Category Archives: Personal experience

Creative Juice #251

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Creative Juice #251

A lot of beauty in today’s articles, curated especially for you.

  • Do you like Irish step dancing?
  • If you read my post about the Sirens, you know I love to sleep.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe on the art of seeing. And lots of links, if you enjoy going down rabbit holes.
  • I may have included these father of the bride photos in a previous edition of Creative Juice. You know what? They’re so beautiful, you should see them again.
  • Beautiful fruit photography.
  • Read your children some books about kindness and talk about how to make a difference in the lives of the people around you.
  • I’d never heard of Sonny Curtis, even though I’m familiar with two of his most famous songs; but I love his daughter’s essay about him.
  • Would you believe there are 800 pairs of herons living in Amsterdam? Maybe because of the canals. . .
  • Ingenious and useful creations from toilet paper rolls.
  • A mom’s June sketchbook pages.
  • I love this Instagrammer’s ICAD cards.
  • How a quilter pieced a 60-piece block perfectly!

Footwear Adventures

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Footwear Adventures

At the Catholic elementary school I attended as a child, we were required to wear tie shoes and knee socks with our school uniforms. I remember oxfords and hushpuppies; one year I had saddles shoes, and another year black velvet oxfords. Ugh! I would rather have worn pretty patent leather mary janes with ruffled, lace-trimmed anklets, and I actually think I did when I was small. (Or maybe those were my church shoes.)

How badly I wanted to wear high heels. My mother had a friend who had a daughter three years older than me, and she gave me her cast-offs, including some high-heeled shoes. I loved them and thought I was so cool.

When I was a little girl, the cheapest shoes you could wear were flip flops: they cost 50 cents a pair. You could only wear them in the summer time, because, of course, they were unacceptable for school. (My youngest daughter and I had many arguments when she wanted me to pay $20 for flip flops she called shoes. In the 1990s, Target sold very serviceable sneakers for $7, the tie kind and the slip-on kind. That was much more comfortable for my budget.)

When my oldest daughter Carly was a middle-schooler, she won a contest at a local shoe store, correctly guessing the number of jelly beans in a huge jar. Her prize was a $50 gift certificate. The only hitch was, it could only be used for children’s shoes, and she had just transitioned out of them. I thought, no problem! We’ve got four smaller kids! And we were able to buy one pair each for three of them. I realize now that was a crappy deal for Carly—I guess I ought to send her a check for $50. . .

By the time my kids were born, I rarely wore high heels, though I might wear wedgies. I am mystified by women who wear 4-inch stilettos. How do they balance? Don’t their feet hurt?

Over the 33 years I’ve lived in Arizona, I transitioned from wearing sandals only in the summer to pretty much year-round. I prefer the kind you can just slip on. Once I find a pair I like, I wear them until they fall apart, and I chide myself for not buying multiple pairs of the same shoe (because by the time they wear out, you can’t find the same model anymore, and it takes me a long time to find something worthy of everyday loyalty).

Years ago when I started hiking, I took a suggestion and bought a pair of hiking boots. Up until then, I’d been wearing athletic shoes. Man, what a difference! I felt a lot more secure and balanced on my feet. I also bought a trekking pole, which also enhances my balance, even though I hardly ever put any pressure on it. Just having it there in front of me, ready to spring into action when I stumble, is a huge boon.

Now it’s your turn. What kind of shoes do you most like to wear? What was your best shoe bargain? What kind of shoes did you wear as a kid? Do you have a favorite shoe-related memory? Share in the comments below.

Shut Up, Sirens*

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Ulysses_And_The_Sirens_by_Léon_Belly
Odysseus and the Sirens by Léon Belly

My eyes pop open, then squint, trying to make out the clock on the other side of the room. 6:30 AM. I should get up.

But the sirens cry out to me. “Andrea, stay! Don’t go! Stay in bed with us! We’ll cuddle. We’ll keep you comfortable.” I sink back into their outstretched arms and lose consciousness again.

My eyes pop open. Man, what time is it? 7:30. I really should get up.

