Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Read That Will Finally Inspire Me?

I think that inspiration is a function of timing, as well as energy. I have been inspired so many times to do so many things, but life has prevented them from coming to pass for some multitude of reasons. Most of the time, I just simply can't create the space for it in my schedule. Sometimes, it is derailed by extenuating circumstances. Sometimes, I am just not ready when the inspiration strikes. 

So inspiration leaves me. And the idea stays unrealized. 

But sometimes, the circumstances are right. The timing is good, I have the interest and the energy and the money and the will. And those times are magic. 

I have spent almost all of my free time for the last 4 years trying to finish all the design projects in my house. Getting rid of my debris has also been a part of that quest. I think I am on round 7-8 of major purging. In any case, I have read several books on the subjects of Decluttering, Organizing, Cleaning, and Simplifying. Most of them had useful information that may have made all the difference, had the time been right. But it never was. Until now. 

I am ready to tackle the studio. Let me show you what that means.

As you can see, it has been years since I really addressed this space. Or really did anything in here, but pile crap on top of crap. And no, I do not think I need to seek help for my hoarding issues, despite what these photos may imply. I do think I cleaned it up after the last barn sale I ran in 2013, but that was what? 5 years ago? Yeah.

In any case, I recently had a bit of serendipity fall into my lap. A friend of mine from Haven, Darla DeMorrow, recently contacted me to see if I wanted to review her new book on organizing! Perfect timing, right?

As you all know, it has been almost a year since I posted anything. (Note the reasons listed above. They explain my entire life)  I almost turned her down. But something niggled inside and told me to think about it. So I did, for a hot second. I realized I had already been moving towards clearing out the studio. Why not do it for you guys to see? I will try to post every time I work on it. My goal is to finish the whole space before the end of May. I am dubious that I will be able to do that, but for now, that's my goal. So cross you fingers with me, Kay?

But let's get to the book review that's the catalyst for all this. 

Organizing Your Home with SORT and SUCCEED: Five simple steps to stop clutter before it starts, save money and simplify your life (SORT and SUCCEED Organizing Solutions Series) by [DeMorrow, Darla]

Organizing Your Home With SORT and Succeed by Darla DeMorrow has two great advantages over any other organizing book I have ever read, before you even open the cover. First, it only takes about an hour to read the whole thing, cover to cover.  And second, it is free if you have Kindle Unlimited on or $4.99 if you are just a non-joiner, like me. (In the name of disclosure, Darla gifted me with a digital copy to review. All opinions are obviously my own. So are any spelling errors, gaffing social faux pas, and heinous messes left untouched in this blog post.)

I had no idea what to expect when I started reading, so I just open the file and dug in. I was really curious to see what she had to say that I hadn't heard before. The first few chapters are background on how she thinks about the process of sorting and working through one's possessions (Darla is a Professional Organizer in Philadelphia) and how our brains think about stuff. I am actually fascinated by how the human mind works, so I was happy about these chapters. You can skip them and go right to process if you want.

 I was surprised by a quote fairly early on. 

"Organizing is only worth doing if something amazing is going to come of it, and amazing comes from relationships, not things."

This one stopped me right in my tracks. I had never thought about organizing like this. But the interesting thing for me was, I had given up blogging the last couple of years (sniff..) so I could make my home more conducive to people gathering. Hmm. That sounds a lot like building a space for relationships to bloom, doesn't it? So yeah, I was pretty much hooked from there. 

Another thing that caught my attention was her statement, 

"You don't need motivation." 

Now I don't know about you, but I find this a bold statement based off previous experience. I have yet to experience organizing and sorting I didn't have to drag myself across coals to get through. And I am tired, after working on so many things for so long. But if she says I can do it and not need to drag myself through it, I am willing to give that kind of optimism a shot. I'll let you know how it goes.

The final quote that sealed the deal for me was this:

"Minimalism and empty rooms aren't the goal. Peace is the goal."

