Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Wonderful World of Zentangles

Do you tangle? Originally created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, Zentangle® is an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images by drawing repetitive patterns. Zentangle is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Click here to learn more and find your local Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT).

Meet Jacque Solomon, a Certified Zentangle Teacher in the North Fulton Area of Atlanta. Four classmates and I had the pleasure of taking her Introduction to Zentangle Basics Class 101 this afternoon. 


Just seeing all the beautiful artwork hanging in her teaching studio was inspiring.


But Jacque didn't let us sit idle for too long. We spent a few moments on introductions and then she gave us each a box of supplies and put us to work.


After going over a few basics, like what types of pens and paper work best and defining a few basic vocabulary words, we practiced drawing a few simple patterns. Then we took a Zentangle tile (a 3.5" square), divided into quadrants using a "string," and added patterns and embellishments of our choice to each quadrant. Here is my finished project. 


According to zentangle.com, Zentangle “increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being" and is also referred to as "artistic meditation." I have certainly found all of that to be true. And I don't think the timing of its appearance on my "radar" is any coincidence; I believe that it is going to be an important part of the reclamation of myself as an artist. Thanks, Jacque, for your warmth and encouragement today. I hope to see you in your studio again soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thoughts on Friendship


The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.  
--Elisabeth Foley

I love people and have counted many among my friends over the years. Like "love," though, "friend" is a simple word that has complex connotations. For example, I am blessed to have friendships that have stood the test of time. I have already blogged about reconnecting with my childhood friend Peggy; I am also Facebook friends with several other girls from the old neighborhood as well as my best friends from high school. We keep up with each other's Facebook posts, exchange Christmas cards and photographs, and even meet face-to-face as circumstances allow. It is wonderful to enjoy adult relationships with these women I grew up with.

#

You wanna know who your true friends are? Screw up and see who's still there.
--Unknown

Unfortunately, I have also had my share of fair-weather friends. For example, there was my friend Katrina*, a devout Christian woman, who befriended me back in my Raleigh years (1985-1993). Even after she and her family moved away we kept in touch, sending each other long newsy letters and chatting for hours on the phone. Everything was great until 2001, when I made the difficult decision to divorce my husband. Certain that she would be supportive after learning my reasons, I was devastated to discover that her religious convictions prevented her from maintaining her friendship with me. She has not spoken to me since.

Indeed, I have been thrown under the bus or abandoned more times than I like to remember by women I was certain I would play Bingo with at the senior citizens center one day. Whether for a transgression they couldn't forgive or for reasons totally beyond my comprehension, they walked out of my life without a backward glance. My head tells me I am better off without them. My heart is slow to catch up.

#

Your truest friends are the ones who will stand by you in your darkest moments - because they're willing to brave the shadows with you - and in your greatest moments - because they're not afraid to let you shine. 
-- Nicole Yatsonsky

Interestingly, other of my conservative friends were among my biggest supporters as I went through my divorce. Asking no questions, demanding no explanations, they looked after my young children while I shopped for a house, met with lawyers, went to court. These women also supported me by attending my how-to-homeschool seminars and bringing their children to my home for piano lessons. Years have gone by; our children are grown and our lives have gone in different directions. Still, we manage to find opportunities to get together, to have dinner or plan an adventure. I don't know what I would have done without them.

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She is a friend of mind.  She gather me, man.  The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.  It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.  
--Toni Morrison, Beloved

Today, I am blessed to have a small circle of friends who really get me. They have seen me at my worst but challenge me to be my best. I don't have to be overly careful about my words when I am with them; they read between the lines, hearing what is left unsaid as clearly as what is stated, and help me understand my feelings when they are almost too raw to experience. They hold me when I cry, commiserate with me when I am heartbroken, encourage me in my crazy dreams but love me just the way I am. I hope they consider me to be the same kind of friend to them.

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A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.  
--William Penn

These same women occasionally are put in the position of telling me something I really don't want to hear - either in gentle criticism or as a result of seeing me in a compromised situation. This kind of honesty is extremely rare and worth more than a thousand hollow flatteries.

#

I get by with a little help from my friends.
--The Beatles

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

*Name has been changed.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Am An Artist



Even though I engage in a number of creative pursuits - sewing, knitting, beading, playing the piano, writing fiction - I have always told myself that I am not a creative person. Despite the fact that I have acquired enough skill in some of these areas to teach (quilting, English smocking, heirloom sewing by machine, piano pedagogy) and the fact that I earn a comfortable living as a pianist and piano teacher, I have always insisted that I don't have a creative bone in my body, that I am merely a talented thief.

