Friday, December 26, 2008

what it feels like to live an inspired life...

I feel refreshed today. As long as I don't think too hard about the long to-do list that grows each time I give my attention to it, I feel like I've entered yet another new beginning. I am bringing my very first year of the creation of Stray Dog Arts to a close...and I am looking forward to all that the next year will bring.

This morning I feel like anything is possible. I feel hopeful, expectant. I believe that, in my own way, I am capable of changing the world for the better. For me, that change comes through helping dogs in need. It comes through my art--both painting and writing. It comes from following my heart and, in turn, sharing that journey with others who are trying to find their way to their own heart's path.

What if we really, truly believed in ourselves? What if we actually did all the things that we are pulled to do? What if we let inspiration lead us in whatever direction it might take us--however unexpected?

Today I can feel my heart. And, even better, I can feel what it wants from me.

It has been a successful year of finding myself. It contained the full range of highs and lows and, in the process, I came to know myself better than I ever have before. I feel a sense of confidence that has deepened and expanded the possibilities in my life. The terrain has been treacherous in getting to this place, but I'm loving the view from where I now stand. I'll probably be tested over and over again--even so, I'm beginning to understand that taking those lessons in stride will always bring me to an even better place than the one I leave behind.

Today I am thankful for this space--this blog--and all of the powerful, empowered women that it connects me to. It is good to be reminded that everything we do does matter. What we are capable of matters. We matter. Our hearts' desires matter. Our passion, our inspiration, our dreams--they matter because they are capable of changing everything.

And a beautiful example lives through Maggie Doyne. I found this video over at Superhero Journal.
Watch. Enjoy. Dream.
And most importantly: Do.

That's me in the middle. In the Himalayas of Ladahk (northern India). Circa 1997.
My heart feels pulled.

May I return someday soon.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

if my life were a painting...

Recently completed portrait:

"Mr. Pete"
12"x 12" Oil on Canvas

Notes from the studio: It's easy to fall in love with a dog named "Mr. Pete." Oh, those deep brown eyes, that snuggle-bum paw and kissable nose. I admit: I fell for him. ;)


These days I have been busy painting and planning and reading and dreaming. My world is covered in a deep blanket of snow. It is a soft phthalo blue in the shadows and a dazzling burst of sunrise in places where morning brushes another layer to its surface.

Last night I drove through downtown Minneapolis in a blizzard. After several days of losing myself to the last minute influx of holiday commissions, it felt surreal to be out in the world for the pleasure of dinner. Cars occasionally skidded on a patch of ice or crust of accumulated snow. I was but one slow moving car in a stream of many.

To my left I saw several dozen individuals huddled together inside a bus stop shelter. They all had funny looking winter hats on. They all had dark colored jackets. They all stood stiffly, close to each other but with invisible thresholds holding them in solitude. In the cold, waiting for the bus, they stood in unison and worlds apart. A yellow light from the top of the shelter shined down on all of them. I wanted to paint that scene--desperately--because it was so strangely beautiful in its normalcy.

To my right, there was a young woman, perhaps in her early 20s. She trudged down the neon light-filled sidewalk with determination. She had a strong, but petite body and a wonderful red and white winter hat with long tassles, one flying in the wind and the other caught in the folds of her heavy jacket. There was something about her that made me smile. Her movement, her energy (she seemed more alive than most), her reflection in the glass windows along the 900 block of Hennepin Ave. I wanted to paint her also--in motion, if that could be possible. In motion with lights that look real.

I drove and I wanted to paint everything. And I wanted to transplant a dog into every scene.

That's what happens when I paint a lot. Everything becomes a painting. I find myself living in a world where everything is a potential creation. Once, I went out for lunch with another painter and the silver tray they served our food on became a painting.

I get lost like this sometimes. And, I must admit, I do love the way it feels.

I woke up this morning wanting to be more. I want to capture everything. I want to give myself completely to every waking second of my life. And yet, I know this isn't completely possible....but there is a freedom inside this thought that I am attracted to.

These days, I am attracted to the feeling of freedom. The best part of it is that I am invited to experience it over and over and over and over... We all are. And all we have to do is give ourselves to it.

