Block Party!

I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor.  Do you know your next door neighbor?                                                                                              Mother Teresa

old buildings

Last Sunday afternoon was the fifth year of the Annual Block Party.  Attendance, as it is every year, was grand and moods were happy.  Salads reigned as this year’s popular food of choice, the food of much, the food ever so good.   Six chickens – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Jennifer, Element, and Moira  – who range free with our hosting neighbor, joined in the party. As people arrived, the lawn chairs naturally formed in a circle. Conversations easily began with those on the right and left.  Soon the conversations darted and dashed across the middle.


We have watched the children grow up.  One just graduated from high school.  He tells us of his summer work and college plans for fall.  Our youngest neighbor is two and captures the delight of all in the circle.  As she warms up to the faces, familiar but not necessarily well known, she giggles and plays with joy.  She entertains all our hearts.


A neighbor with a camera problem finds a solution in the hands of photographer, Don.  A neighbor who has trouble walking is measured for a walking stick. Our seventh grade neighbor is lovingly creating it from a special tree branch he found.   Yet another neighbor has rhubarb to share. Arrangements are made for the distribution of a dozen eggs from our friendly chickens.  The older kids leave the circle to swim in the neighbor’s pool that is within sight, just two doors down.  Wedding and honeymoon photos are shared by our newest neighbors while our oldest neighbors share that they just celebrated their 60th anniversary and renewed their vows.  The neighbor with the annual garage sale announces that this is the last year and there is relief in her voice.  The neighbor across the street shares plans to camp next week in our well-loved six person tent that we passed onto them.


This annual gathering of households brings indescribable joy to my heart.  It has not always been this way. For so long I yearned for this connection.  After living here in the middle of the 600  block for twelve years, it was time for a block party.  Two families had just moved in which helped to prompt the action. As we saw neighbors in the yard, we asked of their interest in a gathering. A resounding yes was heard, a date was set, and the party was up and running. An invitation was hand delivered to each house with the basics – when it was happening, what to bring (two foods, own beverages, and chairs) as well as a request to return the ‘yellow sheet’ with as much information about yourself that you wished to reveal to these ten households. Our intention was to compile a list, assisting us in being neighborly and supportive to each other.  We requested the names of family members, ages of children, ways to contact by phone and/or e-mail, and the year they moved into the neighborhood.  All ten households contributed and without hesitation.


That first year they came with their rich stories of their hobbies, places they had previously lived, why they chose their house, and upcoming events in their lives.  Those who had lived in the neighborhood the longest had stories of its earlier days, as well as the people who used to live in the houses now well loved by each of us. We discovered each other in a new way that day.  No longer were they familiar but unknown. Now each had a name we knew and could use in greeting one another. We had a list of resources close at hand – a master gardener, a knife maker, knowledge of paranormal sites in Wisconsin, artists, garage sale organizer, a geologist, athletic competitors, dog training skills, child care owner, highway patrol dispatcher to name a few.


We are a neighborhood rich in the stages of life.   Retired couples, newly married, families with young children, families with teenagers, second marriages, a single parent. Each house is architecturally different, just like us.  Five houses on one side.  Five houses on the other.  A wide quiet street plays host to our mailboxes.  We are a community one block long.  Once neighbors.  Now friends.


Our 10 X 10 Home

unloading trailer

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.     Pablo Picasso

It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.             Dave Barry, Author and Columnist


Art Show Season has begun.  From June through September Don and I spend ten to twelve weekends showing and selling our paintings and photography from a white 10 X 10 tent.  Before I started this lifestyle, I envisioned it like the gypsy life, spontaneous and carefree.  As an art fair attender, I never saw the back side of the tent, only the delightful colors in art and story in the front. Once on the other side, I realized that this is a life that requires calculation and intention. Every detail is important and necessary.  Picasso’s words of dusting off the daily life are true in another way.  This is a totally different life than our daily living inside Simplicity.


Much like a turtle, artists carry their home with them.  Packed in our trailer are the tent with its zippered sides, display panels and bins, weights for wind, bungie cords, chairs, bags of poles and connecting devices for the panels.   The marketing items such as sale bags, business cards, paper towel and glass cleaner, clipboard, sunscreen, bug spray, a fan, stakes for the ground, pens and sales receipts are stored in a four-drawer cabinet that travels in the trailer.  Inside our vehicle is artwork wrapped in bubble wrap and secured in cardboard boxes and bins, personal needs for rain and sun, overnight bags, set up clothing, show day clothing, and a cooler of food. Every nook and cranny of the vehicle and trailer are filled, carefully packed, wisely placed to ensure they will fit and arrive safely without damage.  We live like artful gypsies.   We plan like experienced campers.  Both are necessary!


