Saturday, September 03, 2016

Back to creating...something, anything

As a kid, I spent a lot of time just creating art as it moved me, with no thought to whether it was good or no- the whole point was to just...  do. Then, I lost it, I started to critique whether it was good or not, and I usually did this at the very beginning of the page. So, needless to say, I'd get a few doodles down and then stop, because it wasn't "good enough."

However, going back to that process of creating, I have realized that there are no mistakes-I'm creating for the art of creating, not for anything else. That means everything is good enough, there are no mistakes, the key is to just keep going. This above is my first completed page in, oh, over 25 years- and through it, I had to work through my own insecurities because I got stuck. I got to places I didn't know how to move forward. I reached places that the old voices came back, saying this isn't good enough, better to start another, better, piece. And I had to push that aside and just keep working. Just keep doing. In "The War of Art" Pressfield writes about working through the doubt, through the shit, through it all. And he's right. Work through your own resistance, because the point is to do the work. Just do it. Don't worry about how good it is, or how crap it is. Just keep doing. Follow the music of your soul through the process, go with the flow. And when you get stuck, don't give up, because you will get stuck. Maybe you can put it down and come back to it later. I didn't finish the piece above in one sitting. I don't have that kind of time, like I did as a kid. So, you let the process work through you. Put it down, come back to it later. Work through the doubt. Through the critic inside telling you it's crap. Maybe it is! Maybe it's not. Doesn't matter. The point is to just work through it, and you may end up surprising yourself at the final product.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Well, La Dee DA....

Just wow.
I've had my brake light out for a while and I've kept meaning to have it replaced. And I decided to look online to see if it was something complicated or could I do it myself. Turns out, it's really simple! The hardest part is taking the cover off to find the brake light.
So, I drove off to the local auto store, and as I pulled up, I decided to go ahead and check my air filter while I was at it. It wasn't terrible, but it was dirty and had a bit of wood chip stuck in it. I decided to replace that as well (especially since I've noticed my gas mileage has slipped a bit recently...)
I went in, and the girl working there helped me find the air filter and the bulb and for $22 walked out in less than 10 minutes. I replaced the air filter immediately as I had taken it in to compare.
As I drove off, I could feel the difference already. My car was happier.
Next came the brake light. I headed to my sister's, replaced the bulb, then called her to help me test it (pretty hard to press the brake light and see if it's actually coming on by yourself.)
It worked! Bingo!thankyouverymuch!
Today, out of curiosity, I decided to check just how much that would have cost had I taken it to someone to do it.
So, I looked online. Of course. And do you know that the price they showed for a brake light was about $80?!?  I paid $7.50 and got not one, but TWO bulbs! And they want to charge $80? What kind of crack is that? (now, in all fairness and full disclosure, my regular mechanic charged me just $5 last time it burned out, but I knew it was a favor and I've known him for years. But knowing that if I had taken it to someone else?! And gotten charged a ridiculous fee for a part that costs so little and the labor is less than 5 minutes. Ridiculous.)
And the air filter? Listed for $86. Are you feckin' kidding me?!  Wow.
Just wow.
I don't know how they can get away with those kinds of prices for something that takes less than 10 minutes altogether and doesn't require any special tools or knowledge, nor does it require environmentally safe elimination, such as oil.
It's good to know how to do some simple things.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

on getting older...

