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Life Lessons

On January 15, 1998, I attended a day-long workshop entitled, “Stress Management For Women in Business.” The only physical reminder of that day is this pink piece of paper on which we were instructed to write a note to ourselves, our most important take-away from the class. Mine said simply: “Life isn’t about what does and doesn’t get done. It’s about … the people we touch, the experiences we have, sharing love, and helping others through this life.”

That was what I learned at the workshop.

I have learned it over and over, again and again.

At first I looked at this piece of paper regularly. Every month for the first few years. Every quarter for a while after that. Finally, every year I pulled it out and read it. You can see where I added notes and taped other quotes. I have been working at understanding what I wrote that day for a long time. For most of these last two decades, I have read this bit of wisdom and thought, “I wish I could remember that on a day-to-day basis.”

But when I pulled out the paper from my tickler file this morning, I finally felt like the wisdom belonged to me. This time when I read it, I said aloud, “Well, yeah! I already knew that.”

How true. I knew it 21 years ago. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to write the note to myself. Heck, I’ve probably known it since I was a little kid. It seems to have taken a lifetime of striving and doing, setting and meeting goals, and crossing things off my to-do list to finally work my way back to elemental truths.

I especially like that little sideways note that I wrote in blue, maybe ten years ago. It says: “Life isn’t about what we are doing … it is about what we are being. Peaceful? Loving? Accepting? Kind? What are YOU being today?”

I do so love the wisdom that leaks out of me every once in a while!

As I head into this new year, I’m feeling pretty good that I seem to know this truth right now. I’m also okay with the fact that I might forget it before the year is over. So I’ll embrace that little note at the top that says, “I commit to trusting the process.” After all, Life Lessons play out repeatedly all through one’s lifetime. They’re not finished until we are.  And I don’t feel finished quite yet.

 

 

Choosing a Cover

Calendar CoverI’m in my ninth year as a ReadAloud volunteer. I love interacting with the fourth graders on a weekly basis, reading, talking, laughing, and sharing our lives. Last year I presented the classroom a copy of my art calendar as a Christmas present. The following week one of the girls gave me a set of 36 watercolor paints. What a thoughtful gift!

Over Christmas break, I wanted to see what each of the colors looked like on paper, and so I drew 36 different colored swatches in a circular pattern. After they dried, I started doodling inside the colors and then created a sweet little bird to go in the middle. It was a whimsical piece, the result of playing around to get a feel for the strength of the pigments.

As I was painting and then doodling, I thought about the kids. I went through each face in my head many times, smiling again and again, appreciating the unique energy each one brought to the group.

The next time I went to the classroom, I gave them the painting, telling them that I believed each of the colored doodles represented one of them and that the bird in the middle was their teacher, Mrs. SINGleton. I said, “Even though each of you is very different, your teacher brings you all together to create a colorful, harmonious, fun classroom.” They cheered and applauded. Really!

Then I asked each to pick a favorite swatch. I said, “Whichever one you like best will be YOU in the painting.” What fun we had! I still remember: “Can I be the pineapple?” … “I want to be the orange flowers!” … “You know which one I’m going to pick, don’t you Ms. Dallmann?” … And on and on. There was no arguing, just joy. And every child made a choice.

I picked this painting for the cover of my 2019 calendar because I believe it represents the essence of why I paint. It’s all about having fun, creating, discovering, laughing, and connecting with others. I play with colors, shapes, and textures; I explore emotions and ideas. I laugh a lot when I paint. And every painting is part of a process, a very human process.

 

If you’d like to see more or place an order, click here: 2019 Calendars

 

Around my 40th year, I heard a speaker on the topic of prosperity consciousness. A new way of thinking about money began changing my life for the better, and I am still regularly engaged in many of the practices that emerged a quarter of a century ago.

One of those was making a spiritual practice out of the routine task of paying bills. Way back then, I wrote many checks each month. As I signed them, I wrote the word “Gladly,” above my signature. As I did so, I carefully considered the reason I was glad to be sending my money to the water company, the gas company, the Internal Revenue Service, etc. Every time I wrote a check, I found a reason to be grateful: for a reliable supply of clean water, for heat throughout my home all winter long, and for the National Parks Service.

You see, I decided every last penny of federal tax I would ever pay would go directly to supporting the National Parks Service. On the memo line, I used to write, “For the National Parks.” I feel ownership every time I enter one of the parks, walk the trails, or attend a ranger led hike. Whenever I feel like I’m sending a lot of money to Washington, I think about just how much it takes to operate my beloved national parks, and then I realize how small my contribution is in comparison.

Paychecks to my employees were signed “Gladly.” All personal and business checks were almost always signed “Gladly.” Those that weren’t, represented my decision to pay grudgingly. When I made that choice, I also took responsibility to do what needed to be done to change the situation. When I battled with my cell phone company over incorrect roaming charges, I did not pay gladly, but I did change cell phone carriers. If I can’t find a reason to be glad to circulate my money in one place, I will find a new place.

Since the ’90s, things have changed a lot. I rarely write checks anymore. Utilities, medical bills, and even taxes are all paid electronically. When I use my credit card at the store and sign my name with the “magic pen,” I usually scrawl the word “Gladly” as part of my signature. It continues to work as a reminder to be grateful for the opportunity to circulate financial energy.

Today I received an email from PayPal: “You’ve Got Money,” it said. It was from my son sending partial payment for a loan I made to him last year. The transaction details included a note from him: “May and June. Gladly! Love You!!”

Wow! Gladly is a powerful word. It can bring tears to my eyes and fill my heart with gratitude … writing it … and reading it.

