Thursday, August 28, 2014

Happy 100

Every year we celebrate my Grandma Magda on August 26th, her birthday (or very close to it). We have a little party in the graveyard.

My mom posted a couple of really nice tributes to her mom (my Grandma) on Facebook. And that is my Grandma and my sister in the paintings, which were painted by my Grandma:

We were scarfing down a very delicious chocolate cake from Market Basket (we are so glad to have you back!!!!!) and about to draw in our Holiday Book, when we suddenly realized...

Gramma Magda would have been 100 years old! ONE HUNDRED. Whoa.

Since we ate all of the chocolate cake, we brought her a bunch of unwrapped Hershey's kisses, and laid out our message on the stone. (We later moved it to the ground).

I have to back up a step in the story... when we arrived at the graveyard, and stepped out of the car, Alex and Lilah were teasing each other and for some reason, he threw the frisbee out into the field - except, he wasn't aiming and it flew off into the trees! Oh NO! Another Aerobie lost. :-(  We searched and searched, but it is probably up there in the tree tops or off in the dense poison ivy.

While Alex and Mom kept searching, Lilah and I laid out the Kisses. She was really distressed when she realized that there wouldn't be any chocolate left for her to EAT when the letters were complete. I suggested she write "LUV" instead of "LOVE" - it's much more Kiss-efficient.

Ah - perfect!!

 But, alas, Alex is the Gramma... er... grammar... police in any language. Especially chocolate.

But he is also an excellent big brother. He spells correctly, but he let his sister have the last Kiss.

I found myself thinking - when I am 100 years old - if I am not still happily alive - I want to know that my kids, grandkids and great-grandchildren are remembering me, telling silly stories about me, and smearing chocolate on my headstone!

As for the frisbee... we could tell Alex felt really bad about that. But Lilah and I decided we'd "manifest" it. We asked any watching spirits - especially our Gramma-Bear (see the bear on the stone?) - to please return the frisbee to the gravestone. We promised to come and check.

So if you happen to be walking through the graveyard, and see a bright orange frisbee sitting on a chocolate-smeared gravestone...

with large pawprints in the dirt....'s ours!

Two Kinds of Power

I keep getting flashes (re-runs?) in my head from that cartoon from my childhood Super Friends ... "Wonder Twin Power - ACTIVATE!"
(she says): "Form of... an eagle!"
(he says): "Form of... a bucket of water!"

Seriously? You can turn into anything, ANYTHING, just by touching two rings together. And you choose a bucket of water?! Well, that is a kind of power.

I've been reading through a lot of Martha Beck books lately and power comes up in many ways - I like the references to Magic and the Universe. But the two kinds of "power" I am finally starting to understand are:
1. Power - as in "don't give away your power"
2. Power - as in energy, power that keeps things running

Power #1

This first one had been leaving me baffled and seemed like a trendy catch-phrase. The knee-jerk response being "well, ok, but how do I NOT give it away?"

I am listening to Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want while I work and I love the concepts, but admit I don't really "get" how it works in real life. As I listened to her explain the concept of problem solving by using imagination and metaphors - I realized that THAT is how I work. Completely unrelated things, ideas, quotes... come together in my head in an effort to explain something... and POOF... the explanation becomes the solution.

Years ago, I read a quote in Douglas Adams' book Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency that went something like - "The best way to really understand something is to explain it to someone else." So true! And Martha Beck takes it a step further... to determine if you have a real problem (vs. an imagined problem)... can you explain the dilemma to your cat in a way that makes them understand why it is a real problem?

So last night, my daughter was trying to express her frustration about being told not to give away her power. New classful of kids at school, new teachers, recess, brothers... eeegh... power flying everywhere!

Lilah - "If a person does something mean or annoying and I get really-really angry... how am I supposed to stay calm and not yell!?"

Yes, good point. We've all been there. Power be damned, we want to punch something sometimes, right?

Me - "So, yelling at this person - that's giving away your power?"

Lilah - "Yes. I'm supposed to keep my power. That is just all dumb and makes no sense!"

She is obviously really frustrated.
My brain starts pulling in strange metaphors and a light clicks on in my head (that's a metaphor too, isn't it?).

Me - "Let's say that your Power is a stack of Donuts - chocolate glazed and some maple glazed too. There's a person in front of you who upsets you - do you give them the donuts... or walk away?"

Lilah - stares at me. I see she "gets it". Then: "But Donuts are really-really bad for you - maybe it would be better to give them to that person and they'd get sick?"


Moral of the story: Don't give away your Donuts.

