Before You Commit

Some wisdom I’ve known for a long time: Pay very close attention to the way people treat you before they hire you, marry you, work with you, or take a class from you. Everyone’s behavior changes with familiarity, but if your future mate, work partner, client, or boss doesn’t treat you well before you agree to the commitment, it is going to go downhill after you commit.

The door closes from both sides--you can close it as well at the person on the other side.

The door closes from both sides–you can close it as well at the person on the other side.

Often, when we want the job, the guy (or girl), the friend, we deny our own wants and goals and give them up in order to get that short-term goal. “So what if this deal has some thorns?” we think. “Even roses have thorns,” we reason. “And I sure want that armload of roses to carry down the runway.” And then comes the job offer or the class or the friendship, and we are so blinded with the short-term victory, we miss the opportunity to ask ourselves if this behavior is really OK with us. Most often, it isn’t OK. And it’s not a runway, it’s a long hard road and the petals fall off the roses and we are carrying an armful of thorns.

But that short-term victory is huge and ego-inflating.  And right after that, when we want respect, it’s not there. We’ve signed the contract, accepted the lower pay, given up what we really wanted and it’s not going to come your way now. Negotiations are over. Work has started. You have settled for less than you wanted, and you will not get that upgrade. Why should they? You voluntarily gave up your values to get the short-term rush of pleasure. When it fades, the rest of the duration will look bleak.

You may have to open your own window to let a fresh breeze blow in.

You may have to open your own window to let a fresh breeze blow in.

Know your values and stick to them. Your values make up your character, your spine, your self-worth. Give it up to someone and they won’t give it back anytime soon.

Jim Rohn got it just right when he said: “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

If you read the blog regularly, a few weeks ago I had a post that asked “Is it a book?” the answer is it will be a book, but it will be someone else’s book. Not mine. And now that I’ve looked over the values I cherish, I’m just fine with it. No hard feelings on my part, wishing the author much success. My inner critic is screaming at me, “You lost the opportunity to go with a huge publishing company! Are you nuts?” But away from the closing door, the Holder of Deep Values (one of my inner heroes) is opening the window and saying, “Be glad. You did not give up what is important to you, and that is always up to you to choose, decide and protect.”

-–Quinn McDonald is seeing a door close and is waiting for the window to open. She trusts the wisdom of the Holder of Deep Values.

 

 

Saturday Prompts

It’s time for a switch. After years of posting links to art and artists, this Saturday I’m posting journal prompts. A lot of art journals are being painted and a lot of journals being bound, but not a lot are being written in. No surprise. Writer’s block strikes a lot of people. Stare at a blank page (no matter how many colors or layers it has) and your mind goes smooth and blank.

PromptsHere are some prompts to get you started filling your journals. Set a timer for three minutes and choose one of the prompts below. Write without editing your own thoughts or censoring yourself. Write down what shows up.

1. Lots of schools require some sort of uniform. Would you like it if your workplace made you wear uniforms? Supposing you got to design the uniform. What would it look like?

2.You’ve been mugged. You aren’t hurt, but you are shaken up. There is a cell phone on the ground, but it’s not yours. What would you do with it?

3. Is intelligence inherited? Which of your parents (or siblings) was the smartest? What criteria did you use to get to your answer?

If you use any of the prompts and come up with an interesting train of thought, leave it in the comments.

Happy exploring!

—Quinn McDonald is a writer who is exploring the interior.

Five More Things Not to Say to a Diabetic

The first time I wrote “Five Things Never to Say to a Diabetic,” I thought it was a one-time thing. After five dumb things people say, they run out of dumb things to say. Oh, how I wish that had been true. Alas, it was not. So, five more things never to say to a diabetic.

51928726af28afada97d091a9a2ecfcb1. “You shouldn’t say you are diabetic. You have diabetes.”  Yes, it’s popular right now not to be “identified by” your disease. But deciding that is the option of the person with the disease. Not you. Even if you are also diabetic. I am a diabetic because in many ways, it does identify me: no drinking, no desserts, no birthday cake. And I’m fine with it. But it is an important part of how I think, eat and behave.

