Giving Up the Ghost

Have you ever heard someone say that they have given up the ghost?  To “give up the ghost” is an idiom that has been traced back to the 1600’s.  Just in case you are curious, an idiom is a word or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning.

To “give up the ghost” means to expire or die.  In the case of a mechanical object it means to stop working.  It also means to give up on or stop trying to do something because you know that it will not succeed.

I confess that I really hadn’t thought a lot about this saying until I heard it used in a song entitled “Giving Up the Ghost” by the band a-ha from their album “Cast in Steel”.  I have attached a link to the song as follows: Giving Up the Ghost by a-ha

The song got me thinking about how we hold onto things that do not bring us joy or happiness.  That we keep trying to do something even though we know it will not succeed, may never succeed and often causes us pain.

I am not talking about when one is learning a new skill, trade or activity.  You can’t expect to paint a perfect painting if you have never used acrylic paint and a paint brush before.  There is beginner’s luck but I will save that discussion for another post.

What I am talking about is staying in the same job, relationship, situation, etc. because we are to stubborn to let it go.  Or we are afraid to move on because we don’t want to be seen as failing or a failure.  There is also a fear that what is out there is worse than the situation we are in.

For example, I worked in a job that I did not enjoy for seven years.  I was afraid that the next job would be worse than the one I was in.  I have a friend who almost immediately after getting married realized that she had made a horrible mistake.  But instead of ending the marriage she continued trying to make it work for nine years before giving up the ghost.  She felt that to end the marriage was a failure on her part.  Another friend shared how he went into a career field because he thought it would please his father.  It was only after his father’s death that he realized how miserable he was.  Trying to please someone else he didn’t realize how unhappy he was.

Making major and even minor life changes are one of those things that is much easier said than done.  If this was easy to do, I think people would give up the ghost on a lot of things and a lot earlier.

What are some of the areas of your life that you are holding onto even though it does not bless you or bring you happiness?  What could you do to give up the ghost?  Please share your experiences of giving up the ghost in the comment section of this blog.

Featured image for this blog post is from:

Ghost.arrow

It’s Not a Choice….

In the movie “Patriot Games,” based on the book of the same name by Tom Clancy, there is a scene where the Ryan family is busy getting ready for the day.  They are making and eating breakfast in the kitchen.  The little girl, Sally played by Thora Birch, wants pancakes.  Her dad, Jack Ryan, played by Harrison Ford, gives her a choice of “toast or toast.”  I thought it was funny in the parameters of the movie…… but when put into real life….. It’s not a choice if there is only one option.

Have you ever had a situation where an employer or individual acts like they are giving you a choice but there is really only one option?  From the perspective of the person providing the non-option, they feel like they are being very generous.  From the perspective of the person who has no option, the situation feels like a trap.

At one time I worked for a large company that had a pretty good healthcare package.  One that you wouldn’t want to loose.  At the beginning of flu season they sent out a memo to all staff members that whomever did not get a flu shot would loose there healthcare plan if they took time off for having the flu.  (I don’t think what they did would be considered legal today.)  I had expressed concerns to my direct supervisor.  I have had allergic reactions to medicines and vaccines.  And several of my direct family members had had a reaction to this particular flu vaccine.  I was told to that I had to get it.  So I did.  I had a reaction to flu vaccine.  Not only did I have an allergic reaction (hospital visit which had to be paid for by the insurance)  but I then got sick with the flu.  The flu virus and allergic reaction had weakened my immune system to the point that I then got pneumonia.  I ended up missing three weeks of work.  Medicine, hospital visits, doctor visits, paid sick leave, and loss of an employee for almost a month all had to be absorbed between the insurance and the company.

Now I know that I am probably the exception to the rule in this case.  But the lost time, money, and energy because I was not given a choice was very disheartening.

So where was I going with all of this….. It is nice to have choices.  When working in a situation where one is part of a team, if the team members have choices, they feel like they are participating.  When negotiating or just being part of a relationship, options, choices and not feeling trapped build better relationships.

So what would you prefer? Whole wheat toast or white toast?

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.”

BE BOLD!

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.

Captive State

If you have followed my blog for any length of time you know that I am a science fiction geek.  You also know that I have a tendency to only write reviews for documentary films.  There have been a couple exceptions over the years.  It is time to add “Captive State” to this exclusive list.  This film is an underrated science fiction gem.

