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Who’s Your Fire Escape?

17 Dec

Making a Quilt for My BFF (Part One)

This month, the Chicks and I have been mulling over Chapter 8 of Julia Cameron’s Walking in This World. It’s all about what Julia calls Discernment, that is, learning to “name our true supporters more accurately.” The task: Make Something for Someone Else, Not to Be Somebody.

Jennifer and I have been having "Field Days" for as long as we've known each other.

In truth, I bought the material for a new quilt months ago and have wanted to make it for much longer. Maybe since I was in first grade. That’s when I first met my friend, Jennifer, although I wouldn’t know for another decade that we were destined to be BFFs.

For thirty years, Jennifer has been my fire escape. And I think I've been hers, too.

When I picked out the pattern for the quilt I wanted to make Jennifer, I saw the word fire and thought I might name it something like “The Flames of Friendship”. But when my tweenage daughter, who’s much more observant than I, looked at the pattern picture last week and said “Oh, I get it. The little squares are like stairs,” I looked more closely at the name: FIRE ESCAPE. Huh. I didn’t get that before. At any rate, I decided it was the perfect (what else?) metaphor for our friendship.

My 16th birthday at Medieval Times.

Although sharing so many similar experiences together at St. Mark’s Lutheran School in Hollywood, Florida (tragically closed just last year), we didn’t grow especially close until high school. I was the loud and outgoing one. She was the quiet and disciplined one. But as we faced the daunting perils of pre-adulthood, our differences became complements. Our strengths and weaknesses fit together, like well-cut pieces of fabric.

My last quilt, made with love in 2009, was for my mom.

This will be my fourth quilt. Wanting to give something special to my sister, niece and mom were my motivations before. My favorite part of making a quilt is the stream of brainless mental wanderings that occur over the hours of cutting, pinning, sewing and ironing. It’s impossible to put so much into a gift without thinking fondly of its future recipient.

Good friends meet equally, at right angles.

Right Angles: One of my ethereal epiphanies came as I was cutting. We all have so many people we call friends, don’t we? The onset of Facebook and other social media has further eroded the term, which used to be a step above mere acquaintance. Perhaps the litmus test is this: is your friendship cut at right angles? Some relationships just aren’t. One person gives more than the other, making them (wait for it)–obtuse.

Before I became one of the 4 Chicks, I was the "co-owner" of a cutting-edge fashion enterprise. We paid for these labels with babysitting money.

But the fundamental starting point of any quilt is right angles. Meeting equally at a point. Over and over and over. That’s the first step of a friendship, too. More about both to come.

See also: Pieces of Us (Part Two) and What’s Your Block? (Part Three).

Discernment Week 8 – Walking In This World by Julia Cameron

23 Nov

Discovering a Sense of Discernment

This week poses a challenge: Are we actually able to got the distance? To answer in the affirmative, we must learn to keep certain demons at bay, most notably success, “the unseen enemy”. The readings and tasks of this week aim at naming and declawing the creative monsters that lurk at higher altitudes. Anger is a frequent companion of this week’s explorations. As we unmask our villains, we often feel a sense of betrayal and grief. This is replaced by a sense of safety as we name our true supporters more

Week 7 Task: Easy Does It, But Do It

11 Nov

Since I have waited so long to do my Week 7 task, I am picking the shortest one.  It’s called Easy Does It, But Do It.  In this task, Julia Cameron directs us to list five areas that we could neaten up. 

The idea is to start small and build momentum from finishing tasks.  I like this one, and now I feel vindicated for cleaning out my closet when I am stressed and stuck and really “should” be working on something else.  Doing these household chores can release energy which provides the momentum to move on to other, bigger things.  I need this momentum now  because I am in the middle of so many projects, both for work and home, that I am exhausted. 

Here is my list:

  1. Wash the back deck. 
  2. Dust in all the hard to reach places that haven’t been dusted for a while.
  3. Catch up on filing.
  4. Bathe the dog.
  5. Tidy up the guest room for guest coming in this weekend.

Am I cheating by picking at least one item that I had to do anyway?  I don’t think so.  At least I know I’ll get that one done!

Week 7 Task: Learning to Navigate the Learning Curve

1 Nov

This is an exercise in encouragement. Faced with doing something new, we often forget we have successfully done many “somethings” old.  Take pen in hand and list 10 things you have learned to do despite your doubt they could be mastered.

– Julia Cameron

As you all know that we are recording our new Theme Song.   I have done some crazy things but singing has been the craziest. The truth is I can’t sing at all!  but that did not stop me, I was excited about recording our theme song.  I believe that having my chicks there supporting and encouraging me, and having our music muse there making me sound decent gave me the courage to do it and enjoy it.

