Sunday, March 31, 2013

I Have Begun To Believe In My Own Dreams (And you can too!)...


  Dear Ones,

What a time it has been, a time of revelations, explorations, celebrations... one month short of my 59th birthday, I have found my way into the life that I believe I was meant to live. After longing to see my art become part of my writing process and, paired together, to use them as a means to send love and healing out into the world, to write books and sell products that would help women believe in themselves and especially women past the meridian of midlife, many of whom have given up on their dreams, I have realized that it is more than possible and I am on my way. As it says on the header for the new site which will be up in the next week or two, the work was inspired by Grandma Moses who said, "If I hadn't started painting I'd have raised chickens." Well, I think you can do both. You don't need to give up one to have the other. Today we can do it all, and I'm here to tell you that once I hit 50 and beyond my whole system heaved a sigh of relief and I felt like I was able become my real and authentic self. Still, it has been a real journey to get here.

The first major work coming out my my new business is "The 100 Ladies Project." You've seen some of the ladies here. There will be 100 of them and they are banding together to help women everywhere. Their slogan is "Ladies Helping Ladies." I am working on the book about the hundred ladies, 100 different pictures that I draw and then use photo manipulation programs to show the many colors that we women  possess and to learn to celebrate all of our colors. Each lady will have a story, and beyond the book there are many products I am designing and a movement that I plan to grow into a non-profit venture. I am very dedicated to the idea of being able to do my work and support myself while at the same time, through my work, helping other women around the globe.

It was February 20 when I sat down with pastels for the first time never having used them before and never having done anything but doodle. I didn't have confidence in my drawing because I could barely, as I always said, even draw "a stick figure." I thought if it didn't look realistic it wouldn't be accepted. Oh, how many women in the world are held back from going for their dreams because they feel that what they do is not good enough, and it's really sad because we all have something unique to offer the world and all we need is the confidence in ourselves to leap into the middle of all we've ever wanted to do. I have begun to change that for myself and in my deepest heart it is what I want most to do to help other women.

Too, when I was in school as a young child, a dreamer from the start who lived outside of the box (which I still do today), I would draw tree trunks purple and the leaves blue and the sky orange and the grass pink. I was in heaven but the nun would come around, rap me on the knuckles and say "That's terrible, you know that's not right. you'll never be an artist," and that was enough, as it has been for so many children, to make me lose belief in myself. I was in my 40's before I ever started doing little pen and ink and watercolors but they were odd little things that lived in my journals that I never showed anyone. I'm not sure what happened a month ago when I sat down and learned to draw my own way, these funky women with huge eyes, big lips, and crazy expressions, but every one is a unique individual to me and I have fallen in love with them. It has become important to me to tell their stories so that other women might see pieces of themselves in their stories and realize that they are not alone in their myriad feelings, that you don't have to fit inside any box to live a happy life, and you don't have to be accepted by society to come to an acceptance of yourself where joy and happiness can be found. Self-love is at the root of it all.

When I imagined what I might be able to do it was never this. I was a writer, and I have tried a thousand different ways to tell my story, but a story about childhood abuse, and mental health issues that broke my heart and made it very difficult to live in the world, became too painful to tell. I was told by teachers and mentors that the writing was good, but living in the place I had to be in to tell that story kept me in a place that felt too dark and made it terrifying and depressing to face the page. And then I found my ladies, or they found me, and I realized that I could deal with issue in their stories that were, if not always lighthearted, perhaps parables about living in the world with whatever issues you might have that have held you back and realizing that they are no reason to hold you back, that somewhere inside of you there are the seeds of dreams that can be planted and fertilized and grow into a beautiful garden. I know that that garden lives inside of you and my greatest joy will be to hear from women, to help shepherd them along toward realizing those dreams. If I can do it believe me when I say that you can too.

And so I begin this journey and you can find the story of my journey, and the products and courses and eBooks that I plan to develop in my quest to help you and other women like you, and all kinds of women in every color of the rainbow. You can join my Facebook page (the link is above on the right) or follow me on Twitter to hear updates. and I will let you know when the website is up because it will be the place where you will find all kinds of information about what is coming up, there will be a special section for The Hundred Ladies Project, daily banners like the one at the top of this entry that you can share for free on your Facebook pages or in tweets or anywhere you like. They are being made for sharing. They want to be in the world to help other women.

