Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018- a different one to be sure...

It was New Year's Day 2018 and I was sitting in a 4th floor apartment a stone's throw from the Vatican.
New Year's Eve fireworks over the Tiber in view of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome

After 3 years of saying we were coming to visit my lovely friend Laurie we finally made it happen.
It was a weird experience being completely away from "the usual" on New Year's Day.
No shop to keep. No hosting our annual neighborhood football bowl games party. No kids back to school on January 2nd.
Family Portrait at the Colosseum 

 Weird but good. No, phenomenal. To do something extravagant and ephemeral is radical for me.
I have always been a planner. Ultra thrifty "just in case". Structured so I can plan for the future. Structure is the way I make sense of the turmoil around me.

The Maddening, yet well behaved, Crowd enroute to the Sistine Chapel
 As I reach a solid middle age though I am finally forced to acknowledge I can't control the universe.
There has been a huge gap between blog posts as I have been caught up in change. Change that I can't control.

Amalfi Coast - even on a rainy grey day the water was spectacular
 My radical changes included vacating my brick and mortar shop, selling my home of 20+ years, doubling down on my art, dealing with loved ones health scares, watching my kids graduate, and gaining weight while panicking over the tumultuous news cycles.
Trodding the ancient streets of Pompeii 
 I went into 2018 vowing to strip things down to the essentials and not get caught up in the "what ifs". I had NO idea how hard that would be to do as I am so competent at making "what ifs" concrete.  When one has less to "do" one must concern oneself with just "being".  This is hard for me.
Strolling the porticos of the Baths of Diolectin
 I miss writing. But I wasn't writing because I felt I had nothing positive to say. You know, the old "if you don't have something nice to say- don't say anything."  There has been a LOT of things not good happening since my last post but also amazing things also. I am over letting outside forces steal my joy. So I begin again.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thoughts on The Morning After

My sister and I grew up in the same household, with the same parents.  As we moved a lot as kids we were best buddies, a constant as everything around us changed.  We share the basic morals, religious beliefs, intelligence level, work ethic and sense of humor.  She has always identified as liberal and I as a conservative.  Interesting.  Especially given the political climate of the day. We still see pretty much eye to eye on things even today, even in this climate.

"You? a conservative?" I have had friends say.

Well, let's review issues- Guns? I was taught marksmanship and gun safety from my NRA range master dad. Do I believe in background checks? Yes.  Do I actually own a gun? no. Religion? I am a professed Christian, though seemingly a belief in any deity these days seems to make you a fundamentalist of the worse flavor. Am I intolerant of others religions? no. Do I think there is a God shaped hole in man that needs to be filled? yes. Sexuality? I am the most boring creature - a monogamous married white woman. Do I think it is any of my business who anyone else has in their bed? no.  Do I think people should be in non-abusive, committed relationships? yes.  Abortion? Do I believe life begins at conception? yes.  Have I had an abortion? yes. (I had an ectopic pregnancy between my two children and had to go through a procedure to stop the growth of an unseen, never found baby that certainly was not in my uterus. Not fun.) Employment? Do I believe there is dignity in work? yes Even washing dishes or manual labor? yes (I have done both.) Do I think people need safety nets for hard times? yes Do I think a vast amount of one's personal problems can be solved by working hard? yes

"Doesn't sound that conservative to me." other friends say.

Maybe the point is labels aren't doing us any favors in today's issues driven world. I don't vote according to a single plank in any political platform.  I have long quit saying liberal or conservative and have wanted to be considered a moderate. A moderate sounds so wishy-washy though.  I am not neutral with no beliefs, opinions or passions. Whether you agree with anything I have told you about myself or not doesn't change who I am or what I am passionate about.  My God, my family, my friends, my art.

Never has there been two candidates more reviled in modern political history. Their respective champions are quite passionate in their support. Or are they as much for one person as against the other? My concern is that passion seems to be the excuse that precludes civility today.  