Reply:  “Thanks for pointing that out.” While I believe that setting people straight is a good idea, I do not believe that I can change everyone’s mind about their opinion. Choose your battles.

2. “You can’t stick to that diet all the time. It’s not healthy.” This is a switchback message. The speaker is not ready to accept that you have changed, and wants the old behavior back. That remark is not about you, it’s about the speaker. The speaker also doesn’t know what is or is not healthy.

Reply: Smile, then, “I’m pretty healthy, so I think I’ll stick with it.”

3. “How much weight have you lost?” This is a question no one should ask.306fedaa78da35dd31cf4a490d515086 But they do. If you answer, they will know someone who lost at least 10 pounds more, probably 20.

Reply: “Just enough to have the perfect BMI if I were three inches taller.” The topic will then switch to the irrelevance of BMI, and you will be off the hook.

4.  “So now that you’ve lost the weight, you aren’t diabetic any more, right?” In our culture, we like to be rewarded for hard work. So if you dieted, well, then, your diabetes must be gone. Whew, they don’t have to worry about that anymore. If you continue to be diabetic, you must have made bad choices.

Reply: “I will be diabetic the rest of my life.” It’s hard for some people to hear the truth, but sometimes it’s the best thing to tell them.

5. “So you eat Paleo, right?” People like categories, and they like to label. Once they know which diet you are on, they can try to compare or get you to switch to theirs.

Reply: “What diet are you on?” Most people who want to label your diet also want to talk about theirs. It’s a lot easier to talk to people about their diets because they will not like yours.

Diabetes is a tricky disease that is different for everyone. Each person has a private way to deal with their particular requirements. It’s a thin line between being curious and being intrusive. Your best bet is not to offer advice unless you are the physician for the diabetic. Offer support. That’s always the right thing to say.

Quinn McDonald occasionally runs out of patience.

Remembering Paper Bowls

Way back in the last century (really!), I made paper bowls. Most of them were made from paper I also handmade. In those years, I had a big garden and grew vegetables and after picking the summer’s bounty, I’d cook the stems down, beat the fiber into usable paper fiber and make handmade bowls.

Yesterday, a reader asked me if she could find instructions for how I made the bowls. Surprisingly, I’d never posted it. High time to help more people make handmade paper bowls! Here’s how I did it way back then:

Lotus bowl, layered.

Lotus bowl, layered. © Quinn McDonald

You can make or buy handmade paper. Some machine made papers will work, but nothing with a distinct print on it.  Rice paper, the kind with visible threads is very thin. You’ll need lots of layers to make it work, but it is beautiful.

Don’t use the really thick bark papers as you will have to soak them and the bowl will warp. It’s best to use the same kind of paper to make the whole bowl.

Chose a small bowl, about 3 inches in diameter and about 3-4 inches high.
Coat is lightly with Vaseline on the inside only. Lightly is the key word. Rub it on so there is a sheen of it on the bowl.
You will build your bowl on the inside of the bowl.

Inside view of lotus bowl. © Quinn McDonald

Inside view of lotus bowl. © Quinn McDonald

Tear the handmade paper into small, round-ish pieces. Not strips. The pieces should be about 1.5 inches in diameter. You can use squarish pieces, too, but you don’t want any distinct corners.

Pour a tablespoon of white glue (I like PVA glue, bookbinders glue) into a container (like a clean, small yogurt dish) and add a teaspoon or two of filtered water. Mix so the resulting mixture is as thick as light cream.

Using a flat paintbrush (like you would use for painting acrylic paint) about 0.5 inch broad, dip the brush into glue, put a piece of paper at the bottom of the bowl, and paint over it with the glue. Overlap other pieces of paper over the first, working in a circle around the bottom, then up the sides. When you have one layer in the bowl, stop and let it dry completely. Add at least a total of three layers to form a substantial bowl. Tear the top edge so it appears to be deckled, but keep it even around the edge.

