Monday, August 31, 2009

Hearing is the 2nd thing to go, I can't remember the 1st.

When I got up this morning I got to work taking care of all the things I want to get done before my surgery on Wednesday. Paper work, cleaning, correspondence, church service, email, family calls, so many things came to mind. But I kept wondering what I was forgetting. I took my dog Sam on a walk later in the morning. As I was walking through the neighborhood a few blocks away, I noticed a lot of cars parked in one area that was near my friend Sarah's house. I thought, "There must be some party going on in one of these houses." Soon after I got home, I got a call from Sarah. "Jody, I feel bad giving you a reminder call, but I think you told me you were planning on coming to Kim's shower at my house this morning." I almost yelled a word I only use when I am talking to my sister's. It all came back to me. I grabbed the gift I had set out to wrap, but had not noticed this morning, and hurried back down to Sarah's house.
Here's the thing. I had received an invitation last week and said I would come. I had set the gift out so I would remember to wrap it. I saw Kim yesterday and told her I would see her at her shower. I had written myself a reminder on a post-it (I think post-its were invented for me) and stuck it where I would be sure to see it since I knew I would have lots on my mind and I would want this reminder. But I didn't notice the gift or the note this morning, I forgot the conversations with Sarah and Kim, and even when I was walking by Sarah's house and saw all the cars, the memory did not connect. I cannot begin to number the countless complex things I can remember, but the few things that I forget like I did today really bug me. Then I remember that we are not here alone, and we are surrounded by others who remind us.
So I am especially grateful for people who help me remember what life is about. Part of life today was about going to my favorite kind of baby shower. Go, eat, give and open gifts, chat with good friends about the meaning of life, and leave full of food and love. Thanks for the reminder.

It Needs a Skirt

I belong to a yahoo group of mixed media artists. One recently wrote about an extended family gathering for a funeral. This amazing woman creates and teaches wonderful art journals, and organizes several great artfests that inspire thousands every year. Some family members looked at her artwork for the first time at this gathering, said, "So you just cut and paste", then turned away without a second glance. This is not an unfamiliar experience for any visual artist.
I remember when I created an art doll for a juried exhibit that was going to tour nationally. I created a pattern for a figure of a woman. She was seated on a stack of antique books, holding an antique pen writing on a piece of handmade paper. Her hair is wild, like mine. Instead of clothing, I lettered the titles of many of the books I have read in different colors, styles and multiple layers. She is called "A Woman of Letters". I finally finished her the day submissions were due. A friend of mine who had been trying to get me to stop doing my own "stuff" and join her at the decorative painting classes where everyone makes the same thing, came to look at the doll. She said, "It needs a skirt" and then left. I was just beginning to learn to not mutter "Heathen" under my breath.
The doll was juried into the exhibit and travelled to places in the country I haven't been. I reworked her this year and submitted her for publication. She will be in the Art Doll Quarterly that comes out in November.
I learned long ago not to take comments about my artwork personally. I don't even like or dislike someone based on that. Visual art creates such an intensely personal experience. I don't expect others to like what I make or what I like just because I do. If I am too attached to something, I don't display it where others could put me in the painful position of being rejected. But I am rarely that attached to something. I love surrounding myself with creations, by myself and others. Others will like them or not. But they breathe life into me every time I see them. Mike long ago stopped worrying about nail holes in the walls. He helps me hang artwork up before we put furniture in a room.
So holes-in-walls be damned, heathens be pitied, surround yourself with art that breathes life into you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What kind of health plan is this?

I am having surgery next week. A part of me that was once instrumental in a high level of creation is now causing some serious pain and complex health problems. So it is time for me to let it go, set it free, yank it, whatever - and then hope the problems go with it.
I went to the hospital for some pre-op lab work, and that included an hour long grilling session where I had to answer inquiries about every aspect of my physical, mental and emotional health, past, present and future. They didn't seem too concerned about my spiritual health.
Each time I go to the hospital, regardless of the "procedure" I am having, it seems that all modesty, propriety, and privacy is left at the door, just as surely as if there was a coat check room for it. The adventure comes in seeing how the lack of privacy manifests itself. This time I thought I might get by with minimal invasion, knowing that next weeks surgery would more than make up for it. But no, it was not to be. The medical history interview took place in a room with three desks, and one lounge chair where the patient sits while having the lab work done. I was the only patient for a while. I sat by one of the desks and answered questions being asked by a nice enough matronly office worker. The phlebotomist (needle lady, vampire) came and had me sit in the lounge chair while she took blood. She was good, and I barely felt a prick. But there was a tall guy leaning over her shoulder watching everything, including my reaction. I don't know what he thought it would be since the interrogator continued to question me and my responses didn't pause. They left and I returned to the desk side chair. The questions got more personal. When I shook my head "No" to the question "Are you using recreational drugs or addicted to prescription painkillers?" I wondered, what would they do if someone said yes. Does anyone ever say yes?
Then another patient and questioner came in and started the process at another desk. Another tech came to do the EKG on me and I was glad that this time she pulled the curtain around the lounge chair. But the questions continued to be called out to me through the curtain, and I answered intimate health details back while the other patient conversation continued on and I tried to ignore it. I asked myself, "How does all this contribute to the healing process?"
I guess I can't wait around while others figure out what it takes for us all to be healthy, or how to make sure the insurance companies and the lawyers and the voters all agree. I get the option of choosing to be healthy in whatever way I can, no matter how much is going on around me. Not always easy, but there it is. So right now, even as I create visual artwork, I create healing, I create healing, I create healing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Like Grandfather, Like Granddaughter

