Observation and Fatigue

My acrylic painting has just been stored and I’m not going to show it to anyone until I do much better. It’s scary starting with art again after plus thirty years. This week I’m trying to schedule an hour daily to focus on it, even if it means just showing up.

This morning I hid the painting after calling it finished, stored my paints, etc. in an easy-to-get-to place but off my computer desk and recognized that I might best learn to draw again in some sort of structured way. I got down my 1985 copy of Bert Dodson’s “Keys To Drawing”.

When I lived in Boulder County Colorado, I liked to go up to Nederland and spend the day. I liked the altitude and being by the big reservoir. Having spent the first 17 years of my life with the Mississippi River nearby, it felt unnatural to be so far from big water in Colorado.

Once when I was wandering back to town and near the shelter area I saw a small group of people drawing. It was a class and usually I’m very shy and reserved but not this time. After chatting with the art teacher a bit, she told me that she was self-taught and had learned from Dodson’s book. So I bought one and put it on my shelf where it sat and was moved to three different apartments in two states.

As scary as it is, I don’t learn when I don’t even try–hence the scheduled hour daily now. (Honestly I couldn’t think of another word besides hence).

I began looking through the book after clearing up the disappointing painting project and was drawn to a little section about observation and fatigue. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know I’m interested in rejuvenating from burn-out and fatigue.

Drawing is more about observing the object being drawn than the medium on which it’s drawn. Dodson says fatigue is inevitable and often comes on before we realize it. One sign is a sudden awareness of time. Another sign is awareness of distractions. He says at these times it’s best to stop. Wow. I have never seen this information before and it easily translates into a tool for the rest of my life.

Now many times, I have to slog my way through something just like we all do. It is useful to be conscious of the increase in tiredness though so I can make the good choices that are available to me. With drawing, as I walk the fine line of overcoming my fears and also taking care of my health this is a micro-detail that will serve me well.

This sudden lack of focus and anxiety about time also happens when I’m reading or on the computer. He didn’t mention hunger, but sometimes I feel suddenly very hungry. Dodson recommends when drawing, to select areas of interest in the subject and concentrate on them first to bunch up both energies and time. The rest of the drawing can then be treated with simplicity. Kind of like being wise in prioritizing my activities.


Oh Really?

One of the most important things for me to remember as I navigate my life is not to compare myself with others.

I just read an an online piece about a survey that showed how Facebook made the grass seem greener in other people’s lives. All the photos of fabulous times friends are having and their numerous successes can make one feel like a loser. I know it does me and anything I might have to post on Facebook seems lame. So I don’t. It’s understandable that people would want to present themselves in the best light possible and most of us don’t really want to share our dark nights of the soul in our blogs. But it’s easy to forget that our glamorous, confident friends have doubts and awkward moments.

In this age of rampant self-promotion, how can we be sure what’s presented is true? I remember in the 80’s when I worked at a job with mostly men. In that workplace during that time, they were allowed to say almost anything no matter how uncomfortable it made me. I tuned them out but was aware that there was a lot of sexual bragging going on, which I didn’t believe to be true at all. Then in other circles I was in, people would share the glorious tales of their spiritual experiences, which made my subtle moments of divine connection seem pale in comparison.

Two of the stars of the mind/body and new age community have admitted to their burn out and exhaustion while they were accomplishing amazing things in the public eye. Joan Borysenko, a stress expert has written about her own burn-out in her latest book, Fried. It’s very informative about the stages and signs that are about so much more than just depression. Debbie Ford of “Shadow” fame has had to choose priorities after her serious bout with pneumonia and shares that she was exhausted most of the years she was out there as a leading voice. She’s now had to disconnect from many of the obligations and often accessible communications with everyone she was available to before.

I’ve learned the hard way that it calls for sense and awareness of reality when determining just what I can reasonably do and whether or not it’s worth the cost. Sure, I have goals but at age 56 I very much want to enjoy my remaining years, not hyperventilate myself to the same success it looks like other people are achieving. And when I tune in to someone, I want to pay attention to their authentic self, not an image they’re promoting. It’s so refreshing to have someone connect with me for just a moment or so—and they’re not selling some thing or some agenda.

Not Another Book Right Now

I usually have six or seven books I’m reading and lately the philosophical/self-help ones have all mentioned the work of Martin Seligman. He’s a clinical psychologist with real-world experience in studying and tracking learned optimism among other things. Now, I must admit here that I’m biased against mainstream kinds of information and studies and this isn’t the sort of book I’d trust on its own. But of the three books I’m reading, I trust the authors and they make a compelling case for the ideas in the book.

