Five Seasons

I've been living on the East Coast since 1995. That's 22 years, people.

When asked if I grew up here, I say "No...California", and the next question is....ready for it...."What the hell are you doing here?"

Growing up on the ocean on the West Coast, we had the year round beach at our fingertips, windows open wide, the flies lived inside - maybe a little fog, a few fires, landslides, and rain if we were lucky. 

When I changed climates for college, I suddenly realized I couldn't get away without a jacket or closed toe shoes and had to adjust to a new major wardrobe mindset. I also realized that every 4 months or so, I got to change that wardrobe again, shut the windows, light candles and make soup or on the flip side of the season, sit out in the blazing sun, into the balmy evenings with the noisy cicadas.

It is hard to believe that for twenty years on this coast I'm still counting back the three hour difference in my head before calling or texting my family. I'm still getting used to the fact that on the East Coast, the sun going down won't necessarily be "over the ocean horizon". I am getting used to that while I am ten layers deep in January, and my family is walking the beach in flip flops and a baseball cap to shield from the sun, not for warmth. I am also getting used to the countdown to what's next in New England weather, and it is always just as good as the previous.

Now, as my heat kicks on and bangs through the pipes, our Winter shoes are piled in our "shoe hallway", and I put a third blanket on the bed, I am thinking to myself that I have no problem with the cold...as long as I am warm.  The rain and snow and grayness are my favorite kinds of melancholy days. I am the most productive in my work, my art, thinking and even my sleep. What comes out on paper is also the most volatile, as the season changes...

Five Seasons
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Five 12x16 abstract watercolors, (unframed, can be framed together or separately)

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My girls at a concert last year, front row and center...

My girls at a concert last year, front row and center...

There are those things that make me really stop, as I know they have done to you. That is why I can't even come up with a title for this.

The fact of the matter is that we are left wide open to the casually and purposely cruel who are out roaming the world, wielding guns and home made bombs, pushing the gas pedal to the floor, heading towards crowds. When we wake up on days where overnight someone's world has been rocked to it's core, our eyes are forced open wider than before.

And so here I am, my teenage daughters are inside The House of Blues in Boston in a sold out show, likely in the mosh pit of teenagers, screaming against the stage and attempting to take a selfie with the band in the background, and touch the lead singer as he leans out over the crowd. I am walking circles around the block. I am stepping in for another appetizer two doors down at the Lansdowne Pub. I am walking back up to the front door of the concert venue. I am texting them to be sure their phones are still charged and they are standing upright, happy and safe.

My youngest daughter went to school without my seeing her face a few Mondays ago, and was shown a video of the Las Vegas massacre in her History class. 

Like everything, what becomes history is feeling bigger and bigger every day.

When I was my kids' ages, things that I remember worrying about were earthquakes, fires on the hillside and the homeless clan that lived under the bridge on the beach below our house. I know there were more worldly problems at the time, but we were protected by the non-existence of text alerts, the internet, and our household rule of limited television. We had drills to protect from falling earthquake debris and fire, not ones that taught the standard protocol for a bomb scare or a shooter in elementary school hallways.

In 1986, I distinctly remember the school administration wheeling a television into my 7th grade science class and playing the footage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, which had happened earlier that day. But that...while that was history, it was an accident that occurred due to science, malfunction, and really really bad luck, not the malfunction of unconditional love for the human race, which is occurring more and more every day.

When that Sunday night happened in Vegas, my thoughts went to our day this past May at the Boston Calling Music Festival, less than a week after the bombing at Ariana Grande in Manchester, England. Within days of the bombing, I was the point person for every child we knew who was going to the festival, as I was the lone local parent who would be inside the gates with their children that day. 

I drove down to Boston alone with my two teenage girls, I didn't know the area or anyone else attending. Once we got through security, it was just masses of people walking around green lawns in the sunshine, music playing, with beer taps, lobster rolls and steak sandwiches. In retrospect, I don't remember seeing security inside the event, but I know they were there, perhaps disguised as a concert goer. The spotty cell service and crowds caused me to plant myself on the turf in between two stages where a text message could slowly eek in and out to my kids, with a stack of snacks and pile of water bottles, my phone charging three times over with the help of my back up battery pack.

