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Lessons From A Daffodil

Mother Nature likes to play in March. One day it’s glorious and spring-like, doors and windows flung open to the fresh air; the next it snows.

And what of the daffodils?

Fooled by the weather, some full-grown and giddy, their golden cups reach proudly for the sky. Then winter rains down again, and you feel sorry for them – yet, in the same breath, admiration. They’ve done this drill before. They’ve got looks, delicacy and toughness all wrapped up. We could learn a lesson or two from the daffodil.

Maybe it would be to rest in winter, allowing our roots to replenish.  And after the cold weary days have dragged on and on, be the first to send out hope, defiantly and boldly sprouting up in February’s first light.

And maybe then, ignoring suggestions like “it’s too soon, nobody else is growing yet”, or “don’t you know something bad could happen?”, or “ah, such a dreamer” – we stand by our conviction. We encourage others. We grow taller. We bask with confidence.

And when the inevitable happens (but is it inevitable? they say it is, so it must be) – when the inevitable bad thing showers down upon us ~ we cover our heads, huddle together, look inward and brave it out, the strength from our nourished roots holding us tight. Knowing this will pass. Knowing we’ll stand again, straight and tall. Knowing, that bending in the breeze and holding steady, we can bloom just as brightly after a storm.

Lifting hearts to hope and renewal. Resilience and determination. A bright disposition. If we could learn these simple things, perhaps that’s good enough.

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Friday Night Book Club: A Love Letter to Art

I cheated on this one. It’s not actually one of our book club books, but I’m going to recommend that it become one – because if you take love, art, World War II and the south of France and put them together in novel form, it’s an almost guaranteed win for me.

In Lisette’s List, Susan Vreeland transports us to the years between 1937 and 1948 – from the onset of war, to an increasingly distressed French countryside, to the war’s aftermath, to Paris, to the rebuilding of hearts and souls and cultural treasures – and in the process, composes what amounts to a kind of lavish love letter both to art and to Provence. Known for her art-based novels (A Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, and The Forest Lover among my personal favorites), perhaps affection was her intent; if so, she succeeded.

With imagined conversations involving Pissarro, Cezanne and Chagall, and main character Lisette’s passion to “learn what makes a painting great”, with the tragedies of war and the luxurious, natural beauty of southeastern France, Lisette’s List paints a feast of color, tones and textures, lovingly framed by a well woven story that’s beautifully blended with a rich cast of characters. Added bonus: you might never look at a painting quite the same way.

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Women Marching

Women are amazing. And millions of us joined together as one yesterday, in a triumphant display of sisterly solidarity, to protest… what exactly? I may ruffle some feathers here, but I’m missing something.

Here’s my just-one-person-in-a-sea-of-people perspective.

I’ve made my own way. I started my graphic design and illustration business when I was 27. I’ve raised my daughter as a single parent. Did being on my own make it harder? Absolutely! As a fairly private person, this is not a card I’ve often laid on the table, nor admitting that there have been times I’ve been on my knees wondering how it’d all work out. But going it alone didn’t stop me, nor did being a woman stop me. I didn’t feel I’d been gypped. It was my path. I went the distance. I’ve worked hard. I might do some things differently but I’d do it again. And maybe all that makes me a strong woman. It also had the side effect of strengthening my belief that we, as women, should support one another.

My daughter has said, “but Mom, not everyone is like you.” And that’s true – not everyone grew up free from the idea that a woman was somehow less than; not everyone grew up believing that she could be many things, that she wasn’t “just” anything. Not a homemaker or a wife or a mother or an astronaut or an artist or a teacher or a star Olympian. She could be and do whatever she wanted. No one said to me, “you can’t do that”.

All of this was a big deal in shaping my beliefs, and I do understand that not everyone had what I see as my good fortune. But it did allow me to see that girls – you – we – are amazing! And along the way of life I’ve met tons of truly wonderful women. Some have husbands and families, some do not, some work, some do not, some are on their own, some have support. And not all – perhaps not even most ­– had my kind of childhood. But a lot of us have reached the point where we realize we’re a pretty awesome species. We’re smart. We’re savvy. We’re compassionate. We’re creative, We’re nurturing. We’re strong. We’re survivors. We’re thrivers. We’re warriors. We’re angels. We all have different strengths and different weaknesses. We struggle mightily here and succeed wildly there. We are flawed and we are perfectly amazing.