Captive state 5

As with any good story, a key component is the characters.  The characters in “Captive State” are intriguing and compelling.  Ashton Sanders plays Gabriel Drummond.  Gabriel was a child when the aliens invaded and took over the planet.  He grew up in Chicago, one of the cities that have a closed zone.  The closed zone is where the aliens live.  Gabriel’s brother, Rafe Drummond played by Jonathan Majors, was part of a failed rebellion by a group called phoenix.

John Goodman plays the character William Mulligan a police officer.  Mulligan believes that the not all of the rebellion group phoenix were killed and has a theory about how to find them.

There are less prominent characters that have a big impact on the story.  Vera Farminga plays the part of a prostitute.  The marine who runs an electric repair shop.  The priest that no longer has a congregation.  The medical student who never finished medical school.  The newspaper man who submits the ads for the classifieds.  And so many more like this that may have a small role in the movie but a large purpose in this story.

Speaking of the story,  this one is pretty amazing the way it all ties together.  Without saying too much and giving things away, each scene seems to flow into the next.  It is seamlessly filmed.

The movie begins with a family trying to get out of a city.  They drive through a barricade into a tunnel.  After an interaction with an alien culture, the adults in the vehicle are killed.  This dramatic start of the story leads right into the opening credits and a description of the alien invasion and how the dystopian world of the film came into existence.  After the opening credits end, the main story begins with the start of Gabriel Drummond’s day as he gets up, meets up with a friend and heads to work.

There are some amazing visuals throughout the movie.  The scene where William Mulligan unlocks a janitors closet to show that he has been tracking the phoenix group for years.  The scene showing an underground radio station.  A dog left in a field barking.  People throwing contraband out windows during a police raid.  The image of Gabriel walking past a burned out station wagon with a damaged hula doll attached to the dashboard.  Space ships taking off across Lake Michigan.  Each scene in the film “Captive State” has the feeling of being carefully chosen and adds to the overall visual richness of the story.

Captive State 2

Rupert Wyatt directed and co-wrote the screen play with Erica Beeney.  In an interview about the movie, Rupert Wyatt stated that he had been inspired by French resistance fighters from World War II when writing and directing this movie.  I had seen the interview after watching the film.  Upon a second viewing of “Captive State,” I could definitely see those influences.

Rob Simonsen composed the film’s score.  The music in this film flows perfectly with the scenes of the movie.  It captures the right feeling and sets the tone of the film.

Captive State

I felt compelled to write about this film after watching it.  There were so many things that were done really well and yet I had heard so little about it.  I hope that if you are interested in science fiction films, that you will give “Captive State” a chance.  If you have seen the movie, please let me know your thoughts on the film by leaving a comment.

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.

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.

Celebrating Poetry

April is National Poetry Month in the United States.  Poetry, to me, is a celebration of language and the nuances of words.  In recognition of national poetry month, I thought I would share some poetry and some of my favorite poets with links to their blogs.

To start I wanted to share a poem from my childhood.  The following poem is one that I read while in grade school but could never remember the poet’s name.  If you click on his name it will take you to a poetry site that shares more information about him.

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

 

D. Eric Hanson is an inspired poet and personal friend.  He has written two books of poetry.  The first one is entitled Acedia and the second one is Psychology 101.  Both are filled with heartfelt words of love, sorrow, loss, hope, humor, etc.  Really all of the emotions that can be experienced.  I have also used Eric’s beautiful words in the following blog posts: Making Decisions Based on Love or FearPoetry to My Eyes and Ears and Masks .

Below are two of Eric’s poems.  For those of you who have taken the creativity classes that I teach, I think you may catch the clever use of words in the poem “Mourning Pages.”  For the second poem, the humorous realization that one is indeed a poet.  I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

Mourning Pages by D. Eric Hanson

See how the pages
Change colour after
They have been written upon.
The crisp clean white
Becomes a dull
Tarnished light grey,
As if through writing
The paper has blotted
Some small portion of
The darkness of my soul.

Scripto Ergo Sum by D. Eric Hanson

Notebooks full of spidery hand
And little scraps of paper;
Some stanzas hint a kind of plan
Ethereal as vapor;
The need to write that overwhelms;
The words that within burn;
The soul now master of the helm,
Which for expression yearns;
To live a life a vagabond
And flow through it carefree;
The things of which I am so fond
Do in reality;
All reveal that I’m a poet
Wouldn’t you just know it.

 

I  also wanted to share some of the creative, interesting and exciting blogs from the WordPress community that focus on poetry.  They are listed as follows with brief descriptions.

