Say Something Nice

ec33888ed1641fb0a0ec5e8f98951642I am on a new kick here.

It’s coming around slowly. I don’t always think about it, I don’t always do it. But when I do, it becomes one of those sparkly little bubbles that burst inside of me.

I’m talking about inpromptu interactions with others.

Now I know what you are thinking. Or at least what I am thinking. I don’t need new friends, I’m too busy, I’m too shy, I’m too awkward. Strangers might have cooties. I know — it’s a common misconception. (Strangers don’t always have cooties).

But I’m talking about saying something nice or making someone smile. Usually its just in passing, but there’s something about catching someone off-guard with a complement or gesture that leaves a smile lingering on both their lips and yours for some time to come.

Went to Irishfest this past weekend. A marvelous place for true-blooded and adopted Irishmen/women. Lotta love during and between songs. I saw this man waving to someone behind me, obviously getting their attention to where he was sitting. As I was walking by I leaned in and waved back. He laughed, I laughed, and I kept walking. Another granny had green flowers tucked through her grey locks. Looked special — and I told her so. I was taken with a young girl’s skirt at work, and told her so. She was delighted with her thank you, and so was I. Another woman at work has been wearing more “girly” tops, and I thought she looked great. Instead of just nodding and moving on, I told her so.

I have complemented sparkly sandals and bold necklaces. Sharp-looking men’s shirts and grandmother’s sweaters. Each time there is that nanosecond where the recipient is surprised (is she talking to me?) caught in their eye like a thief on tape. Their thank-you is always gracious, and I watch them walk away with a smile. And I wonder — why is it so hard to be nice to someone?

There is enough terrorism in the world to fill 10 planets. Enough sadness, enough psychos. Why not take someone else’s mind off their problems for a half-second and say something nice to them or about them?

Fashion is a favorite topic. I enjoy people who dress for themselves. Anything between a subtle and over-the-top statement always makes me smile. I might not wear what they wear, look how they look, but I appreciate their efforts. Just like it takes one second to bend down and say “hello” to babies and their parents or to laugh with a stranger about the rain or having to go back to work. You don’t have to know somebody to say something nice. Something funny.

So if it’s so easy to smile or nod why is it so hard to say something nice?

It’s getting passed the uncomfortableness of leaving your own space, if only for a second, and entering someone else’s special space. Maybe we’re afraid that our efforts will be rebuffed. That someone will give us “that look” and egos will be recrushed and hearts rebroken. It’s tender territory in there — that’s why you can do both parties such good.

I try to do three a day. I’ve been falling behind most days. It’s not that I’m not a nice person — it’s just that most of the time my mind is off wandering three zones ahead of me, and the realization that I’ve really “liked” something comes in a delayed reaction.

Try complimenting someone at work or at a party or shopping at Walmart. Give it the ‘ol college try.  You’ll be surprised the sunshine you’ll bring to the world.

Either that or someone will think you goofy — which, in the end, isn’t too bad a way to be viewed either —

Sunday Evening Art Gallery Blog — Full Circle

A few weeks ago I fell in love with the atmosphere, art, and the Biltmore I found in North Carolina.

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My visit gave me a greater appreciation of the world of individuality, art, and wealth.

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Last weekend I wandered through the competition barn of a small county fair.

When I came upon the Art Show, I knew I had come full circle.

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I realized that this is where it all starts.

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This is where Jackson Pollock and John Singer Sargent began.

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Where Dali dabbled and Wiggans wandered.

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This is where Richard Morris Hunt found architecture and Katsushika Hokusai played with ink drawings.

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Where either because of a parent’s encouragement or despite lack of it, a creativity seed found fertility and grew.

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This is the uncharted land of creativity, of space and design and imagination.

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This…is Art.

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Pictures courtesy of Vilas County Fair, 2016

and CJA, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Cat’s Eyes

20081221134735180My life has been a whirlwind these past few weeks. I’ve taken off to North Carolina and visited my bff and a city that was fun and busy and full of Southern charm, went to work for two days, then took off to Northern Wisconsin and noshed and laughed and cackled with friends while we hid from the rain.

It seems everyone had fun these past few weeks except for one.

Mysty.

My Cat.

Do you ever get punished by your pets for going away?  I have two cats, a toughy, lovey boy tuxedo named Tom, and a once-tiny-now-balloony girl Mysty.

Tom could care less when I come and go. He sleeps with whomever is around, including sometimes the dogs. Mysty is another story.

Everytime I go away and then return she makes eye contact, barely acknowledging my return, then gives me the cold shoulder for the day.

I didn’t think cats held grudges. But this one does.

When I’m home she’s on my computer, twisting her cute little head sideways, insisting on pets. She sleeps by my head, climbs all over me when I watch TV, all that cute little cat stuff.

But when I’ve been gone a few days — worse, when the whole family has been away and the cats have been left alone — well, hell hath no fury like a kitty scorned.

