Too Many Items on Your List? Do This . . .

We all keep lists.

Mental, scribbled on the back of an envelope, or neatly docketed in our phones, these lists remind us of the many things there are to do each day.

bath bathe woman relaxing spa towel tub steve henderson serene art

She moves slowly, quietly, sedately, enjoying the sheer calmness of the moment. It’s worth taking time to do this. After the Bath, by Steve Henderson

And the most intriguing thing about these lists is that they’re never completed. No sooner do we accomplish one task — make bed, prepare proposal, pick up bananas at the grocery, call the client, fill out tax forms, write Aunt Emmeline  — then we address another.

Dishes, laundry, appointments, homework, work assignments, meal preparation, shopping, meetings — these never end. And while not all items on our list are unpleasant — shopping’s kind of fun, isn’t it? — the list itself can become a taskmaster, determining our thoughts and actions all through the day.

Rarely, if ever, does one write, “Do nothing,” on a list. Or, “relax.”

And yet, these latter two tasks, which aren’t tasks at all, are vital to our well being, our sense of serenity, our mental and physical and spiritual health.

The artwork, After the Bath, invites us to put our lists to the side and immerse ourselves in the quiet of the moment. A young woman sits on a stool next to an elegant shelf and seeks a hairpin to hold up her tresses. There is no specific time by which she must find this pin, and if she does not find it at all, the situation will not be calamitous.

The search is a gentle one, her pose is relaxed, her mind is calm. She has just emerged from a relaxing bath in which, we presume, she luxuriated in delightfully steaming water. The feeling is one of quiet, serenity, tranquility, and repose.

Ahhhhhhh . . .

You know, if there’s no other way we’ll do it, maybe we should write “relax” and “do nothing” on our daily lists.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Vacation Every Day?

Given a choice, most people would choose a week at a sunny, warm beach over the same period of time in the office. (For those who hate oceans — seriously? — there are options: a snowy mountain on which to ski, or a week in a major metropolis to see the sights. Let’s be flexible.)

phonograph vintage nostalgia woman music hat

It’s a moment from the day, a mini-vacation in which the mind and spirit wander to a place of beauty and peace. Phonograph Days, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

The point is, we thrive on time away from obligations, free time in which our major decision of the day upon waking is what to have for breakfast and then, after that, where to go and what to do.

Vacation.

But reality, for most people who aren’t reality TV stars, is that vacation constitutes a short period of time within the year, and does not necessarily take place on a warm, sunny beach. If we don’t determinedly take control of the various minutes and opportunities that abound, we find ourselves trapped in a cycle of lists, projects, schedules, appointments and duties.

The artwork, Phonograph Days, invites us to take a minute — several minutes — out of our day to simply enjoy the moment.

Relaxed and at ease, a young woman stands before the great technological advancement of her day and listens to beauty. A slight smile playing around her lips, she is, for the moment, far from the room in which she stands. Rather, she is strolling through a place of wonder and peace and goodness.

(Today, we have advanced far beyond the phonograph, with music and podcasts streaming through our ears continuously. But how often do we stop and let them take us to a place of wonder and peace and goodness?)

Throughout the day, each day, there are numerous opportunities to pause from our schedules, lists, projects, appointments, and duties to close our eyes, to breathe deeply, to gently touch the blossom of a flower and marvel at its fragility and strength, to humbly observe a child absorbed in play, to feel the warm golden sunshine (the same sun that shines on the beach) softly breathing onto our face.

The more we seek out the moments, the more we find and appreciate and experience them, the more they imbue our daily lives and change them for the better.

And we find that we are no longer living for vacation. Because we are living every day.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Judging Others — We’re Usually Wrong

Perhaps one of the best reasons not to judge other people is that we’re so very bad at it.

Most of the time (pretty much all of the time, actually), we don’t know the whole story. Though we think we’ve got the facts, if we’re missing just one — and it’s an important one — we’ll misinterpret everything.

mountain nebo utah wilderness range hills southwest steve henderson painting

There are just enough clouds to obscure a clear view of the landscape, so we can’t say with complete accuracy what it looks like at the top. Mount Nebo Range, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Take the chair my daughter recently bought at a secondhand store.

It was a steal — a beautiful leather chair in elegant cream, for $15. So she bought it.

Three weeks later, at the same store, she found the matching ottoman, which hadn’t been there before.

Given what we know about this particular store, we assumed that the eccentric staff, for odd reasons of their own, simply hid the ottoman in the back and didn’t put it out until later. It fit neatly with our presumptions about the place, some of them based upon actual facts. It was a sound, logical, reasonable judgment.

