Sunshine and Stained Glass

Sunshine and Stained Glass

I remember when I was a kid, I had a friend, whose mom made stained-glass in their basement. I remember going over to their house and looking at the glass and thinking how ugly it was. She made stuff that seemed dark and dreary. Browns and dark muddy colors. Now, as an adult, I understand the beauty of a rich brown with light coming through it. The cocoas, the coke colored and the brownie lit by the sun. But as a kid, I just didn’t get it. To me, then, it was exactly what the basement of someone else’s house looked like: dark, damp and old.

When quarantine first started, there was a Facebook group for Michigan called Rainbows Across Michigan. People were drawing rainbows on their windows and sharing them with the group. They were providing light to those who needed it. I joined the group, but would never draw on my windows: first, I don’t want to have to clean that off at some point (laziness?) and second, I need my windows and my light. My house faces the south, I get gorgeous light in the afternoon that is strong enough to warm my home. Afternoons, sitting on the couch in the sun, drinking an iced coffee with my book are pretty much what I dream perfection to be like. I can’t block those windows.

But I wanted rainbows, I NEEDED rainbows.

I started searching Etsy for rainbows and found a … stained-glass shop. But this shop didn’t have the long-ago lampshades of yore. It didn’t have large, heavy browns, dark green and tan window panes. They had beautiful rainbow triangles, rectangles partnered with Mr. Roy G. Biv and small pieces, splashed with colors that I love. I bought one. I bought a bright, happy rectangle with all the colors of the rainbow.

I hung it up in my front window and immediately thought, Oh No! It is too small! Which is funny since I *didn’t* want anything to block my precious sun.

Afternoons became brighter with colors floating through the room. But I wanted more. I wanted more colors. I went back on Etsy and hearted a ton more. I needed these. For Mother’s Day, my husband (my wonderful, mindreading husband) found the same ones that I loved and bought me two more. A rectangle with a few colors to make a rainbow and a Black Lives Matter fist in deep purples that look like an oily rainbow when the light hits it. They were gorgeous. Absolutely perfect.

BUT THEN!

I was hanging out on Kick Starter and found a campaign for window rainbows. This maker made clear glass prisms that you fill with distilled water and when the sun shines on it, they cast rainbows around the room. And it does! It hangs in the window next to the triangle.

I now have 5 pieces of stained-glass (I added a grumpy looking blue bird) in my home and I am delighted by how happy they make me. Seeing the colors on a day-to-day basis never fails to make me smile and think happy thoughts. Since they project their light into my home (and in different places throughout the day), I am always seeing them – they have not become flat pictures on the wall that begin to blend in, with time, to the wall itself.

I find myself thinking about those stained-glass pieces of my childhood and wondering where those ended up. I never saw them in the windows of that friend’s house and I wonder if I had, maybe I would have fallen in love with stained-glass then. As I am typing the view I have, besides my monitor is my neighbors house and I think that my view could be improved drastically with a new window pane, filled with chocolates, dark greens and other rich hues. Excuse me, I feel the need to click back over to Etsy.

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The Little Table

The Little Table

The first piece I ‘picked’ was as a college student in Boone, NC.

The details are fuzzy some 30 years later, but it was in a quonset hut close to the sidewalk. Otherwise, I would never have ventured in.

It was a small chippy white metal table, and I LOVED it. I paid $20, and it lived inside every house or apartment until my little one was born some 25 years later. As a new mommy I was SO nervous about sharp things and hard things and ‘could be lead paint’ things, so the little white table lived on the porch and soon became the ‘little rusty table’.

I loved it still.

Eventually it moved with me from studio to studio becoming the guardian to hold whatever cumbersome thing that was keeping me from unlocking the door. Until one day, one of my long time shoppers who had nothing but love and support for “The Painted Mermaid” spotted it and asked if it were for sale.

I hadn’t known this man well over the years. I knew him and his wife as kind and special ‘regulars’ and had certainly known of her decline. But we had just spent the last few days together bringing the fabulous pieces they had curated together — many which I recognized, one of which was the first piece I had ever painted — back to what I had begun to realize was their ‘Mermaid’ as much as it was mine.