Inside view of blossom-coated bowl.

Inside view of blossom-coated bowl. © Quinn McDonald

When the last layer is completely dry, slip a palette knife in between the bowl and paper and slide the knife around the edge like you do to release a cake from the cake form.

Gently remove the paper bowl from the ceramic bowl and put the paper bowl on the bottom, outside of the ceramic bowl. The paper bowl is now outside and the ceramic bowl inside. In most shape, it won’t be a tight fit, but you are looking to keep the rim stable. Now add another layer of paper and glue to the outside. Allow to dry completely.

Coral bowl © Quinn McDonald

Coral bowl © Quinn McDonald

You can coat the bowl with polyurethane, but bowls should not be used to hold wet or damp items. I don’t use them for food, either. They can hold soap, paper clips, and other small items. I like them empty, with the sun coming through them. When I still made them and people asked what they would hold, I’d say, “They hold your attention, not liquids or food.”

-–Quinn McDonald has wondered about Monsoon Papers and bowls. But she really doesn’t make bowls anymore. Lately.

Walking in Water

Yes, “in water,” not “on water.” I have doggedly tried going to the gym to exercise, and I cannot make myself like it. I spend all winter walking three to five miles a day, in morning meditation, under a blue sky and lacy mesquite trees. A gym just does not replicate that. The inside of the gym feels competitive, emotionally heated and high-pitched in a cheat-death kind of way. I can’t make myself meditate there, not even on the treadmill.

moonWalking in the summer is draining.  Monsoon brings humidity, and I can’t bring myself to walk three miles, sweating before I get to the end of the block, the sun already cooking my skin in 90-degree dawn.

The answer is, as a smart friend pointed out, the pool. The moon slides a sheen across the surface of the pool and I step into the undisturbed water. Some mornings, the Huntsman spider jumps across the surface of the water ahead of me, dimpling the surface but not breaking it. She spends the night hunting mosquitoes and heads back to the filter for safety.

First come the meditation laps. The water is dark and comfortable. Unhook thoughts and drift, on my back. Planes head for Sky Harbor, turning on their lights as they head for the airport 30 miles away. Birds begin to stir in the trees, rattling the palms and chirping. The constellations fade and a chalcedony blue sky takes shape. We are closing in on dawn.

dawnAs the sky begins to glow like a furnace the day will become, I start my serious laps. Leg and arm exercises, using water for resistance. Walking, running in the water. Concentrating on form, pushing thoughts out of my mind. Just the water and muscles flexing through it. The sky turns orange and the top layer of the water begins to warm.

Forty-five minutes later, I pull out of the pool. The breeze dries and chills me, the sun dries and warms me. Opposites, pulling at me before 6 a.m. The day starts.

-Quinn McDonald swims through life.

Books for a Creative Life

wimd-34If you want to live a creative life, you’re going to need some help. Books are my first place to start. Here are some books I’m reading now that are a great help for your creativity.

Writing is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor. Simon and Schuster, 2013. Love this book that helps you discover who you are through writing. A good story by a woman who knew she was a writer, but just couldn’t write. Till she took some risks.  Each chapter has writing suggestions at the end.

Become a Life Change Artist by Fred Mandell, Ph.D. and Kathleen Jordan, bookPh.D. Penguin Group, 2010. These two Ph.D.s teach you seven creative skills to reinvent yourself at any stage in life. And they do it by breaking down how creative people do their work and then applying it to your life. The seven skills are:

  • Peparation
  • Seeing
  • Using Context
  • Embracing Uncertainty
  • Risk Taking
  • Collaboration
  • Discipline

Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way, by Jennifer Lee, New World Library, 2014.  OK, I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my desk. I love the idea that right-brain strengths can be applied to a traditionally left-brain activity–building a business.  Again, business is considered an art (good idea if you are an entrepreneur), and you need some of the same skills to be successful as left-brained people. You’ll learn about taking a stand and making an impact and attracting clients–the right ones.

