Birthing another kind of Baby – Making Paper Art

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I’m crouching down on my knees, looking back and forth from the ‘canvas’ on the floor in front of me to a scattered pile of colored paper clippings and magazine cut-outs off to the side. Each of these little shreds of paper seem precious. In fact, I carried an envelope filled with them back with me from my recent trip to Belgium. If I find one left behind on the carpet after cleaning up, I pick it up gently and put it back in the pile. Who knows where it’s intended to go in the future?

Today, I’ve just finished ‘mid-wifing’ a birth. This thing has a life of it’s own. I’m just assisting, putting puzzle pieces together, like it’s already been prepared and my job is to figure out where they all go. It’s FUN.

 

Lately I’ve been copying things I like from the masters. Each time I learn something. Isn’t that how artists start? We certainly don’t create in a vacuum. I take something I like and add something new. Steal like an artist! My new baby (on the right) is inspired by one of my favorite artists, Henri Matisse. His later work was done from bed, where his primary tools were scissors and brilliant colored paper. This one (above, left) was done in 1951, the year I was born. I copied some of his cutouts almost exactly. Can you see which ones?  Do you think Matisse would like the way I used his shapes? I’m sorry I can’t ask him, but I think he would.

 

This is my very first paper project from 2013. The one on the left was tacked to the wall in our bathroom in Belgium, where it looked really nice. However, when I saw it again on my recent visit, I couldn’t bear to leave it behind, so I rolled it up and brought it back (no small task cuz it’s pretty big.) I added a border to fit the frame. Better?  Worse? I’m not sure. They’re different!

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Paper Art- Project 2, Belgium 2013

This one (above) is still hanging in the living room in Liege. I wanted to take it, but it’s way too big and fragile to move. It was my second project, and I love it dearly. I might not be the best critic.

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Rice Bowl – Project 3, 2013

The idea for Rice Bowl must have originated somewhere in Korea while I was there. The wallpaper sample looked oriental somehow, and the rest just happened. When I look it, it takes me back ~ sitting in a cozy Korean ‘Chuk’ restaurant, playing with my chopsticks, listening to Asian music and savoring the taste of red pepper paste.

WONDER WOMAN: She just came out. I had no idea until I saw her. She didn’t hesitate to jump up and ask for a photo shoot. I had to scramble around to satisfy her.  She was all over the place~ so energetic!

 

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I don’t get into second-guessing while I’m working. I don’t ask myself questions like,  ‘What am I creating?’ or ‘Who am I to think I am creating something here?’  I just get down close and watch.  The focus is deep, relaxing, and energized~ like wonder woman, I’m all over the place, and so is the stuff on the floor. It’s such a visual, organic experience. That part is what I really like~ there’s very little rational or mental work going on. From the GUT is where the baby comes. I’m discovering her as she develops. I have no idea what she’s going to look like, or when she’s going to say, “I’m done!” I’m just the innocent bystander clapping my hands when it’s all over shouting, “Wow! Oh, wow!”

These are my babies, and I love them, but it’s not like I can say I created them. Yes, I put in some raw ingredients. In the case of a real child, I put in my egg, my husband put in his sperm, and then we sat back and watched as it took shape. When the baby finally appears, we said, ‘Wow! This is incredible! Who are YOU? Where did YOU come from? You’re not like anything we’ve ever seen. You’re something special. You’re unique.’ and of course, ‘We love you!’

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“My Mission Statement!” – 2013

It was great to make a wall hanging that says all the stuff that makes me happy. I had to leave this one behind cuz it wouldn’t fit into my suitcase. I took a picture so I can make another one now that I’m in back in the States. Gotta remind myself what works!

I’m going to run out today and look for another frame. With a frame in front of me, at least I know what size the next baby’s going to be. Everything else will be a surprise.

 

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Self-portrait, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for Asking!

This is not a new survey. It’s been 3 1/2 years since I completed a survey of Unificationist Sunday Services as they are experienced by various members around the world. It was my first research project. I was inspired by the qualitative research of Brene Brown (The Power of Vulnerability), and dealing with a lagging interest in attending a service 90 minutes from home. I was also frustrated that my experience and that of my husband wasn’t part of the conversation. I wanted to find out what others had to say.