But the voices are insistent. “Don’t go! You know you want to stay. You’re still sleepy. Relax. All is well.”

I try to throw off the covers, but they gather themselves around my neck. My eyes cloud over. I surrender.

My eyes pop open. The time? 8:30. Crap. I’ve got to get up.

The seductive voices aren’t ready to give up. “Come back! You know you want to be with us. Stay a little longer. Everything is alright. Everything is beautiful. Drift with us. Don’t go away. . .”

I struggle. I know we have no appointments, nothing that has to be done on a deadline. But even so, I can’t stay in bed all day. My husband is depending on me.

I’m in the time of my life when my husband needs my help all day long. His dizziness and limited mobility means he needs assistance to accomplish simple tasks we used to take for granted. He can shower on his own, but he needs my help to dry off and dress. He used to make his own breakfast, but doesn’t have the stamina to stand for as long as it takes to brown his sausage. If I lounge in bed, he can’t start his day. Duty calls, despite the sirens’ attempts to drown him out.

I start another long day, reminding myself what it was like last year when he was in the hospital and the pandemic prevented me from visiting him. How I longed to be the one to care for him. Having him home with me is a blessing; but most days I crash right after dinner, having to take a nap before I can even face loading the dishwasher.

I know this sounds like I’m depressed, but I’m really not—just exhausted. I try to grab extra sleep whenever I can, and be kinder to myself.

There was another time when I yielded to the sirens, right after I resigned from my teaching job. Teaching had been such a pleasure for me, until it wasn’t. Budget cuts, increasing demands, and staff reassignments robbed me of the joy I once had. I stayed on longer than I should have, thinking that things would get better. They didn’t.

When it was finally over, I spent a few months sleeping until 11:00, then watching reruns of Dog, the Bounty Hunter until I had enough energy to look for a new job or write. It took a while to get used to the idea of being retired, a state I finally embraced, though reluctantly.

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever gone through a period when you were fatigued all the time? How did you get through it?

*The sirens I am referring to are the female island creatures of Greek mythology who mesmerized sailors with their song and caused them to wreck their ships on the rocky coastline.

Creative Juice #249

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Creative Juice #249

Works of art. Personal experiences. Articles to enrich your weekend.

When Blogging Becomes Expensive

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When Blogging Becomes Expensive

When I first starting blogging on WordPress, I was thrilled that you could do it for free. ARHtistic License has its own domain, so I did pay for that, but otherwise, there were no expenses.

The free plan on WordPress included 3GB of storage for images. I like to use a lot of images on ARHtistic License, and soon (I can’t remember how long it took; maybe a year or so? The group blog my critique group started in 2014 has only used up 15.7% of its 3GB so far.) I used it up. I upgraded to a personal plan for $4 a month, which included 6GB. Soon I filled all that and upgraded to a Premium plan for $8 a month, which includes 13GB of storage. So much storage, reasonable price.

Which leads me to today. I have filled all 13GB of storage. I have gone through and deleted many posts and images, but it didn’t seem to free any storage.

My next option is a Business Plan, for $25 a month. It comes with 200GB of storage.

There is no intermediary level. I’d be happy to pay $12.50 a month for 100GB. That would keep me going for a long time. But $300 a year for the privilege of blogging?

Not gonna do it.

I never had any desire to monetize the blog. I never wanted to be an Amazon affiliate. But last year I did become a Bookshop.org affiliate, because they are committed to supporting independent booksellers. (If you click on “My Bookshop” at the top of this screen, you’ll find a link). I haven’t earned a penny from it yet, because I’ve only added 16 books to my shop so far. And I’m not promoting it very much. Which is why I resisted being an affiliate in the first place—I want to write about the arts, not convince people to buy stuff.

Anyhow, I had a live chat with a rep from WordPress, and he/she was sympathetic, and had a suggestion that I never even thought of—it’s possible to embed images from Flickr. Did you know you could do that? So I opened a Flickr account.

