Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 277: The Joy of Victory

The world is taking note:  Stanford's women stopped UConn's dominance in women's collegiate basketball last night in Maples Pavilion.  It was a resounding victory 71-59 with Stanford leading for the entire game:  all 40 minutes.  UConn NEVER got ahead.  This hasn't happened to them in two years.  It was a feeling of great expectation and jubilation with a sold out crowd cheering on the big Red.  The real heroine of the day was Guard Jeannette Pohlen, who scored 31 points and with a steely resolve and serious face was the game's stalwart.  Not only did she score all of her free throws it has yet to be noted that she ended the game without a single foul.  Her kind of dedicated play is a wonder to see.  I am fortunate to be part of the greater Stanford family.   It was thrilling to be part of this historical game.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 276: The Pride of Stanford Women

Some of you know that Ron and I are deep fans of the Stanford Women's Basketball team.  We've had season tickets for several years, and eagerly anticipate each game.  The world knows that tonight in women's college basketball may be one of the all time greatest games in history.  The New York Times made note of this today.  Stanford faces the University of Connecticut whose team has not lost a game in 89 matches.  They lost last in 2008 to Stanford.  The excitement is palpable and the game will be nationally televised.  
Watching these women play brings tears to my eyes.  They are so focused, graceful, athletic, and they exhibit the best sportsmanship I've ever seen on the court.  
The team are natural improvisers.  They say YES to life, to challenge, to change, to the unexpected.  They work together seamlessly as a team.  Goodness pervades their team ethos.  Tonights game is sold out at Maples Pavilion.  7349 seats are all filled.  They say this is the first sell out in women's basketball at Stanford.  I'll be proudly cheering our women on.  I hope to victory, but if not, I'll still be their biggest fan.  Go Cardinal.  Beat UConn!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 275: Mary Oliver's words


Every day
I see or I hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in a haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for-
to look, to listen.

to lose myself
Inside this soft world-
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant-
but of the ordinary.
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these-
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

by Mary Oliver

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 273: Watercolor tree

I did this in ten minutes. Wax crayon and watercolor on rough paper. May your Christmas eve be full of happiness.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 272: Superman Returns

The remake of this movie doesn't match the earlier versions, sadly.  Superman is such a great character. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 271: Those who work on Christmas

This is the first Christmas we have not been at home. So instead of lounging by the tree amid piles of mangled wrapping and thoughtful oddities smelling the holiday meal cooking in the oven,we find ourselves at sea in the Syracuse airport. The airport is virtually empty save for those kind souls who have agreed to work today. What a service these individuals perform to forgoe their own comfort at home to serve those of us in transit today. The cheerful lady wearing a Santa hat at the pizza counter here in Terminal 2 smiles as she serves us a deep dish slice. This unorthodox adventure reminds me of the miracle of those who serve during holidays. Deep bows of thanks to those, cheery or not, who serve on Christmas. I hope A special angel watches over them.

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Day 270: Teaching Gratitude

Teaching Children Gratitude During the Holidays
Dear Patricia,

"How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child's personality. A child is resentful, negative or thankful. Thankful children want to give -- they radiate happiness, they draw people." -Sir John Templeton

The holiday season is a time of giving and parents often dedicate themselves to their children's happiness by giving them presents . . . lots of presents. And while there's no question that presents can result in a temporary feeling of happiness and excitement, it's also clear that the thrill can fade quickly. Receiving presents, even lots of beautifully wrapped, expensive ones, does not necessarily lead to a sense of appreciation. It might just as naturally lead to a sense of entitlement. Many parents struggle with this dilemma, in one way or another, during the holidays. How much is enough? How can we help our children to appreciate what they get? How can we help them to experience the joy of giving?

A sense of gratitude doesn't develop overnight, but in our everyday lives we can bring our family's attention to what we have rather than what we lack. We can take moments, here and there, to recognize our good fortune and the support that holds our lives together. For example, before dinner we can pause to think about our day, with a question such as "who helped us have a good day today?" Our family often considers this question, with each person identifying someone who played a positive role in the unfolding of the day. Perhaps Bi's friend gave her a piece of gum. Perhaps Chani's basketball coach took time to help her with her shooting. Perhaps one of our members sent along some kind words to me, or Barley (our Golden Retriever) did something that made Gregg laugh.