He told stories of each piece. Where they’d found it. How she’d felt about it. How he felt about it. And I remember saying the table was not for sale, but that it needed to be with him. He promised he would seal it (for safety) and love it, and never sell it. He kept his promise. And just a few short weeks later, when this man I had grown to love unexpectedly joined his beautiful wife, the little table came back to me.

I think of him often, and as I do today I recognize once again the importance of letting go. Making more room for the important things. And knowing that if it’s meant to circle back to you, it will.

Good morning Sunshine, I’ll see you when you get here.

Amy Hege Atwell is the author of 10 Little Rules for Mermaids, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at retail outlets including her shop The Painted Mermaid in Southport, NC.

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Vinnie’s Spoken Word: One Thing Vs. Many?

Vinnie’s Spoken Word: One Thing Vs. Many?

Creativity in its purest form is creating the life that you were meant to live … fully and joyfully with no regrets.

Vinnie sure knows that is real for him! I consider myself a good cook, but he taught me some lessons about variety, cooking and creativity.

Creativity is much more massive than the attempt or ability to paint a picture,  produce a screenplay or teach dancing. It begins and lives within every single thing we do and say, each and every day.  

Recently I had a discussion with someone about the value of knowing your why. I do think it is everything, in terms of eliminating second-guessing,  self-doubt and indecision. 

Knowing your why is the catalyst for owning your energy signature and will guide you to consciously making decisions that work for you in living the life you deserve and desire.   

It is your niche … a place or position that’s particularly appropriate for someone or something, especially due to being very specific and different from others. That, I believe, is where narrowing down on a personal and deep level will get you the most focus and clarity about the direction of your life. And you have to use your creativity to get at what is truly meaningful for you; what will get you up in the morning.

There is where Vinnie comes in. Boom, bang, fast, intentional and unafraid. He got me to thinking about how creativity comes into play with cooking.  

He swirls around like a windstorm, rarely landing. He doesn’t like nor does he want anyone in his kitchen. That is A-OK by me. I was on vacation and when at home I do all the cooking. Living in Michigan and shutdown for a year has tested my cooking creativity to the max, so It was truly a treat to be waited on as if in a restaurant, as plates of deliciousness magically appeared in front of me.

He knew what he was going to cook. It was well planned and everything was bought and ready. But the one thing he knew he was going to prepare was just the beginning of a creative cyclone that brought in the many. Vinnie’s words, paraphrased:

“When I eat, I want a lot of flavors, various versions, and many different kinds of food. I don’t want to eat one thing.”  

What started out as waffles, turned into a mound of soft, thick, and with a bit of crunch waffles, top with some sausage that was seasoned with dozens of spices, underneath fresh blueberries and topped with real organic thick maple syrup (laced with butter) that was heated. I could not stop that  sentence from being so long because it is one memory that reads in my mind just as I wrote it. Not just waffles but lots of tastes, textures and flavors adding to the final creation.

He did the same thing with shrimp. We’ve had shrimp about 5 different ways already.  Even the melted butter for the crab legs was laced with garlic and some other mystery flavor. If you’ve ever watched Forrest Gump you’ll remember his friend listing the many ways shrimp can be prepared and eaten.

Creativity can be a planned action…knowing you are going to paint a picture, prepare a meal or write a book. If you trust yourself and let your soul feel what it feels, there will be some stirrings that pop to the surface that are inspirational, unexpected and full of delight. Add as many pop-ups as you can and see how and if it delights you and adds flavor to your life.

Don’t be afraid to let in some funky, some soul, or some unexpected ingredient into your creation. It might surprise and delight you! And if no one else notices, no matter. Focus on how it makes you feel. Does it help you feel that what you are doing matters? Does it add to your yummy life, help you hear your whispers, and bring you bliss? Does it help you live the life you’ve always imagined?  

This is what matters. 

To thine own self be true.   Allow others to do the same.  Do no harm.

Rita Long is the author of 10 Little Rules for Your Creative Soul.

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Ugly is Life, Too

Ugly is Life, Too

Instagram is fun. There are beautiful people, clothing, children, flowers, food, lives – BEAUTIFUL EVERYTHING! But the ugly is also there, we just don’t show it.

Well, guess what? I’m going to show it.

As I type this both boys are grounded.
Both currently think that I am awful.

But they seem so perfect!?