Of course, things are back to normal after a long day. I don’t think cats have that long of a memory span, and besides, they want to be fed. And pet. But for those few first hours, I swear my cat pouts and looks forlornly out the window, dreaming of a house where her master momma stayed home and played with her every day.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t leave my first born until he was 2 or 3. Just think of the dramatic sigh a toddler would make, looking forlornly out the window, dreaming of a house where his momma stayed home and played with him every day.

That is, until grandma or grandpa gave him popcorn or a Butterfinger or took him to the park. Which was instantly after I drove away.

Maybe I should offer a Butterfinger to Mysty…

 

Remembering Italktoomuchitis

giphy1Greetings!

Although I think all my past blogs are funny/magical/clever, I don’t often repost them for the fear that thousands of likes rather than an appropriate few will jam the WP system.

Keeping that in mind, I was wandering through the rocky mountains of my memory and thought about this blog from June 2012. It hits the bullseye once again.

 Chit Chattin’ Cathy

doll Chatty CathyI subscribe to a few blogs where the author has broken out of their silent shell, finally finding a voice that is sparkling and true.  It’s not easy sharing something as personal as one’s self ― especially if that “self” has been suppressed for longer than one can imagine. I appreciate their efforts to finally let the world know who they are.

I, on the other hand, suffer from Italktoomuchitis.

I don’t remember when I contracted this disease.  It certainly wasn’t in grade school (too ugly), nor high school (too busy trying to get pinned). I worked in downtown Chicago for a PR department, but trust me, it was far from glamorous…or talkative ( I was rather submissive in those days). Found love, got married and had babies. I didn’t think of myself as overly verbal back then. But now I wonder — when did I become so…chatty?

Chatty is a relative word. Those of us old enough can remember the “Chatty Cathy” doll.  Pull her string and she’d say a half dozen things. What a novel idea at the time. For those of you a bit younger, this phenomenon was a highlight in Steve Martin’s tirade in Planes, Trains and Automobiles: “It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would. Gnah..gnah…” Well, I’m beginning to think I’m that doll — and I’m the one pulling the string.

These last few years I think I’ve carried the chatty thing a bit too far. One question and everybody knows what I had for dinner last night, why I think my cousin’s child is out of control, the cramps I had this morning, and how much my dentist charged for root canal. I spill my son’s secrets to his wife, and tell my customers not to buy today for it goes on sale tomorrow. What is wrong with me? Since when have I become this effervescent fount of non-interesting information? I find I want to respond to everything. I have an answer for everything. Whether or not it’s informed. I find I have little patience for opinions other than mine, and need to comment on every and all things that come my way. I try and keep my mouth shut most of the time, but believe me, sometimes it’s a struggle.

I wonder if it’s that old person syndrome. You know ― the older you get, the less you care about what others think.  That seemed like such a cliché when I was younger. All those old fogies saying what they want to, not caring if they offend this person or that.  Most over 70 were a little crotchety and unreasonable, but hey, maybe they just weren’t thinking straight. Pre-Alzheimer’s and such.

As I got older I started to get where they were coming from. Now that I’m teasing the 60 mark, I’m finding those outspoken 70-year-olds weren’t so far off the mark after all.  Having spent a lifetime trying to get my thoughts and opinions across to others, I can see why caution is thrown to the wind and oldies say just what they think. I’ve been questioned and second-guessed more times than you can count; I’ve been unsure of my choices and bothered by the choices of others. I sometimes wonder if I should have turned right instead of left, if I would have made a difference, if I should have said something back then.

And I have gotten to the point where I’m tired of not being listened to.

I’m not saying that my opinion is any better than anyone else’s. We know the world by what we’ve experienced. I have kept my thoughts and opinions respectful and private. But in suppressing the nonsense that runs constantly through my head, I find myself talking and sharing more than when I was 20. It’s like the filter is broken. And I wonder — is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Through this need to reveal more than the neighborhood stripper, I find myself volunteering information that no one is interested in. Well, maybe they are, but in a superficial sort of way. I think we all do that — we listen to others babble their life stories, their grocery store nightmares, their crazy family history or their list of illnesses. We listen because we really do care. Not that we can do anything about their stories, but because we know that sometimes others just need someone to listen.

Often the babble that comes out of other mouths has nothing to do with what’s really going on inside. Maybe the storyteller suffers from insecurities, or illness, or loneliness. Maybe sharing the story of their kid’s accomplishments is a way to assure them that they did a good job as a mother or father. Maybe all they want is to be noticed. To be cared about. To be liked.

Many things fuel our chatter — or lack of. Where we’ve come from is not nearly as important as where we are headed.  If chit chatting about great recipes or the knucklehead in the cubicle down the hall gives us a little clearer sense of self, I’m all for it. We all need to get the chit out of our heads so we can think clearer and feel stronger. And as long as the chat is not destructive, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of babble at the bubbler.

Alas, sometimes I think my only solution is to wire my jaws shut.

Sunday Evening Art Gallery Blog — Atmosphere, Art and the Biltmore — Part 3

George Vanderbilt’s 250-room French Renaissance chateau is a true marvel, the largest undertaking in residential architecture. Over a six-year period, an entire community of craftsmen came together to create America’s premier home and the environmental wonderland that surrounded it.