On Christmas morning our daughters are excited about all the intriguing mysteries that sit, beautifully wrapped, under the tree. We add an element of mindfulness to the excitement of opening gifts, which doesn't seem to detract from the fun at all. In fact, it adds significance. For example, we take turns opening gifts so that everyone's attention is on each person as they unwrap their mystery. We try to spend some time admiring and getting to know each gift before we move on. And we make sure to say "thanks" out loud, even to absentee gift givers. The process of opening gifts this way takes longer, but why would we want to rush through this long-anticipated special time? We'd love to hear about your own ideas and experiences related to cultivating gratitude in families.

During this past year I had the good fortune of stumbling upon the work of Vicki Hoefle. Vicki (who is almost a neighbor of ours, here in Vermont), is the founder of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program I was blown away by the beauty and wisdom of her approach to parenting, which is very compatible with the spirit of our own work here at the ToDo Institute. Here's Vicki's perspective on gratitude and kids:

Enjoy your gifts. Give to others. Be the gift yourself.
Happy Holidays!

Linda Anderson Krech
author of,
Little Dreams Come True: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Parenting

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 270: The landscape of Christmas

I have recently found a podcast of a last interview with the saintly John O'Donohue. He waxes wise on the value of understanding nature. Or the landscape as he calls it. Listen to this fine sharing. His voice is so full of love. Google the name John O'Donohue.

Here he reads the great poem Beannacht

His books are brilliant.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 269: The Christmas Turkey

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One of the deep pleasures of holiday get togethers is the presence of a roasted turkey on the table. Few things signal comfort and abundance more. Our wonderful hosts the Browns are making the table warm for our visit. Here is the perfect bird browned to just the right hue. Homemade cranberry sauce on the side. Thank you Dalla.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 268: Advice about money

"The way to get money is to earn it."
H Michael Ryan, Jr

Money is the root of so much misery. Being unrealistic is the major cause. Otherwise sensible people turn crazy when they turn a blind eye to reality where money is concerned. I'd like to share some simple rules that I have found to be key in cultivating a happy life.
Here is what I have found works

Always live within your means.
Always save something from everything you earn no matter how small the paycheck.
If you want money: earn it . . .don't ask others for it or expect it to appear
Be generous with money.
Watch pennies as well as dollars.
Check you bank statements at least once a week. (more frequently is even better)
The bank is never wrong. (unfortunately)
You can never find peace when you are in debt.
One credit card is all you need.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 267: Call for Bad Art

Just got this email: a call for Bad Artists. Come and meet and do your work without judgement. What a good idea.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 266: Poinsettia at Dallas House

Today's painting is of a Christmas flower in Dalla's house. Love the deep colors.  I learned that the name of this famous Christmas flower is from a French gentleman, J. R. Poinsett.  I will keep this in mind when I see these red icons.  Merry Christmas.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 265: a Sunday in the Snow

It has been a long time since Ron and I have been in snow. Everything has a magical look. Last night Ron went for a run at dusk and passed a church where a wedding was being held. Outside waiting for the bride and groom was an actual Cinderella horse drawn carriage that looked like a glass coach. White horses waited in in frosty night. Everywhere we look is beauty. Our hosts Dalla and Jeremy Brown of Gananoque ON are pictured here.

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from my iPad

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 264: good advice

Thanks to the Todo Institute for this fine article
by Ken Potts

It seems to me that people tend to display two extremes of behavior about this time of year. A good many of us, not able to deal with the increasing stress we feel preparing for the holiday blitz , wind up acting impatient, surly, and even downright rude. Often we direct these behaviors at the store clerks, restaurant staff, or even the complete strangers we encounter. I know we’ve all met some of these Christmas curmudgeons; hey, some of us are these Christmas curmudgeons.

On the other hand, there are those among us who manage to take a totally different approach to the season. It may be because we just don’t add all that much stress to our lives at Christmas times, or because we are a lot more stress hardy than the average person, but, whatever the reason, we just don’t let it get to us. If anything, we are even nicer to and more considerate of other people during the holiday season.

Now, one of the things I’ve learned as a therapist over the last thirty five years is that

we can sometimes dramatically change the way we feel by simply changing the way we behave. Or, “fake it til you make it,” as a good friend puts it. We may feel impatient, but if we act patiently it can often help us to feel less impatient. We may feel like grumbling at every clerk we encounter, but if we are polite we will actually feel less surly. We may feel like butting into traffic or cutting off a slow driver, but if we are courteous and understanding, we will feel less of a temptation to be rude.

