Saturday, December 31, 2011

Being in the now....

Trevor Allen; tech-geek, troll, music writer, roller-skating awesome oldest son.

Twenty-two years ago this very evening, I was in labor with my first child. He is a 6'4" man now. Yet always my baby. I had no concept of where this mothering journey would take me, nor could I see the faces of my babies not born. Lessons are best learned in the looking back, in the reflection. New Year's asks us to look forward.

I say stay in the now.

The view from here....

Not all of us will get to enjoy the entirety of 2012. Many will make resolutions that will be broken and further the cycle of negative feelings about self. Some will accomplish great things. But right here, right now is where the magic is.

Looking back helps us connect meaning. Looking forward is complete mystery, only to be disseminated in the looking back that is to come. Right here, right now, we have people who love us, changes to make, ideas to dream up and moments to be present for.

When I used to attend Unity, the constant phrase was "today is a new day". Good reminder. Every day, every moment is a chance for new. For being fully present for ourselves and our experience, for making mistakes and taking chances. Right here, right now.

In 2011 my soul mate moved in to my house and we became a family. In 2011 I worked harder than I ever have as a makeup artist. I didn't do enough art and writing in my opinion. I got a speeding ticket for the first time in 20 years. I questioned myself a lot. I dreamed more about traveling but didn't do much of it. I was mindful and mindless. I was too loud and probably didn't sleep enough. I met some amazing new friends and kept on falling in love with my old friends. I opened a studio with some other fantastic humans. My divorce was finalized and I had to face up to 22 years of ignoring some pretty important things.

I recently decided to start writing and doing more art again. Without resolutions or fanfare, without labels on what constitutes "enough" I am back at it. Because every moment I'm alive, I can begin again. And again. No mistakes, just "learning-takes". The only failure is to quit caring, to quit doing, to let fear hold us back.

So in 2012? I vow to keep being loud, to dream big and feel like I'm overwhelmed with them. To keep falling in love with people and places and my work. To start anew when needed. To cry and laugh and fuck up and do it all over again. I will keep on being me. Isn't that what the world really needs after all? More people awake, living fully.... willing to dream and do and BE.

My hope for humanity? That they will continue to inspire me. That if there is fear holding them back from some amazing, crazy, off-the-chain dream they will go after it anyway. That people will start to realize how important community is. That caring for this planet will become the norm. That all of us will slow down a little bit and let the pleasures of food, drink and friends be present. That colors and words will wend their way into all that we do. That the off-beat, unusual people will not have to face scorn or bullying. That all of us find a way to be more fully human with compassion. That differences will be cause for celebration, cause for learning, not cause for derision. That every day will be a new day.

Oh, and that a lot more people will recognize this truth: "what people think of me is none of my business!"

Happy New Years tonight and every night!! May all of your being embrace YOU.

Happy New Year from the Allen-Dixon clan!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hello 2012

I'm really good at finding interesting people. Sometimes I think that's my only true gift in life, is finding the amazing ones. They change the way I think, they inspire me, they make me look at myself differently and they help me grow into a better person.

Maybe that's why Danny Schmidt's "Company of Friends" speaks to me so thoroughly. I have good friends. I mean "good" as in amazing, talented, brilliant, vibrant....incredible. If I'm known by my company of friends, I leave behind a story worth telling.

That's what 2012 is about. It's about community and connections, it's about more deeply being with myself and taking my ideas and dreams seriously, without taking myself too seriously.

I started a group called Imagination Tribe in 2004 with a desire to connect with other artists, creative spirits and dreams. It served a purpose for me at that time, to open up to my artist side in a new way. As the group evolved it became more of an art trade group and I found myself needing something different, something more.

So in 2012 Imagination Tribe is going back to the original intent. The original intent of connecting with like-minded, free-thinking, creativity-seeking, learning, growing people. The original intent of nourishing a need within for not only forming with words and colors but forming community around it. The original intent and beyond.

Because the further I travel in this life, the more I meet people with some deep-seated need they are not expressing and I'm realizing how many of us need community at a time when the world is both losing and gaining access.

In the wee hours of the very first day of 1990, I became a mother. My sweet first born turns 22 next week and I can feel the waves of change in my life. The restlessness that has always existed for me, is still there. The struggle between growing deep into a community or flitting about like a gypsy is still there. Thankfully, my children have been patient with me....