Engrossed thoroughly as I was in reading the responses as they came in, the work pulled me through a tough winter in Belgium, and helped me tap into a passion I’ve had all my life: giving voice to the silent or the unheard.  Grassroots stories from the field always catch my interest. All told, I logged in over 600 hours, spanning a period of 3 months. The people who responded had something to say and were glad to be asked.

The finished survey was sent out to everyone who had participated, and then published on the Applied Unificationism blog, but that was as far as it went. This week, I went back for the first time, and realized it might be time to make the website public. For anyone out there who’s interested or involved in similar research,  I hope it is edifying and finds fertile soil in your garden as well.

FOOD for Thought

TEA TALKS with ROBIN

0310150717-01 I just want to say before starting this post that there are 3 things my food is all about:
1) healthy
2) tasty
3) beautiful

I always start with healthy ingredients. No additives like food coloring, preservatives, or chemical substitutes. This means for the most part using unprocessed food, and making it yourself. The good news is that it’s easier than it sounds.
The tasty part is secondary, because I actually don’t use much in the way of seasonings. I learned a long time ago that simple food tastes good all by itself. I don’t need lots of sauces or dressings to make it yummy. But if you do, just add it yourself afterwards!
The third part is the beauty part. If you use whole foods, you’ll end up with something beautiful to serve, and arranging things to look elegant in a bowl or on a plate is an art-form…

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The Girls with the Grandmother Faces

I found this book in a box in Belgium when I went home to sort through the things I’d left behind three years ago. I don’t remember where I got it, but I hadn’t read it yet, and the cover looked intriguing and right up my current alley, so I took it with me on the plane back to the US. I’d like to introduce it to my over 55 friends, men included. Although it’s written especially for women, any one of us older folks can benefit from the ideas Frances Weaver writes about.

 

Right off the bat, I’d like to say something that has seriously stuck with me ever since reading it last week: We older women are no longer the center of our grown children’s lives! That was a bombshell. What? How could that be?? Frances tells the story of how after her husband died, she sold the big house and moved closer to her children, expecting them to gravitate around granny for all the holidays and vacation times. Wrong.  She waited and waited, and when all she got was excuses, she decided that it was time for her to live her own life, not theirs.

I have to admit this was a shocking and revelatory idea for me. A few days later I was visiting my daughter for the weekend and happened to spy her diary on the floor half under the bed. Against the chiding of my conscience, I picked it up and leafed through it, searching for any mentions of my name. Yes, I wanted to prove to myself how important I am to my daughter. I was expecting to read things like: My mom said this, and I was so inspired; My mom did this, and I was so inspired; My mom my mom, my mom…..you get the picture. I couldn’t find one mention of my frequent presence in her life, and realized that Frances was right. Thinking back to my own journals, how often was I quoting my mother or waxing poetic about her? Unless it was something extremely negative, she wasn’t in there very often. I had other things to write about. I was living my life, not hers.

They say we have to let our children go, spread their wings, fly the coop. I am reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s poem, On Children:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

The best thing I can do for Emilie at this stage in both of our lives is to be that stable bow, and to encourage her to fly while I do the same! Having come to that realization, I understand her response to my recent FB post about being 66 and feeling so happy about my life. She said, “Mom! I want to be like you when I’m 66!” No sweeter words necessary!

Back to The Girls with the Grandmother Faces, A Celebration of Life’s Potential for Those Over 55: A second big takeaway is that when we are older and find ourselves with more time on our hands, we need to “get back out there among ’em, drop the safety net, and move on our own steam.” Here are a few more quotes along those lines:

“Our world has more for us to do than we have imagined. Until now, we hadn’t the time, but now that’s pretty much all we have….With our eyes and ears open, we can find new and marvelous things to do, then pass the magic along to other women like us.” She’s talking about going back to school, getting involved in community activities, travel during off-seasons, and taking advantage of all the many senior advantages available. One of the things Frances took up (at the age of 55) was kite flying. It became an obsession, and she found others who enjoyed it too, and has a collection of kites and kite-flying friends from all over the world. Who would have thought of that?