Of course, I can continue to reuse the 13GB of images I already have on my blog, and I’ve actually been doing that for a long time.

But for some of the things I do, like my memes, I use images from other sources, like Unsplash and Stocksnap. I really don’t want to put those on my Flickr if I didn’t shoot them. So my “In the Meme Time” posts will be a thing of the past. And if I need new illustrations for a post (because the thousands I have already aren’t quite right), I’ll have to shoot them myself.

I know a lot of people abandon their blogs when they get too expensive, or they make a new blog, and I actually thought about it. I’ll have to make an “author blog” someday. (Or not. It is my hope to need an author blog someday.) I’ve known people who have moved their content to Patreon. (I really don’t want to pay to read your blog. You really don’t want to pay to read mine.)

So there it is.

There have been times I’ve wondered if it’s even worth continuing blogging. But I would miss it if I stopped.

So, I’ll continue, but it may look different.

Now it’s your turn. How do you feel about the cost of blogging? Did you ever abandon a blog—for cost or for another reason? What are the pros and cons of blogging? Share in the comments below.

Things That I’ve Forgotten

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Things That I’ve Forgotten

Stashed in boxes, on bookshelves, in closets, and on my desk are hundreds of notebooks dating back decades. Each has a different purpose. Some contain ideas I want to pursue further, that might become an essay, a poem, or a book someday. Some contain notes I took at conferences. Some refer to books I’ve read, summaries or brilliant passages I’ve copied out because I didn’t want to forget them. Some are journals in which I wrote down experiences on trips or my day-to-day feelings. In some notebooks I’ve recorded my insights when studying scripture.

As Greg and I have gotten older, we’ve encountered more medical challenges, and we found we couldn’t always remember what tests or bloodwork we’ve had done and what the results were. We couldn’t remember when we had certain procedures. So in May of 2019, I started taking another notebook to all our doctor appointments to write down our concerns and all pertinent information.

So much of what I write every day is for one reason—I’m trying to remember stuff.

Strangely enough, much of what I write gets forgotten anyway. I recently grabbed a journal from 1996-1998 out of a box, and I don’t remember any of the stuff I wrote. In August ’96 I wrote down some details about a trip our daughter Carly had taken the month before. She visited Bennington College for “July Program” the summer before her senior year in high school. This is about her return flight: “Departure from Albany delayed approx. 1½ hours due to new security procedures resulting from crash of TWA 800 (?). Had to stop over in Atlanta—same day as bombing at Centennial Olympic Park. Reassigned to another flight to Phx. Had to spend extra couple hours in Atlanta airport. I was sure bomber was in airport, trying to get on Carly’s flight. Carly got to fly 1st class.” I don’t remember any of that happening, except for the bombing.

Most of the rest of that journal is notes about books I was reading at that time. For example, this excerpt from the book Waiting, by Ben Patterson: “Robert Schuller asks, ‘What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?’ The question is designed to break us out of our mental ruts and to think of the possibilities of our lives.” For me, reading this excerpt now is like seeing it for the first time.

So all those things I’ve recorded in notebooks and journals are essentially wasted if I do not go back and reread them. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone; certainly some people remember what they’ve experienced over their lifetimes. But I don’t remember what I read a year ago, much less 23 years ago.

When my Mom passed away in 2004, my brother and I went through her “art collection,” our affectionate nickname for the stack of papers piled up in the corner of the kitchen counter. We found all sorts of old stuff in there, including letters I’d written to her from college in the early 1970s. I wish I could say the letters brought back memories. Mostly, I couldn’t even remember the people I’d mentioned in them, students in my classes and my dorm, even professors I’d had.

I still believe in taking notes at conferences and in journaling, in writing down ideas and interesting things I’ve read; but now I’m going to make a point of rereading my notes and journals from time to time. I’ll let you know how that goes—if I remember.

