Today I want to talk about being good enough.  Probably because I am an artist, I will write about it from an artist's perspective, but I think some of the principles can apply to most anything we undertake.

But first of all, the photograph of the roses-yes, they are growing in the three tiered rose bed on the patio, that Scott made for me.  This one particular plant is just amazing this year-the rest of the the roses are  doing well, but this guy is stellar!  There are masses of gentle pink blooms everywhere.  I have no idea why the abundance, this fellow has received the same amount of fertilizer and water the rest have....guess the thing is to just enjoy the bounty.

Back to the subject at hand. Being good enough. What would happened if we decided the whole concept was simply the pile of crap that it is, and just abandoned the notion altogether and simply did what we loved?  Some of us spend lifetimes waiting until we think (or someone else tells us) we are good enough.  Or that we can't do something until we feel "ready".  Truthfully, we may never feel ready.....

This whole business about being good enough is a real creativity killer, soul crusher, art stopper.  I was for me anyway. I grew up in a small town, and all through school, art was my thing. I was identified as "the good artist".  It was my solace, my place of connectedness, and also a place where I hid myself away from the world.  I grew up hearing; "you are so talented", all the time. While I appreciated the intention behind the complement, it got old.  I would rather some one have said to me, ' your painting or drawing, or whatever made me feel..."  I needed to know that what I did touched another person, and was not just about me being talented. There are lots and lots of "talented" people in the world.  There is more to making art than having talent...there is the whole heart thing, and the hard work thing, and....anyway, I digress.   What happened to me, was that my art became something it was never meant to be, a way to measure myself, and decide if I was worthwhile or not.  If other people kept telling me I was talented, and that I was such a good artist, and wow did they like whatever it was I was creating, then I felt good.  In a very false way.    Being a good artist became a way to identify myself, and so when I went away to art school and I was not the only kid who was talented, I fell apart and lost my art.  I was Scared To Death not to be good enough.  If I was not good enough, than the art facade I had built around myself  would crumble, and then who would I be?

I have spent lots of years sorting this out, and the journey to find my art in a genuine and life affirming way has been really hard.  In coming to the other side of some of that, I find myself loving what I do, being grateful for mistakes that I can learn from (mistakes used to be horrible, if the work was not good, then why I was doing it?), and utterly committed to being the best Jan in terms of my work I can be.  Not so someone else can tell me how talented or good I am, but so perhaps, another human being can be touched by the visual stories I tell, the small stories of people's lives, and moved to a place that's a bit higher than ordinary today.  So that I can have the satisfaction of knowing I can do it, I can create and share the beauty that's inside my heart and head with others.

Ran across an Andy Warhol quote that's really good:  "Don't think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.  While they are deciding, make even more art".

My mantra these days. 

This fall is going to find me abandoning most everything for the sake of immersing myself in my work. (the summer has been filled with some time sucking stuff that I wish would just go away....) I will be painting my fingers off-lots of what I do may end up being wall paper-flops that are really gold, because if what I'll learn. In between, there will be some beauties.  Gems to be framed and hung and shared.  Stuff to be proud of and truly satisfied with.  I am So Looking Forward to this, in ways I can't give words to.  I think I'll still want to hang out with the Auto Parts Guy, and will probably make sure the house does not fall down around us...and that we eat well.  Other than that-I'll be painting.
 
 
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Most all my life I have endeavored to be a person of faith. I have wanted this very much, in fact.  However, I have found that sometimes the circumstances of life itself, have truly challenged my desire to be that woman who lives by faith.

So much of life is very uncertain-Scott and I have experienced this first hand, and still experience it daily with the circumstances we find ourselves in because of his family (subject for another post).  It is not a good situation at all-and suffice it to say there are no easy solutions-no quick fixes.  It's a thing that has to be lived out....with faith.

I came across a bit of written wisdom that has spoken powerfully to me in regard to faith and just what it looks like.  The words were written by a woman by the name of Shiloh Sophia-she is a painter and a poetess.

"Today I choose to walk in faith-choosing faith instead of fear means showing up in the uncertainty.  Being willing to let go of the outcome and trust in the mysterious unfolding.  This isn't about having and knowing. This is about being present.  Faith isn't about getting answers or the things we think we want coming true.  Faith is what we choose instead of fear because it just feels so much better. Faith is a practice. A choice. An experience.  Faith opens us to living in gratitude. And today, that sounds like the way to go."

