6th Anniversary of Cats Out of the Box

Last year was tough.  I think most people would agree with that statement.  It wasn’t just one thing.  It was watching the surrealistic events unfold all over the world.  It came to a point where I just could not process it anymore.  I had to pause writing my blog while I watched and worked through what was happening.

In December, I started blogging again.  Slowly, with one blog post a month and most of them being book reviews to get back into the rhythm of writing.

I want to thank everyone for their support and encouragement as I continue to stumble through writing my blog this year.  I’m still not sure where things are going with my blog and writing.  As with any creative endeavor, it will continue to evolve and change.

  • To my family there are not enough words to express my gratitude for your assistance, patience, feedback and support.  I know that having me in your lives can be a challenge.  You help me to be the best artist and creative person I can be.  I am truly grateful for you.
  • To my friends, so often the conversations we have are the creative sparks for a blog post.  Thank you for your emotional and creative support.  You help me be a better writer, artist, creativity coach and teacher.  I am grateful for all of you.
  •  My friend, Eric Hanson, is an amazing poet and I have used his poems in my blogs off and on over the years.  Thank you for letting me share your beautiful creative work with others.  Eric has also let me bounce ideas for blog posts off of him.  Some are definitely a lot better than others.  Thank you for listening, making suggestions and not letting me embarrass myself in the written word.
  • I would also like to send a special thank you to the students who participated in the Art Sampler, Beginning and advanced Acrylic Painting, Fine Art of Book Making, Printmaking and Mixed Media Collage Classes.  You have inspired me with your stories, questions, and amazing creative work.  You are all amazing creative people and I am excited to see where your creativity will take you.
  • To my readers and blog friends who follow my blog as part of the WordPress community, I am grateful for your support.  I am continually inspired by all of you and the creative work that you are doing.  No matter where you are located on this planet or what your blog is about….. your creativity, bravery in sharing feelings and ideas, and support make me proud to be a part of the WordPress blogging community.
  • Thank you to those that like my posts.  I appreciate you taking the time to support my creative work.  You motivate me to keep writing.
  • Thank you to those that post comments and provide feedback.  I enjoy hearing your thoughts about my work.  I am so proud when something I have written inspires others.  Your words mean the world to me.

I am looking forward to another year of blogging and creative explorations. Thank you for joining me on this adventure!


As we enter a new decade with the start of the year 2020, I have been thinking a lot about the tradition of creating resolutions.  I have also been thinking about the meaning of resolutions.  I have also noticed that resolve plays into one keeping ones resolutions.

Both words, Resolution and Resolve, come from the Latin base resolvere which means to loosen or release.  According to the Oxford Dictionary the word Resolution is a noun that has the following definitions: a firm decision to do or not do something; the quality of being determined or resolute; and the act of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.  Also according to the Oxford Dictionary the word Resolve, when used as a verb, is defined as to settle or find a solution to a problem, dispute, or contentious matter or to firmly decide on a course of action.  When the word Resolve is used as a noun it is defined as a firm determination to do something.

Ironically the Latin base meaning to loosen or release is so far for the the firm and determined language of the modern words Resolve and Resolution.  Maybe that’s why it is so hard to keep some of the resolutions that we give to ourselves…. we know that deep down in their Latin base it is only loosely given and possibly it is a way to release ourselves from a commitment we didn’t want to make.

I have never been one to make a lot of resolutions before the new year.  I have a set of guides that I lay out for myself that deal with my art, writing and creativity.  These are extremely helpful and yet loose enough to not overwhelm me creatively.  Most years, I am able to reach most of these gentle goals.  For example, three years ago, my goal was to write one Haiku poem a month.  I successfully completed the goal and through that process fell in love with the simple yet challenging beauty of writing Haiku poetry.

Some of my friends have had some very fun and creative resolutions.  One friend tried eating a new food or dish once a month for an entire year.  I remember her telling me about different things that she was trying.  Some she recommend and others she said she would not eat again.

Another friend gave herself a reading challenge that included a certain number of books but also certain types.  If I am remembering correctly she had to read so many non-fiction books, biographies, autobiographies and much more.  She shared some of the books that she was reading because of this challenge to herself.  It was fun to hear about how exciting this process was for her and the new and exciting things she was learning.

