A Beautiful Lesson in the Art of Giving and Receiving

Today I went for a walk, little did I know that I would be taught a most valuable lesson about giving and receiving, from a 4 year old girl.

About 1/2 way through my walk I crossed paths with two women and 5 little girls who were enjoying the sights along the canal. I couldn’t help but notice the little blonde girl walking toward me and how proudly she held four goose feathers in her hands.

She looked up at me and stretched out her hands, “would you like one of my beautiful feathers?”

“Of course I would, thank you so much for such a wonderful gift.”

Her entire body, not just her face, lit up with the pleasure she felt in giving me this very precious gift.

As I walked away, goose feather in hand, I wasn’t sure quite what to do. It was clear that to her, this was not a dirty goose feather, it was magical and beautiful. Tossing it aside wasn’t an option. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing her face if we crossed paths again and I had tossed aside her gift.

The perfect solution came to me and I tucked the feather into my pony tail.

I thought about the nature of giving and receiving. It’s become clear to me that being a good receiver is equally important as being a generous giver. This tiny girl’s face lit up the world with joy when I accepted her gift, I can’t help but think that her light would have dimmed if her gift had been rejected or ignored.

On the final stretch of my walk I encountered the group again. Tiny brown eyes looked up at me asking, “do you still have the feather I gave you?”

I pointed to my pony tail and turned around on the path, “what do you think?”

“I think it’s beautiful,” she said.

“I do too.”

She held out the three remaining feathers, “would you like one more?”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Oh yes, you need two.”

“Shall I put this one in my pony tail also?”

Tiny hands clapped and she said “yes.”

I tucked the second goose feather into my hair and turned so she could see it.

“Oh my, you look like you have two beautiful birds on your head.”

Words can’t describe the warmth that filled my heart or the smile that spread over my face and hers.


Artist’s note: The feature image represents my interpretation of the day. Out of context I doubt it has much meaning, but I like to think that my little friend would find it beautiful.


Truth, Knowledge, Happiness – If I write what I really think…

flower garden doodle journal inspiration

There are no three bigger words in our vocabulary outside of truth, knowledge, and happiness. Each word taunts us, each word beguiles us, each word makes us hope we can figure out why we’re here on earth and what we have to live for.

I started writing and sharing my thoughts publicly a few years ago. My kids and I have had more than a few laughs over my being mystified that people could “find me on the internet.

I’ve sporadically shared my thoughts through writing and art over the past four years. For the most part, each post has been carefully considered before publishing it. Several thoughts in my mind –

  • if i write what i really think, will the people i love still love me?
  • if i write what i really think, will the people i love still respect me?
  • if i write what i really think, will the people i love listen and be open to what i believe?
  • if i write what i really think…..

would it open people’s hearts and minds?


I think it might.

I’m “Drawing the Line”

Life is full of ironies if one is paying attention.

Over Thanksgiving, I registered for a drawing class at the Princeton Arts Council. The description of the class emphasized expanding on basic drawing skills and learning how to compose a piece of art from concept to completion.

It sounded challenging and appropriate for my current skill and confidence level. As luck (or fate) would have it, the class was cancelled and reminiscent of 3 years ago, I was offered the opportunity to attend a more advanced class as an alternative. Unlike 3 years ago, I accepted the alternative option without hesitation.

When I received the email that the class had been canceled, I couldn’t help but think back to the first day of my drawing class three years ago and how hesitant and uncertain I was.

What I didn’t realize then, but I know now is that art is all about lines. To quote a friend of mine, “Line quality is a big element in art and it is elementary and needs consideration. Even if ignored, line quality should be a considered choice.

To be honest, my first drawing blew me away – I seriously had no idea that anything like this was hiding inside of me. It took me weeks to complete, but in the end I was amazed at what came out of my pencils.

sunflower_first drawing in over 20 years

What strikes me now, looking back at it is the lack of certainty in the lines. They’re technically correct and the shading is really quite nice, but the lines lack confidence and purpose.