Power #2

This one has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I am very-very introverted. That is quite different from being shy. I can do all kinds of brave or extroverted-looking things... like going out to lunch with friends, holding a meeting, even teaching in front of a crowd. But I pay the price the next day. Sometimes for the next WEEK. I just want to sleep. I have nothing to give. And if the situation is negative, antagonistic, or physically painful, I can get physically ill or suffer other autonomic responses (like a fever or shakes). I describe it as my "social hangover".

It was about a year ago, when I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, that I learned this is actually very common for other introverts too. (If you are introverted or know someone who is - read it!!).

The past few weeks have been one event after another... a fabulous trip with my family (but 7 days, 24 hours a day WITH constant companionship), catching up on work and email, meetings, meetings, meetings... and not all of these were welcome or happy events. Let's just say that I was exhausted. My power had run way... way... way... down.

One morning Lilah woke me up after another night of (4am) nightmares. I had been so completely exhausted that I had allowed her to sleep on the floor next to my bed. She was bouncy and ready for the day. I was... not.  She asked me if I was angry at her? I apologized for being so grumpy and explained a little about the introvert-thing. And as I always seem to do - my brain searched for the metaphor to explain the puzzle.

Me: "I am like an iPad. If I am ON and running Apps, they drain Power and the Battery symbol turns red. If I'm in Sleep mode, the Battery can last for days."

Lilah: "Some Apps use more Power - that's why you tell me to close anything I'm not actually playing with..."

Me: "Yes! We can listen to stories in iTunes all day without using up all the Power, but an hour of Clumsy Ninja and..."

Lilah: "....we have to Recharge the Battery!"

Me: "Exactly. I've been running a lot of different Apps lately - some good, some bad - but now I need to Recharge."

She told me to go take a long, hot shower (one way I recharge) and she would draw me a picture.

She drew four pictures...

Those are my BAD Apps. Her App Icons are more expressive than mere titles could be, but I will try to label them. She explained that these are programs that we might do or someone might do to us: Yelling, Sad, Arguments (I love the gestures!), Broken Heart, Angry, Despair (Crying Your Eyes Out).

And these GOOD Apps are: Happy, Brain, Computer, Hugs, Kisses (nice lips!), Creating Art, Love, Good Dreams, Gardening (that's my big weed bucket and me on my knees pulling a weed!), Exercise, Sleep (my bed has round headboard and footboard with cheetah print fabric, those are not chocolate chip cookies!), Reading, Shower.

Lilah understood that both Good Apps and Bad Apps can use Power at different rates. And some activities Drain it really fast and some use very little or actually help replenish it. So she made two more charts of Apps...

The Apps that use up a lot of Power are: Angry, Crying, Computer, Bad Dreams, Arguments, Weeding, Driving (that's a steering wheel and pedals), Exercise, Broken Heart. Oh-yes, these things are all really exhausting!!

But there is a bright side...

These Apps don't use very much Power and feel really good: Happy, Creating Art, Brain, Awake, Good Dreams, Sleeping, Love, Hugs, and Kisses.

I'm loving this concept of explaining an idea to someone and having them explain it back to me. We each add our own metaphors and understandings and the whole thing becomes so clear. There are still things that my daughter can't seem to explain to me (nightmares for one) but knowing that we are creating symbols and pictures and metaphors that create a new kind of communication is exciting and fills us with hope. Anything can be puzzled-out with the right metaphor and imagination. (Thank you Martha Beck.)

And here is one more fabulous drawing Lilah made last week in response to a comic sent to her by Mia Bonet. I posted both, with transcripts, on the page.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

... And a Boat, Too

In the past few weeks, on our grand adventure, we traveled by airplane, bus, elevated train, cabs, Amtrak trains, Grand Canyon railway, shuttles... everything but a boat!

Until today.

Today we got to sail on the MV Kearsarge around Lake Sunapee in celebration of a new book by "Alex Ashe".  Death on the Water was inspired by the mysterious sinking of the MV Kearsarge. The boat was rescued and restored, obviously, or we would not have been sailing on it today!

This is the third book in the Mena Young Mysteries series.

It was relaxing and exciting to cruise around the lake looking at the beautiful homes and waving to the folks who were celebrating the last summer weekend before school starts.

Here is my daughter, Lilah (with her brother, Alex, weirdly growing out of her head!), with Daniela (aka "Alex Ashe"). The red nose helps to protect her true identity. Kind of like... Superman/Clark Kent with the eye glasses. (No one ever seems to have noticed the similarities).

 Lilah is always happiest when she is being helpful. Daniela put her to work handing out souvenirs and bookmarks...