So my daughter Charlotte called with great news. She received a research grant for her senior thesis. She is preparing for her final year as an undergraduate at University of Utah. She is planning on doing graduate work in Mormon Studies, which is what my dad devoted so much effort to during his final years of teaching (This photo is of Dad (Eugene England) in his office in 1998). Charlotte wants to do her senior thesis on my dad and his writings about Mormon Culture, studies and literature. Several years ago she attended a banquet for the 40th anniversary of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Dad was one of the founding editors). She sat at a table with people who had known and worked with Dad, and they shared experiences with Charlotte about her grandpa who she had just begun to know when she was 15 when he died. She called me the day after the banquet telling me how excited she was about what she had heard and learned. "This is what I want to do, learn more about what Grandpa was doing, and continue on with it." It was a bittersweet moment for me. I love the passion Charlotte has to learn more about Dad, read his writings (I think she is currently the only grandchild who is) and carry on with what he was trying to do by helping establish Mormon studies programs in college and universities that should have had them long ago. And I wish Dad were here to be the one to mentor Charlotte through this time. It is one of the things that I miss most about Dad being gone, I really wanted my kids to be able to take classes from him, and have that classroom experience unlike any other. But this is one of the ways that creation of life continues on. Dad created language in his speaking and writing that breathes life into Charlotte years after he is gone. And hearts turn from children to fathers and mothers, from parents to sons and daughters, and the world is saved again.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gravity Works

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary. We have been having a great time relaxing and doing things at the spur of the moment. Our major celebration will be a trip to Maui in November, which Mike talks about everyday. He is part fish and cannot wait to swim with some of his cousins in the waters of Maui.

We celebrated today by going to the new Cirque du Soleil here in Denver called Kooza. My son calls it entertainment for old people, but I saw plenty of kids there. This show is heavy on the acrobatics, some traditional like tightrope, and juggling and balancing on a tower of chairs (all very impressive). Others were very innovative, and I couldn't help spontaneously gasping, oohing and crying out in amazement, then cheering wildly. My favorite was two guys flying around on a gigantic, vertically spinning double wheel (you have got to see it to have any idea what this is like). I was impressed with how different and creative their act was, and thought about what they and so many of the others were creating with. They are creating with gravity and physics. They have become intimately acquainted with how gravity and inertia and centrifugal - centripetal force works on them and their surroundings, and they create ways of working with it. They knew exactly when to grab onto their gigantic wheels, how to get them to spin incredibly fast, exactly when to let go so physical forces would allow them to fly, and exactly when and where to grab the wheel again.
I am learning how to do this myself. There are life forces all around me. When I don't want to acknowledge and respect them, when I resist what they are, I feel beaten and crushed. When I appreciate the power of life, of living, I find I can hang on to what gives me strength or what needs my strength, let go of people and things that no longer need to be held by me, and freedom to fly is there for us all.
Thank you, Michael, for choosing to create flight with me for 25 years. "To infinity . . . and beyond!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My big sister

I have 4 sisters. Katherine is my one and only sister who has lived longer than I have. Several decades ago I didn't have much appreciation for the teeny little bit of extra knowledge and experience that 21 months might give her. I was able to talk with her for a while the other day and I found myself appreciating the many ways she has been so generous and patient as a big sister this year. Even though we are different in many ways, I have loved enjoying and sharing the many ways we are one and the same. It helps me, as a mother, to know that I am not the only one who is simultaneously thrilled and in awe of my children, at the same time painfully worried about what they will deal with as they break away on their own. I am reminded of how lucky I am to have such a sister. What would we do without each other?
I have been scanning and organizing the thousands of slides my parents have, and some of my favorites are from when I was too young to remember. I might not be able to recall this moment with Katherine, but somewhere in my soul, I cherish it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stronger than death

