Blank Canvases

I must admit that, though my mom died well over a year ago, I haven’t fully dealt with all of her belongings yet. I mean…my sister and I have gone through all that we are aware of, but there were times where certain things got the “to be dealt with more fully later” stamp. One group that got that stamp was all of her art supplies.

Many years ago, my mom shared how she wanted to paint…she felt that she might be decent at it. Given that one of my roles with her was lifelong cheerleader, I took that confession as an opportunity to facilitate that desire. Paints…brushes…an apropos French easel…she had her own personal kickstarter campaign.

Relatively early on in the whole process, she painted a lovely winter scene…and got a lot of positive reinforcement for her work. Everyone who saw it was impressed and complimented her. It should have been a great catalyst to continue exploring her creativity.

But while she did paint some…it was more accurate to describe her as someone who wanted to paint rather than a painter. “Are oils too much work? How about acrylics? Watercolor? Maybe pastels or charcoal?” I would bring home all different mediums for her to try, but many remained untouched. I tried hard to understand what was standing in her way.

She was.

Excuse after excuse would always pop up. “If I had that wall shelf installed, then I would be able to set things up like I want…” Shelf installed…no painting. “I just need better lighting…” Special easel light bought…no painting. Even an art class didn’t do more than help her complete the class project. No matter what obstacle was overcome, for the most part, the canvases remained blank.

“Mom…why aren’t you painting?” She never really answered the question. One day I asked her if the blank canvas made it too hard for her to begin? Was it too intimidating and asking for more than she thought she could do? Did she feel like each attempt had to be something “good”? Yes, she admitted. She was putting pressure on herself to do something good…and that pressure was resulting in doing nothing rather than just doing something.

I encouraged her to just…paint. Just put something on the canvas as practice with no pressure to have the outcome be anything at all. Just…paint.

I could empathize with her because I know the blank page of a writer can feel just as daunting. Just…write.

Ultimately and sadly, she let the blank canvases win. There was no amount of cheerleading or facilitating that could make her face whatever it was that kept her from moving from wanting to doing.

Later in her life I brought her coloring books so that she wouldn’t even have to think of the blank page and only choose the colors, but by that time she could no longer concentrate or keep her hand steady enough to stick with it for more than a few minutes. Her window of creativity was closed.

My mom’s choices in her efforts at painting are a metaphor for too many of her life choices, as well. She often chose the road of inertia rather than risk…and that meant she left a whole lot of life unlived that could have been so much more. Empty, missed opportunities instead of beautiful experiences of color and texture and joy. You may think I’m being hard in my assessment here, but trust me…I knew the woman. The metaphor fits.

This past weekend, I went through her art stuff. There were a small number of pieces that she had worked on over the years, but they were far outnumbered by blank canvases.

Stories that were never told.

And so I decided I’m not going to leave them blank.

Though writing is where I feel most at home, I am going to fill those damn canvases.

I don’t know with what or how, and I guarantee the results won’t be pretty…but at least they will indeed be.

The above photo includes all of my mom’s paintings—except for the winter scene that I mention as her initial try.

Does Anger Make You Mad?

Damon Wayans has really pissed me off. The kind of pissed off where I can feel my carotid artery swelling and threatening to explode. His recent comments on his “theory” of what’s really going on with the allegations against Bill Cosby are horrifying to me. I can’t begin to articulate my thoughts on it—and I won’t here. That pot is brewing for another time.

Wayans’ comments make me angry on a number of levels. But…then what? Continue reading “Does Anger Make You Mad?”

Can’t Wait for the Weight

My niece’s wedding is a few weeks away. Heavier than I’ve ever been…except for pregnancy (and I’m pushing that), a few months ago I thought, “If I could just lose a pound a week…maybe I could look good for the wedding!”

Of course…that didn’t happen.




And now I am left with either feeling the absolute weight of my weight—and all the bad stuff that comes with that—or really trying to accept myself for who I am—someone who has “more to love.”