It reminds me of when you go to that office party and people have too much to drink and dance with lampshades on their heads or people jump in bed together that shouldn't have or someone was just really mean about some one's weight or bad breath or spouse.  And then Monday comes and we have to face each other across the conference table. You can't take back words, or lying or bullying or influence peddling or philandering or name calling or character assassinations.

My pastor at church uses a wonderful analogy of hateful words being like a nail in a board.  You can apologize, pull the nail out, but the hole from the nail is still there. It's not going away.  The barrage of hateful words is like a shotgun blast through a door. What will be left of it? Or us?

Will we be left standing or even speaking to each other after this is all over? How are we going to look each other in the eye, let alone work together to do the best we can for our families, our friends, our country, our planet?  I am frightened about the now and about the next.

That classic motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to say that "People don't change their minds, they make new decisions based on new information."  One of my wise in-laws said "Actions speak louder than words." in defence of her candidate. (Makes you wonder who she is voting for, doesn't it?)

It is my sincere hope that we all can set aside our preconceptions and prejudices and gut revulsions to listen, study and watch as this election cycle unfolds and no matter what happens, wake up the next day and do what is best for our country. We need to. We must.  Will it be possible to shake hands and get to work together the morning after?

I think you have to be bold about truth telling. Staying true to yourself by speaking aloud is never bad. Is it bad for a corporation or a professional to not enter into possibly divisive discussion? Or is it a sin NOT to? In my business I have always tried to be a haven, a place of respite, and because of that know that I have been a solace to many. This country was founded as a refuge of freedom and self -expression. But that feels jeopardized today to me.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

On Being a Control Freak, Resilience & Life Reimagined

It's a constant struggle being a control freak when life is out of control.  And when isn't it, really? As I struggle to regain my house from mountains of merchandise after underestimating how much display space I have in various venues I am plagued.  The latest plague? An ache in my right foot that makes it impossible to put my full weight on it.  Hard to stand to paint, hard to walk up and down stairs to move inventory, hard to clean my house. After a month of this nonsense (I'm no quitter!) I finally succumbed to the painful ministrations of the cortisone wielding podiatrist this morning and am confident I will bounce back. Because that is What We Do around here. 
As I look to my weekend's plans I am amused as they include celebrating resilience.

"Resilience, they concluded, is a mixture of personality traits, biology, and life experience, each part shaping the other. Resilience looks an awful lot like Bob Stifel." These are not my words but an except from Former NPR Reporter & New York Times Best Selling author Barbara Bradley Hagerty.  
Bob and I met Barb when she was looking for folks who had thoughts about thriving at midlife for her new book Life Reimagined.  "Our" Chapter 8 is called "When Bad Stuff Happens" and I must say that re-reading it reminds both Bob and I how blessed we are.  Even with battling insurance companies for a new artificial leg for Bob and jumping through all my creative hoops, I can truly say life is indeed a gift to be celebrated.  
We were blessed to meet Barb.  She was recovering from a bad bicycle fall, but still full of curiosity and drive to chronicle her "deep and often inelegant dive into the research to discover how to thrive at midlife." 
To celebrate Barb, her awesome book and celebrate us non spring chickens who aspire to a better rest of our lives we are hosting a book signing at Alexia Scott's Studio Gallery at 106 Little Falls Street in Falls Church on Sunday June 5th from 2 to 4pm. Please bring a friend and join us if you can. If you can't attend but would like an autographed copy of the book, leave a comment or email me at and I will get it for you.

For more on Barb and her writing visit her website that begins "Welcome to my website, where I detail all of my accomplishments and none of my failings."  My kind of woman!
See you Sunday!
PS- Look! the dining room table is back in the middle of the room and you can see the FLOOR! Proud of me???
Explaining why the book signing is not here at the house... :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Alexia Scott's Studio Gallery Grand Opening & the Power of YES!