I like imagining what my life and the world around me would look like if it were a painting. The desire to know self and place from the inside out? The desire to put words or brush strokes to every last beating second--if only to catch a glimpse of myself...


Sunday, December 14, 2008

rooting and blooming.

I woke up to December rain this morning. This is Minnesota and it's not supposed to rain in December. But, alas, it is--and I am enjoying the softness of its sound on the roof and snow. Rain has a different sound when its not met by leaves and green.

I've been wanting to write for days. I turned 34 this week and it feels important that I somehow record this journey. 34 is going to be an important year. 33 was also. It was the year I walked smack dab into the middle of my heart and started living from my center. 33 was a new beginning in my life. It was also a year of tremendous growth and change. A lot of the time it was really painful. And yet, in the passed year, I have also experienced more love and passion than I have known what to do with. This was the year I planted roots. I watered, tended, and nourished them. I planted myself in vibrant soil and have felt the deliciousness of growing myself into its depths. 33 required faith of the most profound kind. 33 was about merely establishing myself. And 34?

34 is my year to bloom.

I came to this analogy of rooting and blooming during a recent coaching call with Jamie. During a particularly intense session, she told me the story about planting clematis two years ago and how she lovingly tended to it...and, still, it did not bloom. Worried and frustrated, she asked her mom what she was doing wrong. Her mom (oh, I just love her mom) wisely told her not to worry. She explained that the clematis was growing deep and strong. It was taking root, taking hold. The clematis was putting all of its growing energy into its roots and foliage so that it could be strong and big and beautiful and could weather anything. The next year, sure enough...

It bloomed (BIG TIME)!!

(Thank you, Jamie, for sharing this photo with me!)

During this past month I have been doing one-on-one coaching with Jamie of Jamie Ridler Studios. Let me just say: she amazes me. Last year was my first experience of coaching with her when I joined Circe's Circle. Holy profound! That group got me started. They were the ones that nudged me off of my big duff and supported me in taking bigger leaps than I might have taken otherwise. The result: Stray Dog Arts. Although I was already personally motivated to bring change into my life, I have to give Circe's Circle (Jamie, along with Melba, and Mardougrrl) a lot of credit for helping me make it happen at such lightening speeds. Needless to say, a year later, I was in need of another dose of Jamie's extraordinary coaching talents--and, of course, she did not let me down.

This year I am ready to stop beating the drum of struggle. Lately I've been asking myself: "What are my old stories? And what are the new stories I now want to tell?"

This is my new year. This is the year that I get to turn another page, begin a new chapter. I am grateful for every beating second of the past year. But now I am ready to take a step forward into the new story of my life.

34 is capable. 34 is financially stable. 34 is confident. 34 has space to be. 34 is open to possibilities. 34 walks tall. 34 is beautiful. 34 loves deeply. 34 travels. 34 is filled with true friends. 34 surprises herself. 34 knows what she wants. 34 is a creator. 34 shines.

34 is in WILD BLOOM!!!!

Want to get inspired by Jamie?
Check out her video here.
Consider trying out Circe's Circle for yourself.
Or maybe join her upcoming book group (I am)!
Jamie is intelligent, sensitive, intuitive. She is magic. She is a gift.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


After a long weekend of constructing walls in the studio space I am happy to say that I love my bro' and my dad. My dad drove all the way from northern Minnesota to help and my brother gave up plenty of weekend plans.

We worked our butts off and got an amazing amount of work done. The part I enjoyed the most: We work well together.

About 10 years ago my dad helped me to build a house (god, I love wearing a tool belt!). My brother helped with that project also. I've since sold that house and have missed that place beyond words...but this weekend was an enjoyable combination of good memories of old times mixed with new memories from the past two days.

It was also a step into the next stage of my life and I'm glad that I am able to take this step with such important people at my side.

There's still a fair amount of work to be done...but it's getting there! I will keep you posted along the way. Thank you, friends, for being with me each step of the way. ;)

And thank you, Marilou, for taking these photos!


