Archive for the ‘7 deadlies’ Category

momma told me…there would be days like this

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We all have them. I had a string of a few in a row. Nothing bad happened, yet I was feeling bad. Crying bad. Could not ignore it and could not get out of the way of it. Felt profoundly bad about the world and all it’s ills and evils. Bad about how it just repeats itself over and over, year after year, generation after generation, civilization after civilization as they rise and fall. We think we learn from history, but it seems of late… all evidence to the contrary.

My usual diversions were not working. Music, magazines, even hiking. I started cleaning closets and getting rid of things, which usually makes me downright giddy. That was productive, but I still remained in a deep blue funk. As it happened, I began to follow closely the rather troubling posts of a sweet , struggling, young woman from my past. We are generations apart, but some of her painful posts and fall downs struck a note in me. I have learned that there is really very little we can do for anyone that they must in the end do for themselves. But there is something about knowing that someone, somewhere, believes in you and can see far enough down the road of experience that …this too shall pass and better days are there for you .  I spent the day thinking about how to encourage her on and at least be mindfully present of her struggle.  I sent photos, quotes, and words of encouragement until I felt I was possibly being annoying. But today I see from her posts that the tide has turned. She turned it herself , as it should be and she has a plan. It’s a good plan. One that involves a cleaner body and mind. A direction that moves on past some miles of rough road and a hurting heart.

What have I learned? I have not learned anything new, but had to be reminded again, that doing something for someone else takes us out of our self absorbed mind. I have no control over the evils of the world, but I can make one person’s life a little happier, and in doing so, made mine better. I feel much better now and it was so easy. We always make things so hard.


doodle power!

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There seem to be plenty of articles lately on retaining your memory. As we depend more and more on smartphones to keep all our important information at our fingertips, we rely less and less on our memory. Gosh, I used to have over a dozen telephone numbers as well as addresses (zip codes too) memorized and ready to recall at a seconds notice. No more. I’m mortified to admit (sorry mom) I even have to look up my own dear mother’s phone number, now having grown lazy of mind, since at the push of one button I can dial her automatically. So when I read this great article entitled, ‘  The Power of the Doodle ‘ , it brought back a few important memories that I had long forgotten.

The article pointed out that doodling has the power to improve your focus and memory. This increases both the focus and attention you pay to your doodling. It can serve to increase your memory retention during that time so engaged.

Flash back to my 5th grade book report on the explorers. I had chosen Sir Frances Drake. It was my first serious book report and in all honesty I found Sir Frances Drake fairly dull subject matter. I remember discussing the assignment with my mother, who always seemed to know how to bring out the artist in me. (thanks mom!) She suggested I write the book report in a diary style, which I did, but then found myself adding doodle illustration drawings in the margins of the paper. Little wooden sailing ships. Antique map details. Things that helped to illustrate his ocean voyage, which suddenly became much more interesting to me now that I could connect to his journey through my doodles. I got an A+ for my efforts. God bless my teacher for not deducting points for drawing on my book report.

Now I’m in junior high school. ( still don’t know how I lived through that) I’m in Mr. Michael’s American History class and he is droning on and on about the French Revolution as I desperately try to stay focused. Mr. Michael’s was always kind enough to tell us that the test we would be taking would come directly from his lecture, so paying attention and good note taking was imperative. I’m listening to his words, but not looking up as I am doodling Marie Antionette’s head, cakes, and peasants in rebellion when I hear my name being called out…loudly.

“Miss Massaro, would you please care to share with me what is more important than what i have to say!?”

I just about fainted and now am about to be called up in front of the class to show that I am sketching instead of note taking. Public humiliation 101. I hand him my crazy looking notes with my weird little doodles in between historical facts, ready for the humiliation hammer  that is about to fall. Instead he hands it back to me and says,” Well, I am very happy to see someone is paying such close attention to my lesson.”

God bless you Mr. Michaels for seeing that I learned a little differently than other kids and keeping me on my young creative path.

I was red faced by the attention, but so relieved that I did not get chastised in front of my peers.

Art vindicated me again and I passed the test too. It seems the power of doodling indeed helps you focus. Not only that, it enriches the information you are surrounded by in a very physical manner.