I had heard an interview on NPR in the late 1990’s about a photographer who was living in a very remote area (I think it was above the Arctic Circle) for a year.  He had limited film reserves and had to develop his own pictures.  Because of severe weather conditions, there could be weeks where supplies for food would be hard enough to get, let alone the film and chemicals to develop the film.  He challenged himself to only taking one picture a day for the entire year that he was there.  When asked how did he know when to take a picture each day.  The photographer said that at first he didn’t know and there were some terrible first shots.  But then he got into this rhythm of carrying his camera, when he some something interesting he would take a picture.  Once the picture for that day was taken, that was it.  I remember him saying that he developed all the rolls of film and there were 365 photos and not all of them were good or even turned out.  He said that the experience changed his life and the way he approached his photography.

If the numerous advertisements on every form of media is any indication, weight loss and gym memberships are at the basis of many new resolutions.  Do not get me wrong.  Positive and healthy goals for ones health and wellness is a good thing.  But hearing and seeing those ads, I wonder if the focus is all external and superficial.

That may be one of the reasons why I loved the goals about different kinds of books, trying new foods, taking one photo a day and yes, the Haiku poetry writing challenge.  Not only did they provide a challenge, but they also provided a positive change to the individuals who participated in them.  These Resolutions are growth experiences.  Life changing experiences.

My challenge for you is to find Resolutions that challenge more than your physical body.  My hope is your Resolve will provide experiences, in the Latin base traditions of the words.  That loosen constraints and release you from things holding you back.  I hope you choose resolutions that challenge you creatively, provide growth, opportunities for exploration and amazing life changing experiences.

Be Bold

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”  -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I had written this quote in one of my old sketch books.  As I sat there reading this quote that I had so carefully written, I thought what does the word bold really mean.   From the dictionary definition off of the website vocabulary.com being bold as a person is to be daring and brave.  A person may show how bold they are by climbing onto the roof of their house or speaking up when they see someone being treated unfairly.  By being bold  a person is taking some kind of risk; one could be risking physical danger, embarrassment, or their reputation.

This got me thinking about times in my life when I have behaved boldly.  Some of the trails that I have hiked made me feel daring and brave.  Art work that I have exhibited in solo and group shows has made me feel daring, nervous, brave and bold.  In each of these experiences I was taking on risk.

When hiking on the trail there were places that are very narrow and steep.  One miss step and I could fall to my death.  The risk is physical danger.

By exhibiting my artwork publicly, I am sharing person experiences or feelings expressed through contemporary narrative collage.  There is a risk of rejection or humiliation.  In this case the risk is embarrassment and possibly my reputation.

No matter what one does that is bold you are taking on risk.  It could be sharing poems about the death of your father; rock climbing without ropes; playing songs that you have written with your band in a night club; mountain biking in an endurance race in Michigan; standing up for the rights of a child who is to small to protect itself; writing a blog; traveling to a foreign country by yourself, and so much more.  Being bold is important.  It helps us stretch and grow as individuals.

Whatever it is that makes you feel daring and brave, don’t stop.  I need you to be bold.  Your family and friends need your boldness.  The community you live in cannot be innovative without people being bold.  The creative community needs you to be bold and share your work.  The world needs you to continue to be bold.  Why? you ask.  Because as Goethe says in the quote, “Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”


On Being Brave

I was watching the movie “Justice League” the other night.  There is a scene in which Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and the Flash are about to go into battle with Steppenwolf.  The Flash pulls Batman aside and says something along the lines of (I am paraphrasing) it is great that you are all ready to go into battle but I’ve never fought anyone.  He goes on and lists several things he is afraid of (again I am paraphrasing) bugs, guns, drowning and grotesquely tall people.  Batman tells him to just rescue one person and that he (the Flash) would know what to do after that.

I found that this scene of the movie resonated with me long after the movie ended.  It is important because Batman is explaining how to get through moments of not knowing what to do or moments of fear.  He is explaining how to be brave.

“In order to achieve anything you must be brave enough to fail.” -Kirk Douglas

Being brave isn’t about conquering fear.  It is about recognizing it.  Facing it.  And yes, knowing you could fail.  Being brave is going forward recognizing that failure is a possibility.  The key is the still going forward.