Here is my list of 10 things I have leaned to do despite my doubts.

1. Run a Triathlon – Who though at 40ish something I could love this sport.
2. Buddha Center to learn how to meditate– I learned to quite my mind which was impossible for me, and has helped me deal with hard situations.
3. Accounting – WOW!  Never went to school for this and it has come naturally to me even though I really don’t enjoy it.
4. Writing – I’m not a very good writer.  But blogging has forced me to at least give it a try.
5. Videography – Even though I’m still learning.  I really enjoy capturing great moments on video.  And without it I would not be able to video blog the chicks.
6.  Going back to school – This is big.  I have been debating this for many years and questioning myself if I could go back and have the patience to do this.  Well I could say now that I’m doing great and enjoying every minute of it.
7.  Reiki Practitioner – Took Level 1 and Level 2 classes and has really helped me.
8.  Public Speaking – Ohhhhh! How I hate to speak in public.  But at my 5K Mercado Run I was forced to give a speech.  OK, it was not that bad and I wasn’t really forced. I did have some blocking moments in which I had to close my eyes when announcing the charity organization to the group, in which was the most important part of course.
9. Breast Feeding – Never though I could do this and was the best experience of my life.
10. Driving Stick Shift – I needed a car when going to college and someone was selling their Jeep for a good price.   I didn’t want to say that I couldn’t drive a Stick Shift, because I wanted the car so bad.  I learned on the way home from work with a friend telling me what to do.  I almost gave her a heart attack.

What are your 10 things?

Who is on the other side of that mirror?

29 Oct

Okay, so I just got home from my dear fellow Chick Eva’s Halloween party and decided to write this blog while I still had a bit of the wine in my blood. Because I love my fellow Chicks, and here’s why.

The more I immerse myself in the world of writing, the more I realize the importance of having supportive, non-judgmental friends around you. I’ve known artists to give up on their dream because of some well-meaning “friend” who tells them that they’re better off focusing on their day job. Unsupportive people can have a lot of power if you let them. They don’t reflect confidence in your dreams, your endeavors. Reasons vary: they don’t “get it,” or maybe they themselves are blocked artists. They can actually make you think you’re not good enough, not talented enough or that it’s just not worth it to realize your aspirations.

While I recognize there is a time and a place for all people in our lives, I do believe that people who aren’t believing mirrors should be kept on the other side of your artistic “wall.” Be nice. Heck, even be friends. But don’t let them into your artistic circle. You need people who believe in you, who can give you positive as well as constructive feedback in such a way that’s not attacking.

Peggy, Eva, Tracey and myself have found each other to be strong believing mirrors, and it is because of this unique group that I have had the desire and resolve to write two full YA novels. They have supported me every step of the way. I have also found strong supporters in my OWL critique group. I’m what you’d call a “lucky girl” (that’s the technical term).

Everyone should have at least one person to whom they can go and always find encouragement. If you don’t, do yourself a huge favor and find one. The test: how do you feel when you walk away from that person(s) – energized and motivated? Or drained and disheartened?

You be the judge…

Oh, and the ChocoVine wine is amazing, if you haven’t tried it! Mmmmm….

Momentum – Week 7 Walking in this World by Julia Cameron

21 Oct

Creativity thrives on small, do-able actions.  This week dismantles procrastination as a major creative block.  The readings and tasks aim at a sense of personal accountability and accomplishment.  The key to a creative life is sustained, consistent, positive action.  This is possible for all of us.

Practice, Practice and Practice

18 Oct

Peggy and I took a photography class in June and it was wonderful.

I realize that to be good at something you need practice, practice and more practice.   So, I have been practicing and as I promised you, here are the pictures that I took in Puerto Rico.

Please keep in mind that I have an old Cannon Power Shot camera, so please do not judge the pictures too hard lol.


I'm Alive!



Can you see the raindrops?

Smaller Lizard

My God Jar and Believing Mirror Week 6 Task

23 Sep

A God Jar is a container for your sacred hopes and dreams.  Into your God Jar should go the name and description of anything you are trying to incubate or protect.  

In addition to a physical God Jar, it also helps to select one person as a personal “believing mirror.”  A believing mirror is a carefully chosen individual who helps a project’s growth be believing in it even in embryonic stages.  Most of us need to talk to someone, sometime, about our creative aspirations.  The right person to talk to is a believing mirror.