We also appreciate those who paved the way before us. The voting revolution happened, the sexual revolution happened, women “broke the glass ceiling” in corporate America, women own businesses, we have freedom over our bodies. There are women world leaders. Women in the military. If anyone still isn’t getting equal pay for an equal job, demand it, fight for it. Nothing happens overnight, nor are things perfect, but history can attest to the enormous strides that have already put us in a position to do as we please. We’re a far cry from the Patriarchal societies that persecuted wise women and healers, or that relegated women to second class citizens with few rights and no voice. We’ve come a long way.

And so I loved the idea of yesterday’s unity. I’m just not sure what it was meant to achieve. Was this about “women’s rights”, “human rights”, or outrage about the election of someone you can’t stand? Was it about fear? Because the way I see it, we in America, in perhaps the entire first world, have it pretty good. What rights are we lacking? One glimpse at some less-fortunate countries shows us that women there have a much rougher go of things than our well-fed, well-clothed, freedom-to-protest selves could possibly imagine. They are the ones who know fear. They are the ones who need women’s rights issues taken by storm.

I’m looking for some sense here. Maybe, in the end, what the marching achieved was simply this: a wave of sisterhood. And that’s a good thing in and of itself.

I’m all for acknowledging concerns, giving them voice, lending a hand. Joining together for causes we believe in. Supporting one another. Stepping up, reaching out, knowing that the feminine is divine and strong and powerful. Claiming and embracing that goddess within ourselves and radiating our beautiful, fierce, gentle, wise spirit into the world. Continuing to share, teach, grow, and rise. Holding heads high. Believing you can.

But not complaining. Because, while our work is not done, we are already amazing.

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Love, Peace and Santa

Visions of sugarplums. Partridges in pear trees. Sleighbells. Snowmen. Bright red bows and brown paper packages. Reindeer on rooftops, stockings and candy canes, holly and nutcrackers. Angels singing. Hope. Goodwill. Peace. Love. Santa.

Yes, Santa Claus.

Granted, I’m not sure he wears a jolly red suit and drives eight flying reindeer over all the world on a single night. Nor am I convinced that he comes down chimneys. There are lots of questionable details. But is Santa merry? Is he generous? Kind? Loving? Do his eyes twinkle? Does he light up hearts on Christmas Eve? I say yes. And we sure could do with more light in this world.

Santa Claus – with a whole lot of helpers – shares much more than toys – he shares hope, and goodwill, and peace, and love.

Santa is goodness. Santa teaches the joy of giving. (And receiving, it’s true.) He’s ingenious. He’s magical. Knowing Santa is believing in something unbelievable! Something you can’t see. Something bigger than you. Something bright. Something miraculous. Santa Claus, you see, is a lot like faith.

So, yes, I do believe. And I tell you this – beyond the shopping, the wrapping and cooking and crowds; beyond the fuss, beyond frustrations or the too much or too little, lies magic. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I feel it each and every year, some time during Christmas Eve – a glimmer? a glow? the settling of hoofs on rooftops? – that fills my spirit with an extra sparkle; a brightness. And I think it’s because this holiday season is really about the gift of light, and the gift of joy.

I wish you the gifts of light and joy. I hope you’ll be merry. I hope you’ll be glad. And I hope you eat all the cookies you want. (But do leave some for Santa…!)

……………….

As usual, I go a little crazy making holiday designs. Here are a few to get you in the spirit, just in case you’re not already there – some old, some new. Blessings – Pbirdie4-redhat1

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Crazy for Books

I think books are pretty marvelous things, and that anything that encourages reading, inspires creativity and ignites the imagination is also marvelous. And because it’s gift-giving time, just maybe you or someone you know will consider some of my works worth the giving! It’s been a joy to create them, and an even greater joy to watch them being appreciated. I hope they’ll make lots of people happy this holiday season… the little and the tall, the big or the small; there’s something for all to enjoy. 😉

With peace, love and magic – Patricia

saxton_4books-promo_redWhere?