She’s speaking directly to where I am at these days- wondering what to do with my time? I’m getting the idea from her that before I go out looking for a ‘regular’ job, I should try my hand at something creative that I’m already doing and loving. The author’s story is just such an example. After she became widowed, she booked a thirty-day cruise. Never having traveled by herself, she felt the need to find out if she could. She had so much fun, and felt so good, that she began helping a travel-agent friend sell group tours in return for an agent’s rate, and created a temporary job for herself as tour director. Then she went back to community college, which included a move clear across the country, and took Creative Writing, Poetry, and Spanish. Finding that she liked to write, and against the admonitions of her less adventurous friends, she self-published the “Grandmother Faces” book. Shortly after putting copies in her local Colorado bookstore, she was invited by a Denver publisher to write a travel book for older single women (like myself), which she did. It’s called, This Year I Plan to Go Elsewhere. It’s on my reading list!

Next, she was interviewed on a nationwide cable channel, and somehow or another, the department of tourism in Malta invited her to spend a week in Malta, all expenses paid! She was subsequently hired by a cruise ship line to be a guest lecturer, and for the next 10 years traveled all over the world. Reading her story has been electrifying. It sounds like the perfect scenario: travel, creativity, writing and speaking, and meeting all sorts of people.

I’m not divorced or widowed, but I’m living alone per an arrangement that is working well for both me and my husband of 35 years. Both of us are having to rethink and recreate our lives, and learn to live what we have left of our lives in a satisfactory and inspiring way. We are each learning to make and trust our own decisions. Having no one else to blame helps. Creative living requires an amount of risk-taking, but what’s to lose? “One risk often leads to greater discoveries of our own capabilities,” Frances writes. That’s been my experience, for sure. I’m thinking of a recent risky behavior I embarked on when I responded to an add on Craig’s List looking for a backup vocalist for a local musician. Thrilled and terrified at the same time, I picked up the phone and made the call. We agreed to meet at the open mic a few miles down the road, and both signed up to perform separately so we could appraise each other’s musical talents before deciding to work together. I had no idea what he would look like, nor did he have a clue that I was 65. That in itself was one of my biggest fears – that he would reject me immediately because of my age. It turned out that his music was deplorable, and his personality not much better, and he left the bar without saying anything, which was a relief. On the other hand, I had a good set, and realized I can do this performance thing still, even at my ripening age, and I met a fantastic bass player in the process.

“Recycling ourselves means getting rid of whatever serves no useful purpose, whatever our lives no longer depend on. Recycling also means discovering the unused, still-new interests, options, and opportunities that did not fit the younger version of ourselves.” Yes! My parents are both gone, and I was lucky I didn’t end up being saddled with their long-term care as many boomers are finding themselves. My daughter is a grown woman, and has left the nest. She’s making decisions for herself, and I have been learning to trust that she can take care of herself now and doesn’t need me sticking my nose into everything. I’ve got my health, and I’m basically free at this stage of my life. I don’t want to waste the precious time!

I’d like to suggest this book to anyone who has recently found themselves facing a new phase in life, wants to make a new start and needs some direction, or is feeling old and tired and knows there’s more if they could just figure out what.  A final quote that sums it all up for me comes from Jane O’Reilly, New York Times, July, 1986: “The most important mission of a woman’s life is not to hold onto her looks. Our mission is the same as a man’s….to grow up.” Yes. And no one else can do that for us!fullsizeoutput_3938

 

My Winter Pause

From notes I wrote on Jan 14th, 2015

Joy and Momo

Joy and Momo

7:49am with Momo and Joy on Laura’s patio, Miami, FL

I’ve been at Laura’s since Saturday, when I drove in with a rental car, lugging all my stuff. It’s been 3 full days. Yesterday we made a plan to do two sessions, so it was a real working day. M took his study to the fish office, so Laura and I had the ‘garage’ all to ourselves. That’s what they call it. I call it the Healing Center, or Laura’s office.

The first session was approx. 3 hours. It was a re-assessment and going over and creating a new ‘charged area’ list. The second session was called ‘unblocking’ ~ you pick a person, place, or thing, and the therapist asks you a series of questions about it. For example: ‘Concerning ________, has anything been supressed? Has anything been revealed? judged? concealed? validated?’ It’s a process of opening little holes in the tangled web of our most difficult relationships. It’s like chipping holes in a block of ice so air can circulate. It’s work, and often exhausting, although you’re just talking and sitting on a couch or a comfortable chair.

