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Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

Scandia Honeybee, Scandia, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, August 17th, 2019, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Liz and I spent a beautiful morning on a St. Croix riverboat tour with the Twin Cities Museum Meetup group. After the captain of the Princess docked the boat, we walked around glacial potholes in Interstate State Park, then drove to the Gammelgården Museum in Scandia for the annual Spelmansstämma (Immigrant Fiddle Festival). When the music was over, we walked around the grounds and I took a close up of this lone honeybee on an end-of-summer pilgrimage. Liz reminded me that it’s National Honeybee Day. I have gratitude for the day and the place in which we live. It is filled with wonder.

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letting go
Letting Go, one of the themes at the Natalie Goldberg silent retreat in Taos, December 2010,  collage made of magazine paper, wax crayons, and pen and ink in Moleskine journal, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 

It was strange to find myself sitting in the zendo at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, our teacher Natalie Goldberg urging us to Let Go. I had just a few weeks before made the decision to leave red Ravine, although QuoinMonkey and I had agreed to wait until the end of the year to make the announcement. Though not intended as such, the week in Taos could be a test of how ready I was to let go of this special virtual space that had inspired and sustained me for so long.
 
mabel's houseIt was in Taos, after all, that red Ravine was born. The year—2006. QM and I, having already written together for some time, are both participating in a four-season Intensive with Natalie Goldberg. This Intensive is part of a bigger plan I have for myself, a wannabe writer-and-artist withering away inside the body of a corporate manager and breadwinner for my family of four. I am bored and unhappy. I want to write and do art, but I can’t seem to motivate myself to do much with either except to dream about it. QM and I and a couple of others hatch red Ravine over intense working sessions in Taos and through the phone lines while back at our respective homes. Setting up a blog is hard work, but it is also real. For the first time, I am motivated to do more than fantasize about writing and making art. red Ravine promises to be the impetus to actually producing. 
 
Those first two years of creating red Ravine, QM and I worked our butts off and had a blast doing it. The blog was a perfect outlet for the deep, low creative growl that the Intensive seemed to unleash within us. Some days we posted more than once, and often we had to make sure that we weren’t publishing over one another. For my part, I was making art like crazy. After years of being fearful of the lack of control inherent in a brush (as compared to a pencil), I took a workshop at Ghost Ranch and learned to paint. My corporate job changed around the same time, too. I landed an assignment that took me back and forth to Vietnam. I bought myself a slew of different colored inking pens and began using the long trips back and forth as opportunity to take on a doodling practice.

QuoinMonkey and I worked surprisingly well together. We were both committed to the idea of a creating a space where we would each be inspired and where we might inspire others. She brought to red Ravine and to me her strong values around Community and Giving Back. Her thoughtful and thorough turtle complemented my quick and often irreverent spirit. (What animal am I anyway? The brown bird, I guess.) We found ourselves in synch whenever we wanted to try something new or make a change. We pushed each other to do our best.
 
 
what I learned

 
mabel's house 2 for red ravineOne of the things I love about Taos and Mabel’s place is how they never seem to change. Here I am, early December 2010, and I’m crossing the same flagstone patio that I walked those years ago back when red Ravine was still an infant. Over the past several years, I’ve brought my daughters here, and my husband. I bring my father back each year after we clean his parents’ graves in Costilla, 42 miles north. One summer he laid some of these very flagstones,when he was about 16 and living on Morada Lane in a house with a storefront.

It doesn’t matter what I have accomplished, what roles I have taken on in the years since I’ve been back. Inside the zendo, Natalie reminds us to Let Go. For me this means letting go of my responsibilities, my ego, any self-assigned self-importance. Here, in Taos, I am zero. In my raw, stripped-down state I feel my sadness. It is deep inside me, under everything else I carry. 

My heart breaks open.
 
Letting Go in Taos means being able to clearly see that red Ravine was, in fact, the catalyst for change in my life. It means being grateful for everything I’ve learned as a result of opening up to others. Because of red Ravine, I’ve had a place to publish my writing, to experiment with and share my art, to meet other writers and artists. red Ravine has been Muse, sounding board, supportive audience, friend, family, mentor.

I started a fledging business because of the creativity that flowed out, thanks to red Ravine. Because of this blog I’ve learned to commit to and follow through with my practices; to make jewelery; to turn unpolished writing into finished pieces; to put my creative self out into the world. I used to think I couldn’t finish anything; it took having this blog to realize that I’m an actualizer at heart. 

Of course, there are downsides to setting and realizing intentions. Jim long ago gave up complaining when I’d spend hours socked away in my writing room. But I don’t take for granted any more, not since April of this year when he collapsed on the bed clutching his heart, that he will always be there waiting when I need to take a break. And my daughters—full-fledged teenagers! Just today I accompanied my oldest for nearly an hour while she drove us all around town, adding experience under her belt in preparation for graduating from learners permit to drivers license. I don’t have much time left to influence their lives.