An artist tent is a space designed to display art, conduct sales, and be home during business hours. The site is likely to be located on grass or asphalt.  If trees are around they add protection from the sun, but may be problematic in wind storms by dropping their branches.  Without any trees, the hot sun, potential winds and rain are complicating factors both to the artist and the art. A grassy location usually means uneven footing, adding extra work for the art to hang straight.  Each show presents a new adjustment and adventure in living in this fabric space. Maneuvering the trailer onto the site amid other parked vehicles, enough daylight hours to set up and take down, sores backs and tired muscles, blood blisters from fingers getting caught in the tent poles, and thirty-five pound weights that land on innocent toes, this lifestyle is in constant motion and jeopardy.


Weather is a primary factor to the enjoyment of this temporary home.  Wind, water, heat, cold – all can make the stay miserable.  Artists attempt to keep dry and presentable to the customer, after all, an artist’s image is at stake.  While the physical comfort of the self is important, ultimately the safety of the art is the greatest concern. We will sacrifice any physical discomfort to keep artwork safe, undamaged, and presentable.  Sometimes this means drastic measures such as holding down the flapping tent as it fears to lift off and fly away. Other times it means covering art with plastic garbage bags to keep dry from rain or potential drips inside the tent.  And in the hot sun?  A constant vigil keeps artwork from too much sun.


Over the years we have lost two tents to storms.  On one occasion a significant wind shear came through. Our tent pulled up from its weights, somersaulted in the air and returned to the ground looking like a lunar lander.  All tent legs were mangled and destroyed.  Amazingly, none of our artwork was damaged. After this experience, we purchased a much sturdier tent that gives us confidence. We added heavier weights to each tent leg.  Much more complicated to set up, the extra time and muscle power required for our now sturdy and secure tent is well worth the peace of mind.


This art show business has also exposed some lessons about our relationship.  Both of us are first born children with a desire to lead. Both of us want to be in charge.  We also have different approaches to setting up.  I can easily multi-task while Don prefers doing a single job at a time.  Both methods can work, but not together.  For a couple who rarely squabbles, this scenario is fertile ground for outbursts of irritation and gritchiness.  With lots of mumbling, angry sighs loud enough to be noticed, and time outs taken to collect oneself, this is no fun.


As a result, we have problem solved to make this life on the road enjoyable and workable.  Knowing the 10 X 10 life is an automatic challenge for the best in any person, we have developed two simple rules.  Whoever is showing on that weekend is the designated leader.  Like the game of tag, ‘You are it!’  This person makes the call on what is what, while the other follows. Before we unpack, one of us will say out loud, “Remember, let’s take our time and be gentle with each other.”  A simple rule, a simple mantra, that has saved our marriage, maybe even improved it.


Our second rule is much easier to manage.  We do not enter the same shows.  Putting up two tents at a show is too much work and often requires a village of friends or family to assist.  We tried this once and were exhausted.  On the spot we announced, ‘Never again!’  Now we support the other and find life is much kinder this way.


Weather, location, and all the parts of the art fair life make for great survival stories, like ‘I walked ten miles to school in the winter’, but the stories heard and shared in the 10 X 10 space make the art and artist come alive. This simple white fabric tent is a magnet for conversations about the partnership of art and life. While sales are important to provide the funds to keep afloat in this business, the comments from the fair goers keep our hearts and souls inspired. Where else might you hear how a photograph or painting has touched a life, how it inspired a creative spirit, was a metaphor for life?  Our lives are deeply enriched by the people who arrive in this temporary space.  Don often says after a day in our white tent, “There is no better way to spend time than to talk about art.”  Indeed, it is true.  Life is explored multi-dimensionally through the lens of art. Spirits are lifted, philosophical questions are posited, and ideas are birthed. Who would ever guess that so much could happen in a 10 X 10 space?


Booth Display 2017

The Indispensable Cupboard

A cupboard is never just a cupboard.  SEMendenhall

kitchen cabinet2

In the corner of the kitchen stands a tall narrow cupboard.  With its doors closed, it looks quiet and reserved, but inside is the clanging of our everyday life.   Pots and pans hang from hooks. The grill, griddle, coffee maker, waffle iron and blender all find a home here.  Specialty glasses for wine and beer reside on the top shelf, along with a set of twelve goblets.  The short wide, pull-out shelves keep cookie sheets, broiler pan, and trays.   Each kitchen helper is tucked into a place that not only provides ample storage, but accessibility.  Every day these doors are opened for active duty.  We marvel at the wonder of this purchase made so many years ago.

