Duct Work

The list to the right of this website is part of a fascinating trend on the internet. If you Google ‘101 in 1001‘ you will find hundreds of links to the lists of other people. I was intrigued when I first heard about it and had a lots of fun compiling my list. I tried to set goals that were out of my ordinary routine and had a stretch component. The discerning reader will also note that there are only 97 goals so far. I’m saving a few slots for new ideas. Oddly, it’s quite motivating. Here are two recently accomplished goals:

Art & Soul
I taught a class on the wonders of duct tape at this annual art retreat . By day I am a corporate leadership development consultant and I do not aspire to teach art workshops. But the opportunity arose and I decided ‘What the heck? It’ll be fun’. And it was. Best of all my daughter Lizzie joined me as the real expert. Here are a few of the models I created for the class: a simple cover for the participant booklet and a case for my little laptop. Truly–duct tape is super cool!

Joseph, Oregon
Susan’s best friend, Scotty, came out from Toronto and we took a rural road trip through the Columbia Gorge and Joseph. Oh my, Oregon is soooo beautiful. On the first afternoon we drove from The Dalles south to Maupin, on the Deschutes River. It was late afternoon and acres of wheat fields were in deep shadows on softly curving hills. We had such a good week. Scotty is a blast and very talented. Best of all she gave us two pastels she did, including this one of the Zig Zag River on Mt. Hood. We actually saw large salmon swimming upriver. Amazing sight!

Meanwhile, a new term has begin at the Art Institute. This term I’m learning all about Color Theory, Storyboarding and Image Manipulation. Wheee!

Garden Update

In June I wrote about our little front yard garden. This is what it looked like then. The frames were ready and the plants were pushing up through the earth. Our job was to water the garden and the Back Yard Farmers did all the planting, maintainance and harvesting. Bourgeois? Un peu, but this is the only way we would garden at this point in our lives.

Well, our little garden has been very happy and this is what it looks like now!

The frames are overloaded with beans and peppers. The tomato stakes fall down in the wind becasue they are supporting so much weight. We have had more eggplant, tomatoes and lettuce than we can eat. And, best of all, we have pumpkins for pie on Thanksgiving.

Mother Nature is amazing.

Recipe for Restoration

I’ve been back from our vacation on the lake for a week now and I feel like a new woman. My six days at Lot IV were so restorative and I’ve been considering why it was so energizing.

These, I think, are the key ingredients:

Being Away. Sure you can relax at home but there’s always something you ought to be doing. Going somewhere away from home means you won’t have chores, work or homework occupying your psychic space.

Nature. Escaping concrete and cars is so refreshing. Being on water or near water is even better. At Lot IV we had the four elements…water, fire, air and earth. Mother Nature has enormous power to soothe.

Excellent Company. We were lucky to spend this open time with some very special friends. We listened to one another’s difficulties and progess with generosity and love. We laughed and drank more wine than is healthy. We played games (I highly recommend Take Two, Ticket to Ride and Triple Solitaire!).

Exquisite Food. We bought fresh-picked corn on the way to the cottage. So did V & E. Just call us Corn Dollies. We made simple and extravagant fresh meals and dined like queens. We took turns cooking and cleaning up. We savored the season.

Naps. Every day. Such luxury.

So that’s my recipe for restoration. I am ready to go Back to School. Thank you Scotty, Elizabeth, Valerie and Jane for helping us turn the corner.

Waning Summer

Every moment is enormous, and it is all we have.
-Natalie Goldberg, Long Quiet Highway

In the past week I’ve talked with several friends who are feeling melancholy. I share the feeling and wonder if we aren’t feeling the effects of the waning summer. It is nearly the end of August. The days are noticably shorter. Do I still have time to accomplish all the things I had planned for this summer? The answer is, “No.” It’s too late for putting up pickles because the baby cukes are already gone. The big summer BBQ was just a little overwhelming to pull off. And it’s just too darn hot to finish the projects around the house and garden. I feel like I should have gotten more done this summer.

And then I remember that across Europe people are taking weeks off for vacation. My own cousin in the Netherlands is in Malta for four weeks with her family. August is the traditional time to put aside work and just relax. Can that be OK? I want it to be.

As I walked in the heat this week I reminded myself that in November I’m going to be missing the sunshine and laziness-inducing heat. So, I surrender. I’m going away this week to spend six days with a few very special friends at a lakeside cottage north of Toronto. I’m not bringing my computer or my planner. I’m going to savor these last days of summer and be fully and joyfully lethargic. I’m not going to think about what I should have done with 2006 to date. I’m not going to make lots of To Do lists. I’m going check in with myself. I’m going to read mysteries and sleep and be fully present in this glorious end of summer.