Do you ever feel like you’re missing the life you have for the life you’re never going to get? In feeling bad about myself, days tick by—ones I’ll never get back. To what end?


boxing glove


Now, I’m not saying I should give up the pursuit of trying to feel and look better—to be healthier—but I do need to stop beating myself up for those extra pounds. That’s no way to use the life God has given me.

Of course, I say this, I know this, but I don’t truly feel this. So many of us fight this battle. The mirror is the enemy. Photos are wince-inducing. The internal “little voice” hurls negatives at every turn. Failure.

Even my about-to-be 88-year-old mother is down enough about some additional pounds she has recently acquired that she’s commented that she just may have to skip her granddaughter’s wedding…Of course, while this is pretty much an idle threat, it illustrates the depths of her frustration with herself. Age does not necessarily breed wisdom.

Of course, me being me, I encouraged her to realize that no one will be looking at her weight—they’ll just think it’s great that a grandmother gets to see her granddaughter get married. “You can’t let a few pounds stand in the way of being a part of a wonderful experience, Mom. Don’t let the negative win over the positive…”

And it was in that very moment of cheerleading for my mom that I thought how very hypocritical I was being. How could I expect her to take what I was saying to heart when I felt so similarly?


pep talk


Isn’t the negative winning in my own body battle?

Don’t I need to shut my little discouraging voice up and tell her to hit the %#$*ing road?

What if…what if…I grabbed onto my love handles and…didn’t hate them? What if I looked at my “extra me” and said “It’s okay if you never go away. These bumps and curves do not define me…they just are me…a part of me that doesn’t take away from the rest of me.”

How would it feel to let that sense of failure go?

I can’t honestly answer…because I’m not there…yet.

I am striving to make this truth, but it is a major struggle.

Because attempting to “accept myself” aside, I still want to lose every damn extra pound hanging around. There is no loving the love handles. Not yet.

Ultimately, I think this is the dichotomy that I must accept: To strive to fall in love with my body regardless of its shape, while at the same time attempting to put it in the best shape possible. Not so that I won’t hate the reflection in the mirror, but so that I will take care of myself and feel my best both inside and out.

Not settling, but not loathing, either.

I can’t wait for my weight to go down so that I feel better—and I can’t let my “more” make me feel “less.” Life is too short.

But as is the case with so many emotional things we can approach intellectually, it sure as hell is easier said than done.

So I strive…and stumble…and strive some more. And stumble some more. In fact, I think it should count as exercise! But I am not giving up the struggle.




I have no idea what I’m wearing to my niece’s wedding, but I know I will aim to look my best, curves and “extras” included, and with the haunting of the “pound a week” failure knocked off the guest list.

At least until the wedding photos come in…

I Envy the Box Lady

green eyeI had a conversation this weekend that I must admit brought out great envy in me. Like if envy were people, I’d be China.

The green-eyed monster flared up when I was having a conversation with a woman I work with part-time. She was explaining to me how she had been working creatively…for hours and hours. Hours and hours, people. In the brief time that I’ve sat down to write this post, my son (home from school today because of the damn polar vortex) has interrupted me somewhere near 97 times.

Granted, she is retired (though very active), so her life tugs are understandably much different than mine. But she was explaining to me how she “needed something to do” with her time, and she ended up discovering this passion for designing beautiful boxes that are then used for care packages at the organization she and I are both part-timing at. [The place is called Phil’s Friends, and its mission is to bring hope to those affected by cancer. If you’ve got a hankering to do something with a few bucks and/or your time, go to their website and learn about the wonderful things they do.]

The work she does is lovely—fun and colorful, and just the right spirit to add to the loving care packages.

A sample of the Box Lady's work.
A sample of the Box Lady’s work.

She described to me how her kitchen table is splayed with boxes and she just gets lost in her work for hours at a stretch. I am amazed at the effort she puts into them. It is clearly her passion, and it brings her great joy.