So often we think of bravery as huge moments that confront you.  That bravery can only be found in matters of life or death.  I am here to tell you that being brave is definitely in those moments.  You know….the moments that make people heroes.

What you don’t hear about but is just as important are the smaller more subtle moments.  They may not be life or death, but being brave at these times are just as important.

For example: Being brave is daring to start a new career after being fired or let go.  Cooking a holiday dinner for your in-laws for the very first time.  Starting your own business.  Entering your artwork in a juried show.  Bravery can be found in the ending of a marriage or dating relationship that is unhealthy.  Performing your first solo piano recital.  Bravery is in the person who keeps going to work at a job where they are being bullied until a new job can be found, because they can’t afford to just quit.  Being brave is purchasing a home for the first time.  Sending your manuscript to a publisher.  Getting on the bicycle after falling down.  Hiking a trail that scares you because you are afraid of heights.

Being brave is knowing that you could fail but you push through the fear and go forwards.  Being brave is knowing that the odds may be stacked against you but you keep on going.

I just want you to know that you are brave.  Whatever it is that you are facing.  However hard it may seem.  Keep going.  Yes, you could fail.  But you can and will succeed.  Keep on being brave.

Just Start Somewhere

Life has an interesting way of teaching us lessons.  I think that for the most part it is good that we don’t know that we are learning a lesson at the time we are learning it.  When we look back, we can say to ourselves “Wow!  That was one hell of a lesson I just learned.”

I would love to say that the preparation for my move was easy breezy and everything happened so smoothly.  But I can’t.  It didn’t.  And for a couple months leading up to the move, I felt frozen.  Unable to focus on any one thing or really accomplish things the way I normally do.  I was completely and totally overwhelmed.


My being overwhelmed was two-fold.  The enormous task of moving.  I have lived in the same place for thirteen years and for the last six years my studio has been my bedroom.  Art supplies EVERYWHERE!!!  Just organizing and going through them seemed to be an un-accomplish-able task.  Then there is the psychological leap of quitting a perfectly okay job that provided income….. without having a new job in place to go to.  A major car repair.  My savings starting to dwindle.  It felt like things were starting to spiral out of control.

The second part of my being overwhelmed was emotional.  I couldn’t face all the things going wrong for what I was hoping to be a very positive change in my life.  You can plan all you want and think that you are in control.  Control is an illusion.  Planning is fine if you can account for every possible outcome.  Impossible.  I was as frozen as a deer in the headlights and accomplishing nothing.

I was having my breakdown in order to have a break through!

“The best way to get things done is to simply begin.” – Daphne’s Diary Number 1 2017

Never underestimate the power of kind words from a friend, multiple friends, complete strangers or positive signs from the Universe.  A smile really has the power to change someone’s day.  A kind hello can help someone who feels invisible to realize they are seen.  And just telling a friend or family member that you are thinking of them, let’s them know that they are not alone.

My friend Eric and I had talked about being overwhelmed and some of his tricks for helping himself get started.  He makes lists and does what I call Eric’s Principle of Picking up 10 Things.  So here is the deal with Eric’s Principle of Picking up 10 Things….. it is exactly how it sounds.  You pick up and put away 10 things.  Once that is done, you pick up and put away another 10 things.  And you can keep doing this until everything is picked up and put away or you need a nap.  What is great about this is for each 10 things you put away you have accomplished something.

As to making lists, they can be great because you get to cross things off of them.  Getting one thing done… cross it off the list.

Things started to happen.  I got things done.  Life got better.  And then the move, this thing that was supposed to be a positive change in my life really did become a positive change.

Being overwhelmed sucks.  Don’t give up.  Just start somewhere.  Things will get done and life will get better.

Keep Climbing

“Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain….  Climb slowly, steadily, enjoying each passing moment; and the view from the summit will serve as a fitting climax for the journey.” -Harold V. Melchert

Mountain climbing isn’t easy.  It doesn’t matter what size they are.  Could be Everest, the tallest mountain on earth, Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain on Mars and in our solar system, or Steamboat Lookout Mountain, my personal favorite mountain.

OurLakeTrail looking up towards the summit of Steamboat Lookout Mountain.

