Thursday, April 27, 2017

am i relevant?

a few weeks ago i ran into a high school friend's mother at meijer. we had a delightful chat. she updated me on her family and i updated her on my mom. she talked about missing the responsibility of working, of having too much time on her hands and the burden of finding things to do to keep busy. it made me think.

over the last few years, my almost 87 year old mom has mentioned occasionally that she wishes she had a job. i know she misses being around people and having meaningful work. i gave her the idea of knitting baby hats to donate to local hospitals. she took on that task with gusto and delivered large numbers of hats several different times. this made me think.

a friend messaged me recently about seeking meaningful tasks for her mom to perform in assisted living. her mom was still healthy enough to want to do for others. this gave me pause.

i've seen so many mothers lose a part of themselves when their kids leave the nest. they search for ways for their lives to still have meaning. we are a sisterhood of women looking for ways to give our lives meaning.

these and so many other stories and experiences have me thinking about relevance. how do we continue to be relevant in today's society as we age? describes relevance as being connected with the matter at hand. for the purpose of this blog post, i'm expanding that definition to include: important, significant, engaged, beneficial and productive.

as young women, we are relevant in a variety of ways. we have careers. our opinions matter. our partners count on us. we nurture children. we change our communities, our world. all of that relevance is heady stuff. like a drug, we become addicted to the satisfaction of being needed, making a difference and being relevant.

i think that as we age, the need to prove something to the world decreases. we've raised happy, productive children who are contributing to society. we've reached our career goals. we are financially secure. we've achieved many of our goals and dreams. and, so, we start to ask ourselves what's next? what is the value of my life? am i important? what is my relevance? we are missing the drug that kept us happy and satisfied when we were younger. or, maybe, we aren't as frantically busy so we have more time to dwell on these things. smile

there also new physical, mental and confidence issues to deal with as we age. people say age is only a number and i agree that there is truth in that. but fighting back and holing on to all those faculties is a real battle that affects our abilities to remain relevant.

a few years ago i blogged about earning and maintaining respect from young(er) co-workers. you can read it here. there is a "hanging on" facet in the workplace as we age and close the gap to retirement. it's a balancing act to keep up with new trends and technologies while promoting (defending?) the expertise you've accumulated in a long career.

one thing that strikes me daily about social media is the way it helps to support, bolster and encourage the need for women to be relevant. a woman can become interested in hostas, research hostas, photograph hostas, blog about hostas and quickly be considered an expert. she's made herself relevant to the dozens, hundreds or thousands of people who frequent her blog, instagram and facebook feeds. she's found her new drug (thanks, Huey Lewis) and thrives on the benefits of being relevant.

a couple of years ago, an acquaintance said to me, "oh you have your art. you're creative. you can do so many things. i have nothing." although i felt empathy for her, i thought, "what are you waiting for? find YOUR thing and do it." we each only get one life to live. for gosh sake, go for it. live it.

in case i'm coming off as a know-it-all who has it all together, um, there is literally no truth in that. at all. i struggle with a great many things. a lesson i've learned the hard way lately is that sometimes i have to just get out of my own stubborn way. i think we get stuck in certain thought patterns, sometimes negative ones, sometimes self-defeating ones. we think that because we've chosen a certain path that we have to follow that path in a straight, linear fashion. we feel stuck, maybe defeated. i had to challenge myself to set myself aside, to get past my negativity and CHOOSE to travel on my path in different ways. i'm still headed in the same direction but i'm skipping, dancing, hopping and laughing along the way. okay, some days i'm limping, stumbling, crying and beating myself up. what's important is that i DECIDED to stop hanging my head down and dragging my feet. it's made a big difference. big.

so, today i ask myself: am i relevant? i want to be relevant. now and at 70 and at 80 i want to feel important, significant, engaged, beneficial and productive. oh, what a wonderful world it is that i get to CHOOSE how i will continue to try to be relevant. i've said it before -- choice is a powerful thing.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

small expectations

recently, i read about a fictional character who felt overburdened by the weight of others' expectations. it gave me pause.

no matter how casual or entangled a relationship is, there are always expectations.

when i was little, my parents expected me to eat my vegetables, be polite, keep quiet in church and get good grades. although i was quite mischievous at times, i was never burdened with doing what was expected of me.

in school, i enjoyed the challenges of meeting and exceeding the expectations of teachers. i followed the rules and was obedient.

