"Joy is a decision, a really brave one, about how you are going to respond to life."
A long time ago I was part of a hospice team. Every year we visited county nursing home residents to host a holiday singalong. We always asked the residents for requests. I've never forgotten the moment one elderly woman slowly stood up with the assistance of an aide. She swayed unsteadily on her feet but her voice rang out loud and strong:
JOY! .............. long pause ........... TO THE WORLD!
It was a command, not a request.
For a thousand different reasons it can be difficult to feel joy. But I've been thinking a lot about joy these days. I've been studying joy. What if the world didn't have to be any different but we were different? What if, as commanded, we found Joy?
From December 27th, 2018 until January 2nd, 2019 (7 days) I'll be posting Joy Notes on this website and Instagram. Each day will present a different perspective on joy.
I know that no one's life is exempt from pain and sorrow. But I also know that we have the opportunity to feel more joy in our life. Take a chance on joy and consider my Joy Notes. You might be surprised, you might be unsettled. You may be filled with hope. And you might find more joy. Please, join me on this journey - the world can sure use more joy.
If you would like to receive a Joy Note via email from me for seven days please let me know by responding with the button below.
We had an 'abracadabra' day Sunday in The Encouragement Cafe! Annette Murray worked her watercolor magic teaching us how to create stunning colorful handmade holiday cards. Mary Peterson astonished us as she put together a beautiful flower and evergreen arrangement before our eyes and then helped each of us create one too! The laughter, new friendships and conversations linger in my mind long after everyone goes home.
The Encouragement Cafe is more than a story, more than a place in your heart, more than a studio in my home. The Encouragement Cafe appears - abracadabra! - anytime women get together in play and friendship to make things with their hands and to share what is in their hearts. The encouragement was flowing Sunday like an unlimited cup of coffee from woman to woman. And what is encouragement anyway but "I see you and you are doing great, keep at it!"
So, one of my holiday wishes this year right behind world peace is that you create your own local chapter of The Encouragement Cafe, like a chain restaurant, serving up nourishment anytime and anywhere women get together to create, to share, to laugh, and say, "I see you and you are doing great. Keep it up!"
The world can always use a little more encouragement, and 'abracadabra' you've created it!
'Abracadabra' as it is used here means “I will create as I speak”.
From my heart to yours, Judy
I'm giving away watercolor feather bookmarks. Each one is unique. On the back you'll find something amazing about feathers. You see, I examined my heart closely and found that appreciation and love of nature and this earth come easily to me but that I wasn't sharing it with others.
Poet Mary Oliver says: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
I'm listening to you, Mary. 2018 is my year of amazement. There will be hand made give aways all year, things reflecting some of what I find astonishing about life. All I ask is that you too share your moments of amazement with others.
My dream? That we build a culture of appreciation for all life; that we never lose our sense of wonder at the miracles of creation; that we slow down enough, and put our devices down long enough, to marvel at something as 'simple' as a feather.
I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but still I can do something.
Edward Everett Hale
Send me an email with your mailing address if you'd like a feather bookmark. And be sure to let me know something YOU find amazing about nature!
2017 has been a year of learning to appreciate the life I have, instead of longing for the life I thought I should have. Gratitude becomes more and more a way of life. I find myself grateful for the big things in life - that I get to wake up each day for instance and experience life again. And I find myself also grateful for the smallest of things - the way the sun light catches the crimson in one of my paintings, or the way my dog runs to greet me when I come home each day. Gratitude has helped me be a happy person much of the time. And I am grateful for that!
I'm grateful for the women who have participated in my workshops at the Encouragement Cafe. With your donations I sent almost $900 this year to charity:water.org. Your honesty and compassion helped me learn important lessons. And we had so many laughs and fun painting! I'm grateful to my partner for supporting my creative adventures without hesitation. I'm grateful to my children for being so totally who they are - not who I might have thought they 'should' be. Boy, have I learned a lot from them!
One of the quotes we explored in the women's program this year was this one by Joseph Campbell:
"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are."
With the onset of a new year, may you come to appreciate the privilege of being who you are more and more. May you find gratitude for the tiny moments as well as the vast experiences of your life.
And may you continue to grow and learn and love.
Below are some of the women mixed media pieces I made with Campbell's quote in mind.
Happy new year dear friends! Love, Judy
There will be a short article about the Encouragement Cafe and these women in the March 2018 issue of UPPERCASE magazine.
I want to let you in on a little secret: every single time I put out a newsletter, offer a workshop, share my art, point you in the direction of my website, organize a conference, or have a conversation about what matters most to me and what I stand for, I hesitate. I think thoughts like "What if they aren't interested in my work? What if I am pestering them? What if they think I am boring or silly?"
Every single time I share a piece of myself, I have to talk myself into it.
This is the quote that helps me share myself with others:
Find your voice,
shout it from the rooftops,
and keep doing it
until the people that are
looking for you find you.
Here is another secret: every single time I do share myself, someone (and I can never predict who it will be) tells me it was just what they needed to hear, just what they needed to do, or it inspired them to do what ever it is they do. And if I don't hear it soon after I share, someone will come up to me months or even a year later and say, "I didn't tell you then but what you wrote really mattered to me."
We cannot predict who we will influence or how we will influence. But I believe if you have the urge that doesn't go away to share something of yourself, it will in some way be a good thing for someone else. You may never know who or how. We have to let go of the need to know those answers.