In other words, if we act like the nicer, more considerate people in the second category I mentioned above, we can wind up even feeling like them. And, let’s face it, feeling less stress around about now has got to be a good thing.

Willing to give it a try? Then let me give you some tips on how to get started:

1) Leave large tips in restaurants, even if the service is not as good as it should be. If you have ever worked in food service at Christmas, you know how tough it is.

2) Make eye contact and smile at every checkout person, clerk, or customer service type you run in to.

3) Let people with only a few things to buy cut in line in front of you.

4) When you’re driving, give other people a break when it comes to getting out of parking spaces, out of driveways, changing lanes, etc… And give them a wave when you do it. And drive at a safe speed.

5) Treat merchandise in stores as though you are the one who is going to have to come back and straighten it up at the end of the day.

6) No matter how rude someone else is to you, be polite. If a clerk, sales person, or wait staff is so out of line that you need to talk to a manager, do so calmly and rationally.

7) Give a buck or two to any and every legitimate charity that asks for your help during the holiday season. Hunt out a few others and just donate something for the heck of it. They need the help, and it will remind you that you have a lot more than a lot of people.

You get the idea. I guarantee you that if you work on behaving in the ways I have suggested, you will feel less stress and enjoy the coming weeks more. And, not incidentally, the world will be a bit of a better place to live in because you are in it.

From Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal of Purposeful Living – Holiday 2010 Edition.
Reprinted by permission of the author. Reverend Ken Potts is a pastoral
counselor and marriage and famiy therapist with Samaritan Interfaith Counseling
Center, Naperville, Illinois. He writes a weekly column for the Daily Herald,
where this article first appeared.
Posted on December 16, 2010 2:30 PM

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 263: The Socialist Pig

In Gananoque ON visiting best friends. Here is the counter at a cool coffee shop called the Socialist Pig. Real books make up the base. Wonderful coffee too.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 262: Decorating the Christmas Tree with Gratitude

I am grateful to the ToDo Institute for this wonderful idea.  Their web site is a gift in itself.  I repost their article here with thanks. 

Thirty Thousand Days Christmas Banner
Decorating the Christmas Tree with Gratitude
Dear Patricia,

Our family includes my two daughters (now ages 11 & 13) who have always looked forward to the holiday season.  A few years ago we designed an approach to decorating our Christmas tree which has become one of the most mindful and enjoyable activities of the season.  First, we lay out our growing and eclectic collection of ornaments on the table, ranging from the handmade ornament Chani created in first grade, to a shiny, bobbled ornament that would be comfortable on the tree of the Russian Czar.  Then we take turns selecting and hanging the ornaments on the tree, one by one.  As each of us takes a turn, we contemplate who we'll dedicate this ornament to, and search for a suitable ornament for that person.  Grandma likes the color combination of black/red so she might get a matching ornament.  Jody, the girls' piano teacher, might get an ornament shaped like a musical note, or something that suggests a quality that she possesses.  As each of us prepare to hang the ornament, we announce who it is dedicated to, and thank that person for something they did for us or gave to us.  Thanks to John for putting up siding on the teahouse this fall.  Thanks to Barbara for letting us stay at her house when we were visiting New York.  

The ornaments go up, one by one, and the tree becomes a canvas for all the love and support we received from our circle of friends and family.  Each ornament represents the kindness and generosity of someone we know or have known.  In some cases, we dedicate an ornament to someone who is no longer alive and, in doing so, honor that person's life with the memory of their loving deeds.  We might spend 30-40 minutes each evening for three or four nights before we complete this process.  The decorating itself becomes a reflection on our good fortune, and even before the appearance of presents underneath the tree, we are reminded, throughout the season, that our lives are blessed and that we have been the beneficiaries of great generosity from an ever-expanding circle of wonderful people.

All the best to you and your family,

Gregg Krech, ToDo Institute
author, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 261: Flowers

In the summer of 2009 I was part of a weeklong house party with artists, filmmakers and writers. The brilliant and talented Victoria LaBalme was my hostess.  We spent time at her magnificent estate known as Eagle Nest in the Adirondack.   Several days were rainy and we sat by the crackling fire.  I did this painting of a vase of flowers.  I like it very much.  Is it okay to like your own artwork?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 260: Painting flowers - Cattleya

Over this holiday week I'm traveling to Canada. It's a challenge to keep my vow to post everyday. But I want to offer some ordinary things that I find lovely to look at. I'm not sure why, but I love painting flowers. Today's study, done several years ago, is of a Cattleya orchid with the most remarkable orange color.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 259: Watercolor of our trees 2008 + 2009

I painted this  on the left in 2008. The tree was 14 feet tall. Majestic.

