Monday, June 23, 2008

The Artist's Way and Robbery on the Electric Highway

Have you heard of The Artist's Way (TAW) by Julia Cameron? It is a program for encouraging one's creativity and artistic growth. I first became aware of TAW in 1996, when an acquaintance invited me to be a part of a group of other artists, all strangers to me, following the program. Five of us signed up for the 12-week adventure and two of those five are close friends of mine to this day. In fact, the three of us, plus three additional people, have recently started another TAW group and are re-exploring our creativity.

The first time I did the program, it sent me off into a glorious whirlwind of unexpected creativity. I hope the same thing happens this time. Each week, we read a chapter and complete tasks associated with them; each day we write three morning pages (MP), journal entries where we just dump all of our gripes, miseries, etc. so that we can get on with our day unimpeded. Once a week, we are each supposed to take our artist-self on a date.

I find it difficult to think of artist dates for myself. Last week, I made cotton candy with my very own cotton candy machine. I loved it. Michael and the kids gave me the cotton candy machine many years ago as a gift and I haven't used it in a while, so spending an evening making and eating the fluffy, sugary stuff tickled me pink. I have recently seen special sugar advertised for cotton candy "floss" and wonder if it is much different from fine granulated sugar. (Besides costing more, that is.) I use extra fine sugar and I dye it with a little food coloring so that it is colorful.

If anyone knows about cotton candy floss sugar, please let me know.

This week, TAW instructs us to engage in reading deprivation all week. Yes, you heard me: know reading for a week. I can hardly bear it. The concept is that if an artist is NOT reading, said artist can show up and do something more creative. Actually, Cameron has a point. I can get so caught up reading that I neglect not only my creative pursuits, but also the basic necessities of life. (Imagine me in my bathrobe, lounging in bed, a half-eaten sleeve of saltine crackers and an empty glass of water in the vicinity. It is NOT a pretty picture.)

Meanwhile, the house is uncannily quiet.Tori has been gone for one week. Everything is tidy, quiet, and predictable around here. I thought it would be terrible, but I quite like it, at least after a week. We have had several phone conversations with her and she is starting to adjust. They are teaching her how to drive - that started today - so I am sure she will be happy (for a while anyway).

It is nice to have a sedate entry after several riled up one. Reminds me of that curse: "May you live in interesting times." My times are not so interesting at all at the moment.

Oh, except for my electric bill. I forgot tell mention that item. It did rile me up plenty. You know, we had a hot May and so far, it has been a hot June. Not much rain, lots of lawn and garden watering required. So I didn't flinch too badly when I opened my usual $35 water bill today and found it was $52.17. (And the day I forgot to turn the water off for several hours could have played into the total.) But the next bill I opened, my electric bill from Dynowatt, almost caused me to have a stroke. Instead of something around $150, what I expected, it was $496.02!!!!! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I kid you not. My cost per kilowatt hour skyrocketed from 16 cents to twenty-five and a half cents.

When I finally got through - no doubt their phone lines were burning up today - the pleasant young man explained that their cost per megawatt hour had gone up from $100 to $4,000 THIS MONTH. Oh, he did mention that he would be glad to put me on contract and lower my rates ... (It is odd, don't you think, that if I sign a contract their cost is lower than if I don't?) I decided to check out the official Texas electric company choice web site and discovered that , despite the humongous rate increase Dynowatt claimed, everyone else seemed to have lower prices. I eventually went back to Reliant for almost one-half of Dynowatt's rate. Yes, I signed a contract, but at least I didn't feel shanghaied into it.

I recommend checking now to see what your charges for the next bill will be based on. Surely some other electric company is going to have a big rate increase, too.

Keep cool - but not too cool!


Friday, June 06, 2008

Don't Worry, Be Happy

My natural cheerfulness reasserts itself!! The sunny summer days do not allow for feeling miserable and besides, I solved part of my problem with the Fanged Frog (FF). Tori kept expressing her need to ask questions of the FF, to discover information about her infancy, so I pulled out her baby book (which I had been saving for the right moment and kind of forgot about), sat down with her at the kitchen table, fetched the tissues she requested, and comforted her as she read through it, looked at the pages and the pictures, and asked me questions.

The baby book apparently met her immediate needs regarding the FF. I wish I had thought of it sooner, but perhaps had she seen it before she felt this emotional crisis, it would not have had the impact, or given the comfort, that it has. We are talking about other ways to capture her early childhood - a digital photo album perhaps. I do have more pictures from the early years that I haven't shown her and they will be great for the next crisis.

The FF had some pictures of Tori on her My Space that she stole from Tori's My Space or got from her own mother (or mother's house after Marilyn died in December). I have gotten My Space central to agree to remove them based on copyright violation, so hopefully that will happen soon.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have started participating in an Artist's Way process group for 12 weeks with some wonderful long-term friends - Lynn and Carol - and some new friends - Jan and Luisa. We meet at a Denny's from 10:30 to noon once a week, then eat together. Just two sessions already have me thinking more positively about my creative work. And Michael is working with us. Although he can't come to the meetings, he did join us for lunch today.

Beyond that, I am in quite a state of flux and anticipation. Any moment, Tori's new school (where she will board starting in a few weeks) should be giving us a start date for her, which means I can't make any reliable plans for myself. I am also spending a lot of time shopping for clothes with her. (The school has a list of required clothing.) Do you know how hard it is to find chinos for a teen-aged girl in June in Houston? We have been attacking this shopping list for two months and still have only three of the required five pair of chinos. I also must provide a fall jacket and winter coat. Let us hope those items can be added in the fall because they aren't around anywhere except thrift stores right now.

What will it be like for me without Tori at home? Hard in many ways. Tori and I have spent so much time together after school and summers in the last 14 years that I can't imagine my home without her. It will be very quiet, I can tell you that. I will miss her noise.

Tori plays the flute and the piano. She sings. She plays music too loudly. She talks on the telephone, plays music, and talks to me all at the same time. She bangs every door or cupboard she touches. She knocks things over. Tori is a bundle of auditory overload. How quiet my home will be without her. It makes me almost sorry for yelling at her to turn the music down!! Almost sorry ...

She is a hugger and I will miss those hugs. She is a weeper and I will miss comforting her. She is a laugher and I will miss her belly laughs. She is exuberant and my life will be flat without her.

Waiting for the letter or phone call about school is hard. I have had a constant knot in my stomach lately. I tell myself that this is for her own good - and it truly is - but it seems hard to remember in June the pyrotechnical events of last January that started us down this road to boarding school. It tempts me to just say things have settled down and she can stay home, but I know that would be a mistake for her and for us. So I prepare as best I can for the quiet days ahead by anticipating the creative work I can accomplish in those empty hours.

Despite my anxiety about Tori's departure, I do feel cheerful; I just can't help myself.