Planning Under the Influence

And just like that, it’s a new year. Happy New Year everyone!

I started posts in November and December, but they didn’t seem to go anywhere. Words felt inadequate and there were already so many in the world, most of them conveying news I could barely comprehend. When I tried to write, my thoughts would wander off the page and into wilderness or image, taking refuge.

This tendency really ramped up when I signed up for an eight-week drawing class at Pratt Fine Arts Center. I had never taken any kind of formal art class and while I expected to be terrified, I just…wasn’t. I was excited. My buddy Ed also took it and we’d meet up every Friday morning to spend three hours intensively examining various subjects and trying to faithfully replicate them as we learned about contours, movement, shading, scale and perspective. I absolutely loved the class and our teacher, Robin Walker, looked forward to it every week and even when the subject matter of the day was not to my liking (self-portraits TWICE, ugh), enjoyed the process and most of the time, the outcome.

Sketch of fruit bowl, vase, flower

Final drawing project. This piece took a ton of time…I’ll never look at still lifes the same again.

Which was a rarity for me. I’ve struggled mightily with creative endeavors, wanting so badly to produce something good and always being disappointed. I would try to remind myself that it takes time to get good at things, and I shouldn’t quit after one attempt, but instead I’d just get discouraged and give up. I don’t know what finally changed – maybe the realization that I don’t have as much time in my life to waste on giving up on myself – but I seem to have arrived at a place where I’m willing to work at things, grapple with the challenges, quiet the inner judgment, and acknowledge my progress when I improve.

I also realized my right brain was finally getting a chance to run things. And I liked being in that space. It’s so different from the constant bullying left-brain which wants to make lists, cross things off, categorize and tell stories (often times unkind ones about what a piece of crap I am) and just be its practical, get-shit-done, self. Which we need, of course, if bills are to get paid and chores done and groceries restocked. But we also need time to just be, to ease up on the daily planning and achieving mode.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What’s interesting for me this past year is that I actually did use a weekly planner for the first time in…ever? My only recollection of using one is that I’d get all excited at the possibilities, use it for a month or two, and then forget about it. But at the end of 2016, which was exceedingly hard for hubby and me, I just knew I needed to do some things I’d been putting off. Things at the house, things for my physical and emotional well-being, things that weren’t just about hubby’s medical issues. Widening my perspective to include our relationships, our community, our planet. Our future.


Like my old high school pee-chees, my planner begged to have things taped to it. Poems now, instead of band names and pictures.

I came upon The Inner Guide Planner. It’s a weekly goal planner at its core, but it’s also a journal, a place to store memories, ideas, accomplishments. There are prompts each month and week to set your intentions, note things you’re grateful for, jot down quotes and reflections, and gentle reminders to let others know you appreciate them. It helped me stay mindful of the present while also keeping track of the things I wanted to achieve. I can now look back at 2017 and see what I got done (finished a rug, had a path installed in the yard, #resisted), things I pondered, events I went to, books I read, and areas to continue focus on in 2018. Because of course I didn’t do 100 percent of the things I set out to do, but I can also see that I did a bunch of stuff I didn’t plan on doing. Like taking a drawing class, or writing 10,000 words during NaNoWriMo.



A good friend returned the photo on the right to me in the spring and I realized it was a visual for how I wanted to feel. My bestie sent me the card, which reminds to face up to fears defiantly. Stickers courtesy of Peg Cheng’s writing retreat.

This planner helped me be more deliberate in getting the important stuff done, but also seeing there was room for spontaneity. My left brain had the structure it needed, which meant my right brain got some room to play. Planning under the influence of the right brain is a combination I love and my new planner is on its way. An aspiration for 2018 is to dance more – hey, the body needs some time, too, right? I hope you have good things planned for the new year, and that other interesting opportunities will present themselves as well.



Like You Just Don’t Care


The rare lower leg selfie.

Anyone have a neighbor who is often seen out in her yard wearing a bizarre mosaic of clothing that might include high-waisted jeans, old Beck t-shirts splattered with paint, bright blue socks adorned with cartoon versions of Bob Ross and his “happy clouds” (could be green and happy trees, depending on the day), and occasionally slippers when she’s forgotten they’re not actually shoes? Does she speak French to her chickens, whose responses are mainly limited to ‘buuuuuurrrrque (French for ‘berk’)? You may also have noticed her taking her undies and other laundry down from the clothesline during your summer deck party.

