Leo

This is my baby Leo. He was a prince among cats. I lost him almost two years ago in August 2016 after a battle with kidney disease and cancer. And I was finally able to paint him. Not only is it difficult to paint a pet you have lost and loved, but he was also a tuxedo cat, and let me tell you black cats are harder to paint than tabbies or calicoes or the like. The more colors, the easier it is to give the impression of depth and substance. But I had already painted Lionel, Leo’s successor, and it was time to give Leo his own painting of honor. Here is the result. I’m pretty pleased. Do not be afraid to tackle those projects so very close to your heart. Your heart will let you know when the time is right. Listen to it.

Leo, meet the world. World, meet Leo. 20180802_131600.jpg

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New Year’s Resolutions 

Another year has come and gone.  2017, done.  2018 about to begin.  I could make the standard resolutions: work out more,  eat better,  get my papers graded in a more timely manner, etc. etc. But I won’t.  Not that those are not things worth doing; they are.  But in many ways,  they are destined to fail, especially if you’ve made those kind of resolutions before (as I have). No,  this year I will make only one resolution: write more.

Now I know.  That is an amorphous resolution.  What qualifies as “more”? Is this a resolution also destined to fail because of its very ambiguity.  But I don’t think so.  From an optimistic point of view, that vagueness can work in its favor. Anything can be more!

This year that’s coming to a close has had its ups and downs (as I guess all years do), but a definite up was my writing life. I did a better job of keeping at it, and as a result,  three poems were published somewhere other than this blog (or the Writer’s Digest Poem a Day blog in April). Yay! And there are quite a few pieces out for consideration.  Hopefully 2018 brings good news for those pieces.

So here’s to 2018, a year that once seemed so far away is about to begin.  May it find you healthy,  bring you peace, and inspire the writer within.  Cheers!

Damn! I’ve Gotta Rip It!

According to my husband, my mother-in-law used to say, “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it” when she made a mistake in her crocheting or knitting. First of all, let me say that she was such a good crafter that I can hardly imagine her making a mistake. On the other hand, I know how easy it is to drop a stitch. And it is frustrating. How frustrating depends on how quickly you realize it. Tonight, for example, I realized I had dropped a stitch in a very easy pattern about 12 rows back. Boy was I annoyed! “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it!”

20170715_232938Just as I thought I was making headway and  nearing last third of the project, I sent myself back to less than halfway. (The picture was taken after I had already rewound much of the yarn.) I am frustrated now. Yet, also strangely inspired. (Hence this late night blog)

Creativity does that to us doesn’t it? We are inspired by something and we forge ahead trying to get what is in our heads out in whatever form we are working in at the moment. We struggle with the words on the screen (or paper) or with drawing that picture that is so clear in the mind’s eye or in crocheting a perfect blanket. What is in our heads is so beautiful, so inspiring, so communicative. But what comes out at the end of the pencil, the brush, the hook, the needle, is often so knotted and gnarled that we go back again and again to smooth it out, leaving instead a muddied, crinkly wake in our trail.

But it does smooth out. The tough part is believing in the process again and again. Not letting the defeat of ripping out a dozen rows of a blanket get in the way of completing it nonetheless. Not letting the umpteenth rejection letter stop you from writing or submitting. Not letting the misshapened hand or disporportionate body lead you to putting down the charcoal or the brush. The mistakes we make show us what not to do in the future. They lead us to the another path and another perception. And sometimes, they lead us to an altogether new inspiration that we had missed in our single-minded pursuit of the original vision.

Dear Parents

My friend Moira expresses here so well the need to infuse our children with art and culture. Take our kids away from the screen and into the world of creativity!

Nine Cent Girl

Dear Parents,

First of all, a big thank you to all of you who hang in there. Who continue to show up for those noisy crazy little beings. Perhaps a special shout out for those of you who learn to grow along side them too. (In this area I was fortunate, in that just about every roundabout loony or otherwise twist and turn my siblings and I took, at least one of our parents understood, or learned to).

