Friday, July 15, 2016


This impulse to connect the dots--and to share what you've connected--is the urge that makes you an artist. If you're using words or symbols to connect the dots, whether you're a "professional artist" or not, you are an artistic force in the world. 
-Amanda Palmer 

"Graduation" 2016

I've been thinking a lot about art lately. And about artists.

In kindergarten, the teacher had us fill out autobiographical sheets. I wrote that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. At home, there was much mirth over the stick drawing I used to illustrate the page. The next year, though I enjoyed many craft projects in class, I didn't much like Mrs. Kirkpatrick, the art teacher. She seemed grumpy.

I never had an art teacher again. I figured art and I just weren't that compatible. If I was to create, I would use words.

The "Art" entry in our World Book Encyclopedia was stapled together so we wouldn't see anything corrupting. In other volumes, illustrations deemed inappropriate were covered over or cut out. Most art museums were off-limits (we might see nudity!).

Art galleries were...unsettling. Fundamentalists prefer depictions of heroism, paradise, or optimism portrayed as reality. Think GettysburgLeave It To Beaver and Thomas Kinkade. We were taught that the Impressionists were wishy-washy. Picasso was an anarchist pervert, a threat to moral society.

Yet as an adult, I found myself drawn to art.
M's school art project

I approached with caution, recognizing quickly that art is unpredictable.

Uncomfortable, even.

It could be absorbing... illuminating... breathtaking... grim.

At times incomprehensible.

A room's worth might be forgotten, while a single detail could wedge itself into my mind for months.

I explored art with Chris, with friends, and finally on my own. One morning on the way to my therapist's office, I stopped at the studio of a local artist whose work I had admired at the Wichita Art Museum. The studio was closed, but I rang the bell anyway. Marilyn Grisham answered, invited me in, told me stories, and showed me projects she was working on. When I told Chris what I'd done, I could see that he was proud and a little in awe. Art had drawn me beyond my usual anxiety and allowed me to have an adventure far outside my comfort zone.

I learned that art is as least as much what I bring to it as what the artist offers me. Art is an exchange, a relationship, a gift.
When artists work well, they connect people to themselves, and they stitch people to one another, through this shared experience of discovering a connection that wasn't visible before.   (Amanda Palmer)
B's creation
We all know those people whose work lights up the world for us. It was easy to see art flowing out of my friends, my siblings, my heroes, the writers and musicians and artists, the people who inspire me. I read about famous artists with their communities and collaborations and felt envious.

But, slowly, I arrived at the conclusion that I, too, am an artist. Not in a commercial or professional sense, obviously. But Chris and I, indeed, our entire family, are artists.

We love to create bold new things that challenge traditional ways of thinking, please our own senses, and express our values. Sometimes with words, but also with colors and costumes and drawing and acting and building and programming.

"B.S." 2013
Most of  my art is temporary. Each time I take the hand of a dance partner, together we create something new. I draw with sidewalk chalk, decorate a cake, sculpt a snow statue, arrange cut flowers, present snacks on a platter, put on make-up. Choosing items from my closet, I pull together a look that is new for that week, that day, that occasion.

Perhaps some of the projects I'm working on will endure longer and be seen by more eyes, heard by more ears. Perhaps not. What matters is how I value what I do.

This week I am reading about art, and artists, and community and relationships and vulnerability in Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking.

I discovered Amanda partly because her husband happens to be my husband's favorite author and mostly because of her amazing feminist song in defense of pubic hair. Then I found out they have an open marriage and that she reads live bedtime stories on Twitter. And I finally picked up her book.

When the world feels too dark or too topsy-turvy, you know whose Twitter feeds I run to? Artists. Comedians. Writers. Musicians. I've decided that artists are society's shock absorbers. They feel the quakes first and most deeply so they can help the rest of us process them. Amanda has been one of those people for me lately.

So much of what Amanda writes resonates with me. I started this blog because I kept connecting dots and needed to have a place to share what I was seeing, "bleeding my heart onto the page". Even when hitting "Publish" made me quake with anxiety, it was worth it to know I was being seen.

And then you began commenting or writing to me and letting me know that you were seeing the same patterns, that my stories informed your own.

R setting glass in wet cement last week

I'm going to keep connecting dots. I can't help it! And as I find ways to share what I see, I'm going to keep doing that, too.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Last year I became painfully aware of my scarcity mindset.

Most of my life, I'd lived in fear that there might not be enough good to go around. I might run out of Time. Money. Food. We might not get enough Sleep, or Attention, or Rain, or Sunshine. What if I found myself needing Help...Comfort...Love? I might not always have enough Sex, Health, Joy, Pleasure...

Maybe I'd reach the end of the roll and THERE WOULDN'T BE ANOTHER ONE.

For decades, "contentment" had been my mantra. I'd practiced doing without--or preparing to do without. I even got good at it.

"I have learned... to be content. I know both how to be abased... and how to abound."

The above quotation from St. Paul hung over our toilet when I was growing up. I read it, recited it, sang it to a little tune I made up. I was never too sure about those categories, so I focused on the first part.

But hand in hand with the type of "contentment" I cultivated went a reluctance to enjoy what I had. I was habitually hesitating, holding something back in case.

We spent a lot of time--and emotional energy--inhabiting a future that was bleaker than the present.

Early in our married life, Chris and I discussed the concept of Margins. We managed our anxiety by keeping a reserve, always holding back some of our finances, some of our schedule, some of our energy.

We lived conservatively. It provided a security that comforted us at the time and it helped us function, but it didn't help us live.

When I faced my obsession with scarcity head-on, I didn't like it at all. I understood why it annoyed my friends, too! I began to observe how other people chose to live and whether they were more or less happy. And realized my biggest regrets were the experiences I'd missed because I'd been too anxious to say yes.

I began to practice saying Yes more often. To myself, to my kids, to friends, to opportunities and adventures.

It certainly didn't happen all at once, but I spend much more time living in my now. Where there IS enough. Usually more than enough!

On Mother's Day, I felt like celebrating so I invited some of my favorite people to a party. My house was filled with friends, flowers, good food, wine, laughter, even a puppy! After everyone left and I was left with happy memories to savor, one word popped into my head. 


And just like that, I had the motto for my lifestyle this year. Being "all in". Living out to the edges. Letting myself use the whole space, fill up the schedule, spend the entire budget, try all the things, flow over the sides, be more spontaneous, and not hold back.

Long ago, Chris taught me about lagniappe, the word Louisianans use for "a little extra". I think of it now when I feel the tug of old habits and choose to enjoy my abundance instead.

We make more memories and enjoy life a little more when I remember to say "Yes!"