The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee, New World Library, 2011. art-books-highlight-261x199This was Lee’s first book, and it shares a lot of design elements with the second book: tips, success stories, worksheets, and a friendly, approachable format.

I bought all these books in the paper-book format. I do love ebooks, but when I’m reading for research (and all of these books are for becoming a better coach), I like to take notes on paper. In this case, I’ve put those convenient #8 shipping tags in the books as bookmarks. I take notes on the tags, keep them together with colorful binder rings, and can flip through them to find the notes I need. And yes, I do color-code them.

Now, here’s a question for you: If you were to take a week-long creativity course, one that focuses on writing, but not on one style or genre of writing, what would you want included? List as many items as you want. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Comments can include topics you want covered (memoir, poetry, fiction, non-fiction)
  • How you want to spend the day (traditional teaching lessons, writing and reading your work, critique,)
  • How important it is to write in class and get personal feedback
  • How much you want to read your own work or hear the work of others
  • Special topics you want covered (why write a book? Collaborative writing)

And yeah, I’m creating a class. Might as well get feedback from the smartest people I know. My idea right now is that the class will have an online component and an in-person component. You can form community and start working on a project online, then meet for the in-person class. You can also experience each part separately. Don’t ask me how I will do this yet. I’m just thinking.

—Quinn McDonald is creating a new kind of class.

 

 

Do It Again

When you were little, you found something you liked and you did it over and over again, often yelling, “Watch me! Watch me!” If you needed help, you’d finish one round and cheerfully yell “Do it again!” Whether it was jumping into the pool, or pedaling down the block, you loved the work that made you better at what you did. If someone was watching you, it made you even more proud.

Children are great at practicing to get better. Somehow, as we grow up, we want to be able to do things perfectly the first time. OK, we’re patient till the third time. Then, it needs to be just right.

Pear © Quinn McDonald, 2014

Pear © Quinn McDonald, 2014

This weekend, I’m enjoying practicing both the letter collages and the minimalist collage. I love the practice. I love the different effects. I love seeing the result and knowing that some other approach will change the outcome. Are they perfect? Not even on the radar.

High Desert Mesa © Quinn McDonald, 2014

High Desert Mesa © Quinn McDonald, 2014

It’s practice. Practice with the paper and colors and shapes. Practice with larger and more complex subjects, practice with shading and shadows. And mostly, it’s fun to keep experimenting.

Quinn McDonald is practicing collage. Still.

Saturday Creative Hop: 07.05.14

Note: The winner of Jen Osborn’s book, Mixed and Stitched is Lynn Davis! Congratulations, Lynn. Just contact me and I’ll get the book to you.

*    *    *    *   *

New York artist Richard Clarkson gives a whole new meaning to “the cloud.” His cloud is a lamp and speaker system that mimics a thundercloud.

Richard Clarkson's cloud.

Richard Clarkson’s cloud.

The cloud is motion activated and can play the music of the owner’s choice, while, of course, mimicking thunder and lightning. The tag line for Clarkson’s art is “harmonious contradictions and unapologetic curiosity.”

 British artist Jamie Poole loves poetry. He loves it so much that he paints with it. Yep, he shreds verses from poetry and builds portraits with it.
© Jamie Poole

© Jamie Poole

This finished portrait looks like a black and white charcoal drawing. But it’s made of thousands of verses of poetry.

poole-5Here you can see Jamie at work. The pieces are several feet tall so he can give them the incredible detail and shading.
© Jamie Poole

© Jamie Poole

And here’s a close up of one of his pieces.  His work is a fascinating bled of portraiture, typography and collage.

This kind of collage intrigues me, so I also looked up Erika Iris, who uses sheet music as the beginning of her collages.
© Erika Iris

© Erika Iris

The blend of portraiture and music adds an additional element of interest.

© Erika Iris

© Erika Iris

Iris’s work includes collages done with old audio tapes, too. You can see them on her site.

