Ginger Ale

Ginger Alexander
1995 - 2013

Ginger Ale departed for a new adventure on Christmas Eve at 9:20 PM. 

It was my pleasure and privilege to serve him these last 16+ years. He was a joy and comfort and a real trooper... and had a mischievous sense of humor.

Ginger never met a person he didn't want to fully embrace

Although he lived a robust, healthy life of at least 19 years, we will all miss him terribly.

Fare thee well, my boon companion!

Light a Candle

6 x 8 in.
"It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."
– Chinese proverb
The bridge between matter and spirit

Real magic is alchemy but not necessarily turning base metals into gold. Real magic is all about transformation.

This is the best time of year to ponder transformation. During the longest nights, the seeds of new growth lay hidden in the earth. We may not see them but they're there. Regardless of our scientific knowledge, it does take some faith to believe that the light will return with longer days and another spring and summer.

These festivals of light, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, have been carried on, in one way or another, for eons. I can imagine the ancients putting their full attention on finding sources of light at just this time of year. If there's a record of what time of year Prometheus lit that torch from the sun and brought it down to mankind, I would not be surprised if it were right about now.

The full title from which I lifted the above header comes from one of my favorite books by the architectural visionary, Paolo Soleri.

The bridge between matter and spirit is matter becoming spirit.

This week there's a full moon to boot.

The Full (Cold) Moon peaks today, Tuesday, December 17, at 4:28 A.M. EST.

The Winter Solstice occurs on Saturday, December 21st at 12:11 a.m. EST.

Light a candle. Meditate. Say your prayers and... Celebrate!
"The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light."
– Joseph Campbell
"This has been quite a journey! Intense, stimulating, sometimes challenging, but always rewarding.

"Suzanne has helped me understand myself better, accept my limitations, and not be so self-critical. She has showed me how to have fun being creative.

"Suzanne has been very generous with her time, and very supportive and encouraging in all her critiques."

—Rosemary Connolly, Charlottesville, VA
Consider how your light is spent

Life is the First Art

Since I announced my upcoming group coaching program, (starting in late January), I've received a lot of questions as to what it's all about.

The formal description will be announced at the first of the year (unless you're on the waiting list, in which case, you'll receive the description just before year's end.) But, I'll say a few more things about it here.

If you've taken my workshops or studied with me online, you'll know that my teaching is all about solid foundation. Without an underlying systematic structure, most things— buildings, people, creative endeavors, businesses and plant life, for that matter, will fall apart.

In most of my creative endeavors, including program and content creation, I've taken an architectural approach. Behind my poems, lyrics, music, paintings, building, and whatever other projects I've thrown myself into, lurks some architectural sensibility. It's been a life-long through line.

As anyone who's studied with me will tell you, my drawing and watercolor workshops and courses are means to personal transformation. Not everyone wants to draw and watercolor, or is too afraid, or thinks they don't have time, or that they're not good enough.

So, for those who do not opt to work with pencil and brush, (and for former and current students who want to continue on the transformation process in another way), I've designed a different kind of program for transformation.

Life is The First Art takes an architectural approach to building a strong and beautiful foundation for your life. The design will help you clear space in your mind, heart, soul and environment to discern what's really important to you, how you really want to spend your time, eliminate habitual excuses and realize the life that will make you happy. Life is really short. This program will help you create your own foundation now and, in future, when you need it, that foundation will help you stand strong (or get back on your feet again) when you feel as though everything else is falling apart.

My approach to teaching and coaching is systematic, down to earth, intelligent, supportive, encouraging and expansive. The people who sign up for my programs are, in a word, AWESOME. You want to know these people! They're brave and committed and wonderful and kind to one another. I want you to know each other! We do a lot of work and have a lot of laughs.

A good foundation is key to good living, working, playing, building, and any sort of creating. A happy, systematic program, with encouraging guidance and a compassionate support group is a super fun way to rebuild and realign ourselves; to climb out of the straight jacket of old habits and to formulate new disciplines and practice.