It’s of interest to me now because the ongoing regaining of my health and how it’s impacted my life can be quite discouraging. Seligman writes of the three P’s—–permanent, pervasive and personal—-which is how people with learned helplessness view setbacks and obstacles. I’ve had the trials like Job in this life so have an interest/skepticism in the subject but no patience for fluffy new-age smarm. It’s amazing what a circus the new age literature has become, not relevant to what many people face in a way that can make sense to them.

Anyway, so this seems like a good book that I should read. Yet, I have piles of books to read and I want to achieve some of my goals, not keeping adding on to them. That’s one thing people with ADD do, add-on repeatedly (some people would call these distractions, but they are actually added to a list) and feel like they aren’t accomplishing anything. There’s also the budget factor. So, what to do? I guess I’ll wait and in the spring see if the library has it. Or just wait six months and see if the urgency to get yet another book wears off.

This came up while I was reading this morning and then by afternoon I felt like I was going to die. Seriously. Detoxing from environmental poisoning can feel awful and part of the process is feeling worse then better over and over. I know this and still resent it. The things I do to take care of my health and then see people eating junk food and bouncing along in high heels hurts. But that’s another post.

This one is about maybe refining my optimism, which apparently can be learned by reading this book, yet waiting awhile and using what I have. I’ve gotten some ideas from what was mentioned in the other books I’m reading. Yes, my life is a big project to me.

This blog is helping me a lot in ways I’ve mentioned before. I have optimism about it even though I log on and see lots of hits and then find they are mostly from spammers. I really wondered if I’d be able to post today but I’m feeling better already.

Learning From My Three Favorite Novels

the ones on the shelf instead of the floor

the ones on the shelf instead of stacked on the floor

The novel writing book I’m reading by Donald Maass asked for the reader to pick their three favorite novels and intuit or look for why they’re favorites. I chose “Silent In The Grave” by Deanna Raybourn, “The Year Of Pleasures” by Elizabeth Berg” and “A Walk In The Woods” by Bill Bryson.
The character in the Raybourn book is very likable and honest with herself. It’s the descriptive quality of her relationship with people and things around her that I enjoy. She’s wealthy and the story takes place in Victorian times. Many Victorian novels seem bleak to me and while this one isn’t fluffy or frivolous, it is lighter. I love the sense of place and descriptions of clothes, furniture, homes and gloriously, food. It felt good to read of Lady Julia Grey’s relationship with some of her servants, which could be humorous but not in an over-the-top way.
The Berg book (which darn it, I loaned out and will have to obtain a new copy for myself) is about a favorite theme of mine–a mature woman whose old life is gone and the steps she takes to find her way into a new one. It’s what I liked about the film “Under The Tuscan Sun”, a favorite of mine. The book isn’t about drama and angst and suffering. It is subtle and the descriptions of the place and things and the interior journey all blend well together in a way that’s soothing and sensual to me.
Bryson’s book is the funniest book I’ve ever read and I laugh out loud until I have tears. Even though he’s a guy I can relate to the process of setting an incredibly unrealistic goal, forging ahead without proper conditioning and preparation and then the ensuing inner conflict of realizing he’s in way over his head. Again, there is a lot of description of the Appalachian Trail and his relationship to it.
As I read a little further in Haass’s Writing The Breakout Novel, he mentions how 19th century novels treated the landscape as a character in the story. Of course! The outdoors and nature are very alive to me. Setting and landscape can feel more important to me than the action part of the story, although I resent being jerked around and manipulated by the action part and for personal reasons I don’t tolerate tragedy and unfortunate endings well. (I avoid Oprah’s book selections.)
I love the Britflick series Midsomer Murders and it isn’t for the story. It’s for the amazingly gorgeous settings and the relationships.
Relationships between people and things and surroundings are interesting to me as well as relationships between people. In at least one of my posts here, I’ve mentioned that I like stuff. When meeting new people as potential friends, not only do I notice how they treat others but also the way the relate to their cars, electronics, clothes and the environment among other things.
I’ve also mentioned I like the show “Burn Notice” and it certainly isn’t for the story, blowing things up, etc. It’s for the character’s integrity and their relationships to each other. I would never read books about those stories, I think, because it’s a visual thing and the actors do a great job. Although I can appreciate the written descriptions in Robert B. Parker’s novels.
Since I tend to over-analyze and think things to death (oh, you’ve noticed?) I usually stay away from books making intellectual points (although I love the novel Ishmael) and go for more sensual stories.
I avoid books about illness and suffering with the exception of Stephen White’s books. He has a character with MS and he does an awesome job of portraying her as a complex, whole, interesting person who is so much more than her illness.
Now there, I’ve learned a little something about myself and what I look for in a book. And one thing I know for sure–as I’m learning to write, this is the approach that will more likely bringing me an enjoyable experience. I’m well aware that the craft part, very little of which I remember from high school (nope, didn’t take any courses in college on that) and grammar and such–well, I have a lot to learn and refresh there. It isn’t the place to begin for me. So much of my introduction to various things in life have been more of a turn-off and discouragement instead of an inspiration. I’m going to approach it from a direction that might work a lot better for me.