Imagination Tribe is a way to honor all of it. To bring together, to unite, to grow a creative spark into a flame. I hope that a few of you will join me, I hope that a few of you will inspire me yet again to trust that struggle, to trust those urges. 2012 is about change for me. Not the kind of change that huge transitions bring into your life, but the kind of change that is about emergence.

Hello 2012, I'm going to enjoy getting to know you.

Imagination Tribe......
Community. Concepts. Paying forward. Creation. Melding words. Growing. Creating. Honoring diversity. Gathering. Talking. Laughing. Reaching out. Serving. Challenging. Discussing. Getting uncomfortable. Walking to the edge. Pushing. Birthing. Evolving. Inspire. Unite. Emerge.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Spinning inward....again.

This season has been difficult for me, many years now. The darkness seems to reflect the inner workings of my moods and transitions. This season highlights loss.

I don't know if it was the death of my mother, or the death of relationships and trust that started this turning inward, this movement with the winter rhythm. I seem to pull back as the trees lose summer vibrance, going dormant as cold folds itself into hills.

The feelings of loss, of sadness come and go. Mostly I'm too busy with life and children to pay it much heed. But it sits, waiting for a moment to surface.

It surfaced yesterday. It surfaced after two days of feeling on edge. It surfaced in tears and hopeless feelings and anger. Facing yourself in that state is difficult. Facing yourself with compassion is even harder....being given compassion during that darkness is a gift. Keith knows how to give that gift and for that I am deeply grateful. Ever have I walked this path alone, until now.

I've been dreaming about Mom and old houses. Old houses come and go from my nights since I can remember. There is something about the convergence of past and future in those dreams, though I can't quite grasp what they are telling me.

Christmas brings a lot of the dark to the surface. I'm sure it has to do with all those Norman Rockwell celebrations we had as children and the reminder that it will never exist again. Loss.

I turn inward, toward reflection and even in this dark, in this night, I sense another awakening. There are so many magnificent events unfolding in our lives, so much gratitude and beauty. And that's really what this post is about. How the dark must exist to make room for the light. How embracing loss, embracing the terribly difficult seasons of night are part of the beauty. How hurt and shadow and sad are not something to be avoided.

I'm not talking about wallowing or ignoring symptoms of depression. I'm talking about opening ourselves to all of the experiences we face, even when it's hard. I'm talking about facing them and learning from them. I'm talking about not glossing over the hurt or sad or night with fake joy, platitudes or new age hoo-ha.

There is a Zen peace I get from being with the grief rather than denying it. I am at one with my winter world, void of brilliant colors with growth silently, gently urging itself from the deep.

Found a journal entry from November of last year where I wrote: "Sunshine, wind and Appalachian hills bordering this day....children in transition, my spirit torn--never sure if there is a home for me here. I watch the trees dropping leaves, feel the freeze coming and I dread the season of dark, of turning inward. Spiraling inward seems like too much of a risk now. I want to run, to hide, to go where nobody knows me and there are no responsibilities. Children, money, the life I chose keep me here--but there are days I dream of my cabin in the woods....."

There was my "aha" moment, that clarity that only looking back can give. This is the season of dark, of dormant, of quiet growth and of facing loss. But it is only a season. It's importance to my artist spirit can not be denied. I welcome the dormant, the quiet, yes even the cold. For within it is the key to awakening for me. Awakening and awakening and awakening......again and yet again.

This time I am not alone. This time I have not only a mirror but someone to walk the dark with me, without getting sucked into it's insatiable hunger. This time I know it is only a season and we are not defined by the seasons of our lives as much as grown by them.

Seeds will be purchased soon, garden plans made. The house is facing some changes too.....for too long it has been dormant as well.

Awaken, awaken and awaken. Once again.

I am happy, I am grateful, I am not alone. But I never really was after all.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupy your mind....standing for the people.

There are many claims being flung about casually, about the "average" Occupy Wall Street protester and those who support the movement. Many of them center around the notion that protesters are "lazy, jobless, young" and "looking for a handout" or desirous of "entitlements". I can not explain my personal stance repeatedly so this post is something I plan to direct people towards when needed.