One of the things l love about hiking is that the scenery along the trail is constantly changing.   Life is a lot like that as well.  We live in a goal oriented culture that focuses on reaching each milestone.  Don’t get me wrong, I think having goals to work towards are good.  But I also think that putting all the emphasis on those goals, makes one miss out on so much of the amazing things that surround you right now.

willowcreek2Third waterfall along Willow Creek Trail

One of my favorite hikes is along Willow Creek west of Augusta, Montana.  There are four separate, different waterfalls along this hike.  Each view of the different waterfalls is unique.  The higher you climb on this hike, the landscape changes.  Each turn around the bend, brings something new to see.  It’s not just the waterfalls.  However, if that was your focus, it would be easy to miss the breathtaking views of the prairie, the twisted trees, rock formations, tracks, scat, beavers, birds, deer, the sound of the water rushing in the creek bed, the way some stands of trees seem to breath in the wind….. the list is truly endless.

The big things, the life milestones, are meant to be the bonuses in a full life, not the purpose of a full life.  Every day, every moment has purpose.  Remember that while you are on your life’s path.  Every moment is important.  Keeping that in mind, when you reach your summit, you will have truly experienced the entire climb.

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour.” -unknown

Embracing Fear

For the past year, I have been examining fear.  What I am afraid of, what situations seem scary to me, and how I get through these situations.  I have noticed that fear has been the subject of several of the blogs that I follow as well.  One talked about fear of not producing or launching ones creative work.  Another was dedicated to the fear of death.  Still another about the fear of losing themselves, especially in context to relationships.  Even I wrote a post about facing my fear of ticks.  (You can read this post by clicking here Facing Fear.)  The list goes on and on.  Just as there are all kinds of variations on the theme of love, there are just as many variations on fear.

The science-fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert has many excellent lessons and interesting themes.  One of my favorite parts is when Paul of House Atreides is tested by Reverend Mother Mohiam.  You may remember the scene from the movie…. where Paul has to stick his hand in the box.  I wonder, could I pass such a test, where everything that was happening was in my mind.

“I must not fear.  Fear is the mind-killer.  Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my fear.  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.  Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain.”  ―Paul Atreides from Frank HerbertDune

What Paul says about fear is really important.  It is important because it is true.

Fear can kill your mind.  It can break your nerve.  It can stun you and hold you back.  Fear denies progress and ends relationships.  Here is the truly crazy thing.  Fear can only do this if we allow it to.  What you give power to (fear) can control you.  Do you want fear to be the one in control?

The first decision I have to make is to face my fears.  We all have ways of coping and avoiding things we don’t want to face.  Once I have decided to do that, I have to recognize these scary moments and face or embrace them.  Once these situations have passed the fear is gone and I remain.  Fear has no power if I face it and take away its power.

I know that this is not easy.  Things scare us for a reason.  However there is a difference between being taken aback for a moment and allowing fear to control you.  I don’t want fear to be controlling me.

What scares you?  How do you face or embrace your fears?  Is there a benefit to letting fear be in control?  What is the benefit of conquering your fears?  What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Gratitude – 3 Day Quote Challenge – Day 3

I want to thank Shantanu one more time for his generosity in allowing anyone interested to participate in this challenge.  I have enjoyed doing this challenge.  It causes me to be creative in different ways.  It also encourages me to look at someone else’s words and ponder on them.  Meditating on a quote is a great way to get creative juices flowing.

Shantanu writes an amazing blog full of poetry, prose, stories and quotes.  If you haven’t already checked out his blog, you can do so by clicking on the following link: Ckonfab

Rules: For three days, thank the person who nominated you and share a link to their blog.  Nominate three people each day to participate.  Pick a quote for each day of the challenge.  Write down why you chose it and what it says to you.

Inspired by Shantanu’s opening the challenge up to all who are interested on the third day, I am doing the same.  If you are interested in giving yourself a creative challenge, the 3 day quote challenge is for you.  You have to research (find quotes that pique your interest).  Think about them or meditate on them.  And share your thoughts and inspiration.  Of course, the above rules apply.  Good Luck!

Now for my third and final quote for the 3 day quote challenge!