Two weeks later, a friend walked into my daughter’s home and said, “Oh, you have my old chair. My husband didn’t like it, so we sent it to the secondhand store. But we didn’t send the ottoman because it was at my grandma’s house. We put that in three weeks later.”

One salient fact. But it changed everything.

The artwork, Mount Nebo Range, is an encouragement to us to withhold quick judgment, because things are not always as clear as they seem. Clouds and mist obscure the peaks of the mountain top, and if we did not know better, we would say that there was no top — because we can’t see it.

And even if we say it’s there because reason says it should be — we have no idea how high it is, what shape it is, or even, actually, whether it does exist. (In the case of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State, there is no longer a peaked, domed top, as it was blown off during the 1980 volcanic eruption.)

We can make our best judgement with what we’ve got, but it’s always wise to remember that what we’ve got may not be all that there is.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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How to Complain, without Hurting Others

It’s easy to complain today, because there’s so much to complain about.

Because we live in a society dominated and shaped by mega-corporations, we deal a lot with inefficiency, products that aren’t necessarily made with an eye for quality, and interesting “customer service.” While it’s something we reluctantly expect and accept, at the same time, we know it’s wrong, and things could be better.

hailey girl female country flower spring portrait innocence Steve Henderson art

There is a child inside of all of us who wants to be accepted and treated with dignity. Hailey, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Layers of people between us and the CEOs and shareholders — the ones with actual power to change things — mean we get frustrated and irritable when we feel that we’re being put off, ignored, stuck on hold, and not listened to.

So, we get cranky with the person we’re dealing with, a person with limited ability to make any changes, who’s working there because they need a job and probably doesn’t like the situation any more than we do. The messenger, so to speak.

And this makes the day poor for both us and them. It also doesn’t solve the problem of products that look nicer (and bigger) in the ads than they do in our homes, and the vague suspicion that, to many billion dollar profit making entities, we are nothing more than a piece of currency.

But there are solutions beyond attacking the messenger, perhaps one of the best ones being that — if our voice cannot reach the ears at the top — we look elsewhere for the same product, preferably from a business (small? mid-sized? local? start-up?) that is more attentive to quality and customer service. (Don’t give up! We spent years thinking we were stuck with an impersonal, inefficient, and frustratingly inept bloated company that effectively monopolized our rural options, but we never stopped looking for alternatives. We finally found one.)

The artwork, Hailey, is a reminder to us of what individual people — us, and those we meet in person and on the phone all day, look like. Like children, we are vulnerable: nobody likes to be yelled at, denigrated, publicly embarrassed, and excoriated.

And while mega-corporations — which are not individual human beings but, in the U.S., carry many of the same rights that individuals do — can handle critique and excoriation, the wage earners who work for them are our brothers and sisters on the planet, and they could use a smile, a polite greeting, kindness, an egalitarian interaction that reminds us both that we are equals.

As individual people, valuing honesty, respect, compassion, kindness, and goodness, we can make a difference. One individual person at a time.

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That Incredible Thing You Do (and Make)

When is the last time you made something with your hands?

Better yet, when is the last time you valued something that you made with your hands?

santa woodworking workshop creativity christmas toys steve henderson art

Heart, hands, mind, spirit — they all join together when we create. In the Workshop, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

We live in a world of mass production, of products churned out on assembly lines. And because they’re made by the thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions, they’re uniform and homogeneous. Each loaf of bread, each plastic doll, each black sweatshirt with a company logo on it, looks just like its multitudinous mates.

Rarely are there unexpected alterations, the type of “flaws” we expect when an individual person starts from the beginning on a project, works through the middle, and makes it to the end. For efficiency, cost-cutting, consistency, and dependability of the final result, assembly lines are the way to go.

But if you’re looking for something unique, unusual, and with the touch of the human spirit, you need human hands touching, human brains making decisions, human hearts infusing their compassion, love, creativity, energy, joy, and purpose into what they’re making.

The artwork, In the Workshop, invites us into a place we don’t often see — Santa’s personal space where he creates. It’s understandable that Santa, because he has been doing artisan work for so long, is really good at what he makes. There are few mistakes — but intriguingly, those that exist, he works with and turns into an element of the final creation:

“Wow,” the observer marvels, “the engine is shorter and fatter than the cars it pulls — but I like it. It’s innovative.”

And Santa smiles.

So it is with us when we create with our hands — whether it’s a chocolate cream pie or a knitted cap, a wooden train or a greeting card — it will probably be, like the person who made it, slightly imperfect. But it will also be something that we poured our heart into, with a result that is intangible, invisible, and unable to be touched, recorded, charted, identified, analyzed, and profited by.

It will be one of a kind, just like the person who made it.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts that complement this one are

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When Will You Be Honored for What You Do?

