Return to wonder

My 11 month old daughter will pick up fragments off the floor and show them to me, as if she just found a nugget of gold, or evidence to unlock the meaning of life. I love when she does this. Her curiosity about the feel of a dried bread crumb or how a shred from the cardboard cat scratcher can be held between her thumb and index finger reminds me that life is wonderful. Life is full of wonder. I think this fact is easy to overlook or forget about, when our attention is aimed at all the noise coming from media outlets and the resulting circular conversations.

Part of the work I do with clients is to unearth the wonder and give it more space. We all start out with a great capacity to see the miraculous. It seems that at various points in our lives we are handed blinders that come with the promise of success, and whatever dream that word projects for us.

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Three items my daughter finds remarkable: cat scratch scrap, rug fiber, shredded cheese
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Holding hope

hope

I was recently asked who I most love working with. “What kind of client just lights you up?” I struggled at first, because I tried to visualize a type, and anyone who knows me knows I resist playing nice with stereotypes and archetypes and the like. After my brain was done battling with itself for defaulting to type casting my clients, I came up with the attribute I admire most in clients. I answered the question with:

I love working with people who recognize that the type of values and identity work we do together is hard, but is up for the challenge. That’s brave to me, and that really makes me excited to see, because it gives me hope that positive change is possible.

I’m grateful to be asked that question, because it redirected my attention, which has unfortunately been directed toward the complex problems in the world that feel beyond my control. The question helped me feel this:

You are not a drop in the ocean.

You are the entire ocean, in a drop.

~ Rumi ~

  

Since significantly lightening my client load since my daughter was born, I’ve found myself asking, “Am I making a difference?” For whatever reason, a lot of which may have to do with the last weeks of winter being a particularly dreary drag, I felt like a drop in the ocean. I love the Rumi quote because it reminds me of the interconnectedness of everything, which has the immediate effect of reminding me that every small action matters. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless about the events and policies covered by mainstream news sources and so important not to lose hope, because no action comes when there is no hope.

I wonder, what sparks hope in you?

Artist in residency in motherhood

Artist in residency in motherhood

A power year is about intention and exploration. It’s a way to structure life so that the questions “Where do I begin?” and “What do I do next?” shrink to a manageable size. I’m thrilled to have found a similar tool to reframe parenthood. I start my artist residency in motherhood today. And because the tool is adaptable and I consider myself more of a creative than an artist, I’m calling it a creative residency in motherhood. Here is my statement, if you’d like to watch the process unfold follow my blog or see what I share on Instagram.

Creative’s Statement

Adapted from Lenka Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood Statement

I became a mother on April 28, 2018. Right now this aspect of my identity is priority. However, I believe it’s possible and necessary for me to continue writing, thinking and collaborating in a focused, disciplined way. I aim to shape my shifting identity into a form that uses parenthood as a well of abundance instead of viewing it as an energy sucking burden that eats time more voraciously than the very hungry caterpillar.

I will undergo this self-imposed creative residency in order to fully experience and explore the fragmented focus, nap-length office/studio time, limited mobility and resources, and general upheaval that parenthood brings and allow it to shape the direction of my work, rather than try to work “despite it.”

Unforeseen consequences

FrontCoverimageThe payoff since publishing my book has been more rewarding than I was able to imagine it would be. I’m not talking royalties, I’m talking connection with readers and other writers.

Even though I knew I wanted my book to find its way into the hands of teen and emerging adult transracial adoptees, I blocked out thinking about readers the entire time I was writing, because I had to focus on what I wanted to say, not what I thought they might want to hear. I wrote about my experiences, thinking some of them might resonate with adoptees and hoping my words might bring comfort to any adoptee feeling isolated or alone in their own adoption story. After one friend read The Struggle for Soy, they told me their daughter who’s in high school asked if she could read it, and share it with her best friend, who is a Chinese adoptee. She thought it would help her. Hearing this brought such joy to me and filled my heart. If what I wrote is able to help just one teen, I’m honored. I hope the book reaches many more adoptees— at the very least, as evidence that our stories matter and sharing them positively adds to the diversity of narratives out there in the world.