When I was browsing around the internet this week, trying to find a ticket for myself to go inside the House of Blues concert with them, having second thoughts about dropping my girls off in line, I stumbled across the information that U.S. has already suffered 273 mass shootings in 2017. They say that likely we didn’t hear about all of them. I know I didn't. How is this even possible? 2017 isn't even over yet. That is almost "one per day" if my terrible math talents serve me right. Even if my math is wrong, that is 273 too many. 

I suppose that now, we have more to fear. Or we know to fear more. I am not sure sure which way it goes. As my girls strike out in independence, on the train to the city, flights across the country on their own, I breathe deep and try not to browse the internet too much to read of tragedies that happened too close to home. As they go to concerts with me, or without me, that's when I realize that there is no way to save ourselves from what can come at us in the world. I am just their mum sitting outside on the front steps of the venue because I was letting them be independent and didn't buy a ticket for myself. T I was raised to pray, and even still, I don't know how to do that. I was raised to trust, and even now, I am not sure how I can do that. It is all about learning, teaching, taking the right, sound steps, making decisions, and breathing deep and getting through. 

 

Time Lapses & Painting Trees
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I went back to painting trees a few weeks ago. 

When I was working on my Senior Capstone project for my Studio Art Major in college, I had to come up with a theme, and I was stumbling around in a meeting with my professor and looked out the window and blurted out "Trees. I will paint trees". For ten weeks, I painted trees, which resulted in two 8 x 4 foot paintings with my hand built frames for my show at the end of the year. 

My dad hauled those two paintings back to Los Angeles in a truck for me and kept them in storage until the following year when I had an art show in LA. My sister ended up with one of them, and I know it is with her somewhere in her world.  But at the show, I sold one to a lady who was a collector of my dad's work. A few years ago, she passed away, and I still wonder what's become of the painting. Is it hanging in a family member's house, stuffed in storage, or in the landfill?

A few years ago, I started painting again after a 5 year hiatus. It has always come in waves, the packing up and putting away of supplies and studio spaces, feeling like it needed to be all or nothing. For a long time, "nothing" is what had to be.

One of the first paintings I worked on was a diptych from a photo I took while walking in Ravenswood Park, in Gloucester. The photo was from 2006 when I first moved to the area, unable to believe that I was in the woods, living near the ocean again after being landlocked for so long. Unfortunately, walks in Ravenswood back then consisted of sometimes dragging screaming little ones along, because their legs were tired, there was a bug near them (20 feet maybe and way above their heads?), or because it was a dirt path and not a cement sidewalk. So these walks have been far and few between and then I just never came back around to it, like many things.

I just scrounged up a time lapse video I took for some reason while I was painting in the middle of the night. I was working on two at the same time, as you see at the end of the video...The finished product is below. 

In writing this, it occurs to me how our lives go 'round in circles, always changing, but sometimes coming back around to where we started in some ways. Right now, I feel like time is lapsing, moving slowly, but before our eyes, flashes by. I like to think it comes back around at some point.

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Airplanes, Loved Ones & Babies
 
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I believe that amazing things can happen in airports and while flying. It's hard to describe why I always loved both. When I was back home in California recently, my dad reminded me of a time when he could walk us right to our gate and stand at the window waving to the plane. Despite that being taken away, there is still something great about heading towards something that breaks us out of the norm, and there is something great about coming home again. (as my world traveling Nana used to say, "the best part about traveling is coming home again"). I am aware that travel is not always a happy time. I flew for years to Summer camp and back and forth to college. I've had fun trips to see friends and visit lovers. I've also flown to reach someone in a medical emergency, and again, to say goodbye to my Nana for the last time.

When I had babies I stopped enjoying the airport/flying activity, the movie and the cup of coffee and the peanuts. My daughter was in her first year when the fear increased in our country, for good reason. How would anyone be able to board a plane again? How could I? Everything was harder, airport security, long lines, stressed travelers and high alert airline crew.