 
 
letting go

 

la morada (taos)At the December retreat, we walk the dirt trail out at the morada, just down the way from Mabel’s place. Natalie often takes her students there. The day we go, boys and men from Taos Pueblo run past us in the cold air. I feel alone and sheltered in my layers of warmth, and for a moment I am homesick for family and our traditions

My parents are old now. They’ve passed from the stage of old-yet-mostly-healthy to being old-and-frighteningly-frail. I visit them every Sunday. All year long I struggle to keep up with everything I have on my plate. Some weeks it feels impossible to eke out even the simplest of posts.

QM is a rock. Her posts are—like her—consistently high-quality, thorough, and deep. I am honored to have worked with her for this long.

A good friend of mine who a few years back started up his own blog had this to say when I told him I was thinking of leaving red Ravine: “Blogging has no exit strategy.” Which is another way of saying that unless you’re getting paid to do it, blogging is a labor of love. This particular labor has born much fruit. 

It has so much more potential, so much yet to become. I’m going to be here, on the other side of the screen, cheering on QM to keep moving it forward. I know I’ll always be proud to say I was a part of creating it.

Thank you for everything you’ve done, QM. Thank you to the friends I’ve met here. So long for now. See you in Comments. 8)
 
 

 

self portrait
Self Portrait, December 2010, collage made of magazine paper, wax crayons, and pen and ink in Moleskine journal, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

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Loteria Journal

Lotería Journal, altered Moleskine cover with ybonesy doodles (plus Caran d’Arch, gouache, and ink pen), design © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.




I love journals. I’ve written about my love of journals. I have doodle journals and writing journals, and I even have my first ever journal, a gift from my sister Bobbi, who got it for me as part of a Scholastic book order she made for her new class. She gave it to me about the time she started teaching: 1974. I was 13 years old, a newly minted teen, and my journal (it was actually more of a diary, although I’m not sure what the difference is) was the perfect place to log news of piddly babysitting jobs (for which it was not uncommon to make 75 cents!), swim lessons, and crushes. That early journal got me believing that any life—even one so boring as my own—was worth recording.

That’s the beauty of the journal. That it might collect the ordinary and occasional extraordinary goings-on of your existence. And that someday you might look back on it as one experiences the family photo album. Memory, insight, a looking glass into your world, or at least a snippet of it.

So it is not surprising that I’ve recently discovered the joy of making journal art. I’m not sure what else to call it. I take blank journals—the basic Moleskine works great—then figure out designs to create on the covers. It’s a fun project, one that can easily be done over a long holiday weekend.


♥ ♥ ♥


loteria journal in process (one) loteria journal in process (two)



To make the Lotería Journal, which I fashioned after the Mexican Lotería cards, I used the following items:

  • Moleskine or other journal – I like the Moleskine brand, but it is a bit pricey. Any simple journal will do; for this project it’s best to stay away from leather or cloth covers.
  • Gesso – to apply to the cover so that you can color or paint the cover (the gesso acts both as a whitening agent to better absorb and reflect light in color, as well as a primer so that whatever you apply bonds well to the surface).
  • Evenly sized images – for this journal I used my own, but you could cut images out of magazines or tear out cool papers and draw different designs on each one.
  • Mod Podge – to glue the images to the Moleskine cover, and later, once the piece is completely done, I’ll paint the entire cover with Mod Podge to seal the design and give it a glossy finish.
  • Paints and wax crayons – to add color.
  • A black pen, preferably permanent, but if you use an impermanent one, just make sure it is completely dry, and when you do your final paint with Mod Podge, do a quick brush; don’t go back and forth or linger else the black ink will smudge.
  • Brushes – a one-inch one for the Mod Podge and a small one for my paints (both of which I keep in water while I’m not using them).


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And given that we are in the Thanksgiving season, I can’t think of a better use of a lovingly created journal than to transform it into a Gratitude Journal. Now, folks out there may practice daily Gratitude, but for my part, this is an area that I’d like to improve. I want to spend more time giving thanks for what I have and less time wanting whatever it is I don’t have.

A Gratitude Journal can take several forms. One idea is to use it as a way to say Thank-You to someone in your life. My sister Janet once created this type of Gratitude Journal for me, although we didn’t call it that back then. But now as I think about it, that’s exactly what it was.

About thirteen years ago I organized a trip to Spain for my dad, Janet, another sister, and my sister-in-law. The five of us spent two weeks traveling all over the country, staying in unique and at times quirky places. An olive-farm-turned-bed-and-breakfast, a renovated monastery, and a former brothel, for example. We had a wonderful time, and afterward Janet made me a journal as a memento of our experience. Handmade paper adorned the front and back covers, and inside on a long single sheet of paper that she folded like an accordion, she made a collage of different scenes from the trip.