Showing up in uncertainty.  I have devoted myself to truly learning to paint in these next months.  I have no teacher, except my own inner guidance.  I show up in uncertainty every time I enter my studio and pick up my brush.  Initially, this was a scary proposition. Things in the studio are becoming less scary.. I am learning to embrace the uncertainty and even yes, rest in it.  A step at a time.  If I really listen to myself, I will know what to do next-which color or value needs to go down-what colors will harmonize best together. Where I am off course and how to make a correction.  I don't have to know how to do it all-that's what uncertainty is all about-not knowing...  Even though I might not know, I can still rest and trust in that Mysterious Unfolding. All becomes well, in ways that I cannot see always, when I decide simply to choose faith-to genuinely trust.  The finished paintings become more than just paintings, they are remembrances-markers of faith.  As I began, each painting, at one point came dangerously close to being torn up and thrown away, just because I didn't think I knew how to proceed, and was certain all I was going to end up painting was crappy mud.   I'm so glad I persisted-some of them are just beautiful, and I find myself amazed that I created them....I will treasure them always because they represent the possibility of what can happen, when I trust in what I can't see and don't know and go ahead anyway.

Practicing this sort of faith allows us (me) to rest, because we aren't invested in outcomes and answers. It allows us to be present and awake to the beauty and possibility that each day holds, because we aren't spending our energy trying to make life happen, figure things out or work toward a desired outcome.  I like it.  Rest is good. It is healing, and there is a coming home to myself that I have never experienced before.  Historically, I am all about making things happen, and working very hard for desired outcomes-I can spend lots of mental energy trying to figure things out.....

So here's to the human experience, in all it's uncertain glory....I am wondering if by embracing uncertainty and letting myself rest in it,  I have allowed the door to finally open to  Infinite Possibility?  For a full blown control freak like myself, this is a miraculous place to be!

"

 
 
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The pond plants are beginning to bloom....and our resident garden cat, Loki, loves to watch the fish in the little pond on the patio....not sure how the fish feel about that....speaking of ponds, the hole has been dug for the new pond.  By a big digging machine.  All I had to do was watch and give a few orders....easy peasy.  Nice.  Trying to be very patient, because I need some help with the next step...it involves fine tuning the shape and contour of the big hole, and doing some plumbing sort of stuff....perhaps this weekend????

I've been doing lots of painting and a fair amount of sewing this summer. The sewing is about getting ready for my booth at Venetian Fest in August. This is a wonderful event and was a great money maker for me last year....here's to trusting that this year will be more of the same. The painting is really about joy...and thankfulness. I can draw and paint again.  Come September, I will be creating another website-to showcase my fine art, and there will be a blog that goes along with it. I will probably post there once a week or so, and will either be telling the stories that go with the paintings and drawings, or sharing a bit of my creative process.  As with everything, it depends on how much I have going on....

I've wanted to write about today's subject for a while now.  Trusting in what's good.  I can painfully recall a time a couple years ago, when my neck and shoulder were so messed up and I was in so much pain, that I put my pencil down.  I thought I'd take a rest for a couple weeks or month....this turned into a couple years.  I wondered if I would ever work again-seriously.  Here I am, working. I will always need to practice self care and listen to my body-if I had done this to begin with, instead of popping ibuprofen, I would not have been in such bad shape....I digress. 

The thing is, it was awful to not be able to work with my hands, but I made up my mind that I would one day.  Somewhere inside me, I believed in what was Good, and trusted that.  Suffice it to say, being able to work again feels like a miracle. Earlier today, I submitted my entry for a high caliber jury show. I have had work accepted into this show in the past.  Whether or not I am accepted this year or not is not really the point ( I won't lie-getting in would be great), but beyond that, if felt so damned good to have work worthy to enter!

I am learning this lesson is other ways-my father has had Parkinson's for almost 20 years.  The disease has become very advanced-scary-hard-how should we deal with this?  Mom and dad have a bit of a nest egg, but if dad has to go to the nursing home, it would be gone in a flash...besides going to the nursing home would literally kill my dad.  No way. What to do? 

I am one of five children, the oldest, in fact.  My response is to jump up and take charge and fix things, figure it out, you know, take care of it! This is a non fixable sort of deal-it's complicated.  My brother is a banker, he worries about the money part of things, "what is all this home care going to cost, can mom and dad afford it?"  My sister the nurse, thinks about all the Awful Things that could happen, because she's seen it in other people's lives.  Another sister ended up being the Voice of Reason...... The youngest, another brother, has 10 kids...he cares about mom and dad, but is really exempt from worrying about them-he has all those small people to worry about...