Not long after 9/11, I was five months pregnant, flying across the country alone with an 18 month old.  At the airport, both ways, I had been roughly searched, my baby was taken and held by a stranger in gloves and uniform, while I unbuttoned my sweater and pulled up my pant legs, keeping my eyes on my child. I went on to travel alone with her on that flight to Los Angeles to say goodbye to my grandmother, who wasn't going to be with us much longer. The flight consisted of unhelpful glances and under the breath murmurs, while I walked up and down the aisle holding my baby who wouldn't sleep and was as aggravated as the rest of us. It's hard to believe I survived that flight without melting down and had a hard time after that imagining flying again. But I have and I will and these days my teenagers are now experienced travelers, having traveled to places like Paris, London, Panama, Chicago, Wyoming, their list is growing. 

Last month I flew alone to Southern California. On the big flight, there was a weariness as the flight took off before the crack of dawn. My seat mates were fighting with each other, the crew had no patience, and the food smelled pretty disgusting. Everything was unrestful and my Starbucks didn't feel like such a treat anymore.  I kept to myself, my seat mates constantly leaned across to pass things past my face to the rest of their family. I considered trading seats with them, but I found myself angry and annoyed and stubborn about keeping things more difficult for them, at my own expense.

I had finally settled in to read my book and the man across the aisle got up to go to the restroom. There was a quick thud and he landed flat on his back, out cold, right next to me on the floor. He was the husband of my seat mate and father of the two children sitting in my row. I turned and grabbed her arm, pulling her up with me to get to him, as the flight attendants rushed over. They called for medical help and thoughts went through my mind that this man was dying before my eyes and I was holding the hand of his wife, and calming his children. I also (not proudly) had the thoughts "we might have to land somewhere here in the midwest" and "I just might not make it to my destination" and then lastly, "I'm no longer going to be angry today."  In the end, the two doctors, three nurses, four concerned mothers and the EMT that were on the flight all determined he was fine. He had just passed out from low sugar and a rough night the eveing before. But in those 30 minutes, the temperature of the airplane changed and the humanness whipped us all back into the travelers we should have been from the start. 

As we disembarked in Los Angeles, I was behind a very small frail elderly woman attempting to speak to everyone around her in rapid Spanish. Everyone looked around and shrugged while she became more adamant that we all understand what she was saying. My five years of Spanish class did little for me except I recognized "baño", and realized what she needed, and it didn't seem she could get there as fast as she needed. While hours before I would have wanted to shove her forward so I could get myself out of that flying capsule, I also would have missed the quiet exchange when a Spanish speaking airline employee met her at the door with a wheelchair. She was gently helped into it, her anxiety immediately eased as they whisked her away.  

A week later, I was sitting in the tiny Santa Barbara airport at 5am with a tall cup of coffee, praying that my flights home would be uneventful. I was determined to think lightly on all the things that seemed to feel heavier than normal when cooped up with a bunch of tired travelers. As it became busier and local commuters lined up to board the plane, I watched as the flight attendant in charge greeted her "regulars" with smiles, small talk and hugs. When it was my turn, she smiled, scanned my ticket and put her hand on my arm before I walked down the ramp to board. "It will be a good flight" is all she said.

In San Francisco, on my last leg home, we were delayed 90 minutes. We were not only delayed, but we were stuck on the plane. There were chatting families, screaming babies, couples snuggling, flight attendants bustling and someone had a very potent salami sandwich. In the end, what stood out was the man in military attire, walking to the back of the plane, speaking to a single woman traveling with her three very restless children. She nodded in response and he reached over and took her screaming baby. He didn't go far, but he held that baby for the next hour until takeoff, talking, singing, face to face. When all things were quiet, I looked back and he was sitting in his seat, with the sleeping baby on his chest. 

I think the "travel headaches" that are cringe-worthy in flying, unfortunately supersede the reminders of humankind that slap us in the face from time to time. Cram them all in to an aircraft and mix them with fear, frustration and exhaustion, and it's a miracle that we still travel every day. On the other hand, standing in line together towards our destinations, being mindful and kind, is why we do.

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Paper buying (from the art supply junkie)

(Read only if you are interested in art supply stores and my seedy* first apartment in Somerville back in 1996.)

*Seedy. Term I learned from my grandfather when we were on a road trip and the hotel our entire family was staying at in NYC, was not all that he expected.)

