What Makes You Laugh?

Years ago, I went to this New Age Spa and we did this laughing meditation. We said Ha! Ha! and pretty soon we were all rolling around the yoga studio, laughing hilariously. It was like magic. A little laughter and everyone was laughing.

I don’t know how it works, but laughter is contagious.

The weather is cold today, like 32 degrees. And I’m not in the mood for winter before fall.

So I am going to think of things that make me happy:

  • The Mets vs. Cubs – my two favorite teams (I am going to be happy whoever wins!)
  • My art teachers, especially the smart, crazy Heidi Bound. She always shares her supplies
  • I have always loved this book by David Shannon.
    I have always loved this book by David Shannon.

    Reading books to Kindergartners, especially No, David!

  • My son’s going to visit from college this weekend
  • Chris and I are going to perform in and produce A Christmas Carol as a fundraiser for refugees this Christmas-time
  • I have 60,000 miles I have to use or purchase a flight before January
  • I am going to try and get me and the girls to Cuba
  • My girls

I am part of the #Write31Day challenge. Hundreds of us are encouraging each other to write every day of October. I chose the theme of mindfulness. And it’s not easy. And I’m not always feeling mindful. But I’m doing it. So there’s that. Today’s inspiration was:

inertia

Loving Kindness

It was time to line up and one kindergartner was pushing another.

“Hey, be loving,” I said.

So he made a kissing mouth to the other boy, “I’m loving. Love. Love Love.” Getting in his face, annoying, now with excessive kindness.

I was going to post about extreme kindness, but then this happened. And I realized sometimes you can go too far in the loving business. An excess of loving can be intrusive.

I forget this. I try to make my children be friends with other children — my friends’ kids or coworkers’ kids. They hate this. I do remember my mother doing this to me too. Any child that was roughly my age — at a church function or the playground — “Why don’t you go play with them?” Did she not realize my own right to choose? My own autonomy? To make my own friends?

Fortunately, I have become someone who can make friends with anyone. I can find common ground with just about any person I meet. I don’t really want to thank my mother for this, but she is the same way.

Maybe I learned it at St. Joan of Arc Kindergarten class. Maybe my teacher told me when I was wiggly, “Hey, be more loving.” I’m trying, God knows, I’m trying.

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Such a gorgeous fall day in Riverside Park today.

Photography as a Practice

Hold Your Breath
When I used to take pictures with a real camera – not my camera phone – I would hold my breath for one moment to be sure that the image was not shaky. Or if the light was low, I’d hold for a little longer. I still try to stop time when I snap a pic.

Hang on to the Moment
My children think I take too many pictures. I can’t help it – I don’t want to forget the moment. But my son tells me that because I take a picture, I no longer remember the event. I, in effect, outsource my memory to my camera. I can’t help it; I want to hang on to the moment of transition, like my son’s high school graduation or college drop off. Life is so fleeting.

Hold the People Close
Sometimes I take a picture because I know I am not going to see the person for a while. And I want to hold them close to me by holding on to their image. Like the way people used to have portraits painted or wore lockets around their necks.

Yesterday my cousin Abby Nierman, who just started college in NYC, came over for Sunday dinner. She snapped a few pictures of me and Charlotte. (Chris was grocery shopping and Cate was in the throes of homework.) It took all of 20 minutes. She did such an awesome job. We felt relaxed and close. We love the pictures she took. We never had to hold our breath. We hung on to the moment and each other.

Visit Abby’s Facebook page. She’s majoring in entrepreneurship and is starting a small biz in portrait photography.

Char Abby me abby me and char abby

Start With Art

Make art because it feels good. Art is as therapeutic as a glass of wine or a good work out.

5 reasons to make art:

  1. Your imperfections are beautiful
  2. You are in the moment
  3. You see things differently
  4. You connect to your child-like self
  5. You co-create with God
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This is from a page in my art journal.

Just about every Sunday night, I sit at the dining room table and move around some gesso, paint, gel, old magazine pieces, ink, pastels, stamps.

I make crazy art collage books — a bunch of randomness. Searching for serendipity, synchronicity. I try to piece it all together. I really don’t care if people like or understand my stuff. I live so much of my life trying to get people to understand – as a writer, I want to be clear; as a teacher, I want my students to get the assignment.

So I appreciate the time with my art; time connected, not to my head, but to my body or spirit or flow. I know I am good with words, but sometimes words fail. Or words exhaust.

Then images remain, replenish.

I doubt I am much of a fine artist. One brother is a professional artist. Another is a graphic artist. And my father is pretty good with a paintbrush. My whole family is artsy. So I might have a knack.

