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Word Wizardry

Dictionary 3

Arugula. Cupola. Garbanzo. I love the sound of those three words. I’ve gone so far as to threaten my family that if we had a third child, I’d consider naming him, or her Arugula Cupola Garbanzo. Imagine how fun it would be to be the kindergarten teacher who called attendance for that lucky little kid every day.

I love the sound of lots of words. I just love words in general. It’s a small personal challenge of mine to use new, exotic words as often as possible. Expanding my vocabulary and learning the meaning of new words is amusing. It’s particularly entertaining to look up a relatively common word and find that it is frequently misused. Take fantastic for example. People will sometimes say they’re fantastic. My first impression was they’re feeling great, doing wonderfully and having a terrific day. I’ve even seen a digital sign in front of a courthouse that flashed, Have A Fantastic Day! So, I’m not the only one who thought it was a term solely for excellence. I looked it up and found the more common meanings for fantastic are: bizarre, incredible and unbelievable. Think of the out-of-this-world Fantastic Four super hero characters and you get the picture. Now I use fantastic sparingly when I’m feeling absurd, whimsical or extravagant.

I play a word game with a young lady who works at my local liquor store. Her name is Tiffany. I know this only because she wears a tag on her shirt. She may know my name because I pay with a card. But beyond my visits and weekly purchases, we’re strangers.

I walk into the store and say, “Hi, how are you?” She responds in surprising ways almost every time. Sometimes she’ll say, “I’m well enough.” And then she’ll attend to my purchase without another word. Other times she responds, “I’m well. How are you?” Then I have the option to say, “I’m fine,” or “I’m doing great.” But I prefer to answer with something clever like, “I’m awesome,” or “I’m inspired.” Depending on the day, and my answer we may banter about the extended and not-so-common meaning of the words I used. Or she’ll counter and challenge me with an equally exciting come back and say something like, “That’s brilliant.” Then it’s my turn to try to top her.

Like flash fiction, it’s energetic and spontaneous. It all happens in a 60 second encounter with confused customers standing in line behind me holding a bottle of whisky or carrying a six pack of beer. But I don’t rush my time in the spotlight with Tiffany. I look forward to the days when she’s up for an entertaining volley. On those visits, when she’s in a good mood, her parting words for me are, “Safe travels.”

Fantastic

It’s always a treat to see Tiffany even though her moods swing wide from cheerful to head hanging glum. No matter what her mood though, she’s never rude or unresponsive to the customer’s needs. She may be short, to the point, and seem anxious to be left alone. But she always manages to do her job with focused efficiency whether she’s stocking shelves or checking someone out at the sales counter.

One memorable day I walked into the store and said, “Hi, how are you?” Tiffany replied, “Cantankerous!” Now that struck me as a serious and deliberate word choice. It was an unusually strong and emotionally driven selection for Tiffany who usually hovered in the realm of placid. I pressed for more information and asked, “What’s wrong?” She hinted she was having a problem with work but didn’t go into detail. We dropped the subject and she completed my sale in silence. After leaving the store I looked cantankerous up on my phone to check its meaning. The first three definitions are: irritable, crabby and argumentative. I wished I could have done more for Tiffany that day, but maybe listening to her sudden and uncharacteristic burst of anger was enough.

I don’t know if Tiffany was aware of our word play or if I’m just another customer. At one point she mentioned she was moving away, up north, to fulfill a dream she didn’t elaborate on. I whished her well. And truly hoped she’d find happiness in her new endeavors. I missed her and our inspiring exchanges. The other sales people were friendly, but let’s face it, they were boring. They couldn’t compete with Tiffany and her colorful words.

Years passed, but I remembered Tiffany fondly. Then one day she was back. I wondered why, but I never asked her. It seemed rude to pry into her personal business. And I worried the reason for her return might’ve been painful for her. I guessed her dreams or ambition changed as they tend to do for most of us over time.