Creative Juice #224

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Creative Juice #224

On Tuesday, my husband’s podiatrist told us she got her flu shot. Somehow, that fills me with hope for 2021. So do these awesome articles:

  • This one made me cry. The video is too echo-y. Scroll down and read the essay.
  • Writer’s playlist.
  • When we can travel again, maybe we can go to Mexico.
  • This article from 2018 may help you set your creative goals for 2021.
  • 12-year-old Jesus didn’t have all the answers.
  • Interesting shots.
  • Everything I know about physicist Richard Feynman I learned from watching The Big Bang Theory. I didn’t know he liked to draw.
  • Good advice. And some not as good. And some I don’t understand.
  • These signs made me laugh.
  • There are reasons why you shouldn’t drive drunk, and there are reasons why you shouldn’t sing drunk. But they’re not the same reasons. Apparently, singing drunk is great fun, and nobody dies. Read about the Australian Pub Choir.
  • A quilter shares the 17 quilts she made in 2020.
  • This is an interesting idea: praying with index cards.

Creative Juice #219

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Creative Juice #219

It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas. I put a new Christmas bedspread and pillow shams on our bed.

  • Awesome photographs of nature’s power.
  • For the musicians and the music teachers: young composers get to hear their works performed by the New York Philharmonic.
  • Beautiful zentangles.
  • Ways to beat writer’s block.
  • For the writers: flabby characters? Put them through some exercises.
  • Have you taken your Christmas card picture yet?
  • Ways to use your books to decorate for Christmas. (I am seriously thinking of turning my TBR pile into a tree. The books are already stacked on the floor…)
  • In case you need to laugh, here’s a story about what to do when your husband says you can’t buy any more towels.
  • Some ingenious Christmas tree tools.
  • We all know what we should be doing in order to live our best lives. Read this to get it all in one place.
  • Interview with illustrator Jim Starr.
  • Christmas movies to stream.

Oops.

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Photo by Candace McDaniel

My oldest daughter, Carly, entered kindergarten with seriously advanced reading skills. She was working her way through the Little House on the Prairie series. In school, she was being taught the letters of the alphabet, numbers, counting, and colors. They did have a gifted program, but not for kindergarteners. I fought hard to have her spend part of her day in a first-grade classroom. I was considered a difficult parent.

We lived outside of Trenton, New Jersey, and I began exploring private schools. In nearby Princeton there were schools that catered to advanced students and actively sought them out. I found one that had the resources and experience to work with students like Carly. They offered us a substantial scholarship, and my parents offered to pay most of the rest of her tuition, and that was where she spent the next three years of her education, until we moved to Arizona.

Many of the people who live in the Princeton area are quite wealthy. We are not. It was as though we lived in different worlds.

Parents at the school sometimes threw events at their homes for the parents and/or children in their kids’ classes. You could film an episode of The Crown in their homes. Generations of ancestors looked down on you from the oil portraits on the walls. Birthday parties were elaborate extravaganzas: carnivals, candy hunts, craft parties.

One time I was invited to an “informal reception” in connection with a fundraising drive. Silly me—I saw the word informal and thought it meant casual.

That’s not what informal means in Princeton. At least, not in the late 1980s.

I sewed myself a skirt out of a Hawaiian floral print. I was so happy with the way it turned out. It was bright and colorful—magenta and yellow and green. I paired it with a shocking pink shell and a turquoise over-shirt.

I took three steps into the reception and realized I’d made a horrible mistake.

Everyone was dressed in black, or in black-and-white.

In Princeton, informal is a short step down from formal. So, not ballgowns and tuxedos, but definitely not casual.

And there I was, sticking out like the proverbial neon sore thumb.

I thought about leaving. I thought about bursting into tears. But instead I took a deep breath, smiled, stood up straight, and tried to fit in as best as I could. No one said an unkind word to me. Nobody mentioned my homemade skirt.

For today’s post, I selected an online blogging prompt: Write about a time you were inappropriately dressed for the occasion. This was the first incident that came to mind.

Now it’s your turn. Did you ever show up to an event either over- or under-dressed? Share in the comments below.

Creative Juice #216

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Creative Juice #216

Such good stuff here. Curated especially for you.