Life is the First Art is my new group coaching program launching in late January 2014. If you're on my waiting list, you'll receive advance notice and an invitation. I'm keeping this first group small, so space is very limited!

Put your name on the waiting list now!
Click Here for the course page and sign up!
No obligation, just information and notification.


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So much to do...

Watercolor, 7 x 10
"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important."
― Bertrand Russell
So little time...

I forced myself to take last weekend off. What a concept.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I kept popping at the proverbial seams and wondering why. I didn't have to wonder long. After a couple of over-reactive episodes, it dawned on me that, in trying to rebuild Rome in a day (as it were), I'd become overwhelmed and exhausted. I ordered myself to rest.

I didn't rest completely but took time out for play, socializing, and laying around in bed.

I actually used to call up friends and ask them to give me permission to rest. I wasn't quite that direct but, essentially, that's what those conversations amounted to. They could also be loosely translated as follows: if I quit working (pushing, figuring things out, trying to achieve, hustling) for a day (or a week) won't the world fall apart?

Dear reader, I don't have to tell you the answer to that question! Embarrassingly ridiculous, I know. I can only confess to this in public because I don't do it anymore.

Now, I recognize the signs of fatigue and take my foot off the pedal to coast for a while. I wish I could say that I always catch myself in time but I don't. That has to be okay with me because, as a human being, I am always becoming. There is no there there.

There's only here here and now now!

What saved me last week was remembering my favorite (or most helpful) Thomas Merton quote.
"Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity."
—Thomas Merton
Rest is trust

There are more forces at work than my own little paws spinning my own little hamster wheel. That's what I've learned to remind myself. Regularly.

When I get out of my own way or take a nap or order myself to rest in other ways, problems are solved or disappear and sometimes, miracles happen.

No miracle but today, as I was wondering how I was going to do x amount of tasks in y amount of time, my wireless keyboard gave up the ghost. The only thing I could do (if I wanted to continue working) was to drive to the Apple Store and buy a new one. At some point on the errand, I realized that, by flipping my priorities, I could manage my work load and better my situation.

I didn't take a nap (although I'd have preferred that to the mall), but I provided my head a rest of sorts from the particular problem I didn't know how to solve. I moved my attention away from the issue and a resolution arose.

The point I want to make is that by allowing myself to rest, I am allowing myself to trust. This may be a foreign concept for some of you but I'm guessing (an educated guess) that I'm not alone in this.

The not being alone part? That's critical to resting and trusting, too. It's also another article but I would not have noticed how crispy I was (as in burnt out) last week had it not been for my interaction with others.

It's funny how difficult it is to see in ourselves what is obvious when we look at someone else. That's one of the beauties of working in community. What are those Robbie Burns lines?
"O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"
Until you're experienced and practiced (and sometimes even then), it's the same with drawing and watercolor. It really helps to have a group of others through which to better understand ourselves and see the excellence in our efforts (when we may only find the fault.)

I'll have a new online drawing and watercolor course starting in March of next year but, I'm offering a long awaited coaching course starting after the first of the year. One of the benefits and wonders of my online course is the group dynamic. I'm excited to watch that unfold in my coaching course!
"During periods of relaxation after concentrated intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and can produce the sudden clarifying insights which give so much joy and delight."
— Fritjof Capra
Foundation and Community

In addition to rest, there are other elements that help build strength and prevent melt-down (amongst other things.) Eating right, exercising daily, operating in some sort of regular supportive community. Basic, common sense, approaches to living and reminders of universal principals that really work to guarantee a pretty awesome life.

A good foundation is key to good living, working, playing, building, and any sort of creating. A happy, systematic program, with encouraging guidance and a compassionate support group is a super fun way to rebuild and realign ourselves; to climb out of the straight jacket of old habits and to formulate new disciplines and practice.

Life is the First Art is my new group coaching program launching in late January 2014. More about that in the future but I'm launching the program with a small group by invitation.

To put your name on the waiting list, email me and ask me to add your name. No obligation, just information and notification.