Today I did a little clearing of my favorite part of the house~ the back patio. I hosed it off and scrubbed the floor and washed down all the outdoor furniture. I like things to be clean, clear, and beautiful, and the patio is where I spend most of my time. I can see the sky, feel the breeze, watch the wildlife on the lake, and be surrounded by beauty. It’s funny, I don’t want to go to the store with Laura to shop, or to the restaurant with them, or to the movies that’s a 40 minute drive away. I said “No, thanks” to all the invitations, and just stayed here at home, most of the time on the back patio with Joy and Momo (the elderly German Shephard and her cat friend). Momo’s lying here on the little table next to my chair. The tip of her tail is flicking, so I know she’s ‘feeling’ my presence. If I just make a tiny humming sound I can activate it. We’re tuned into each other.

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I like it here. I can think. I don’t want to get into a car and go out into that world out there. At least not right now. I’m enjoying the space just to be. I’d rather get into a kayak and go out into the world of nature. It’s peaceful, and quiet, and I connect.

Laura's lake.

Laura’s lake.

People pay good money to be in 78 degrees in January, sitting somewhere with their feet up looking out over water and sipping a cool drink. A huge added bonus is that there’s a cat here right next to me keeping me company. She’s a real companion, and I’m not alone at all. Even though it feels so much like a retreat, I’m calling it a ‘pause.’ Laura comes  by, drops in, and brings me a hot tea, or a Vicks Vapo Rub for my neck. We sit out on the davenport together watching the early morning light or the night sky in the evening, sharing stories of our lives. Then I close my eyes and drift off. She heads back inside, and I’m in my space again.

Sunset on the patio.

Sunset on the patio.

Today’s been our ‘day off.’ She made her own schedule, and I made mine. We crossed paths briefly when she was in-between yoga and a lunch date with her husband and a client. “Wanna come in my room and talk while I get changed?” she called through the open door. We touched base, had a good laugh about how well the arrangement we made is working out, and then she was gone again.

Tomorrow is another ‘work day’ and I’m enjoying the unscheduled-ness of today. However, I still made a to-do list. Structure always give me a framework to hang the time on. It wards off the feeling that I’m wasting it, which always bums me out. It also reminds me of jobs that I need to do: writing to my daughter and her husband, repairing the bra I gave Laura, filing down my new partial, making a pot of lentil soup, washing out my handbag and repacking so as to be ready for my next step. I like the feeling of being on top of things. Maybe that’s part of what I need to let go, but for now it serves me well.

On the patio looking out at the lake, I love the sound the coots make when they run across the top of the water, or dive beneath it. There’s always somebody chasing somebody out of their territory, and I never get tired of watching their antics. It’s hard to imagine anything better than this right now. In exchange for some cooking and cleaning, I have a bed with a pillow and blanket, a good book and a lounge chair overlooking a beautiful lake in sunny south Florida. Meanwhile, everybody else is experiencing a cold front, freezing temperatures, and other inconvenient truths. I’m glad, very very glad, to be here.

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Then why do I keep worrying in the back of my mind about ‘tomorrow?’

“Leave tomorrow for tomorrow,” says Patty. Think about today instead. It’s a blessing. Don’t be so quick to run off. There’s work here. And sometimes that means just listening to your own breath.

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OK. That sounds good. I’m taking a pause for some fresh air…

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The New York Summer Collection

I’ve been preparing a long time for the internship in New York City this summer, and it’s been intellectually and emotionally challenging: writing and re-writing the lengthy application to sum up my life and spiritual development, lining up people who know me well enough to write recommendations, going through the intense interview process, sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear back, getting the ridiculous but required background medical check and uploading all the paperwork, not to mention forking out way too much dough. It’s been a long haul, but I’m almost there. Start date is June 1st. New York is waiting for me, and yes, I’m excited!

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Now, the last big job is at hand ~ putting together the wardrobe. I was looking for these specifics:

1) Lightweight for the high heat of a New York City summer, but with a little throw of some sort for the air-conditioned workplace;

2) Beautiful, flattering, and colorful, to inspire the people I work with ((no looking like a minister, please!)

3) Comfortable and care-free ~ I don’t do ironing^^

4) Professional, but casual;

AND

5) Inexpensive to the MAX.

There was only one place to go. The Thrift Store, of course! Where else??