My friend, Shantanu, writes a wonderful and creative blog Ckonfab made up of poetry, prose, flash poems and short stories.  This past fall he wrote a story that was the feature of a series of posts.  Each time a section was posted, I could hardly wait to find out what the next part of the story would be.  If you are not already familiar with Shantanu’s writing, it is definitely worth checking out.

Ben Dwyer posts a haiku poem a day.  I started following his blog and the beautiful haiku poems a little over a year ago.  He uses his own photos to accompany his poems and they are as beautiful as his written words.  I look forward to reading his haiku’s every day.  Please check out his work by clicking on this link Haiku.blog.

I just recently started following the work of Jason A. Muckley and his blog. entitled Poems for Warriors.  He writes about a wide variety of subject matter.  Another thing I like about Jason’s poetry is that he writes poems using different formats and techniques.  He is also very good about explaining different types of poetry and their formats.  Jason’s poetry is definitely worth looking at.

My friend Debby writes a delightful blog post called Thoughtsmith by The Typewriter.  Her poetry touches on universal themes of love, motherhood, nature and meaning of life.  I can honestly say that every time I am reading her poetry my heart is touched.  You definitely need to check out Debby’s poetry.

I have been the blog site of  Elan Mudrow called Smidgens for not quite a year.  What I like about this blog is the link between the photos and poetry.  A lot of Elan’s poems and prose is about nature and the relationship between people and nature.  Elegant and fascinating, this blog is one I am glad to have discovered.

I started following a poetry blog entitled Brian Just Brian written by Brian Nettles, last summer.  His poetry is emotionally intense and exquisitely written.  He also writes short stories and is working on a novel.  Please check out his creative work when you have a chance.

I have been following the poetry blog The Moonlight Reverie for the past two years.  The poetry on this blog focus primarily on love and relationships.  Every poem is exquisitely written and a pleasure to read, even the saddest of her poems.

I have greatly enjoyed the blog Dread Poets Sobriety  by Alexander Blaikie.   What makes this poetry blog so much fun is the commentary Alexander writes before and after his poems.  The other nice thing about this particular blog site is the wide range of subject matter covered in the poetry.  You never know what subject will be turned into poetry next.  If you like a side of humor to your poetry, this blog is for you.

The poetry of fauxcroft is often about humanity, love or relationships, environmental concerns and the call for one to be the unique individual they are meant to be.  I have only been following this site for about six months.  Many of the poems are thought provoking.

More than just poetry, Arenas Del Tiempo which translates to Sands of time blog site has music, stories, photos, art, quotes and much more.  All of the work posted on this site has been inspiring.  I hope that you are able to check it out and enjoy it as much as I do.

What I love about poetry is that it can be very simple or made up of complex rhythm and rhyme schemes.  It touches every subject from love to food, environment and nature to the inner conversations of ones mind.  Not every poem speaks to every person.  But the poems that speak to your heart and soul, will inspire you forever.

I hope that you will take the time to explore the wide wonderful world of poetry this month and always.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Zentangle

“Learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see – to see correctly – and that means a good deal more than merely looking with the eye.” Kimon Nicolaides

As an artist and creative person, I tend to draw on things.  In college I doodled on notebooks while taking notes in class.  I doodle on phone messages, junk mail envelopes, sticky notes, pretty much anything that isn’t a legal document or my passport.  Because of this habit of drawing or doodling on things, a student in one of my creative classes saw a doodle in my notes and asked me if I had ever heard of zentangles.  I said “zen whats?” She told me she would bring me some information about them to the next class.  She was true to her word and brought me a book.

At the end of class, when I tried to give the book back to my student, she wouldn’t take it.  She stated that the book was mine and she had purchased it for me.  I thanked her profusely.  When I got home from class that night, I jumped into the world of the zentangle.

So where does Zentangle come from?  The creative ingenuity of Rick and Maria and the company, Zentangle, Inc., that they have created in Whitinsville, Massachusetts.

On their website, they say that it all started with Maria’s botanical prints.  When she sells them, she would create beautiful lettering on the prints.  People would comment on how amazing her lettering is but how they did not have the time to invest in becoming an accomplished calligraphy artist.

At another time, Rick interrupted Maria while doing her creative work.  When asked what she was experiencing before the interruption Maria described being immersed in the work and feelings of selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness.  Rick who is a practitioner of meditation became very excited and told Maria that she was describing meditation.  At the moment Maria was interrupted she wasn’t working on lettering.  Instead she was creating patterns behind a gold-leafed letter.