I'll begin with introducing myself, since there isn't much of an "average" OWS protester and I have met so many diverse people from all walks of life through this process. I want to make it abundantly clear that I speak for myself, for my own views and not for any group in this post.

I am a business owner: I have been a makeup artist for over a decade and I work in a shared studio space as an artist and an assistant photographer. I also work full-time for a large corporation that is generous to it's employees and socially progressive. I am a mixed-media artist, teaching classes on art and makeup. I have four amazing children and have been homeschooling since 1996. I am passionate about gardening and self-sufficiency. I embrace hard work, do not believe I am entitled to anything in this life and plan to work until the day I die.

First, the accusations that the spin-doctors are successfully convincing people of:

OWSers are "jobless, looking for a hand-out"

Anecdotal evidence here; my ex-husband tried to find a job for three years and could only get minimum wage, temp work. This is a man who went to college, owned a business, was a sales manager and top salesperson at the last company he worked for before going into real estate. I have friends in their 40's now who are back in school, going into debt because that's the best option right now. There is story after story of people trying HARD to get jobs...there aren't enough jobs when big corporations are willing to send those jobs overseas as well as using slave labor in developing countries!!

Being jobless does not automatically make a person a non-contributor in society. Since when did not having a job make someone unable to have a voice? Or help make positive changes? When is that a factor in deciding who has a right to political process? Larry King filed bankruptcy in the past and lost his job. Susan Boyle was jobless and caring for her mother at home at one time. Many, many writers and artists and other creative types find themselves in the "jobless" category throughout phases of their lives. SO what?

The other variation on the "jobless" theme is that they are "young people looking for a hand-out"

Two false-hoods at once? Cool! So let's go with the notion that most OWSers are "young". This is a problem how? I can't stand ageism. Young people have often been the cause of great and significant change. Young people in this country are locked in compulsory schools for 13 years of their precious lives, told they can't contribute anything of value, not allowed many freedoms most adults take for granted and then we are going to devalue them when they are actually standing up for their country? Standing up for what they believe in? Showing they are NOT the mindless, tv-watching, lazy Americans they are accused of being....then they get ageism flung at them again? REALLY? The young people I've met are articulate, intelligent beyond their years, willing to work hard, able to motivate an entire movement and they are being mocked? This is hard for me to stomach. Kudos to them for their motivation and energy. Our country has a chance in hell if they are the next generation.

It's interesting how disrespectful the older generations can be to our youth when they have something important to share or ideology aimed at change, yet not think twice about sending them into war to die "for our country".

Beyond that, there is more diversity at these protests and events than the press would lead you to believe. Don't trust everything you see on television. Maybe watch some of the live streaming and find out for yourself what is really going on. You aren't required to watch the bias in mainstream media....we can all report and be the media these days.

On to the "looking for a hand-out" portion:

If the protesters are asking the government for ANYthing, then it is not at all a hand-out in the sense that our tax dollars pay for it. Big banks and other industry got a huge hand-out in the form of the bail-out dollars and that's ok?? So a hand-out for giant mechanisms that don't use sustainable business practices is ok but individuals needing anything can go screw themselves? There is so much wrong with that I don't know where to start.

As a society we choose what tax dollars pay for. If we want those tax dollars to go to things like, oh, say education rather than war, this is some socialist/extremist/anarchist plot??? I'm a Mom. I'd like to have my kids get access to higher education more than I'd like them sent over to a foreign land we have no business in, to die for some corrupt government scheme. Many of us see problems with where the tax dollars are being spent. As a group, we can decide where that money should go, rather than trusting corrupt politicians. As a society, we have already decided that we want police and firefighters and a military. If anything linked to government money is a "hand-out", then let's cut those programs and see how well that goes over!

Most individuals actually needing a hand-out are people struggling terribly. As someone who has been on welfare in the past and found my way through troubled times, I am deeply bothered by the mean spirit and hatefulness toward anyone wanting some help. It's a nice thought that those people would get the help they need from their immediate communities but history has not shown that to be true. Most people don't want a hand-out forever...they want a chance.

Why shouldn't we, as a people, decide that education is more important than killing? That tax dollars are in our power to decide how to spend, that anything coming from the government is not truly a "hand-out" but a choice of how to spend our tax dollars for the collective good?

I don't know about you, but I'd like a voice in how those tax dollars are spent. I don't want to bail out unsustainable businesses. Which brings me to the accusation....