But what I really want to suggest today, is to be adventuresome with your kids. I know you’re tired. I know too many of you are between jobs or down on your luck, and working with all your inner resolve just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Regardless, those little ones need to see the shiny side of life. They need movement to exert themselves and they need…

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A Rose Refurbished 

A couple of Fridays ago, I had some time on my hands,  so I went to the newly refurbished Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library. Always a beautiful space, it is now brighter and cleaner as well. It is certainly conducive to creativity and work.  And let’s admit it,  the two go hand in hand.  But surrounded by beauty and knowledge,  it is easier to engage in the search for truth.  (Support your local libraries, museums, and cultural institutions, my friends.  Tell your Congressmen to support the arts,  the NEH and the NEA.)

As I looked around the majestic room, I saw people from all walks of life immersed in all sorts of reading/writing activities: in print, online, by hand, by machine, researching,  creating, in English,  in Chinese, Spanish, French, etc. And others came in to appreciate the art and architecture, and others just to sit for a minute. It is a beautiful space that offers so much to so many.  I feel lucky to have experienced it today. And in a true New York moment,  I ran into people I know who had just stopped in to see the room!

One of the things I love about libraries is the access to the creativity of generations. Thousands, millions really, have left a little part of themselves for us to read and know. They inform, challenge, and inspire. But the Rose Reading Room of the NYPL does even more–through the beautiful architecture of the building, the space itself inspires. It is a place I love, yet definitely do not get to enough.

Musing on a topic? Stuck on a scene? Look up to the newly renovated ceiling and drift among the clouds or trace with your eyes the ornate designs. Soon, new ideas and connections will spring to mind, and your creativity will flow freely. Grab a seat and begin. I’ll see you there!

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A Call To Action Against Bullying

I recently participated in a call to action against bullying. ZNO Street published the imaged below and asked writers and rappers to respond. Here’s the image and my response. If you want to get involved, click on their name above to go to the response page.

Cowering in the shadows
Red like wine
Red like blood
Thrown
Spilled
Wasted

Green envy covers the walls
Theirs
Yours
Mine
All wanting
Willing to Destroy
The Other
To get it

Cornered
Back to the wall
Cracks in the wall
Like the sticks
They swing
You crouch
Life chips away.

 

Crochet and Mishaps 2

Last week I started a post about my crocheting mishap and published it accidentally, which is really apropos actually. If you read my last post, you know that I made some big mistakes in crocheting a baby blanket. And, I posted about it on the Instagram (and Facebook) page for our Etsy store (AlyCatCreations1) too. Here’s the thing: This series of posts garnered 90% more likes than our other posts.

Now, I am not one to quibble about likes. I’m happy to have traffic to our site. Please, come browse. Like it. Buy something! We’d love to have you. The thing that struck me though, is that while we do get likes and comments about our finished products, the posts that garnered the most attention were the ones about my mistakes. I began to wonder about that. There are so many “feel good” memes and the like on Facebook and Instagram about building each other up and saying nice things. Which are great. Which are the right sentiment. Which we should do. But then, the likes poor in when I fail.

I wasn’t sure how to feel about that at first. Well, actually I guess I should say that I was feeling many emotions at once. I did laugh. It struck me as funny that posting about a product that would never be on our site brought more traffic to the site than the pieces available for purchase. I was happy the posts were getting likes. I also found it funny that Facebook kept wanting me to boost the post. But I would be lying if I said there wasn’t also a twinge of something else-some hurt or embarrassment.

This led to some pondering of the phenomenon of social media. We post all these lovely catch phrases about being good to others, you never know what they are going through. feel-good-meme

And we should. We should think of other people’s feelings. That has been lost on social media. Too frequently, perhaps in an effort to be brief (140 characters only please) or because we’re posting on the go from our phones and not really crafting prose, posts can be too blunt or even hurtful, so we do need to be attentive to tone and diction, now more than ever. But then, when I admitted I failed at a crochet project, the abundance of likes seemed out of proportion to the post. This is where things get a bit tricky. I posted the photos and the story, so I wanted it out there. I wanted to draw traffic to our site, which it did. I feel good about all of this. I am not really hurt or embarrassed. There was just a twinge, no real regret. My main reaction to the failure of the project is frustration. I did begin to wonder, however, what this says about people in general. Do we really like to see others fail?