I am okay that my work is messy. Making art is about letting go of intentions. I start one project only to move on to another. Briefly, I was obsessed with painting small boxes. I have more than a dozen. I tried to give them away at Christmas a couple of years ago but one of my sister-in-laws refused the gift! LOL – An indication of how useful these little boxes are? Honestly, I think she was trying to honor her minimalism rather than denying my craftsmanship. And I can honor that and want to downsize too.

There is no reason to make art. But my dad once told me (don’t you love when politicians are always quoting their fathers?) “You should always do the thing for which there is no reason.”

I realize by making art that I have a unique way of seeing the world. I realize that making art is simply playing. Tinkering. I have to believe that the act of creation is something the creator wants us to do. And something that benefits us all. As actors, composers, singers, dancers, artists, we move the human race forward. And we receive therapy. It just feels good.

What are you making today?

my little treasure boxes
my little treasure boxes

A Month of Blogging: Day 29

I have blogged nearly every day of October and I’ll be glad to NOT blog every. single. freakin’. day.

I learned that I have something to say. That surprised me. I thought I’d run out of ideas, but no.

I wanted to repost some old stories, but I didn’t. The one story I did repost — about an educator whom I love, Geoffrey Canada, received very low traffic. The story with the highest traffic this month (470 readers!) was about Bridget and Amanda’s wedding. Everyone loves a love story.

I thought I might just post pics on Wordless Wednesdays, but I didn’t.

I wrote a couple of posts on my phone.

I thought I’d write about writing. You know, I was hoping to get all professional and writerly with you. I wanted to share tips and tricks and be seen as an expert. But no, I didn’t. I wrote mostly about family matters.

It wasn’t the writing that was hard. I’m a fast writer. It was finding the time to write. I have a crazy busy life — Coco’s ruptured cyst, jury duty, wonderful freelancing, substitute teaching, afterschool artist, doctor’s visits, housecleaning.

Yes, housecleaning! That always gets in the way of my blogging. Must stop cleaning.

Tomorrow, I’m back on jury duty. I hope there’s nothing from the criminal courts to blog about.

I will leave you with today’s pic from my beautiful Riverside Park.

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California Dreaming

The autumn is bittersweet. There are forecasts that another polar vortex will swirl our way this winter.

To prepare for any possible NYC Seasonal Affect Disorder, I’ve just booked airline tickets for a couple of weeks for the whole fam to got to Southern California over Christmas and New Year’s.

How lucky is my family – to have friends for whom we will house- and dog-sit in Pasadena. I like making new traditions in new places. Most Christmases, we have ensconced ourselves in the Big House in the Adirondacks at Christmas. And then to shake things up, we might’ve gone north from there to Montreal for a night or two – for Boxing Day shopping or a swim in a hotel pool.

the Big House
the Big House

But my husband’s family has decided to close the Big House for winter. The family is choosing to save money. (The heating bill at Christmas is usually at least $100/a day). Besides, the mansion is for sale this year. And a lot of family members are in transition.

I wrote this as I headed out to a retreat on the Long Island RailRoad. I passed pumpkin patches, vineyards, and horse farms. The leaves on the trees were just so beautiful this weekend. While I was California-dreaming about Christmas, I was also trying to remain present — live in the moment with all of the beauty right in front of my eyes this October.

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took this from the L.I.R.R., heading to Shelter Island.

A Poem for History and Heritage Day

Who was the nomad?
Was it you?
Did you use a walking stick?
A talking stick?
Did you find — as you journeyed — a sense of home?
Why did you leave?

Were you told to honor your father and mother?
But left any way
And now you are being left.

The natural right loneliness of the child, your child,
who fills his backpack, walks away and never looks back. Not once.
I don’t begrudge my children growing up.
I just didn’t know what you went through.
Until it happened to me.
It explains why everything fell apart.

Ancestors before me, have compassion. Forgive me.
I get to thinking it all began — I began —
when my grandparents and great grandparents came on a big ship
From Ireland and from Denmark and Norway.
Separate big ships. In the turbulent Atlantic sea.
Colliding in me.
Making my brothers and sisters too.
But mostly me.
I was born on three big ships crossing the Atlantic.

But I go back to fields and plains and caves.
Nomads.
Just like you.
We were all of us. Walking.
Walking with sticks.
Singing and laughing and arguing
And wondering who our children would be.

And now we set out, as nomads, again.

Where is your journey?
I hope you will find — as your journey — your way home.

Walking with a bag on a stick in Kenya
Walking with a bag on a stick in Kenya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wrote this and am reading this poem for History and Heritage Day, an alternative celebration to Columbus Day today at the Interchurch Center, NYC.