This week I completed another rotation around the sun. The numbers keep getting higher, which is both a good and bad thing.
Good, because, well, it's better than the alternative.
Bad, because, well, the passing of time takes a toll on the body.
Creaky knees, achy joints, other medical inconveniences.
I suppose I'm lucky- mine aren't all that bad.  I can still walk, I can still move around on my own, and the other medical inconveniences are manageable-nothing life threatening or seriously life altering.
So, it occurs to me that these are the years I should be having a mid-life crisis, and I now understand where that comes from.
When you're younger, you're so busy trying to make it, and you have all this energy to expend that your main drive is going out there and doing! By the time you get to your "mid years," that energy is no longer quite what it used to be. And it makes you think. Combine that with the health issues, even if minor, and then you start to think.
Like Winnie the Pooh thinking... Think. Think. Think.
And you start to look at your life and decide what you want to change, because you realize you no longer have as much time as you used to. Or maybe, you just get tired of going along with expectations of what you're supposed to be doing.
But I've never been one to quite do what I'm supposed to do... so, no, I didn't get married, have the kids, get the steady job that pays the bills but never quite satisfied my soul. Nope. Didn't do that.
As a bona fide Gen-Xer, I think I absorbed the lessons early that you can't really depend on that-that somehow you have to make your own way. But I'm still figuring out the how. That's the tricky bit.
So, maybe the mid-life "crisis" that is so cliche' isn't really about a crisis at all, but rather trying to figure out what is going to make you happy. For some, it's about rebelling against everything your life has been up to that point, but that's a bit like shooting yourself in the foot because you don't like your shoes!
I say, keep the foot, change the shoes!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hot diggity!

For years, my mom has grown these wonderful hot pepper plants.  We call them pili pili from when we lived in Africa, but in looking it up online, they are also called African bird's eye chili. They look a lot like Thai chilis, only smaller. They are only about an inch or so long, and thin. And they pack a punch. Not quite as hot as ghost peppers or habaneros, they are still pretty much up there in the heat factor. 
So,  my mom, she would harvest the peppers, dry them out, and then grind them into a fine powder. For a while, she had so many peppers that she had a few jars of this stuff in the pantry. I mean jars as in 32 oz jars. We would easily give it away because a little goes a long long way. These peppers are hot! The lifespan of the plant would be a couple of years, then my mom would replant from the peppers and the cycle continued. 
Until it didn't. 
All of a sudden, the seeds, which always grew so easily, no longer grew so easily. They would sprout, grow to maybe an inch or so, then die. In the meantime, the older plant from which we harvested the seeds was beginning to fade. One year, my mom had about 4-5 seedlings that were doing pretty well and she gave them to me to take care of while she went out of town. I brought them home, and put their little pots outside next to some other potted plants. Everything was going well at first. Then one plant disappeared. And another. Something was eating them!! No!! 
So I moved the few remaining ones to another area, which worked for a few days. Then, another disappeared. And the last remaining survivor started wilting. When I looked closer, I noticed that it had been chewed at the base. Nothing more to be done. It was dead. 
And the stockpile of dried powder went down. I had given some seeds to friends, who grew it easily, but whenever we got a plant growing, it faltered where once it thrived. We were stumped. 
So, this year, I grabbed one of the few peppers that the old plant produced. I bought these nifty little pods for seedlings, and followed instructions. Put 2-3 seeds in each pod, water, and keep covered (the little kit came with a clear plastic lid) in a well lit area. I did all this and since the weather outside was still fluctuating too much, I kept them inside in my kitchen under the lights. And I waited. And waited. Finally, after a few weeks, the first little sprouts peeked out. Eureka!
I would check them every day. At first it was just 1 or 2. Then another. And another. Soon, I had 17 little baby plants. You can see them below (obviously, I took the lid off to take the picture.)

Soon, my babies were getting tall! They were beginning to reach the top of the lid. I tried leaving the lid off one day. I had my misgivings as my cats love plants. In fact, I no longer have any plants inside the house precisely for both the plant and my kitties' protection (some plants are highly toxic to cats.) I had hoped that being on the counter, towards the back of the counter, that the kitties wouldn't get to them. But no... I came home and found that three of the babies had been sacrificed. Back on with the lid, at least until I could get another solution, which actually presented itself at work! 
We have these large plastic jars of pretzels available for snacks. Bingo!! The mouth of the jar was big enough to fit the plants and the whole jar was big enough to hold the whole little kit and give my seedlings room to grow without getting eaten by the cats. 