i don't recall having difficulty with meeting expectations in the numerous jobs i've had over the many years of my career. for the most part i was a give me the goal you want to achieve and then get out of my way while i do it kind of worker. no one complained about the results i produced.

meeting expectations in entangled adult relationships has been a stumbling block for me. that's all i'm going to say about that.

as a 64 year old woman who lives alone, i have few expectations to manage other than those of my my employer. i do what i want, when i want. i like this about the life i've created. sometimes i feel guilty but rarely burdened. it's taken years to understand myself and what i need to be truly happy. i thrive on lots of quiet time, hours to be alone with my thoughts, to read, craft, sew, walk in the woods. i really don't want a lot of responsibility or expectations. spending time with my kids and grandkids is the big exception. when guilty thoughts of things i should be doing for others seep into my head, i remind myself that we each only get one life to live. if this makes me selfish, then i totally own that word.

on the flip side, i try to have few expectations of others. it's hard for me to ask for help. by keeping my life simple and small, i have fewer needs and so ask less of others. it works for me.

that dude up top is kiefer fynn nash. kiefer is a german surname meaning pine tree or barrel maker. fynn means bright and fair in gaelic. nash is a surname derived from middle english meaning at the ash tree. i imagine him as a woodsman, adept at identifying all the trees, gathering kindling, chopping down trees. he's quiet, contemplative, kind to nature and animals, a loner like me.

when not in the woods, kiefer sits and watches me work all day. he has zero expectations of me. my only expectation of fynn is that he sit quietly. this relationship works for me.

Friday, April 14, 2017

would i, should i, could i go to the woods

when asking myself the question, "would i, should i, could i go to the woods?" the answer is yes. always yes. there's something primal in the forest that speaks to my inner soul. the cycle of birth, death, decay and rebirth is apparent in every season. each of my senses awakens and feasts.

my almost-40 year old son asked me to accompany him to the woods last sunday. he said, "let's just go poke around." we were lured by the possibility of finding morels but it was very dry and we repeatedly told each other we were just a bit too early, maybe next sunday after it rains and the nights are warmer.

there was a quiet so quiet that you could hear the leaves rustle in the gentle breeze.

a lone woodpecker's call brought back memories of Woody Woodpecker in the living room with my siblings long, long ago.

chunky, peeling vines spiraling through trees reminded me of playing Tarzan in the big woods as a child.

matt found two fossils in the stream bed and i pocketed a piece of misty blue "sea" glass.

stumbling on the first may apples, the early spring beauties and the tiniest of toadstools was delightful.

but my favorite thing was finding the little boy still alive and well in my grown son. just as he did when he was 7, 9 and 11, matt noticed (and identified) everything  --  the dying bark on an ash tree, the woodpecker holes in a fallen log, the pheasant tail shelf mushrooms. his intellect and knowledge never cease to amaze me. when he peered up into the trees to find the noisy woodpecker, i saw the 7 year-old matt with binoculars around his neck. as he placed a fossil in his medicine bag i remembered the magpie matt who hunted/gathered bones in the woods as a child. oh, how i cherish those bittersweet glimpses of my first-born child.

this week i upped my walking game to an hour plus and i pulled out the five pound weights with a goal of 10-15 minutes a day. getting older and becoming more feeble is somewhat inevitable. but, i am determined to have many more years of getting out into the woods. my fervent wish is to still be able to say yes, always yes, when matt says let's just go poke around in the woods. at 70, at 75, at 80 years of age.

my other fervent wish is that when i am those ages, my kids will still see the younger me in my eyes and zest for living.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

on sunday evening my daughter texted me, "don't be so hard on yourself."

she knows me well. i'm stubborn, independent, determined and yes, hard on myself. these traits are most evident when i get an idea for a diy project that is probably beyond my skill level. but, i want to do it myself. i know that there will be tears and cussing and massive frustration. but i want to do it myself.

here's the story.

i stumbled on a library book about vertical gardening in a raised bed. i read it front to back in an evening and made a list of what i'd have to buy: 2x6x8s, 2x2s, 2x4x8s and deck screws. at lowe's, i enlisted the help of a young man who seemed skeptical about my ability to construct a raised vegetable bed. he cut the pieces to my requested lengths and loaded it all in my van. "good luck," he said with a smile.

at Tractor Supply, i purchased a roll of rabbit fencing with the right size holes, loaded it in my van and smiled about all the veggies i would grow.

