One Little Word: Risk

Letting Go

A couple of years ago, I decided to spread my wings a bit . . . and take a drawing class at the KIA (our local art museum and art school).  Although I took several art classes in high school and college, I hadn't dabbled in "official" art-making for . . . decades.  

It felt good.  But I felt pretty much like a fraud.

Last fall, I stumbled into my first colored pencil class. . . and I loved it!  The instructor was wonderful -- inspiring and supportive, and my classmates were great (for the most part; there's always . . . Someone; y'know?).  Still.  Fraud.  I was super hesitant about my work.  Slow.  Careful.  Overly cautious.

For example, it took me agonizing weeks to work through this piece (which I now refer to as "Snout I"):

FullSizeRender 91 copy

At the end of that first course, the instructor provided each of us with a carefully written "critique" of our work.  Mine?  Very positive.  But.  She also pointed out my greatest obstacles:  hesitation, second-guessing, fearfulness.  She encouraged me to, "make mistakes and try to figure out ways to fix them."

Those words. . . rang through my head.

Kind of like alarm bells.

In fact, her words were the very words that led me to my "one little word" this year:  RISK.

Make mistakes and figure out ways to fix them.

I'm here to say . . . I've come a long way since my first colored pencil class.  Not necessarily with my art, but with mistakes.  I went WAY out on a limb . . . and took a watercolor class last spring.  (Different instructor, but also very supportive.)  This was a huge risk for me -- because I had no experience with watercolor.  AND because there are no erasers in watercolor.  (Every time you wet your brush, you're taking a risk.)

Watercolor was a game-changer for me in terms of letting go and making mistakes, and I started just kind of  . . . going for it.  Realizing, finally, that this art of mine is really JUST for ME.  If it works, great.  If it doesn't?  Fix it. Or pitch it.   


This last Saturday, I took a one-day colored pencil workshop.  I think my instructor (that same one) was more thrilled than I was -- when I completed (except for the background) this drawing of Jenny during the day-long class.  (I call it "Snout II.")

FullSizeRender 92

I took a RISK.

I made some mistakes.

I fixed them.

It worked out.

It's very freeing . . . to let go.

Woo! Hoo! I Did It!

I did something really awesome last night.  

(But I have no photo documentation.)

(So here.  Check out the sunset from my front porch when I got home instead.)


What did I DO, you ask?


After two successful weeks of Bike Camp, I decided I was "ready" to attempt the Tuesday Night Women's Ride.

This means I . . . 

put the bike rack on my car,

loaded up my bike,

met up with this group of women I'd never seen before in my life,

(except the leader, and she was busy leading -- so I had to go it alone)

and took off.

For just over 21 miles.

Out into the Michigan countryside.

Past lakes, farms, woods.

4 deer, 3 turkeys.

A gorgeous setting sun.

Wildflower fields.

Road construction.


One squished turtle and 2 dead squirrels.

I did it.

I loved it.

(I wished I could've stopped to take photos.  But I had NO IDEA where we were . . . so I dared not stray from the pack.)

Woo! Hoo!

Taking a Risk

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that last year I struggled with tendinitis, followed by a nagging knee injury.  My running and dancing days were, essentially, over.

I was devastated.

For a while, at least.  But I picked myself up and re-configured.  I started swimming.  A lot.  And I kept up with spinning class.  I started strength training.  And I joined a tougher Pilates class.

But this voice inside my head kept whispering . . . bicycle.

Around the holidays, I was at a party and ran into an acquaintance . . . who just happened to be a cyclist . . . who just happened to convince me that not only did I need to get a bike -- but that I also needed to join her "women's ride" each Tuesday evening beginning in the spring.


That voice in my head . . . bicycle . . .combined with the words of that acquaintance. . . just kept getting louder and louder and louder.


I got a bicycle for my birthday!  (And a super attractive day-glo green helmet, too.)

FullSizeRender 88

Now, other than a few here-and-there events and riding with my kids when they were little, I haven't been a regular bike rider since . . . oh, my teen years (when I actually rode a bike all the time).  I've been riding around the neighborhood quite a bit this spring (weather permitting) (ahem) -- but I'm certainly not ready for prime time (which means I haven't joined up with my acquaintance's weekly women's ride yet).

Bike riding is a little intimidating for the newbie.  And dangerous.  (As Tom is quick to point out.)  (Often.)  


I signed up for Bike Camp!


Bike Camp is a 4-week program sponsored by the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club and designed to teach cycling-newbies all the things they need to know -- from rules of the road to safety tips to bike maintenance to the importance of proper gear.  Bike Camp also includes a group ride each week (you pick -- 5, 10, or 15 miles).  

I hesitated about Bike Camp.  It sounded . . . well. . . a bit too routine and mechanical to me.  Maybe even a little nerdy.  But Tom encouraged me.  And the acquaintance-with-the-weekly-women's-ride encouraged me.  So I signed up.

Our first session was on Saturday -- and it turned out to be JUST what I need.  I'm going to learn a lot (already have, actually), I'm meeting other newbie-cyclists, and I'm gaining confidence.  Before you know it, I'll be a regular member of that weekly women's ride!