Dang girl, you had me at "empty rooms aren't the goal." I LOVE stuff. I love having a bunch of cool things to look at and memories to think about. But right now, I do not feel peaceful. I feel resentful that I have to spend so much time dealing with All. The. Things. Resentful that I don't have places for things, so I can't deal with them. Resentful that even though I am trying so hard and putting so much effort into making things nicer in my home, it never feels like I have done anything. I didn't realize it until I read that line, but Peace IS the goal for me. I don't know that I would have been able to put it that succinctly, but that describes perfectly what I have been working towards. 

Ok, so that's the philosophy that caught my attention. The system itself is described in Chapter 3, so if you are the impatient type (I usually am) and want to get right on it, then that is your starting point. Here is the whole system in a nutshell:

Start with a Written Plan
Organize into groups
Reduce Release and Reset
Tweak, enhance and then
SUCCEED and celebrate

It sounds so simple. But I got a little stuck when I started thinking about what I would actually write down for my plan in Step 1. I think, "Get all the crap out of the studio and throw it away" may be a bit too general and a lot too aggressive. I will have to readdress that, when I am actually ready to start next month. Once again, I'll keep you up on how things go when I am really doing it. I have a feeling that once I am actually standing in the studio, making decisions about how to break things down into smaller tasks, that this step will feel a lot more natural than it does upstairs staring at a book on a computer screen. 

I did, however, like her idea of starting with "the end in mind." It is kind of fun to think of my studio being functional again, with things put away and having counter space to actually create the New. It's been a long time since I've had that. And I found it deeply satisfying when I did. I would be willing to change to get that room back and keep it.

Step 2 is where the real action starts. You can tell Darla has worked with real people because she recommends talking yourself through the sorting process.  "This is a ____ and I need to do _____ with it" is a phrase that I have a feeling will become near and dear. I attach memories to objects like a champ, and I am hoping that defining what the thing actually is, may help me be more open to letting a bunch of things go. If it's a ratty, tired t-shirt, rather than a receptacle of my memories of my trip to the Yucatan, I am far more likely to say "Adios." 

This is also the step where Darla encourages you to: 

"Keep searching for things that make your heart sing". 

Um. Yes. I think you should sign me up for that. 

I will totally keep going through this crap these boxes of stored possessions to find treasures that make my whole life better. Not that I self identify through stuff or anything.  

Step 3 is the "deal with it" phase. This is where you take it to the trash, to recycle bin, the thrift shop. I feel like I have been living in Stage 3 for years. But it does work. Life is always a bit brighter after I see the back of the donation truck. This is also the point when you can start to see where this effort is all heading. I haven't gotten even close to this in the studio, so I will, once again, have to let you all know how it goes when I get there. 

Step 4 starts once the room looks like a room again and you are putting your new systems to the test. If they aren't working out, you just try a little tweak here and there to smooth it out. 

Step 5, Succeed and Celebrate. This is one I usually skip because A) I am very tired after dealing with all this crap,  B) I usually spent all my money on stuff for the project, and C) I am trying not to kill my children as they have already messed things up again. (Well, at least in the past they did. Now they've grown up into perfect human teenagers. Cough, cough.) In any case, I have decided that my reward for duking it out with my studio is that I get to post about whatever I did that day. The posts will be very irregular, sorry about that, but that's where I am right now. Any time to post will be a hard fought miracle. I have missed talking to you all terribly, and I think having a focused story to tell you is just what I need right now to keep on moving and feeling happier in the world. 

Despite it's short length, 84 pages, Darla packs in a bunch of useful information like a prioritized list of what order to tackle to rooms in your house, if you plan on doing the whole thing, ideas of how to store things, and how to schedule time so you will actually show up to work. I only scratched the surface. Go read it. It's an hour and a max of $5 out of your life. And if you want, pick a room and post with me on Instagram or Facebook, whichever is your thing, as you work though it. Let's use #SORTwithCMShawStudios. Or you can simply comment here after each post and keep me up to date on your progress. I'll be here, in the studio, fantasizing about a more peaceful creative space. 

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kissing at the Right Time With the Right Reason

I have three daughters, two of which are full blown teenagers. They are gorgeous, charming girls, who love to do fun things with fun people. 

Which means only one thing to overprotective fathers everywhere....Boys.

And the boys have arrived at my house. Something I personally love, having no sons of my own. But with the arrival of boys, and driving, and high school, has also come the arrival of dating...