Recently, while Tiffany was completing my purchase I mentioned a paranormal book I was reading. She instantly perked up with a spark of excitement I’d never seen before. I asked what she liked to read. She happily told me about a series of fantasy books she liked. The stories took place in enchanted places inhabited by magical creatures like elves, ogres and fairies. A flood gate opened. She wouldn’t stop talking. We exchanged more words than ever before. I was amazed to see her so animated and happy, unlike her usual meek self. After all this time, we’d found another common interest. We had more than single words. We both loved to read. We shared the joys of living wild adventures through the characters in our books. It was thrilling to meet the lively side of the timid sales girl I thought I knew.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to sit down over cups of coffee and really get to know Tiffany. But I fear it would break the spell. Then the delicious spontaneity we share as strangers would be strained by expectations.

Whatever the reason for Tiffany’s return, I was glad she was back and happy she still had a fiery passion for expressive words. In addition to our word play exercising my vocabulary, Tiffany taught me not to underestimate anyone. Shy people, though quiet on the outside run deep. They have plenty to contribute and say. You just have to start a conversation about a subject their interested in to hear all about it.

Where ever you enjoy challenging yourself to grow, intellectually and artistically, don’t overlook the social aspects of the experience. If you’re fortunate, they’ll bring just as many fascinating surprises.

Where ever the journey takes you, I wish you safe travels.

Lisa

 

 

 

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Winners are Made

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Enjoy this turkey flower vase that I made for an article for the fall 2018 issue of Glass Patterns Quarterly.

Turkeys aren’t known for their intelligence, so we have to cut them some slack.

The other day I saw a bunch of wild turkeys. Five birds were in an open field busily and happily pecking the ground eating seeds and bugs, or whatever wild turkeys find appetizing. The group gradually moved further away, across the field.

At the same time, two other members of the flock stood several feet away from the five birds. The two stray birds were behaving erratically and in obvious distress. They paced back and forth. With wide eyes, they stretched their heads up and tossed them left then right in a frantic manner. They weren’t eating and building strength like the other birds. Instead, they wasted a lot of energy without making any progress. They weren’t moving forward or going anywhere. It was mid-day, sunny and Florida hot. And yet they desperately stomped back and forth at the expense of their own wellbeing.

Then I saw the problem. A wire fence separated the two stray birds from the flock. All they had to do was fly over the fence to be reunited with the flock and resume foraging for food. It was totally within their power to be happy and move on. But they didn’t. They struggled in vain. They stayed in an uncomfortable and unproductive situation. Why?

Change is scary. Even if you’re in an unpleasant situation you know what to expect there. It’s safe even though it’s painful. Complaining is easy. Action takes balls!

Winners aren’t immune to fear. They channel it. Us it. And above all, refuse to let it cripple them or stop them from trying. Winners don’t live for the glory of the finish line. They live for the challenge to become better than they currently are.

There have been many times in my artistic career that it would have been easier to give up on a dream than drive forward. When I wanted to publish my first book, I was met with a lot of resistance. The big names in publishing had never heard of me. Bear in mind, art glass is a small cottage industry. There were only a few publishers. I was just another tiny, independent studio owner with no real credentials. My proposals for a design book were rejected due to my, “artistic immaturity.” But I didn’t give up. I joined art glass community groups to better understand the industry’s expectations, needs and desires. I researched how things were done so I could learn to present valuable and relevant material.

I learned the secret to getting work into magazines was to do exceptional glasswork. And the trick to getting on the coveted cover was to have the installation photos taken by a professional photographer. When it came to the cover art, a quality, well-lit high resolution image was more valuable to the managing editor than a strong article.

Obstacles equally as daunting and insurmountable as the wire fence blocked my path. At times, I struggled as pathetically as the turkeys to make progress even though clear solutions were obvious. But you have to trust your own process and believe you’ll find your way. I went on to publish 14 design books and I continue to write for trade magazines as well as other mainstream venues.

