Thursday, June 29, 2017

Enjoying the journey

"Every time life brings you to a crossroads, from the tiniest to the most immense, go toward love, not away from fear. Think of every choice in terms of 'What would thrill and delight me?' rather than 'What will keep my fear—or the events, people, and things I fear—at bay?'" ~Martha Beck

Cindy La Ferle
As you may have noticed in recent posts, all things related to travel and road trips -- even traffic signs -- are metaphors for aging to me. Whether I'm on a highway or a bike path, I also think about where I'm headed in life, what matters to me, and how some of my goals and interests are shifting as I move forward. In those moments, inevitably, I notice road signs that read: Sharp curve ahead, DEAD END, or Proceed with caution.

When things get a little scary, I find myself retreating to the safety of my comfort zone. Sometimes I have to hush the voice inside that asks, "Am I too old for this?" Sometimes I have to push myself to expand my outlook with foreign ideas, explore new friendships, or try different skills that make me feel like a beginner again.  One thing I know for sure: Life is both a privilege and a journey, and I need to keep learning along the way.

How about you? Is life taking you on a trip, or are you mapping out your own adventures?

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Funny Friday: Road signs

"I live on a one-way street that's also a dead end. I'm not sure how I got there. ~Steven Wright

Cindy La Ferle

Monday, June 26, 2017

Blooming in full color

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.” ~ Alice Walker, The Color Purple 

Cindy La Ferle

One of my biggest gardening challenges is finding ways to add color to a yard that's densely populated with trees and evergreens. Over the years I've planted several varieties of hosta -- with great success -- but even the plants with variegated leaves don't provide enough interest. 

Cindy La Ferle
Which is why I've become a major fan of outdoor ornaments and container gardens. Colorful potted annuals can be placed in sunnier locations, then moved anywhere you like for backyard parties. 

When it comes to decorating with garden ornaments, I think there's a fine line between tacky and sophisticated. If you collect too many garden gnomes, lawn pigs, or religious statues, your neighbors might wonder if you're selling the things as a part-time business. The key to successful garden decor is nestling your favorite items between lots of greenery, using them as subtle accents rather than focal points. A garden ornament should appear as a "surprise" that delights visitors when they spot it on a tour of your yard. And if you've got a quirky sense of humor, the garden is a great place to show it off.

Cindy La Ferle
A few of my garden ornaments were gifts from friends, serving as sweet reminders of special people and occasions. Years ago, for instance, I wrote a newspaper feature about a talented gardener in my community. After the story was published in the local paper, she gifted me with a small stone cricket and told me that it's a symbol of good fortune. 

Other ornaments in my yard were purchased to add color and interest to specific areas. Sometimes I stumble on wonderful items in unlikely places -- when I'm not even looking for them. The whirligig in the top photo, for example, is a recent purchase from Ace Hardware in Clawson. Doug and I spotted it when we were looking for plant stands. This piece will be moved to our Frank Lloyd Wright home in St. Joseph, where it will work nicely with the midcentury modern garden theme there. ~CL

My garden in Royal Oak, with Apollo in his new wig / Cindy La Ferle

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rowing together

"Know your circle. Make sure everybody in your boat is rowing and not drilling holes when you're not looking." ~ Steve Maraboli

Kayaks at LeBear, Glen Arbor / Cindy La Ferle

Friday, June 23, 2017

Prize-winning art

‎"Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the artist or actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got." ~Steven Pressfield

As any serious artist will admit, art is something you do because you're motivated to create, express, or share something -- not because you're trying to win a prize. Even so, it's an honor to receive professional validation for your work. 

I'm incredibly proud of my husband, Doug, for winning two awards in the annual Michiana Annual Art Competition. The exhibit, currently at The Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, MI, runs through July 29. Doug won "Best in Show" for his oil painting, "Balloon Dart," which depicts a carnival game at a summer fair. He also won the top prize in the sculpture category for his kinetic steampunk piece, "Dreamcatcher" (shown above in the newspaper cover photo).

To read the full article about Doug's art and the MAAC exhibit, please click here. And if you've ever wondered what happens in the art studio above our garage, visit Doug's professional web site, here. ~CL

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Open hearts

"There have been many self-indulgent 'artists' in all fields. But true art is selfless. It’s breaking open your own heart on the chance that your vulnerability will coax other hearts to open." ~Martha Beck

Beach at Glen Arbor / Cindy La Ferle

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gardening Wright

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Meditation bench overlooking the St. Joseph River, Carl Schultz house / Cindy La Ferle

Gardening in my pajamas always tops my list of things that make me happy in the summer. My morning ritual begins early: I brew a pot of coffee, grab my favorite mug and the dog, then head to the garden to see what needs weeding, pruning, or watering.