...and kissing.

I know, right? Are all you parents shuddering and all you teenagers grinning?

I fall into the "grinning" camp because I have always been a big fan of kissing boys. Plus, I am not so sure that I ever quit being a teenager in many ways. Oh well. 

So the boys come and go and there are some dates here and there for the girls that happen to be 16, and a lot of wishful sighing on the part of the girls who are not 16 yet (My girls don't date one on one until they are 16...I'll tell you about that in another post). There have been plenty of fun moments and plenty of not fun, which is the way of young relationships. 

One day the two teenagers walked up and asked me, "Mom, how do you know when it is OK to kiss a boy, and when it is time to stop?" 

Now I am a very open person when it comes to talking about sex or relationships, and I believe in telling the truth about these things as far as answering the specific question asked goes. But as I dug into my "Experience with this" file, I came up with a blank. This was a spot I never did "right". I took kissing too far...Every. Single. Time.


Now before all of you get excited, or start calling my ecclesiastical leaders, we really are talking about just kissing here. This is totally a family show. 

But it definitely required me thinking up a better answer than "uuhhhhh..."

So I thought about it for the whole day.  And after thinking about things for hours, I had an epiphany.

I realized that this conversation about kissing "right" should actually start with a conversation about dating "right." Or rather, dating for the right reasons. 

For me, dating was a collection of kisses from cute boys to make me feel better about myself. This was the opposite of the so-called "right" reasons. 

I have always told my kids that the purpose of dating is to get to know someone better than you can just hanging out with them at school or at church. The emphasis here is on becoming better friends through having fun little adventures together and talking about different things than you would in a group or at school. It is an exercise in learning how to gradually reveal yourself to someone and build deeper trust a little at a time. And then to see, over time, if you have enough in common to build on. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn't, but both parties grow through the process.

These kinds of dates always start from a feeling of "Wow! I think this person is great! I want to know more..." 

The approach I favored, and one popular with most teens today is to look at a person and think, "Dang! That guy/girl is hot. I should totally ask them out." Now, while popular, this approach to dating will not help you get to know someone better. That's not the question you are asking them. The question you are asking with this approach is, "Can I have access to you physically?" 

Shocking, right? But if you think about it, that is the truth. If you are focusing on what someone looks like and that's your motive to be with them, you have set yourself up to ignore the rest of them. You are only left with the physical, which, if we are being honest here, is really the sexual.

If you are dating someone to get to know them better, you will be friends first. You will build on that friendship gradually through shared experience and conversation over time. Eventually, it will feel right to try kissing them. If you are doing it right, these kisses should be sparing and meaningful. They should be light, funny, loving, and fun. They should flow from the trust and affection you have built between each other. The should fill you with a bubbly joy and make you both want to be better people for each other.

If they turn into something greedy, something dominant, something you can't get enough of, you have crossed over into sexuality.There is a reason it is known as "the Sex Drive." If the reason you want to go out with someone is so you can make out with them, all you are doing is indulging your sex drive. There is no relationship growth possible from this place. It is purely self-serving.

So this is the answer I will give my girls. 

Ladies, date boys who intrigue you, who seem fun and funny and interested in who you are. Go and have funny little adventures here and there and talk and tease each other and tell jokes and stories. 

And if the dates keep being fun, and if you find you keep having things to talk about and things to learn and teach each other, eventually a day will come that it just seems like a good idea to kiss. So do it, with the feeling and the intention of getting to know each other. 

If you find yourself kissing for a long time or only wanting to kiss or thinking of doing more than kissing, you are no longer building your relationship. You are indulging your sex drive. So stop for a while, maybe for a week or a month or however it takes to refocus on being sweet friends again. 

And if you can't refocus, the break will give you a chance to calm down and decide whether this is the relationship you really want...or not.  

I hope they listen. They could be so much happier than I was. And isn't that what every parent wants for their child?  A happier life than they had?

Well that's all I've got for today. 
Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Another Pumpkin Frolic

It has been a busy fall so far. I am never prepared to the landslide that comes with the start of school. Are you? I have stopped deluding myself into thinking that I'm gonna have all this time when the kids are gone, but I am still amazed at how busy I am.