I still doodle. As an artist it’s called sketching. I do it in any setting, anywhere I find myself bored or inspired. Boredom can often lead to inspiration. Sitting in the audience while my husband plays is no where near as interesting as being up there playing. So I draw. I sketch. I doodle. I am intently involved in not just the music, but the players, the audience and the environment as a whole.

I had no idea where I was going in my life back then, but others might have seen what was ahead for me. My mother, a few good teachers. We can never underestimate the influence one kind or encouraging act can have on a persons life –  at any age.

Let’s just keep passing it on and on. What a difference we can make, whether we know it or not.





Thoughts on Thoreau…

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There is much to admire in the writings of Henry David Thoureau’s , WALDEN. Of late I have been carrying around a tiny volume of the book and diving in and out of it. I was prompted to read it after thinking about last weeks’ post on tiny houses. There is a fascinating excerpt in the chapter on economy, that really caught my attention. It follows a comment he makes as follows:    

                                          The evil that men do lives after them.

” The customs of some savage nations might, perchance, be profitably imitated by us, for they at least go through the semblance of casting their slough annually; they have the idea of the thing, whether they have the reality or not. Would it not be well if we were to celebrate such a ‘busk’, or feast of first fruits’, as Bartram describes to have been the custom of the Mucclasse Indians?” When a town celebrates the busk (says he) , having previously provided themselves with new clothes, new pots, pans and other household utensils and furniture, they collect all their worn-out clothes and other despicable things, sweep and cleanse their houses, squares and the whole town of their filth, which with all the remaining grain and other old provisions they cast together into one common heap, and consume it with fire. After having taken medicine, and fasted for three days, all the fire in the town is extinguished. During this fast they abstain from gratification of every appetite and passion whatever. A general amnesty is proclaimed; all malefactors may return to their town. On the fourth morning, the high priest, by rubbing dry wood together, produces new fire in the public square, from whence every habitation in the town is supplied with the new and pure flame.They then feast on the new corn and fruits, and dance and sing for three days,’and the four following days they receive visits and rejoice with their friends from neighboring towns who have in like manner purified and prepared themselves’.


This made me wonder if this custom was a throw- back to our modern day ‘spring cleaning’ ritual – without the fire!

I never have to look too far when I look to others who sought knowledge and direction in how to navigate modern life. Few will argue that our lives have for the most part become unmamagble in many ways. Thoreau would not be in the least surprised to see what has become of life in the year 2014. Over and over it comes back to this … TO END IS TO BEGIN

your dragons…

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BEYOND HERE THERE ARE DRAGONS!                                                                                  


This is what old map makers would write at the edges of maps when new worlds were yet to be discovered. When they still worried that sailing beyond known boundaries might have them falling off the edges of the known world. The fear of the unknown was fearsome dragons … proceed at your own peril. Or for the few who could not resist the call of adventure, proceed at your own risk and wonder.

It’s like that with art. You can give yourself a million reasons to quit. I don’t have a gallery. I don’t have a studio. I haven’t sold anything in years. I can’t make a living on it. That guys work is so much better. I’ll never be famous. The excuse list goes on and on.

You quit because you have convinced yourself you are already doomed to failure.

Beyond here are dragons! I will stay in the known, safe world. The world that has already been charted and mapped out – by others.

Making art is much about repetition. The repetition of starting over, again and again. Idea, after idea. Voyage after voyage into the unknown of a blank canvas. An empty sheet of music. An expanse of dance floor. How do you tell your story over and over again, each time with fresh eyes and something new to say? It’s daunting, like peering at the the edge of a horizon, the edge of the map, the boundaries of what is known into that which is yours to discovery.


…” for most art, there is no client, and in making it you lay bare a truth you perhaps never anticipated; that by your very contact with what you love, you have exposed yourself to the world.”  ( from ART & FEAR )

Art has been my life’s education. It has shown me my shortcomings & failures as well as my victories and successes. It’s never deserted me as long as I was willing to go to the edge of the map looking for dragons. And so it is with life. Whether you are living the life of an artist or not, we have to slay our own dragons. Become a mapmaker for your life and go beyond where the dragons are. You will learn far more about yourself than you ever could have imagined.



do you hoodoo?