the supplies sat in the back of my van for weeks while i waited for Mother Nature to cooperate. this last sunday morning, i laid my camping tarp out on the ground in the back yard and unloaded all the supplies from my van. there was a drill bit in my drill that i needed to remove. i couldn't figure out how to remove the drill bit as it had been a couple of years since i'd used it.  i pushed every button and turned every knob. nothing worked. so, of course, i googled it. twenty minutes later i had the drill bit out and inserted the thingy that came with the box of deck screws. it fell down into the drill. i had lost the nib or jib or whatever that thingy is that holds that other thingy in the drill that allows me to screw instead of drill. it was nowhere to be found in my plastic case of drill bits. twenty minutes later i had managed to tighten the drill enough to hold that first thingy in place.

fast forward another twenty minutes and i've figured out that the screws will not drive into the yellow pine without me pre-drilling holes. out with the thingy and in with the drill bit that i think is the closest size i have to the screws i've purchased. i don't own a work table or saw horses. i'm sitting on a tarp on the ground with the 2x6x8' boards standing on their 2" sides on the ground. i attempt to drill holes into the wood while holding the drill perpendicular and horizontal to the surface. as i'm doing this i am totally aware that drilling is much more effective when drilling down vertically into a board. but i'm stubborn and determined to do it my way.

forty minutes later, i'm sweating and crying and my right hand aches from holding the drill. i have managed to drill 3 holes. each hole is way bigger than the screws i plan to use because the board keeps leaning and falling while i'm drilling. at this point my language has guttered and my sleeve is covered in snot.

i give up.

i load everything back in my van. i go inside for a shower.

i pout, stew, worry, fret and beat myself up. i eat a piece of rhubarb pie and warm up my coffee. my main train of thought is that ten years ago i could have easily built this dang thing. by myself. (i'm not 100% sure there is truth in this belief). i admit to myself that this is another indication of my pending old age. it's not just physical, it's mental. my mind fogs easily and breaks down when i let anger and frustration seep into my emotions. i feel defeated. i cry.

after reading for an hour or so i convince myself that there is no shame in asking for help. i text my son and he says of course he will help me. he said from the beginning that he would build it. i wanted to do it myself. i cry again.

a note about the tears. i am not prone to crying or feeling sorry for myself except when i'm feeling vulnerable. "i'm getting old" thoughts have creeped into my consciousness more and more lately. it's hard for me to have a strong will to fight back when the weather is cold. fighting back gets harder. giving in becomes easier. and diminished brain capacity comes with giving in. it's a vicious cycle that many (most?) of us fight. spring/summer/fall foster feeling young(er).

later that night i was reading and texting with my daughter about a random variety of things and shared a snippet of this story. that's when she strongly suggested that i not be so hard on myself.

i continued reading while letting the events of the day play out in my head. and like a light bulb being illuminated, an image of nails popped into my head. hot damn! who says i need to use an electric drill/screw driver?! a friend has loaned me a three pound hammer. i can hammer this damn raised bed together. hot damn! i'm back in the game.

my grandson Ben accompanied me to the hardware store yesterday. he knew right where the nails were. he knew to weigh them in the scale and put them into a paper bag. he said to write the price on the bag with the pencil. when i asked him if he would help me hammer the boards together he replied sure.

i still have hope of building this raised bed. but maybe not by myself.

Friday, March 31, 2017


i've been thinking about when we each become our own true selves. is it when we become adults? parents for the first time? when we land our dream job and excel at it? do we ever stop growing emotionally or striving to be our own best self?

i remember reading on a favorite blog a few years ago that people in the writer's hometown were accusing her of "reinventing herself" on her blog. all i could think was what's wrong with that? we each do that to a certain extent at each stage of our lives. headed off to Ball State University in the fall of 1971, i had an opportunity to explore new people, interests and adventures, reinventing  myself along the way. when i became a mother for the first time, i got to decide what kind of mother i would be. when my kids left the nest i became interested in art, photography, blogging and so much more. i'm certainly not the same person i was in 1998 because i've challenged myself to grow and evolve.

on social media we get to show snippets of our lives. we rarely show our dirty underwear on the floor or the crappy, soap-crusted shower curtain liner hanging in our tub. i love Instagram for its plethora of stylized photos of mundane things -- acorns on a bed of moss, tree reflections in a cup of tea, gorgeous knitted works in progress beside a homemade cranberry scone come to mind. but, we all know that those lovely people have dirty little secrets around their house just like we do. we don't necessarily see their own true selves. but, i am confident that they are growing and evolving.