"You want to end capitalism"

It is not capitalism to finance businesses that have run themselves into the ground with shoddy practices. It is not capitalism to give a hand-out to companies that don't conduct their business profitably. It is capitalism to allow them to fail.

In the past, unregulated capitalism has led to horrendous treatment of employees, massive pollution and in this day and age, a recession that is teetering on the brink of a full-scale economic collapse. The evils of unregulated capitalism is a great look at the issues surrounding this topic. If unregulated capitalism works, then PLEASE, please, please show me one example of a developed country in which this has been a success for more than a few decades. Just one example. You can't. Because humans tend to be greedy and power-hungry people don't make great decisions for the entire society. The past 30 years have proven this.

So where is the dellusional, hateful attitude towards OWSer's originating from? Probably people like Glenn Beck who championed the bail-outs before speaking against them once he landed on Fox News. He also spoke out against Wall Street "largesse" at one time. Why are you suddenly taking a different stance Glenn? Ah, nevermind.

Limbaugh himself was against the bail-outs that were begun by George W. Bush and continued by Barack Obama. So it seems that we do indeed have some similar ideas, even if it is distasteful for me to admit that. I only say that because of the hatefulness and divisive attitude that most opinion/entertainers on Faux News like to create. But then, it makes them money.

As a protester in support of Occupy Wall Street, I only speak for myself. I say the bail-outs were the most socialist thing this country has ever done,
~ that it is not "socialist" to choose where our tax dollars should go (yes, even if it is to higher education)
~that the money needs to be taken away from politics,
~that our young people are very well our hope (the older generation has fucked it up pretty good, dontcha think?),
~ that big corporations should be held accountable for their actions and how they affect the populace (yes, it is your fault if you dump mercury in the river and people start getting cancer from it) and that it is time for the people to rise up and demand a government FOR the people and BY the people.

When our forefathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, they understood this all too well:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Notions such as these are our only hope....but it may still be too late.

All images used in this post were taken by Teri Butler Dosher at the Occupy Johnson City solidarity event in TN on October 15th, 2011.

Monday, May 30, 2011


There is a quiet that comes as the sun gets low in the sky here. I'm feeling like a mama duck these days, as the ducklings follow me around the yard while I do chores and into the garden to nibble on lettuce. They're starting to quack instead of peep. It's rather amusing to look behind and see those three, running as quickly as their unwieldy built-for-water bodies and webbed feet will allow.

The hush that comes in the evening is my daily peace. Cool air melts down through the center of our property in the low-lying areas and crickets start their thrum. Birds are making their last run to the feeder and I sit thinking about what a great life this is.

The kitchen garden is in full swing, the lower garden moves closer to revival and plans for a third garden area are brewing. Thinking about the unlikely odds that we would return to this house, in this manner, with this timing cause me to smile at the absurdities in life.

One of the apple trees did not survive last winter, the long winter for me. It will burn in the solstice bonfire along with the tulip poplar that came down in a storm not long after I moved away from this place.

Keith and Trinity are in Columbia closing out their time in that city, closing out an era of their life, saying goodbye to his past and packing up what is needed for the now. It's been a year of endings and beginnings for all of us. What Keith and I are building in the here and now is reviving many parts of our spirits that had been lying dormant and silent for too long.

I sat with Jalen as he fed the ducks lettuce from the garden last night. Peach glow of sun washed the tree tops as we sat on newly mowed grass, tired and happy from a day of friends, water and sun. I was utterly and completely content in that moment. I've heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world; those who are content and those who are not. I'm not. Not usually. By "content" I mean "in a state satisfaction, not wishing for more"....because I always want more. More experiences, more learning, more travel, more ideas, more LIVING. I don't want more stuff, I want more from the days I have left on this spinning ball.

Because of that, those moments of complete and utter satisfaction don't come as often, I'm thinking about the next thing, the next project, the next chore, the next plan.

So to sit with my son, and be utterly and totally satisfied with my life and where I am in every way, felt so very peaceful. So many life experiences caused me to depend on myself, to crave independence and never wait around for somebody else to rescue me. Those are useful traits in my book, but sometimes I forget to slow down and savor things enough. To really be in the now fully. I live in my head and the now is hard to meet there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

All paths....