My Voice of Reason sister was the quiet one growing up. She got overlooked.  She has said she often felt invisible....she grew to be a gentle, compassionate, and very powerful woman...visible in a way that shimmers with goodness and bright light.

In the midst of my "We Have To Do Something Frenzy, she gently said to me, "we are going to trust".  Trust in what is Good. Trust that mom and dad will be taken care of-that there is a way through this, where dad can stay at home and be happy-where mom and dad can be together ...We are simply going to trust.  I needed to hear that.  She is a pastor and used to be a hospital chaplain-she's very good a what she does:) Like I said, she is powerful.

My dad is doing well. The nurse sister got him hooked up with Hospice. They take such good care of dad.  There is a woman  mom has hired privately, who loves both my parents and goes out of her way to help them.   Mom and dad are both happy and feel very supported. Dad is feeling better these days thanks to all the good care....

I think we will continue to simply trust in the Good. For me that's God.  He is awfully, awfully good, even when things around us don't look so awfully good.

 
 
I have been waiting to build my pond for almost 4 years now.  I've been patient.  There were the allergies to deal with-kind of put a damper on things-the messed up neck and shoulder were a sure style cramper...last year I was all set, then the drought hit. What we did in the garden was water things...all the time...that's really all we did. Didn't have to weed much, because the weeds didn't grow.  It was that dry.

So I'm all set this year to put my pond it.  Right underneath the big new windows in the living room. I want to be able to sit in my chair and hear the running water and see my koi fish swimming.....

My husband has told me for quite a while now that he Knows A Guy who will come and dig the hole-easy peasy and it's done.  He keeps forgetting to talk to said guy. He is Very Busy, yes, but I am tired of waiting for my pond.  I have decided to dig it myself. There is a strategy.....a method to my madness.  Dig a pond? Are you nuts?  Do you mean by hand?  Yes.  First of all, I enjoy dirty manual labor from time to time. It's good for the soul.  I like playing in the dirt, digging in the dirt and when you add water to it, well, the pleasure is greatly magnified..

So I have begun.  The deal was that I would fill up the wheel barrows, and Scott would dump them when he came home after work.  OK arrangement, except that it will take forever.  I have taken to filling the wheelbarrow half full and dumping it myself.....needless to say, my hole is growing slowly. My body is a bit on the sore side too.  Here's where the strategy comes in. My husband likes to jump in when he sees that I'm not doing something just right (which means the way he would do it), or that I might need help.  I am waiting for him to say, "here let me dig"..this has not happened yet.  He did mention that digging hole like this was really hard work-then he made a bit of a funny face.  Hmmm.  Will he cave or not?  Or better yet, will he remember to call the guy he knows with the backhoe?  I think the backhoe would be the thing.

We have had So Much Rain lately-my hole is already full of water.  Gives the ol' body time to recover from the digging....I've got some process photographs to share though...

Finally, this pond is being built on a budget.  All materials except the pump we either had or scavenged.  Part of the fun.  I'll be posting about the engineering side of things (Scott's thing-I do making it look nice).  Particularly our home made filter system.
My assistant Faithie-we built the planter on the left last Friday afternoon. She is one hard working kid. Faith is standing in what will be the main part of the pond.
Monday.  This is where I was before the rain stopped me. 
We've dumped two of these-full of rain- since Monday nite.
The corner where the stone and siding meet is where a short "waterfall" is going to go.  I have been informed that no rocks or dirt may rest against the new siding....OK.  The engineer has a plan to pump the water up to, into and out the rocks, without doing damage to the house.
 
 
Here are the final batch of images from our Father's Day adventure to Lake Michigan.  We LOVE watching the sailboats, and often sit right out on the boulders at the very end of the pier to watch them come and go into the harbor.  The only thing better would of course, to be on the water in one of the big beauties.....
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Yes, I know, another seagull photograph-couldn't resist!
 
 
I really love the images I'm sharing today...I pointed the camera directly into the sun and was so gratified to have captured the light on the water in the harbor.  The end to a nice, nice day.
 
 
Yesterday was Father's Day.  Scott and I packed a picnic and went to the big lake.  We planted ourselves in a shady spot on the shore, where we could watch the boats and the gulls...and Scott could take a long Father's Day nap.  I don't know if he slept much...there were ants and spiders...and to think I was worried about mosquitoes...those pesky horseflies were really pesky too.  What is is about exposed human flesh and bugs????

