Over the Top

photoFew people have as many reasons to be happy as I have. Being aware of that fact is, in a maybe slightly tautological way, a great reason for happiness in its own right. And so: I am happy. Very.

One of the finest reasons to be happy–and forgive me if this sounds a little tautological too–is that I am not depressed. Having spent as many of my younger years clinically depressed and struggling with anxiety as I did before getting treatment and medication that allowed me to be at ease, healthy, hopeful and, well, happy, I may have a deeper appreciation of simple, ordinary happiness than many. Every day that I’m not depressed, sad or anxious is a gift. I think I can be pardoned for thinking myself one of the happiest creatures on earth, even if I don’t go bounding around giggling to prove it.

Another chief source of my joy is the tremendous community of friends and loved ones surrounding me at all times. This has served not only as an essential part of my recovery and continued success in keeping my mental health and spirits on a positive trajectory since my emergence from the chrysalis of that darker self of years past. If that isn’t reason for being well and truly happy, I don’t know what is. I suppose it’s a further sign of general contentment and happiness that when there are times of stress, struggle or sorrow that are fleeting, they serve to reinforce happiness rather than otherwise, since they serve to remind me of the contrast between those times of trial and their wonderful opposites.

The biggest mystery in all of this is perhaps the astounding truth that I keep getting rewarded further for embracing my sources of happiness. Good friends come into my life and share their kindness and wisdom and humor and expansive spirits with me and I respond as any such fortunate person would, by turning to them like a flower to the sun. And then they in their turn give me more of their kindness and so forth. I am overwhelmed with thanks.

Among bloggers, one of the signs of mutual support and friendship that arises in this setting is the sharing of blog awards, and of late I seem to have built up quite the collection once again. So I am taking this moment to express my deep gratitude! Given the range of kindnesses being showered upon me in recent times, I am taking the liberty of blending the recognitions into one post and revising all of the requirements–with an invitation to those I nominate in response that they might follow this new rubric as well.

First of all, I present to you the generous friends who have shared their blog awards with me, and the awards they have passed along on the way.

Afsheen http://afsheenanjum.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/awards/ Dragon’s Loyalty Award + Versatile Blogger Award + Blog of the Year 2013 AwardDragon's Loyalty AwardVersatile Blogger AwardBlog of the Year Award 1 star jpegRosemary http://randomrose.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/the-sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award/ The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers AwardSisterhood of the World Bloggers AwardCarolyn http://carolynmalone.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/best-moment-award/ Best Moment AwardBest Moment AwardAnne http://talesalongtheway.com/2013/12/01/sunshine-award-and-inner-peace-award/ Inner Peace Award + Sunshine Award + Versatile Blogger AwardInner Peace AwardSunshine AwardVersatile Blogger AwardDimple https://shivaaydelights.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/liebster-awards-ii/ Liebster AwardLiebster AwardSamina http://saminaiqbal27.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/most-influential-blogger-award/Most Influential Blogger AwardMost Influential Blogger AwardDiane http://bardessdmdenton.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/inspiration-awarded/ Very Inspiring Blogger AwardVery Inspiring Blog AwardKind friends all, I am once again moved and daunted by your generosity. But I shall do my best to be worthy, or at least appropriately thankful and generous in my own turn. For my  official dance of acceptance, I shall share a selection of revelations, factoids and other wildly inspirational (or mildly amusing) items to divert you for a while. First, however, I must tell you there are a number of darling persons of my blogging acquaintance and friendship who deserve your visits, readership, following and devotion. And any number of awards. So whichever of the awards you below-named friends have not already received (multiple times, some of you!), I will be ever so glad and honored if you will accept my nomination to share with me. For I am glad and honored to be in your company, just as I’ve been saying.

Ginger, purveyor of outrageously great humor and creative writing at gingerfightback; Marie, lovely proprietress of her own Little Corner of Rhode Island (where wildlife and fabulous young household members run wonderfully rampant); David Reid, insightful and gloriously gifted artist; Antoinette, Spree-cooking in a magical kitchen and celebrating family love; Mark, overseeing a variety of creative marvels through graphic design, music, travel and more, at The Vibes; Mandy the magnificent at The Complete Book, where cats and cookery and the sweet beauties of South Africa abound; Bishop, the master of clever home gardening, beer making, whiskey tasting and regional explorations; Claire, who Promenades through England and France with exquisite gardening and travel and foodly inspirations; Nitzus, gloriously photographing travels and family with equal aplomb; Diane Denton, Bardess of a multitude of grand artworks combining poetry and paintings and all sorts of visual and verbal art; John, busily cooking up family history and delicious dishes with which to ingest them in the Bartolini kitchen; Lauren, who writes love poems so well that instead of making me feel like a spy on her personal life they seem admirably universal; Tyler, the superb writer-photographer-poet-biologist at the helm of The Ancient Eavesdropper; Jeanne Kasten, queen of her beautiful art studio; Mick the Meticulous and his great and celebratory photographs of people, places and things in ways that remind us to see with new eyes; Laura Macky, outstanding and artistic photographer-blogger; Michael, Taggart and his Amazing Flower Photos; and Anne-Christine, the great lady presiding over the joys at Leya: please step up and accept my accolades, my admiration, and my best wishes for your continued success and happy productivity.