They are, but they are also KIDS.

Dave is nearly a teen. He is exploring his world and his limits – seeing how far he can push his reality and in so, he is lying to his parents. This is the second time in the last 20 days where he has been caught mid lie. The first time, he was caught doing something dangerous, something that I had told him multiple times not to do. I called him on it, he denied, I recalled what was seen, he doubled down on his lie and then got mad when he realized that he had been caught and was getting into trouble. Two weeks of grounding. I was all set to explain why what he did was unsafe and to talk about alternatives. But he lied to me.

Seriously, tell me that you did something wrong, own it. Don’t lie. I keep stressing to my kids that being lied to is an awful feeling, no matter how small the lie. I tell them – I will always ground you for lying, even if I wouldn’t necessarily ground you for the actions that you lied about.

This time, he told his brother something that was hurtful – about me. Hank came to me about it. Not a big deal. However, when I asked Dave about it, he denied. I asked him if he wanted to take a second to think about what he wants to actually say to me and start it over. He admitted to the lie. Again, everything is easy to navigate. No problem is unsurmountable, but the lying is something that needs to stop now before it becomes a habit that he can’t break.

Hank, on the other hand has decided to take a small hiatus from school. Like, apparently, quite a long one. Homeboy has not been working on his cursive writing, to the point where he is several letters behind and the letters are now a foreign language. He has also not been doing his work with class, but instead, turning it in with question marks dotting the page. All those breaks that we had been taking walks on? Well, it turns out that, those aren’t breaks.

Well. Gold star for mom, right?

Both kids are grounded. Meaning, no electronics. No Switch, no tablets, no handheld gaming systems, no Alexa reading their books. We’re now all living on the prairie with self-entertainment – with real books! Paper ones. And conversation. Educational conversation about how to be good humans.

It isn’t easy being a parent. It isn’t easy being a kid. It isn’t easy teaching and learning life lessons. But it is our duty to do so. And you know what? It IS Instagram worthy, even if there isn’t a glitter filter to soften the message.

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What is your creativity trigger?

What is your creativity trigger?

Sometimes it’s the things that ignite us, like the depth of the ocean and the roar of her waves, that bring us the clarity and focus we need to get excited about creating our lives.

Not the life we imagined, but a life re-imagined. A life consciously created, moment by moment, based on how we feel, listening to our whispers, and taking our own counsel. 

So it was for me recently when I realized Covid was taking control of my life, and I did not recognize my life as my own. Covid became a negative trigger for me. It triggered fear, suspicion, anger, sadness, loneliness, doubt, loss of freedom and security and even life itself as we once knew it. What a rabbit-hole a negative trigger can lead us into!    

A decision was made. Living a life of creativity is based more on curiosity than on fear, and the plans had been made before the ‘rona visited. I call it the Covid Connection because, in retrospect, it wore away at my soul and my psyche. It wore me down, it made me weaker and it made me doubt a lot of things during those 9 months of lock-down and social distancing. And I took a lot of Vitamin C to fight off the virus as well as build my immune system.

Realizing I needed healing, and knowing that when I really, really need healing I go to the sea, I decided to make the journey to the waters edge. Airline tickets were cancelled and very long, arduous car drives were added. I needed Vitamin Sea now. Vitamin Sea is one of my positive triggers that turns my brain into a creative force like little else. 

The Sea … she lifts me up and grounds me all at the same time! There’s a humbling insignificance I feel as I watch her relentless, consistent, unexpected and never-ending magistracy as it goes on-and-on, day-after-day, year-by-year and through the centuries of time.

The sea has always been a trigger for me. I am in awe of the massive creativity connection I have with water.   I feel all of my senses come to life as soon as I begin to smell the hint of salt in the air miles away. As I drive closer to shoreline, I seem to vibrate with hope, anticipation, passion and purpose. Sitting watching the waves, the surf, the bold power of the sea gives way to feelings of connection and oneness. How can it be so powerful and yet variable? How can it be destructive and yet so alluring? How can it be so strong and yet so intriguing and inviting?