I am sending you so much love, I am here to help you find your way into the life of your dreams as I am finding my way into mine, and one day we will commune together in a community I am creating and be there for each other with resources and chatting and support to help one another.

Also, I started a newsletter some time back and it came to a dead halt because I knew it wasn't right and I wasn't sure what should go in them. I didn't realize that I was in that gestational period where this work was waiting to be born. Now I am so excited to share a number of things, a great many things, and one of the things I am now, finally, starting is a free eBook for everyone who joins my list that will serve as a jumping off place for you to start on  your own path.

Here's to celebrating all that you can become. We are travelers on a journey together. You are about to have the ride of your life. If you haven't yet started -- and I'm sure many of you have -- you will not believe how exciting it is. I am just at the beginning of realizing my dreams. I am on my way, and I'm only just beginning, but believing in myself and that my dreams deserved to be realized and birthed and shared in the world was the jumping off place.

I believe in you. Believe in yourself, and let'd do this together.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Getting To Know Trudi ~ An Artist's Progress & Process...

Trudi was a pushy girl but she was aching to be born...

I looked at my sketchbook today and then at the calendar and realized that it will be one month tomorrow since I did my first pastel. Ever. I have purchased them before, couldn't get up the courage to use them, and they got lost somewhere along the line. Then I bought some awhile back and dawdled. And then on February 20, 2013, I opened the box of pastels, and a sketchbook, and set to with a vengeance. I feel as if I were shot out of a canon with a pastel in my hand! Nothing has overtaken me like this in I don't know when, maybe ever. I am startled by the intensity of my desire to draw but it's not just a desire to draw it is as if I am being called by these women I am creating to get them out of my head and onto paper as quickly as possible. Maybe I'll make more space in there.

My process has been to do a drawing every few days, and then one a day or sometimes I would work on one for a couple of days, and then in the last 24 hours two of them emerged and I was more than a little startled by this but I had no choice, the urgency with which Trudi wanted to emerge left me no choice.

How does this happen? Where does it come from?

Maybe, at almost 59 (on April 30), there is a tsunami of art held back for nearly six decades that are pouring out because at this juncture there are an a boatload of women who have been waiting to be born. Did I know them in another life? Are they parts of myself? I'm sure the latter is true to some extent because I seem to know them intimately. I am not drawing things that I see like my parrots or pugs or garden or the sea, I am being called to birth these rather odd ladies and I'm thinking by the end of the year there will be an army of them. This is the third time I've said it and I know that's bad form, but it is indeed startling. I would never have guessed that when I finally started to draw this is what would come out. And the first few drawings I did were very gentle, madonna like women, very soft and nurturing, and then, Lordy Moses, out popped a vibrant, and one must admit, rather odd, being that had huge eyes and big lips and even while the rest of them are different these features are always the same and I swear I have no idea why. I never thought, "Gee, I'll draw a bunch of women with big eyes and lips," I just do. I draw the outline of the face which is always different, and then I sit there for a bit, and then I begin. The eyes come first, the lips, the nose, all almost exactly the same, and then away I go. Today it was Trudi. I knew her name before I started and I have no idea where that came from.

And then came the fun of playing with the original with a photo manipulation program. I have always loved them and played with them but now every image has an increasing number of variations and I think I'd sit up half the night making more and more if I didn't get a grip. I'm fully aware that this fever of drawing comes, in part, from my manic side, but since I am bi polar type 2 which is the depressive side of things, and since I have been depressed pretty much of the last decade and more and able to produce less and less of anything at all for a very long time there is also the excitement that being productive brings, and unlike manic episodes replete with destructive behaviors, this seems to be very healing, and joyful in a healthy way, and leading to what I believe will be an ever blossoming body of work that will head in more directions than I know I can imagine in this moment. Manic perhaps, but this is a very good thing. And I'm grateful. And I have said prayers of gratitude. This is not something I have done in my loop de loop phases before. Yes, it's a very good thing.