Friends, if your name doesn’t appear on this little list, rest assured that I am pleased to share my blogging life with each and every one of you whose blogs I visit and follow as well. Your work makes my days so much the richer, and I consider myself privileged to be in the midst of this entire blogging company. Those of you who read here now and have not yet ‘met’ the bloggers whom I am naming above, please take a cue from my list and pay a visit to these terrific people’s places the first chance you get!

Now, a selection of bits about moi, in case you haven’t already been sickened by the TMI that is my blog. Happy perusing.

1   One of the very few sport-related things I ever did with reasonable success was drop-kicking in football. Surprisingly, I did not pursue this as a career.

2   I love the scent and taste of cardamom.

3   I’d like to own less Stuff. Trying to be smarter about that.

4   I’ve only been under general anesthetic twice. As far as I can remember. Not counting a few speeches I’ve sat through.

5   One of my early boy-crushes was on Morgan MacLaren, with whom I shared a double desk in first or second grade, and I swooned and mooned over him for a long time, but it ended abruptly when he contracted the current plague of the Hong Kong flu and threw up all over our desk.

6   I really like sitting on a swing, and I like standing on it even better. But swings are made too Safe nowadays for properly aggressive elevation. Thanks, lawyers.

7   I’m a huge fan of Mid-century Modern design. Not very surprising, I suppose, as I grew up surrounded by the stuff when it was new. But I admire its clean lines and grace anyway.

8   My pet goldfish, the first and only pet I ever had, had a middle name. Turns out to be the first name of the first-and-only man I ever married, too.

9   Eating raw eggs doesn’t worry me (but I wouldn’t choose to eat them plain).

10   I prefer thigh-high stockings to pantyhose.

11   I’m generally an optimist. Is that why I prefer thigh-high stockings to pantyhose? Oh, come on, I was simply referring to the relative probability of their staying properly in place during the regular course of a day without help from garters.

12   One of the stupider things I’ve done was responding to having come back to my car after visiting the library one night, finding a teenager in a hoodie inside it going through my glove compartment, and instead of going off to call the police as I should have done, opened the door and yanked the kid out by his jacket, yelling at him, and shoved him away while he, stunned, regrouped and ran off to catch up with the confederates who had failed to warn him I was returning to the car. I am happy he was even stupider and more afraid than I was so I’m here to tell the tale.

13   I like cedar better than pine. Mostly.

14   I learned how to drive a manual transmission vehicle, but I’m terrible at it. You should all be thrilled that automatic transmissions exist. The world is a safer place.

15   When the space shuttle Challenger exploded, I was standing in line at a paint store where they had a television on behind the counter, so despite the improbability of it all, I saw the disaster on live TV anyway.

16   I’m very intimidated by singing in front of anybody. I know there’s no earthly reason to be afraid of it, but it frightens me all the same.

17   I was fond of vampires and monsters and that sort of stuff long, long before they entered their current phase of popularity, but I still don’t think of myself as dark and morbid (even if others might)–I only like that stuff for its amusing entertainment value. Maybe that in itself is morbid!

18   If an Agatha Christie villain had ever tried to poison me with cyanide I’d probably have been an easy mark, because I find the smell and flavor of almonds enticing.

19   Birds love the seeds I put in two of the feeders out back of our house or on the patio but they won’t touch the remaining feeder, with the same seeds in it.

20   I would’ve made a good architect, if I hadn’t been such an awful mathematician and, oh yeah, also had no engineering knowledge and a pretty poor work ethic. Great sense of practical yet beautiful space and all of the smaller designs within it, though.

21   I am in awe of people who are great at any service profession (teaching, medicine, humanitarian work, and so forth).

22   My parents never disowned me. Go figure.

23   A man of Norwegian descent taught me my first Chinese words and taught me how to use chopsticks.

24   I had the chicken pox as a kid.

25   If all of this isn’t more than enough information about me, I don’t know whether to be astounded or just feel sorry for you, but I hope you’ve been a little amused along the way. And considering that you’ve stuck around this long, I thank you for your patience and good manners and hope you’ll extend your attentions enough to visit some of the many great blogs of my friends’ that I commended to you above. Cheers!   photoWith this, I am going to cease accepting blog awards henceforth. Obviously, I am not opposed to them in any way! But I have already been so generously inundated with awards that I have no need of more, and the companionship, advice and friendship I receive has always been the richest of the rewards. I thank you one and all and wish for everyone as much happiness as I am blessed to enjoy.