If so, howdy neighbor!

Yeah, that was me out mowing my lawn this morning in a get-up not too different from that described above (the summer version includes shorter pants, which is awesome if you’re my neighbor cuz you get to see more sock!), with the seasonal accessory of a white mask over my mouth and nose. Allergies suck, and I think it’s too late to hope I might “outgrow” them. At least I can eat peanut butter, and trust me, you don’t want to know me if I ever have to give that up.

We’ve had an exceptionally wonderful weekend here in Seattle (a smidge hot for this native, but I ain’t complaining after the long, soggy winter we just endured), during which I’ve had several occasions to spend time with loved ones who helped me celebrate my birthday. Lots of fun, with some downtime mixed in, and as a result, I needed to catch up on chores this morning.

I’m not tangoing to the mid-century beat yet, but it is pulling me onto the dance floor. (I love to dance, so perhaps if I think of it this way, aging won’t be so bad.) Meanwhile, I’m not a young thing anymore, and as a result, I find that I am getting less and less concerned with how I’m perceived. This is a blessing for me, but maybe a curse for my neighbors.


Not to get too macabre about it, but by this point in life, it has become crystal clear that there’s much less time in front of me than there is behind me. I need to maximize every minute of every day (although I do like my occasional nap) to read everything I want, to continue learning, to travel, to see friends, to write, to garden, to work for social justice, to volunteer, to try new things. To finish this damn rug (tantalizingly close; see this post for where I was with it back in February).

As for trying new things, I’ve embarked on almost every creative ship that was departing Inspiration Bay. After enjoying a few days on beguiling new waters, I usually become bored of the horizon that stretches out seemingly forever and move onto another adventure. Such is the Gemini personality. The islands (i.e., closets) are strewn with the jetsam of my tossed-overboard hobbies, but nonetheless I have decided to set out on yet another journey.

I’ve always wanted to do sketch journaling, of nature, daily life scenes, travels…I am not artistically gifted, but as I allude to above, I’m trying to ignore the judgy neighbors inside my own head (and tune in to the Bob Ross socks instead*). I’m interested in this journal idea for a couple of reasons. One is to be in the moment and pay better attention to the world around me. Another is to use my right brain more, try to tap into a font of creativity. My friend Ed (whose great new blog Outpost4013 you should go check out immediately) often sketches and he’s one of the most creative people I know. I doubt I’ll achieve Ed-level creativity, but I still think it’ll be a good thing for me.


Rosé with roses on a warm summer evening.

So I used money I got for my birthday and bought some portable art supplies. I had so much fun planning what to buy and looking at inspiring books (check out An Illustrated Life, which features many artists’ sketches of daily experiences, in various art forms). My friend and fellow gardener, Gilly, who lives in Ireland, sent me the book Botanical Portraits, which arrived a couple of days ago and I am excited to work with things right here in my garden. A timely and wonderful gift!

I have no idea how this latest adventure will go, but am wasting no time worrying about it. Even if I capsize, I’m sure I’ll gain new knowledge along the way. That alone makes it worth it.

* No I don’t think my socks are speaking, BUT, if they were, they’d be saying kind, supportive things, much like this or this Bob Ross account on Twitter).

Earth Day at the Musée

SAM-brochuresLast week was damn busy – as I forecast in my Failure to Launch post. I don’t usually have so much going on, liking mostly to just come home and chill after work. I’ll write more later about the other events, including the two author readings, one of which held several fortuitous moments for Doug and me.