Friday, November 28, 2008

space :: to be

It's nearly December and I've yet to write a post about the new studio space. I get tired of saying that I'm busy all the time. So, instead, I will just say that my life has been very, very active.

On November 1st, 2008 Marilou and I used our very own keys to walk into one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever known. Never mind that it was Marilou's biggest event of the year that day. Never mind that I had a show to hang the next day. Never mind that nothing has slowed down since.

The space is ours--and, for this, I am supremely grateful. It has been a busy few weeks of designing the space, painting walls, and pricing materials. I've hunted architectual antiques; I've poured over paint chips; I've studied up on industrial hardware for sliding doors. I've looked at sinks and cabinets and closets. I have daydreamed endlessly over workbenches and am still on the lookout for that perfect desk.

Today, however, I set up my easel and simply painted. The photo (above) is of a work in progress--a farm cat (turned city cat) named Chubbie. I listened to music, took breaks to run circles with my wolfie, Anu, and, with paint brush in hand, stood bathing in a pool of sun. For lunch, I made a picnic on top of a four foot pile of sheetrock. I ate avocados and tomato with crackers, washing it down with coffee from my hot pink thermos. As I ate, Anu enjoyed her fair share of dog treats. We were happy.

Tomorrow begins Day 1 of construction. Somehow I've managed to talk my dad and brother into helping me build walls. My dad has somehow talked me into beginning at 7am.

Right now the space is 2,200 square feet of wide open bliss--but before the end of the weekend Marilou will have her very own office and I will have a private sun-filled studio--each will have large wooden sliding doors that open up into the rest of the room which we are dedicating to gallery and workshop space.

I've been daydreaming about this for so long now that I look forward to seeing the end result.

I have a feeling that a lot is going to change for me in the coming year. I don't know what or how...but I feel myself planting my roots deeply. Getting ready. Inwardly preparing.

This year has been thrilling and scary all at once. It has required great amounts of faith and perseverance. It has tested me to my core.

Tomorrow, however, is a new day.
Tomorrow, everything is possible.
And I find relief in knowing that tomorrow started with today.

"Be Brave: 7 Little Letters to Live By"
new addition on my Etsy here.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lovely Letters and Words :: Now Available! ::

I am proud to announce that I finally, yes FINALLY, have my alphabet prints for sale on Etsy. Just in time for the holidays. ;) These are Giclee Fine Art prints on gallery stretched canvas, each measuring 8"x 8". I don't mean to brag, but they doooo look pretty dang cool. Hang alone, build words, spell names, or collect the whole alphabet.

I have had so much fun with this project. It has taken me many months to complete, but well worth the energy. The originals are 18"x 18" oil on canvas and will be installed in a grid to create an 8 foot x 8 foot alphabet masterpiece. Each piece was inspired by vintage metal or wood signage--from the Las Vegas sign bone yard to Minneapolis, Mn...and everywhere in between. Needless to say, I have acquired a newfound love of LETTERS!!

They have now been added to my Patch of Sky Etsy and are available for purchase. Keep an eye out because I will be adding words and prints on a regular basis! :) In the meantime, hopefully this will be enough to get you started. ;)

Happy Spelling!!!
...and Thanksgiving love to everyone!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stepping in...

I returned home last night after spending a couple days immersed in the world of Red Lake Rosie's--an animal rescue situated on the Red Lake Indian Reservation of northern Minnesota. It seems that blog posts are no longer easy for me. Seriously, where to begin?

At the moment I am listening to the snuggle-puffin-play of Louie and Ella at my feet (Ella is a Red Lake Rosie's pup herself). They are happy that I'm home and are staying close to my side. To begin writing, I find the need to root myself in the moment. It is a gray almost-winter day that I am balancing with the glow of lamplight and a fresh mug of coffee--a habit I'm becoming accustomed to. I've decided to move through the day in a sacred way. A quiet way. I'm going to get a lot done, but I'm going to honor every action--and writing this post is my way of making sense of everything I experienced in the past 2 days. Of course, making sense of it could take days, weeks, months, years. Instead, perhaps I am sitting here with the intention of sharing--because I think we are capable of much more than we often give ourselves credit for. Karen Good, the woman behind Red Lake Rosie's, is an incredible example of what it means to make a difference.