...And red clown noses!

Do you have any idea how hard it is to breathe with one of these stuck to your face? I'm pretty sure that's why Muppets talk so funny. I definitely felt more like a Muppet than a clown. 
Hmmm... portrait of mother and child as Muppets? (hee hee)

She is multi-talented - Lilah also drove the boat!

Although they wouldn't let her park it.

These last four photos (us with the noses, Lilah steering, and the boat) were "borrowed" from Facebook - Daniela took the photos. But I did make the little girl! ;-)

When we got home, I wanted to take a snooze, but seems like this kid never runs out of energy! If I want to get anything done, I have to find a way to occupy her too. I have tables set up just for HER in my studio, but that's not good enough. She wants to be at the same drafting table using MY art toys. Here is a shot of my drawing table with Lilah working on the right half, on my light tablet, and me squished in on the left, working on my journal page.

It is a great tool and Lilah decided to draw her own mandalas. She was inspired by Judith Moffat's Mandala coloring book.Do notice how that elbow is sticking out at 90 degrees from her body? You see that, right? Yeh, that's MY space that is being stolen by the Elbow!

Ah, well, it's really no worse than trying to draw when the cat is sprawled across the table. And at least this time, I didn't have to work in my lap.

The cat gets her own revenge.  Minou can fit herself in anywhere, pretend that she is perfectly comfortable with her butt 12 inches higher than her head, or even prop her head on a stuffie while allowing her butt to be used as a reading pillow to support Lilah's rather heavy Harry Potter book.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

AlphaTangled Contest - The Winners!

I always seem to forget how difficult it is to hold a contest! I like the challenge aspect of it and seeing the amazing work... but "choosing" a winner? So hard!

I really wanted to give everyone who entered a prize - so I had the idea of giving each person a copy of the Tangle Library App! I've sent each of you a message on Facebook with a special code. If you don't see it in your Messages, check the "Other" folder. 

If you'd like info about Tangle Library, or have questions, please visit the Tangle Library Facebook page.

So, in my non-technical manner, I counted up the votes and added in mine and Bonnie's and - since some people voted for a few people... well... that's why I like to give everyone a prize!

The entry receiving the most votes was...


Congratulations, Ellen!

And the second winner - good grief! Are there really THREE people who tied!?
Alrighty then - our winners are...






And if you folks would please send me your mailing addresses (email to me at then Bonnie and I will gather your prizes and mail them out to you. Too exciting. :-)

Oh - and I have had a bunch of requests from people who are asking about getting the books and trading cards in Canada and Europe... we are going to look into the shipping costs and, perhaps, offer international sales for one week. If you might be interested, leave a comment and let me know WHERE we should be checking the shipping (what countries). If you have friends in the area who also want stuff - you could order together too. Thanks.

Monday, August 18, 2014

AlphaTangled Contest - The Entries!

A few weeks back I posted a challenge/contest for the new AlphaTangled card packs.

Here's the challenge:

Create a Zentangle using your name 
or nickname as the string, and only 
traditional tangle patterns to fill it in.

You may interpret the challenge however you like, 
but stick to black, white and red, and shading, 
for your color palette. Any size.

As always, you folks jump at a challenge and make such beautiful art work!

I had planned to do the voting on Facebook, but I had a few emails from non-Facebook users - so I have moved all the entries here to the blog.

If you would like to vote on the winner for the People's Choice category, please do so in the comments below. You just need to leave a comment with the artist's name, but feel free to say what you loved about the piece as well. :-)

Yes - you may vote for yourself.

I will post the winners on Wednesday (August 20th).
Good Luck everyone!


I divided the tile roughly into quadrants, with "A" on the left, "D" top middle, "A" bottom right, and "M" top right. I used Poke Leaf, Zander, Aquafleur, Twing, and Striping. What a fun challenge!



As a string for my tile I used my initials AG. I selected the patterns based on my firstname:


I also posted it on my blog:
Thank you Sandy for this challenge!



a birthday card for a friend's son



I'm really new to tangling but thought I'd play. I used my initial signature, "dLP" as a string.


With the e as string and filled with echoism, nipa, nzeppel, eye-wa and eke. 
All related to my name Ellen.