 
 

When I first moved to Boston in 1997, I lived in an apartment building in Davis Square, the best apartment I could find within my price range, within walking distance to the Red Line. I worked for Longyear Museum, which at the time was in this huge old mansion on top of a hill in Brookline. My commute consisted of two ten minute walks on either end, and a good amount of time riding the Red and Green Lines. 

The apartment was all mine, I had lived with parents and roommates far too long for my liking, and I didn't care that the commuter rail ran by every half hour, twenty feet from my living room window. I was the only single girl in the building amongst families and professionals, who's diets consisted of curry and cabbage, this was a heavily populated part of town where Haitians and Indians lived. 

In my newfound independence, with a job, apartment with my very own refrigerator, and a t-pass, I also set up a little home studio in my living room.  

When you ask an artist where she likes to shop, it won't be a department or liquor store for me...this one will tell you where she buys her paints, paper, tape, glue and random brushes to get the charcoal dust off the paper. 

Not to date myself, but this was back when there was no "online ordering" of ANYTHING (or if there was, I didn't know how to do it). When I needed supplies, I tended to save it for a Friday, when I would make my 90 minute commute home.  If I got off at the Harvard Square T-stop, just short of my own, I could walk two blocks to the now-out-of-business art store, Charrette.

I was there just recently and I walked by and saw a shop in it's place, pointed up to it and said "hey kids, that's where I used to buy all my art supplies TWENTY years ago!".  They didn't really care, nor did they see the emotional impact on a middle age woman walking with her teenage daughters in her old stomping grounds.

I remember the feeling of happily walking into that store on a Friday evening on my way home from a long week of work, drop $300 in about ten minutes, and walk out with a bag stuffed in my backpack and box of 29x42 inch cold press watercolor paper (which I swear is heavier than hot press).

My favorite weekends were spent in my little apartment at my makeshift painting table, the train racing by every half hour, shaking the building, burning candles to ward off the cabbage/Indian food smell and sticky traps set for the roaches (yes, roaches, I didn't mention that before, but they were there too).

Now, over 20 years later, I am still an art supply junkie and will go to great lengths to get it, but it is now easier, since I have a car, and the ability to online shop. 

There are two factors that determine where I go.

1) How lazy to I feel?  Can I wait a few days to get it? If I am lazy, or if it is cold out and I rather stay in my pajamas all day, I place an order at Dick Blick

2) Do I want it now? Like, RIGHT NOW? If I need the instant gratification, I drive 20 minutes to North Beverly to the Wholesale Art Store

Dick Blick is just pretty cool. Stay up late at night and peruse and get some retail-therapy-in-you-pajamas while sipping a bourbon.  But even then, you can't smell or really see what it is you're buying and so I tend to make the trip down to the actual art store. 

There is beauty to my most recent trip to Art Supplies Wholesale, which is by no means any comparison to AC Moore and Michael's. This is the real deal. If you are local, be sure you go there.

Last week, I was going to buy myself new paper, brushes, whatever else I really "needed". This time, I took my 14 year old daughter, who after a five year hiatus of being interested in anything except hanging with her friends or binge watching stuff on Netflix (with her door closed), decided she wanted to paint.  She excitedly carried her own basket, I tossed stuff in it for her, and now, a week and a half later, I am still waiting for her to actually DO something with it. It sits stacked on her desk in her room. Still. 

I have no ending to this. I am just merely throwing out information along with some semi-interesting information about art and living with cockroaches. But I guess this is primarily about art supplies. 

Did you follow?

Oh. Here is a photo of my daughter and me when we drove to the art store last week. Yet, this is my 16 year old daughter who a) does not paint and b) is the only one who will take a photo with me and c) came along because I bribed her with a trip to Starbucks.

 
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Footnote: see below for storage options for art supplies. Yes, these are all filled with paints, paper, candle wax, sewing. wood block, staple guns, my electric sander...I am not quite sure what else, but when I need it, I usually can find it in there. 

Bulletin: Driver's license passed - my first child has her license
driver's license

If we are Facebook friends, you might remember a post with my daughters on their way to the mall...gulp...on their own. My eldest passed her exam last week, and in a two second call to our insurance company, she was insured and on her way to the mall with her 14 year old sister.  