When the blonde cabinet came into our life we were living in an apartment.  A computer desk was needed that could also store paper and business documents.   Floor space was at a premium. Since this cabinet had to reside in our living room, it was important that it have doors to close off the work chaos.  A compact computer desk with full length doors was found and lived happily in Apartment 2B. Little did we know then of its amazing versatility.

The move to Simplicity brought a different need and the cabinet was recruited as an entertainment center located in the library. Computers and business items found regulation size desks in official rooms called offices. Now the multi sized shelves of the blonde cabinet welcomed a television, players of one kind or another, as well as media storage. Just as in the apartment, shutting the doors closed off the distraction when not in use.

Several years later when the library became an office, we asked ourselves what was to become of the tall blonde. I am sure we had creative conversations discussing her merits, looking into her future employment.  It was Don’s resourcefulness that found her a different job and a new location. At the time, our pots and pans were stacked in a cupboard.  Stacking is not Don’s long suit. Plenty of mumbling would be heard when trying to get the desired pan from the middle of the assembled pile.  Then there was the reverse, returning the clean pan into its rightful stacking order.  More grumbling. Frequently I found the clean pan askew on top of the stack.  Now my muttering could be heard.

The tall blonde moved into her new place.  Before long, I heard Don rummaging through the many little drawers of the work table in the basement.  “I know we have hooks somewhere.”  None found, off to Ace Hardware he goes, returning with six large cup hooks which he screws into the bottom of the top shelf.   Soon the stack of pots and pans resembled a bat colony, hanging side by side, front to back until all found a place.

Have you ever seen the face of a successful handyman who has just problem solved a dreaded daily task?  He is beaming. Grumbling has turned into “Yes! That’s more like it. This is so working.” No more bending to bang about the stacking pans on the bottom shelf. What pan is needed?  Just open the doors and easily remove at arm’s length.  See it. Select it.  Use it. Wash it. Return it.  Efficiency at its best.

With this DIY project well on its way, he began moving the toaster, the coffee maker, the grill, and on it goes.  Kitchen magic was happening in a dance of orderly orchestration.  Knowing this had a happier outcome as a one man show, I left the kitchen.

When we think of the indispensable workers here at Simplicity, the tall blonde is a standout. Not only has she provided storage and efficiency in her three lifetime roles, she has brought peace of mind to each room and to us. What will be next for her?  She has yet to lend assistance in the bathroom or a bedroom or the hallway.  For the time being, the kitchen gig is working and her contract is still active.

P.S.   Don gave a little TLC before photographing her interior shelves.  You have probably noticed the two of them have quite a lovely relationship.

kitchen cabinet

Moving Furniture

living room

Change the room, change my world.                S E Mendenhall

Making changes in my home environment is something I am constantly doing.  From switching up my bedroom as a child to shifting the furniture in our living room last week, stuff moves at Simplicity.  A friend once commented that I did not require travel to rejuvenate and refresh my life. This was accomplished by simply adjusting my living space. I do have a love of travel, but there is truth to my friend’s statement.

Some people dislike change, especially in their homes. While I have an understanding and deep appreciation of the confidence and comfort of familiar spaces, I tire of the same old arrangement. A stale space effects my mood.  Restlessness and dreariness set in. By moving things around, I gain energy.

Over the years, Don has become a willing participant in this fruit basket upset.  Rarely the one to suggest this indoor activity, he resigns to the inevitable.  As he adds his muscle to save my aching back, before long he is offering great suggestions.  He does have a knack for this.  Such was the case on Sunday afternoon.

Simplicity’s living room has several challenges for furniture arrangement.  Boxy in nature, furniture placement can often feel squared off and constrictive.  Six doorways open into the room, adding to the quandary. Each one of these entrances provides a necessary and well used traffic pattern. Bathroom, kitchen, dining room, front door, and stairs to the second floor are working entry points.  The door to the basement is not needed so we have blocked it by furniture.  All this said, moving the pieces of our living space is always a creative act that involves some degree of frustration.

Back to Sunday afternoon.  Both Don and I had committed ourselves to finding a new arrangement for our living room.  As we moved, shoved chairs and tables, it became obvious that we had too much in the space.  What piece was the culprit?  What item of furniture made this such a complication?