So, since I am trying to get my barn doors hung in my family room this week (you guys are gonna die when you see how good they look), and since I have been writing really serious stuff lately and that, done too often, is a buzz kill, I thought I'd do something lighter.

I'm taking you with me to the pumpkin patch today.

There are about 10 million pumpkins hiding in this picture. They are all behind the leaves. 

We made our annual Columbus Day pilgrimage to Mayne's Tree Farm in Buckeystown MD last week. Why Columbus Day? Because the kids are out of school here, and DK is off work. And it's never crowded at the patch on a Monday.  (I wrote a big long post all about this patch a few years ago. Here you go, if you want to know all about Mayne's Tree Farm, either for pumpkins in the fall or Christmas trees in Nov-Dec.)

This is my favorite of all our family traditions. We have been coming here for almost 20 years, despite the hour long drive.

With Pumpkins like these, can you blame us?

Can you guess which one I brought home? Here's a hint:

Well, that is the one I was originally going to bring home. It's the one I searched for and came out of the field with. It was My Precious. Until I set it down in the wheel barrow with the other ones that my family had chosen. Pink was not a great fit with the wheel barrow full of hunter orange.

So I opted for the tiger striped one and the white one. Can't you picture a tiger face on that yellow and green striped pumpkin? And the white one is for eating after Halloween. Maybe pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

Mmmm. Pie.

For some reason, this was a particularly jokey year. 
#3 decided to wear fake glasses.

Go figure.

And it was an excellent day for sunbathing. 

And being super-human with tractors.

All ferocious tractor photos were taken by DK. 
Especially this one. My camera doesn't do this:

Sigh. Just look at that polarized sky. I am so glad he has a nicer camera than I do. I get to use his when I need it. #stealyourspousesbeststuff

So what else did we do?

Wrestled on giant bales of hay. They both fell off right after this.

And then decided to have fun with gourds

#1 realized this may the second to last time she gets to come here, as graduation from high school is starting to loom in the horizon. She spent a lot of time staring at things, creating memories to carry with her.

It's always interesting to realize you really ARE going to be leaving home and going on your own great adventure.

She and #2 climbed through a hole and into the silos at some point, but I couldn't get her to give me her new iPhone long enough to download her pics shooting up through the silo roof. They are cool. I saw them last night.

DK went and bought a gallon of the best apple cider known to mankind, 

and then got back to it with his magic camera.

I just walked around, happy. It was such a lovely day. 

When there are pumpkins everywhere and it's fall, even a bad hair day can't bring you down.

The morel of this story is GO OUTSIDE AND ENJOY THE FALL! 

Go on! It's so stinking fun! Even the 17 year old thinks so.

 Tell me how your family sneaks away for fun... I am always open 
to new ideas for running away.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Goodbye to the Harlequin Table

I am sad today. I took a table that I painted a few years ago to the ReStore and donated it. This is a small thing, and something I do often, but today it made me cry. More than once.

I am surprised by the depth of this reaction. It's a side table I spent $9.99 on at a thrift store about 3 years ago. I did spend a ton of time working on it. I perfected a whole new technique involving layers of chalk paint glazes. And it is a vintage Henrendon (High end furniture) piece, most likely from the late 60's or early 70's. But that's not it. I have donated a ton of really high end stuff that didn't sell and things I have painted before with nary a second glance, let alone soul tears. 

And yet, this one stung, all the way to the core of me.

As I let my thoughts swirl, I heard things like: 

"But this one told me what it wanted to be." 

"I prayed about whether it was a good buy and felt strongly I should get it. 
So why didn't it sell? Why didn't it ever find a home?" 

"I am so tried of getting all excited about things that never pan out. 3 years, 4 shows 
and no one wanted it when I worked so hard and did such excellent work."

I walked over to the dishes and opened the dishwasher to make one last attempt before the weekend to finish washing what was on the counter (something I have been attempting since Wednesday). It was empty, except for the water bottles that my daughter despises filling and putting in the sink. I pulled one out, to see if they were clean or dirty and realized she had put away and entire dishwasher full of dirty dishes. I crumpled to the floor and started weeping, certain that this was so not about the dishes.