Of course for the last few weeks we have been practicing that drive to the mall, because in my Mom-mind, I wanted to be sure she knew which exit to take, when to use the blinker, which three lanes to cross over, which entrance to use, and where to park (because I wanted to teach her that if you always park in the same place, you never forget which entrance to go through when you leave. Brilliant, right? Apparently, according to her, I am the only person on the planet who can't remember where she's parked at the mall).

You don't think about those moments or the few first hours, how you feel when your child drives off for the first time in the car. The fact that we are sharing a car means I'm stuck home, in my own head, awaiting for her return. I was asked if I was "nervous". I wasn't "nervous" about her, because she is a good driver...but I am "NERVOUS" because of all the other wackos on the road who are not. Nervous doesn't even skim the surface, I am nervous because she's my child and I'm her mom.

The first time she took off in the car, which was last Tuesday, I wandered the house for an hour and did things like wipe baseboards, organize the spices, and went on a hunt for our Puerto Rican cats. Somehow they know exactly when I REALLY want to hold them, because that's when they disappear. I finally downed two glasses of Cabernet (because hey, I wasn't going to be driving anywhere) and went for a five mile walk.

The upside is that in the last week MY driving time has been cut in half, and I've found myself working more and even sitting down with a glass of wine in my pajamas watching movies like "Under the Tuscan Sun". She has taken herself to work while I stay home, driven her sister to friends' houses, made a candy run to Walgreens, deposited money into her bank account without me, and announced that she was going to the grocery store for vegetables, since we were out. She has driven to meet friends for lunch at Lobsta Land (as if she's 25 and not 16!) and I'm not particularly sure, but pretty sure she's joy ridden around the back shore at least three times and chewed the three packs of gum I keep in the console. 

There's really nothing more to say except that I felt the need to document this. We are one week in and the feeling of time on my hands, feeling of uselessness as a mom, and the urge to take away the keys because I'm just not ready for Baby Anna to be driving "up the line" to the mall, is all pretty immense. 

The end. If you have kids too, you know what I'm talking about.

Back "20-Something-Years". Woodstock, Vermont.

It's been over twenty years since I lived in Woodstock, Vermont, a place I never thought I would ever have a reason to go back to. When I drove up one morning recently to meet a woman I'm going to be working with on some creative projects, I thought "why would I need a reason to come back here, other than to just be here?" 

When my GPS stopped working and I drove up a few wrong driveways before I found hers, I really felt like I was in another world. Stepping into hers, I experienced hours of unintended insight, with the overwhelming feeling that I didn't have enough "fight" in my world. This lady had it, I could see it in her photography, dining room table, in her eyes and the spiritual corners of her home. I'm talking about the kind of fight that means you just get through everything that seems to hit you, with a greater sense of humor, likely alot of grief, inspiration and drive to keep going on to the next thing.  

I think I realized some things while I was back in my old brief home town. The most important being that wherever we are, we are always at a starting point.

Every day, every town, every job, every person we are with, we are always at a starting point.

When I was in college, my mom moved to Woodstock on a whim. She'd passed through once before and thought "why not?", so she did it. I wound up there in between "gigs" after graduating from college. By the time I arrived, she had bought this cute corner house within walking distance to town, with a front porch, complete with porch swing. All that was missing was the mint julep (Mom doesn't drink). 

I landed an internship at the local arts council, Pentangle Council on the Arts. I helped in the office, sent letters of thanks to the members, promoted events, sold tickets to shows, and I went to every movie in the Town Hall Theatre, FOR FREE, because that was a perk for working 30 hours a week for fifty dollars. Sometimes the guy at the theatre desk would even sneak me some free candy, and when he didn't, I would just eat what I had smuggled in my pocket from the drug store.

What an experience to a) work for a non profit (gulp, if you haven't ever done it, do it, you will gain new insight to a whole other world)  b) exist at work with a million of creative types. There were writers, musicians, actors, artists, and then just the people who really cared 200% about the arts. I think the highlight was feeding Maynard Ferguson and his band, before the night of their big show. I swore I hated Jazz, but after that night, I realized I didn't really know what jazz was all about. I had fed rice and chicken and cake to about 30 of the most talented young musicians in his band, while he sat at the head of the table making jokes and asking for seconds.