The other painting is from 2009.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 258: our little tree

2010 was a different kind of Christmas. Those of you who know us know that Ron has a passion for finding the biggest fresh tree that he and three men can drag up the stairs. This year we are traveling for the holiday and he agreed to forgo the BIG TREE.
Instead here we have our miniature tree and cable car. Ho Ho Ho and merry Christmas to all.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 257: Our Christmas Tree

We have a family tradition of buying THE LARGEST TREE that Ron and three men can drag up the stairs. It's a really big deal. And there is often a family fight over the size. Ron wants enormous. I want medium size. I usually let Ron win. We've been collecting ornaments for a long time. Since this year we are going to Canada for Christmas we decided to forgo the big purchase. I am a little sad about this. I miss the smell of the tree and waking up to see it through the bedroom door. At night I love to sit in the living room with only the lights on and bask in the wonder of it all. Instead I'm looking at a watercolor of the tree from 2008. Life is still good.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 256: Smooth lunch

A very good friend is going through some dental challenges while his mouth heals from surgery.  During this time he needs to eat only soft foods.  We collaborated on a gourmet lunch that is as lovely to look at as it was tasty to eat.  I made a gorgonzola basil tomato soup.  His gorgeous platter included a beet ganoush (looking for all the world like a blackberry or raspberry ice, a hummus with garlic and red pepper. The dark grain is quinoa.  Mine was on a bed of spinach with some soft rye bread.  Raspberries garnish the plate.
We finished off the meal with a  Meyer lemon pastille, a cream custard that was richly divine.  Not a bad life, eh?  So when life gives you lemons by all means make beet ganoush and lemon pastille.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 255: The Madson Family Christmas letter

I'm sorry we went overboard this year.  There are too many photographs in this collage and too many items in our calendar of events.  I get tired just looking at it.  But now that I've made it I have to do something with it.  So, I'll post it here as another item from ordinary life. Lots of ordinary life.  Lots.
And here is the list of what we did in 2010.  Phew . . .
The Madsons were on the road over a dozen times in 2010. Good health for both Patricia and Ron signaled a GO to a number of trips both in the US and abroad. Here is where we went:
February – Doe Bay on Orcas Island, WA - attending a 10 day Improv Retreat with Rebecca Stockley and Matt Smith. Also visited with Gary and Cheryl Madson in Bothell,WA
March – Road trip to LA for NCAA women’s basketball playoffs. Stanford women were victorious, winning PAC 10 tourney!
March – Vancouver trip to attend wedding of Carol Anne Bickerstaff. Patricia was the mistress of ceremonies.
April-May – Sedona AZ roadtrip to attend watercolor workshop with Jeanne Carbonetti. Ron takes lots of photos.
June – Tassajara in the Carmel Valley. Ron attends a weeklong workshop with master photographer, Peter Cunningham. Patricia relaxes in the mineral baths and paints.
July – Virginia Beach, VA – first ever RYAN family reunion at Virginia Beach. Amazing house on the backbay. Ryans, Dunlavey’s, Gaddis, Offenbachers, and Madsons all converge on the beach. Also a visit in Richmond with Kathleen and a jaunt to see Peggy Ryan and Mary Frances and Buddy Wood.
August – Ireland adventure – three weeks. A week in Tipperary to watch Hurling finals and hunt down Ryan ancestors. A week in Dingle listening to great music and a week in County Cork (Schull), painting landscapes with Judy Whitton and group. Perfect weather!
September – Ron on a road trip to Death Valley with son Jason to photograph the desert. Great reunion!
October – Richmond, VA for Patricia’s 50th high school reunion. October – Halloween weekend: Racine, WI to stay with son, Jason and his wife Karen and attend photography show of Jason’s work.
December – Gananoque, ONTARIO spend Christmas with best friends, Dalla and Jeremy Brown at their home.