As you might imagine, the lakefront was full of people-lots of families grilling out and swimming. Boy, was it a hot day! We were content to sit in the shade, quite a bit north of all the beach - front craziness, and wait until the heat of the day waned to walk down to the big pier.  I think I may of mentioned it here before, but Scott and I did our courting in Milwaukee and spent hours walking on the beach and sitting out on the pier.  We still love it there.

I should know the name of the three masted ship in today's batch of photographs...I think it is the "Dennis Sullivan", but don't quote me...the ship looked so proud and regal out on the water..nautical elegance or some such thing.  I know it is a reproduction of an earlier ship that sailed the Great Lakes...that's about all I know.

I confess I have always loved seagulls.  Jonathan Livingston Seagull was my hero as a teenager...I love the watch them and of course, photograph them.  Scott thinks I am nuts, but since I have been shooting digital, I no longer get the snide comments about wasting perfectly good film on silly birds.....

Even though yesterday was a hot one, and the bugs were a pain, I still got some great shots of the boats, gulls shoreline and harbor. I'll be sharing some of them this week here on the ol' blog.  Hope you enjoy looking at them, as much as I did capturing what I saw with my camera!
 
 
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I have been painting up a storm-my back porch studio looks like a bomb dropped on it. There is Stuff everywhere....I am in the throws of really learning how to paint. Exciting.  The fulfillment of a dream I've had for years...paint and I have,  for many years, had a love/hate sort of relationship.  I just didn't know what to do with the colors-they seemed like such a beautiful distraction.  I could draw anything I wanted to, but adding in that elusive color really had me tied in some twisty, twisty knots. There are some very valid reasons for this-I will spare you-it's not really the subject of my post, and could be considered too much information..

My bottom line, heart of the matter problem?  I was trying to analyze color, rather than feel it.  I was trying to use logic rather than my intuition.  I am a deeply intuitive person, so why in the world shouldn't I be intuitive about color too?  Go figure.

Anyway, I love the season of art life that I'm in. I plow through all the Other Stuff I have to get done in a day, so I can go and paint-this is the sweetest of sweet gifts.  I stay up too late at night painting and I often forget what time it is, and do not hear the phone ring (who cares about the phone anyway).  Watercolor has been the great Knot Un-tyer.  I can make the transition from the pencil (b/w)  to the paint (color) so much easier with watercolor than I can with oil.  Watercolor is cheaper to work with too...something to consider especially when in the throes of learning something new.  When I was struggling with trying to work in oil, I used to paint the sky in a landscape and then cringe and realize I had probably just put down $3 worth of paint.....one of the many reasons watercolor works for me-cost effectiveness!

Working with the human face and form has always deeply and completely compelled me. Remember the old album covers, with the big faces of the artists on the front?  I started drawing from album covers when I was 14.  I still have John Denver's and Jim Croce's faces stashed away somewhere-did all four of the Beatles as well. In art school, the only thing I really enjoyed was figure drawing-I was good at it, in a way that really surprised me.  One of the only art school regrets I have (quit after a year) was that I could not continue to study figure drawing.  Other than that, art school was a bust....

So here I am, in my 50's, finally getting something I have long sought after figured out. I guess the time is just right....I have this thing inside me that says I can do this...I know I can, even if often times I don't know how I am going to get there.  It would be swell if I could work with someone who Really Knew What They Were Doing, when it comes to painting humans-the money faeries have to come for that to happen....Until then, I have just me. I am enough.  The capacity to be the painter I know I can be is inside me.  That's what I have to keep discovering-what's in me.  Good instruction is fabulous, but it can't take the place of believing what's inside you....wish I learned this lesson a long, long time ago!

The painting above is entitled "Momma and Cullen".  It's of two people who are utterly precious to me.  Suffice it to say, what I had envisioned the painting to look like, and how it came out are very different things.  In the late hours of the night, the painting was almost launched out into the wind several times. The painting gremlins were squacking..."who do you think you are?"  "You can't paint that, you don't know what you are doing.."  "You'll never figure that out-the colors look terrible".  "Why don't you just give up and go paint something easy, that you know how to do, FOOL!"  On and on. Decided not to listen.  Gremlins are those pesky little creeps that want to keep us from realizing our wonderful human potential.  Stomp on the little shits and put them in their place! 

I am glad I stuck with this painting. I learned so much in the process....painting correct skin tones and color harmonies is not easy, but as I kept at it, I learned where the colors needed to go, and what happened when this color was put next to that color.  The painting is by no means perfect, but I am proud of it, because I stuck with it, and will save it to remember what I learned and how good it felt to tell the gremlins to shove off.  After I recover, I'm going to give the subject matter another whirl, and see if I can get things to come out the way I want them to!