As I also mentioned in that post, I capped off the insanity by getting up crazy early on Friday to be at a monthly pre-work yoga and dance party called DayBreaker (@daybreakerSEA). The theme this month was the 80’s, in honor of the one year anniversary of Prince’s passing. I pulled together a semi-appropriate outfit in spite of screwing up my attempt to create a slouchy sweatshirt (basically it was so slouchy it was falling off) and danced like a very happy fool with my good bud Tess for two hours after doing a 6 a.m. yoga class on the floor of a bar. Doesn’t get much better than that (although, never been more grateful for a yoga mat, trust). In case I don’t get back to this at a later time, my impressions from club dancing, which I love and used to do often in my twenties:

  • Be yourself, together
  • Beats in your feet travel through your body, jumping up and down
  • Sweaty and free
  • Yes!
  • Not one, but TWO dudes dressed as Prince were there
  • Spandex (this WAS an 80’s theme, after all)

So my intention Saturday was to have breakfast, mow the lawn before the rain returned and then run some errands. Not much else, because I was SORE, people. Dancing at 47 is a whole different story than when you’re 17 or 27. Knees and feet particularly, plus shoulders and upper back from the yoga. I do yoga every week, but this was a bit more rigorous. I think the adrenaline was pumping, from a lack of sleep and in anticipation of dancing , so I overdid it. YOLO, right?

After mowing, I did my meditation (priorities!), and I realized that going to Costco on Earth Day felt akin to tossing plastic bags into a pod of whales. So I thought about what I felt up to doing, which unfortunately didn’t include the March for Science (first protest I’ve missed this year) or volunteering at a park restoration event. I landed on a long-overdue trip to the Seattle Art Museum to take in the Jacob Lawrence Migration Series that was ending yesterday. The Seeing Nature exhibit is also there, which felt appropriate for Earth Day. A wander through a museum felt like the speed I could handle.

I arrived early, which it turns out was a very good thing, since the room is small and the paintings are numbered, so are viewed in order. By the time I left the museum a few hours later, the line to get in the room extended all the way down the third floor.

The Migration Series was painted by Lawrence in 1940-41. The 40 paintings in the SAM exhibit (I’ve read there are 60 total, so some were apparently left out) depict the stories of African Americans migrating from the rural South to the North in search of better lives and new opportunities.

lawrence-copThe first paintings show life in the South and the conditions that black people were facing – lack of food, work and decent housing, boll weevils killing off the cotton, and lynchings. Meanwhile, the North desperately needed workers, so much so that agents were coming to recruit them. People started to leave for Northern cities, waiting at stations and crowding onto trains with their few belongings, leaving in such numbers that they faced harassment and even arrest to impede their exodus, but nonetheless they went. They sent letters back to those who stayed behind about all the opportunities, and the black newspapers covered the stories as well, compelling more people to make their way North. There were jobs (hard jobs in steel factories and railroads, but jobs), better places to live, more food, schools for their children.

Things seem good for a while.

Then the paintings start to show another side to the story. White workers angry with black workers for taking their jobs (unbeknownst to them, black workers were sometimes being recruited to replace striking white workers), sometimes resulting in violence, even riots. Different, subtler forms of discrimination, even from other African Americans who’d lived in the North much longer. Living conditions becoming overcrowded and unhealthy.

JL-paintingThe last painting is only a few feet from the first one as you finish the series, and by that point, there seems to be almost no difference in the story of those who migrated from the ones at the beginning. It comes full circle, but in the same way a merry-go-round does, ending up where you started, then being swept up again into the swirl. You circumnavigate the room and at the end, little seems to have changed. I found myself pulled toward the beginning (end?) of the line, wanting to start over, hoping for another outcome.

venice-paintingInstead, I headed upstairs and ambled through the Seeing Nature exhibit, which houses 150 years’ worth of European and American paintings depicting luminous landscapes, brilliant renderings of the Grand Canyon, and numerous scenes of Venice as seen through the realist, pointillist and impressionist lenses. This exhibit was entrancingly beautiful and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but in some respects, I wish I had seen it on a different day. Or maybe that I’d seen Jacob Lawrence on a different day. Seeing scenes of such disparate lived experiences on the same day was jarring.

Then again, maybe it worked out just as it was supposed to. As my mind turns to the People’s Climate March on 4/29, I try to grapple with what we are doing to our planet, the plants and animals, and ourselves, of course. The impacts will be felt by all, but not equally. Some people have fewer resources and won’t be able to cope as easily with the changes we are facing, whether it’s lack of water, food or habitable places to live.

What will those migrations look like and how will we respond?