The downside?  It was only 43 degrees (F) on Saturday morning -- and windy.  That 10-mile group ride was pretty brutal in those conditions.  But y'know?  It was also kinda fun!  

And I did it.  

(And I liked it.)





Calculated Risk . . . or Deciding Not To

When I was a little girl, I was terribly afraid of "bees."  I'm not exactly sure why.  But I was stung once or twice - and it hurt.  I didn't like it.  So I categorized all stinging, flying things as "bees" and decided I didn't like them.

And then I became a gardener.

I learned about the goodness of bees.  Real bees.  Both the honeybee and the millions of other hard-working bees.

I learned to differentiate the bees from wasps (bad) and hornets (also bad).

I learned how easy it is to garden with bees.  Because they are focused on collecting honey and nector.  Not on me.

I became a friend of all pollinators.

And . . . I got a notion to become a backyard beekeeper with a honeybee hive in my backyard.

It just seems a natural extension of my gardening.  I mean, I already create a safe, pollinator-friendly garden.  I attract butterflies and birds and native bees - on purpose.  I provide nesting sites for native bees.

Why not . . . a honeybee hive?


Plus . . . honey!

This winter, I've been reading a lot about backyard beekeeping.  I found a beekeeping-mentor.  I discovered the Kalamazoo Bee Club.  And a couple of weeks ago, I attended their full day Bee School.

I had been just kinda, sorta interested in beekeeping before Bee School.  But after Bee School?  I was All In!  The presenters and leaders were so inspiring and passionate about the bees -- and their beekeeping.  They made it seem do-able and fun and fascinating . . . and REAL.  Their enthusiasm and confidence spilled over and I was convinced.  I was going to be a beekeeper!

But Bee School also stressed me out.  Big Time.  Because . . . 

I should have already ordered my bees.  (But what kind?  And in what form?  And from where???)

And I should have TWO hives to start.  (But I was only planning on one.)

And I needed my hives and equipment NOW.  (And there is so much equipment.)  (And now I need TWO of everything.)

And placement in the garden is vital for success.  (But you don't want the neighbors to be alarmed.)

And, wow!  This stuff - including the bees - is expensive.  (We're talking -- an investment!)

I was STRESSED OUT.  My enthusiasm was waning, and I felt really bad about it.  I mean, here is this . . . thing . . . I've been really interested in trying for years.  Tom is incredibly supportive and encouraging about my trying it.  I have a local mentor who is willing to help me and show me the ropes.  I have the support of this huge Kalamazoo beekeeping community.  And, shoot -- my word is RISK . . . and here's a big one, starting me right in the face.

But I felt rushed.  And not quite ready.

And then I remembered that some risks . . . are calculated risks.  It's important to weigh out the advantages and disadvantages, to decide if the chance of exposure is worth the risk of success.

I calculated.  And decided . . . not to.  At least, not this year.  I'm going to spend this gardening season researching.  I'll help my mentor with his bees and see what it's really like to care for a hive.  I'll stay involved with the Bee Club and visit their apiaries and learn what I can.  I'll consider possible locations for a hive in my own garden this season, and I'll probably talk with my neighbors about what they think of having a hive so close by.

I feel so much better now.  I'm not ruling out beekeeeping altogether; I'm just slowing it down.  Maybe next year.  Maybe not.

We'll see!





"When in doubt, make a fool of yourself.  There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth.  So, what the hell, LEAP!"
                                                                                            --- Cynthia Heimel

Today is Leap Day -- that one-day-more-we-add-to-it-each-year-in-four.  You have 24 extra hours.  I challenge you:  Take a risk.  Leap.  Just do it.  (What are you waiting for?)

What's Your Word?

 This winter, I've been taking a watercolor class.


I've never done watercolor before . . . and watercolor is hard.  

Most of my early attempts were water-paint-blob-bombs.

So much . . . expensive watercolor paper in the trash.

I was so frustrated -- and disheartened.

Tom encouraged me to just keep trying.  

(I can't.  It's too hard.)

(What's your word?)  

(RISK, damnit.)


I kept at it.  

Lots of practice.

Lots of paper.

(I can't show anybody, though.  I don't want to.)

(What's your word?)

(RISK, damnit.


A couple of my pieces were selected to be in the Student Exhibit.

All I had to do . . . was have them framed.

(I can't.  It's freaking me out too much.)

(What's your word?)

(RISK, damnit.)


I can't quite explain how . . . exposed . . . this all made me feel.

Sharing my paintings?

Framing them?

Hanging them in an exhibit?

(. . . as if I were an artist????)

(What's your word?)

(RISK, damnit.)



THIS . . . was not something I ever expected to do.

And there was quite a lot of courage required.

(There's a ton required to even post this.)

(What's your word?)

(RISK, damnit.)

(Hell, yes.)






Dive Right In

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

--- T.S. Eliot

If you've been reading along for awhile, you know that, for me, last year was my year of . . . JOURNEY.  Getting a little lost . . . finding myself . . . discovering a whole new path.

It seems right, somehow, that this year I might choose to go even further; might be a little more daring.

My One Little Word for 2016 . . . 


Two road diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

--- Robert Frost