– Julia Cameron

I did not create a God Jar but I had this wonderful journal that was on my shelf  collecting dust and I decided to use it as my God Journal.

I’m an open book!  Which is great sometimes and not so great other times.  I do tell people what I’m doing and I do sometimes get criticized for it.  And I wonder at that time why did I have to mention it to that person or group when I knew they would not be so open to it. My thing is, if I say it than I have to do it.  There is no backing out of it.  It keeps me honest.   I just have to realize, that depending on my project, that I need to confide on my “believing mirror’s”.  People that won’t judge me and will support me with what ever crazy ideas that goes through my head.

4 Chicks

Joy Luck Club

I have been blessed to have two different “believing mirror’s” group of chicks.  That supports me through all my crazy ideas.  I have never felt judged or criticized by them.  And no matter how crazy my ideas are, they are always there to help me accomplish them.  I don’t think that I could have done the things that I do without them.  The 4 chicks and my Joy Luck Club has really helped me pursue what I love.  They listen to me whine, cry when things don’t turn out how I though they would. Or, when I’m happy about an outcome of a project, they are also happy like if it’s their own accomplishments.

So, who do you have that is your “believing mirror” and how have they help you pursue your dreams?

Week Six Task: Practicing Containment

21 Sep

“Rather than practice discernment and discretion in whom we choose to show a project to, we throw open the doors and welcome comments from all corners. If we look closely at why we have abandoned certain projects and dreams, we can often find the offender — the ruthless commentator that caused us to lose heart.” ~ Julia Cameron, Walking in This World.

This chapter really got me thinking.  A lot of what I really connected with was the idea of too much inflow.  I am certainly in this situation now.  In fact, I always find myself in said situation over and over, because it is my nature.  I want to experience everything, and am (usually) energized by being involved in many different things.  However, there is truth in the idea that you can have too much of a good thing.  That’s why I’ve had to learn to say “no.”  It wasn’t an easy skill to learn, but it’s something I’ve become much more adept at, and need to wield that particular sword a bit better at the moment.

The other big theme in this chapter is what Julia calls containment: keeping your ideas and works to yourself until they are truly ready to be seen by others, and even then, being very selective about whom you choose to share them with.   Because once you share them, you will get feedback in one form or another.  You may not be ready for it, or perhaps you are but it is delivered in a way that disempowers you rather than affirms you.

A few examples come to mind:

A relative of mine used to write for a living.  I admired her and, early on in my writing as an adult, I shared a humorous personal essay with her.  In general, she had always been very supportive, but this was the first of my writing she had seen, and she was not enthusiastic.  It is important to note that she didn’t say Why in the world are you writing?  You have no talent.  She just said the piece was a bit rough.  But that was enough to throw me for a loop.  I had asked for her feedback, but what I really wanted was her approval.  When it didn’t come, I was crushed.   It’s not that she was not a good person from whom to ask feedback, it was that I asked for it too soon.  Either the piece was not ready, or I wasn’t, or both.  I’ve tried to write similar pieces since then, but always get “stuck.” I have a thicker skin now and instead of shutting out her feedback, I would seek more details, ask questions. Unfortunately, she is gone now and I’ll never have that chance. 

Another example is a writer I’ve met recently who is called upon to give feedback to other writers.  This person has some good technical feedback, and also some feedback which is just her perspective.  The problem is, the value of the message is lost because it is delivered in a way that comes across as demeaning to the receiver, rather than constructive criticism between two professionals.  In this situation, the receiver generally responds by either resisting the feedback entirely or questioning their ability to write at all.   Surely this is not the intention.  Unfortunately, even when others mean well, they don’t always do well.  We must practice containment until we can figure out how to deal with that.

My last example is a wonderful, open-hearted writer who is doing really interesting non-fiction work.  She let her guard down and talked to someone who essentially turned out to be a competitor.  At the time it seemed casual.  Not a big deal.  Now, that compeititor has indicated an intent to publish on the very same topic! 

Now, back to the task.  It’s simple: practice containment.  We each have the right to protect our artist selves.   Remind yourself it is okay to circle your wagons and keep out what needs to be kept out and in what needs to be kept in.  I’ll be working on this too.

Boundaries – Week 6

10 Sep

The 4 Chicks Chat about Julia Cameron’s Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity – Chapter 6: Discovering a Sense of Boundaries.

The place where you create your art is sacred soil.  It is neither time nor space but an internal place.   Guarding that soil means not only minding what comes in but also what goes out.  Your soil can get sapped or even contaminated if you do not create boundaries.  Join the Chicks for a discussion about protecting your sacred soil.

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