You could create a Gratitude Journal and inside turn it into a personalized Thank You to someone close to you. I know I often pull out the journal my sister made for me. It’s so much richer than a Thank You card.



gratitude journal (one)
gratitude journal (two)



A Gratitude Journal could also be something you keep for yourself over a certain period of time—say, the upcoming year—to help practice gratitude in your life. There are a lot of ways you can do this. For example, each day you could think about what it is you’re grateful for and then write about that particular topic. Or make a doodle about it, or do a collage on that page.

QuoinMonkey wrote a post at the end of 2007 titled Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List. She made her list at the end of the year, as has been a tradition of hers for several years now. Here you can see her Gratitude List from 2007 looking forward to 2008, along with mine. And here are QM’s Gratitude Lists from 2009 and 2010. You could follow QM’s example and dedicate a sheet of paper to each letter of the alphabet and see what flows onto the page.

Or maybe your Gratitude Journal project is more about simply focusing this weekend on creating a beautiful cover for your journal. Maybe that in itself is the act of Gratitude, giving Thanks by allowing yourself to spend a few hours making art.

And speaking of giving Thanks, QM and I are immensely grateful for the community and inspiration we’ve received over the years from working together and from all of you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!



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love journal



prayer practice journal

Journal Art, mixed media journal covers—washi paper, Caran d’Arch, collage, small wooden canvases top two), postage stamp (third), stickers, etc., design © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.


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-Related to post On Providence, Old Journals, & Thoreau

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Cutting The Cake, Amelia's hands cutting the cake, the day she turns 70, Central Pennsylvania, photo by QuoinMonkey, November 2007, all rights reserved.

Cutting The Cake, Amelia’s hands cutting the cake on the day she turned 70, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I’m sitting in Amelia’s kitchen. The smell of homemade chicken and dumplings spins across the room. My brother and sister-in-law stopped over for breakfast. Amelia made Canadian bacon, grits with butter, crumbled bacon and sharp cheese bits, scrambled eggs, scratch biscuits, orange juice, and French Roast.

My sister-in-law had us in stitches over a story about a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We were cracking up over our second cup of coffee, and it reminded me of all the rambunctious activity, laughter, and fun that’s taken place in this kitchen. Mom has lived here over 40 years. I find it comforting that she has the same Ma Bell wall phone with same old-fashioned  “ring” and the same 20 foot coil of cord that extends all the way across the kitchen so she can chat while she cooks.

In this fast-paced world, it’s nice to be able to go home.  And for home to still be there. Home and hearth were so closely connected in Mom’s generation. And many generations before her. These days a family is lucky if even one parent can stay at home, much less the whole family sitting down to a home cooked, family meal around the kitchen table at the end of a long day.


Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Mom turned 70 last Saturday. She’s seen a lot of change. The week before, my brother called with an idea to fly me home. My five siblings chipped in to buy a ticket from Minnesota to Pennsylvania so that I could surprise her. Everything went like clock-work, from pre-Holiday ticket prices, to flights, to coordinating busy schedules. It was meant to be.

It was so hard to stay at my brother’s for two days without calling Mom and spoiling the surprise! The first surprise was the party with my 4 brothers, 1 sister, and all of the extended family. I didn’t get to see this part, when she walked in with a huge smile on her face (I was hiding out in an appliance box!). She hugged everyone, my sister placed the tiara on her head, and she sat down to open presents. When my sister gave the verbal cue, “It’s too bad QuoinMonkey can’t be here.” Out I popped, arms spread, singing Happy Birthday off-key from a wrapped, bowed and ballooned, dishwasher box where I had been hiding the last 20 minutes.

Who's Inside The Box?, Mom's 70th Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey's nephew. All rights reserved. Mom burst into tears. I was soon to follow. I’d never seen her so surprised! (She’s very intuitive and we were rarely ever able to keep any secrets from her when we were growing up.) We exchanged a long hug. The whole family poured into the kitchen, and dove into all the homemade Southern food. There was banana pudding, pork barbecue, beef barbecue, hushpuppies, biscuits and sausage gravy, black-eyed peas and rice, sweet tea, lemon meringue pie, and a glorious birthday cake. (Hey, all family, please chime in in the Comments if I’m forgetting anything!)

Home and hearth. What matters to you? Each time I come back home, the grandkids, nieces, and nephews are taller, the parents and siblings are older. Health fluctuates, situations challenge and change. Home connects me to the past, and forges the future. It’s as if everything I ever did tumbles through a parallel universe. It’s good to spend time with my family.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

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Ten Thousand Views

This weekend red Ravine passed the 10,000-views mark and, well, we wanted to shout out to all you readers: Thanks for clicking! We went live on April 7, and we’re having a blast.