Join my Tribe and receive ongoing inspiration
  • Creative Wake Up eBook
  • with bonus song download
  • and my Weekly eZine Stroke and Flow

The Key to Forgiveness

Watercolor and pencil paper test on 4 x 6 in

Watercolor is an unforgiving medium

After people tell me that they can't draw a straight line and they realize that I also teach watercolor, that I'm a watercolor artist, there are a small variety of negative reactions. One of those is "Oh, watercolor is such an unforgiving medium!"

I was going to write something this week based on a Marcus Aurelius quote but when I went to retrieve my book to look it up, I ran into an unexpected and unpleasant encounter. That stuck with me.

When I started going through the Meditations, other quotes jumped out at me and I mulled over the encounter and the theme for this week's Stroke & Flow.

The theme of forgiveness seemed in order but that's such a rich topic. One could (not me) write a book about it. I'm sure there are many books already on forgiveness. Yep, just checked Amazon: 9,603 titles.

Just for the record, (and this is for another chapter in the forgiveness book) not taking things (anything) personally, no matter how personal it may seem, is the way to head off the chain reactions that leave us (sometimes literally) dying for forgiveness.
"Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears."
—Marcus Aurelius
There are so many emotional stages to process after getting hooked by some conflict that lead us to the need for forgiveness: insult, hurt, anger, resentment, tension, obsession and so forth.

Finally, I realized that the real key to forgiveness is letting go. Easier said than done. Letting go is not really forgetting (forgive and forget), it's letting go, releasing. In forgiving, in letting go of everything we attach to a perceived harm, we actually release ourselves from the bondage of those nasty, negative thoughts and emotions.

After I finished a big watercolor this afternoon, I thought about how a practiced watercolorist must let go in order to play with the medium. Not a new thought, but in light of this forgiveness theme, arising in a new context.

While learning watercolor (and we're always learning) we go through stages of struggle in lessons and, eventually, in practice. Anyone who has painted with watercolor, at any stage of the game, will tell you that the more you struggle, the worse the outcome. Sure, you have to learn the basics and gain an understanding of the behavior of the medium, develop your own coordination and skill, then you have to practice regularly and over an extended period of time. But at some point, by letting go enough, you begin to understand the medium of watercolor and become friendly with it. Watercolor is not so much unforgiving as misunderstood.

Like watercolor, forgiveness requires us to let go. After all, so much conflict is based on misunderstanding.
"Is one doing me wrong? Let himself look to that; his humours and his actions are his own. As for me, I am only receiving what the World-Nature wills me to receive, and acting as my own nature wills me to at."
― Marcus Aurelius
"Because a thing is difficult for you, do not therefore suppose it to be beyond mortal power. On the contrary, if anything is possible and proper for man to do, assume that it must fall within your own capacity."
—Marcus Aurelius
If you have a difficult time letting go...

Just think about how brief life is. Do you want to spend your hours in anger and resentment? Probably not.

Over the holidays, you'll have plenty of triggers, from the person in the car in front of you, to a family member at the table beside you, to yourself.

Can you see yourself in the other person? Have you ever been the person in the car in front of someone else, next to someone like yourself at the table?

Let it go, especially if you're being hard on yourself. Remember that all the anger and resentment and whatever negativity you feel towards anyone else is not doing them any harm. It's only harming you.

Take a deep breath. As you release your breath, let it go, let it go, let it go. Like most things, letting go is a practice.

I'm going to be practicing this. You're welcome to join me.

On the other hand, don't be a door mat.

Look to yourself for your own truth, be clear on your boundaries, and be kind.
"When an opponent in the gymnasium gashes us with his nails or bruises our head in a collision, we do not protest or take offence, and we do not suspect him ever afterwards of malicious intent. However, we do regard him with a wary eye; not in enmity or suspicion, yet good-temperedly keeping our distance. So let it be, too, at other times in life; let us agree to overlook a great many things in those who are, as it were, our fellow contestants. A simple avoidance, as I have said, is always open to us, without either suspicion or ill-will."
—Marcus Aurelius


Join my Tribe and receive ongoing inspiration
  • Creative Wake Up eBook
  • with bonus song download
  • and my Weekly eZine Stroke and Flow