I want to be like the Box Lady.

In my juggle-struggle world, I have forgotten what it is like to have time to fill. And if I do decide to wrap things up on any given night, about the most I can muster is watching TV and wiping the drool from my chin. Something tells me you might be able to relate.

I realize that the seasons of life offer different opportunities, but I could really use some focus time in this current season of my life. I want to have Box Lady experiences now.

I want to have a “snow” (aka “extreme cold”) day where instead of thinking of the HaveTos that need doing, I can immerse myself in an endeavor that brings me joy. Even if only for a little while.

And though I do make time to do things that are not just “on the list,” one of my biggest challenges is how I feel while doing them. For instance, as a writer, I do make time to write this blog. I could have more time for other HaveTos if I didn’t, but I need to write, so I do. But while I’m taking the time to do so, I keep battling all the other HaveTos that keep poking their way into my thoughts and making me feel like I need to stop. “Hurry up, Lisa. You are wasting your time. You need to get back to _____ and ____ and ____.”

I’d like to take that nasty little voice of harping and guilt and choke the life blood out of it. Yeah, I’d like five minutes alone in a room with that little voice. I’d really give her a what-for. Oh, wait. That voice is inside my head. All. The. Time.

I need to find a way to create Box Lady experiences without that little voice squelching the good that comes from it. Now.

My soul needs it. It craves it.

The clock is ticking.

“Someday” isn’t good enough—because there is no “someday” guarantee. There is only today. (As cold and claustrophobic as this one might be.)

There is only today.

Seuss Today quote

Bet You Didn’t Mean to Be…But You Were

It blows my mind that the 26 letters of our alphabet are responsible for all the words we speak or write in the English language. How powerful those little letters are.

They can bring together and tear apart. They can start fights and end wars. With all that muscle, you would think it best that we use them wisely.

But…we’re human. So it’s a pretty safe bet we mess up on this front. A lot.

Sure, there are the boors in life who are really clueless when it comes to having their vocal cords rub together—like the time I was told, “Why don’t you have any kids yet? You better start soon—you’re not getting any younger.” At the time, I was in my early 30s.

I told the guy, who happened to be a teacher colleague of mine, “You know that really isn’t any of your business, right? And you better realize that when you say something like that to a woman, it’s possible that she could be struggling to get pregnant. How do you think that would make her feel?” His eyebrows were pretty much touching his receding hairline at that point, and I like to think that he never made the same kind of mistake again. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Don't be a boorish boar.
Don’t be a boorish boar.

While most of us have a bit more sensitivity than that particular example, we still have times where even in our subtlety, we might be guilty of being


I’ve had a couple of friends lose a noticeable amount of weight, but not because of any direct attempt to do so. They were going through significant life challenges that were painful and were indirectly dropping pounds because of it.

Time and again, though, I would see people come up to them and say, “You are looking GREAT! What’s your secret?!” or “I am so ENVIOUS—I wish I could lose weight like that!”

Now these people obviously didn’t know the truth and weren’t trying to be insensitive, but a change in approach would have been a great choice. In the past, while I didn’t necessarily say those kinds of things, my typical remark would have been, “You are looking fit these days…” But after seeing what my friends went through, I now say, “How are things going with you?” Because it really shouldn’t be about the weight, right?

It is a purposeful attempt to be more thoughtful and aware.

Because if that person truly feels like you care about their answer to “how are things going with you?” you just may learn that things aren’t that great after all. In fact, they could be very far from great.

We just don’t know the battles that others may be waging. And not everyone is going to tell us their story. But keeping in mind that there may be an untold story might help us to be more


And couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

The Shoe on the Pavement

Every day, choices impact our lives. Some we make, and some are made for us. Some we see coming down the road, and some blindside us. All of them shape who we are—whether we want them to or not. Continue reading “The Shoe on the Pavement”