i'm well aware that these thoughts are in the forefront of my mind because the time is coming for me to make retirement decisions. or not. for years, i've felt like i never get enough free time to do everything i want to do so working part time is attractive to me. i could instantly type a dozen things i'd like to explore just in the arts and crafts category. conversations on this topic often have me telling people that i think i might be a nicer person if i don't work full time. i also know that i am happiest when i'm busy.

but, mostly i'm thinking about who i want to be for the next 20 years. i unfurled some pretty big wings a few years ago so i could fly to the life i wanted. one thing i know for sure is that i'm not finished flying yet. there just might be a new set of wings waiting to be unfurled.

who will you be in five years? in ten? are you yearning to unfurl your wings and fly?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

for me. for therapy. for memory

often, when the pondering in my head starts to outgrow my brain capacity, i feel the need to capture my thoughts. write them down. edit, slash, delete, rearrange, mix, mingle and ease them. perhaps put them in a little bottle for future inspection. uncork the bottle on a distant day and see what impressions the faded thoughts might make on an older me. for years, this blog was the bottle. i revisit my ponderings from time to time. so here i am again.pondering. sharing. recording.

i do this for me. for therapy. for memory.

some of my favorite bloggers are introverts like me. we may keep our thoughts to ourselves in large gatherings but we always have something to say.

spring has twirled her magic color wand and blessed us with flowers, blooming trees and green grass. she awakened me from my winter slumber, invigorating my senses and encouraging me to get out into nature. and, maybe, just maybe she has reignited my urge to record my life here in this safe place. if you're reading this, then welcome. if no one reads this, that's perfectly fine.

 i do this for me. for therapy. for memory.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

sometimes i get out of sorts. call it grouchy. or grumpy. or mean old woman syndrome. regardless of what you call it, the cure is quite simple. i need to take some time for soul care. soul care can be anything that helps me decompress and feel creative. my favorite soul care includes my camera -- a relaxed amble around town snapping photos.

i was so out of sorts one evening last week that i could barely stand to be in the same room as myself. lol  so i hitched zoe to her leash, grabbed my nikon and headed out to enjoy what i call "around sunset".

i had no idea that i had captured a double reflection until i viewed the downloads the next day.  zoe is so patient during these creative ambles.

a long skinny mirror on the side of a truck at AutoCar was the canvas for this shot. 

Another AutoCar mirror shot. i love the glow.

zoe was hoping to go inside and see some people. she loves people. much more than me. lol

this walk was so therapeutic that i've adopted this mantra: do what you love. do it often.

how do you care for your soul? i'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

slug or whirling dervish

sometimes i feel like i have two polar opposite modes. in the spring, summer and fall i tend to be a whirling dervish. my mind is happily dreaming up projects, making plans and determined to get it ALL done. winter is a totally different story when i'm much more content to read, do a little crocheting and watch dvd movies. i've learned to accept all this about myself and be content in either mode. well, mostly.

a few months ago i was feeling restless and unhappy with myself. so many of the things i yearned to do when i wanted out of my unhappy marriage were still on my bucket list. i saw many others spreading their wings to fly. they were brave; i was scared. they were bold; i was meek. they were accomplishing things; i was just down right lazy. guh! it did not feel good. at all.

so, i reminded myself that if i lived to be 85, i only had 23 more years to accomplish everything i wanted to do. only 23 more years to be who i wanted to be. it was a refreshing wake-up call.

since then i've set up an art studio in an extra room in my house. it has made a huge difference in my ability and desire to be creative. i've hosted one studio open house and have set a schedule for one per month through december. two online art classes are under my belt; each one helped me to be more open and free with my art. i've sold a couple dozen original pieces of art and have 4 commission pieces lined up. saturday i'll be hanging a few small pieces at a hair salon with the goal of getting some extra attention for my art. and, i'm putting it out there that i'd be happy to host art classes in my studio. i have 5 ladies signed up for the first one and i've picked up a private student as well.

one area of my life that i really want to build on is giving back to the community. i reached out to our local elementary school and am in the process of getting a community service project up and running. more on that to come.

when the little voice in my head whispers "you are taking on too, too much" i gently ask that she believe in me. yes, i will get burned out and when that happens i'll simply take a break. but, for now i'm enjoying this very positive energy.

what are you doing these days?!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

play. happy, happy, play!!