I remembered this same issue, of a table being the cause, when our son and family lived with us for a few months.  Our daughter-in-law sat with me in this very room as we were about to move our furniture world around.  Her clarifying designer mind quickly assessed our problem. A large antique baker’s table.  While it added interest to the room, everything else had to work around it.  Once we moved it from the space, magic happened.  She and I started placing the sofa and chairs at angles. Quickly this new arrangement brought energy to the room and a noticeable peace to my restlessness.

Sunday’s culprit was too many upholstered chairs.  Once one was removed from the room, every other item found a place to play.  A small round table came up from the basement, replacing a square lamp table that then moved into Don’s office.  A gold lamp left the room, while a silver one from the bedroom took its place. The sofa hugged the corner and traded spaces with a chair and table.  Like wooden building blocks, furniture and accessories moved into new arrangements.  The frustrating frowns on our faces changed into delighted smiles.  We could feel the difference. The room opened, felt bigger, less congested, looked happier.  Each addition or subtraction of furniture brought a fresh viewpoint.  Gone was the ho-hum and same old routine.  The room woke up and so did we.

Moving furniture is like a game.   One that might begin, ‘What would you do with a chair, a lamp, and a table?’  I know!

Jinxed – A Year of Repair and Replace


Comfort- the passive enjoyment of the home by its owners.  Convenience – the proper functioning of the house.

Robert Kerr, Architectural Historian

I pulled the chain. The flushing lever would not budge.  The toilet was broken.  A house of overnight guests for two days and the toilet was not working.  I climbed on top of the toilet seat, reached close to the ceiling to remove the tank cover.  Not enough headroom to look inside.  Reaching into the tank, I felt a broken chain.  An attempt to blindly attach it to the lever failed. Quickly I jotted words on a sticky note and stuck it to the toilet seat. Returning to my place at the dining room table where our six guests were playing a game, I announced “The toilet is broken. Please use the one upstairs.”  Sympathetic faces looked at mine. Only Don’s showed panic.  “I know,” my eyes said back to him.  “An awful time to have this happen.”  Moving into handyman mode, he retrieved the ladder from the garage. Several long and involved minutes later he returned saying a temporary fix had been found. Reminder to self, call the plumber on Monday.

No worries, no problem.  Don and I know the drill.  The phrase that disasters or unfortunate events come in threes has been well achieved this year.  More like multiples of threes. Not six or nine or twelve. Fifteen is the current number.  Yes, we started counting after four. A year of replace and repair has found us captive.    Our odd assortment of broken, repaired, and replaced items includes cars, a computer, snow blower, refrigerator, paper shredder, lamp, vacuum, teakettle, rock ding on the car windshield, ceiling fans, camera, window coverings, coffee grinder, and a down comforter that suddenly lost its feathers. While most were long lived faithful workers up for retirement, why must the others follow suit?

This week I took out our blender to make a smoothie.  When I pushed the button, an unfamiliar sound greeted me.  There was no whirring of the fruit and yogurt.  They sat still.  Another try and now I was smelling smoke.  Don happened to walk into the kitchen and our eyes connected.  Really?  Another appliance bites the dust.  “Let’s go find a new one.“  Don’s suggestion was offered with both a surrendering sigh and a readiness to improve our state of mind.  With these appliance and home repair situations becoming quite frequent, we have chosen to engage them as adventures.

We stood in the blender aisle at Target.  Blenders have come a long way since purchasing ours over twenty years ago. Some just blend while others add pulsing, pureeing, grinding, even chopping.  With my mantra of limiting kitchen electrical devices, I had never owned a food processor.  Now blenders could do it all. I read the list of promised tasks printed on the box. This was the moment I could gain two kitchen helpers for the price and storage of only one.  A bonus replacement.

As soon as we walked into the house with our blender purchase, a brewing thunderstorm became a full-blown hailstorm.  Quarter size hail pelted against our gutter covers, sounding as if a machine gun were emptying its round.  Now Mother Nature was adding her signature to our list.  The roof and gutter person was called the next day and came out for a quick inspection.  “Your gutter covers and roof have been pummeled,” he reported in a calm voice. “We’ll write up a report for your insurance company.”  Something about the way he said pummeled or the choice of that word reminded me that it is a word I seldom use.  Pummeled. A word that accurately describes how Don and I feel about this string of bad luck.   A word I had not intended to know so intimately.