Zen garden at the Carl Schultz house / Cindy La Ferle
Today I'm sharing a few garden photos I took yesterday morning at our second home in St. Joseph. Designed in 1957 for Carl Schultz, it was the last building Frank Lloyd Wright designed in Michigan before his death. During the restoration process, Doug and I learned that the house once had an Asian rock garden, which was overgrown with myrtle and ivy by the time we purchased it nine years ago.

I've always been drawn to Asian gardens, so I was excited about the possibility of uncovering and "reinterpreting" the original rock garden, located just outside the master bedroom. I also wanted to add a stone meditation bench that would overlook the St. Joseph River, which flows past the property. With that in mind, Doug and I hired Arcadia Gardens for the project -- and they did a beautiful job making that vision a reality.

Cindy La Ferle
Just as I do at home in Royal Oak, I always rise early when we're "out west" in St. Joseph. I love waking up to the view of the sun rising over the river. And just as I'd planned, the stone meditation bench at the end of the Zen garden is the perfect spot for planning the day ahead.  

To read an essay I wrote for The Christian Science Monitor about our decision to buy our Frank Lloyd Wright home, please click here.  To read more about the Carl Schultz house and to view photos of the interiors (and Doug's extensive renovations), visit the Carl Schultz House web site. ~CL
Zen garden detail, Carl Schultz house / Cindy La Ferle

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Road trips

“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn't mean to take.” ~Angela N. Blount, Once Upon an Ever After

Kampvilla dinosaur / Cindy La Ferle

When I was a kid, my folks took me on a two-week vacation every year, driving to cities and landmarks where I could learn the history of our country -- Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Jamestown, Gettysburg, Boston, Concord, and many more.  

With our AAA TripTik Travel Planner and a motel/hotel guide at the ready, we'd often take detours before reaching our destination, paying visits to historic battlefields and commemorative statues, homes of iconic American authors, and small, quirky museums. Best of all, my mom enjoyed taking the "scenic routes" in lieu of the expressway, and she'd talk my dad into stopping at gift boutiques or souvenir shops along the way. 

I've been a fan of road trips ever since. Aside from the fact that I'm a fearful flyer, I can't think of anything more relaxing than viewing the countryside from a car window.  

En route from Glen Arbor to St. Joseph earlier this month, Doug and I spotted the huge dinosaur (above) at the Kampvilla RV Park on US 31, about 20 miles north of Manistee. It was a gorgeous Michigan morning, complete with a cloudless, postcard-blue sky serving as the backdrop for a towering yellow brontosaurus. Of course, I was immediately reminded of a scene from Pee Wee's Big Adventure -- and had to pull off the highway for a few photos.

More often than not, unexpected discoveries are the most memorable parts of our travels. This summer, I hope you'll have time for a few road trips with meandering detours, whether you drive across this beautiful country of ours or revisit the wonders of your own state. ~CL

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer magic and new sneakers

"He felt sorry for boys who lived in California, where they wore tennis shoes all year and never knew what it was to get winter off your feet, peel off the iron leather shoes all full of snow and rain and run barefoot for a day and then lace on the first new tennis shoes of the season, which was better than barefoot. The magic was always in the new pair of shoes." ~Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Cindy La Ferle

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Graduation season

"I always pass along good advice. It is the only thing to do with it, since it is never of any use to oneself." ~ Oscar Wilde
Cindy La Ferle

Back in the day before we all blogged, Tweeted, and posted our lives on Facebook, I was a weekly family columnist for our local paper. In those days, I wrote about the joys and worries of parenting, and documented personal milestones along the way. In honor of graduation season, today I'm sharing a Sunday column I wrote for my son in 2004. It's also included in my book, Writing Home.

A Survival Guide for Grads
The Daily Tribune (Royal Oak, MI) 
May 16, 2004

It’s graduation season. In keeping with tradition, proud parents, mentors and elected officials will pass along words of wisdom and advice to students who’ll be starting college or launching new careers. To all our local graduates of 2004, I send my very best wishes for your future. Meanwhile, here’s a peek at the survival tips I’ll be packing in my son’s suitcase when he leaves for college this fall.

*Relationships, like cars, need regular upkeep. Maintain the good friendships you’ve made.

*Learn from your adversaries. The people who push our buttons tend to reflect qualities we dislike in ourselves.

*Dress appropriately for every occasion. Dress out of respect for yourself as well as for those hosting the event you're attending.

*Encourage others to talk about themselves. You’ll make a great first impression and learn something new.

*If you settle for less, that’s exactly what you’ll get.

*Don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it.

*The notion that everyone is having a better time somewhere else is one of the world’s dumbest illusions. Refuse to believe it.

