be as little as an act of kindness to leave the door open, or talking about a less explosive subject as a means of practicing.

Humble connections is an article by Nicole Chilivis about such conversations. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I start to pay attention when multiple traditions start saying the same thing. Listening, really listening, has been a call for many centuries. 

In the Jewish tradition, a prayer called the Sh'ma is said daily (traditionally). Two years ago I learned the Sh'ma, which was easy, but also the V'ahavta, which was a lot more Hebrew to learn.  The first word in the Sh'ma is the word "listen" or "hear". "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is Our God, the Lord is one." (read more about my learning it)

It's not simply a "listen up, folks". It also requires a response, an action. Most of what follows is a pleading by God to remember this simple precept and to live by the laws that they are about to hear (in the context of Moses giving the commandments to the Israelites). 

In the Christian tradition, the first word of The Rule of St. Benedict is "listen". Again, Benedict is not writing down this word for the sake of it. The rule is also a call to action, also requires a response, and points to a way of life (in this case, communal monasticism).

Passive listening is not enough. For if you do not hear (mark and inwardly digest, to steal from a Book of Common Prayer collect), really hear, then you have not heard it at all.

Do you ever catch yourself not listening? Why? What do you do about it?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Icon: Jesus Pantocrator

This was the first time I had finished an icon on my own. I wanted to experiment with using Golden fluid acrylics as opposed to the recommended Jo Sonja paints as well as using a Claybord instead of a more traditional (and expensive) icon board.

I started at the beginning of 2015, so I was very focused on using what I had and being able to write an icon.

Which is why I used the blue tracing paper I had rather than getting proper carbon paper. The blue marks melted into the paint, so no worries there.

The background went down gorgeously in many many layers. My first attempt at mixing the hair color turned out red and it was looking really streaky although is only two layers worth. I decided to fix that later.

My concern with the Golden paints is that they are shiny. The parchment mix with the Titanium White shows just how shiny they can be. Would it stand out as super-shiny against the other not so shiny colors?

Sankir, the shadow color down. I just love sankir (and it dried matte!) In icon writing you go from darks to light.

Oh my God. The Halo Red is supershiny too. The shinier the paint, the less it is interested in sticking to the layer beneath it. This is teeth-clenching, patience-inducing (presumably). Oh, this is going to be interesting....

Storm blue was the hardest of the colors to reproduce from the list of Jo Sonja paints that I was figuring out equivalences for. As you can see it was swinging from too green to too grey to finally storm blue. (And then I ended up buying a storm blue in the Jo Sonya anyway.)

Generally in the recipes, each color in the mix is half as much as the color before. I think I need to work on Second Flesh a bit more, it came out pretty pink (as you will see below).

Golden Paint icon color recipes:

Sankir: Burnt Sienna, Jenkins Green, Hansa Yellow Light, Titanium White
Second Flesh: Burnt Sienna, Napthol Red Light, Hansa Yellow Light, Titanium White (think I'll try flipping the yellow and red amounts next time)
Yellow White Mix: Hansa Yellow White (50%), Titanium White (50%) [I may have added more white eventually]
Hair: Bone Black 60%, Red Oxide 40%
Halo Red: Violet Oxide 50%. Napthol Red Light 50% (start with less red, else it gets really red, really fast)

The translucency of the Golden fluid acrylics means less is more especially with the Napthol Red.

The inner robe is Violet Oxide.

In February I started the shading. First, the hair:

And there the icon sat for months until early December when I decided to test if I really needed to buy real gold or stick with the composite. My test run is below (and yes, I used a church bulletin to catch the drips.)

I bought real gold. There was something not quite right about the composite, cheap stuff. Below, Jesus finally has a face and the robes have shading. I did an idiot thing with the robe shading. I had picked up the Jo Sonja "Storm Blue" and used that instead of the mix I'd gone to all the trouble to make (and in the months since mixing the paint had totally dried out.) It still worked although my outer robe folds aren't as subtle as the inner robe folds. Also as you can see, Second Flesh is too pink so the formula needs some tweaking.

The shiny parchment worked in my favor as I redid the scripture phrase three times and each time it easily wiped off with a Q-tip and water. Thank goodness.  

You can see places where the gold didn't stick to the adhesive.

Leftover gold. Mainly because I brilliantly dropped a sheet of it.

So Jesus gets a nose job in order to use a compass to swing the halo. The halo above is still wet (and has issues, I blobbed some in the corner and had to go in with some more gold repair when I was done.) I think I ended up swinging it three times. The last two icons I painted were a single swing.

The very liquid red halo paint sits in the wee gap there near the point.
Here is Jesus Pantocrator, finished at the beginning of January. As by this point, I knew to whom it was going, I had a deadline and worked to a timetable. Completed with the varnish on and everything. You can't tell that the red crossbars and parchment are any more or less shinier than the rest of the paint. He went as a gift to my church's interim rector at the end of his time with us.

So, what's next? Well, LifeBook proved to be a massive time-suck last year and I'm doing it again this year but if I can get some dedicated weekend times, I would very much like to do Rublev's Trinity. We shall see.