Once a Musician…

I played piano from the time I was five years old until nerves exploded in my fingers and caused me to bomb my first college piano recital. I have only ever been able to play notes on the page, carefully studied and ingrained into muscle memory. Which gives me all the more appreciation for friends like Dan, who create their own music with fingers and love.

Create Challenge #22: Dan Rodowicz

Several months ago, upon recommendation of our Human Resources department, I attended a communication seminar (based on the Process Communication Model, if you are familiar with this). Doing a ‘deep dive’ with a group of strangers isn’t something with which I am exactly comfortable. Nearly everyone in my first small group predicted I would be an “Imaginer” since I told them that I am a musician. As you can see from my chart, nothing could be further from the truth.DRodowicz chart

What’s funny is that I don’t much think of myself as a musician anymore. I’ve been playing music since I was five, and survived undergraduate and graduate school in music. I have taught both privately and on the collegiate level, and performed and recorded with some amazing and well-known musicians. I compose and arrange music, though not as often these days. I even served as Interim Music Minister at my Bay Area church for a year. While I don’t consider myself a musician, I guess it is at the core of who I am—and who I will always be.

Frankly speaking, I was the typical kid—I hated practicing. Typically I sight read my piano lessons. Only rarely did I receive the wrath of Sister Rose Imelda’s ruler.

I found my passion for music in the fourth grade when my parents bought my first spinet organ. I’ll never forget the day it arrived—I started playing the minute I got home from school and, except for a short break to eat dinner, I played until bedtime. That was the first instrument I could play and “color outside the lines.” I didn’t have to play note-for-note any longer. I could even play a few chords different than what were on paper. I could experiment with different sounds, different rhythms, and different styles. I found musical freedom!music

I have incredible respect for classically trained musicians who practice hours on end to reproduce something composed by someone else. I just don’t find the joy or sense of accomplishment they do. For me, whether it’s playing some jazz with other musicians, writing a new song or arrangement or just noodling on the piano at home, I enjoy being able to explore new musical territory at every juncture.

While I love the spontaneous creativity of playing jazz, I feel the greatest sense of accomplishment when I complete writing a new song. They always start out as a tiny idea—or “motif”—and then need to be shaped and transformed into a finished product. Sometimes, what starts out to be a great idea ends up sputtering away. But it’s most rewarding when I bring that song, including the arrangement, to completion. Of course, it isn’t so bad when someone actually likes what I created!

And when I compose, I find it easiest when the inspiration comes from someone meaningful to me. Whether it was “Tiny Ballerina” inspired by my dancing little daughter, Chelsey, or the wedding music I wrote for my wife, Leann, and our family—those are the nearest and dearest to my heart and I think that it is evident in the finished product.

So, as I head off to my “real job,” I guess I have to accept the fact that I am, and always will be, a musician.

DRodowicz travelDan Rodowicz is married to Leann and they recently relocated from the Bay Area to Laguna Niguel, CA for his position as National Sales Manager for the Institutional Solutions Group at Yamaha. They have three adult children: Andrew, Kate and Chelsey. He loves to travel, play Words with Friends, study foreign languages, drink good wine with good friends, is an avid Green Bay Packer fan (even though he was born and raised in Philadelphia) and is most comfortable on his bicycle when not seated at a piano.

You can hear some of Dan’s recordings and arrangements, including from his time as organist for the Oakland A’s baseball team, here.

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Fighting for Creative Space

[My blog went dark last week due to computer complications, so you get a bonus Create Challenge post this week–lucky you!]

Today’s post comes from a woman who grew up around the corner from my childhood home and yet I’ve never known her well. I’m a smidge older and, as kids tend to group up by age/grade, we never ran in the same circles even though we also attended the same small liberal arts college in overlapping years. Her sister was one of my sister’s best childhood chums, however, and I remember my mom especially commenting on what a delightful artist Tina was even at a young age. I bumped into her at a storytelling conference a while back and I am thrilled to see the beauty she creates in her art and in her life. For anyone who would indulge creativity, you will recognize the inherent time-balance crunch she writes about in this post.

Create Challenge #21: Tina Carlson WellsTCW Golden Apples

I have been creating art professionally in Southern California for over 20 years. I specialize in custom canvases and murals, working with my clients to create something meaningful that works with their style and decor.