Trading Bouquets All ‘Round

photoI’m rather pleased with myself, but then that’s hardly a new thing, as anybody can tell. At the moment, part of my self-congratulation stems from passing the 500 posts mark on my blog, almost all of those posts at the rate of one a day. Yes, this blog is my multivitamin! I get so much affirmation, yes, but also so much practice writing, drawing, working out topical ideas, cooking, photographing and all sorts of other things that it’s beneficial in more ways than I can count.

I also continue to gain enormous amounts from the fellowship I find here with blogging friends and readers, where we share our thoughts and inspirations, and often, our hearts on a regular basis. This is a world that, considering I didn’t even know of its existence very few years ago and even then, had no idea of its potential influence on my life and others’, has become a remarkably important part of my every day as well as a challenge and quite frequently a great pleasure.

It doesn’t hurt that the kindness of previous strangers in my circle of blogging friends has also included cheering me on in the form of blogging award recognitions, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say, with a deep bow, Thank You to them once again for the gracious support and encouragement that make me feel happy to be here far beyond the initial drive that found purpose merely in enforcing my need to practice and to be accountable for doing so regularly. I am in fact trying rather hard these days to apply the same sort of discipline to getting back some seriousness about both useful physical exercise and some degree of greater mindfulness about my eating, both of which I know from experience serve to make any intellectual and artistic practice more feasible and more enjoyable too.

So to my generous and gracious co-bloggers Subhan Zein (passing along the Sunshine Award, though he himself is one of the brightest rays of light in the blogosphere!), Kate Kresse (she is so amazing she knows how to make me feel Illuminating, Versatile and Lovely whether she’s flying by to grant me awards or not!), and the London Flower Lover (whose land of peace-love-and-joy compels me and delights me at every visit!), I say that however slow my public acknowledgement of their sweet open-handedness is, it is truly sincere and grateful. Along with all of you dear people who have cheered me on with awards and readership and, especially, your constant comments and conversations with me, this has been a richly rewarding place to be for this last year and a half, and I will gladly keep ‘living here’ for the foreseeable future in your marvelous company if you let me! Your popping by this ‘daily diary’ of my thoughts, artworks and adventures makes every second of it a worthwhile treasure, and I thank you all. Bouquets to each and every one of you.photo

Lighting Candles in the Vastness of the Dark

photoIt’s easy in this big, busy world to feel sometimes that one is alone in the magnitude of space, a tiny voice calling out and not knowing if there’s anyone who will answer. When times are grim, that is quite simply the pervasive sense. When my youngest nephew was very small and spending his first overnight at his grandparents’, my mother tiptoed down the darkened hall before turning in for sleep and heard his little voice coming out of the doorway with the plaintive little inquiry: “Is there anybody here who knows me?”

Like him, I have always eventually been answered in my timid forays into the fearful or unknown with rescuers coming to my aid, whether in a literal sense or in the sometimes equally powerful act of offering emotional and companionable solidarity. I’m here for you; I hear you. It doesn’t always have to be more than that, though I can’t imagine there are many who would find themselves able to be surfeited when it comes to genuine kindness and support; sometimes just knowing that there is somebody else somewhere in this overwhelming life who cares what happens to us is grace enough.

Entering the seemingly surreal world of the blogosphere is certainly sufficient intimidation and unfamiliarity for most of us, and a place where we well might feel we’re talking into empty nothingness. The discovery that there are not only fellow wanderers in the place, indeed, but kindred spirits–well, that is more than just a comfort. It’s a relief and a joy and the sighting of rescue breaking through the impenetrable dark with, however tiny, a candle flame. Amazing how that infinitesimal light pierces the gloom and begins to widen. How it begins to be passed from one to the other until a seeming infinity of tiny flames has suddenly coalesced into blazing daylight!

That is the kind of friendship that shifts from virtual to virtuous in a rather quick succession of conversations and shared thoughts and dreams, where we go swiftly from meeting-in-passing to knowing that it matters that each little flame be tended thoughtfully. True community, it turns out, can be cultivated in dimensions that know no boundaries of physical space. It grows in sharing commonalities and respecting and treasuring the uniqueness and differences of opinion and belief and history that give so much deeper meaning to what we do hold in common.

