Monday, February 23, 2009

Consulting with Guides

12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women
By Gail Meekin

Secret 7 - Consulting with Guides

Reading about inspiring lives

I am not inspired by just one person, but by many. I love to read and learn about what inspires other people, both men and women. How they started out in their lives and careers and what paths and sometimes detours that got to them where they currently are. Most recently I have been following and inspired by Kellyraeroberts, but I have to give the blogosphere some props as it has made it so easy to discover and be inspired by so many people!

To connect to your creativity, it is important to think back to your childhood and recall who served as a role model.

I have written many times before of my two favorite art teachers that were very instrumental in my artful life. My elementary art teacher Judy Rapport-Stern and in high school, Joann Thaesler. They both were so supportive. Miss Rapport gave me the freedom to express myself creatively without any criticism that I can remember. Miss Thaesler (JT) became an art friend and well as a guide during some very difficult years in my life.

Seeking out role models and advisors

Shortly after we arrived in California, I read about the organization Art & Creativity for Healing. When I called and spoke to Laurie Zagon, the founder we connected immediately. She helped me express myself through color and paint in an abstract way. I also felt an east coast connection as Laurie was originally from New York City. Laurie gave me ”permission to paint” again. When I was diagnosed with cancer Art for Healing helped not only me, but my whole family. It is truly a wonderful organization. I have met so many creative and interesting people. Laurie always talks of how we have found “our tribe” as mentioned in this chapter and I truly believe that too!

Initiating or joining a group

I am exploring this area more and more as time goes on. It takes time to find your group or creative circle of friends. I liken it to moving to a new place. You always have your old friends, but it takes time to meet new people, build relationships and find the proper guides to help you walk your path.

A world where each of us sees our chance to play guide as a sacred role will help to heal the scars of creative destruction that too many of us have already experienced.

I love to work with young children. I volunteer in my son’s elementary school as I did when my daughter was young. I especially love to promote the arts. I am the chairperson of the PTA Reflections Program, I organized an Original Works fundraiser in which the children’s art is reproduced on items to purchase. I volunteer for art projects during art class and in his regular class. I love to promote the arts and children’s individual artistic abilities. I wish the “art rules” were not so rigid and the children had more freedom to express themselves within the lesson guidelines. My son is usually the one who insists on breaking the “art rules”. It sometimes causes a problem in class and he always tells me after that he loves art but he does not like that he has to create only one way. Luckily he is very headstrong and determined (again which can cause some problems)!!
I wish the rules were not so specific and rigid because I think people would be amazed at what the students’ are capable of producing. I am not the teacher so I can only do so much, but when I get the chance to provide a lesson I try to let them be as creative as possible. Some just soar and some already have the insecurities instilled in them, they do not trust their abilities and are afraid to create without step by step instructions or asking “is this okay?”

A few weeks ago a boy who was in my son’s class last year came up to me and said “ I have been working on my art project” I inquired which one and he said “all of them, you get better the more you draw right?” I said “yes you do and I am so happy that you are drawing and creating, keep up the good work”. I was so happy that he felt proud and safe that he could come up and share this with me.

A few years ago I was sitting in the “teachers” chair and I said to the class “I think I want to be an art teacher.” One boy said to me “you already are” that made my heart melt. If we only reach one child, instill a love of art and help them to walk their own path then the struggle and frustration is worth it!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Conquering Saboteurs

12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women
By Gail Meekin

Secret 6 – Conquering Saboteurs

This fear that we ought to have all kinds of credentials to truly earn our success raises havoc with our faith in our work.

I have the credentials as an interior designer, but when I think about being a mixed media artist or a painter then the havoc awakes. I always think I have to “take a class” before I can do something. Taking classes is good, learning new ideas and meeting new people, but many times when I take the class I feel like I could have taught the class. I have that self-doubt until I see the “competition”.
My life has been that way for a very long time. So many times people stand up and say they are the "best" at something, but many times they are not – but they know how to market themselves.