Have a creative weekend!
–Quinn McDonald is a non-fiction writer and an outsider artist.

Phoenix Summer Stories for July 4

SPARKLERS_-_sparklers_5-9-09_white_bursting_LARGEJuly 4th is the mid-summer holiday. When I lived in New England, I’d sigh softly, knowing that I’d be wearing a sweater at night in a month. Now I sigh, knowing that for another 10 weeks it will be over 100 degrees every day. June was over 100 degrees every day, too. And July is the hottest month, so we have the 115- to 118-degree days to go yet.

*     *     *    *

At the bank today, I pulled into the parking lot. I parked farther away so I could position the car’s back to the sun. The windshield is big, and I didn’t want the car to be unbearable by the time I got back.

IMG_0777.JPGI grabbed my water bottle for a drink. As I poured the icy water into my mouth, a chunk of ice pulled loose and pushed a flood of water down my shirt. From neckline to bellybutton, I was drenched. Did I scream? Nope. Did I fear going into the bank? Of course not. It felt good.

I got out of the car and walked. . . slowly, as we do when we walk into the sun, to the bank. I felt the heat of the pavement underneath my sandals. It was 108 degrees. I pulled open the bank door, felt the rush of cool air, and looked down. Yep, just as I thought. The water spill was gone, evaporated by the blazing hot sun in the walk across the parking lot.

*     *    *    *   *

The first time I saw someone driving a dark car in Phoenix’s summer heat and noticed they were wearing oven mitts, I thought they were crazy. Now I think they are brilliant. Tossing a towel over the steering wheel just doesn’t keep it cool enough. Driving while wearing oven mitts makes a lot of sense.

*   *   *   *   *   *

In the winter, I can carry a small purse. But in the heat of the summer, I need a larger one. It needs to hold my water bottle, sure, but more than that, it needs to hold the CDs and CD case, phone charger and anything plastic in the car. Even a short run to the grocery store will warp a CD left in the player, and melt plastic sunglasses or cups.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Dust storm moving into Phoenix.

Dust storm moving into Phoenix.

After the evening swim, I spray water on the patio, the block walls, and the roof. The evaporation happens so fast, that it cools off the brick and cement heat island. Enough to notice it in my electricity bill.

*  *  *   *   *  *

Now that it’s Monsoon, we have to deal with humidity, too. Don’t tell anyone from Phoenix that “it’s a dry heat.” But I don’t complain because there is January and February to look forward to.

Quinn McDonald lives in Phoenix all year round.

In the Middle of Turmoil

My coaching client sighs. “I think I need to take a break from coaching. I’m so stressed at work and at home, I feel like I’m swimming in a riptide. Once I’m back safely on shore, I can have more ground under my feet and continue.”

I never force anyone to continue coaching, but when I hear this, I am hearing a need for coaching, not a break from it. I feel like saying, “There is no shore; your whole life is a river.” (I realize I shifted the metaphor from ocean to river.)

rapids_mountain_river__images_desktop_wallpaper-widePart of the need to “feel ground under your feet” is the word we use to describe someone stable and balanced: grounded.

We associate balance with control. With knowing what will happen next. But that’s largely an illusion driven by hope. We are always in the middle of something–a project, a crisis, a celebration, a decision, a career, an identity. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan, but it does mean that plans change, shift and become impossible without much warning.

Life is a river, and we are always floating, swimming, paddling. There is not a time when everything is suddenly perfect and the world stops so we can enjoy floating blissfully.

whirlpool-1-300x224Grabbing enjoyment when you recognize it is a skill that coaching teaches you. So is adapting to a fast-paced life and dealing with change without falling apart.

Coaching works in the middle of turmoil–because it mixes support with accountability, and courage with action. Coaching works best when the client is open to life and change, but it can help people adjust when the world is not stable under their feet. If it’s stable now, don’t expect it to stay that way. You won’t be surprised when change shoots under your feet.

-Quinn McDonald has had her share of change.