So I pay grateful tribute to those who have answered my voice in the darkness, who have shone light upon my blogging life and more importantly, shed light in every direction by the mere warmth and passion of their spirits through their own voices in blogging. There should be a much more beautiful and euphonious name for this dimension of community than Blog, Blogger, Blogged, Blogging–all of them sound, if not rude, then at the least terribly plebeian. But then, perhaps the true beauty of the construct is its very ability to carry our unvarnished, unembellished humanity if not on golden wings then on plainly mortal feet, all of us walking along, however trepidatiously, speaking softly to others we only trust are there, carrying our little candles ahead of us with quavering hope.

Lately I have been reminded of this sharing of light and warmth yet again by the gifts of three further Versatile Blogger Award recognitions by that Beautiful Spirit, Alpha, at Aspire.Motivate.Succeed., the warm and wonderful master of his well-tended garden, Bishop, at Bishop 9396’s Blog, and the Bardess, DM Denton, who shows magnificent visual and verbal ambidexterity. From three people who demonstrate great versatility indeed I take it as a high compliment.

And I have now been granted the Candle Lighter Award by dear ‘Nessa at Stronghold. She is a bright light indeed for such a young torch-bearer, bringing her insights and opening discussions on many a topic that could fall into the dark but for the repeated loving applications of the light of inquiry and passion that she offers in her forum. All are free to ponder there the complexities of life, love and the human psyche that cross all boundaries of age and experience. Precisely the kind of place that welcomes shared illumination just as I’ve been describing here.

Candle Lighter Award logoThe Candle Lighter Award has been variously described in terms of its requirements, so I thought I’d see if I could trace it back, and behold, this award’s creator actually maintains an open link so that we can bask in her generous and thoughtful gift. So raise your lamps high with me, won’t you, and we’ll thank her for this kind and inspiring offering. Thank you, then, both to Kate, the nurturing mother of this Award, at Believe Anyway, and to ‘Nessa, who believes strongly enough to shine her own light in the darkness.

Kate is especially generous and ingenious, I think, in opting to simply let the award she conceived stand on its own, requiring no response or action other than that one should, appropriately, shine light upon its meaning as a representation of positivity and hope and illumination in and of itself and the thoughtful sharing of it ought to recognize those whom the giver sees as showing those qualities in blog work. To further those beliefs and ideals, I will of course share the names of a small few bloggers who represent the vigor of meaningful optimism, teaching and leading and sharing the light through their munificent and loving work. And as ‘Nessa has reminded me, many of the brightest lights are those that persist to shine in the darkest places.photo

Thus I gladly pass the torch to my friends at PsycheVida, The Invisible Shadow, Aspire.Motivate.Succeed., The Human Picture, G (of G Caffe), and Year-Struck, who all know the light well, if partially by virtue of having known or passed through various dark places, and choose to shine their better selves abroad like rays of sunlight.

I have handed the Versatile Blogger Award along (as well as a few others with similar requirements) enough times that I fear I shall put your lights out, all of you, if I should share another laundry-list of factoids about my shining self, and know that you’ll find more than enough of my self-revelatory chatter just by wandering around my blog any day of the week. But I hope that you will also attend to the following fellow off-road-thinkers who certainly deserve a badge of Versatility for their wide-ranging skills and interests, again without requiring anything of them in return other than that they should rejoice in being in company that deeply appreciates the surprising and wonderful collection of wits that each of them represents.VBA logo

To Marie, tending home, garden, and a next-gen toddler in her Little Corner of Rhode Island; to Ellen, who writes and paints and draws and sets the cultural coordinates of her region at Nine Lives Studio; to Bella of winsomebella, a magical land where passionate soul-searching merges with poetry and photography, travel and storytelling; to John, cooking up history and food and familial love in the Bartolini Kitchens; and to Nia, who intertwines photography with food, the tails of cats with tales of travel, and wonderful daily expressions of local culture to charm and amaze us.

Some of you, I know, have been laureates of these specific and many other blogging awards, and deservedly so, so I neither demand of you that you accept (though it’s pretty much an impossibility to make me un-like you once I’ve decided I like you, as far as that goes!) nor that you ‘keep passing the dessert around the table’. Your blogs and excellence speak for themselves, and if you wish to share the joy further then I am delighted to have put it in your hands for the sharing. Because that is the whole beauty of this place we call the blogging community. There’s dessert and light and warmth enough here for everyone.photo

“Thank You” is an Excellent Exit Line. Or Opener. Oh, Both, of Course!