"Things happen for a reason" is a constant mantra in the Stifel household. Of course sometimes you have no idea what those reason are until LONG after the fact...
When I moved into Falls Church with Stifel & Capra years ago I went next door to the doctor with the friendly reputation and asked him if we could "borrow" his parking lot for our after hours events.   I held my breath, not knowing how he felt about artists.  
Tom chuckled warmly and invited me into his office where on EVERY wall was the most amazing art painted by his highly talented wife Alexia.
Yes! we could use the lot. Yes! we carried Alexia's art at S&C.
Yes! years later I started taking drawing lessons from Alexia.  Yes! I am totally paranoid about my lack of ability there.
Fast forward a year and a half, Dr Scott retires and he & his wife decided to turn the building into a teaching studio and gallery.
Yes! I would be delighted to help market and manage this new venture and show my work there.
Yes! we put together a gang buster initial show for Alexia's Studio Gallery Grand Opening.
The weekend of April 13th to the 15th was truly wonderful.
Believing in giving back, the opening was a fund raiser for the local Arlington Philharmonic.
The artists included some of the most caring folks around and I am delighted to work with them again.
Yes! Things happen for a reason.

(See anything you like? Let me know- I have keys!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ponies, playing and poundage

In keeping with my "oh well, what the hell" attitude of late of NOT trying to micromanage everything (although I can still my colleague Cindy saying "so you've got control of the 'needing to be in control thing, eh?'") , I am still being rewarded by the Powers That Be (and awesome friends) with opportunities that wouldn't exist if I didn't have the time to take part in them!
With the invitation of S&C next door neighbor Alexia Scott to take place in her Studio Gallery's Grand Opening I have the opportunity to play with some BIG canvases- four feet tall to submit for the show.  I am having a grand time with theses works in progress so far.
I also had the opportunity to go to BOTH the Virginia Gold Cup and our buddies' Kentucky Derby party without having to barter away days off or spend money I don't really have to attend a wonderful party or two.  That in itself felt like a departure when I realized I could simply keep my eye on the phone in case someone had a question but not have to worry about whether we were spending more than we were making with all of the hideous rain we have been having.  That is simply just no longer the case.
Suddenly, weirdly I can just enjoy.  Don't get me wrong I still am working really hard but I don't feel so much like I am looking over my shoulder all of the time.  Take Mother's Day for instance.
We have an AWESOME tradition in my neighborhood of doing a slightly goofy breakfast brunch potluck in the street.  Well, ok, it's actually in a driveway or sidewalk but outside unless there's a typhoon brewing. It's very casual and a lot of fun with awesome food.  Most the dads on the streets are good cooks and you know, they get a little competitive when they are in groups so...
The good news? Because I didn't have to sprint off to get to church so I could hurry back to get to work- we actually got to hang out longer this year. And not feel so rushed.  The bad news? Photos from Gold Cup AND Phil's cinnamon rolls remind me that my old foot injury and Being Too Busy Packing Up The Shop To Exercise are taking their toll on my waistline.  It's ALWAYS been non-existent, but not I actually have none.  I have always admired my daughter for not gaining the infamous "freshmen 15" when she went to college and she finds new ways to exercise now that she is no longer rowing. I am now counting on her encouraging example to kick start me into a new season of health.  I have multiple friends that made big job moves, or retired or just got sick of their slow selves and just got themselves together.  I need to find out their secrets.  DO I REALLY have to go to the Y 7 days a week like Bruce? How many miles does Trish run a day anyway? Can cutting out ENTIRE food group be anything more than a gimmick? Will I have to eat proverbial bird seed like these birdies?  (Like how I am humble bragging while showing off my cool Mom's Day gifts?)
Let's just say I am feeling a little New Year's Resolution-y and am hoping the feeling holds long enough to get into my shorts from last summer. I need to lose like, no lie, sixty points at this point so would love to hear your secrets of getting/keeping in shape.
The fact that have lost two inches in height AND have a former chef for a spouse AND have realized that I actually eat and drink as hobbies remind me it's time to get back to more art making during the day and needlework or writing at night- after all it's hard to stitch or type with your hands full, eh?