You can see the string on my blog:


I used the tangles pais, huggins, jalousie, bales, laced and mak-rah-mee. It can also be found on my blog at




I used my first name in capitals for the string. 
Tangles used: printemps, meer, purk, nzeppel, twing pepper, kathy's dilemma and echoism.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Resized and Recapped

Now that I am home, I went through the blog posts from the Adventure and resized and replaced the collaged photos. I do all my posts on my iPhone and I think it automatically resizes everything for an iphone screen. No matter, they look better now. AND I added in a few video clips! (Another thing I can't do on my iPhone in the Blogger App). To make it easy for you - if you want to take a new look - here is a list with links:

The Western Adventure Begins
Western Adventure Day 2
Riding the Rails
Train Day
Out on the Rim
Below the Rim
Goodbye Canyon, Dust Roads
Still Tripping

And here is the link to the previous post I wrote about depression and suicide
Another Sad Goodbye

Thanks for coming along on the Adventure with us!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Still Tripping

Are we there yet?

In yesterday's post, did I make the cosmic error of saying the adventure was over? Perhaps I tempted fate by stating we just had a few flights and then we'd be home?


The Flagstaff airport is so small, there is only one flight arriving or leaving every few hours.  Ours was meant to leave at around 10:30am and I wasn't really worried when they announced the flight coming in from Phoenix would be a little late due to the weather. We had a generous half hour to get to our second flight, to Philly. In a different terminal. Ok. I was worried. 

Then... They announced the flight was cancelled and the flight returned to Phoenix because of a low "ceiling". Uh-oh. 

We were told to line up again to reschedule our flights. We heard all sorts of bits of terrible conversations while waiting. For an hour. Flights had been cancelled last night too. All flights were overbooked. There would be similar rainy conditions tomorrow. The next flight with space was after 9pm tonight...

We inched closer to the ticket desk. Only 5 more people in front of us...

Wait? What just happened?! Where'd the ticket agents go?!!!

A flight had made it in through the "weather" and turns out the two ticket agents also do all the boarding and preflight stuff. So we waited some more...

(Lilah drew pages and pages in her journal - I will have to scan them in when I get home and post them. I was so impressed with the characters she created and their Bios). 

When we finally got to the counter we were told we could try to get on the 9:15pm flight which, after two transfers, might get in to Manchester, NH by dawn. Maybe. Or we could come back tomorrow morning and try again. And because the cancellation was due to weather, the airline was not responsible for our hotel costs. 

Instead of screaming, I asked the agent, "I hope you do kickboxing or something to help relieve the stress?"  She looked up and smiled and said, "some days are easy. Some days are like today."

Ok then. I decided that we would find another way to get to Phoenix and asked her to find us new flights to Philly and Manchester. Finding flights with four seats on the same plane was hard, but she did it. We'll have to get up at 5am tomorrow... 

And then I started to search for hotel rooms at the Phoenix airport - on my iPhone. And how to get there?!

My mom noticed a bumblebee logo on a lady's tee shirt and realized it was an ad for a taxi service. She said she could take her fare to their hotel, then come back for us. 

We were having a picnic on the floor an hour later and she patiently waited for us to eat. She not only took us the 2.5 hour drive to Phoenix, she chatted happily with all of us the entire way, and wasn't phased at all at the huge quantity of chocolate muffin crumbs dispensed by Lilah over the backseat or the way her foot kept accidentally triggering the automatic windows...

If you are ever in the Flagstaff area and need a driver (

And the "bee" theme!!!? Couldn't have suited us more! She let Lilah hold her bee mascot. 

So we missed all our flights and all that.. But we got to have a yummy lunch (we'd have gone without food for 8 hours if we'd made out flight). We met a very nice lady and made it to Phoenix safely. We saw beautiful landscapes we'd have missed up on the plane. We each have our own bed tonight - no one is on the floor or a rollaway. Free wifi - we finished watching the third Season of Legends of Korra. And the little mermaid was thrilled to find an outdoor pool!

We had gone from 60 degrees and pouring in Flagstaff to a tropical 94 degrees in Phoenix. 

The pool was like bath water!

We were both quite wrinkly by the time we got back to our rooms. When I got out of the shower, Alex had Lilah quizzing  him with definitions for his English homework. "Apostrophe..."  It's like a magic spell the way he controls her... Ahem... convinces her... That what he is doing is interesting. 

She has also been grilling me about the book I am reading, "The Lost" by Sarah Beth Durst. I am a genius mom! I discovered that she will let me read in peace - no- she forces me to read - so that I will tell her what is happening in the book! It's not appropriate for a seven year old to read, but the retelling works great. 

I first learned about this author from my Bancroft School Alumni Newsletter. That first book was "Into the Wild". Modern spin on fairy tales. She has a ton of books now and this one has me spellbound. It also happens to take place in this region, where I am also "trapped" right along with the main character. 

I am looking forward to the long flight tomorrow so I can finish the book!


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