A noise in the middle of the night awakened me.  I nudged Don, “Did you hear that?”  His groggy sleepy voice replied, “I didn’t hear anything.”

“Something banged, like a drawer being shut, but I hear nothing now.”  I settled back into sleep.

The next morning Don and I were sitting across from each other in the living room having coffee. I was recounting the gratitude for the improvements we had recently made in the house and looked up to the new ceiling fan.  My face was aghast as I blurted, “Don, the fan!”  The fan had pulled loose and was hanging by its wires.  A jagged hole in the ceiling exposed lath and plaster.   The fan itself was tipped at an angle and calling for help. We called our electricians, reaching them on their weekend emergency number.  Within minutes they had arrived and were assessing the situation.  They relieved the fan of its dangle in air and searched inside the hole.  Diagnosis was a malfunction of the fan box.

“We’ll return on Monday to put in a new support.  We have a drywall company we use.  Happy to call them for you.  After they do their work, we will return to put the fan in place. Never seen this happen before.”  It was not their work that was at fault, really.  A result of what seemed to be a strong fan box had pulled away.  The fault lay a bit in the middle, a bit in the unknowns of an old house, a bit in who would have ever guessed this to happen.  The fan’s bits and pieces are now on the dining room table.  Wonder how long this repair will take?

There is a balance between what Robert Kerr calls the comfort and convenience of a house. To enjoy the comfort of a home, the convenience of its living parts is a necessary function.  We were inconvenienced when the refrigerator’s malfunctioning thermostat required living out of ice chests. We are inconvenienced by our dismantled fan parts and a hole in the ceiling. Most days, Don and I live our lives effortlessly in comfortable convenient surroundings.  Now we have a greater appreciation for the well-functioning machines that make life at Simplicity enjoyable.  I find myself saying thank you to the washer and dryer, dishwasher, stove, furnace, water heater, microwave, television, garage doors, printers . . .   Keep up the excellent work. Please do not succumb to being number sixteen on our disaster list.

Photo Credit:  Joe Btfsplk – the World’s Worst Jinx, a character in the Li’l Abner comic strip by cartoonist Al Capp.  (Thank you, Larry Mendenhall, for sending us this perfect image of our jinxed 2017)

Kitchen Duty

If you are going to create in your kitchen, the room needs to be as conducive to creativity as a painter’s loft or a potter’s shed. . . It should be efficient, fit your lifestyle, and lift your spirits when you walk in.     Victoria Moran

kitchen drawer

Simplicity’s kitchen won our hearts the first day we walked in. Located in the middle of the house, the kitchen stretches the full width of her size.  Light enters through the long windows from both the East and West.   Her old wooden floor, beautifully refinished, adds charm.  Something about these two elements, the windows and floor, feels simple, organic, and joyful.


We enter Simplicity on the East side, through the kitchen.  This is a living hub that easily gathers elements of our day, our comings and goings.  Chaos and overwhelm can quickly happen.  With both of us preferring an empty counter top, this is a challenge.  Currently only a block of knives has rental space. It was granted a lease because we use our knives frequently every day.  Everything else has a place behind a cupboard door, easily accessible, but out of sight.


Because I work best in a kitchen that is orderly and efficient, I have developed several kitchen mantras.

  • As few small electrical appliances as possible. They require so much storage space. The electric can opener left long ago.


  • Awake to a clean kitchen. Don is on deck with this one.  As an early riser, he brings this room to order, makes the coffee, and gifts us a clean canvas of counter space.


  • Keep only what is frequently used on the shelves. Infrequently used items find storage on shelves in our basement. This still leaves too much.  Someday I yearn to open a cupboard and have ease in reaching for a bowl or tray. Stacking happens, making work out of using some items.


  • Everything needs a place. Two areas of daily clutter are the island and the counter near where the keys hang. This is where the randomness of the day lands and quickly accumulates.  Constant management is needed to file papers, put away a finished project or dishes collecting on the counter.


  • Ask questions. Every so often I take time to ask myself, is this item needed?  Space is a precious commodity in most kitchens and every item must be worthy of use to have room on the shelf or in a drawer.


Last week I asked questions of my kitchen utensils.  They had overtaken three drawers plus a utensil holder on the counter. “Do two people need all this?”  I have tried to minimize this assortment of useful utensils in the past.  Each one seems to have a very specific purpose and begs to be worthy of a place in the drawer.