Contrast the drawing of the sunflower with a recent doodle, a surrealistic or maybe fanciful tree:

tree of hope

The lines are strong and considered.

I debated about whether or not the drawing was finished. The black and white lines were mesmerizing, but it didn’t feel “done.”

The lines were ready to be embellished with color.

tree of hope

Ironically, the description of the class I will be starting on Tuesday includes this:

Color is not just a “pretty embellishment”, but has a profound significance and role in our visual perception and, subsequently, is a powerful tool in our art making. Understanding these functions of color is the focal point of this class.

The class is geared toward “students with experience in drawing and painting.”

It’s clear that I’ll be taking a class with students far more advanced than me, but on the other hand, I’ve learned a lot about “drawing the line” and my recent experiences tell me that it’s more than OK to let those “lines” take you to a new place.

Welcoming the New Year with an Open Heart

I had this really great and “philosophical” post about new years resolutions written and ready to post and I made one wrong move and all 700 words or more are now somewhere in cyberspace never to be read.

Maybe it was a sign that I was being too preachy rather than writing from my heart.

Long story short, I decided to take a different approach to setting resolutions or goals for the new year. Instead of setting goals like “losing weight” or “regaining physical fitness” (both of which I need to do),instead I let my subconscious flow through art.

I created two lists, the first one contains very specific things that I want in a relationship. As I drew, I focused on my desires and let them guide me. It looks like a dream-catcher or a tambourine – maybe I was channeling my inner Stevie Nicks. 🙂


The second list was bigger – it was my version of a New Year’s resolution.

new years resolutions

In a nutshell, my resolutions boil down to this:

  • Believe in yourself
  • Rejoice in your gifts
  • Explore the unknown
  • Accept compliments
  • Refrain from judging without understanding
  • Love and take care of yourself so that you may serve and give to others

Above all else know that we are all worthy of love and happiness.

new years resolutions_dreamcatcher_i am worthy

Happy 2015!

Lying Dormant Under the Layers of Self-Doubt are the Seeds of Our True Beauty

Tuesday was a strange day. I started the morning with a plan of action in mind, one which quickly unraveled.

The plan included taking my youngest son to the train station for his morning commute to Drexel, it did not include a phone call, “Mom I forgot my wallet at home.”

No wallet = no train ticket = an unplanned drive into Philly.

Although the unexpected trip disrupted my plans it also presented an opportunity to spend some time listening to music and chatting with my son, which for me is always a treat. He’s always introducing me to music that I enjoy and never would have found on my own and we both enjoy talking about weird things.

He often surprises me with food for thought and yesterday was no exception.

“Mom, I saw a proverb this morning that I think you would really like,” he said.

“Oh yeah, what is it?”

“Well, the quote says it’s a Mexican proverb but I’m not really sure about that, but the saying is this: They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”


That immediately conjured up an image in my mind, one that I carried with me throughout the rest of the day and into the night. What I saw in my mind had to do with overcoming the power of self-doubt and flourishing as an individual.

Unsure about how to draw what I felt, I turned to my writing journal instead. After three pages of writing,  reflecting,  and thinking, a full grown tree and flowers in bloom accompanied by the words my son had shared with me emerged in a rough form on 4th page. (sometimes my pen does take on a mind of its own)

they tried to bury us_they didn't know we were seeds

Of all the ironies, I misspelled one of the words. I crossed it out, wrote it correctly, and kept on drawing. Truth to be told, when I first started journaling I never considered drawing in it and I couldn’t complete an entry if I misspelled something. Rather than crossing out the word and continuing on I ripped out the page and started over.

Over the past few years I’ve learned that perfectionism is the enemy of creativity and self-doubt is the fuel for limitation. I’ve come to believe that no one limits our growth more than we do ourselves.

I chose to share this entry, not because it’s a beautiful drawing but because I hope it illustrates a point.