So…here’s my question for you. What are your triggers? Those things, sounds, feelings, sayings, looks, songs, memories, etc that stir you up and kick you into high gear?   Good or bad, it’s important to notice. They pull you much like a trigger on a gun. They can cause you pain or create joy…it’s still a trigger. Figure our what YOUR creativity trigger is and your life will become magic.   Figure out what YOUR down-the-rabbit-hole trigger is and your life can become magic when you learn how to manage and take control of it’s appearance and impact on you.

Contrast can be good if we observe and learn. The problems come when we are emotionally out-of-touch and bounce back and forth not truly owning the feelings we are having or why we are reacting as we do. If something feels wrong to you, ask yourself why? Do you have any control over it? Is it serving you? Or is it getting in your way of joy and love?

Our whispers speak to us about our truth, our calling, our vision and our contribution.

Our creativity allows us to life the life we were meant to life, in our own certain way.

Rita Long is the author of 10 Little Rules for Your Creative Soul.

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Say you’re sorry.

Say you’re sorry.

It was a mantra of sorts growing up in my house. Knowing when and how to apologize sincerely … when mistakes are made, when you know you did something that was hurtful or wrong … is a good thing. Manners are a good thing in any family, and a sincere apology goes a long way toward rebuilding trust and harmony.

But let’s not take it too far.

Anything that becomes rote becomes mindless.

I was deep in a conversation with a friend the other day when things touched a nerve and emotions came to the surface. She immediately apologized, something I think so many of do when the tears well up.

We don’t want to make others uncomfortable, or think maybe they said or did something wrong. That’s admirable, but not apology-worthy.

Apologizing for an honest reaction, a raw emotion, diminishes the value of that emotion. It also diminishes the receiver of the apology, in an interesting way. When someone feels safe enough around me to have those raw moments, without fear of me judging them, I’m honored, not chagrined. I can handle your tears, your fears, your insecurities just as well as I can handle your joy and your laughter.

When “sorry not sorry” became an internet trope, it encapsulated our collective need to own our feelings, share our thoughts, without prejudging them on our own behalf.

You want to cry? Cool.

You’re mad as hell? Awesome.

You’re so confused you don’t even know what you feel? Been there.

We all have dreams and desires and wishes and needs that others can only guess at. Let’s stop assuming that these are something we ought to apologize for.

So don’t jump right to the apology. If you’re about to get all Level 10 emotional, a little heads up might be in order, but an apology in definitely not required.

Love the heart that beats inside you.

Carol Pearson is the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life and the founder of the 10 Little Rules Books Series.

 

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on Superbowls and heartbreak

on Superbowls and heartbreak

It’s been one year since I saw my dad alive.

It was Super Bowl Sunday 2020, the Chiefs against the 49ers, and my big sister and I put a little game party together for my parents in their shared room in the skilled nursing facility. Always the one with the big picture ideas for making things better, my sister bought a new TV with a better screen for them, and valiantly wrangled the wires and cable connections to set it up while my parents were in the dining room. Meanwhile I shopped for goodies and drinks to make a party of it.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Dad was a lifelong Giants fan so the teams themselves didn’t really matter. What Dad always loved was the party of the game, what I still call the “hoopla” — the lead-up, the food, the gathering every Sunday at game time to watch while he proudly passed around his tray of minced clams fresh from the oven.

This year would be quieter, different, as Dad continued to struggle with the cognitive and physical challenges that sapped his strength. Still, his face lit up when the game started. It made my heart happy when he kept asking for another slice of the chocolate chip bundt cake my sister had brought. He had little appetite most days; seeing him dive into that cake like it was the best thing he’d ever tasted (maybe it was?) made the moment priceless.

It was more precious than I could have imagined, unaware of the scope of the pandemic that was right around the corner. Dad died in late October; we buried him in his beloved Pompey hills with a fresh dusting of snow on the ground.

The week we spent with my family, sequestered in a nearly empty hotel in Syracuse, was a time of gathering, grieving and powerful healing. And still, my heart feels broken … for the lost time, the visits I was unable to make. The loss.

Yet my heart is far from broken; the very fact that it feels pain and sadness means it’s whole and powerful. This year taught me that. Every emotion is deeper, richer, more precious for the simple fact that I can feel it. We had so much joy this past year too, and our family has strengthened into a tangibly different kind of force for connectedness and support. Dad got us there.