Not everyone is a painter-but we are all a Special Somebody, with beautiful gifts to give the world.  Don't let the gremlins have the last word. Be sticky!  Work through the roadblocks that get in the way of your passion, and you'll find your way to the other side of incredible possibility-it does not always have to feel good-the air in my studio has been known to be blue with profanity from time to time...the important thing is to keep going and see what can be learned-Very Satisfying!  A painter's life (or any one else) is a journey, not a guided tour. It does not have to be easy to be really, really good.

Be blessed today-the weather is glorious, and there is a fresh piece of watercolor paper with my name on it in my studio, and a little niece I have been wanting to paint for the longest time....

 
 
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Yesterday was a fine, fine day at our house....it was relaxing and loving and full of life's simplest and most satisfying pleasures.

We stayed home all day.  We had our breakfast together on the patio-the sun was shining, it was warm and oh so very nice....then we sat.  Just sat. Did nothing. Talked a little bit-not much.  Let the sun and the cool breeze and the sweet pleasure of No Where To Go Or Be, wash over us.  Something to be carefully savored....there's not a whole lot of no-place-to-go in the morning around here.

I worked on an old rocking chair I am fixing up....Scott fell asleep in the recliner for while-at 10:30 in the am. Unheard of.  Pleasurable sigh.....then he did those goofy Suduko puzzles he loves so much.

I did some laundry. I took my time, and then I hung it all on the clothesline to dry...all of it except the socks.  Very Tedious to dry them on the line.  Scott's undershorts were flapping in the breeze. I had asked him if he minded stiff shorts..."heavens no" he said. The possibility of saving $ on the electric bill is worth shorts that are a wee bit stiff...

For me, hanging my clothes on the line to dry is the ultimate of simple pleasures.  Yes, it's a little bit more work, but hey, I don't mind!  I am not certain just what it is that so compels me about line dried clothes - perhaps the clean, fresh smell....I had all our bedding on the line yesterday too - crawling into those clean, sun dried sheets last night seemed like a whole lot of sweet, simple bliss.  The attraction might have something to do with connecting with a time when life was simpler, but yes much harder. When drying your clothes outside was just what people did, even in the winter time - I wonder how freeze dried undershorts would be???  I am bad....My grandma dried her sheets on the line, and I do remember how much I loved diving into bed with those nice clean sheets.  She ironed hers....no way.  Gotta draw the line there. Grandma got up extra early in the summer to iron, before the day got too hot....yuck.  Clean, fresh and wrinkly are just fine with me.

Life is mostly complicated and endlessly complex these days....argh.  That's what simple pleasures are for.  Something sweet to be savored, and something good to ground us to the earth and to the beating of our own hearts.  To keep us from being caught completely in the fast paced tide of technology and the whirlwind pace of life.

What is your favorite simple pleasure?  Give yourself a lovely gift-take a few minutes and savor what's simple and you love best!

 
 
I was going to title today's  post, "Summer Blooms"....rather misleading,  don't you think?  How about "Damp Spring Trying to Become Summer Blooms"?  Seems more descriptive of the weather of late.   Gosh, last year we were all lamenting over the Terrible Drought. It was terrible.  The cool rainy weather we are having now is challenging, but the water is still welcome. Balance.

The present chilly dampness is gold if you are dividing and transplanting perennials.  We've been doing Lots of That at Briarhill this spring. I tend to wait until rain is imminent, then head out with my shovel and fork and go to town.  I dig, divide and re-plant, and then Mother Earth takes care of the watering.  The plants respond beautifully, they hardly miss a beat, and there is generally no visible evidence of stress - it makes my gardener job much, much easier.

Yesterday found me in the irises.  They need to be divided regularly, or these seem to dwindle.  Some were planted in an area that is now deeper in the shade-not a happy spot if you want your iris to bloom.  Scott finished tilling the giant garden for me, so divided plant material is being rowed out, to grow and thrive until I have a garden spot available, or decide to give them away to a good and loving home:)  I got everything dug and transplanted before that lovely soaking rain came...needless to say, I find myself a bit stiff this morning....

Here are some more snaps of the blooms that are beginning to come in...be blessed!
No, not a bloom. Loki-the Garden Cat.  He likes to prowl the gardens-the end of his tail can often be seen, swaying between the hostas....