Moving forward, I reject that notion.

I am an artist, an emerging synthesis of musician, writer, and maker of things. Towards that end, I will spend fifteen minutes a day working on music composition at the conclusion of my practice time, an hour a day working on my novel after I finish my morning pages, and I will create one new "thing" - like make a piece of jewelry or try a new lye soap recipe - each day. This is not an option. This is an imperative.

It has been suggested that I am not "emerging"; rather, I am already there. I don't quite believe it, so it must not be so. But as quickly as possible. Here I go!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French


Over the summer, I read The Shining and Dr. Sleep. So when I was offered the opportunity to read and review a book that Stephen King praised, calling it “terrifying,” “amazing,” and “incandescent,” how could I resist?

From the dust jacket:

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin's Murder squad - and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings it to him. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda's School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and way.

Everything they find leads them back to Holly and her close-knit group of friends, and to the tangled web of relationships that bound them and their fiercest enemies to Chris Harper. And every step in that direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen's links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda's will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly's father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points towards his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

Run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of this book! Better yet, buy it for your e-reader so you can start reading it RIGHT NOW! It is arguably the best murder mystery I have ever read. With its complex and realistic characters, a setting so well drawn I almost felt I was in it, enough plot twists to keep me dizzy, and stunningly beautiful prose, this tightly woven whodunit kept me up late at night and woke me up early in the morning, demanding that I  keep turning the pages. Five enthusiastic stars! Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Launch yourself on every wave


You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this. 
― Henry David Thoreau

It's Labor Day, the official end of summer - and what a summer it was! Now I'm back to work, happy to see my piano students again; settling into a routine of teaching, playing, writing and jewelry making; beginning to pay the bills from the home improvements projects I tackled in June and July.

So much good stuff! But then my dog had to have surgery and waiting for a referral to a urologist because the CT scan showed that the on-again-off-again pain I have been having since last spring is indeed caused by kidney stones. And I miss being with my ex-fiance - at least, I miss the way things were with us in the beginning. There's a part of me that still can't quite believe it is over between us, making it impossible to truly let him go. Recently the thought occurred to me that in the thirteen years since my divorce I have had four marriage proposals and been engaged twice - and I'm still single. What's the common denominator in all that? Me.

Last May, I signed up to participate in Jennifer Boykin's June Reclaim the Sass challenge. But when June first rolled around, I barely paid attention to the daily emails she sent me. How could I, wrapping up my academic year and preparing for two student piano recitals while reeling from the reality of my break-up? Well, it turns out my participation in the June challenge automatically signed me up for the September challenge, which started TODAY. This month's theme is Coming to Your Senses. Intrigued, I watched the first video (click HERE). It was only four minutes long but it was just what I needed.

Following Jennifer's advice, I collected sounds as I went on my morning walk through the neighborhood. My goal is three miles a day which usually takes me 50-60 minutes, depending on the heat. RunKeeper tracks my distance, freeing my mind to go in a million different directions - everything from making a mental list of all the things I need to do to to making a mental list of all the things I have ever done wrong over the course of my entire life. Today, even though my thoughts looped in those old familiar ruts, reminding myself of my mission - to collect sounds - brought me right back into the moment.

The singing of the tree frogs. The chirping of a bird. The barking of a dog. The flapping of a flag. The scraping of a scooter. The whirring of an air conditioner. The roaring of a lawn mower. The slapping of my sneakers against the asphalt. The rippling of the creek. The shy "hello" from a little girl wearing a pink dress. Every single sound brought a smile to my face. It was the best walk I have had in a good long time. I was doing more than just putting one foot in front of the other. I was truly connecting with the world around me.

Age has given me the gift of me; it just gave me what I was always longing for, which was to get to be the woman I've already dreamt of being. 
― Anne Lamott

None of us knows what the future has in store for us. Maybe I will find romantic love again; maybe not. What I do know is that I have a wonderful life right now - filled with family and friends and children and music and opportunity and beauty, so much beauty - if I just take the time to notice.

To join this month's Reclaim the Sass challenge, click HERE.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Life gave me lemons. And then it gave me flowers.

You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help. 
― Bill Watterson


Friday was one of those days. I have been experiencing lower back pain since the first of April. Initially, I was diagnosed with a kidney infection. Antibiotics provided relief, but then the symptoms returned. Convinced I have a kidney stone, my primary care physician ordered a CT scan. It took almost two weeks, but finally the scheduling department called; my appointment was at 7:30 last Friday. Armed with the address provided to me and my trusty GPS, I headed out bright and early Friday morning.