Reading a Writing Book

Sometimes I enjoy reading novels and sometimes I like to write. Sometimes really weird and interesting things have happened in my life or to someone I know and I’ve wished I had the skills and other qualities it takes to write a book. When I read an amazing book I often wish I’d written it.
It’s only been lately that I’ve taken up the notion of writing a book for the experience of it. Actually, I’ve written one accidentally and that’s for another post.
Where to begin? I know about eating the elephant one bite at a time but I don’t know where to start. Organizing and structure in life are not my strength. I can be visionary and see the huge, cosmic picture and also get lost in details but as for any kind of structure that resembles what others consider functional–it’s overwhelming to me and I have to feel my way into it. My intellect balks.
Not being averse to really crappy first efforts (as long as no one is looking) I’ve collected three books on novel writing. The first is Chris Baty’s “No Plot, No Problem” which I used for support in writing that first accidental novel.
The second one, which I’ve recently begun is “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass. I chose it because I buy a LOT of books from Amazon and bless their business-like hearts, they are always showing me recommendations for books that I’d never find any other way. I also look at reviews (with skepticism) because often I am not in agreement with critics, people who don’t like something seem more likely to write reviews than people who think it’s just fine and also because I don’t trust the judgement of many of the reviewers. Something about the reviews of this book made me want to give it a whirl and I ordered a used copy.
The book was published in 2001 and the beginning of it has to do with the changing publishing world, which of course is way different now. The publishing world isn’t what I’m wanting to learn about right now and I’m smart enough to know things have changed anyway so I proceeded on.
I like the book and even though I’m not very far along in it I’m already noticing things differently when I read fiction. (I’m reading “Breaking Dawn” right now. Don’t judge me.)
Reading the chapter about Premise, which I’d never thought about before, I got stuck for a little while on the exercise where the reader is to choose their three favorite novels for consideration. Novels they’ve read over and over and that they can go to the shelf and pick up and put in front of them.
After putting too much energy into the exercise, I told myself to just move on. It isn’t a test and there’s no wrong answer and no one cares.
I chose Deanna Raybourn’s “Silent In The Grave”, Elizabeth Berg’s “The Year of Pleasures” and believe it or not, Bill Bryson’s “A Walk In The Woods”.
It’s not clear to me yet why I really like these books so much but I’m sure that it will dawn on me. I mean what the books have in common that fit the elusive-to-describe criteria of what’s magic for me.

Looking Forward To

Very recently I learned of three films in the works with my favorite actor and a book by one of my favorite authors. I like what I like.
This is what I’m writing about today because my brain isn’t working. Every morning I write morning pages and this morning I repeatedly wrote the opposite of what I meant. My nervous system is fried right now. Don’t worry at all–this has been going on for years before I began writing this little blog and I’ve done all the inner work and know about attitude and whatever.
This blog isn’t meant to be mainly about my health issues and other quite significant challenges. I’ve looked around a bit and there are blogs like that available here and quite frankly, while I’m a very compassionate person I can’t stand to read them.
I’m mentioning this because I am using my super powers to do what I can and if it doesn’t seem at all what you care for, kindly move on. This blog is meant to be part of my solution.
Here, I’ll put it in a handy literary quote: “And to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind.”–William Shakespeare.
The actor is Richard Armitage. I’m not much of a celebrity watcher, but I really, really like him. I think maybe I’ll write about him from time to time.
On July 22 of this year, Captain America: The First Avenger opens. This is the kind of film I would never, ever watch if Richard Armitage were not in it. He plays a bad guy–Heinz Kruger. Other actors in the film that I’ve heard of are Samuel L. Jackson, Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones.
The other two films are The Hobbit Parts one and two. Richard plays the dwarf, Thorin Oakenshield, which is a bit perplexing to me because he is quite tall. The films will be released in December 2012 and December 2013 respectively. Which is quite awhile to wait.
Another film I’ve been anticipating is Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp playing the role of Barnabas Collins. I fear I may not like it, but must see it. I’m a fan of the 1960’s gothic soap, Dark Shadows and own the entire series on DVD. Yes, I’m aware of all the criticisms about many aspects of the show. I enjoy it anyway and am smiling right now.
The book I’m looking forward to is The Dark Inquiry by Deanna Raybourn and is available June 21. It’s her fourth in the Lady Julia Grey series. Victorian England again. Not only do I enjoy the books, I like reading her blog. She’s delightful.
Creating things is not a stroll in the park. I appreciate the folks who make my life more enjoyable and uplifted by their creations, be it art, books, films or music.