So I shall begin with a resounding Thank You. To another three gracious and inspiring bloggers who have nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank You, amazing Eve and marvelous ‘Nessa and sweet Peaches! Eve’s poetry and prose move me so deeply I sometimes think she reads my mind–but with better compositional and editing skills than I have. ‘Nessa inspires me with her old-soul attitudes and resilience in the face of committed creative work in such a public forum as a blog at what seems to this aging lady like a tender age indeed, putting out fine and fiery writing as well. Peach Farm Studio is a lovely land whose mistress creates fabulous letterpress art and, as inspiration and adjunct to that, plays with beautiful and wonderful text, music, imagery and any other ingredients that can be combined to make the Studio’s output a joy.VBAAnother heartfelt Thank You to the incredible Cecilia. She who presented me with my first VBA has now passed the Reader Appreciation Award my way as well. There is probably no irony at all in the fact that one of the rubrics for proper reception of this award is that one should pass it along to one’s own six most faithful commenting bloggers, but not to anyone who’s already received the award–and you guessed it, she’s been easily among the six most frequent and thoughtful and uplifting commenters here from Day One. One of my first frequent-flyers, period. And a constant source of gracious good-humored help and outsized compassion and good sense to push me ever upward and onward.Reader Appreciation AwardNow, in case I needed an extra boost, ‘Nessa popped back over to my place to tell me she’d also nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award, and that deserves yet another moment of humbling contemplation of my embarrassment of riches and the great aid lent me by all of you, to which I add Thank You again, no less joyfully and with equal amazement at my good fortune.Kreativ Blogger AwardAll of these are among my cloud of muses and angels, my support and drive and comfort in the form of family, friends, and teachers–all of whom are represented among you, my gracious and ever-encouraging, in the deepest sense of that word, readers. So I Thank You all particularly and sincerely for all of the strength, wisdom and joy you have shared with me since I began this blogging adventure. It seems far more than mere months ago that I began to meet you all–you have become so much a part of my world that I move through my days buoyed by the mere knowledge that you are ‘out there’ thinking up innumerable ways to brighten and improve my life, even when you don’t quite know it. That, you might well note, is what family and friends and mentors do, and oh, you do it very well indeed.


Thank You for providing a Safe Harbor where I can be myself both at work and at play . . .

At the end of the year I can look back and be thankful for so many fine things, and one of them is clearly the great experience that my dive into the untested waters of the blogiverse has turned out to be. Thank you for making it not only painless but a great pleasure, a steeply upward learning curve, and generally smooth sailing to new and delightful places. I cannot begin to tell you how much I look forward to seeing those places with all of you.

For the moment, I shall wrap up here by recognizing those others who have so sustained me with their commentary. There’s the wonderful ChgoJohn, who also has already received this award himself because he’s always out offering wit and succor and freshly-sauced pasta to everybody around these parts; the sweet cfbookchick, so tender-hearted, poetic, quick with praise and generous with clever commentary as well as being a fellow ooh-sparkly-objects human magpie; the gentle, celestially-inclined Barb of Just a Smidgen, who consistently provides far more than a smidgen of encouragement and sunbeams and shared love of music hereabouts; the warm and open-handed Marie in her Little Corner of Rhode Island, who nurtures all while slyly tickling our ribs and funny-bones, stealthily adding bits of great practical advice all the while; and the self-effacing fairy godmother of Ireland, Our Lady of Just Add Attitude, who eschews awards (luckily for me this one officially doesn’t require her responding to it at all unless she so chooses) despite producing award-worthy posts of her travels and thoughtful ruminations on all sorts of good food and pretty things and then turns around complimenting everyone else as though she’s never heard of such talent. All of you, whether you know it or not, have been an amazing and unexpected joy in your sharing yourselves with me here.

It could but most certainly should not go without saying that these are all joined in my field of heroes by such fine characters as Ted and Nia, the two bardic Dennises, Raymund and Caroline, Desi and Lindy Lee, Anyes and Bella, Neil and Geni and oh so many other worthy and outstanding blogger colleagues and friends. And of course there is that particular fella who patiently shares me with my magical laptop kingdom and who works to keep the roof over our heads as well as still making me glad every time he spontaneously yells out “I LIKE YOU!” and gives me a big goofy wink.

Farewell, good 2011. Come on in, great and glorious 2012! And to all of you out there reading this, may you have a year full of peace, love, joy and ridiculously fun creative living.

digital collage

Thank You for helping me discover yet another Happy Place . . .