A gift from another writer popped up in my message box a couple weeks ago, it read:

From the “unforeseen consequences” department: Seeing you have the courage to publish your book made me finally stop the endlessssss tinkering with mine, stop being a sissy, and just push it out of the nest. AND made me sign up for a writing retreat in Puget Sound (well, on dry land) to start developing a more personal body of work. See how that all works? Thanks so much.

I really appreciate her sharing this with me because although people influence and inspire each other on a daily basis, so much of the time we don’t pause to tell each other. Hearing how my action gave momentum to hers was soul nourishing. Of course I ordered and read her book, and am so glad I did, because it is full of the type of prompts that will help keep me stretching myself to grow and explore what a better version of my personal consulting business looks like.

I urge you to pause for a moment and think, “Is there someone who’s positively impacted me who I can reach out to an tell?” If there is, I encourage you to do so. It’s these connections that spread joy and hope, refreshing relief in the world we live in.

Got analysis paralysis?

One of the clients I started working with recently mentioned how they tend to get analysis paralysis when they are thinking of starting something new. This concept of thinking more than doing, is so common and one of the main obstacles individuals must face when embarking on something like a Power Year.

start-a-journeysThere can be a tendency to want to start out excellent or perfect at something. This desire can hijack our ability to try new things that stretch us and make us grow. I imagine Dr. Carol Dweck would say that this challenge is rooted in the fixed mindset mentality.

When I’m working with clients who slip into the groove of analysis paralysis, one thing I emphasize is that experience rewires the brain. Yay plasticity! Each of us has the ability to reframe how we approach problems and our ability to make change in our lives. It takes work, but is possible.

I am always impressed when I see a client who is willing to do heavy cognitive lifting during their Power Year. It’s so essential and beneficial, I have no doubt that the client who shared their tendency of analysis paralysis will shift that habitual thinking by the end of our time working together.

Inspiring Individual Spotlight: Rochelle Johnson

Inspiring Individual Spotlight: Rochelle Johnson

Rochelle is a new friend, I met her through the volunteer work I do for the civic health club, Warm Cookies of the Revolution (WCoR). She was a guest speaker for the WCoR Read It Or Not bookclub that I facilitate at the Denver Public Library; the theme of the month was “home” and Rochelle talked about a selection of her paintings that are inspired by Denver. I recently visited her studio in Five Points and got to view more of her work; I like how her paintings draw me in, I feel like I could strike up a conversation with any number of her subjects. Rochelle was gracious and agreed to an interview. I appreciate her opening her heart to answer the questions.

When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

Although I used to draw as a teenager, I realized that I wanted to be a creative in some form at the age of 21 after going to a university in the South for computer science I enrolled in an art class to free my mind from the math I was taking.

Why do you paint?

I paint to be closer to God. This may sound unconventional, but when I’m truly in the zone I work out all my problems along with the challenge of the painting and I feel that it is a praise to God.

What’s most challenging about being an artist?

Being an artist or let’s say a painter like I am you spend a lot of time in the studio alone working through the challenges of the work as well as the business part of art. I can truly say the business side is the most challenging for me. I’m mostly an introvert. I’m learning to deal with people which challenges me to get out of my comfort zone.

What’s most fulfilling about being an artist?

I believe the most fulfilling thing about being an artist is when someone gets a painting that I have produced and they relate to it the way in which I intended or they attach their own meaning to it that makes them find something new in it each time they view it.

What artists do you admire?

WOW! There are so many. Each painting I do makes me look at different artists in a new way. In my younger years, I sought out black artists to study like Jacob Lawrence and Lois Malou Jones. In art school I was interested in the impressionist artist with Van Gough being one of the pre-impressionists who I fell in love with—I wanted to recreate the emotion that was so present in his work. Today, I admire a lot of the contemporary artists in different ways. I love the fact that everyone has their own voice and relate to their experiences in the work.

What’s your plan to survive and thrive as a woman of color artist in the Trump Administration?

My plan is push my view, so that people know woman of color artists matter and are still creating and thriving. I’m one who believes that inclusivity is so important. We can’t survive without one another and if America would look deep they would see that we all have a role that is essential to our growth.