Brit Flicks and Fiction

Still awkwardly planning my next year’s goals, I appreciate the moments when I relax and read the new Charles Finch book, “A Stranger in Mayfair”. I’m wanting it to last. The Victorian protagonist recently attended a speech given by Queen Victoria and I was delighted that he’s in the process of reading Mrs. Gaskell’s “Cranford”.
My local library has the dvd production of “Cranford” which I very much enjoyed watching this summer. When you want to see something weirdly amusing, search YouTube for when the cat ate the lace.
My favorite film series of Elizabeth Gaskell’s work is “North and South” with the wonderful and talented Richard Armitage. I am a fan, something I rarely am of an actor.
Recently I received and watched the third and final season of “Clatterford”. In the UK it was called “Jam and Jerusalem.”
It’s by the same folks who did “Absolutley Fabulous” which I disliked.
Dawn French is amazing in it and it would be so lovely to visit with the Women’s Guild of Clatterford. The scenery is lovely, of course; it makes me laugh and sometimes tear up and the people look real. They live in interesting-looking homes, not all the glass and steel and neutral tones of so many US shows. There aren’t the skinny, air-brushed, slick, plastic looking actors either. It’s a little world that’s both cozy and refreshing to enter into for awhile.
There’s something about the English that helps me feel everything is all right.


It’s a holiday that my family of origin celebrated in a very modest way. When I left my childhood home, I didn’t bother much with it as far as decorating and entertaining goes. There are many different  nuances of the traditions and now so many things changing for people rapidly.

I guess it’s simple for us to just continue on without questioning the way we celebrate unless circumstances or strong awareness impels us to make changes. After reading some blog posts by people I admire about the little traditions in their homes, I’m considering crafting my own to make the holidays more meaningful for me.

The people I used to celebrate with are all gone now. These days I’m fine with going along with whatever the people I’m with do to celebrate the holidays.
When people are alone, it makes a difference whether or not they offer a certain quality of life to themselves. It doesn’t have to be more complicated or elaborate or expensive or more work. If you’re somewhat lacking in imagination (like me) you can experiment in a thoughtful way and allow it to evolve.

This afternoon I was alone and so I got out my paints and unfinished canvas panel and painted a bit. The actual painting part took about twenty minutes and the gathering of stuff and cleaning up took longer. The cap broke on my brilliant blue shade and I taped it back together. There are lots of reasons I could find to give up beginning art again but this will be a year when many of my excuses of the past won’t really apply. The only thing stopping me would be inner resistance. It was awkward but I feel a bit pleased with my effort this afternoon and intend to kind of make a habit of doing some sort of art often. Like I’ve been doing with my writing.

One of my received gift books is the fourth novel by Charles Finch called “A Stranger in Mayfair.” I really enjoyed the first three, detective novels set in the Victorian era, and this one is pleasant to read as well.  It’s a book I’m wanting to last a bit longer than the pace I’m going through it. 

My Brand or My Stripper Name?

I’m really enjoying my blog and reading what other people write. I’m learning things here.

At this time of my life I have time to write and I’m wanting to expand that even though I don’t have a plan—just the occasional fantasy.

Several days ago I received a book about social media for writers. Reading about social media has never sounded interesting to me but I liked the writing style of the author, Kristin Lamb, who has a WordPress blog.  It interests me to read about how creative people adapt to all the changes in the world.