Last night I heard that a friend of mine from my last neighborhood had died. She was my age, and she somehow got an infection. By the time they found it, it was too late and she couldn't be saved. This all happened in a coupe of days.
This was an amazing woman, involved in so much, helping many people. She and her husband had adopted 4 orphans from Europe, in addition to raising 5 of their own children. They were true partners, obviously united and in love. Reading her obituary, I can just feel her family's sorrow and loss. What is it that is stronger than death that gets us through something like this?
Almost 24 years ago, when my daughter was only a month old, I got a breast infection that exploded into toxic shock syndrome. The doctors told Mike and my parents I wouldn't make it. But I did. I could dwell on questioning why, but I don't.
How does the love we have for each other, the love we feel from each other, from God, help us get through the things that happen that seem worse than death. Only when love is stronger than death. That is an act of creation. I am grateful for the people I know, some no longer alive, who inspire the creation of love that strong.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

If I am an empty-nester, why is my house so cluttered?

Mike and I live in a 5 bedroom home, and all three of our children live away at college. When we have visitors, all the bedrooms are used, but in between, it is the two of us. We are actually enjoying many aspects of this new life (I don't need to go into details). But it still amazes me how much of the house is full of stuff, stuff, stuff. Much of my art work involves collage and assemblage, so I don't consider all of the bins of vintage (old to the heathen) items (junk to the heathen) as anything that contributes to the clutter.
Since moving to Colorado 3 years ago, I have been going through every box that was not purged before the move. I thought I had really cleared out a lot, but I think I just created vacuums which pulled in more stuff when my back was turned. When I pull things out now, I ask "Does this do anything to help me have the kind of life I want?" The answer is what determines where it goes. There are people who are thrilled I am willing to sell or give away so much from my past life at such low cost to them. I like knowing there are people who are weaving, sewing, creating with their kids, wearing clothes and playing with toys that were once packed away in my closets. Today I will set more things free so they can, like my kids, go find their own way in the world. I wish I worried about my kids as little as I worry about the stuff.

Monday, August 17, 2009

8 years ago

My dad died 8 years ago today. I miss him everyday. In 2003 I asked people to be a part of a team for Race for the Cure. My sister Jennifer and I designed a shirt so we could all run or walk in memory of dad. The phrase we put under the great picture Jennifer made was "Dash for Life. In memory of Eugene England 1933-2001, What are you doing in the dash?"
One of Dad's favorite phrases was "Gotta dash!" And then he would. He seemed to be in constant motion, learning, sharing, speaking, gathering, making a difference, and always having a great time. I was in a class the year after he died and shared some of the amazing impact Dad had on so many lives. The teacher shared an observation from another teacher. On a headstone there is a birth date and a death date, with a dash in between. There are three things certain in this world - we are all born, we will all die, and we all have complete say in who we will be in the time in between.
I saw how much Dad chose to create with that little dash between 1933 and 2001, regardless of the circumstances or how people behaved around him.
Today I create some of Dad's favorite chocolate chip cookies, a drawing to begin my next painting, time for a bike ride then a drive through the mountains with Mike, a call to my kids and a call to Mom to wish her love.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

blog beginnings

This is a blog about creation, about creativity, about creating. I am a visual artist and an art teacher, but I see those pursuits as a means of teaching and practicing creativity in all areas of life. I think, as human beings, we are all creative, we are all artists. I think we each have the power and ability to create our own life, more powerfully and in the face of our circumstances. This blog is an opportunity to share and be in a dialogue about creating life.
I am hoping it will help me be more aware of the many ways I see creation in my life, and the impact it can have on me and others.

My youngest child just moved out and started college. A new type of life is beginning for me.

Today is August 15, 2009. Mike and I created an adventure together. We went on a tandem bike ride to Chatsfield reservoir. We were going to go up to Frisco and ride the bike up to Vail Pass, but the weather looked stormy. It is the first time I have ridden to Chatsfield, and it was gorgeous. It is over 16 miles each way. Less than 4 miles into the return trip the thunder and lightning started, followed by the stinging rain and hail. I was glad that Mike is such a great windshield for me when we are on the tandem. Halfway home, the rain let up and the tire blew out. It was interesting creating a ride home when everyone we knew was gone for the day. We are glad for friends with teenagers with driver's licenses who are generous enough to give a ride to stranded oldies on a Saturday afternoon.
Tonight we helped create a neighborhood memory. We joined with others who were shooting potatoes through an ingenious potato gun made by neighbor Grover. It is always a hoot seeing boys (of all ages) with their toys. The two potato guns were made out of pvc pipe. Grover had carefully researched which kind would hold up under 200 psi air pressure. He had bevelled the end of the pipe so the edges of the potato would cut away as it was rammed down into the gun. Talk about creativity! The potatoes shot several hundred yards over the houses at the end of the circle into the field behind.
Then I came home and created my first blog. Next step - learn how to attach photos and customize. What are you creating with materials, time, relationships, space, anything?