(note: I also met Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. I had no idea who he was, nor did I knew anything of The Byrds, but it was cool to know I met someone famous)

I had my first art show in the little corner gallery. That led to many many shows for years later. I have that cute local UPS driver to thank (who I dated) for introducing me to the gallery owners.

I learned how to really take care of babies, because I supplemented my tiny internship pay, working as a part time nanny. I kept them on a schedule, I didn't starve them or lose them, and apparently both have become fine young men. I have since raised two of my own and they are still breathing and don't complain too much.

I learned that some things are really messed up, because I was standing on the sidewalk in front of Mountain Creamery in 1995 in downtown Woodstock when I heard on the news that OJ Simpson was found not guilty in the murders of Nicole and Ron. When I returned from Woodstock this week, I learned that he was just granted parole for some misdeed that I never bothered to follow. I'm not so sure I knew he was even locked away. That morning I had picked up a cup of coffee at the Creamery for my ride home...Oj Simpson and the Mountain Creamery, in my life together, two times, twenty years apart.

I learned how to make Triple Chocolate Bread Pudding, from Simon Pearce Restaurant, who graciously handed out recipes to anyone who asked. I won't say anything more about it, but if you knew me a few years ago, you will know what I am talking about....(okay, yes, so I took their recipe, made it gooier, and made it my own in my own restaurant!)

The world of Groupon allowed me to stay at The Kedron Valley Inn for a few nights, where I was thankful for the bar downstairs, the renovated bathroom, the complimentary hot breakfast in the morning, and the reliable wifi. When I decided to make the trip, it wasn't something I had ever considered before, to drive out of state on my own and eat, sleep and be alone. Sure, there were people around, I knew some, I was in a familiar place...restaurants and shops and trails were all the same, despite the 20 years that have passed. It reminded me of a lot of things that I hadn't thought of in years and also gave me this immense feeling that this was another beginning.

Wherever we are, we are always at the starting point of something. That is my point here. It hit me when things that seemed so old, seemed so new.  When I walked into that house on that country road last week and met my new friend, I was struck by the urge to be sure to listen to every single word from this woman who has really lived a life, and still (in her 70-th-something year of life) wants to create, inspire, take action and connect with the world and whoever is beside her. 

 

 

From a Story Book: Blue Moon Farm, Essex
blue moon farm
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When Patti Byrne at Blue Moon Farm in Essex, Ma called for help with the website for her business, I remember thinking, "What? There's a farm I have never heard of." It almost sounded like something out of a story book, and I looked it up to be sure it existed. When I saw that blue moon faced logo, I thought "oh yay (yes, I use the word "yay"), this will be a fun one to design!" When I found her Instagram, I was even more excited. Go there, right now, and look through her amazing photos!

I drove up the road last Spring on a dark rainy day to meet her for the first time. She wasn't quite open for the season, so there were no signs yet. Sometimes, GPS out there in the country can be a little vague. So I drove back and forth, up and down the street for ten minutes, trying to find it.  

Thanks to technology (no thanks to GPS), a simple text helped me arrive up the driveway, and it was there that I found that I was right. It is out of a story book.  Since then, I have completed www.bluemoonfarmessex.com. The photos don't do it justice, so I am just going to suggest you take a little drive for some seasonal vegetable and herb plants for your garden (and much more!) and your GPS WILL get you to her signs on the road, at every turn. Pay Patti a visit, you may find her building bridges for caterpillars, digging in the dirt, pouring over seed catalogs, planting in the greenhouses, or chatting with friends and customers. 

Blue Moon Farm    28 Choate Street, Essex, Ma     978-768-3399

 

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Non-"Micro-Habits"
 
 

For the last month or so, I've woken up at 4:00 almost every morning. At first I would toss and turn, waiting out the few hours before the alarm, and then one morning, I found myself walking at 4:15 in the morning on the back shore. I must admit, it's a little creepy. 