Estimated Taxes Check

Signing checks gladly for 25 years

The One and Only You

Backgrounds

The Beginnings

A couple of days ago I finished a painting that had been hanging around for months. While experimenting with the concept of creating backgrounds, I dripped some pink and yellow paint on wet paper. The values and shapes were interesting, but I didn’t know what to do with them. I became overly involved with the background; I seemed to want it to be the focus of my painting.

This morning, when I stopped at an interesting place (aka “finished the painting”), I began to compare and contrast creative processes: art versus life. I do that a lot. Painting has taught me so much about my own evolution—as an artist, but mostly as a person.

Maybe some people (myself included) can get stuck becoming overly concerned with “making something” of their childhoods, of their backgrounds and origins.

Could it be less grueling to just create something interesting ON TOP OF IT? To make some bold, blue marks and see what happens? What could our lives become if we allowed talents, interests, and inner wisdom to guide the way?

Years later, we gain enough perspective to see the Big Picture; we notice the origins and the backgrounds, but they are not the focus. The focus is now the finished product—the “Work of Art” this life has become.

As we look closely, we can see the pieces, remember the details, even focus on one or two tiny pieces at a time—a success here, a failure there—but the most grace-filled miracle is how, when we step back and see it as a whole, it all fits together perfectly to create a unique life. The One and Only You.

The One and Only You

The Finished Product

English Country House

English Country Home (I took this photo in 1989 when we took our Britain to Great Britain)

I began a 12-week Artist’s Way workshop at the beginning of January. Already my “Inner Artist” is enjoying the attention. I’m painting more and writing more. Below, I have written a bit about my process of awakening to a new level of creativity.

I have been daydreaming a lot lately. It feels like traveling to a country home–one of those thatched-roof beauties in the English countryside that has been closed up for a long, long time. Dusty and dark. Shutters on the windows. Sheets on the furniture.

Slowly, I open the front door. The air smells stagnant and woody, like long unread books and lonely dining room chairs. But then, curtains thrust aside, sunlight awakens the interior. Bright, lively colors emerge from slumber. Each room is a surprise as long forgotten joys emerge: Oh, that rocking chair! My hand mirror! I remember where I found those shells!

Discovered treasures warm my heart and kindle a fire of possibility. The Spirit of Adventure prods me to open more doors, pull up blinds, and allow breezes to pour through the windows. I race to see more, to love more, to dance in delight at the wonder of it all.

Why was it that I closed off this bit of myself? What caused me to think I no longer needed these parts of me? I have been living in three rooms, dependably going through the motions of life, all the while feeling closed in, uninspired, stuck, and bored. There have always been so many rooms. A mansion of rooms. Some forgotten; others, never explored.

I’ve been so afraid of the mistakes, the things that broke my heart and seemed to crush my soul. I thought if only I could curl up here in the corner, I could stay safe. Sorrow would roll over me and onto someone else.

But it has been sorrow’s companion, fear, that took up residence in my heart. Whispering warnings. Shouting horrifying scenarios. Until my energy was gone. It took so much not to listen.

NO MORE! The sun. The fresh air. The ideas. The dreams. They are all so full of energy.

I am remembering so many things I wanted to do “BEFORE.” Before the fear and sorrow began closing the windows, pulling the blinds, locking the doors. Run! Hide! Protect! Armor Up! Close Your Heart!

Too many days of rain and clouds. Winter cold. Dark, dark nights and foggy days. Weeks. Months. Years.

But Spring is here! Seeds planted long ago emerge, to grow, blossom, and flourish. This is my final chapter, my closing act. I have ample time for one more spectacular performance.

And they will say: “She saved her best for last.”

Spiritual Practices

This morning I had the privilege of speaking at Unity of Kanawha Valley. My topic was building spiritual strength and endurance through the use of spiritual practices.

The talk was streamed live on Unity’s FaceBook page. I’m including a link to that page: January 14, 2018 Talk 

My talk begins at 24 minutes. I encourage you to listen to the song that starts at 22 minutes. It’s beautiful!

If you’d like a copy of the handout (a list of 30 spiritual practices with resource links), you can find it here:

 

Sharing My Artwork

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Four years ago when my art teacher suggested that I publish a calendar, I immediately dismissed the idea. “I have no interest in doing that,” I said. “No one would want to buy such a thing!” Then a couple of days later, for no reason I could explain (even to myself) I decided to see if I could find 12 paintings good enough to include in a calendar that I could give away (since I was still pretty sure no one would want to buy it).

Within two weeks, I had changed my mind, picked the paintings, ordered the calendars, mentioned it on Facebook, and sold every single calendar. Wow. How did THAT happen?

Year two I hesitated. Could I really pull it off again? Yup. It happened again. And I was every bit as astonished as I was the first year.

Year three was tough. I chose 12 paintings and then one by one deleted them from the queue, convinced that they were all garbage and I couldn’t possibly expect to do this three years in row. Those who love me gently pushed. Once again, they sold out before Christmas.

This year has been easier. I didn’t spend long hours worrying whether this or that painting was “good enough.” I simply chose my favorites and placed my order. It all seemed routine and unemotional until the first email came from PayPal, “You’ve Got Money!” The six-year-old artist in me squealed with delight. She loves to paint. I love her paintings. And when someone else loves them, too, it makes me giddy. Every time. Not because someone approves of my work, but because a kindred spirit likes my “child’s” artwork.

Thank you to all who take the time to look at my paintings, buy calendars, and tell me what they see when they look at my artwork. It’s so much fun to share the process with enthusiastic supporters. And the money I get from selling the calendars? Well, I use that to buy paint, paper, and brushes . . . enough to keep the six-year-old artist in me busy and happy.

(For more information about the 2018 calendar, click here.)

 

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