Are there art/culture venues in Denver that people can support, that are run by POC?

Unfortunately, no and I would love to change that. I would love to open a gallery that would feature artists of different ethnicities, however I’m running up short on the financial end. Denver has gotten so expensive and artists are being pushed out. Right now, I’m selling out of my studio which is in my home and have been thinking of opening up the space to fit that concept.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Go work out. I find that getting my head in a space to work on my art must be clear and ready to receive my muse.

What’s the last thing you do before going to sleep?

Sometimes I’m so exhausted that I have a hard time clearing my head, but I try to do that as much as possible by turning off the TV, music, etc. and just be.

Do you consider yourself spiritual? If so, what do you do to encourage your own spiritual growth?

I consider myself very spiritual. I grew up in a black Baptist church where my grandfather was the minister. He taught me that love was the key and everybody has a perspective. On my journey, I have learned to respect each point of view and I study all the religions. I just finished reading Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian L. Weiss, MD. This book talks about reincarnation and I loved its message. In this book love reigns, supreme.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to living?

Learn all you can, so that you grow.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to dying?

I have always believed that we come back and once you learned all that you must learn you stay in heaven with God. So, don’t worry.

Describe the last time you felt inspired.

I feel inspired every day, because I get to paint.

What are you grateful for these days?

I’m grateful for the fact I’m here in Denver and I get to be here with my father as he transitions.

What are you working on letting go of these days?

Fear!

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

That I like meeting new people and if you’re an art collector all my art is for sale.

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Find Rochelle online:

www.rochellejohnsonstudio.com

Twitter: @painterfortfurt

Instagram: rochelle.johnson.art

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rochelle.johnson

 Rochelle is curating a show in Denver at the McNichol’s Building in May. More details to come. Check her website or social media pages.

Inspiring Individual Spotlight: Georgianne Rollman

Georgianne Rollman (or “Gee” as she’s affectionately called) exudes kindness and embodies an intelligence that comes from a life lived fully with open mind and intention. Our paths cross a lot; we both had pieces in the Denver Community Museum’s “29” exhibit; we each shared stories during Teacher’s Pet at Buntport Theater; Gee generously made one of her famous hand sewn quilts for my husband and me when we got married. Her daughter is one of the creative masterminds who started and runs Buntport Theater; I saw Gee there recently and she made a comment that I found inspiring. She was talking about how being a parent to her grown children has a different dynamic than parenting growing children—and recognized that the shift is a healthy thing. I’m grateful Gee was up for an interview, her insight made me laugh and cry. Please enjoy:

 
When did you start quilting?

I learned how to sew by hand when I was literally sitting at my grandmother’s knee. I’ve always loved textiles in general and quilts in particular. I liked the idea of making something useful and beautiful from scraps. But I didn’t actually start quilting until I was in my early forties, about twenty-five years ago.

 

What do you enjoy about the process of quilting? 

I love the way you phrased this question because the older I get, the more I realize how important “process” is to me. If it’s not fun while I’m doing it, why bother? When I first started making quilts, I thought I’d like the design aspect best. What I’ve discovered is that I love the meditative quality of hand quilting, and the feel of the design taking place under my fingers.  That, and the fact that it gives me an excuse to watch television!

 

How many quilts have you created?  Do you have a favorite?

I have pictures of 91, from small wall hangings to queen-size quilts. I’m sure there have been some that I forgot to document. I used to make them because I loved doing it and when I had a stash, I’d give them away. Occasionally I’ve been commissioned to design and make a quilt, but it’s not enjoyable for me; I worry too much about the finished product. Lately, I make quilts only if I have an occasion to work toward: a baby shower or wedding. I’ve become much more interested in hand-building ceramics, although I like to always have a quilting project on hand.

My favorite quilt was made for a Foreign Service friend who asked me to create something out of the leftover silk from shirts he’d had made in Thailand. The result looked like jewels. It’s the only quilt I’m sorry I couldn’t keep.

 

Are you part of a quilting community?  If so, will you describe what is unique about that community?