Barbara spoke out very strongly about the power of misguided teachers who become internalized as gremlins: “ A good teacher is the holiest of God’s creatures. I don’t think that there’s another role in our culture that deserves the rank of holy except a great teacher who excites you. And the bad teachers should be made to march in chains. I don’t care if you’re just teaching someone to play the guitar or how to fix car. When people love to learn and they feel it’s safe to try things with someone to help them along, that’s great. Anybody who stops that has murder on their souls; they’ve got blood on their hands.”

I was fortunate to have some great art teachers up until college that is. I think design school is supposed to be tough. They are preparing you for the real world. I know criticism… I was the youngest of 5 and both parents were very critical. I can also be critical of myself and others. I have spent many years trying to “relax”. Misguided teachers really get to me. There are so many bad teachers out there… so many who should not be teaching anymore. Laurie Zagon, a friend and founder of Art & Creativity for Healing who has worked with countless adults and children has found that there are 2 main reasons that people think they are not creative or cannot paint. They either had a really bad art teacher or someone else in the family held the “artistic” role.

Many times I have to give myself the same advice that I do when I am working with kids and not be so critical of my work. I just need to learn to play with the materials, relax and let it be…

Mastering the fear and proceeding in spite of it is the best revenge against society’s thrust to keep women voiceless.

For me, proceeding in spite is probably the most important phrase. During my first year in design school, I produced many really poor ideas and projects. I stood up during the critique and took the criticism from my six instructors. But there was nothing that was going to stop me from my dream. Near the end of my first year we had to create a metamorphosis in six phases. You had to work with either 6” spheres or cube shapes and they had to change in 6 stages. I started with 6 “chicken wire” 6” x 6” cubes soldered together. The first stage had a small ball made out of steel wool inside. I likened my project to cancer and the steel wool eventually overtook the cube. I ended with a 6” steel wool ball with bits of the chicken wire sticking out.

I was happy with the project. We had to set up our pieces simultaneously in the studio. When the instructors got to mine they could not match up the project to the student. A few times they asked whose project it was and I raised my hand. “No really” was one of the responses, “this is yours?” was another. The teachers loved the project – I think it was my first A that year. It was even selected to be in the year-end show. In some ways I guess I have to thank all those that criticized me prior in my life, if I had not been used to such harsh criticism I am not sure I would have been able to make it through the program. PROCEED IN SPITE!

We can listen to everything we hear, but then it’s important to sort it out realistically, learn what we need to, and discard the rest. Not everyone is going to understand what we’re up to. A critical skill for many creative women is discernment – knowing whose advice is from the heart and really meant to be helpful, and avoiding folks who pull you away from your intentions and may be trying to undermine your achievement.

This is so important. I love to ask people their opinions, to learn from them. But then I have to sift through the “you should” comments and decide what I want to do. Sometimes there is helpful information and critique and other times you can hear THEIR agenda in their voices. Sometimes we need to stop all of the chatter in our heads and keep creating… just keep creating….

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Sunday, I met my first “MotherswithCancer” contributor in person!! Stella was in So Cal for work and we met up for a few hours. We had a great time and tried to fit in as much as we could. Kids, cancer, careers, the “site”, spouses, family … it was the first time we met, yet because of the internet it was like we already knew parts of each others’ lives.

I got to thinking about the internet, blogging and online friends. I most likely would have never met Stella if it were not for the MotherswithCancer site. Which then leads me to, I probably would have never met her if I never had cancer.

Do I wish that I never had cancer… sure, but I cannot change that. If I can glean something good from that experience well then that is what I have to be thankful for.

My word for this month is perspective…

On this site, we all have a different perspective about cancer. I am sure we can agree that cancer has affected all of us… our spouses… our children… our family and our friends. If we can find some positive experiences from it, if we can use our pain to help someone else, if we can make some changes to our lives that make our remaining days here better, if we can meet some new friends online or maybe in person then I am looking at today as…
my glass is half full …
cross posted at motherswithcancer

Friday, February 6, 2009

Committing to Self-Focus

12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women
By Gail Meekin

Second Gateway – Mastering Your Challenges as a Creative Woman

Secret 5 – Committing to Self-Focus

Many Creative women have more ideas than lifetimes; they continue to generate new ideas, but never complete their projects.