What I’ve come up with is yes and no. On the one hand, some like to see others fail because it makes them feel better about themselves, but I think that is the minority, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, that is not what was going on with my crooked blanket posts. I think, rather, that the likes on the failure posts were commiseration. Too often we try to make our lives seem perfect on social media. I’m sure you have all seen the memes and videos of Facebook versus real life. (This one is pretty powerful about how destructive this fake life can be.) Perhaps when a post comes up in which someone admits to making a mistake, and does so without whining, we empathize. “Oh I hate when that happens.” “I understand the frustration.” There is no emoticon for that, so we “like.”

So, let’s continue to like each other’s posts, and let’s comment too. I have to admit that I did receive some encouraging and empathetic comments on the blanket debacle posts. I really liked those; they let me know that others understood my frustration. Sometimes that understanding is what we need most to pick hooks up and begin to stitch life back together. So, let’s like; let’s continue to build each other up and support each other when we were down.

As for that blanket, I rewound all the yarn.

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And I’ve started again. This time, I’m crocheting my tried and true pattern and so far, it’s lovely. I’ll let you know when it’s done. Wish me luck!

Brainstorming

If time is a human construct,
Why haven’t we learned how to make it
Slow down.

A propos to the above,  I started this post a few weeks ago,  and then time got away from me. Those of us with creative minds often find find those minds teeming with ideas. A writer may overhear a snippet of a conversation from which she extrapolates and creates a whole new world,  if she can get pen to paper in time before the words and the world vanish in a fog of mundanity.  Or, she may be creating that world when a picture or a view,  a “Certain Slant of Light,” steals her attention and imagination.  Writers have long carried notebooks to record these flashes of intuition, though today they may be phones or tablets. She can preserve the moment,  return to the world she was creating before this second one came vying for her attention,  and revisit it later.  A beautiful idea,  that I know many,  if not most,  of us employ.  Yet,  when those notebooks fill up, how do you choose which visit from the Muse best deserves your time?

For those of us with multifaceted creativity,  the problem increases exponentially.  Do I devote my time to that drawing/painting that calls to me?  Or do I develop that story that keeps rattling around my brain?  Perhaps instead I will crochet with that luscious yarn I could not help buying.  And then there’s that fabric yearning to be made into. ..something.

The world lately is all about multitasking, yet study after study proves it to be ineffective. We are not hard wired to try to do too many things at once; one at a time is much more effective. I know this is true from my own work and play. When I focus on one task, it is completed well and I feel a sense of accomplishment, but when I jump from task to task, I feel scattered and my tasks are either half done or not done as well as they could be . So why do we still jump from task to task? Perhaps it is this computer age we live in. With so many tabs open in our browsers, our eyes are tantalized by the other places we could go, the other things we could be doing. And let’s face it, even with our chosen work or hobby, there are onerous bits that we would rather not do. At other times, our creativity just bubbles over, seemingly uncontainable, each new idea brighter than the last. And this is good. In fact, children are taught from a young age to brainstorm, to get the most out of their creativity. Brainstorming is a good idea. Those ideas that lie beneath the surface, beyond the obvious are what lead to genius.

Eventually, though, we need to stop brainstorming and start writing (or painting, crocheting, sewing…). Perhaps this is when play begins to feel too much like work, so we jump to the next big idea without having hashed out the details of this one yet. And time seems to fly before anything is finished.

That work though, those details, they lead to the fulfillment of the promises of our creativity and to the greatest sense of achievement and accomplishment. The idea of a poem is at first exciting, but the actual poem is delicious and exhilarating –a tangible thing we can call our own.

And how do we decide which path to follow first? We dive in. We read through our notes, choose what is speaking to us now and go. Perhaps another will pan out another day. Perhaps not, but if we spend too much time trying to decide where to start, we will never begin. So shut down those other tabs, give yourself time and space, and focus. It takes practice, but the results are worth it.

We just need to remember that we cannot live in the storm. We ride it out, clean up the debris, and rebuild a better world.