That the images are often peculiar, and might be seen as a bit alarming, even the darkest of them make me happy. Maybe that's because I am acknowledging and accepting parts of myself that I have tried to hide or push down or away most of my life. Parts of myself I have been criticized or ostracized for, and, too, from childhood on I realized that I was a chameleon of sorts. I would change, not to project a false version of myself but because I wanted to fit in or disappear or not stand out. Maybe I am looking at all of these chameleon creatures I have been in the past in an unconscious effort to integrate them and just come to accept them and move in the world as my authentic self, just who I am, no matter where I am or who I'm with. 

Or maybe, having been too serious and too scared most of my life I'm just cutting loose and having fun. I think that's more likely. Or maybe both are likely, and I'm fine with that.

I have become a journeywoman, an aprrentice to the art of art, and I am happy to pay my dues by moving through these early stages of discovery. I have been self-taught in everything I have done in my life, an ardent  autodidact, and I am finding my way with this too. I haven't taken an art class and I don't want to. I don't read books or watch videos on how to use pastels, and I may not be using them in what is considered the "proper way" if there even is such a thing. I am like a child discovering all of the treasures in the back yard, the dandelions and little stones, the wildflowers and ladybugs, and manys the time I nearly squeal with delight when one of the features turns out uneven or askew because that's what we are, we are imperfect in our aspect on every level, we are human, and that is as it should be. 

And I feel these women, their vulnerabilities, the many layers and colors and textures of them. Trudi is shy, and a little in awe of the people around her, she is an innocent, and yes, she is easily startled. She is whimsical and disarming and her eyes change back and forth between green and blue and her colors change to blend in with the landscape, or people that she is around, or mood. She is a late blooming artist, she is bohemian and bookish, and you would most likely find her sitting in a corner of a cafe writing for hours over endless cappuccinos, oblivious to the world around her, with a pile of books beside her, her journal, and a fistful of colored pens. I'm not sure why she doesn't have pugs, she has an Irish Wolfhound named Danny Boy and she sings the song to him as they are both prone to melancholia. She has a black and white cat named Gertrude and a goldfish named Eloise. She doesn't know if the fish is a boy or a girl but she liked the name Eloise. She bought beta fish before Eloise but they tended to jump ship and Gertrude ate them. This was not a good thing. Trudi likes girls, not boys, but she is too shy and afraid to let anyone know. She doesn't think there's anything wrong with it but she has had such a hard time fitting in her whole life that she doesn't want to add one more thing to the list, and she likes her solitude. Little does she know that this is going to change sooner than she thinks, and despite her certainty that no one could possibly love her, especially what with the Irish Wolfhound who takes up most of her double bed, and Gertrude who likes to sleep on her head, and Eloise whom she talks outloud to all day long, and that she sings a lot, off key but with gusto, well, she is absolutely certain that no woman would love her. She is about to get the shock of her life. 

And I know so much more. I may write a play about these characters, or a novel. I think Trudi misses the horses she grew up on and she wants cowboy boots, turquoise ones, and a cowboy hat, but she figures she has to have a horse to have those. This is a great disappointment to her. But she did get the little vintage camper that she has wanted for ages, and obsessed about, and spent too much money on, but fixed up really cute. The thing is it sits in her back yard and she sits in it out there and dreams of all the places she doesn't go. She will soon head out west with Danny Boy, Gertrude, and even Eloise, because the mystery woman is a go getter and finally gets Trudi to go. Some places at least. More places than she usually goes or ever thought she would. 

I know these people that I create. Really well.