That’s me! But even before reading this book I decided that I was going to try harder this year to focus and complete more projects. Self-focus in this newly creative life of mine is a challenge. Creatively working for someone else was easier to manage my time. I went to a place of work (usually) and deadlines were imposed by someone else.

During my cancer treatment, my schedule was created by doctor’s appointments, side effects, fatigue and my forced self-care. As I got healthy, I filled my time up with many things, partly because I was so happy to feel well and have energy again. I think I was also trying to fit everything in “while I still had time”. Much of what I was involved with was creative but not necessarily self creative. I volunteered in many places… for non-profit organizations, my son’s school and fundraisers. I often adjusted my schedule to “cover” for others whose schedules would not allow them to volunteer.

Being overly involved in the lives of others can actually be an escape from testing out our own creative power.
Your creativity has to be a priority for you before anyone else will take you seriously.

Part of my self-focus in 2009 has been to say “NO” to many things. I said no to a few committees and volunteer opportunities. I am taking my creative time more seriously. I am more committed to scheduling time to create, to submit pieces to magazines, to blog, to take photos, to sell my work on etsy, on cafepress and to build my website and business.

I still feel like I am juggling many things, but they are self-creative.

I’ve had to learn to walk by the weeds, blank out the peeling paint in the porch room, and live with closet chaos.
This one is hard for me. I do not have a studio outside the home. My studio is a small table in the living room. I have to learn to walk by the kitchen and not load the dishwasher. I have to stop myself from throwing a load of laundry in the washer. Doing just a few things around the house that take a few minutes, but before you know it, it is time to pick up the kids and nothing creative has been accomplished. Someday, even if I have a separate studio with a door, I will always struggle with this one. I have gotten better, but I this is where I really have to self-focus!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Certified Interior Designer in New York and Now California!!

“Certified interior designer” means a person who prepares and submits nonstructural or nonseismic plans consistent with Sections 5805 and 5538 to local building departments that are of sufficient complexity so as to require the skills of a licensed contractor to implement them, and who engages in programming, planning, designing and documenting the construction and installation of nonstructural or nonseismic elements, finishes and furnishings within the interior spaces of a building, and has demonstrated by means of education, experience and examination, the competency to protect and enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
(Per California Council for Interior Design Certification)

I have been an NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Certification) certified interior designer since 1986. When New York State approved certification for interior designers, I sat for a special codes exam and became the 113th Certified Interior Designer in New York State in 1988. When we moved to California, this state does not offer reciprocity. I was still able to work as an interior designer here but I could not call myself a certified Interior designer in this state. I went back and forth on the decision to sit for the additional codes exam here. In 2009 California will be changing their exam so instead of taking just the additional codes portion, I would have to take a completely revised and much larger exam. I decided to study and I took the “old” exam in October. Luckily I passed the exam, applied for certification and I am now the 6297th Certified Interior Designer in California. Yahoo!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Let's Go Sabres...

The Buffalo Sabres were in town last night so we attended the game!

The kids were decked out in their Sabres attire… ready to cheer on their ”home” team.

D was torn before the game and started out cheering for both teams. When Buffalo scored first he decided to root for his roots!!! He bravely chanted “Let’s go Sabres” to be answered by the much larger crowd of “Let’s go Ducks”.

N was waiting for some good fights, the first period was quiet in that department but her wish was granted in the second and third period for that matter.

L did his usual magic and we got to go down to the locker room after the game. We met up with Lindy who we have known since his days as the Captain of the Sabres.

The kids got some autographs…

It was a late night but one I hope they remember for years to come.

The next game we will be Ducks fans again…
Until Buffalo comes to town ...


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