No one is perfect and we all have doubts, we just owe it to ourselves to not let feelings of self-doubt keep us from becoming who we are meant to be.


Drum with music notes - Ink Drawing

Have you ever heard of Horace Walpole? Neither had I until this morning after Googling the origin/definition of the word serendipity. It turns out it was coined by Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford in 1754.

It’s interesting that a word that means fortunate happenstance was defined by a man described as an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician.

Serendipity is one of my all-time favorite words and I’m often reminded of how many of my experiences and opportunities are nothing I could have orchestrated. It boggles my mind to think about how everything that happens in life becomes intertwined.

One event, often-times an unpleasant or unwanted one, can result in an outcome that is better than we could have imagined and it exposes us to new ideas, people, and possibilities.

A few years ago my chiropractor had to close the doors on his practice. I was devastated and had no idea how I was ever going to find someone to take his place and provide the same type of care and support.

Location was the only criteria I used to choose a new doctor from the list of recommendations. Since I knew nothing about any of them and I have a track record of getting lost in unfamiliar areas, it made the most sense to pick the one closest to my house.

Enter serendipity

I’ve now been seeing her for almost 3 years and it’s become increasingly clear that she isn’t a doctor you go to see because your back hurts, she’s a person you see because you want to live a full life and understand what it means to accept who you are and how to tap into your potential. She understands a lot about how the mind, the body, and the universe are intertwined.

Her teaching and healing practices have introduced me to many new ideas and techniques. Among my favorites are  NET (neural emotional technique), the teachings of Louise Hay, and drum circles.

She hosts a drum circle the second Friday of the month and it’s an event I do my best not to miss. Never in a million years did I think that I would be comfortable sitting among a group of strangers while playing a drum or another type of percussion instrument, but I am.

Drum with music notes - Ink Drawing

Last night the group was an equal mix of regulars and newbies which is always fun. Sometimes the music we make is more orchestra-like and the sets ebb and flow with a sense of purpose and beauty.

Other times, like last night, the beat is more primal and the sounds of each individual drum are more prevalent. The music may have been a little more off-beat but still beautiful in its own unique way.

The leader of the drum circle ends each evening with a meditation. His gentle words guide our imaginations to beautiful beaches, mountains, forests, and other beautiful places where the night skies are always filled with stars and the days are sunny, warm, and breezy.

Last night we took flight and drifted peacefully over a meadow reaching down to touch the softness of the multicolored petals of the flowers below us.

Ink Flower with multi-colored petals

It’s strange to think that I might have missed out on these experiences if not for an unexpected and undesired disruption. Serendipity is all around us; it’s a matter of being open to new possibilities.

You’re a Poet and You Didn’t Even Know It

Lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of being “present.” Some people call it mindfulness others call it being aware; in either case I think it means making the most out of what we have and being open to the possibility that there are gifts inside of us that have yet to be discovered.

This fall has been one of adjustments. After a year of being an empty-nester, my youngest son has returned to Pennsylvania and is living at home. He switched colleges and is living the life of a commuter student for the next year.

We share a car, the train station is two miles from our house, and although we’re still trying to nail down the timing of buying a monthly train pass we’ve adapted to our new schedule fairly well.

Every once in a while the opportunity for a walk to or from the train station presents itself. I frequently stop and take pictures along the way; it’s amazing how many hidden treasures we overlook as we hurry through life.


This has been a glorious autumn in Pennsylvania. It may be Mother Nature or it may be recent changes in my life that have caused me to pay more attention to the vibrant reds in this year’s fall foliage. Whatever the case may be, this brilliant tree definitely caught my eye.

Japanese Maple

The picture isn’t that great – truth to be told, the road from the train station to my house is fairly busy and it’s a not the best place to stop and take pictures. My kids would be worried about me if they knew I was stopping along the road to snap pics with my smartphone so let’s keep this our secret. 😉

The snapshot was good enough to serve as inspiration for an ink drawing.