*Losing is a great character builder. If your best effort misses the mark, ask yourself what you can learn from the loss.

*Choose a career you can be proud to list on every form you’ll have to fill out.

*Be a community builder. If we can’t make peace with our neighbors, there’s no hope for the rest of the world.

*It can be lonely at the top. Be careful not to alienate loved ones while achieving your goals.

*Be thoughtful. Good manners were designed to make others feel comfortable and respected. 
*Strive for decency and accept nothing less from everyone you hang out with.

*Get enough sleep.  

*Make good on your word. Show up on time. If you promised to bring the dessert or move furniture, follow through.

*Keep your faith, but learn about the great religions of the world. Never publicly criticize someone’s religious beliefs. Self-righteousness is a huge turn-off.

*Stay in shape; enjoy a recreational sport.    

*Spend time alone. Creative ideas and solutions are sparked in solitude.

*Never leave your underwear on the floor. As every good room mate will tell you, neatness is essential in cramped spaces.

*Don’t wait for holidays to tell people how much you appreciate them.

*Read for pleasure.

*Always take the high road. Admit your blunders and apologize if you’ve hurt someone.

*Return what you borrow. 

*If you can't take care of something you own, dispose of it properly or give it to someone who'll appreciate it. 

*Go easy on the junk food. Pay attention to what you eat, where it came from, and why you’re eating it.

*Find your inner compass and stop seeking approval from others. Be too busy to wonder what other people think of you.

*Spend time outdoors. A walk in the woods is the best antidepressant.

*Never buy an expensive item on impulse. Wait at least a day to ensure you really need it and can afford to pay for it.

*Splurge on comfortable shoes.

*Don’t limit your shopping to chain stores. Support local businesses and discover the heart and soul of every new location. 

*Travel is the best way to learn about the world, but stay on the lookout for a place to set down roots.

*Obey the speed limit and use turn signals. Steer clear of road rage.

*Savor your memories but don’t live in the past. Anyone who insists their high school or college years were “the best” is stuck in a rut. Life gets richer and juicier as you move on. Enjoy every minute.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Summer begins

“Summer afternoon....To me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”  ~Henry James
Cindy La Ferle

Is there anything more hopeful than the start of another summer season? I'm a bit ahead of myself, I know, because the Summer Solstice falls on June 21st. But for most of us, summer kicks off on Memorial Day weekend.

Cindy La Ferle
With beautiful weather in the forecast last Friday, Doug and I drove up to Glen Arbor, a charming resort town on Lake Michigan, where I took these photos outside the entrance to the  Bay Lavender Trading Co. Complete with its welcoming "Open" sign and a basket filled with colorful annuals, the bicycle is a harbinger of summer -- and I look forward to seeing it every year in June. Let the season begin! ~CL

Monday, June 5, 2017

Following my intuition

“I believe in intuition and inspiration. I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am.” ~Albert Einstein

Mixed-media artwork by Cindy La Ferle
According to scientists, our sixth sense — otherwise known as intuition — improves with age. In the June issue of Michigan Prime, I discuss how our "inner radar" can help us make better decisions, avoid danger, and even improve our relationships. You’ll find the print edition of the supplement in your Sunday Detroit Free Press, or you can read my column online (page 3) here. ~CL

Sunday, June 4, 2017

What my dog knows

“Respect is for those who deserve it, not for those who demand it.” ~Author unknown
Coco / by Cindy La Ferle

The word "respect" has been on my mind this week. Going through my quote collection, I found several gems that made me think of the folks who've earned my respect and admiration, past and present. (Sadly, most of them lived in the past.) 

These days, so many people -- politicians, celebrities, athletes -- go out of their way to say and do incredibly thoughtless, disrespectful things. Our cultural climate seems to invite and encourage this. 

But I'm like the dog who refuses to do a trick unless there's a treat involved: I'm not buying any of it. My respect has to be earned. ~CL


Friday, June 2, 2017

A gift from a friend

"Life is a series of stories, and the way our stories intersect is remarkable. Sometimes people are in our lives for the whole story. Sometimes they are just a short chapter or two. It takes a brave person to know when that chapter is over, and when to turn the page."  ~Marc & Angel Chernoff
Cindy La Ferle

This tiny vintage memory book was given to me by a thoughtful friend after my mother died. Its yellowed pages are illustrated with charming watercolors and comforting scripture. In keeping with Victorian mourning customs, it includes blank spaces to list the names of loved ones who have passed on.  

I remember the day this sweet gift was left by my back door while I was going through the sad process of clearing out my late mother's home. It came with a little card that simply said, "I'm thinking of you." 

Whether we're suffering the loss of a loved one or just trying to weather a bad week, it's a comfort to know our friends are there for us.