They stayed in there for a while, growing happily. I poked a few holes in the top of the jar, and as the weather got warmer, I'd put them outside in the shade to start getting them acclimated. Always with the lid on to keep them from being eaten by whatever critter could possibly be outside. I didn't want them to end with the same fate as their previous siblings. At night, they would come inside. If it was cold out, they would stay inside. Soon, it was warm enough that they were outside most of the time. The jar acted as a really great greenhouse. Finally, it was time to transplant them. 
As usually happens, a few died during the transition. They just weren't strong enough. I placed the surviving plants on a small table away from most of the other plants. I also put a few things in front of them to deter any curious squirrels. I also placed coffee grinds in front as I'd read somewhere that it acts a bit as a deterrent to bugs. Whatever might help. 

When watering them, I would use the mist option, spraying the whole plant. Call me crazy, but I think it's better for the plant, as that's how they would normally be watered in nature (ie rain.)At first they were a bit weak, whenever I watered them, they would flop over under the weight of the water on their leaves. I figured they need to get stronger and eventually they'd be able to hold their own. 
And they grew. 

I kept them watered, and protected. Off the ground, in a safe area. They would get the morning sun and by afternoon, when the sun gets super hot, they would be in shade, still getting plenty of light. 
And they grew.

Now, nearly 5-6 months later, they are doing so well. Some of the pots are smaller and dry out faster, but soon it will be time to give them bigger homes yet again. 
Look how they've grown!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Food Trucks at Carlin Park

Wednesday are not only yoga night, they are also food truck night. I mean, what better way to end a session of yoga than to go get some food?
The choices are great. For example, there was a grilled cheese truck. I thought, how many ways can you make grilled cheese? Well, apparently quite a few! Other choices included Greek, a donut truck, ice cream, burgers, and even a vegetarian truck! 

Here, you can see one of the rows of trucks.

My friend and her kids went straight to the ice cream truck. 

I love the white shirt and red bow tie. Very retro.

The boys, ice cream in hand!

It was time for me to keep looking around.

This one caught my eye. What can I say? I'm a sucker for newsprint.

I ended up ordering the Tribune-grilled chicken breast, applewood bacon, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, mayo. They were actually out of lettuce, so they put spinach on it instead! Even better!
Here, Jimmy brings me my sammich.

It was amazing! Honestly, I meant to eat half and have the other half for lunch the next day.
But, well, yeah...I couldn't resist. I ended up eating all of it that night.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

The woodpecker and the blackbird

One great thing about Florida is the wildlife. We have a slew of different critters-from bugs to snakes to gators to birds, and that's not mentioning the sea creatures. My sister puts food out for the birds every morning. One day, this little guy showed up.

He started up in the tree.
woodpecker in tree

Then made his way to the feeder.
woodpecker at feeder

 Then, after a little while, this other guy shows up, the blackbird. Although this photo is a bit blurry it makes me laugh because the woodpecker was not happy. Here he was screaming at the blackbird.
a woodpecker and a blackbird at a feeder

The blackbird did fly away. And then came back, a little further away.
blackbird at the feeder

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Monday, May 02, 2016

Clouds over land and sea...

I never fully appreciated how amazing clouds are. Until they were no longer there. The sunny days of California were marked by an endless blue stretch of sky. But where were the clouds? The big puffy clouds that seem ever-present here in Florida? The rolling storm clouds? The wispy? The unusual? Where, o where could they be?? Usually not in California. Unless they were endless gray, or the fire clouds, neither of which were really that appealing.
Ever since moving back to Florida, my love and appreciation of these massive cumulonimbostraticumulocirrus darlings in the sky continues.  Yes, I realize that is not actually a type of cloud, but that's how I feel about them. Driving back from California, my friend G. was amused by my exaggerated enthusiasm as we entered Florida and-Behold! Clouds!!  She and I have now traded places; I am in Florida, and she is out in California. She now understands. Whereas other places might have hills and mountains,  or some other geologic features, Florida is blessed with the most amazing array of clouds. 
I mean really, look at this… oooh, clouds! It just wouldn't be the same without.
clouds over the ocean at Juno Pier
Juno Beach Pier
On Singer Island, a storm moving in from inland

And here, a storm moving in over the ocean

Or this…like an angel's wing...
It's not always about the storm clouds though..