What all this has to do with Back of the Napkin? Nothing, except I happened to doodle on one. But that’s the beauty of blogging. It’s ours to make up along the way.

We really do appreciate you if you’re out there reading this. We especially love the commenting, but lurking is fine, too. We did that for a long time ourselves before speaking up. Hope you’ll eventually speak up, too, if you haven’t already.

Here’s to 100,000 views.

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I did a journey yesterday morning (with 3 gracious friends who dedicated 2 hours of their time to my well being), then went to Maria’s for breakfast, Buca’s for dinner, and a birthday party and ritual for a writer friend of mine. She turned 46.

After over 22 years of teaching, she decided to do the one thing she’s wanted to do since she was 8 years old – write. It felt good to be there for her. And to know we’re all in this together.

My friend told teaching horror stories of some of the things she is leaving behind: spitting, punching, death threats from parents, exhaustion, and disinterested superiors. Being a teacher in an inner city school can be a thankless job. Looking at funding these days, maybe teaching is a thankless job in any school.

I was reminded of the post Shawn did yesterday A Bright Spot on The Pissed Off Professor. Her tag line is One Teacher’s Mounting Frustration Over Educational Disinterest. I think my birthday friend would like Shawn’s blog.

I want to take a moment to thank all the teachers who have believed in me over the years. Mrs. Juarez, my 8th grade English teacher, is the reason I am a writer. I want to look her up the next time I head home. Mom, please see if she still lives up the street from us and, I wonder, do you have her phone number? I want to call her up and thank her.

In the meantime, I woke up with this crunchy spring haiku in my head. It’s not much but it came to me in a dream. So I thought I shouldn’t ignore it.

I am glad spring is here. And there are people who believe in me.


crunchy spring haiku

crunchy spring haiku
taps a rhythm through my brain
bees’ wings in the rain



Sunday, May 6th, 2007

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It is another day. I choose to practice. I am not yet awake. My body feels worn out this week. Tired. Can’t get enough sleep. In the evenings, I get home from work, meetings, whatever I have going on, and plop down on the couch. The sun gleefully beams in the windows. It’s my first spring living in this house. I like it.

Finches, cardinals, robins, nuthatches, and downy woodpeckers flit back and forth from the 3 feeders to the ash and juniper in front of the deck. The sun is strong through the fogged picture window. I sometimes have to lower the blinds so I can see my laptop screen. My back is sore. I must have slept on it wrong.

I am in transition. The same as the seasons. The winter was fruitful. There is a noticeable gap in the weeks I used to go to Taos. Last year was full of writing trips to Taos. This year, I make plans to go South to work on my book. And don’t really even understand exactly what that means.

I’m reminded of one writer friend who is flying across the Midwest in her Subaru wagon, mile after mile after mile, gathering details for a story she is writing. Did you know Subaru is the Japanese word for the Pleiades? Information is falling into her lap at breakneck speed: interviews, relatives, old landmark buildings, prisons, diners, prosecutors, and gallows. She leaves me messages daily, connection, and tells me she has no idea where all this is leading.

I feel the same way. Yet her last words to me in her voicemail this morning from somewhere in Missouri were, “I love being a writer.” I wonder if that’s something writers will always experience. Not knowing where we are going. Yet loving that we are writers. I don’t know.

All I know is that my back is sore, I’m exhausted, and I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been. Happiness, that elusive feeling that soars along brain lines with serotonin and epinephrin and pheromones. When I’m down, how much is hormonal? And how much is me?

When I’m happy, how much is hormonal, how much circumstantial? And how much is me? I am glad to be alive. And there are some who do not get to make that choice. I grieve as we all grieve. Wave after wave sweeps the nation. But I choose to focus on hope. For all the single-minded villains out there, there are a million other humans moving the mountain of grief toward healing.

Easy for me to say. I’m never going to know what it was like in Blacksburg. I listened to NPR this morning to an incredibly brave and composed woman walking the interviewer through what started as any normal morning. Then, there she was under fire in the center of her German class. Everyone around her was shot – but her. How do you make sense out of that? I don’t know if I have that kind of bravery in me. She is brave to want her voice to be heard. She is alive.

It is good to be alive on a Midwestern spring morning. I appreciate my life, my friends, the writers that keep me going, my family who never gives up on me. If nothing else, gratitude for what I have will keep me going. I have to focus on the glass half full. It’s an old cliche. But it’s my way of grieving.

What makes me happy? Living each day as fully as I can. The simplicity of playing with 3 cats on the Queen-size bed in the morning while my partner dresses and laughs in the corner, sipping her morning French Roast.
 
Writing makes me happy. It also brings a lot of hard truths. On this spring filled Thursday, when the word of the day in the dictionary I just pulled up online is debauchery, connecting makes me happy. I’ve been craving the safety of home; I have also been needing connection. And love. As corny as it sounds, yes, love.

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

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