The only trip Trudi ever took -- and this surprised everyone who knew her -- was to New York to see an Andy Warhol exhibit. She bought lots of posters and excitedly took them home but they didn't go with her vintage furniture which she got at those old grandmother's antique kinds of shops and even if they looked a little oldish and maybe a tad frayed here and there she loved all of her old furnishings and whatnots dearly because she was an orphan who grew up in a foster home that had plastic on the furniture and plastic runners in the hallways and she was often scolded for touching the nice things. This depressed her and she swore one day she would have a house she could really LIVE in. And that's what she got. But the Andy Warhol pictures didn't fit and so she rolled them up and put them in the back of the closet but, disappointed that she couldn't hang them, she walked around for days pretending to be in one of those posters, she imagined Warhol painting her but she wasn't a soup can. In the end she thought this was a very dark and disturbing period of her life and told no one about it. Pretend that I didn't tell you. She burned the posters late one day in the rusty trash can in the alley after it got dark and promptly forgot about it. She was soon into her Barbra Streisand phase and watched Funny Girl a lot, bought all of the albums, every single one, real albums, not cd's, it was back in the day, and she sang all the songs over and over -- she knew all of the words to every single song that Barbra ever sang, ever -- and she was thrilled that her nose was a little crookedy if not quite having the flair that Barbra's has. 

This phase lasted a very long time. A very long time.

(She especially loved the song, "I'd Rather Be Blue" from Funny Girl and even bought roller skates to skate around on her hardwood floors while she was singing it. She came to a bad end one day and her Barbra phase was over and she burned the roller skates in the rusty trash can in the alley after dark. There was a full moon. She felt wistful, and wondered if she could really give Barbra up, but she was still badly bruised and her elbow was broken and she didn't think she could take any chances.

If anyone could love anyone like her she would be startled to pieces. Yes, she gets startled a lot too.

I can't wait to see who shows up tomorrow, and to learn what story she brings with her, and I have no idea what her hair color will be or if she has ears or not, I just hope she doesn't show up tonight. Between the blue woman and Trudi I'm worn out. I'm going to go curl up under a pile of pugs and watch an indie flick. Probably an art one. That's what I do these days. I think Trudi likes them too.

"I do."

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"Her Blue Period" ~ (She Made Peace With Her Blue Period)

The revelations, in this process that I am so deep into at this point, are like tidal waves. My fingers are stained with pastels, today, bluer than blue. I started working on this and thought of Picasso's "Blue Period" and how all artists, all people, have blue periods, and seem to want to run from them. I am not afraid of this blue period I am in because this is a joyful time. I have embraced my blue period and I want to know all of it's colors. When we stop being afraid of that which feels uncertain, of those places inside of ourselves that are a deeper shade of existence than that which we normally exist in, and sink down into all that it is, all that it feels, all of its many hues, we become more rooted in who we truly are, more grounded, centered in the reality of the truth of who we are. With this piece I am celebrating every single blue mood I have ever had, every shade, every nuance, I want to know them all...

She is a lighter shade of pale, she is slipping out of even her blueness, because some days no color feels right and she is not at home inside her own skin...

Some days when she really gets her blue on she feels bright and beautiful and is dazzled by her reflection in the mirror, the reflection that only she sees. On those days she really does feel pretty and it makes her feel shy but she keeps peeking in the mirror because she knows that it will not last. She will revel in this brighter shade of blue a little while longer...

Then there are the dark nights of the soul when even the moon is hidden from view and were it not for the few shreds of blue she had left she would have nothing to hold onto. Those dark nights she clings to her blue as if to a raft in the sea, shipwrecked and alone, but the bit of blue she has left will keep her afloat until daylight, and she will be found, she will find herself, her brave blue self, it's always there somewhere...

Some days her internal heat spikes -- women past the median of midlife know these times well -- and were it not for the blue hanky that she carries in her apron pocket to mop her brow or fan herself she might burn up completely. On these days she thanks God that she is a blue woman. It stands her in good stead when her innards are ablaze and she is dizzy from the heat.

Some days her nerves are more than a little jangly and the blue evens her out a little, just a little, but it helps...

There are days when she feels a little bit fuzzy and has a hard time being around people. She dusts herself off and powders her nose and hides under the covers with her powder blue pugs. They seem to reflect whatever color she is that day. They like blue. They think it looks good on them.

And then there are the days when the lady sings the blues. She knows how Billy Holiday must have felt and she writes in her journal all afternoon to Billy crooning, and she likes the sad kind of melancholy prose the music evokes because it fits her like a glove. Sometimes the lady sings the blues, and all is well...