“What is your favorite color? Your favorite food? Your favorite animal?”

Children ask these questions incessantly (as do social media quizzes, but the latter are mining information for advertisers).

blossom woman spring flowers colorful steve henderson art

Life is rich and good, with many colors that work together to create beauty. Blossom, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

It’s difficult to explain to seven-year-olds that while you may like blue, it’s not your ultimate favorite, all the time, and many colors are beautiful in their own way. The interrogators keep insisting:

“But what’s your FAVORITE?”

Adults do this as well, but in a more sophisticated manner, choosing to name society’s favorites by awarding public encomiums with accompanying plaques.

“This is the PERSON of the year!” magazine covers announce.

“Here is our STUDENT of the MONTH!” schools pronounce.

Or, at specialty banquets — for work, an organization, some civic event, church — a presenter drones from his or her notes before announcing the SOMEONE of the YEAR!

(Sometimes, the someone is kind of cool, and we nod our heads and say, “Okay, if they have to give out awards like this, that person is a good choice.”

But other times, we think, “Seriously? That person? Were the choices that limited?”)

The artwork, Blossom, is an encouragement to all those people who will never be a Someone of the Year, or, if they do stumble upon such a human-driven honor, will feel it was given for all the wrong reasons.

The young woman in the painting has no favorite color. Her dress is blue, her wrap is orange, the blossoms above are pink and the surrounding landscape glows green. Breathing in deeply the heady aroma of spring, she is aware of the beauty around her, and knows that if you remove even one element of it — that branch reaching down toward her hands, say — you’ve changed the whole picture.

There is no Someone who is so important that they deserve the entire year. There is you. And there is me (I know, grammatically incorrect). And there are our neighbors, our co-workers, our cousins, our acquaintances, and a whole planet of complete strangers, some of whom would be instant friends if we met them, and others who . . . might take a bit more time.

We’re all colorful.

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Do We Like What We See in the Mirror?

“That’s not me, is it?”

Most of us are surprised, not necessarily pleasantly, when we unexpectedly catch sight of ourselves in a shop window, mirror, or, nowadays, tagged in a Facebook post.

santa claus christmas eve dolls statues surprise steve henderson holiday art

It’s a bit of a surprise when you run into yourself in an unexpected place. An Unforeseen Encounter, art print by Steve Henderson.

We always look older, wider, sloppier, more stooped, or whatever concerns us when we run into ourselves without warning. In our minds, we are different: graceful, elegant, secure, confident, beautiful.

And so, in many ways, we are. Our society’s over emphasis on youth and its very narrow definition of beauty keep too many people feeling insecure about themselves.

But in other ways, we are not what we think we are, a fact that comes as a shock when we become aware of what other people see, and we don’t.

“Do I really come across as rude . . . impatient . . . unkind . . . over competitive . . . thoughtless?” we wonder when someone —  a friend, family member, sometimes a complete stranger — tells us how we just made them feel.

There’s a fine line between seriously listening to the words of others about ourselves and being over concerned about general opinion and our self-image.

The artwork, An Unforeseen Encounter, gives a visual of this fine line. As a public figure, Santa is well used to seeing himself portrayed in many formats, and he is inured to that. He already knows that he doesn’t have a six-pack, and he’s also aware that he’s no longer 20 (was he, ever?).

So he recognizes some truths about himself, and he works with those issues. He doesn’t take himself so seriously that he can’t admit that he’s not perfect: there are elements that can be worked on (an extra helping of something other than a cookie at dinner, say).

At the same time, he isn’t so focused on himself that he has to use an app on his Facebook to slim down, tuck up, youth-erize, promoting an image of himself that isn’t real, genuine or meaningful.

Santa’s saving grace — and ours, if we choose — is that he spends more time thinking about others than he does of himself.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Quiet People Have a Lot to Say

I’ve lived long enough to see many people blast into my life, and then leave.

They’re not the pillars — family, friends, wise individuals who leave behind a feeling of goodness to the room when they depart. Rather, these are the confident, aggressive “leaders,” the ones who capture a group or organization, plan church events, or grasp at micro-managing their co-workers lives.

river muse woman thinking country stream henderson art

People who take time to think before they act or speak generally have words worth hearing. Riverside Muse, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

One example should suffice.

Years ago, there was a woman in our little children’s play group who whooshed into the room like a wind. Around a quickly assembled flock of acolytes, she pronounced judgment on what TV shows to watch, the best and only way to potty train, rather harsh disciplinary measures to apply against recalcitrant children, and the necessity of buying cheap fried chicken at the grocery store on Madness Mondays. (A couple years later, when she changed her diet, she condemned Madness Mondays, along with anyone who bought cheap chicken that day. No longer was this a sensible, approved, or spiritual way to save money.)