I graduated from Westmont College where I studied Business and Art. After graduation I started my business and painted full-time for ten years. After getting married and starting a family (my two kids are 12 and 6), I became full-time mom//part-time artist. I love both jobs, but it is often a complicated juggle running a part-time business while meeting the demands of school and home. Projects for clients take precedent and, while I love being creative for others, my creative projects often end up last on the list. I have been fighting against this, and trying to be very deliberate about making space for personal creativity. Here are some of my strategies.TCW cake TCW dog

Schedule it! I choose a few days a week when I can schedule 20-30 minutes of creative space in my day. In my ideal world, I would have hours to sit and paint, craft, etc. But in my reality, one to three hours a week is a victory. I set an alarm on my phone, stop everything else, and work for 20+ minutes.

Creativity takes many forms for me, from painting and crafts, to cooking, writing, and editing photos. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, but once I’m going on a project, I can dive right in. The physical space where I can work is a key part of making creativity happen. I have a corner set up with my easel, paints, brushes, pencils, paper, a small table, etc. This allows me to paint for 20 minutes rather than spending the same amount of time setting up. There is no perfect time, and my ‘chores’ are never finished so, much like committing to a workout routine, you have to “just do it!” TCW heartTCW brushes

God is the ultimate artist and I believe He made us to be creative too. I’m a better mom, wife, and friend when I have fed my creative soul. I encourage you to get in touch with your creative self; make time, get messy, and have fun!TCWells

Lover of all things creative…on the canvas, in the kitchen, in my nest…and in the details of life. I find that when I invest myself in something creative everyday, no matter how small, I am better for it. My blog is in ‘hibernation’ at the moment, but there is lots of creative content there to check out: www.winsomewren.blogspot.com. My website is www.tinacwellsart.com

Sharing Creativity and Time

Some days I consider that I need a creative pastime that doesn’t involve words or, specifically, my computer. And on those days I think of my friend Jen, who quietly, humbly, and persistently creates works of whimsical beauty with her hands. Jen is always good for a smile, a laugh, a story, a listening ear, and to inspire me to create more. And I love today’s post that reminds us that our creativity is for us, sure, but also for others, a gift to be shared in more ways than one.

Create Challenge #20: Jen Patera

I was created to create by the ultimate Creator who blessed me with a love of creating (say that 10x). I love to make things. I can’t remember a time when I was not making something. Creativity has been a part of my daily life since I discovered tape and cardboard. I am at my happiest when I am making something. Creating allows me to stop, in the midst of an over-scheduled life. My craft table is always a place of peace, prayer, problem-solving, quiet contemplation. I love sharing my creations, and I am almost always making things with others or to share with others.JP cake JP spoon JP spreader

Is creativity passed down genetically, generation to generation? Scientists say it is so, and I am inclined to believe them! But, genetics aside, I also think it is about sharing your creativity with others to inspire their creativity, especially with children. Bonding over playdough, glue and paint. My mom is a super crafty lady with many creative passions (writing, jewelry making, stained glass…the list goes on). When I was young, she shared her love of making things as we bonded over homemade ornaments and sewing projects. I was encouraged to be creative and express myself. I was indulged with sketchbooks, paints, art classes, and time.

As a young mom, I longed to sit at the kitchen table making things with my children as my mom had done with me. Sharing creativity and time. My youngest son, at a very early age, loved to create. At two, he not only painted the paper on his easel, he painted his body too. Why not? Fabulous! Bravo! During his preschool years, he produced enough art to more than cover the refrigerator. For his third birthday he wanted a farm truck cake with and we set out together designing, baking, and decorating that cake. Store bought invites…oh no! We carefully made all the invites too! After that, we constructed a barn out of a large appliance box. That is how it went until he stopped having birthday parties. Halloween…another great sharing of creativity and time, bonding over ideas and execution. Sometimes his ideas were bigger than my ability…but we worked through it.

When youngest was in Kindergarten, I picked him up at school. His sweet little hands cradled a folded paper plate that held a treasured creation. I opened the plate, which contained a 6” long, lumpy brown piece of clay (imagine what that might look like).