All books
Or individually:
52 Weeks of Peace
A Book of Fairies
Book of Dragons
The Book of Mermaids
Magnetic Mermaid Dress-up
Totes, mugs and more

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Thanksgiving Grace

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It’ll be Thanksgiving Day when this posts, and I hope everyone has a beautiful time of it, with bellies and hearts full.

Some tables will be overflowing, some spare – but wherever we are, the sentiment of gratitude is worth treasuring. It’s good to pause and reflect, and give thanks for our blessings, for the people we love, the gifts we have – as well as for the soil that allows our food to grow; for the sun and rain and wind, for the workers who oversee the crops, the delivery people and stock-the-shelves people and checkout people; the plates we serve our meals upon; the sweaters that keep us warm; the crews that keep our roads safe to travel and the neighbor who lends that last-minute package of spinach you need.

I’d have to add chocolate to my list, and tea, of course. And music and paint and pencils and the magic of creativity. And the coach who pushed me harder; the teacher who encouraged my best work; the stranger who made me smile on an especially bad day. For people who’ve laughed at my jokes, and those who showed me lovely things about myself that I didn’t see, and even those who made me see things I didn’t want to see or feel things I didn’t want to feel, because all of that, it turns out, builds character worth having. And if life is indeed a bowl of cherries (I’m not sure who came up with that one, or why, but we’ll go with it), we’d be well to appreciate the shiny parts as well as the pits, as one would not be so without the other.

Gratitude has no bounds, but today’s a perfect day to be extra thankful – and to send out a wish that yours will be filled with goodness and grace.

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Outrageous Happiness #6: Kaleidoscopes, Crayons and Rainbows

outrageous_colorThe world is mad, life is hard. Color is fun.

And right now, nature’s on full, gorgeous, dynamic display. Bursts of color sing all around, challenging our impulse to be dreary in the face of all that madness and hardness. So – notice. Drink it up. Revel in it. Let your mind splash around in it, your spirit bathe in it. Walk in it. Wear it. Paint it. Have fun with it.

True enough, rainbows don’t last and kaleidoscopes change. Crayons wear down, paints run out. Bright orange leaves turn brown and crumbly. A sky that’s blue can quickly turn gray. But there’s the beauty – everything recycles, refreshes and reboots. It always does. And we can, too.

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crayons2“If you’re feeling blue try painting yourself a different color.”
– Hannah Cheatem, age 8

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Friday Night Book Club

You should never read the ending of a book in the morning (kind of how you should never go to bed mad, or put sugar in herbal tea) – because what if someone comes to your door, and there you are sobbing.

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And if you’re not teary, you at least need some time to sit with it a while, linger a little, say good-bye to the characters you’ve met along the way. You need time to return to reality.

Fortunately, no one rang my doorbell when I finished reading A Man Called Ove this morning.

I didn’t expect to have so many emotions while reading this book. I didn’t expect to break out laughing. (Though I adore humor – who doesn’t? –  I’m a tough nut to crack when it comes to eliciting an actual “hahahahaha!” from books or movies.) And I didn’t expect to cry. I thought it might be filled with quirky people I didn’t particularly like. Turns out, it was filled with quirky people I did like. I also liked the writer’s often tongue-in-cheek writing style – another happy surprise, and not something everyone can pull off, but something Fredrik Backman did spectacularly well. And in the end, I had to accept the fact that this book touched me deeply. For whatever reason. I loved it. And I think most people will find that they, too, will laugh and cry and feel.

………

For you book lovers out there who might like to read along virtually, my friends and I gather on the first Friday of each month. Some other Book Club books we’ve read since my last Friday Night Book Club posting (which, I confess, has been quite a while) are – in order of preference, my favorites first: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sender, The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman, Circling the Sun by Paula McClain, The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

I’m also reading Diana Gabaldon’s entire Outlander Series outside of Book Club, because I’m obsessed with them. Currently on book five, The Fiery Cross. And I have a long list of books on my GoodReads author page if anyone wants to connect over there.