The leaves were much more challenging than I expected. It took more than a bit of experimenting and a few pieces of drawing paper filled with failed experiments found their way into the fireplace.

I guess in reality they weren’t really failed experiments – just exploration. As soon as I realized that I was trying too hard and took a step back from trying to “please” to just creating things began to take shape.

The answer turned out to be a combination of fine point ink pens and brush tip markers.

I posted the tree on FB as well and one of my aunts made this comment:

I really(!) like this Beth-I immediately thought the tree had one giant leaf on it with fall colors and the ground(swirls) were the fall wind ready to send the leaves into the air.

It inspired some swirling art that creates the image of fall winds and leaves swirling to the ground.


So you may be asking what any of this has to do with “You’re a Poet and You Even Didn’t Know It.”

Until a few years ago I had no idea I was a writer and even less of a clue that I am an artist. Those gifts were hidden inside of me, overlooked and suppressed due to life’s circumstances. There’s no blame to be laid and there are no regrets, I’m simply happy to have discovered that it’s never too late to learn and grow.


My guess is that there are more than a few artists, writers, musicians, poets, and creators of beauty and inspiration that do so without even knowing what they do.

We are all more than we give ourselves credit for.

There is Inspiration Everywhere – An Autumn Walk

A few weeks ago I found my way back to getting myself out the front door for at least semi-regular walks in the sunshine. A huge improvement over no walks at all! 🙂

I’m torn about taking my phone along with me on my walks. On the one hand it makes it harder to unplug from the world for an hour or so but on the other hand it’s a good idea from a safety perspective and I also have found the camera useful on more than a few occasions.

I found the vibrant pinks and greens in this patch of flowers to be captivating.

flower garden doodle journal inspiration

It inspired an ink journal entry, which oddly enough was a first for me. This photo was the first time that I used something I captured/created as inspiration for a drawing.

flower garden doodle journal

Although I really like the loose, whimsical, unfinished nature of this entry into my ink journal, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more waiting to be created.

My youngest son is taking a design class and one of his first assignments involved using tracing paper to capture the lines from one drawing or picture and transfer them onto a piece of drawing paper. It’s kind of like making a carbon copy by hand.

When I saw what he was doing with his drawings, the idea hit me and I asked if I could use a sheet of tracing paper. Surprisingly the 4 x 6 inch ink journal entry scaled quite nicely to 8.5 x 11. It was time consuming but somewhat therapeutic to trace the lines of the petals on to the tracing paper.

Transferring the Graphite_flower garden_2
Transferring the graphite from the tracing paper to the sheet of watercolor paper was downright fun!
Transferring the Graphite_flower garden_3
When I lifted the tracing paper and could barely see the lines on the paper it made me a bit skeptical,

Transferring the Graphite_flower garden_complete

but it seemed like there was enough definition to keep on going –  so I used watercolor pencils to darken the lines and begin to add color.

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_1

I have to admit that I was surprised and delighted at how vibrant the colors became after adding water.

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_3

I spent several evenings listening to my Enya Radio station on Pandora while filling in the drawing petal by petal.

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_10a1
I’m a self proclaimed Geek (and proud of it) so I frequently take progress pictures when I’m working on something that evolves over several sessions.

I found it fascinating to capture the color transformation between before

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_10b
and after I “watered” the flowers.
Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_10d
There is always that final moment, the last little bit that needs to be completed, in which I take a deep breath and hope that I don’t somehow make a mistake that will ruin the entire piece. My guess is that I’m not alone when it comes to that.

I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten pretty good at turning an “oops”  into a “happy accident” so I didn’t freak out when the final lines drawn were deep blue and not purple – somehow it works.

Water Color Pencil_Flower Garden_Final
One of the reasons this drawing is so special to me is that it represents so many positive changes in my life over the past few years. Not the least of which is being given a second chance in life.