So maybe his team didn’t win; they didn’t even get a chance to play. What mattered was we showed up, we were there, we ate cake, we celebrated and acted silly. We can grieve the loss … but my heart understands it would never hurt if it didn’t love so damn much.

Carol Pearson is the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, and the founder of 10 Little Rules book series.

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I’ll Take The Cake, Please!

I’ll Take The Cake, Please!

Please be aware that if you purchase something from one of my links, I may be receiving a compensation through the vender.

The Four Tops sang it better than I could ever write it:

Sugarpie honeybunch
You know that I love you
I can’t help myself….

Honestly and truly, as much as I add fruits and veggies and hide them, and manipulate them into places not expected, they are not as a big of a hit as sweets with Hank (and frankly, Dave and me, too). After being on the verge of failure to thrive for so long, you better believe your pancakes and jelly, I’ll make that brownie or cake or cookie.

Just like I said on the bread post, I like mixes better than mixing my own flour blend. Even with careful measuring, I never seem to get them right. So, if I am not using a box mix for something, then I am using premix gluten free flour. And again, for us, we are looking for wheat free, which is different than gluten, however, gluten is found in wheat.

A party without cake is just a meeting. – Julia Child

I love cake. Like, I L.O.V.E. it. Because I love it, cake was one of the first things that I tried to make Hank-safe. In the beginning, we had eliminated so many foods that we couldn’t use box mixes, so we fell in love with Depression Cake, or Wacky Cake. This cake was a Great Depression invention to deliver deliciousness within the limitation of lack of supplies. This cake doesn’t need dairy or eggs and works well with alternative flours.

Hank and I worked on this recipe from Budget Byte$ today and we loved this interpretation of this classic recipe. We subbed out the all-purpose flour with our favorite gluten free version. Happily, the substitution is a one to one, so we didn’t even have to do math to do the changeover (yay!). If you are able to have nuts or seeds, both add a lovely crunch and added flavor profile. Many recipes have raisins, this adds not only flavor but also just a bit of extra moistness that will bring a smile to your face.

Whereas, Hank has eaten this cake multiple times before, this was his first time making it with me. He smelled the cocoa powder, and decided that it wasn’t going to be sweet without the added ingredients. He smelled the vinegar and *almost* changed his mind about the whole thing. Once the batter was mixed, he got to taste the raw batter and was SHOCKED that it didn’t taste like pickles.

To top off this beautiful dessert, the recipe that we followed has a simple chocolate icing using water, rather than milk. Normally, I would use coconut milk, but we followed with the water and we didn’t even notice the lack of coconut fat. It was divine.

Overall, we loved it and in fact, both boys launched a scheme to try to get a piece for breakfast. And morning snack. And lunch dessert. And afternoon snack. And, of course, after dinner.

BUT WHAT IF we don’t have time for the whole prep and just NEED cake in 30 minutes? We use King Arthur Flour brand Gluten Free Chocolate Cake.  Happily, it also comes in yellow cake, which is also very good.

BUT WHAT IF WE NEED CAKE IN THE NEXT 30 SECONDS?! Please don’t judge, we all have these days where we need cake and need it now. Well, King Arthur Flour to the rescue again with cookies and brownies in a cup. Just add water and nuke in the microwave, super easy.

Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet. – Sarah Louise Delany

How do you top your cake? A simple and elegant with powder sugar in a pretty pattern? Tub frosting? Duncan Hines has worked well, as long as we double check the ingredients – these usually contain soy and for us, we need to watch for caramel color as that can be made from barley.

I normally use a twist on the standard butter cream:

4 Cups of powder sugar
1 Cup butter alternative – I use Earth Balance
2-3 Tsp of vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp of milk – I use coconut milk

Mix and love.

From this basic recipe, you can change the whole taste of the cake. Sub out the vanilla extract with ANY OTHER extract or… juice. Fresh lime and lemon bring a fresh take on a yellow cake. Fresh raspberries mushed and mixed makes a chocolate cake absolutely sinful. I especially love adding Sunbutter to my frosting along with cocoa powder for a chocolate “peanut butter” dream.

If you mix your frosting and it seems like it is too watery, add more sugar. If you mix too much (GASP!) just bag it, label it, and freeze it.

With Hank’s birthday coming up, I have a request to make a gingerbread cake. I can’t wait.

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