"happiness dawns at sunrise"
12" x 12" mixed media acrylics and collage

one valuable lesson i've learned about creating art is to treat each piece like play. keeping the process loose and fun takes all the pressure off. i'm enjoying every facet of this new art style. i've sold several and have a couple commissions lined up as well. 

"dance, love, sing"
12" x 12" mixed media acrylics and collage

here's a look at one of the backgrounds. this is such a relaxing process which i usually do while watching a good movie on DVD, like You've Got Mail or Runaway Bride. i find the background noise comforting and familiar while i get lost in the painting process.

another background. for this one i purposely wanted the three distinct sections -- sky, flowers and grass/stems. i try for some texture while painting so that the final piece has lots of tactile and visual texture.

A close-up of a background in the works. I'll go back in after it dries to add some 3D dots and slashes of paint. I can get lost while creating these backgrounds -- so soothing, low key and stress-free!

"be brave . . . fly to your dreams"
8" x 10" deep gallery-wrapped canvas
mixed media acrylics and collage

Excuse the bad photo. I cut little words from a vintage typewriter manual to create the sentiment: "be brave. you can fly to your dreams". the sides are painted in stripes in all the colors found in the painting and then gently painted over in off white.

"dancing flowers, applause"
8" x 10" mixed media acrylics and collage

"truth: find yourself in simple things"
8" x 10" mixed media acrylics and collage

email me at juliekingart(at) if you're interested in any of these pieces. thanks

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

what surprises you?

how delightful when an image being downloaded from my Nikon makes my heart beat a little faster.  the shadows and light play on these iris leaves are a good example. i like to hold my nikon down low in a bed of flowers and then push the shutter button just to see what will be captured. there’s no looking through the lens or viewfinder; there’s just hope and belief in the awesomeness of nature. i’m rarely disappointed, constantly surprised.

isn’t that just like life? aren’t we always relying on hope and belief to carry us through? do we dwell on the disappointment or do we seek out the surprises? 

lately i've been opening myself up to more opportunities and surprises. taking two online art classes. giving myself lots of time to play. letting myself be vulnerable. the creativity has been flowing. it feels good. it's been a revelation . . . a surprise.

what's been surprising you lately? 

here are a few more happy surprises. enjoy!

after years of wearing my hair super short, i decided to let it grow and wow! i can put it up in a twist in the back. loving the long, soft curls and surprised at how easy it has been to let it just go natural.

palette knives! impasto! acrylics! new art techniques! what a surprise to discover how much i love creating art in this style! i've sold several 16" x 20" pieces in this style and i'm just thrilled. (but mostly surprised lol) see it for sale in my etsy shop here

i now have my own art studio!!! my landlady decided to give me an extra room in the old house i live in so i'd have a dedicated, full time 24/7/365 place to create art. i love how much i love this space and how creative i've become in it. 

thanks for taking a peek at the surprises in my life.

make time to play!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

face each day

when i got off work yesterday afternoon i picked my grandkids, ben and jenna, up at the babystitter's and we took a scenic drive to a big amish greenhouse a few miles out in the country. it was a stunningly beautiful day and wandering around in the lush green flower and veggie plants was heaven. we bought a few veggie plants -- brandywine tomato, california giant orange pepper and pickle cucumber -- as well as two dozen candy white onion bulbs. at the last minute i added a fresh bunch of just-picked asparagus to the pile.

once home, it was scurry-around time as i tried to get it all done so we could do some planting. in the midst of fixing a quick supper for the kids and replenishing zoe's water and food, the kids drug out a mess of art supplies. i keep all my art supplies handy for jenna to locate and use but there's always one or two things she can't find or reach. as i walked into the breakfast nook / art area to help her, my little fiesta orange vase of tulips caught my eye. there it sat in the sun, casting lovely shadows onto my antique oak table. i immediately put everything on hold to grab my nikon and shoot away.

later, after the kids were home and settled in their pajamas and zoe and i had taken our 45 minute walk, i looked over the pictures i'd taken. and, it struck me that i truly do love serendipity. we can plan our days out step by step. we can promise ourselves to be more creative, to spend more time in quiet contemplation of the beauty that surrounds us. but, really no amount of planning could have created a more satisfying photo session.

so, today, i'm just reminding myself to slow down a little bit and let serendipity capture my spirit as it may. and, i'm wishing the same for each of you.