Except the address landed me in the middle of nowhere. So I entered it on Google Maps and ended up somewhere else - but still not where I was meant to be. And the scheduling department wasn't answering the phone. And they hadn't bothered to mention the name of the facility where I was headed.

At some point in my frantic driving, I happened upon a large medical building. The second time I passed it, my intuition said, "Stop here." I parked my car, walked inside, and found the Suite 190 I was looking for. I was thirty minutes late for my appointment, but apparently that is commonplace there. "You can't find this place with a GPS," the cheerful receptionist informed me. Too bad the scheduling department hadn't apprised me of that fact.

My next stop was with the billing department. The representative there was pleasant enough, but she couldn't seem to remember where I worked or what I did for a living - even after she shared her personal experience with piano lessons as a young child. Then she dropped the bomb that while the cost of the procedure is almost $4000, after insurance, I was immediately responsible for $1400. There's another tidbit I wish the scheduling department had mentioned to me. My heart told me to walk right out the door. Instead, I pulled out my Bank of America credit card. Pain is a powerful motivator.

The procedure itself was neither painful nor invasive and took less than ten minutes. But by the time I got dressed and back home, I found myself in the throes of a full-blown migraine - can you say "stress"? - and spent the rest of the day in bed. No scrapbooking with Jennifer. No Zentangles and Sky Juice with Natalie. Just lying still with a cold rag draped across my forehead and my faithful dog Karma - himself recovering from eye surgery last week that set me back another cool $1000 - lying by my side.

And then the most miraculous thing happened. My doorbell rang. And the delivery man handed me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. There was no signature, just this note:

You're a gifted, talented woman, beautiful inside and out. You touch so many lives. You are loved and admired by many and the world is a better place because you are in it. I hope these flowers brighten your day.

Well, they did. But I desperately wanted to know who the sender was. I called the florist, but the wouldn't/couldn't tell me; I posted a picture on Facebook, too, but no one owned up to the deed. As I said there, the timing couldn't have been better. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now I wait for my doctor to call me with the results. What will be, will be. In the meantime, I am grateful for friends who are still waiting for me for scrapbooking and Zentangles and Sky Juice. And I am oh so grateful for Anonymous. Whoever you are, you touched my life in a way I will never, ever forget.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Don't miss it!

Psst!

Penguin (@PenguinPbk) will be hosting a killer Twitter chat between two wonderfully talented British suspense/mystery authors—Sarah Hilary (@sarah_hilary) and Alex Marwood (@AlexMarwood1)—which will take place on Wednesday, August 20th from 12-1 pm EST, under #killerfiction. Don’t miss your chance to ask questions to these up-and-coming authors in the genre!


PRAISE FOR SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN

“Award-winning short story writer Sarah Hilary has crafted a tight, nasty mystery… gripping and full of graphic details about the lives and psychology of her characters, both abusers and their victims.”
—Eileen Brady, Mystery Scene Magazine

“If this first entry is anything to go by, Hilary's sense of plot and subtle character building will make the DI Marnie Rome series one to watch.”
Shelf-Awareness

“Promising…[Hilary] skillfully interweaves multiple viewpoints on the way to the mystery’s unsettling conclusion.”
Publishers Weekly

“Fans of Val McDermid and Ian Rankin will love this tremendous debut. Someone Else’s Skin puts Sarah Hilary and DI Marnie Rome squarely on the map. A gripping, disturbing examination of domestic violence with gravitas in spades, this book haunts you well after its finish.
—Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of Through the Evil Days


ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE KILLER NEXT DOOR

“If you read Alex Marwood's The Wicked Girls, her new one—THE KILLER NEXT DOOR—is even better. Scary as hell. Great characters.”
—Stephen King

“A taut, fascinating tale that's not for the weak of stomach… [Alex Marwood] not only creates a cast of memorable characters, but also ratchets up the suspense, leaving readers to dread what might be around the next corner. Many writers shine at characterization or at creating tension; the trick is in successfully combining the two. In this case, readers will care what happens to Collette and the rest of the boarders while simultaneously waiting for the literary axe to fall. Marwood…proves she's got staying power in this addictive tale.”
Kirkus, Starred Review

“If the author’s first book explored how poverty and abuse can make monsters of men, then this new novel will have readers peering suspiciously at the neighbors and wondering just what’s behind their closed doors. This tightly plotted story grabs readers from the opening paragraphs and will keep them up far too late at night. Highly recommended for fans of Laura Lippman, Tana French, and Gillian Flynn.”
Library Journal, Starred Review