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Most people don’t know that there is a second Grand Canyon in the United States. Well, there is, and it’s in the northern panhandle of the great state of Texas.  Palo Duro Canyon,  the second deepest canyon, though nowhere near as vast as the Grand Canyon. Still, ancient and once filled with dinosaurs like it’s big brother, and home 12,000 years ago to humans.  One of my favorite sights in the canyon are hoodoos. Those crazy balancing rock formations that often resemble animals or forms that usually give way to their names – camel rock, lighthouse etc. These irregular rock pillars develop in areas of sporadic, heavy rainfall from rocks with different resistance to erosion by wind and rain. The softer layers give way underneath often leaving a cap rock of harder sandstone. They eventually disappear as they collapse from erosion. Sounds eerily like what happens to us in time doesn’t it?

Visits to these ancient places have a humbling affect on me. Knowing how much came before us, and how long it took for us to catch up with the past reminds me how small and powerless we are on this big planet. Unlike others, I find a great deal of comfort in that. I don’t mind being small and helpless in nature’s eyes. I like knowing my place. I like knowing nature gets the last word, and standing beside a hoodoo is a reminder of that.



On To Better Things…

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Are you a book reader?  For me it’s both adventure and wonder on paper.

I just finished reading Philip Caputo’s , The Longest Road – Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean. I was drawn to the book  not only because is it a travel adventure in a vintage Airstream trailer, but it’s also  a quest to discover how the United States stays united. From Key West, Florida to Deadhorse, Alaska the author poses this question to travelers along the 6000 plus mile journey ; how does our country stay united?

Willa Cather, another fine writer said in her marvelous novel, Death Comes For the Archbishop,

               ” Men travel faster now, but I do not know if they go to better things.

It’s not news that our country seems increasingly more divided, at least on the political front of late. But there was a time we worked and played together as a country to move it forward. Right now we seem unquestionably mired down in the muck of not agreeing how to move forward together again. Extremes have illustrated how deeply we feel about what and who should take us to a better future. People are finding the discord very unsettling and while some jump into the mix, others run for shelter and avoid the whole mess. I think these times are important. How will we know the proper way forward unless we dig deep and uncover the important truths? I don’t mind the mess or the fight. I am eager to hear all sides and remain very HOPEFUL that through the fog of confusion we currently reside in, we will find a clear path out and move forward again. 

I won’t do a book review, but I will leave you with a little spoiler that left me feeling , well, hopeful.

It ends on an observation that HOPE has been not just what keeps us together, but what brought us together. And maybe we can start moving again by agreeing to be hopeful.

At Christmas time, the followers of Christ are called to be “in” the world, but not “of ” it. Being “in” the world means that we have a calling to support, celebrate, and participate in those things which are good and positive, while simultaneously avoiding the bad. So let’s move at the speed of light towards the good and see how quickly we can come out of the fog.

Merry Christmas people.

growing up in the ‘question’… or, cheer up P. J. O’Rourke

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Wall Street Journal  – dateline Sat/Sun November 30-December 1, 2013 . REVIEW section, front page feature article , THE BOOMER BUST, by P. J. O’Rourke – essayist.

P.J. O’Rourke has a thing or two to get off his chest about  being one of and observing the 75 million odd baby boomer generation. He seems to be deeply troubled by our  existence and wallowing in baby boomer’s remorse  while he speaks for ALL of us. His musings embrace  his own self- loathing and our collective one as well. Thanks for worrying about us  P.J. O’Rourke.

The baby boomers have an exact definition. Did you know that? A precise demography we are told in his essay.

‘We are the children who were born during a period after WWII when the long-term trend in fertility among American women was exceeded.’

This definition is further broken down into the following catagories.

Seniors – those born in the late 40’s.

Juniors – those born in the early 1950’s ( your’s truly)

Sophomores – those born in the late 1950’s

Freshman – those born in the early 1960’s

This time span from the late 40’s to the early 60’s was  generally characterized by a profusion of opportunity concurrent with a collapse of traditional social standards. Mr. O’Rourke opines that this perfect storm of opportunity and social standard breakdown led us ‘en masse’ to become …” greedy for love, happiness, thrills, fame, inner peace and money.”