But wait. I don't want to get sentimental and overly idealistic. Maybe I should start over.

This week I traveled 5 hours north and met a woman named Karen. 3 years ago she was driving to work taking photos of all the dead dogs laying on the side of the road between her house and Red Lake High School. There were more than 20. That was the day of the Red Lake shootings. Karen remembers the smell of gunpowder and fear. That day was also a turning point in her life. It was the day she brought her first stray dog home with her. Maybe it was then that the shift occurred--in the act of deciding to pull over and pick up a dog that needed help. It started out with one dog and then turned into another and another and another. Red Lake Rosie's was born and, since then, she has saved the lives of hundreds.

Karen is quite possibly the most incredible combination of ordinary and extraordinary that I have ever met. She is real. She is down to earth. She is hard-wearing, determined, humble, and intelligent. Her and her boyfriend, Kevin, sing together as she works--the sound of their voices weave together, causing shivers to run the length of my body. Karen has an open heart. She tells it like it is. She doesn't shy around the facts. She knows how to organize and delegate. Karen is a visionary. She has a name for every animal she brings in and knows exactly who each one is. Karen, to me, feels like a grandmother, mother, and sister--all at once. She is fierce, yet feminine. There has both incredible softness and strength in her. She is a teacher, of the truest kind.

Marilou, me, and Karen.

The shelter.
Many animals rescued suffer from disease, starvation, dehydration, mange or injury. The property behind Karen's house marks the beginning of a better life for all the animals that are lucky enough to find their way to Red Lake Rosie's.

Being swarmed by puppy love. I would have liked to simply lay down on the ground and be covered in snuggle kisses! But there was work to do, so I soaked up the love vertically instead.

100% certified Munchkin.
One of the pups at Red Lake Rosie's

The "big" dog clan.
These rescue dogs roam free, but never far from the place they are happy to call home.

This is "Rea Ann," a beagle (and possibly hound?) mix. She is one of the dogs we transported back with us to Minneapolis. Her shy, anxious nature reminded me of my babe, Louie. It breaks my heart to see a dog feeling nervous or scared. Mike, a volunteer at Red Lake Rosie's, was obviously a source of comfort for her. I can't wait to see who adopts her. She is going to be so happy with her new life. In the meantime, she will live with Ann, one of Pet Haven's best fosters. Rae Ann will be with someone who will help let her brightest light shine.

Karen feeds a gaggle of hungry dogs and pups canned dog food from a spoon.
They're crazy about it! They're crazy about her. ;)

This is "Mama." She stole my heart. Maybe it was because she reminded me of Sam, one of the first dogs whose transport I was involved with. Although Mama is still skinny, she is putting on weight after being found, just a rack of bones. Her eyes were pleading. I took her for an extra long walk and wish we could have gone even further. It was snowing and she was beautiful to be with. What these dogs want more than anything is love. I wanted to fold her up in my arms and hold her forever.

The "Cat House." This is Karen's old house, which has since been renovated into space to house rescued cats along with a guest room for people like Marilou and I. Have you ever fallen asleep to a room full of kittens purring and meowing? Well, I can now say that I have. It felt good to once again be sleeping in the middle of nowhere.

Morning chores. Life with dogs.

This is "Chief." And he certainly had the personality of one.
His breed and boldness made Marilou and I think of Ode.

Chief helping himself to a snack from the food bucket.

Bear kisses from Lauren.
We transported 3 cats to St. Cloud and 7 dogs back to Minneapolis with us. I picked out this big pup for my friend, Mary, to foster. The puppy's name is Lauren, but if it was up to me, I would name her "Bear." Honestly, I think this brown lab mix IS part bear cub! She is the biggest bunch of bear fluff I've ever met. Somehow, I hope that this pup stays in my life forever. I think she will--even if only through her ability to rearrange my heart molecules. How else could one heart hold this much love?

I'm already looking forward to my return. I have a feeling that it will be often.

Learn more about Red Lake Rosie's Rescue here.