Today, in addition to maintaining my glass interests, I’m pursuing creative writing opportunities. I continue to struggle with self-doubt, time management and finding the right place for my stories. I still get rejections and they still sting. But if you’re not getting rejections in the publishing industry, you’re not trying. You’re not putting yourself out there and nothing will change. Rejection is just another obstacle to overcome.

Whatever your new interest or direction may be, go boldly. Expect challenges, obstacles and rejection. Instead of letting your difficulties slow you down, think of them as evidence of your resilience and proof you’re still trying to be better than you currently are. That’s powerful incentive to overcome anything that gets in your way.

Exhausted and barely able to get off the ground, the turkeys eventually flew over the fence and were reunited with the flock. Even dumb birds figured out it was better to fight for their freedom than wither and die from static indifference.

Don’t be a turkey.

You’re a winner!

Lisa

 

 

 

 

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The Ugly Truth About The Beauty of Drive

 

Rainbow - Copy

What drives you, really drives you?

When I asked myself that question, my thoughts flew to rainbows, butterflies, and lollipops. Colorful, carefree, delicious images came to mind. But after a few minutes I knew I wasn’t being completely honest with myself. True, those tangible things brought me happiness. They inspired action to achieve the drunken ecstasy of accomplishment. But they weren’t the real ugly prompt that motivated me to wake up each day and push hard against obstacles to achieve my life goals. I dug deeper. I peeled away the pretty outer shell I show the world. Buried deep beneath that polished veneer, I discovered an ugly reality.

It took several, well-disciplined rounds of self-searching to reveal what I now know to be the truth. With each new round, I pulled at strings trying to hold onto threads of decency. I slid from my first spontaneous and juvenile answers to ones that sounded noble. I favored the notion that my drive was fueled by honorable causes. And so, I settled for things like my insatiable need for forward momentum came from a desire to teach and educate, to give back. Or my driving force was powered by my family’s code of ethics. It was my duty as a parent to give my kids a good, healthy foundation they could build on to become productive, independent, contributing adults.

I asked several other people, what drives you? Their answers came quickly. I heard things like, I want to help others. Or, I strive to give my clients excellent customer service. Or, I want to be the best, fill in the blank, I can be. Or simply, my family. These are all decent, well-meaning goals, and there are hundreds more. But I believe the true, gritty answers are not so considerate or thoughtful, but are instead, artfully self-serving.

I pressed for raw answers.

My husband’s first answer was he’s driven by the need to do quality work. We dug deeper and decided he’s a perfectionist. We boiled that down further and discovered his true nature. He’s stubborn. It wasn’t easy to admit, but then we realized his stubbornness has a positive side effect. He’s a fastidious and dependable trouble-shooter who doesn’t stop until the job, any job is completed correctly.

At first, my older daughter said she was driven by a desire to help people. We stripped that away and reveled she liked to be in control. That revelation eventually lead us to her real motivation. She wanted to be the first person to do new things. The positive side effect of her drive is she’s a pioneer and an innovator.

When asked, my other daughter blurted out her driving force without hesitation and without shame. She admitted she was driven by spite. At a young age she was told she wouldn’t achieve her dream of owning a horse. It made her try harder. Being driven by spite is an ugly truth for sure. But it worked in her favor. She proved everyone wrong and has now owned a horse for 10 years. She’s living her dream. She’s an influencer.

Other ugly answers revealed when I asked, what drives you? were: dare devil, adrenaline rushes, pride and control. Quite possibly the character traits we’d find in talented athletes, famed intellectuals and great leaders.

Interestingly, no one I asked mentioned power, money, love, hate, fame or revenge. Though those are a part of life, fundamental motivations appeared to be primed from internal forces, not external influences.

After long consideration, I narrowed down and pin-pointed my core motivation. I’m driven by the pursuit of self-worth. Being an artist who lives life on the fringes, I don’t have comparisons to relate to. I question myself and my methods all the time. It’s likely what fuels my creativity. But it also makes me wonder where I fit in.

I’m always stepping outside of my comfort zone, challenging myself to try new, scary things. I’m never sure if I’ll succeed. But when I do have some measure of success, I feel good about the accomplishment. If I fail, I try again.