Some people nearly drain the blue right out of  her. Her irises go black and her hair starts to turn grey. She knows that her blue is the barometer of her soul and when the temperature starts dropping dangerously low she realizes that these people have no place in her life. She has learned to politely say No, and send them packing, ever so gently and certainly kindly. Some people will never understand her blue and they have no place in her life. She is finally at peace with that. She is learning to be all of who she is, and her blue days are as good as any other days, just bluer. 

She'd rather be blue thinking of you than be happy with somebody else. She's a funny girl. And she loves all of her blue selves...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

She Is A Stargazer... (A Day In The Life Of A Bi Polar Woman)

When I am drawing my heart opens up and I feel great tenderness for the woman I am creating. I realized that she is part of me, a part that I could not access through words, and when she is tentative I feel myself tremble a little and sit with a pastel in my hand wondering if I can do her justice, but if I can draw her maybe I can see these places in myself and heal them and let her know, ever so gently, that she is cared for and loved, just as she is. I can hold her in my arms and tell her that she is okay, and know that I am okay too.

I also realize that my goal in drawing these women is to reach other women in the hope that they can see themselves too in a way that they never have before and perhaps come to a place of understanding, of knowing, of realizing that these places exist and in offering them I am not only offering a piece of my heart, but hoping to help them accept and love themselves. The text to go with the photos in the little book of drawings I am creating will reflect on how the process of making art has been very healing to me, and that if they can find an activity that engages them deeply outside of themselves, as a practice, the fear will begin to dissipate and they can release some of what has long held them back and kept them from living and celebrating their whole authentic self, the one that has gifts and talents and even joy that they had not been able to find before. My dreams are big, but so is my desire to help other women as I turn the page and begin to allow the many women inside of me emerge and reveal themselves. I am so much more than I ever knew, and so is she, and so are you.

Sometimes I feel myself disengaging and fading from the world. I know that no one can see me, and that I don't want to be seen.

Sometimes I feel so blue and frightened as I lay in bed I don't know if I can face another day...

It takes awhile for me to surface and I am very, very quiet. I don't answer the phone unless it is someone very close to me and I fear it may be urgent, and I feel released and able to breathe again when I am able to hang up and sit with my animals in the silence.

There are days when I try to fade from view, I go outside and try to blend in with the trees, deep in my woods. I am a dryad, a tree spirit, and I believe that no one can see me here...

Most days I can feel myself begin to emerge after a few hours of solitude and silence and I can begin to work, I will usually answer the phone, the color starts to come back into my cheeks, I can feel myself re-entering my body, I am able to hold on and know that I will get through...

... I feel more vibrant and alive, and relief comes over me in waves...

I am able to accept the darkness, and the light, I know that being bi polar I will continue to go through these cycles, but I am at peace, finally, with all of these places inside of me, and I no longer care if I fit in with the rest of the world, I know that I have something to offer just as I am, I relax into all that I am, I pick up a pastel and begin to draw...

... and I come to realize that she who is me holds much beauty inside, and joy rises, and I hear the birds sing just outside my windows, and my animals draw close and I can feel their ease. I answer the phone cheerfully,  and I write with an energy I could not muster earlier. I have come through another day and bi polar or not it is a good life. I can gaze at the stars and feel elated. I am part of this Universe, I am a child of God, I am enough just as I am. 

I will make it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Uh-Oh, I Don't Think I Like My New Perm..."

I don't know about you, but I've been there. With my straight hair and a hopeful countenance I have gone into a salon and paid way too much only to come out horrified looking at the hair that took over the world and wondering how long it would take it to grow out (or should I just have it all cut off?). That's where this poor gal is. She just walked out of the salon dazed, confused, and horror-stricken. 


No matter how many times she looks in the mirror, turning her head this way and that, hoping it will look different in different lighting or a different outfit it's always the same. 

I've been in her shoes. Now my hair is about an inch long all over my head and shall remain so. Too many bad perms makes for a crazy fear of hair salons. I have cut my own hair for years. I will never have another perm.

(And I promise, the next entry will be a REAL blog entry. I'm just having so much fun!)