Highfalutin Company

Otto von Münchow is a very nice man. But I don’t have to tell you that, if you’ve done any looking around the web. I’ve never even met him–in person–but it took very little time looking at his blog and ‘conversing’ with him in the process before I saw how much help he offered not only me with his photographic and creative-production insights but also shared with all of his other readers and correspondents. And then he went and shared a Versatile Blogger Award with me. I’m humbled, and I’m touched.

vba logoYes, there are those who would say I’m tetched. It’s how I got where I am today! And where I am is in truly rarefied company, as I’ve been learning over the last number of months here in Bloggerville. I am surrounded by deeply gifted and incredibly generous fellow bloggers, some of whom have taught me more in my short stint as a web denizen than I learned from many an arduous class project and long years of practice. (Okay, I’ll still say the years of practice made it possible to actually understand and make use of some of the good stuff I’m learning here, so no, my young friends, don’t skip that part!) I know I’m one seriously fortunate person, surrounded by, as my good friend Nia aptly identifies them, a glorious cloud of “angels and muses”.

mixed media painting

Sankt Synnøve, an appropriate patroness for adventurers!

The Irish/Norwegian saint Synnøve is one of a select group I chose to make mixed media portraits commemorating for a collaborative program with organist David Dahl a number of years ago. The fabulous Dr Dahl agreed to create a performance program with me, and despite his renown as a Bach expert, even agreed to plunge into French Romantic literature to please my whim–something he not only performed with superb fire and panache but taught me a lot about in the process. I loved the preparations: David would join me in the organ loft for a flurry of ‘howzat’ samples he played from a number of great composers in a wide variety of styles and moods and colors within the fantastic treasury of my dream realm. He told me about the background of the pieces, how and why and when they were written and by whom–and who that composer studied with–and so on. Gradually we winnowed down the possibilities as I began to talk, in return, about what sort of imagery these evocative pieces inspired. I fell in love with each and every song and movement, and with the genre yet again.

I also decided, as the good Doctor played, that the exquisite and potent Finale by César Franck was reminiscent of a solemn procession of saints, so I decided it was a good excuse to play around with a series of portraits, beginning with figuring out which ones it would most interest me to envision. My main criterion was simply that I was on the hunt for saints famous for more than martyrdom. While I recognize that being willing to die for your beliefs, whatever they are, my school of thought tends to be more impressed with how incredibly challenging it is to live for your beliefs. So I looked for people beatified and sanctified for their deeds rather than their being dead. The princess Synnøve certainly seemed to fit the bill, what with evading an oppressive forced marriage, adventuring off on the wild open sea to who-knows-where and landing in remote Norway, creating a community there, and then fending off pagan attackers. As well as a few other attributions that become even more mystical and magical. In all, a history that says this was one tough Celtic character who went to great lengths to shape her own destiny, and in so doing shaped others’ as well. Eventually she was joined in the recital processional by a number of other intriguing worthies–educators, hospitalers, rescuers of the poor and builders of bridges among them–and I found a large quantity of inspiration, not strictly artistic either.

That’s what I find in this new endeavor of mine too. A long parade of angels and muses that bring to me new knowledge of art, of self, and of life. And I am ever so grateful for the gifts!

We who are inducted into the Versatile Blogger community are tasked with telling you friends a little more about our selves and then sharing the gifts of the award with others whom we deem deserving as well. I’ve done this twice before (thank you, dear Cecilia and Nia!), so I’ll try to be succinct.

mixed media painting

Saints Valery and Finian, leaders, builders-of-things, and my birthday brothers (I was born on their feast day). (I'll take my inspirations wherever I find them.)

Versatile Blogger Award protocol:

1. Nominate 15 fellow bloggers.
2. Inform the bloggers of their nomination.
3. Share 7 random things about yourself.
4. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
5. Add the Versatile Blogger Award pic on your blog post.

So here’s that Pack of Facts about me:

1 – I’m one of those awful excuses for a human being that doesn’t like blueberries. There are a number of fruits I’m not crazy about for texture but in the juice or coulis form I’ll slurp ’em right up. Not blueberries. Don’t like the scent or the flavor any more than the texture. Yet the blueberry bush is a plant I happily put in my garden because I think the shrub is beautiful year-round, and even the berries are very pretty to look at. Go figure.

2 – Even a complete non-athlete (there are few who can begin to compare with me for lack of skills) can have a Sports Injury. My only-ever stitches are hockey related. Too bad I wasn’t making a brilliant goal play at the time, but at least I got a little scar to show for it.

3 – The dentist is my friend! I am something of a rarity, not only enjoying visits to the dentist but also hitting the 50-year mark without ever having gotten a cavity. That’s thanks to good dental care on top of a bit of good luck: my parents both have “normal” teeth, so it was clearly not straight-up genetics that gave them four caries-free kids.

4 – Besides some costume design and construction for theatrical productions, ecclesiastical vestments, and other clothing design/construction projects over the years, I’ve had a few evening gown commissions–favorites are probably the plastic-garbage-bag (Hefty Steel-Sak) gown in silver and black for a costume party (I labored over the hand-cut lace edges) and the plastic wedding gown made for an exhibition (that one had plastic doilies for its lace).