And this is actually the advantage to not having comparisons. When you’re on the cutting edge, there are no rules to break. You make the rules up as you go along.

I then take what I’ve learned and channel it in a way that provides for the noble causes like teaching and parenting. Though my catalyst may be an ugly, self-indulgent trait, it’s ultimately used in a positive way.

What drives you? What really makes you, you? The person who ignores criticism, blazes around obstacles and sees failure as a learning curve. Be honest. Peel away the safe answers and you’ll find the truth. There’s no shame in honesty.

Me? In my pursuit of self-worth, I’ve found the confidence to raise my voice. I’m using it to share my experiences and show the hidden value of embracing our primitive nature.

You? What’s your ugly truth? And what beautiful work do you ultimately use it for?

 

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A Day in the Life

Cookie 1

My favorite fortune cookie fortune of all time reads, Today is a good day to focus on one thing from beginning to finish. This was obviously meant for an account or an engineer, and not an artist.

I can’t unload the dishwasher without getting distracted. I’ll feed the pets, throw a load of clothes in the washer and read emails on my phone. All the while the dishwasher door hangs open and the counter is cluttered with clean cups ready to be put away.

When I read that fortune I laughed and thought, no one works that way. It’s impossible to focus on one thing. My hands and mind are continuously busy building something and problem solving numerous things all the time. Tasks are started and completed, just not in a linear sequence.

At my age you’d think I’d have things figured out. I don’t. I’m still learning new stuff every day.

I really believed everyone bounced around from job to job, nibbling away at the many chores that needed to be completed in a day. I thought I was just like everyone else. There was no reason to believe differently. When you grow up with a certain way of doing things, it just is. You don’t question your process.

It was the vanilla scented fortune cookie that made me question everything. It shed light on the possibility that there was another way. I did, what I always do, when I find myself pondering such mind-blowing concepts. I asked my husband if I was weird.

He’s an engineer, an A to Z thinker and tinkerer. He laughed, and then confirmed that yes, I do things very differently from him. He finds my scatter-brained approach both amusing and frustrating. He told me it drives him crazy to watch me buzz around the kitchen. I start three things at one time, make a huge mess of the counter and then finish everything all at once. While he has steadfast dedication to completing every single task he starts before moving on to another.

This got me thinking. Maybe my daily activities are similar to yours. Maybe, as fellow creatives you’d find common threads that resonate with you. And you’d realize you’re not alone in your freestyle approach. Or maybe, my weird and wonderful methods are totally strange to you. You might even find my lack of structure humorous. That’s okay too. Either way, our commonalities and our differences bring us closer together.

My, not so routine day.

No alarm. I wake up when my eyes open to the beautiful sight of oak trees and the musical sound of songbirds in my backyard.

I get dressed and head to the kitchen to fiddle. I make coffee, feed the dogs and cats, unload the dishwasher and maybe straighten the family room.

Path and dogs

 

Then my two pups and I go for a long walk. They, “do their business,” while I breath in fresh air, admire the morning light filtering through the trees and allow my mind to wander.

Back at home, I get dressed for the day. Then I go to my office and power up my computer. I check my email and social media accounts for the latest news and innovate glass creations.

After that my day unfolds organically. I meander around touching on several different projects simultaneously. The logical side of my brain may plan to start with one specific task. But once I get started that notion is over ruled. My dominant, creative side takes over and it selects a task at random. Sometimes it’s the item that will take several steps and requires a lot time. Other times it’s the chore I’ve been procrastinating. Or it may be the thing I can complete quickly and then cross off my list right away.

As long as forward progress is being made I don’t set rigid rules for myself. So much of my work is creative. Having the freedom to do it when the energy is right, makes the task much more enjoyable. This positive influence directly extends the scope of my originality and enhances the quality of the final product.

Keys

 

If in my office, I might write a short story, stop to pack and ship videos, all while producing and posting a YouTube video. I might write a blog post, design artwork for a new commission, and take pictures of our goofy cat. I might sort pictures I’ve taken for a magazine article while researching how to change video speed.