And when I get back I’m going to spend as much time as possible outside in the company of loved ones. The weeds will be there later. There is no urgency to the curtains for the upstairs windows. But there is some urgency to the sun. He will soon be spending more time on the other side of the planet.

Here’s to August and squeezing the last juice out of this summer.


One of my FAVORITE possessions is my library card catalogue. I was very fortunate to obtain it and it’s a beautiful relic of the past. Remember going to library and thumbing through the drawers to find just the right book? Everything was so nicely organized and I could find all the books written by Alice Turner Curtis. When I was in junior high I thought I might become a librarian because I loved reading and books so very much. The card catalogue reminds me of happy times with the written word in my imagination.

Alas, I am not a person who is good at following a system nor creating order. Structure, as much as I need it, eludes me. I admire it in others but I cannot achieve it for myself. On my bookshelf are myriad books written by organized people (Tame the Office Tiger, Organizing from the Inside Out, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, and so on). Order is the holy grail for me.

My card catalogue is the one brilliant monument to order in my life. Each drawer is specifically marked with the contents. This one holds red and orange beads for my jewelry making efforts. This one holds spools of book binding threads. That one holds stamp pads. I cannot tell you how pleasing it is for me to seek AND find when I am ready to work on something.

Now if I could just achieve something similar with the surface of my desk….

Art School Confidence

A few weeks ago we saw Art School Confidential. Jeff, my excellent former husband urged us to see it and said, obliquely, that ‘You’re in it–just go see it.”

The film is an amusing send-up of cliched art school students: Hippie Chick, Punk Girl, Kiss-Ass, Angry Lesbian and Mom. Mom is at Art School now that the kids are off to college and she has some time for herself again. Zing!

You see, I started Art School this summer. In January I’d started down the path of a PhD with a program called Expressive Arts for Healing and Change. It’s a GREAT program. Carl Rogers’ daughter, Natalie Rogers leads it. But, as we approached the second session I realized that I didn’t want to facilitate the creative process as much as I wanted to pursue my own creative process. I researched the Art Institute of Portland and within 10 days I was taking a beginning drawing course and ‘Principles of Visual Communication’.

It turns out that I can draw a little. It turns out that anyone can draw. You just have to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and really see. Here’s an early drawing of our ceiling fixture and a pen and ink of my neighbor’s house. I really LIKE drawing!

I’m pursuing a BFA in Digital Media Production. And, I have to say, it feels really great to be in school again and to be out of my comfort zone. The average student age is 22 years old (!) so I am ‘Mom’. But they’re nice to me and I’m having a blast.

Look for me in a few years at the Sundance Festival or the Academy Shorts. 😉

Pearl the Pig

One thing I did well as a mother was reading aloud to Matt and Lizzie. I may have been a sketchy parent in some areas but I was a consistent and happy reader of good children’s literature. The Read Aloud Handbook was my reference. And one of our favorite books was The Amazing Bone by R.L. Stein. It is deliciously dark and scary in some sections (which I always thought was weird in a children’s book) and the kids loved Stein’s stuff.

In The Amazing Bone we meet Pearl the Pig, contentedly walking through the woods. She notices all the details of her surroundings and sighs, “I love the world”. She goes on to have adventures (don’t worry–the amazing bone and her own ingenuity get her out of trouble) but I have never forgotten Pearl’s peaceful delight in her surroundings.

I had a ‘Pearl-walk’ myself recently.

Near our home in Portland there is a beautiful old park with extensive rose gardens and a large fountain. The walk to the park takes me through old streets and gardens…nothing spectacular, just simple yards with happy flowers and shrubbery. Near sunset, the Golden Hour, the light is exquisite.

I, too, sighed and said, “I love the world.”

Mirth Makers Unite!

On my list of 101 goals in 1001 days (see right) I have the goal of writing a Mirthmakers Handbook. It’s a project I’ve been thinking about for a number of years. Here’s the introduction I wrote recently:

I met my best friend Janet 23 years ago when our boys were in the aerobic day-care together. Our three-year-olds liked each other so we began hanging around with them. After aerobics class we’d take the boys to Winchell’s for donuts and Janet would enjoy a post-workout Merit cigarette.