“Look mom, a snake! And it has eyes!” After a short pause, “…brown was the only color they had.”JP snake

I loved that little brown snake then, and I love it now. One of my most treasured possessions. But it represents more than just a brown lump of clay, it represents our shared love of making things, of creating, of using our hands, of time spent together.

Now at 18 years old, as I watch him explore his own passions and creative expression, his own process, I am reminded why I love to create; and why my mom, and her mom, loved to create—to share not only a creative process, but also shared interests, to sit side-by-side talking, and most importantly, treasuring time together. JP create mug

JPatera

Born in France, lifelong Army brat, moved 27 times around the U.S. by the time I was 18! Came to California to attend the Academy of Art/University of San Francisco and graduated with a BFA. Married my guy Brent in 1990. Two boys in college, one at University of Montana one at Diablo Valley College.  Breast cancer survivor 5 years out.  Love to travel (my favorite place is Savannah, where my mom lives), hike, and do crafty things. View my creations at my Etsy shop.

Meatless Monday – Quinoa Two Ways

Summertime is all about salad–cold, make-ahead, no fuss food. Which is why quinoa has become one of my fav’s. Quinoa is a grain and contains protein, making it crazy healthy. And it’s so versatile that it can be a side dish, a salad base, a salad topping, or an ingredient in another dish altogether. The first few times I tried it, it hurt my tummy; and then I discovered that rinsing it in cold water before boiling makes it easier to digest.

My favorite brand, of course, comes from Trader Joe’s. The three colors don’t change the flavor but they do make it more visually interesting.quinoa brand

Friends shared both of these recipes with me, and they have quickly become go-to happy family recipes that I am pleased to share with you!

First, prepare the quinoa. In a fine-mesh strainer, rinse 1 cup quinoa in cold water. Add to pot with 2 cups boiling water. Cover and reduce heat, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the quinoa develops ‘tails’–you’ll know ’em when you see ’em. Drain any excess water and rinse quinoa again to cool. Set aside.

Can you see the 'tails'?

Can you see the ‘tails’?

Lemon-Mint Quinoa Salad

1 c quinoa, prepared according to package directions

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or other no-salt herb mix)
3 green onions, diced
3 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c almonds, chopped (optional)

While quinoa cooks, whisk oil, lemon juice, garlic and 21 Gun in a large bowl. Add other ingredients, including cooked quinoa. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Note: I made a little more vinaigrette and lightly dressed some arugula, then served quinoa on top. I can also imagine this would be fantastic in whole wheat pita bread with hummus (Trader Joe’s Mediterranean hummus is our go-to).quinoa salad

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad

1 cup quinoa, prepared according to package directions

3 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 c fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 c corn, fresh or frozen
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 green onions

While quinoa cooks, whisk oil, lime juice, garlic and spices in a large bowl. Add other ingredients, including cooked quinoa. Chill for at least 30 minutes.quinoa

Lessons Tween Learned on Vacation

Shortcuts aren’t necessarily shorter.
Our 500-mile drive from San Francisco to San Diego comes in two parts: the long, fast leg between home and the Grapevine; and the shorter-by-distance long-by-traffic leg through Los Angeles. With no traffic on Leg 1, Tween and I stopped for a quick bite almost an hour ahead of schedule. So imagine my dismay when Google Maps reported that Leg 2 was going to take us, not two to three hours, but almost five. If you’ve driven through LA traffic, you understand this particular version of hell.

I called Guy who, checking his computer, confirmed that 5 South was a parking lot all the way down the coast and that the inland route was clear. I wish I had sucked it up and trudged ahead through the gross reality of traffic-induced time loss. Because I had to anyway as our shortcut became a long-cut: the inland route developed its own congestion by the time we got there and added an hour to the already-too-long trip. Typically it takes us seven to nine hours door-to-door; this time it took eleven. And we missed the coastal scenery.

Be earlier than you think you need to be.
Guy and Teen missed the long drive because Teen took the ACT that morning. They also missed their flight to San Diego. Guy got the time wrong in his head. BART ran late, and then they missed the shuttle bus connecting train station to airport. They dashed through security and ran through the airport to arrive as the airline shut the doors.

They got on the standby list for the next flight. After all passengers—including my guys—had boarded, a mechanical problem was detected with the plane and everyone had to disembark. There was some debate about whether they would shuttle passengers to another airport, but somehow the airline ‘found’ a plane and the flight was rescheduled only somewhat delayed from its original departure time.