And these? Surreal.

Taken in Tampa. Reflections!

And finally, shot at night-an amazing storm out in the ocean.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My mid-week mini-vacation

Group sitting on beach doing beach yoga
As summer approaches, the days get longer and life just feels…better. I love leaving work and and still having hours of daytime available. I'm one of those people that need sun and light in my life. I just am. Which is why I adore the summer days.
Another bonus to the long hours- beach yoga! Every Wednesday evening, my friend D., a certified yoga instructor, hosts what I call a mini-yoga-retreat at the beach. For one thing, it's a great reason to get out and go sit on the beach for an hour, listening to and watching the waves. Then, this is a very gentle type of yoga. D. stresses that you need to listen to your body-don't try to force it, just get in touch  with yourself and enjoy the process. That's really what it's about. With my x-amount of knee surgeries, and x-amount of time sitting like a bump on a log as I recovered, not to mention having a desk job, this is something I look forward to each week.
And let me tell you, it feels great! To just go out on the beach, dig your toes in the sand, stretch and move, and breath in that ocean air for an hour as the sun sets. 
At the end of it, I am both energized and relaxed.
It feels like having been on vacation.
Even if it was just an hour.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A rose by any other name… naming the blog

I started this blog when I moved to California in 2006 as a way to keep my friends and family back East updated with my life, but of course I needed a blog name. My So Called Life was a bit too reminiscent of an old TV Show. My Life seemed a bit…soap-opera-ish. In fact, most names I thought of were…uninspiring.
Then I thought back to my first trip out here to Santa Barbara to search for a place to live. I stayed in the youth hostel right by the train station for about 5 days. Of course, shenanigans ensued, being surrounded by young travelers out for a good time.
However, I met J. on that trip. He had been traveling through India, and was working his way back home to England. I remember the first night he arrived. One of the hostelers was this young 20-something boy, and of course, he got his guitar out and played while everyone gathered around. I can't remember if we had a bonfire or not, but it seems that it would have been appropriate. J., the newcomer, stood there, a bit to the side, smoking his hand-rolled cigarette. He caught me looking at him, and he gave me this amused grin, like, "Can you believe this crap?"
And just like that, our friendship began. The next day, we took off on foot and explored Santa Barbara. Turns out his birthday was a day after mine, so I would joke with him about having Johnny Depp's birthday, as well as the fact that I was a whole day older, so obviously much more experienced, "listen to what I'm saying here, J. I mean, I am a day older, I know these things."
We went to the museum, which was free on Sundays. He joked about smuggling a Monet out of there, "Do you think they'd notice if I just took it home with me? Put it right under my arm and walked out?"
Then we headed down to the beach for a bit. We walked and talked and skipped stones, and walked and talked. I can't even remember what it was we talked about now, life and work and ideas, I suppose. It was just one of those things where you talk about anything and it just flows. 
He left the next day. I took him to the bus station as he went on his journey. I only had a day or two left myself, a good thing because it just wasn't as much fun without him around.
I named this blog after the day we spent, skipping stones into the ocean in Santa Barbara, talking about life and whatnot. I came up skipping stones for the url, but titled the blog La Vida Claudia for many years, as it was about my life. I've just now changed to Claudia's Skipping Stones, matching the original url.

Years later, after I'd moved back to Florida, I found out he had died from brain cancer. Turns out he had been in remission when he and I met. A few years later, it came back and that was it, nothing to be done. He was gone. I am happy to have met him, to have had him become part of my life, for even a brief few days. Some people you meet leave a lasting impression, their ripples continue even after they are gone.