5 – No cigarette or smoking device of any kind has ever touched my lips. Wait: I did try a couple of bubble gum “cigars” in childhood (banana was my favorite of the chewing gum flavors, I think), does that count? But thankfully (for both my lungs’ and my wallet’s sake) I never had the remotest urge to experiment with smoking.

6 – I think my husband has one of the most beautiful singing voices I’ve ever heard.

7 – Many of my art projects arise from random exposure to topics, objects and ideas I encounter whilst “on the way somewhere else”. Ah, serendipity!

I know that some of my favorite bloggers have received Versatile Blogger recognition before, and I do know that it takes a great deal of time and effort to meet the requirements of acceptance, so for the following blog-stars, I personally exempt you from any of the responsive requisites, but I want to recognize publicly how much I admire your work.

Today’s Sparks Blogroll of Honor:
The Bard on the Hill


Not Quite Old

The Dassler Effect

Kreativ Kenyerek

Sweet Caroline’s Cooking

The Seven Hills Collection

Patridew’s Perfect World

Aspire. Motivate. Succeed.


Nine Lives Studio

Daily Nibbles


The Valentine 4: Living Each Day

A Cup of Tea with this Crazy Nia

With thanks and cheers for all that you do in the blog universe, I bow to you all! Onward and upward, my friends!

I Hereby Crown Myself Mistress of the Mess-ups and Guru of Good Intentions

photo collage

It's okay to be screwy, as long as I keep it upbeat . . .

Yes, I have received another award. This one’s from me, to mark the official recognition of my silliness in not quite getting it right when I got the last one.

My last award was a generously conferred Versatile Blogger nod from one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Ms. Cecilia the Sage and Savvy Farmer. Yesterday I was tagged with a second such recognition by the delightful and gifted Nia, a photographer and diarist from Istanbul. And when she sent me the notification, I had to slap my forehead with dumbstruck awe at how remiss and inattentive I’d been when I was tagged the first time. So, with my apologies, I tip my new self-anointed crown in an apologetic genuflection and promise both to re-post and to remember to inform (as is customary, if you’ll note in the rubrics down below) the people to whom I had hoped to show my admiration in the first place. Oops! My oversight is in no way meant to be reflective of my great enjoyment of the bloggers listed here, and I hope all of you reading this will click on the links, check out their blog sites, and share in their wealth of knowledge and artfulness and entertaining and thoughtful world-views too.

award tag

Now, for the REST of you, who really do deserve this!

Ad Alta Voce

Cherry Tea Cakes

Claudia Finseth

Closet Cooking

Draw Stanley

In Search of My Moveable Feasts

Just a Smidgen

Little Brown Pen

My Little Norway

My Open Source Life

Plate Fodder

Roost: A Simple Life

Sustainable Garden

The Last Classic


We ask anyone receiving the Versatile Blogger Award to
pay it forward, if you will.

  • Thank the person who gave
    you the award and link back to them in your post.
  • Tell your readers seven (7)
    things about yourself.
  • Give this award to fifteen
    (15) recently discovered bloggers.
  • Contact those bloggers and
    let them in on the exciting news!

As for things to tell you about myself, I’ve already mentioned my dyslexia and wildly meandering forms of thought, and here I am just proving the point again. No news there! So I’ll go off on a little different tangent, with a list of a few of the interesting places I’ve visited.

1   The Grove of the Patriarchs (Washington State). An isolated little island surrounded by streams in Mt Rainier National Park, because of its sheltered position there the islet is still populated by spectacular old-growth trees, mainly Douglas firs and cedars, that are awe-inspiring and make you feel you’ve stepped into another dimension, an incredibly peaceful one.

2   Saint Lucia. Another island, but of an utterly different kind, being in the southern Caribbean. My mother and father in law took the family on a cruise with them for their 50th anniversary (apparently missed the memo where people are supposed to give YOU big presents for big events). While ‘cruise culture’ isn’t necessarily a logical fit for my personality, it was tremendous fun to spend the time getting to know the family better, seeing a part of the world I’d never seen before, and especially, going off with the parents, my spouse, and the elder nephews and scarpering off the ship across a lonesome stretch of high road to the local aquarium, where they had the most impressive tarpon I’ve ever seen sailing around in the tanks.

3   Prague (Czech Republic). By default, really, the first time. Our honeymoon was planned to time perfectly with a previously scheduled conducting gig my husband had gotten in Hungary, so we thought we’d fly to Budapest right after the wedding since we were to be picked up there by the festival arrangers. But it was one of the big years for European travel–so much so that there were no tickets to be had anytime close to when we had to be there. So we flew into Prague, fell wildly in love with its superb Gothic-to-Art Nouveau architectural beauties, and were sorry when we did have to leave on the train to Budapest.