Also I enjoy reading about well-organized systems and strategies.  I’m only partially into the book so I’m not qualified to review it but I really like what I’ve read so far.  It’s like having a friendly, enthusiastic person sharing what they’ve learned about something that could save people from a lot of trouble and mistakes.

As I’m reading  I can get a clear idea of where I’m at with all this which realistically isn’t much of anywhere and I’m fine with that.

If I wanted this blog for professional or business purposes, I’ve already screwed up. I’m usually late to anything that comes along and anything like a reasonable username for me is already taken and then I usually pick something on a whim. Such is the case with my username here. Lamb has a solution for that.

Today while I was distracting  myself to get through checking out something that’s gone wrong in the bottom of my dishwasher…..ugh….with aching joints, I was considering my username and how it might work as a brand for something.

Then I decided it might be better as a stripper name, especially if I was male.


There’s a mess in my kitchen that involved melted butter. I was preparing brussel sprouts for the slow cooker and then piled chicken thighs on top. The melted butter was mixed with Dijon mustard, soy sauce and black pepper. I think. Not remembering the exact measurements, just remembering how good it was when I fixed it a few weeks ago, it’s definitely a keeper recipe. I got it from Stephanie O’Dea’s blog. It lands in my inbox with slow cooker recipes, often using gluten-free ingredients. She’s written several cookbooks–I’ve just saved the posts with recipes I want to try, in a folder.

Rebuilding my health, after things I won’t go into, it’s good if I eat mostly organic veggies and some organic meat.  When you feel really, really tired it’s challenging to learn a new way of meal shopping and preparation.

I’ve been looking through the side dishes in the WordPress food blogs and found some interesting posts about turnips and beets. Filing the general information away in my head, I’m not able to provide links.

The one that caught my attention was turnips roasted with nutmeg. I decided to do both beets and turnips. Nutmeg is a spice I’ve never used in my years as a sporadic and rather sloppy cook. I was surprised how expensive it was. Running around doing lots of errands yesterday, I didn’t notice until I got home that I’d bought whole nutmeg. Dang.

Looking it up online, I learned that freshly grated nutmeg is far superior to using ground nutmeg. O.K. I looked at the graters and grinders too  and decided to pop on over to the gourmet cooking shop a few blocks away. Like almost everyone else, I am really keeping an eye on my finances. (We all know about that reality and we’re going to do our best here.)  Too expensive.

Later I ended up ordering one from Amazon and bought a book to make enough for free shipping and ended up spending more that if I’d just bought it at the shop. Now I need to wait also.  Well, I’m moving in the direction of better financial choices.

I can find some way to grate a whole nutmeg in the meantime or use lots of ginger instead. Ginger and turmeric are my favorites.

Nutmeg needs to be used sparingly.  Ingesting more than two tablespoons at a time gives it a hallucinogenic effect.  That isn’t at all what I’m intending while searching for ways to eat tasty, healthy vegetable dishes.

I’m continuing to really enjoy watching “Victorian Farm” on YouTube. Looking at the meals they’re eating puts me more  in a mood for old-fashioned  home-cooking.

The woman of the house is having a laborious time cleaning. The coal they cook with,  leaves dust everywhere. For cleaning metal, she used brick dust and vinegar. When she swept dust off the stairs she used saved, damp tea leaves so the dust would clump into balls instead of flying all over.

Women usually had three or four dresses at one time and made them last as long as they could. The woman in the series made a new dress for the May Day celebration and it took her over sixty hours.

The farm had lambs born–also piglets, chicks and ducklings. Almost nothing went to waste. They boiled a pigs head and ate the eyeballs along with everything else. It was mentioned that the work was so hard the historians participating in the documentary began to crave animal fat where as otherwise it wouldn’t sound appealing at all.

Most of my impressions of the Victorian age are from novels that are usually set in London instead of the country.  Anne Perry comes to mind–I’ve especially enjoyed her novels.  The poverty was grim and frightening but the upper classes had their restrictions and constraints also.

That was their mission, even if they didn’t articulate it, to explore and develop the outer world and get humanity to a place where it wasn’t all about survival. Now in many ways, we are needing to explore and develop the inner world more. People are at all ends of the spectrum on that one. It’s in a transition phase. I’m all for the inner-directed life but recognize that it’s dangerous and ineffective to neglect the material world.  All too often I seem to get de-railed into survival issues.

After watching the segments of this series, I’m really appreciating tap water, flush toilets, forced air heat and my electric range and lights.

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