Family was all important in 2010.  Reunion was our theme: The Ryan family reunion at Virginia Beach, Ron’s reunion with his son first at Death Valley and then in Racine, WI, and Patricia’s high school class reunion in Richmond, VA. 

Ron’s genealogy chart is bursting at the seams.  Lots of friends on Facebook this year have made it full of happy news and surprises. 

We are wishing all of our friends and family the best of holidays.  May we all recognize our many blessings and the miracle of ordinary life.  And we wish all good things  to each of you in the coming new year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 254: Bodhi Day

I took this photo of Ron standing in front of a magnificent Buddha statue at the Amitabha Stupa in Sedona, AZ in early May.  This garden and stupa is a place of great tranquility there.  Today is Bodhi Day in the Buddhist calendar.  This is the day when the historical Buddha awakened to the real meaning of life.  This event is commonly called enlightenment.  While I can make no claim to enlightenment myself, it strikes me as something both simple and profound.

Seeing "things as they are" is suggested as one definition for this type of understanding.  I do know that life is precious.  We get one chance to live it in a way that helps others and is respectful of the earth.  On this Bodhi Day let us each celebrate the wonder of this.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 253: Things as they are

I no longer hush
my very elderly dog
barking at people

they pass by the house
he engages with purpose
chasing them away

let every moment 
of precious singular life
be just as it is.
              Catherine Hagan

This thoughtful poem is a reminder to treasure things as they are.  And while I don't have an elderly dog, I do have a pug nose Himalayan cat. His name is Bodhi.  Tomorrow, December 8 is BODHI DAY in the Buddhist calendar.  This is the day that the Buddha was said to have become enlightened under the Bodhi Tree.  
"Let every moment of precious singular life be just as it is."   Thank you, Catherine.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 252: Saturated Watercolors

I am a great admirer of the watercolors of Nava Grunfeld.   Her newly published book is featured here.  Her work which is labor intensive uses a multi layering technique.  Her delight is truly intense color (something rare in the world of watercolor) mainly around still life subjects.

So, as soon as I can find a bit of time I plan to have a go at painting this bowl of cherry tomatoes.  I recommend that you go to her web site and study her breathtaking work.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 251: La Di Da Show

Our plein air painting group has an exhibition this month at the LaDiDa Cafe in Half Moon Bay.  Each artist was invited to provide three framed works to display.  Here is a photo of the three I have on view.  The middle painting, titled JOY is one that I did in Sedona Arizona last spring.  I was studying with Jeanne Carbonetti whose colorful works are in inspiration.    The other two paintings are local scenes, one from the Pillar Point Marsh and the other painted at the Cyrress Flower Farm in Moss Beach.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 250: Japanese print making

This afternoon Ron and I went to the Museum of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco to see the exhibition on Japanese printmaking and its influence on Impressionist art world wide.  It is a beautiful show and meaningful in the light of the recent exhibitions of Impressionist art at the De Young Museum.   Artists worldwide saw the beauty and the craft of these astonishing prints.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 249: A birthday wish

Today, December 3 is my birthday.  I am 68 years old today. What a gift to be given another year.  The day was full of love and happy wishes.  Ron took me for a meal of a lifetime at the five star French Laundry in Yountville.  To see photos of the nine course meal check out my Facebook photos of the nine courses.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 248: A Frog in a . . .

 I have a good friend who has recently undergone some major dental surgery.  His condition, as he heals, requires that he eat only liquid foods for some time.  He informs me that he has gotten creative with his diet and that his blender has become his best buddy.  And, as it turns out, there aren't many things that can't be pulverized to make a nutritious (if not crunchy) meal.  As we were talking about this state of affairs this morning my husband stated simply:  "A frog in a blender is still a good frog."

Gives you something to think about.  A frog.  A blender.  I actually found images.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 247: The ladies of Curves

Four years ago I joined the Curves family of women who show up a few times a week to "jiggle and bounce" (as Ron says).  We spend a half hour moving around a circuit of ten machines and bouncing in between to upbeat music.  Recently I passed my 900 mark and got a t-shirt for my efforts.  I've enjoyed having a regular way to move my body.  Also, the Curves system promotes friendship and the fun of doing something a little hard with others.  We trade gossip and recipes and reviews of local restaurants, etc.  Here I sit, all color coordinated, with the current owner, Bonnie.  This is the Half Moon Bay branch of this business.  Good for cardio and strength training.  Here's a salute to the women at Curves!