We had many things in common, including the fact that we wanted to be taken seriously. We’d both pulled excellent grades and had academic experiences of being the smartie in the classroom. Janet had been to Berkeley, dammit and we were both well-read. We were intelligent—wasn’t it obvious?

But we weren’t taken seriously. Instead we were well-liked. Friends would comment on the talents of our husbands; ‘He is sooo smart!’ and ‘He is soooo creative and talented’. Compliments to us were along the lines of ‘You’re so fun!’ As if we never had a deep thought or serious emotion. Janet, especially, had the knack of attracting NBFs (new best friends). ‘You’re so fun—let’s have coffee!’ Somehow, she was not perceived as the intelligent and discerning person that she has always been.

Janet and I are both in our 50’s now. We still attract NBFs and people still tell us how ‘fun’ we are. The difference is that we now appreciate the compliment. You see, over the years we’ve realized that to be called ‘fun’ is a compliment of the highest order. Our own children think we’re ‘fun like a party’ and aspire to the same joie de vivre. [photo by my talented daughter, Lizzie]

In the ensuing decades since Janet and I met, we’ve come to appreciate the need for levity and spending time in community. Some years ago we developed a term for our ability. We called it ‘Mirth Making’. We liked the slightly arcane sound of the word because it harkens back to a time when families and communities made mirth as a regular part of their life. The word ‘mirth’ comes from a time when people still believed in magic.

What is it? Mirth Making is shared merriment. It is, fundamentally, a collective experience—we make mirth together. A dictionary defines mirth this way: gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter. A thesaurus is even better: a mood characterized by high spirits and amusement and often accompanied by laughter. Mirth is the essence of my favorite experiences.

From time to time I’m going to be writing about mirth making and celebrating it. If you are a mirthmaker (and you know who you are!) please send me your thoughts!

Stunning Oregon

Over the last week I’ve had the opportunity to travel around Oregon a fair bit. Dear friends from Toronto came to visit and we spent a few days on the Oregon coast with them. We stayed at the Astoria Inn for a few days and, of course, went up to the Astoria Column where we got a 360-degree view of the area. We then drove to Yachats and the excellent Shamrock Lodgettes. We ate good seafood all along the way and enjoyed spectacular weather. I was amazed, again, at the beauty of Oregon.

In the middle of the trip I popped back to Portland to meet up with Janet, Lee and Beth to visit the Oregon Country Fair. This has long been on my list and I FINALLY got there.

The Country Fair has a juicy reputation but I think it’s calmed down a lot over its 36 year history. Alcohol is no longer allowed and most of us were clad in Northwest Suburban attire…not half-naked. Still there were the occasional painted breasts (lovely) and loincloths (generally a mistake). And we often enjoyed the sweet smell of cannabis as we wandered. Best of all, the Fair retains a spirit of gentle goodwill and happiness. It’s a cross between sustainability and self-expression. I felt like I was with my people.

Most charming were all the natural structures tucked into the woods. The setting is truly magical and I felt like I’d visted another time and place. I can’t wait to go back next year…with, perhaps some temporary henna tattoos from Sweet Annie, um, on my back.

The Three GRs

Last Sunday was Father’s Day and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my dear sweet Dad. He died in May of 2003 but his example continues to provide me with life lessons.

Dad was a remarkable man. At times was challenging to live up to his standards. But as I grew older I came to appreciate Dad’s consistency and how he lived by his values. I know that his grandchildren greatly admire ‘Opa’s’ character and see him as a strong role model. Since he died, I have a new question that I ask myself in difficult situations: “What would Arnold do?”

Dad lived by the three GRs: Grit, Grace and Gratitude.

He had temendous loss in his life. To lose three wives to cancer is nearly unbelievable. To lose his youngest daughter so suddenly and needlessly was more than any parent should have to bear. Yet, each time he said to me “Margaret, we have to go on.” And he did. He went on–without regrets, without complaint and with his faith intact. He had his formative years during the German occupation of Northern Netherlands and he and his siblings are tough people. Grit.

He might have become bitter over his hard life but he never did. With each loss he became softer, more loving and more considerate. The most common descriptor people use when talking about Dad is the word “gentleman”. He lived with modesty and Grace.

Above all he was Grateful. He always felt that he was a very lucky man. He thanked us for each phone call, for each attention. He was a completely generous man and appreciated the kindness of others.

As I age I try to live by the The GRs. Most of the time I lapse into the Three Ws: Wimpy, Wasteful and Whiny. But when I remember Dad, I remember to be my better self.

Here’s to Arnold—I was lucky to call him Dad.