Peace, love, happy reading.

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go

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My father blamed our year in Germany for my wanderlust. We lived in Karlsruhe, where each weekday morning I walked a tree-lined, cobblestoned path with my brothers and sister to meet our school bus. I was in kindergarten, which meant I got out early, so my Mom would take me exploring after school, often having me translate (because as a kid you pick up languages really fast, especially if you want Sabina, Helga and Petra to like you), and often involving ice cream or Toblerone bars. Towards the end of our stay, we traveled to I don’t know how many countries (I got a doll in each one, and the collection was fairly substantial), and I relished every minute. At 5 years old, the world was my oyster – and indeed, that whole experience may have set me on an irreversible path of desire to see as much of the world as possible.

Since then, I’ve come eye to eye with an elephant in Kenya, got sick on the Nile, slept in hammocks in Mexico’s Yucatan jungle, Greek Island hopped, was reprimanded at St. Peter’s cathedral for my too-short skirt, reveled in Venice’s waterways, swam in pristine natural pools under hidden waterfalls and lots more. Here at home I’ve gotten a taste of the my own country’s north, south, east and west. And there’s SO MUCH more to see. Oh the places I still hope to go…!

That said, just recently I got to visit the great country state of Texas, where everything is bigger. I loved Austin’s Tuscany-like hills and funky shops, and San Antonio’s rich history housed in limestone architecture. I did not buy new cowboy boots, but did see lots of little lizards, was treated to Texas barbecue ( a “must” I was told), ate lots of fajitas (my favorites were at Austin’s Güero’s on South Congress), enjoyed graffiti walls and art spaces, and had an absolutely fantastic time with my Texan friends.

All of which was in somewhat stark contrast to another recent trip, where I’d gone north to the Finger Lakes region of New York State – where everything gets cold and very snowy in winter – and fell a little in love with a small town on a crystal clear lake, surrounded by farms, vineyards and well-kept, New-England-ish homes. Oh so lush and pretty.

I don’t know what’s next, but for now it’s time to hunker down again at home, where there are designs to be designed and books to be written and paintings to paint. Oh, and bills to pay and rooms to keep clean.

But here’s the best part – I can still go places even when I’m sitting still. Places of the mind, places ignited by ideas and imagination. Places conjured by thought, or a view, a conversation or a moment. A dash of color, the way a leaf is lit by the setting sun. A song, a train whistle, children laughing, crickets chirping. The scent of rain, or a flower, or dinner roasting. Something in a dream, something in a story. The tumbling of ocean waves.

You go don’t have to be someplace grand. Granted, I’ll be the first to say “I want to go there!”– but the places your imagination can take you can be equally grand. Places your mind can take you by learning new things can be equally priceless. Places your feet can take you can be equally inspiring. Just by being present, observant; experiencing the world around you, listening to the world within you, stretching your senses – oh the places you’ll go! And isn’t life richer when you do.

 

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stepbystep2“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” 
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

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Outrageous Happiness #4: Being Fabulous

No, really.

When life is annoying, it’s good to remember how fabulous you are. You know, like when there’s the guy on the highway who thinks he’s in a bat-mobile, weaving in and out of cars at top speed, or when your laptop freezes, or when people talk during the show in a movie theater.

Or maybe your friends are too busy, it’s rained for ten days straight, the afghan you made is lopsided, and the clerk at the store is rude. And that person who thinks everyone wants to hear the music in their car from 5 blocks away? That neighbor who practices dixieland songs on his trumpet at 10PM? Loud and clear, roger that.

Your car won’t start. Your phone battery dies. Politicians sap your faith in humankind. Your head hurts. You’re out of milk. Your toast burned. Your clients are late to pay. Ketchup spills on your white shirt. You get all the red lights. Your flight is cancelled. You manage to pick the slowest grocery check-out line, and they were out of your favorite ice cream.

But YOU are fabulous. To quote the marvelous Dr. Seuss: “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

Go with it. Embrace your inner fabulousness. Practice some self-love. It’s great revenge for life’s disappointments.

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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