Furthermore, we are ‘NOT a generation who listens to anybody, including God.’

We are ‘the generation who insisted that a passion for living should replace working for one.’ All we cared about was our ‘personal universe.’

                                    Hey! Baby boomers…are you feeling BAD about yourself yet?! 

P.J. concludes his essay by pointing out that we now must come to the obvious conclusion that in our dotage, ‘everything you were told , was wrong and we must despair!’

I will hold off on the despair for just a bit while I make some of my own observations… from a Junior’s point of view.

We were most definitely born in an age of wondrous opportunity – certainly more than our parents ever could have imagined for us. We were, however, just children born into that time with no knowledge that it was a ‘golden ‘ era of prosperity or that we were destined to be the gigantic know- it -all generation of selfish leeches on society that according to P.J., we have become. Anyway… as we were growing up, mysteries did still abound. Like, why did our father’s spend hours on the couch watching old black and white movies about Hitler? Why would you watch that when the Three Stooges could entertain you so much better? Hitler was boring, and we had no way to relate any of that piece of history to our young, shiny, hopeful lives that our parents had born us into. They wanted to shield us and move us on from that dark time in both our history and the world’s. It was a new day and we were destined to move it forward with their help. We added hope to our ‘personal universe’.

Much like many of my generation and the seniors before me, our parents did not go to college. Yet they were not so uneducated that they did not see the great value it would be to us in the new world we were born into. So off to colleges we marched in great numbers, as much to get educated as to spare their young sons the horror of fighting in the Vietnam War. A war, as a generation, we questioned. We added education to our ‘personal universe’, with a healthy dose of questioning authority.

Now equipped with fine college educations, hope, and a questioning mind we went on to advance technology, medicine, religion, sexual equality, racial equality, women’s choices, career stereotypes, music, arts, literature, science , and the quality of life for 75 million people – just here in our country alone.

My goodness…what had our parents wrought? We were certainly NOT the Greatest Generation. We know who they are and what they did and sacrificed for us, and they deserve that title. The Greatest Generation gave us the age of opportunity and we embraced it whole heartedly. I’m frankly mystified by what perfect world we were obliged to create to satisfy P.J. O’Rourke’s viewpoint of our wasted lives. We have clearly been negligent to his thinking.

It is my contention that the best thing we learned and then shared as a generation was to QUESTION EVERYTHING. We questioned authority endlessly and on every front until we got answers that led us to a better understanding of our world and those on the planet that we shared it with.

                                   I believe as a generation, we learned to’ live in the question’.

And in doing so, we have kept an open and hopeful mind to the future. That is personally what I believe I have passed on to my son and his generation.

I do not share P.J. O’Rourke’s snarky, sad viewpoint on the 75 million baby boomer’s impact on society over the last 67 years. Perhaps his own personal expectations and achievements have led him to this rather dark and unfulfilled viewpoint. All I can say is, cheer up P.J., and peace out.


( featured image , WHAT HAVE I LEARNED? , canvas collage by Catherine Massaro)


higher ground

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I have always loved organizational principles. It’s one of the things I love about the process of creating a piece of art – organizing both my ideas and the technical constructs of how I am going to communicate my idea through the work. One of my canvas collages from the TO END IS TO BEGIN series is entitled, PEARLS of WISDOM. The piece is about the many, many ways there are of embracing higher principals. Or as Stevie Wonder said in his beautiful song…Higher Ground.

They say, with practice, adherence to higher principals instead of personal prejudices can become second nature. For instance, you could practice a different value each day of the week. This great weekly approach is from Dr. Amit Sood chair of the Mayo Mind Body Initiative

 Monday : GRATITUDE – find 5 things to be grateful for.

Tuesday : COMPASSION – intend to decrease pain & suffering throughout your day, recognizing that everyone experiences pain, loss and suffering.

Wednesday : ACCEPTANCE – live your day by accepting yourself as you are and others as they are.

Thursday : MEANING & PURPOSE – with some humility and perspective, focus on the ultimate meaning and purpose of your life.

Friday : FORGIVENESS –  start by forgiving yourself for past mistakes and then move on to others.

Saturday : CELEBRATION –  celebrate your life and the lives of those around you, savor the joy that brings.