Friday, May 6, 2016

The camera does not lie, or does it?

Kind hearted people keep asking "How are you doing?" in that polite, hushed tone usually saved for funerals and cancer diagnoses.  My old unenlightened self would have answered "Fine" but my newly 55 year old, tell it like it is self generally answers "Tired"!  I still have not reconciled with the VOLUME of  merchandise, display items, projects that could be awesome if you just worked on them, jars full of pens and just plain stuff that is still loitering around my house.
I DID reach my self proclaimed goal of getting the storage pod out of  our driveway in 30 days.
I HAVE sorted, donated, packed and stacked goodies so that parts of our home look positively normal. I posted a photo on Facebook about my mantel's uncluttered horizontal surface and was teasingly busted for that fact that MY uncluttered surface still had a dozen items on it!
But LOOK- my house looks better than it has in MONTHS.  Unless of course you pan past the camera viewfinder and look in my dining room and basement. How is it possible that I have done this business without a garage????
The scariest part? There are piles in not one but TWO homes! (Ignore those nasty valances from the 90's I have never taken down in our cottage...) God bless my husband and children for not setting fire to it or even making comment.  When I apologize for the chaos I hear "Mom, you can't clear out 10 years in 10 weeks".  I love my kids.  What a fine Mother's Day gift they both are! Even more astounding to me is it doesn't stop them from having people over.
When I hear stories about teenagers that simply can't function unless they have a particular car or even a specific brand of make up, I count my blessings when I realize that we have raised "kind, strong and smart" kids who would rather do their homework and pile in to introduce the Son to "Beyond Thunderdome" on a Wednesday night then worry about what craziness their mom is getting up to with a mid week trip to Delaware to restock her one fifith the size shop and she comes home with more than she left with.  They unloaded the car with nary a comment. 
Of course I am running out of room, so if you see something you want, just let me know!
I am writing this while literally waiting for paint to dry, You see I signed up to participate in an art show next weekend so I will "have" to paint.  
It's the Grand Opening of my friend and teacher Alexia Scott's Studio & Gallery. Hope you can stop by and see what I am up to. Details are here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Room with a View - or the Weekend That Didn't Go as Planned

Who WOULDN'T want to wake up to a view like this? I know I would want to. In fact Bob & my main mission for our next chapter of our life is to find a nice waterfront community to continue our spice making, vintage treasure hunting, art producing selves to head quarter from.  Saturday I was supposed to be demo-ing my art doll maker's skill at a local fair but the registration somehow got messed up and they didn't have me on the roster.  Given the rainy forecast I decided it was a clue NOT to try to keep things dry in a tent and to make a new plan.  So the Hubs, Son & I went for a little boondoggle and looked at a couple of waterfront homes and enjoyed a lovely seafood  lunch.
We are very enamored of a particular cove in the Solomons area.  We nearly bought a house there a couple of years ago.  We were so enthralled with that particular house (one story, newly renovated, art studio over the garage) that we were going to sell our home in Virginia and rent an apartment so Son could finish high school- now THAT's love.  But someone got an offer in ahead of us. So the search continues...
Moseyed back home to my birthday gifts and flowers. My favorite was a new beach chair with a FOOTSTOOL- can't you just see me with my feet up staring at the water?  And then had a yummy "tasting of summer" supper and a glass of wine on the deck.  Awesome day, even if it didn't look like what the calender said!

Sunday brought my pop-up trunk show at New to You here in Falls Church.
Christina was sweet enough to buy me a chocolate birthday cake- YUM! It was lovely but we chomped into before we remembered to immortalize it in a photo op.
Had a wonderful turn-out.  Sipped some bubbly and got to see a bunch of familiar faces and sell some treasures. I miss a lot about having my own store.  Mostly I miss the interactions with the people,  Hearing about what is going on with their lives, Making connections among the folks I know, A great day- a great weekend. 
Next Post: Scary photos as Theresa transitions...