We never got along, because early on, I didn’t agree with something she said. It only took once to be off her list.

And then, after years of determined rule . . . she left.

Gone, off to new vistas to promote the virtues of tofu, which colleges are the best for those now grown-up, formerly recalcitrant children, and the only qualified candidate for whom to vote.

The artwork, Riverside Muse, is a reminder and an encouragement to not give in to such people. The woman standing at the river is quiet, reflective, non-aggressive, thoughtful – a lot like many people. She has good things to say, ideas worth hearing, but she is not about to push her agenda on those around her.

Too often, people who are quiet, reflective, non-aggressive, and thoughtful allow themselves to be bowled over by those who promote, and then later condemn, buying cheap chick on Madness Monday. They mistake non-aggression for shyness, and pull away from expressing themselves, because they consider that they have nothing worth saying.

But they do. Oh, how they do.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Is It Impossible? Maybe Not.

By what age do we stop believing in six impossible things before breakfast?

I’m not sure, but I do know that too many of us have not only stopped believing in, and reaching for, impossible things. We also give up on “wildly improbable,” and worse yet, “possible, but with a lot of determination and perseverance.”

santa christmas holidays season girl tea party magical steve henderson art

The wonder in the little girl’s eyes is because she knows what is happening to her is impossible. But it’s happening. Tea for Two, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

I thought of this when a friend told me about her recent experience changing the  number of her landline phone to her cell. The first person she went to, her go-to tech friend, said that it was impossible.

“But I know of two people who said they did it,” my friend objected.

“I’ve never heard of it. It’s highly unlikely.”

Sound familiar? Statements like these are the reason people tend to keep to themselves their private dreams, their outlandish goals, their secret hopes (which go far beyond, I hope, transferring their phone numbers).

When they do, they hear:

“I’ve never heard of that happening, ever.”

and

“It’s not logical (reasonable, probable, likely).”

Oh, and this one,

“EVERYONE would like something like this. What makes you think you can get it? Are you so very special?”

The artwork, Tea for Two, encourages us to keep the child in us alive, the little person who — despite what all the grownups say — believes that the most wildly improbable things can, and do, happen. Not yet school age, she hasn’t begun the inoculation into “thinking like a scientist,” — only believing what she sees, hears, and touches. (Incidentally, given the technology of what can be done with visual and voice manipulation, it might be wise to question more of the things we see and hear.)

She just knows what she would like, and wonders if there’s a way that it could happen.

(By the way, my friend got her number changed over. It took time, persistence, patience, determination, and the insistent belief that there was no reason it couldn’t be done.)

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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The Power We All Possess

Most ordinary people feel as if we have no power.

I’m not talking the “calm the wind and the waves” and “heal the blind” sort of power. Even the most delusional of earth’s mighty men and women know that they don’t have that.

angels landing zion national park hiking steve henderson painting

Climbing to the top involves a series of small steps. Where Angels Land, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

What most ordinary people feel is that we have no power to make a difference, because we don’t possess outrageous amounts of money, and the ability to influence (or manipulate) people and circumstances that accompany those funds. But that attitude overlooks the power that every human being possesses, regardless of who we are, who our father was, and how many people scrape and bow as we walk by.

All of us have the power to choose how we will act: honestly or dishonestly, kindly or harshly, honorably or with cowardice. With a word or a tone, we have the ability to build up another human being, or tear them down to a point of devastation. We can judge, critique, slander, and demolish. Or we can withhold judgment, listen, encourage, and build up.

Every single day, throughout the day, we have the power to do this.

“Ah, but my words and actions don’t affect millions,” we say. “I’m just a nobody.”

First of all, nobody is a nobody.

And secondly, we really need to get away from this misconception that quantity matters so very, very much. The fear that our actions and thoughts mean so little prevents us from actively going out and doing good. But to the person to whom we show compassion, brotherly love, understanding (or if nothing more, the lack of malice), we have made a difference. These things build upon themselves.

The artwork, Where Angels Land, shows the heights we can reach when we’re willing to continuously put one foot in front of the other. One of the most popular trails in Zion National Park (where 4.5 million people visit a year), Angels Landing is difficult: five miles round trip, 1,500 elevation gain, 21 steep switchbacks at the end, and a 1,000 foot drop off at the spine.

Theoretically, a rich, powerful person could get there on a helicopter, but millions of ordinary people make it to the top, one small step at a time.

Every word, every action, every thought is a step — and every step takes us upward or downward, depending upon where we choose to place our feet.

That’s a power that we all possess.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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