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” – Amy Collette

It seemed especially appropriate, considering that the American holiday of Thanksgiving is just days away, to meditate on a quote about gratitude.  This is not a new subject for my blog, I had written a blog about gratitude a couple of years ago.  If you are interested in checking it out, here is a link to it Gratitude.

What I particularly enjoy about this quote is the connection of gratitude with happiness and joy.  What this says to me is that if one is truly grateful, happiness and joy will follow.  Think about that for a minute.  It is pretty profound to think about gratitude in this way.  That gratitude is the key or “spark” that leads to happiness and joy.

It makes sense.  When I am grateful, I am also content.  This contentment allows me to focus on the moment.  When focused on the moment, it allows me to be open to happiness and joy.

Traditionally Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season for me, family, friends and many others.  This time of year can be extremely stressful.  Expectations, preparations, and additional social gatherings can make one feel like they are caught up in a whirlwind.  I do not wish that on anyone.  How can we see beauty and experience wonder if we are stressed out?

I would like to end this post with the Thanksgiving wish that you may be filled with gratitude, contentment, happiness and pure joy throughout this holiday season and always.

Too Much Stuff

“Happiness is not found in things you posses, but in what you have the courage to release.”  -Nathaniel Hawthorne

I like paper.  I have always liked paper.  It started with paper dolls as a child and has never gone away.  I like the way that it feels.  Super smooth and refined running the gambit all the way to rough and full of texture.  I like variety in colors and patterns.  I like hand-made papers, papers with kimono patterns, fancy marbleized techniques, papers that feel like cloth and others that have been smoothed mechanically.   I can tell by touching a sheet of paper what it has been made with and the weight of it.  I like the possibilities that paper provides.  As a collage artist, I use a lot of paper in my work.

I was showing a friend some paper that I was using for an installation piece.  He said, “This is a lot of paper.  How much paper do you need?”  We have only known each other for a couple months at that time and he was new to my art and creative process.  I looked at him and smiled, “You can never have too much paper.”  He laughed and said, “For your artwork that is true!”

This got me thinking about stuff in general.  How much stuff does one person need?  I have seen the terrifying preview for a television show about hoarders and someone being buried alive.  I have also seen the program about tiny homes and listened to the interviews from people who want to be free from stuff.

Our consumer driven society pushes people to purchase things.  Advertisements sell us images of perfection and products that will “make” us, our homes, and lives more “beautiful” or “youthful” if one purchases this or that product.  This compulsion to have more drives one to purchase things that they do not want nor need.  And after the purchase has been completed does the luster wear off and buyer’s remorse set in?  Or does one rush to the next purchase?

I began to wonder, am I owned by objects? Do they control me?  Not a pleasant thought.  Then I wondered, how does one go through and decide what they really want and need?

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris

I am inspired by the life and work of William Morris who lived from 1834-1896.  He was an English thinker, designer (carpets, patterns, and typefaces among other things), author and publisher.  He was saddened by the poor-quality, cheap and soulless decorative art that was mass-produced in 19th- century industrialized England.  I sometimes wonder would he be horrified if he were to see our modern society of mass-produced cheap and disposable items?  He instigated a revival of traditional arts and crafts, establishing his own working community.  The goal of his Arts & Crafts Movement was simplicity, beauty and craftsmanship.


Since I did not have the arts and crafts community of William Morris, I turned to a modern organizing guru, Marie Kondo.  She is the author of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Known as the KonMari method, it is the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.  One starts by discarding and then organizing the space, thoroughly, completely and in one go.  I found this book challenging and amazing all in one.  There is so much helpful advice and encouragement in it.  One thing that I found particularly helpful and empowering from Marie Kondo’s book was what I call the joy principle.  Does this bring me joy?  Yes.  Keep it.  No.  Get rid of it.

In preparation for my move, I had been cleaning up and going through my possessions.  I used the joy principle when deciding what to get rid of and what to keep.  I had a couple yard sales and given boxes of stuff to charitable organizations.  Some things that are special I have given to family and friends.

I do think that there is a healthy amount of possessions.  And what that amount is, depends on the person.  For me, there has to be a variety of paper to work with for my art.  For a friend who is a mountain biker, owning three or more bikes is necessary.  The bikes have different purposes.  For another friend who quilts, fabric is a constant staple.

What are some of your favorite things?  What is necessary for you?  What brings you joy?