I prayed that I would be able to keep doing this mom thing, and that I would understand why God seemed to find my aspirations to succeed at something more meaningful to be unnecessary right now. I reminded Him how I had to quit running barn sales because I never made enough money to justify the enormous effort it took to conjure them into existence. I reminded Him that me doing barn sales and art was His idea, not mine. And I sat there, pleading for understanding and love.

Just then my dog, Harper, climbed up on me and feverishly started licking my tears off my cheeks.

If you have never experienced this before, it is very wet, kind of gross, insanely distracting, and incredibly funny. Needless to say, my pity party was disrupted. Now, don't think I wasn't still bawling, oh no. I was just bawling and praying and laughing and trying not to dump my dog off my lap and trying to decided if I loved or hated being licked. It was a slurpy, drippy tangle of emotions. 

Harper plopped right on my lap and kept trying to lick me while also turning around to find a comfortable place to sit or stand. And I felt this enormous wave of love from her. This sweet dog knew I was sad and was showering me with all the gifts she had to give. Her little licks, her attention, and her warm little body. So of course I started crying even harder as I saw her for the angel in my life that she is. Which made the dog lick more and me laugh more.

In the meantime, my taquitos were done. I put her on the floor and walked across the kitchen to take them out of the oven. Taquitos are a food of my soul. Straight dopamine there. I put them on top of the oven to cool and turned around to feel God say, "The barn sale was never about money for you. That was never the point. You have other things to do than paint furniture and that's what you'd still be doing if the money had followed." 

Of course.

And then my mind was filled with the image of a woman finding my table at the ReStore and it being just the shape or size or color or price she had been hoping for. I could feel her delight and relief at discovering "just the right thing." And I understood that it was about me developing my skills and then sharing my blessings with others. That my barn sale years had been about becoming more more, not making more. And even I can't deny that I succeeded there. I am so much more than I was.

I tell you this story for many reasons. 

First, it's what's happening today. 

Second, it will not be the last time God and I have this conversation. We have had it many times in the years since I quit doing shows and every time, I gain a little more faith in myself and a little more trust in where He may be taking my life. 

Third, never underestimate how much you are loved. God sent me this little dog two years ago and she has blessed me in ways I could never have imagined. Allow yourself to embrace these types of experiences for the gifts from the universe that they are. Feel the love they are bringing you. It is OK to feel loved. We are all worth all the love the Universe or God could every shower down upon us.

Fourth, it is OK to not get the answer you want. Today, God did not tell me that I will be a huge success in the blogging world. He did not tell me that my paintings and collages will sell as fast as I can make them, if and when I get to that part of my life. He simply had a little dog love on me and told me that my enormous efforts were not wasted. Then He showed me how I was doing good things for the world and my future. He gave me what I needed to get up and write today. It may not be enough tomorrow. But it is exactly right for today. 

Before you get upset that He didn't tell you what you wanted to hear, think only about what you need today. I bet He will give you what you needed to stand up again and keep walking, at least today. And if you need more tomorrow, He will give you what you need for that day. Accept that what you need is enough. That you are already enough to make up the difference and keep moving forward. And try to see the angels hiding in little dogs, or fist fulls of dandelions from small children, or a timely phone call. 

So today I will be a little sad. But that's OK, because tomorrow I will look at my emptier garage and see space to work on my barn doors. I will think about someone reading this post and it being just the right thing to keep them going through a tough spot. If that's you, know I send my love, my deepest sympathy and a full understanding of your frustration. 

That said, you'll have to find your own little doggie angel. Harper stays with me.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

PS: Upon closer inspection, I realized that the dishes were clean after all and I was spared digging through all the drawers and cabinets to find the "dirty" ones to rewash them. Whew.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ruins, Part 2: Building Off the Rubble

As I have walked through the first week of my kids being back in school, and wearing my routines again for the first time since June, I have been wondering if it is time to change things up a little. Not making major changes, but little ones. Tweaks that change the trajectory, or rather, realign it.