They might have made their original flight if they had planned to arrive at the airport earlier. Or if they had planned more time for home-to-airport transportation. They arrived eventually, but too late to attend the party.TwMexBeach

Respect the elements.
In pairs of two, we raced to San Diego to celebrate our Nephew’s high school graduation. As a graduation gift, we rented a beach house in Mexico for a couple of days and took Nephew and Grandma on a short vacation—hence the need to have our van with sufficient seating plus room for luggage, food-stuffed cooler, drinking water, wet suits, and towels.

Just over an hour from Grandma’s house to beach house, we hit the beach mere minutes after unloading the car. The three boys sprinted ahead, stripping off shoes and socks as they ran along the sand.

Tween’s flip-flops took their own journey, presumably on the tide. He didn’t say anything as he walked barefoot back to the house; it’s just his style to keep quiet. When he and Guy went back later they faced the fact that, in not carefully placing them out of the way on some rocks, he hadn’t just misplaced them but given them as a gift to the ocean.

Be prepared.
Freshly bathed and in PJs after his ocean romp, Tween decided to light a fire in the gas fireplace. He turned on the gas and then turned around to get the lighter. He should have reversed that process, as he had turned the gas on much too high and allowed too much time. As he pulled the lighter’s trigger, a fireball exploded from the fireplace and momentarily engulfed him in flames. Thankfully Guy was close by and turned off the gas as Tween jumped backward and out of harm. Another shower revealed that Thank God the damage wasn’t worse: one singed eyebrow and his long blonde hair got an unanticipated trim.

Celebrate.
Though the initial drive was maddeningly long, Tween and I made the best of it as we deemed it “an adventure,” something to talk about for years to come. We celebrated with Nephew, family, and friends at his party. The next day we celebrated with his church. We celebrated in Mexico, giving the gift of experience that will last in memories rather than more stuff. We relaxed at the beach, we chuckled at the donkey and dogs who temporarily escaped their home to cavort on the sand, and we savored traditional food and drink. We played games and made conversation. We laughed.

Vacation may not always be easy. Tween remarked, “I’m sure learning a lot considering school is out.” He learned lessons on this trip better to learn at 12 than 40+. But time together, even bored in a car on I-5, is worth it. And what a way to kick off summer!

Thankful Thursday – Kickin’ the Door Shut & a Happy Dance!

school's_out_for-53737

By 12:20pm tomorrow, both our boys will be done with this school year.

Hallelujah!

This has been a particularly rough year for a variety of reasons. Junior year for Teen, filled to the brim with cultural stress even when our immediate little family wasn’t topped to our own stress limit. Unfortunately for all of us, his school counselor didn’t take time to look up at the student sitting before her when she advised he take certain classes (he shouldn’t have taken) and absolutely wouldn’t allow others (completely in his wheelhouse). All year long we have been paying for the mistake of not standing up to a school administrator while there was time. What a painful lesson we have learned…

Sixth grade for Tween, which means we now have one year of middle school under our belts. You’d think “experienced parents” might have this down but different kids transition differently, which makes for a different experience all ’round. We used to say that Teen leaped through 6th grade like a series of belly flops–fun in the air, painful on impact, everyone gets splashed. Tween has been way less adventurous and more consistently bewildered by the new demands on his life. A’s for effort, though, as this kid has been diligent in his hard work, sometimes doing two to six hours of homework per night (yes, WAY too much, and darn that slow processing!)…and then forgetting to turn it all in, or losing it (in his backpack) for weeks. Sigh.

But tonight I am truly grateful. Grateful we are done, mostly. I have been ready to kick the door shut on this year for, oh honestly, months. At least weeks. And yet I am also grateful for the free and fantastic education in our competitive small town. Grateful for the collateral lessons of organization, communication, self-advocacy, assertiveness, creativity, persistence, and more.

I am grateful for my children, these beautiful, amazing, creative gifts from God, each their very own unique human being. And I am grateful that for the next ten weeks we will not argue about homework. I will not have to wake them earlier than their bodies want to rush them out the door. I will not have to hurry them off to bed to get enough rest for the big day, big test/project, the next day’s measurement of their (supposed) worth.