4   Tijuana (Mexico). It’s not really what I’d call having been to Mexico! I’m sure it’s quite different now, but if you visited there, say, in the seedy seventies, you know exactly what I mean. But what a colorful experience in a sort of eccentric country-of-its-own. Unforgettable.

5   Winnipeg (Manitoba). I’ve been on the Canadian plains before–not least of all, spending joyful years going to our home-away-from-home in Edmonton, Alberta. But going to Winnipeg in cold, wintry weather was a special kind of revelation. Wonderful historic buildings rising seemingly spontaneously from this incredibly flat expanse allowed me to see distances that seemed almost godlike in the chill and windy silence of the season. Indoors, warmth galore: great events, great food, and most of all, great people. But outside, something uniquely apart that appealed to my soul greatly too.

6   Grim (Kristiansand, Norway). The neighborhood near my sister’s home in Kristiansand is not a tourist destination or remarkable for its unique character, per se, and let’s face it, the name doesn’t read with promise in English! But as it’s the ‘home’ neighborhood for us when we’re there, it has the unbreakable draw of bloodlines coursing through its streets and walkways. And all roads then lead to family. Quite the opposite of feeling grim, indeed, to me.

7   Molokai (Hawaii). After a rough year at work, my father’s friends and supporters gave our family plane tickets to Hawaii, a family to greet us on Oahu and host the start of our visit, and a week’s stay in their condominium on Molokai. When we flew into the dirt-paved airport on Molokai and saw the big scrawl on the tin roof of the “terminal” (using the term advisedly here) shouting “THE FRIENDLY ISLAND” at us in welcome, we almost fell out of the plane laughing. The 6-mile-long island looked so dusty and forlorn and godforsaken that we couldn’t imagine anything would be engaging there. But the condo was peaceful and proved a perfect place for personal restoration after the year’s exhaustion, not to mention for the family to simply regroup a little. And better than that, the locals embraced us as though we were long-lost relatives, feeding and leading us with incredible generosity and kindness that can never be forgotten.

8   Kersey, Suffolk (England). Our late friend Ruth was a world traveler, gourmet cook, lifelong teacher, and one of the kindest souls to grace the planet. She took my sister and me in over American Thanksgiving when we visited her charming home Blue Gate in the English countryside. She fed us glorious meals, showed us the Wool Churches and thoroughbred stables nearby, and took us into the sweet town of Kersey, where she introduced us to a marvelous lady I still suspect of having been a fairy or elf of some sort. With the most perfectly gossamer sterling hair and blue eyes brighter than the North Star, she ruled a tiny woollens shop right beside the most significant natural feature in the village, the main street ford of the stream. Which was no more and no less than a slight depression in the road, and would fill with water at any and every drop of rain or dew, and it was accepted as the Only Thing to Do that when the water came in, the ducks followed, and when the ducks were in the so-called Ducksplash, anyone in an automobile had better just settle in for a wait until the bathing was done rather than risk the ire of the villagers by forcing the ducks out of the little ford to let him pass. The shopkeeper knew full well what a marvel this village was, surviving intact and quietly into the noisy modern age, and told us of a young man who’d visited in the past and was unable to conceive of this sleepy town’s merits. He asked her what on earth it was that had moved so many people to urge him to spend time in Kersey. “You don’t know yet, then?” asked the twinkling lady. He shrugged. She smiled more widely than the Cheshire Cat and said softly, “Well, then, you’ll die wondering, won’t you.”

9   Balatonfüred (Hungary). A resort town on lovely Lake Balaton, situated in wine country and popular as a seaside getaway for many generations, my husband and I and a pair of close friends visited it on the advice of colleagues while we were at that honeymoon music festival I mentioned before in a nearby town. While the town itself is quite charming and pretty and full of interesting people and inviting walks along the water, the driver we hired, who tore up the countryside with us crammed in his little car while he narrated at top speed in delighted broken English, was really the highlight of the trip. His evident pleasure in the outing, in racing his little automobile as though on fire, and in showing us a favorite town were wonderfully contagious.

10   Fort Worth (Texas). Now that I live in a nearby town myself, I have been to this haven of cowboy culture and enjoyed a taste of the present-day version of Old Tejas. There’s something immensely appealing about being in a city big enough for the requisite skyscrapers and big business but still housing pens full of beautiful longhorn cattle within the city limits. Ft Worth has much more resource in the way of arts and culture that I’ve yet to explore, but it’s nice to know that the old west is still alive and well here thousands of miles from where it finally hit the actual west coast of the continent.