On this day, looking upon my resting subjects, I saw them in a different light.  My gaze spotted the Tupperware melon baller.  “When were you last used?”  Months and years rolled back on the calendar.  I vaguely remember using this bright yellow utensil thirty years ago.  Out you go! Looking at this collection of kitchen helpers, I realized I avoided using some spoons and spatulas. I had my favorites and these were the back-ups. Out they went. The question I never asked was, “Will I use that someday?”  If not finding the utensil currently ‘on duty’, out it went.  My three drawers, plus holder on the counter, minimized to one large utensil drawer.


In the words of organizer Marie Kondo, now both the kitchen and the utensil drawer spark joy!

Twice a Day

I can’t imagine a day without coffee.  I can’t imagine.  Howard Schultz

Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.  Plautus

Two Coffee Cups

I see Don twice a day.  In truth, I see him many more times, however, these twice a day encounters include coffee and wine. For much of our married life, and certainly since we both retired to live as artists, we have created two important pauses in our twenty-four hours.  The day begins with coffee and ends with wine. These simple pauses have become daily rituals.  Without these beverage bookends, our lives feel incomplete and unfocused.

Don is an early riser.  I am not.  We laugh that he puts in a full day’s work by the time I show up for morning coffee.  While I sleep, he has watched several documentaries, listened to the world news, solved a photographic issue, and made headway on his white board to do list.  I prefer to enter the day slowly. Too early to face the disturbing world news, I write for half an hour while still in bed. Hand written pages sort out my mind while I view the natural world from the bedroom window.  Enticing smells of rich, dark coffee find their way from the kitchen to our upstairs bedroom.  I am so grateful Don has chosen to take on this task that begins our day together.   He is the coffee Grand Master, having developed the formula that makes the perfect cup.

Choosing a coffee mug is a simple pleasure.  Will it be from an artist we know, a gift from a friend or family member? Morning moods can change the selection. With dark strong coffee and a splash of cream, our conversations lay out the day’s agenda.  Who is doing what and where?  Should we go into Madison together or do our schedules dictate separate cars today? Is this a day we need to be mindful of both giving time to a mutual task, like cleaning the house or grocery shopping?  What’s the plan for lunch and dinner?  Does something need to be pulled from the freezer or purchased while we are out?

Morning coffee is often a recounting of our dreams from the night before.  Don is frequently losing something, like the car, or getting lost in an airport.  Why, we ask each other?  What does this mean about his life, our life?  My dreams focus around people and relationships. Why did I dream about a person so deep in my past or a stranger who became a central character? What brings them to mind? Dreams provide curious conversation for our mornings as does the current political scene.

Coffee happens in Simplicity’s living room.  Sitting across from each other in comfy chairs, I tuck my legs underneath me. There is a gracious patience to our conversation, a give and take, an awareness of when talking too much, as well as the phrasing of a thoughtful question.  I never feel this ritual is rushed or abandoned for the demands of the day.  This is a priority.

Just as the mornings bring us together, four o’clock in the afternoon brings closure to our working day.  Red wine is poured and a tempo of letting go begins.   During warmer weather, wine time happens on the front porch. Here we catch sight of neighbors out in their yards or returning home, dog walkers, and joggers. Everything within us pauses.  The day’s creative work that experienced both frustration and accomplishment is done.


“I feel like I am going nowhere with this painting. Every day I struggle.  That counts, doesn’t it? Just showing up every day?”  My kind and wise husband smiles as his eyes tell me all is well. No words are needed.  I know that being faithful to the practice will move me off ‘stuck’, someday. He knows that, too.  Just saying it aloud to someone who knows and lives this same battle, is enough. More than enough.  We catch up with the other about what we learned during our day between coffee and wine, the frustrating places in our writing, photography, and painting. The insights and breakthroughs find voice. There is a preciousness to these times together.  While talking and sipping, we are reminded that our days make sense and offer value.

These later years of life provide an opportunity to pause. The days of childcare and nine to five jobs are gone. Life has a different rhythm.  “Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m finding enjoyment in things that stop time.  Just the simple act of tasting a glass of wine is its own event.  You’re not downing a glass of wine in the midst of doing something else,” says David Hyde Pierce.   Morning coffee, taken on the run in our earlier lives, is now savored. The networking events with a glass of wine have quieted. Slowly sipped, the coffee and wine accompany thoughts both distant and near.  These are the stilled moments that prompt dreams of narrow boating on the English canals.  The moments when a full-hearted “I love you” breaks the rich silences.  Here time is honored and feels blessed. Lift your glasses.  Cheers!