Sunday : REFLECTION – This may be through prayer, meditation or simply awareness.


And there you have a weeks worth of mindful living in the moment.

Mindfulness is a way of life … and life can be full of meaning , purpose and joy. And that is what PEARLS OF WISDOM is to me.

The Escape Artist

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So, this is a rather long story if you care to indulge yourself in epic failures I’ve had, that somehow changed my life for the better.

I landed a job once at a time when I needed it most, though my entire life as I knew it was going to hell. A place I had always dreamt about working, New York City.

The job started out in Long Island, Central Islip for those of you who know that part of the world, but since the showroom was in Manhattan, I was able to convince my boss that I could get more done working out of the city rather than the manufacturing plant in Islip. I was thus spared the daily ride in to Penn Station on the Long Island Railroad, plus the indignity of living in Central Islip.

The job was more money than I had ever made, but my expenses were as well. I was paying a lawyer for a divorce, my shrink for my sanity, my son was in a private school in Connecticut and I was slowly going bankrupt from it all. So I needed that job just to hang on to my crumbling life. As circumstances would have it, my boss was a complete shit head of the most manipulative, evil, diabolical kind. A truly dangerous fellow who liked trapping his employees into personal loans for cars, and their children’s college debt, vacation home mortgages and the like and then holding their feet to the fire knowing they could not quit on him. He would then proceed to humiliate and verbally abuse them publicly in the workplace, knowing they were trapped. I had a fellow working with me, dear Julian, who warned me from the start to never, ever, take a thing from him and I heeded his warning. Came a day, when the entire sales and creative team was at the big conference table to review sales from market week, and the shit started hitting the fan – big time. Mr. Evil started at one end of the table ( I was at the very end) and one poor schmuck at a time, he berated their work and them personally till I was almost white faced watching their humiliation. He was however, making his way quickly towards me, and I realized my father would be turning in his grave knowing I was working for such a despicable man. I had had enough of being manipulated in my marriage, saw the ugly connection of putting up with crap and the long term harm it had done me, and suddenly my therapy kicked in and I knew I had to make a call. I slowly put all my files into my briefcase, stood up calmly and faced him down at the opposite end of the big oval conference table and said exactly that –

“If my father knew I was working for such a horrible person he would turn in his grave. I quit.”

As I marched out of the room, watching the looks of horror on my fellow coworker’s faces, he screamed at me, “You will never work here again!”

No problem, I was gone. It was time to go. And I felt like a bird let out of a cage as I marched down 5th Avenue free from tyranny – until I got to Washington Square, when it dawned on me that I was now living in one of the most expensive cities in the world… without a job.

Well, long story short, things got bad and things got worse. Within 2 months I crashed and burned both physically and emotionally and landed back in Buffalo, filing for bankruptcy, living with my mother, completely incoherent and on lots of Prozac. That’s how things can go when you make grown up decisions. I just knew no amount of money was going to be worth that paycheck, no matter how much I was loving being in New York City, and I surely was loving it.

But the most wonderful thing happened … I started to get better fairly quickly after I let go of the nightmare that had become my life. I crept slowly and painfully back into the working world, one sweet little low paying job after another, eventually without pharmaceuticals, and a newfound strength and freedom. Where I landed about 5 years later is sort of a fairy tale ending, but it just goes to show … you should know when it’s time to go!

(featured image – oil on canvas, THE ESCAPE ARTIST, by Catherine Massaro)

The Fine Art of Living

I wake up every morning eager to be inspired by what life has to offer me. I can do this because I made a conscious decision to live in the question – to embrace uncertainty and change. Uncertainty and change  are the only real constants in our lives anyway. They are the only two things we can always be assured of day in and day out. When I wake up, I know these two things will be my constant companions.

So how do you organize your days around uncertainty? Here’s how – by looking for connections and staying wide-eyed and ever curious about living that day. Decide to spend the day dwelling on the threshold of adventure and see what comes to you rather than chasing down a dream or goal.

It is my contention that your dreams and goals can come to you, simply by changing your intention. 

…and the Buddha said on his deathbed ,

                                                                               BE YE LAMPS UNTO YOURSELVES.