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…original art by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and John Singer Sargent..magnificent 16th century tapestries, a Library with 10,000 volumes, a Banquet Hall with a 70-foot ceiling, 35 bedrooms, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley. Almost all of the priceless objects that you see throughout the house are from George and Edith Vanderbilt’s original collection.  ~~ Biltmore Estate History

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Can you imagine a world where you could wander room to room and constantly be dazzled by antique furniture, paintings, tapestries, crystal, and more?

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Can you imagine a world where servants attend your every need?

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Flowers burgeoning from every garden, fires crackling from 65 different fireplaces, and lavish dinners on the Vanderbilts’ burgundy-and-gold-bordered china made in England by Minton and Spode Copeland, silver flatware featuring an engraved Old English pattern from Frances Higgins, London, 1894, and delicate, feather-light crystal from Baccarat. (~~A Very Biltmore Thanksgiving).

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It was a different time, a different world, far removed from the air and light we breathe today.

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Everyone should visit a castle once in their lifetime.

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We may not want to live there, but we can, for a brief moment, experience the opulance of days gone by.

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All photographs were taken by Claudia Anderson,© 2016.

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Read all about the Biltmore Estate at http://www.biltmore.com/

Atmosphere, Art, and the Biltmore — Part 2

Art

Who doesn’t enjoy looking at the world through others eyes?

Who doesn’t have a painting of flowers or a scenery print or a portrait hanging on their wall?

Who hasn’t collected a glass vase or pottery mug or bronze sun to hang on their porch?

Art is created in a broad stroke with largest paint brush imagineable. It’s the appreciation of another’s work enough to research it, talk about it, collect it, share it. It depends on one’s perspective of life. One sees a sea of flowers; another a gateway of pain. One sees squiggles; another, divinity.

It’s all relative — it’s all Art.

Don’t compare what you see in an artist’s dream with what others see. If you’d like, read the artist’s explanation, then feel it, interpret it as you will. As with many other virtues, Art is an ideal all men strive for but often misunderstand. It is an expression of you but a reflection of others.

Some incredible interpretations found on my journey through North Carolina:

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Next:  the Biltmore

Atmosphere, Art, and the Biltmore — Part 1

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 Atmosphere

 

A whirlwind weekend brings out all sorts of thoughts and emotions. Especially when you spend the special moments with people you really enjoy. Kids, mates, friends, cousins — all can bring a sense of magic and wonder to your life every time you turn around.

Spending a weekend in Ashville, North Carolina, was one of those times. It was a little bit of freedom, a little bit of music, a little bit of adventure. Though we live hundreds of miles apart, my friend and I met to renew friendship, share burst balloons, and explore ways to move forward in the world and ways of Creativity.

Every region has its own traditions, its own style, its own way of doing things. Midwest Wisconsin is a lot different from Western North Carolina. Ashville is a decent size city nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Heat, humidity, and lush greenery run rampant through the streets and countryside. The people are gracious, drive like maniacs, and wonderfully creative.

The streets were filled with art galleries, outdoor eateries, and pubs full of music. Friday night the air was warm and humid and the streets full of artists strutting their goods. A bare-chested bearded dude with a pink rabbit hat walked his dog passed a girl painting henna hands and a poet who wrote you a personal poem for a small donation. Musicians of all colors and sizes hung out on street corners and in front of bistros, playing guitars, flutes, and violins. Trios one corner, a girl singing with a guitar across the street, all sharing their talent and the night.

Breweries offered their specialized creations while fruit bars mingled with marvelously unique chocolate shops. Tiny Christmas lights hung over outdoor eating spaces, Italian specialities competing with tapas and Oriental sesame noodles. Young and old strolled up and down the main street, skinny girls with striped faerie leggings walking with women in sun dresses and guys in properly preppy shirts. It was a cornicopia of life and laughs and conversation and music. Something my little Wisconsin town doesn’t offer.

Art galleries flourished on main streets and side streets. Most were closed by the time I wandered past their windows, but the ones who were open boasted Dichroic glass sculptures and abstract printmaking. Some mediums I had never seen before. Offbeat novelty shops brought back memories of the 60s, selling incense and scented soaps, colorfully graphic socks, sassy self-awareness books, unicorn candle holders, and violet gum.

The Village Art & Craft Fair was a marvelous beehive of amazing art and artists. Just like art fairs across the country, the hard work and inspiration of craftsmen left me breathless. I didn’t always understand the method or their behind-the-scenes inspiration, but I did understand the end result of jewelry, mosaic tile shoes, pottery, tables, hand-blown glass balls filled with feathers, and dark ceramic clay sculptures. A lot of artists were local; others returned year after year to showcase their latest wares.

Finalizing my journey at the immortal Biltmore Estate, my whole world of art and architecture and photography and history exploded into one cosmic experience. I was actually able to be in the “now” each and every day. And the “now” was cool, fun, and satisfying.

Creativity is universal. It is the expression of our heart’s deepest secrets, our imagination’s fondest dreams. I really believe that once you open that door new worlds present themselves all the time. Like a symphony, moods and memories are created by each special note you experience.

Find a way to experience it.

 

NEXT:  Art