I was sick for the last three weeks, not slowing down or allowing myself to rest very much had finally caught up with me. The place I feel rested and at peace is in the garden, always. I am back in my home, back in my garden and the world is right once again.

As I cleared the last of the debris from the kitchen garden last week my thoughts swirl in and around ideas and the path to the reality I'm living now. Words by the great poet Stanley Kunitz flit through and I find myself alone with my thoughts. It is the place I find grounding and stillness.

There was the vibrant greens of lettuce and swiss chard in the center as I scraped and cleared weeds. The white bones of last year's tomato plants stared up from moist dirt reminding me that all paths lead to death. So many circles come full in the garden and one can not ignore life, death and rebirth. They are always close.

I have felt the struggle of death and re-birth as I reclaim this land and the life I love. The pain of goodbye hangs near, like the rich compost that becomes part of the new. Stanley's words bring tears to my eyes:

"The heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking
it is necessary to go through
dark and deeper dark
and not to turn "

I have felt like turning. I have learned to just take the next step when I couldn't figure out for the life of me where I was going or how to do anything. Sometimes just taking the next small step in the dark of night can get you to the other side. Sometimes the dark of night is just fodder for the garden. The death that breathes new life. Let the dark and death do their job....this is what I've learned. Because the garden is always there, maybe covered in weeds and hard to see. But it's there...waiting.

The children I've grown, the herbs and plants and bees and pets I've nurtured, they will all face their death too. Let today breathe new life and the deaths we create be meaningful. This is my wish.

I have my garden, I have love, I have beautiful children to share the sunshine of today with. I have three ducklings just starting their life/death journey, I have shelter for all of us and it is enough. More than enough. Stanley would understand.....

"When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the
world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you think of your
art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in
acknowledgment of the gift you have been given, which is the life itself...
That work is not an expression of the desire for praise or recognition,
or prizes, but the deepest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift
of life."
— Stanley Kunitz

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rabbit Hole Studios

My latest art adventure is being archived over at a new blog, "Down the Rabbit Hole" an extension of "Rabbit Hole Studios". This is the joint art created by Keith and myself (the aforementioned soulmate) and will include art exhibits, projects and the birth of our art co-op eventually.

Just put information up about "Semiotic Imaginings", our very first art show together and the opening reception that will take place April 1st. Come on over and check it out....we have a lot of ideas brewing that will come to light both at the blog and in real life. Come down the rabbit hole with us....the journey should be interesting!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Deconstruction and reclamation

Sometimes you reclaim your life with big choices, large shifts that ripple outward indefinitely. Sometimes it's in something as simple as a Sam's Club membership or calling the dentist to tell them your ex is no longer on your insurance.

Those were my moments this week. My moments of detanglement that let my spirit breathe a little lighter, let me release more of the past with all it's curled up tendrils wending their way through my life in ways I can't predict.

I tried to remove Bleu from my Sam's Club membership and they explained that I couldn't do it, because he was the primary signer. So I removed myself and paid for a new membership. One with "Faces by Ren" as the business and it made me smile. "Mine" can have such power, even for a person who craves community.

We're signing papers this week and I didn't realize a year ago, just how good it would feel to get to this point. I thought I would be more sad....but mostly I'm just relieved. It's bittersweet of course. I can't help but wonder why I used so many years trying to put energy into something that ultimately would not nurture me or nurture family connections.

The most interesting part of this process was meeting my soulmate. Nothing I had planned or even thought I desired. What a journey it's been though. I am constantly amazed at the rich texture life takes on when you're traveling with a kindred spirit, one for whom I do not have to explain "why" or "how". One who nurtures all facets of me and accepts the dark. Someone I can be fully myself with and grow as an artist and a human.

I stated very clearly that I did not want to "date"....and I haven't. But neither did I plan to pick up the pieces of my deconstructed life with such an amazing partner and friend. I went down the up-path. We're building a future that looks pretty darn interesting. A future that includes (but never limited to) building that hobbit house and opening an art co-op...dreams that lay dormant far too long for both of us.

There is a joy in destruction, a cleansing that happens when one let's go and dives into the deep end. I'm ready to build again though. Build and dream and do....with a life partner that wants to do the same.

This week I reclaimed my life with the simple act of a Sam's Club membership. Next week? Well who knows. But for now I am content.