Now I get up, have a cup of coffee and wait until five. Five is much more reasonable when it comes to the habits of others, driving to work, jogging (right by my semi-fast walking self), waiting in the drive through of Dunkin' Donuts for their mochachinno/half fat latte/large regulars. 

Since early Spring, I've been listening to podcasts while driving, a mixture of Tim Ferriss, The Side Hustle Show, Gretchen Rubin, and even some Loving on Purpose (Danny Silk).  There is something to be said about hearing how others are inspired, motivated, and work through their life, or even daily goals. 

Our family recently subscribed to Apple Music Family Plan, (because we are all music freaks) and we have unlimited access to any music genre or song we could each possible wish for, so I thought I had it made on my daily walks with so much entertainment.

One day, while blasting Beyonce at 5:30am on my walk along the back shore, I decided to switch over and see what was new in my podcast subscriptions. This was a day where I was still working the day job, building my side hustle, driving my children to their jobs, friends and sports, and dreaming of putting paint to paper again in my little home studio. I was wishing that I could sit still long enough to watch a movie in it's entirety and have a decent meal on the table every night for the kids, something that wasn't potstickers and a bowl of fruit, because I was always on the run. And I wanted to sleep a full night's sleep. 

It was a podcast from the Side Hustle Show, "212: Micro Habits: The Too-Small-to-Fail Plan for Big Results", that suddenly alleviated some of the confusion and struggle I had with getting everything done, the way I wanted to get it done, through each day. When something is important to me, I find I still have a time letting go of the things that really don't matter. 

I started thinking about micro-habits, wondering what I could start doing to enable focus and routine to each day. In the end, I found that I really have none other than brushing my teeth and making sure I always have a water bottle and a sweater with me wherever I go. When I do something, doing it for one minute, really isn't enough, so I bagged the micro-habit idea and decided to pick something that I would do every day, in the midst of my work and caring for my children. 

1) Walk every day. I keep reading about how healthy it is for us to take a 15 minute walk every day. I suppose this could be considered a micro habit, even though it is 15 of those one minutes. I discovered that if I walk an hour a day, I am happier. I am happier by listening to podcasts that inspire and educate me. I am happier because I feel I can have a piece of cake when I get home. I am happier because I moved, saw beauty and got some vitamin D and breathed the air.

2) Actually enjoy my coffee. I started drinking my coffee black last year. I thought it would be horrible. But now, I make sure I have time to sit and enjoy it, black. Yes, I enjoy it. I buy really high end beans. I grind them. I use filtered water. I have an expensive coffee machine. It is all worth it.

3) Write every day. Sometimes it is in an old journal, long hand. Sometimes it's a blog post. Sometimes it's a text or email to a family member or friend. Sometimes it's a grocery list.

4) Paint. My studio is such that I can walk up to it, put a brush and paint to the paper, and walk away again. I can do that for five minutes or for two hours. I make sure I do this at some point every day.

5) Dust my dashboard. Honestly. I drive so much. I didn't used to, but with teenagers who are busier than I ever was, I am in the car constantly, driving them to work, sports, friends' houses, to their dad's for the weekend. I keep a dust rag now in my console because somehow the cat hair from the house, ends up on my dashboard along with a boatload of dust. 

I could go on, but I am just trying to put something out there in the world to my friends who have read this far along...to the friends who I always hear "I wish I had time for that" or "I always wanted to do that", or "my car is a mess"...I believe it when I hear it, and I am not pro, and right now there are some dead flies on my dashboard that I've been driving around with for two days. (because the beach was more important) I am determined to make things a bit more sane and fulfilling. I get to work from home now. I get to work with clients who choose me, and in theory, who I get to choose. I get to keep my laundry room a mess, but my car somewhat clean. It's all about what matters and making them a habit. 

 

Stephen J. Kalinich & a Painting a Day

One of my social media clients is Stephen Kalinich, who has been friends with my father out in Los Angeles for many many years. I have never met him in person, but have followed stories from my dad, and more recently I've been introduced to his work. His poetry, spoken word, songs that he has written and his art.

When he hired me to manage his social media last year, we spoke on the phone for a good hour, and I explained all of the things that I can share about him, many of which are on his website.