If you have been thinking about sharing something that is important to you but have hesitated out of shyness, please share it with the world. Yes, it occurs to me that someone might think me boring, silly, pushy and annoying but they can always unsubscribe from my correspondence. There is someone out there that is looking for exactly what you have to share. You have to speak out so they can find you.
If you could use some inspiration or know someone else who might need friendly support, send me an email with your address and I'll send you a few small cards like the ones above that you can give to others. There is also a larger version you can print for free off of my website. Because isn't that what we can do, support each other with love and encouragement? The cards are free to anyone.
And, don't be shy, let me know what you are up to!
Two years ago I spent a rainy month in Portland, Oregon visiting my sons. One especially wet day as I dodged puddles, maneuvered my umbrella and navigated my way around people and their dogs in bright yellow slickers (yes, a lot of the dogs in Portland wear rain gear) I mused about places in the world where people live and there is no water. That day in Portland there was water everywhere: dripping off the hood of my jacket into my face, small rivers running down the street, tree branches heavy with moisture, and especially inside my boots squishing through soggy grass. Periodically I had to wipe the fog from my glasses so I could see. Living in a place with no water is beyond the scope of my understanding. Women in particular, in many communities, have to walk long distances to get water.
We can do something about this. Since this particular lightbulb went off, Charity: Water has been my charity of choice. They say that one in ten people on this planet lacks access to clean water. Through our donations, Charity: Water partners with people all over the world to build community owned water projects providing clean water. This matters to me.
You can read about them here: www.charitywater.org
Charity: Water also has an interesting quiz on their website where you can answer a few questions and see who in a far away community is most like you.
Today, Saturday, April 22, 2017, is Earth Day. A year ago many of you spent Earth Day 2016 with me and my wonderful friends at the Women of Substance Conference. Your participation in that day resulted in donations of over $400 each to Ronald McDonald House, Camp Dreamcatcher, Girls on the Run, and Charity: Water.
If you have interest in helping me donate to Charity: water here is my proposal to you:
I have made "I Love the World" one of a kind art cards. They are mixed media using tea bags, embroidery, paints and indigo dyed papers and you can see the cards here.The cost of the card, including shipping, is $15. If you buy one of the cards from me I will turn around and donate your $15 plus $5 of my own to Charity: Water. That is an $20 donation to Charity:Water. Just send me an email and indicate which art card you would like and where you would like it mailed. It could also be a thoughtful gift given in some one else's name. If you are not crazy about donating to Charity: Water but would instead like to donate to another charity, I'll send you a card anyway with your word that you will make a donation. (I will only add $5 to Charity: Water donations.) There are so many good ways to make a difference in the world.
On this beautiful Earth Day in Pennsylvania it is raining as I write this note. It is so green here! Go out, create, share, play, do what you do to make the world a better place!
Optimism: a feeling or belief that good things will happen in the future
I may be the champion of encouragement, optimism and finding the joy, but really, who can be positive all the time? My life, like yours, has been a messy mix of sorrow, pain, challenges, boredom, anxiety, joys, contentment and excitement. We are all living the full catastrophe. In each of our lives there are long stretches where optimism seems like a fantasy and joy has flown out the window to nest in someone else's tree.
Right now I know of women mourning the death of a husband or a child, parents struggling with troubled children and young adults trying to find meaning in their life. Sixty year old friends have recently lost their jobs and with insufficient income and savings doubt they'll find work to support their family. I know men and women struggling with addiction, anxiety, infertility, and obesity. Friends are facing cancer and all other kinds of health issues, spouses with dementia, and aging parents.
In these situations, wouldn't the logical conclusion be to go to bed and pull the covers up over one's head?
And yet, for the most part, none of us give up. We still get up every morning and keep trying to make things better in any way we can. I'm not saying its easy or fun, but we do keep trying.
Being an optimist doesn't mean one always believes that good things will happen. I think optimism is big enough and flexible enough to embrace the idea that living optimistically also means that we don't give up when the going gets tough.
Give yourself that. Today you did the best you could with what life has given you. You keep trying. It may not be pretty and you may not succeed but you keep trying every day to live a life that reflects the values that are important to you. Give yourself credit for the courage it requires to get up each morning and face the challenges of your life.
I know I'm in trouble when I wake up at 4 am and think about cleaning. Anyone can tell you cleaning is usually the LAST thing on my mind. But here is the thing. I am an artist, a creator, a maker of things. And sometimes it gets pretty messy around here!
Someone once gave me the advice to focus on quantity, not quality in my art. Its very good advice as quality must surely follow behind practice and repetition. The practice opened up creativity like an endless waterfall reminding me of Chris Williamson's words in "Waterfall"
When you open up your life to the living
All things come spilling in on you
And you're flowing like a river
the Changer and the Changed
You've got to spill some over
Spill some over
Spill some over
Filling up and spilling over
It's an endless waterfall
Filling up and spilling over
You can listen to this wonderful song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlXPZVvImJ8
The result has been that I have made lots and lots of things:
miniature books, book art projects, mixed media collages, encouragement pieces, small comfort pillows, eucalyptus dyed silk scarves, poetry boats, stories, wall hangings, websites and greeting cards. I've created workshops, weekend retreats, and poetry programs. Last year a group of us created a conference for 80 delightful women. Following the river of creativity can take one just about anywhere.
I always thought money, like water, should flow - not be hoarded in some cold steel container. I feel that way about encouragement and beauty too. Let's keep it flowing and spilling over. Someone might need it.
If you are in need of some encouragement today you'll find a free digital version of my story,
The Encouragement Cafe, above under the tab Encouraging Words, Healing Stories.