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This is the Natick area’s fantastic second-hand store, Savers. It’s only an hour and 45 minute walk from Emilie’s place. Without a car and determined not to waste a single moment sitting at home, I put on my walking shoes and took off with an empty bag and high hopes. I wasn’t disappointed. A few blisters and sore legs and feet later….

Here is my New York Summer Collection.

Polyester dress shirt from Lord and Taylor

Polyester dress shirt from Lord and Taylor

This sheer black Lord and Taylor polyester dress shirt looks good with anything. It has roll-up sleeves, packs into a tight ball in the suitcase and always looks like it just came out of the dry-cleaners. My first find ❤

The polyester/spandex patterned pants I’m wearing with it are my latest craze. I found these new at Beall’s in Florida, and bought a couple of pairs in different colors and materials. They are soft, flowing, and gorgeous anywhere!

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Spring Green top and jacket, by Snoskins

Spring Green top and jacket, by Snoskins

I can spend hours inside a thrift store creating ‘Looks.’ This jacket and pants ensemble by American designer Snoskins is one I expect to wear a lot. I love the color and the fact that I have a little jacket in case Sloan Kettering is chilly inside, which it probably will be. The capri length pants are one of my most exciting finds. Made by Staples, they’re 100% linen, fit perfectly and look elegant. I’m in love! The shoes had never been worn, and were exactly my size. Flat, pointed, and comfortable~ how cool is that!

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I love the way I feel in black and white. The top is a DIY project from last year. I took a knee-length dress two sizes too large and turned it into a tunic top. I’ve kept shortening it depending on what I was wearing it with. Now it’s just long enough to cover my midriff, and it works with a skirt or slacks. The elbow-length sweater is by derek heart. Made of a blend of rayon and polyester, it’s light and a perfect arm cover-up for summer. Love this look! ❤

Sleeveless and totally fresh.

Sleeveless and totally fresh.

I was thrilled to find this Alfani top, and with the original tags on it still. The color is cool for summer and the design is womanly and flattering for a well-endowed woman like me! ha ha. I like that the fabric is stretch cotton. I am going to have to do a little altering, as it’s a tiny bit too large for me under the arms. Next post will show how that comes out.

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I found this turquoise pullover at the Salvation Army Family Store in Clearwater while I was visiting my mother. It’s an Ann Taylor, so they had it on the ‘designer’ rack and I had to pay $8, but I was still pretty happy. I love the neckline, and the 3/4 length sleeves. It’s a great fit and the color really seems to make my eyes pop. Although it may be a little too warm for New York in the summer, I’m going to take it with me and see.

Linen shirt by Charter Club

Linen shirt by Charter Club

I couldn’t resist this 100% linen shirt by Charter Club, although it’s a tiny bit too tight to button all the way down. This photo shows an experimental shot, which I probably would never wear out of the house. I’m absolutely going to make it work though, so I’ll post some other ideas next time 🙂

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More black and white. This is a harve benard linen shirt that Susie gave me while I was visiting her in NC. It was too big, so I took off the sleeves and took the whole thing in, and put it back together. Now it’s a perfect fit.  I like the flower print and the crisp look, and the buttonless collar. Very feminine and practical!

Shoes by SimplyVera

Shoes by SimplyVera

These Vera Wang sandals make me feel like I’m walking on marshmallows. Worn, yes, but there’s still a lot of mileage left on these little puppies 🙂

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An Evening Out?

An Evening Out?

I put this skirt by Merona together with a black top from the Dressbarn. The top has to be shortened a bit to make it look more youthful. In this picture I’m holding it up with my hand in the back to show how it will look after alterations. I loved the top instantly. It’s sexy but still demure. Will I ever wear it? Not sure, but it was only $4 and I was in the mood to be a bit daring.

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Last but not least is the all-important robe to throw on in the middle of the night when nature calls. This hand-sewn kimono-style bathrobe is made of a linen blend of some kind, and feels cool even in the heat of the night. I love the colors and the shape, and how I feel when I have it on.

The total cost of this entire collection: $93 (includes senior discount). Not bad for a fashion lover on a budget.

IMG_0007I’m feeling happy, following my dreams, and wondering where they’ll lead me…

and in the meantime, enjoying the ride 🙂

See you in New York!