I am grateful for summer and its lazy days slower pace. I am grateful for the adventures that await us individually and as a family–trips to San Diego and Mexico, Oregon and Monterey/Carmel as a family; Boy Scout camp for both boys; high adventure risk-taking for the Eagle Scout-Teen.

I am grateful for summer’s organic learning. Books to read just for fun. Scout badges that will precipitate new experiences and open their minds to new discoveries. Time to hike and climb and explore…just because.

I am grateful for a season of rest. I am grateful for friends we enjoy all year long, friends who have done this year with us, and who will now stretch out into this rest with us. For field trips and day trips ahead. For bowling and roller coasters and movies and beach days and swimming. For glasses of wine and laughter. For concerts and picnics in the park. For worship with our church family.

I am grateful, and so I have been doing my own crazy happy dance all day. Psalm 149:3 says, “Praise his name with dancing…” God has held us close during this chaotic year. He has gotten us through, and He has provided rest just ahead. Want to happy dance this joy with me?

Daydream Painter

Today’s guest post comes from a friend I met when he was in a high school youth group we led. He and his friends formed this motley crew of fantastic off-beat guys who to this day lovingly remind me of The Outsiders. They made me laugh, asked the best questions, and kept me on my toes and–the joys of social media–seeing the men they have become and their continued friendships with one another still makes me smile. I didn’t know Matt as an artist back then; each of his creations jolts my senses with exuberant and joyful color. He seems able to capture his ocean bliss and translate it through paint onto canvas, whether traditional canvas or skate deck or surf board. I always look forward to pictures of Matt’s paintings, and I know you will enjoy them as well.

Create Challenge #19: Matt “Cheeks” Hoag

I grew up in Southern California surfing and skating with friends. Briefly I lived in Wyoming to attend Wyoming Tech as a mechanic before returning to North County San Diego. My true passion is painting as meditation inspired by the ocean. Besides being inspired by the ocean, my trademark is clean lines and psychedelic colors.

My interest in art began with the help of my middle school art teacher, Jeremy “Jerm” Wright. After middle school I didn’t take any other art classes. Why? Not sure. Just doodled all the time instead of paying attention. I met Jim Moriarty through a church youth group in Solana Beach. He introduced me to Posca Pens, an acrylic-based paint pen, while on a surf trip down in Erendira, MX. I only use paint pens with each piece I create. Thanks to Jim, I picked up painting once again!

Creativity for me is turning off my mind of the negativity and letting my hands do the work. Let my body relax to music, and let everything flow into each painting. Each piece is thought through, but doesn’t always turn out how I think. Everything starts as an idea. That is half the fun, though.

Here are some of my works of art. Hope you enjoy!Hoag pelican

I chose to paint a pelican one day while sitting on the bluffs in Del Mar. I watched them pass by in the air, and I have watched them many times while in the water surf perfectly. They are awesome birds, great fishers and great surfers! To me a pelican is born ready to shred the waves. This one resembles a surfer watching the waves from an outlook. Watching and studying the waves as they crash.Hoag mermaid

This one here is one of my favorites that I have done so far. The tail grabs my attention the most. Looks like a stained glass sunset.Hoag bw

One of the details I like to add to each of my paintings is this type of style. Just black lines, dots, and swirls to bring out and show detail. On this one I decided I wanted no color, and only line work.Hoag octopus

Aliens and ocean? Why not paint an octopus which relates on those terms? These amazing creatures stride through the water with grace.Hoag wave

This wave was one of the first I did with this style. Many colors with many black lines, swirls, and dots.Hoag Stained Glass Wave (1)

When I was done with outlining the different colors it created a stained glass effect. I call this one “Stained Glass Wave.”Hoag rock

I work as an Aviation Technician in El Cajon, CA. When I am not painting or working, I enjoy being outside in nature, hanging out with my dog Roxy, an American Staffordshire-Bull Terrier-Boxer with tons of energy. She brings me joy every day. Waking up and seeing her in the morning reminds me to stay sober. It has been 3 years and 4 months, and every day is a new beginning. A new day. I enjoy listening to music which soothes my mind, anything from Classical to Jazz, from Blues to Classic Rock, from Reggae to Punk. At the moment I don’t have a website, but you can email me: daydreampainter@gmail.com.