I will pause now and tell you something you might not know just from hearing his name, unless you do a quick "Google"...and I will just insert this blurb from his website:

"The great American poet and lyricist Stephen John Kalinich has been a profound voice of the rock ’n’ roll era for four decades.  When Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, two of the most prominent icons in rock history, recorded “A Friend Like You” by Kalinich and Wilson on an album featuring Elton John and Eric Clapton, it was a testament to the lyrical poet at the height of artistic achievement.

An originator of the California sound, Kalinich rose to fame as a young man when he began writing songs with Brian and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys on their Warner Brothers/Reprise record label. During his 30-year collaboration with the group, it became “America’s #1-selling rock band,” according to Billboard. Brian Wilson described Kalinich as a “poetic genius” and credited him with stunning the music world by unleashing Dennis Wilson’s full creative potential."

So. This. is. amazing. 

In our discussions, I asked him to send me photos of his artwork, thinking it would add a little fun twist to his social media post. "Please just email them to me as you finish them" I said, so that I can set up an online store  to sell pieces and share on social media. a) they are very good b) people want to see them c) people want to buy them.

What I did expect, was that as he completed a painting, he would send them to me via email, with a title, often a poem, dimensions and a price.

What I DID NOT expect, was to receive a new one each day (usually in the middle of the night), sometimes more.

I know that writing every day helps many people express themselves, a daily walk, talk with a friend, meditation, a cup of tea or a glass of wine, are all practices that enlighten our day in different ways. But this man does at least one painting a day, often with a few lines that describe how he feels at the beginning of his day. 

It's been eye opening to me, as I have changed the structure of my days, to include daily disciplines, putting paint to paper, juicing a batch of vegetables, taking a walk, or writing. 

How long has it been? (Before & After)
 
 

My home has been rearranged a bit, and has been over the years. What was once my small little studio, became my older daughter's room when it became apparent that two teenagers might benefit from having their own space. It certainly cut down on the screaming and throwing of pencils and lamps. 

The "back half" of my living room is once again being "re-organized" for art supply storage and painting. The problem has been, after working a day job and my side job (social media management and marketing for small businesses), I haven't picked up a brush in almost a year.

Sure, I've been posting photos, selling work, re-stocking retail shops with what I have on hand, but I haven't painted anything in almost a year. 

There is something wrong with that. 

As of a week ago, I have become 100% freelance. This is no longer a side gig for me. The world is open for all of the things I love to do, and today I am finishing the studio space, taking out some new 22x30 sheets of watercolor paper, sanding drift wood, and mixing colors. 

Above is the beginnings of a painting I completed in 2014. Shortly after, Shea's Riverside Inn & Motel in Essex, Ma, (www.sheasinn.com) renovated their historic inn and purchased over a dozen paintings for their rooms. This one hangs in the beautiful bathroom of one of those rooms. 

 
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Memory Layne Creative
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Years ago, when I moved to Gloucester, Ma as a single mum with my two young children, I knew two things. a) I knew that living near the ocean with my children and being at their beck and call (so to speak) was a priority  b) I wanted to be creative for my work.

At City Hall, I registered my business as a sole proprietor, and came up with the name for my business, which consisted of selling art, commissioned murals, and the odd design jobs for a few small businesses. I decided to call it "Memory Layne Creative" because the "Creative" part could pertain to pretty much any freelance work I would take on. I remember thinking, almost ten years ago, "this can go in any direction". 

And so it has. 

With what feels like many life changes, I am now back working from home. "Memory Layne Creative" not only encompasses the fine arts/painting side of what I do, but it also defines my small business marketing business, that includes content & social media management, website design & the design of marketing materials, at an affordable cost for small businesses. (I have been a small business, and know it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg to get your identity, products and services out to the real world!)  What began a year ago, is now my full time "hustle". 

I've worked for an arts council, non-profit historic museum, and an investment firm. I've worked retail, been a nanny, a mountaineering instructor and owned a restaurant & piano bar. More recently I was a permanent substitute teacher as well as a cook and baker for a local tea room. I also even dragged my non-green thumb to a job I loved, planting at a farm that stocked it's own farm stand.

And now, I am coming back around, remembering that "Memory Layne Creative" is something else now, and down the road, it can keep changing & growing.