Crazy Lucy

Out in my glass studio, I often layout and build several unrelated projects at the same time. I simultaneously cut glass for a fused glass backsplash, cut iridized glass for mosaic mermaid and test fire pieces for a prototype project.

 

 

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This whirlwind of activity may seem familiar or it may give you a headache.

If you are of a like mind, you can relate to the inspiring freedom related to not following rules. You can also relate to the incredible joy of spontaneous creation.

If you are a linear thinker, that’s wonderful too. We appreciate your dependability and admire your strength of direction.

Whatever your gift, know you’re among friends. Be creative or be logical, but most of all be productive, then we all have good fortune.

All the best,

Lisa

 

 

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Illuminating Life – Light Bulb Moments

Light Bulb - Copy

“I’m not turning 11 without a horse.” My daughter announced to the family 10 years ago. We don’t know where she got the bug. The rest of us were clueless when it came to horses. The annual 1 hour, guided, trail ride on our summer vacation was the extent of our interest.

When Nicole was 5, we moved into an equestrian community because we liked the large wooded lot and the rural location. At that time, she didn’t ask if she could have a horse, she asked when she’d get one. She was relentless in her request of a horse. At age 8 we started taking her to horseback riding lessons. She’s been lessoning for 13 years now and currently competes at USDF (United States Dressage Federation) shows.

Her friends don’t understand why she spends so much time at the barn. They ask why she rides 4 to 6 times a week or why she still takes 2 lessons a week after all this time. One naïve kid asked, “Don’t you know how to ride yet?”

Equestrian sports are like other sports, the athletes, in this case the rider and the horse, are continually striving for perfection. That level of commitment requires regular practice. And once a specific goal is achieved, the bar is raised, and they work harder to advance to a higher level with more challenging tests.

Recently, Nicole took a lesson using a new technique. She rode her horse with rolled up towels held tight to her sides with her elbows. It looked silly, but the new aid forced her to sit differently, which improved her seat and posture. She was giddy when she announced she was having a light bulb moment. She told her trainer she had better control and better connection with her horse. Being forced to change her way of sitting enabled her to feel how that specific exercise should feel.

Nicole’s trainer was happy she’d finally grasped the concept she’d been trying to explain all day. The trainer, with more than 20 years’ experience, then shared her thoughts. “I love it when I get a kindergarten light bulb moment, and I think how is that possible when I’ve been doing this so long?”

I could relate to their uplifting realizations. I’ve had similar experiences with my writing. I work hard to improve my knowledge of the craft and to develop a voice as unique as my personality. It’s thrilling when I suddenly become aware of new insight into something that’s so familiar or routine that I couldn’t imagine a deeper understanding was possible.

Revelations on a smaller scale can be equally as exciting.

Take yoga for example. I never took it seriously until I tried it. Wow! I walk for exercise. I thought I was in decent shape. My first 30-minute beginner level yoga class kicked my butt. I was impressed by the degree of exercise one can achieve simply by stretching and bending your body. I love that it nourishes your mind as well as your body to improve overall life balance.

Cooking is another creative outlet where I’m expanding my palate. Over the holidays, I’ve had fun experimenting with new recipes that combine ingredients I like in new ways. I’ve also been using more spices to give every day meals a fresh twist. My light bulb moment came when I realized this new approach to cooking had taken the chore out of feeding the family and made it an edible art project.

Unfortunately, all the delicious food has settled around my middle. Hence, the need for yoga. Here’s my mini night light bulb moment. I believe it’s the festive feastings that are responsible for the number one new year’s resolution, to get in shape.

Light bulb moments are unexpected little treasures to be cherished. It’s exhilarating to learn new things and experience old things in new ways. But the real thrill comes when you recognize your growth and appreciate the enlightened new perspective you’ve gained.

Here’s hoping the new year brings many bright ideas and a flood of light bulb moments.

All the best,

Lisa