From that eureka moment the idea grew to become the Zentangle method of drawing.  For more information on all things Zentangle please click on the following link to Rick and Maria’s website: Zentangle

What makes the Zentangle Method so unique is that it doesn’t focus on looking at a still-life, becoming a master calligrapher or learning proportions.  It “is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. We call these patterns, tangles. You create tangles with combinations of dots, lines, simple curves, S-curves and orbs. These simple shapes are the ‘Elemental Strokes’ in all Zentangle art. These patterns are drawn on small pieces of paper called “tiles.” We call them tiles because you can assemble them into mosaics.” Quoted from the Zentangle website, please see provided link for more information.

What is unique about this process is that one focuses on the strokes and the act of creating over the end result.  What you create is often a pleasant surprise.

On the Zentangle website they list 8 steps for the creation of a Zentangle.  I have listed the steps from the site with some of  my own illustrations.

Step 01 – Gratitude and Appreciation

Get comfortable, take a few deep breaths and feel gratitude and appreciation – for this beautiful paper, for these wonderful tools, for this opportunity to create something beautiful.

zentangle materials

Step 02 – Corner Dots

We teach beginning Zentangle Method with beautiful museum grade cotton paper, 3.5 inches (89 mm) square. To answer a familiar question of what to put on this beautiful paper, place a light pencil dot in each corner, about a pen’s width from the edges. Now it’s no longer a blank piece of paper.

I have used the special paper called tiles.  I have also made large and small Zentangles.  If it helps you in your creative process to strictly follow the 3.5 inch square, I would recommend doing that.  If it would work better for you to work larger, smaller, on coloured paper, etc., do what ignites your imagination and boosts your creativity.

Step 03 – Border

Connect those dots with a light pencil line, straight or curvy, to create a square. This is your border.

2B7E84CA-A703-414C-A451-50BBB302A237

Step 04 – String

Inside the border, draw a light pencil line or lines to make what we call a “string.” The string separates your tile into sections, in which you draw your tangles. A string can be any shape. It may be a curvy line that touches the edge of the border now and then, or series of straight lines that go from one side of the border to the next.

 

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zentangle 1

Step 05 – Tangle

A tangle is a predefined sequence of simple strokes that make up a pattern. Draw your tangles in pen inside (usually) the pencil strings and borders. Tangle is both noun and verb. Just as you dance a dance, you tangle your tangles. Draw your tangles with deliberate strokes. Don’t worry about what it’s going to look like. Just focus on each stroke of the pen as you make it. Trust that you’ll know what to do next when the time to do it comes. There is no up or down to Zentangle art so feel free to rotate your tile in any direction that is most comfortable for your hand as you draw.

zentangle 2

Step 06 – Shade

Add shades of gray with a graphite pencil to bring contrast and dimension to your tile. The black and white two-dimensional tangles transform through shading and appear three-dimensional. You can also use a tortillion (a paper blending stump) to soften and blend the graphite.

finished zentangle

Step 07 – Initial and Sign

This is art you created. You should sign it. Put your initials on the front (many people create a unique monogram or chop for this step). On the back, place your name, date, comments and observations.

I personally do not initial or sign a piece until it is done.  A lot of the zentangle work that I do is to go into other a larger artwork and therefore, I don’t sign them.

Step 08 – Appreciate

Hold your tile at arm’s length. Turn it this way and that. Appreciate what you just created.

Below is a zentangle of leaves that I am going to use in a larger piece of artwork.

zentangle leaves

Here is an example of seeing something in life and being inspired to create a zentangle around it.

zentangle.tattoo

The piece below is titled “Fish” and was created using a technical pen with white ink on black paper.  The actual fish was inspired by a tattoo.  See photo above.

I was waiting in line at Dairy Queen with a friend one night after class.  I noticed the fish tattoo on the should of a young man.  I asked him if I could take a picture of his tattoo.  He said yes.  Less than a week later I finished the above artwork.  He had given me his email because he wanted to see what I would do from the picture.  When I emailed him a photo of the artwork, he responded that it was really cool and he was impressed with how it turned out.

Zentangle

Drawing.  Doodles.  Zentangles.  Whatever you want to call it, this technique is truly calming and opens the door to greater creativity.

Sometimes we are given a gentle nudge to try something new creatively.  When the nudge happens, I recommend following it.  You may be pleasantly surprised where it leads.

Happy creating!