I don’t belong to a quilting group now. When I first started I was part of a very active group. My husband, David, had joined the Foreign Service in the mid-’80s. Twelve years and four tours later, both of our children were away at college and David and I moved to Seoul, South Korea.  We lived in an Embassy compound on an Army post in the middle of the city. The first friends I made were other Foreign Service spouses who were part of a quilting group run by the military wives. I joined and not only learned to quilt but met a lot of wonderful, strong women. Quilting is a good hobby for people who travel because you can find fabric in every corner of the world.

 

What is the most challenging part of being a parent?

For me, discipline was always a challenge: how, when, what… It helped when my pediatrician said that consistency is the most important thing. “Be strict or not. Just don’t keep the kids guessing.”  So I gave myself permission to be consistently lenient.

I also had a hard time putting up with the bickering that took place when the kids were little. My brother and sister are eight and nine years older than me, so I didn’t have much experience with sibling rivalry. I can remember pleading with the kids to “Stop fighting!” David—who’s one of eight—would just look at me, shake his head and say, “You call that fighting?”

 

What is the most rewarding part of being a parent?

My children are my heroes. It’s indescribably rewarding to have raised children who are smart, tolerant, talented, good people! They’ve made fulfilling lives for themselves. Now that they’re grown I try to stay out of their business, but I hope they know I’m here if they need me.

If I could give advice to young parents, it would be to actively listen to your children when they say something, regardless of how young they are.  And read to them.

 

In retrospect, what stand out as the most meaningful moments in your life so far?

Aside from giving birth, there have been many defining moments in my life. Some were huge, like losing both of my parents by the time I turned fifteen. Most were simple, like watching the sun rise over the Euphrates valley from a mountaintop in Turkey or holding my grandchildren for the first time. But maybe the most long-lasting impact was made when I was in fourth or fifth grade and my best friend got mad at me for something awful I’d done to her. I can remember standing in her kitchen trying to tell her how sorry I was and hoping she would forgive me. I felt the pain of having hurt her so strongly that I told myself, “I’m never going to be mean to anybody ever again.”

 

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

David and I do yoga stretches together to a Rodney Yee tape. Oops, it’s a CD; I forget sometimes that I live in the modern world!

 

What’s the last thing you do before going to sleep?

I always read in bed for as long as I can keep my eyes open.

 

Do you consider yourself spiritual?  If so, what do you do to encourage your own spiritual growth?

Something in your earlier interview with the young comedian named Kristin Rand resonated with me. She said her philosophy of dying is that “energy changes forms but it’s still there.” I think this idea best describes my own spiritual life. I believe in energy and I surround myself with people who feed my positive energy, then I try to share it in small ways. I like to avoid negative energy, but it’s a challenge; there’s way too much of it in the world.

 

What’s your philosophy when it comes to living?

I think the most important thing is to be kind to others. Kindness is underrated and some people seem to equate it with being weak, but it’s the opposite. I think it takes a lot of moral strength to be kind in difficult circumstances, or to ask forgiveness when you’ve done something wrong.

That being said, we shouldn’t let others take advantage of our kindness. I remember feeling that I was finally grown up the first time I said no to something I didn’t want to do. I just hope I said it kindly.

 

What’s your philosophy when it comes to dying?

The thought of Death itself doesn’t frighten me: it’ll either be exciting or nothing. The thought of dying scares me, though. I’d rather not be in pain and I’m not ready to do it yet, but I suspect there will come a time when Life will no longer be “better than the alternative.” I hope I’ll be able to die with some sort of dignity.

 

Describe the last time you felt inspired.

I don’t think this is quite what you had in mind because I wasn’t inspired to write a poem or take a picture or design a quilt, but I found your questions inspiring. I don’t often make time to be introspective.

 

What are you grateful for these days?

Certainly for my wonderful family and friends. I’m grateful, too, for every sunrise, for laughter, for solitude, and for the fact that my poor old hands can still make things and my legs can still walk.  Oh, and I’m grateful for wine and cheese!

 

What are you working on letting go of these days?

I’ve been working my entire life on trying to let go of the feeling that I’m responsible for the whole world. I have to recognize that I can’t fix much, if anything. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to do what little I can, though.

 

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

I believe I am who I am right now partly because of everything that’s ever happened to me, both good and bad.