I also think that it’s an interesting example of how we might start out with one vision or image but along the way it morphs and evolves into something that looks nothing like the original but is equally as beautiful in it’s own way.

Life is a journey and we never know how one experience is going to influence the next one.

I hope you enjoy the time-lapse video version of the project.

Two Steps Forward & One Step Back = A Giant Leap Forward

We’ve all experienced times in our life when it feels like everything is going in the wrong direction and you can’t turn around without facing another obstacle that seems impossible to overcome. Then, when you least expect it all of the pieces fall into place and both the present and the future are bright and beautiful.

Things got off to a rough start in 2014. I can’t say it was much fun to experience the major winter storms, a terrifying blow out on the interstate, three separate power outages, multiple nights without power, more than a few unexpected (and expensive car repairs), and last but not least a pair of broken eye glasses.

It  would be an understatement to say I was less than positive after the long winter, I was downright depressed. I’m affected by seasonal depression and this year the state of sadness lingered well into the spring. Thankfully I learned about the teachings of Louise Hay just when I needed it most.

If you’re not familiar with Louise Hay, she’s a metaphysical lecturer and teacher who believes we all have the power to heal what’s broken in our lives and attract positive outcomes by changing our mental patterns. Positive affirmations are an integral part of her teachings and work.

Her book inspired me to find a positive way to cope with my feelings of depression and hopelessness. It started as a personal challenge to create one small piece of artwork and focus on a positive thought for each day. It somehow morphed into an online journal and 125 consecutive days of writing.

My early entries into the art journal were direct quotes from Louise Hay, author of “You can Heal Your Life.” In fact the original plan was to use one of her direct quotes as the message for the day. After about five or six entries into the project I changed direction and began using her affirmations as inspiration and wrote a positive saying of my own. Each piece of art also has an accompanying journal entry that ties into the saying.

I am Perfectly Imperfect

In addition to changing my approach to the actual words of inspiration, the process for creating the individual pieces of art started one way and ended up being completely different. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t very practical to paint the card and create the artwork one at a time, so I changed my approach and started to paint anywhere from 10 to two dozen at a time.

water color backgrounds

For the most part I used every piece I created without trying to make each one “perfect.” I used my mistakes as opportunities to create “happy accidents.”

I accept a helping hand

I was able to correct a fair number of misspellings by turning the letter into a flower or butterfly, however there ended up being more than a few that couldn’t be used. In some cases the background was too dark and in other cases I just didn’t like my choice of words.

Initially I ripped up the pieces that didn’t work and tossed them into the trash because I didn’t want to be reminded of the mistake and the lack of forward progress. Then one night it occurred to me that there might be some value in them and I began to store the tiny pieces of colored paper in a plastic sandwich bag.

Trees were a recurring theme throughout the project so it seemed appropriate to find a way to create one final tree out of the scraps. My original idea was to draw the tree trunk in ink and create the leaves out of the paper fragments.

Tree of Dreams Sketch
As tends to happen in art (and in life) the plan changed with new information and experiences. As I experimented it became obvious that the entire tree was meant to be created in the form of a collage.

Tree of Dreams and

The next step included glue – not for the feint of heart. The process took several nights of gluing, patience, and guts. I was happy with the outcome but it didn’t feel quite finished.Tree of dreams without background
At the risk of ruining several hours worth of work, I decided to add a background.

After the first installment I was certain I’d made a critical error and my choice would result in ruining the beautiful tree. The orange was “too orange” and nothing felt like it was blending together in a way that made sense. After all of the forward progress I was back to wondering whether or not the collage would turn out well.

I seem to be wired to keep going even when it feels like there’s no hope in sight and so I kept gluing. The final outcome couldn’t be further from my original vision and I also couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Tree of dreams final

I’ve learned a lot about myself and life through art. It’s not about where you start or even where you finish. It’s how we handle the collection of steps along the way that sometimes feel all wrong but end up leading us to exactly the right outcome.