Through the radical change involved with the children being home all the time vs. going to school, I have gradually forgotten what it was trying to accomplish. It has taken me a week of being back here, alone, to remember. And I have had to put the story back together using the echoes of what I was working on. There are clues all over, my journal entries, the scraps of fabric on the floor in the dining room. The bits of this and that stacked up in the studio, waiting to be put away or used again. It's all there, but it reminds me of the ruins I saw in Beaufort. Happy ruins, echoes of fun, or goals moving forward, or dreams becoming real. 

I promised I'd show you all, so let's head back to where Rt.17 crosses 
with Rt 21, about 20 min north of  Beaufort, South Carolina 

Or more specifically Old Sheldon Church Road.

 This is what you see if you look straight down the road, back towards freeway. The view isn't much different looking forward the other direction, although I think they were doing some road construction a little further down. 

I took this shot because it reminded me so much how my life has looked lately. Path forward, with lots of stuff on either side, but nothing transparent or clear, except the road in front of me. I always expect to stop and look at something along the way, but in a forest like this, full of growth, it's hard to see anything until you are right on top of it. You have to get to "there" before you even know what or where "there' is. That has so been my year thus far. I have seen nothing coming.

So you are driving along Old Sheldon Church Rd. and you happen to see the forest lighten up a bit on the right and "Boom!" there are the Old Sheldon Church ruins. But you can't park in front of them, just off the road. You have to look around a bit, and it's only then you notice the clearing on the other side of the road. Once again, my life. 

But what a delight these ruins are! When you do see them. it makes you smile. See how the sun hits them just so, making them shine out from the grove of live oaks? It really is enchanting. 

Here's a groovy one DK shot with his neat, "fancier than mine" camera:

I so love this pic. It is super weird, but you get a feel for the happy airiness this place gives off. It was a total shock. And I LOVE the pillars! Sigh. Wait till we get inside...

The ferns growing out of the stone just kill me! It's like dreams I've had involving...well, let's not get into that here. Suffice it to say, I was smitten with the place. 

So smitten in fact, that we brought my brother and his family and my sister and my kids back to see it a couple of days later. but we'll talk about that in a minute. I want to show you guys something first.

Check this out. The color view. This is what it actually looked like that day.

Here is the exact same shot, except taken in Black & White. I shot it with the same camera on a different setting in the exact same place and position, ten seconds after shooting the color one. Isn't it so strikingly different? Not bad or good, just a totally different interpretation.

This perfectly illustrates what I am feeling, returning to my life. I have the same things in front of me, but something has shifted in the way I see things. I am looking at my "ruins" in a different way. 

So let's play another little game. let's see what happens when we add people to the scenario. There was only one other person at the ruins when we saw it the first time. And she left pretty quickly, so we had it to ourselves for a while.

Serene. Mystical. Old. 

What you'd expect from ruins in the state you always hope to find them, abandoned.

Let's see what happens when we add people:

Isn't it shocking how it changes things? The people bring a story with them. 
You get a feeling of the past colliding with the present that I find so oddly invigorating. 

I mean, just look at this pic. It fills your mind with questions. Why is the tree full of bricks? Why is that guy in sandals and a button down standing next to it? Why would he care? How could this be a favorite picture from this photo shoot? Blending the Past and the Now always creates a different story, my friends. 

(And just for the record, this is my brother, the landscape architect, who was fascinated that bricking this tree had actually kept it alive for so long, which is what the mason was trying to do. And this is one of my favorite pics from the shoot because it captures exactly what he is like. And I absolutely adore him. I always have.)

Here the same tree, taken the first visit, without him. There is still a story full of questions and answers here, it is just completely different.

I have no idea where my new story will take me, or why I feel so empowered to deviate from what was before. But maybe it will be a better story. The break has given me some much needed perspective. In some projects I need to go deeper and further than I thought. In others, I need to back off a bit. And I think I will ask for some help. I have realized that though I really can do an enormous amount of work myself, sometimes it would be wiser to allow someone who can do it quicker, with less draw down to help or take over for me. (Hear that all you friends who are better at getting rid of clutter than I am? I will be calling you soon.) Sometimes you need help to take something all the way to "done."

So we'll see what comes as I build off the echoes of what was before. I have to say though, I think this story ends "happily ever after", at least for a while. 

Are you making changes you didn't expect this fall?  Tell me about them. I'd love to hear.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw