September 30, 2019

Are Young People Our Best Hope?

You probably recognize the young lady in this photo. Recently, Greta Thunberg addressed world leaders at a climate conference at the United Nations. That would be noteworthy for anyone; at age 16 it is breathtaking.

Her recognition and power to motivate others has grown almost faster than someone can track. Harnessing the power of social media and the building awareness of the mess we are in, she has started a tsunami of attention to a problem that threatens our very existence: climate change.  

Unafraid, and mature beyond her years, she shamed her elders at the U.N. In a speech that is worth watching on YouTube she asked the audience of decision makers, "how dare you" ruin the environment that they are leaving for young people. How "dare they" allow money and politics to remain more important than the survival of large chunks of the human and animal population.

Soon after her speech, the president of the United States mocked her on Twitter. Again, emphasizing her intelligence and passion, she responded to his slur by making part of it her Twitter profile. A commentator on Fox News called her "mentally ill." That statement triggered an apology from the network and a promise to avoid that person in the future.

At this point, to "not believe" in climate change is about as head-in-the-sand realistic as continuing to claim the earth is flat or the moon landing was a fake. Saying something equally as silly as the climate is always changing is just as bad. Humans are making that natural cycle much, much more severe and damaging our only home. Don't even get me started on "climate change is a hoax started by China."  

Unfortunately, refusing to admit the dire nature of the problem and continuing to claim that jobs and politics are more important than the planet that allows for those jobs and lifestyle, too many adults have turned their collective backs on their children, their children's children, and all future generations of both human and animal life. I guess the hope is the problem is not as severe as it is, or that someone, the mythical "they," will find and implement a solution just before we foul our own nest to the point of no return.

I mean, really, what the heck does a "good job" matter if big parts of the world are unlivable, the water undrinkable, the weather too destructive, and societies in turmoil? Who do these people think are going to buy whatever is being produced? How do they think a normal marketplace will even function on a toxic plant? Isn't the threat to our food supply and clean water availability, cities disappearing under a relentless rising sea, and millions upon millions of people forced to wander the earth trying to find a place to survive a bit more important than a new smartphone?

And, speaking directly to the whole premise of this blog for the past 9+ years, who cares how satisfying a retirement is if the environment and future is at ultimate risk? Our day-to-day concerns will become so trivial compared to the destruction of large portions of our planet...the very air we breathe and water we drink.

My generation and the one that came before it are responsible. We have only our selfishness and lack of will power to blame. Our "leaders" have fiddled while Rome (and the rain forests) burn, the seas rise, the air becomes fowl, and the weather becomes increasingly destructive and unpredictable.

I am pining my hopes on the people represented by Ms. Thunberg and every one of the millions who are marching, protesting, and taking concrete steps to save their lives and their planet from our blindness.

Are young people our hope? Can motivated people of any age learn from their example and finally say, "enough is enough? We will not take your destructive, selfish harm to our lives any more?"  Will we wake up to the end-of-the-pier seriousness of our situation before we all walk off the end?

For the sake of my children, precious grandchildren, and everyone else's families everywhere in the world, I can only hope so. 

September 26, 2019

My Painting Experience: What is The Verdict So Far?

A few months ago, I mentioned that I had begun to paint. More accurately, I had decided to see if I could paint. A chance exposure to a Bob Ross video on Netflix and the search for a new creative outlet led to this decision. I was convinced that my ability to paint something recognizable was about as likely as me qualifying for the U.S. Open. Since I don't play tennis you understand my thought process. No tennis, no tournament. No painting ability, no way.

Even so, the process of buying the paints, bushes, easel, canvas, paint thinner, and palette knives gave me a burst of energy, not always the easiest task in the midst of an endless Phoenix summer.

Finding 29 seasons of Bob Ross and his "wet-on-wet" painting technique on YouTube meant I was as close to paint-by-numbers as I could be and still claim some creative output.

Finding a place to actually put oil paint on canvas was a bit of a challenge. I ended up appropriating the dinette area of our kitchen whenever the brushes called me. As long as I didn't monopolize the space over a meal time, things were good.

Drop clothes cover the table and floor, an old blanket the chair. Then, out comes all the stuff needed. In thinking about it, maybe that has been my favorite part: arranging all the brushes, having a container to hold the paint thinner, pulling out little tubes of stuff named Sap Green or Prussian Blue, or Alizarine Crimson, squeezing small amounts on a plastic! Almost like finger-painting, considering what my hands look like when I am done.

The cleanup is just everything in reverse, except messier, and takes just as long. In fact, come to think of it, the actual time spent painting is about 30 minutes; the setup and cleaning afterward about an hour.

At the risk of my tearing the scab off a wound that remains painful, here is the first painting on my first day of Bob Ross-lead inspiration. The sky has some ominous streaks, the water appears to be a solid, and the trees are in the throes of some sort of bark beetle infestation.


So, roughly 60 days later, what has happened? Have I noticed any improvement? Has my artistic wife stopped leaving the house to shop, or meet a friend, or whatever, when I pull out my box of supplies?

I suppose most importantly, I am enjoying whatever we want to call what I am doing. Painting is probably a stretch, but I do like the time spent in front of a canvas. 

So, take a look at something from maybe 10 days ago. Yes, the sky is an other-worldly green. Betty says too much sap green that hasn't been mixed with something else. My light source near the center is coming from a very distant, or dying sun. But, and this is a big but, I now recognize actual tree shapes with trunks, some branches, and little smudges that somewhat resemble leaves.

I show you this out of a sincere desire to encourage you to try something new. Even if the results are as lame as these, I am surviving the embarrassment and some level of frustration of not being able to reproduce what is on the videos. Betty reminds me Mr. Ross had decades of experience to produce something in the 28 minutes of his weekly show. That may be, but, come on. Green sky?

I am writing this on a Saturday morning. The weather forecast promises I can move to the back porch on Monday to tackle my next foray into Van Gogh territory. Maybe all that fresh air and natural light will work wonders.

Probably not, but a guy has to dream.

September 22, 2019

Why Is Asking For Help So Difficult?

At one time or another all of us need some type of help. We may be unsure about a financial decision. Something about our important relationship seems a bit off. A relative has a health problem we don't know enough about. The point is, none of us comes with a complete set of knowledge on every subject. So, we ask friends, experts in the field, even strangers on the Internet for some feedback. (the irony of this post after I wrote about not liking to be a beginner is not lost on me).

Even knowing we could use some assistance doesn't mean it is easy for us. We love to give advice, we're not as anxious to receive it. I certainly needed help at several times in my life, but was slow to ask. In looking back I have come up with a list of some of the reasons. So you don't repeat my silliness here are some thoughts on why you shouldn't hesitate to seek and accept help when you need it (me, pay attention!). 

Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. From time to time every one of us needs the advice or opinion of others. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of strength. You recognize a need and take an assertive step to fill it. A true leader knows his strengths and weaknesses and takes action to shore up the areas that need reinforcement.

Asking for help allows you to tap into a large pool of knowledge. There are people who know a whole lot about something you don't. To seek out that advice when you could benefit from it is a smart thing to do. After all, if you are asking for help shouldn't you check the best source available? If you look closely you will notice that the most successful people surround themselves with people stronger than they are in other areas.

 Most people love to be asked for their help. Unless you are asking a complete stranger, someone you approach to give you a helping hand will be quite willing to do so. If that person is qualified to advise you, both of you will benefit. Don't worry about others judging you because you asked for their help. They are likely to think quite highly of you for turning to them for advice.

Don't assume the person you need help from isn't willing to give it. Most of us are leery of imposing on a friend or someone who has experience solving your particular problem. We may rationalize they are probably much too busy to spend time with our issue. If that's your thought, re-read the section above.

Accept help or advice graciously. If you ask for help, it is not a good course of action to tell that person why his or her suggestions won't work. Remember, you asked them. Accept what they have to say and decide later if the answer will work for you. Even if a friend, co-worker, or spouse offers unsolicited advice, accept the offer to help with a smile. That person may have noticed something you didn't or has fresh insight. Ultimately, you decide whether to take action on the suggested fix.

Ask for input before you are overwhelmed, frustrated and angry. You won't be at your receptive best if whatever is bothering you has reached a critical stage. You will be looking for a quick fix that may do nothing to solve the underlying issue. You won't have the patience to explain the situation fully so the other person can give you good advice. Ask for help as soon as you are aware you need it. 

Finally, say thank you. People like to help other people. They also like to be acknowledged for that assistance. Someone went out of their way, probably invested some time in the problem, and gave you their best advice. Thank them, even if you don't plan on using the suggestions.

Many of us do everything we can to avoid admitting we could use assistance. We will knowingly make the situation worse before asking for help. I am living proof. At one point or another I have ignored every single item listed above. I think I'm a bit smarter in my old age. I realize that asking for help is not an indication I'm weak. I hope this post will help you to avoid my mistakes.

If so, then I will have been helpful.

Not quite what I meant, but you get the idea

September 18, 2019

The Search For Meaning

Spirituality is one of those words and concepts that is interpreted differently by many of us. In fact, even defining the word can be daunting. A search on Google found over 330 million entries for the term spiritual meaning.

To some it means organized religion. To others, spirituality is a belief that everything in the word is somehow tied together. Love is what binds us together.  

Still others see a spiritual person as one engaged on a very private quest for answers of purpose and energy. Some think of meditation or contemplation as the path to increased spirituality. There is a whole community, based in Sedona, Arizona, that looks to energy vortexes and crystals as the way to heighten one's awareness.

For our purposes let's use this definition I found on a blog post: "it is a term which encompasses everything that we cannot see directly with our eyes, directly perceive by the other senses and know by our mere reason. That is spirituality in its basic meaning.

I did some research to find out what others were saying about the link between spirituality and a satisfying retirement. Is there a connection? Though I couldn't find specific statistics, there does seem to be a belief that as we age we do tend to become more spiritual. That may mean more religious in the commonly accepted sense, or a feeling of connectivity to nature and the universe in a more individual sense. 

The reasons are varied, but mostly revolve around the awareness of one's own mortality. We see our body decline, understand there is a loss of mental sharpness as we age, watch friends and relatives die, or lose frequent contact with our grown children who may live far away.

These factors naturally lead us to consider what our life has meant. We also may be looking for something to help us cope with the unimaginable: the end of our time on earth.: "Me, gone? No!"

There is a study I found that says religious retirees are happier, not only because of their beliefs, but for the social aspects of being with like-minded people. Research conducted over the years has found those who are Mormons or Amish  have much lower mortality rates than others. Could some of that be lifestyle-driven? Sure, but the shared experiences and tight-knit communities are likely factors, too.

Several years ago I wrote a post, The Hidden Piece of The Puzzle which provided a glimpse into the growth of my spirituality during my retirement. I made the statement that my life had caught on fire when I explored that side of myself and became more serious about its development.

At that time, I found my comfort in organized religion.Over the last few years that has changed. More attractive to me now is a concept that is sometimes called perennial spirituality, or the idea that everything on this planet, in fact, in the universe, is connected to whatever supreme force created it all.

Organized religions and different religious beliefs are attempts by humans to explain the unexplainable. They are an offshoot of the culture in which they flourish. They use stories, myths, exhortations, and spiritual underpinnings to create a structure that helps a believer feel comfortable and connected. Unfortunately, I believe they miss the fact that all of us share more in common than we do in differences. And, in those differences we end up with wars and hate for others.

Like finding one's passion or intense interest, developing and deepening relationships with others, or learning to live and thrive in situations that you didn't plan for or anticipate, it seems logical to me that we begin to take the time to ask the bigger questions of life.

The routine of a commute, a day spent at a desk or retail establishment, on a factory floor, or in front of a computer gives way to more free time to listen to your mind and emotions. I think it is entirely reasonable to begin to wonder about how everything fits together.

So, what should be your take away on this be? I don't know what is going on with you, though I'd love for you to leave some thoughts. I can only speak for me. As I age, whatever it is that is inside me that you may call a soul or a part of an urge for a universal connection, has been getting stronger and a more important part of my satisfying retirement.

As I move farther away from the standard, one-size-fits-all religious model of my upbringing, I am finding more openness, connection, and delight in people who are different from me, in the beauty of nature, and the call to do something to undo the harm that a rigid mindset might cause.

I may be deceiving myself, attempting to make sense in a world where nothing makes sense. I may be looking to give meaning to a life that, ultimately, has no meaning beyond the here and now. But, if I my beliefs are right I am connected to something that is so much more than just me, or people who look and think like I do.

God, or whatever name to you supply to the founder of everything, is inside me, not an old man in Heaven, waiting to judge. My "job" is simple: reflect his/her/its love and concern to everything and everybody, to the best of my abilities and circumstances. If I'm wrong, I will be dead and won't know the difference. In the meantime, I can feel more fulfilled.

I'm going with the spiritual approach. It makes my life so much richer today.

September 14, 2019

Is Retirement Really About The Little Things?

Being happy is an important part of living a satisfying retirement. Life is too short to be spent grumpy and out-of-sorts. If you have figured out what brightens your days and makes you smile you have taken important steps toward an enriching retirement lifestyle.

The fascinating thing about this subject is the list of happiness-producers is always unique to you. If you try to copy someone else's path to joy you will be disappointed. These triggers must be figured out by you. It is also quite true that things that make you the happiest aren't usually big things. Sure, winning a lottery will probably put a smile on your face (until you see the tax bill). Landing a major sale from your hobby-turned business or the birth of a grandchild are  good things.

But, what about the small stuff that can brighten any day? What are the little things that, when they happen, make you feel pleasure and contentment?  Are you missing moments of happiness because you are thinking too big? Maybe you need to shrink your focus. Discover some happiness triggers that you can lean into whenever you choose. From my life here a few examples to get you started:

Hot cocoa and a fire. Since I live in a place that is hot a good part of the year, when things turn cooler my wife and I get excited by the simple pleasure of a log crackling away in the fireplace and a cup of hot cocoa while we snuggle on the sofa to watch a favorite movie or read quietly side-by-side. We are happy and content when the wind blows (sort of) cold air from the North and the whipped cream in the cocoa sticks to our lips.

Sunshine on the patio. For almost 330 days a year, Phoenix enjoys sunny days. You might think the simple joy of sitting on the back patio in the sunshine would have worn thin by now. Not by a long shot. I can enjoy watching the birds at the feeder, listening to the fountain.  and watching the shadows move across the floor. Overcast days make me sad. I live where I do because sunshine makes me happy.

A giggling child. My grandkids have the greatest laugh. It is physically impossible to listen to one or both start to giggle and not smile and laugh right along with them. Their obvious joy is instantly transferred to me. 

A puppy. Is there a puppy alive that can't charm a smile out of even the grumpiest old man? Is there any way to not be happy around something that so blindly loves you and wants your love and attention? 

Yes, there is extra responsibility and those occasional messes to clean up. But, overall, aren't puppies happy-producers?

Fixing a problem with a computer. Though not an expert by any means, I do enjoy helping friends when something has gone wrong with their computer. After performing the necessary cleanup of software conflicts or deleting unneeded programs, I love seeing the smile of their faces when everything works the way it should. It takes very little of my time, but makes someone else's life just a bit easier and it makes me happy to help.

A mystery book you can't put down. Reading is one of the great pleasures in life. A well-written novel can take you anywhere whenever you want a getaway. I love mysteries for their ability to weave a complex set of clues through a few hundred pages, finally tying it all together at the end. I rarely figure it out early, but the challenge is there.

A thoughtful comment on this blog. Someone taking the time to leave a comment makes me happy. It shows I have written something that caused another person to take a few minutes to read and react. Seeing there is a new comment on one of these posts makes me smile.

I could have added bigger things to my list like a paid-off mortgage or next year's cruise to the South Pacific. Certainly a clean physical exam makes me happy. Those triggers are obvious.

Maybe not quite so obvious is to focus on the small stuff, the everyday parts of your life. If you can put just a few of your own happy points in your day, your life will feel blessed, content and delighted. And, that is a satisfying retirement.

September 10, 2019

How to Retire

That seems like an odd title, doesn't it? How to retire is simple: stop working. Well, no, that isn't quite the case. If over 1,000 satisfying retirement blog posts have taught me anything, it is that this is a complicated journey. It is unique to each of us. Sure, there are general guidelines and certain steps to take to improve your odds of retiring well. Even so, I am struck again and again by how each person approaches this process in a slightly different way.

Retiring cannot be reduced to a series of specific steps. Yet, How to Retire is one of the most Googled terms in the area of retirement information. It only lags a little behind retirement financial calculators and retirement pensions in the total number of hits. So, there is a real hunger for help, a desire to find some guidance. Not being one to shy away from a challenge, let me try to summarize in a way that anyone will find something to work with.

1. Why do you want to retire? You've had a bad week, or month at work. Your boss or customers are annoying. You are tired of the daily commute. None of these should be enough to make you decide to retire. Trust me: retirement carries the same bad days, the same annoyances, the same routine. That is what living includes.

To really want to retire voluntarily the reason has to be two-fold: you have reached the end of the line in terms of enjoyment or satisfaction with your work. You dread getting up every morning and facing the same old things. Your dissatisfaction has been building for quite some time, not just because of a rough patch.

The second reason is you can't wait to tackle a new phase of your life. You have plans and dreams, you itch to try something new, you can't wait to tackle whatever is next. You feel you have talents and energies that must be tapped.

Retirement isn't running from something, it is running to something else. Any other reason is probably not sufficient.

2. Are your prepared financially? Trust me, none of us ever feel we have enough money to retire. The thought of no more regular paychecks is sobering. But, there is a difference between not being ready and being ready but still being concerned or cautious. The average 50 year old American has less than $50,000 saved for retirement. That person is not ready, no matter how much he downsizes and simplifies.

I don't believe in set dollar amounts for retirement. There are too many variables. But, common sense says that even with a decent Social Security check each month you are likely to need quite a bit more to live for another 20 or 30 years. If you live within your budget, understand how to use credit, don't treat your home equity (if you have any) like a piggy bank, and understand the concept of delayed gratification, you are well on your way.

3. Are your prepared emotionally? Do I mean to accept all that free time and lack of deadlines? Am I ready for a stress-free life? No, that's not the issue. Emotional preparation means the loss of your personal identity. Most of us see ourselves as valuable and defined by our jobs. "What do you do?" is the first question asked when you meet someone. Who will you be when the answer is "nothing." Can you find meaning and purpose when you have to create it yourself? Are you mature enough and secure enough in defining your life by who you are instead of what you do?

4. Is your primary relationship strong enough? Being home full time with another person is a major adjustment. I'll say that again: this is a big deal. Retirements end with one or both partners going back to work simply because they can't stand being together full time. Divorce is a growing issues with older, retired folks. In fact, the largest percentage increase in divorce comes from those 50+. The time to work through differences and decide on the balance of we and me time is before work stops.

5. Do you have ideas on how you will use your free time? At first blush, an unstructured day seems like heaven. Each 24 hour period stretches before you with no commitments, no deadlines, no pressure. The reality is very different. After financial worries the biggest fear of those getting close to retirement is how they will use their time. What will they do all day? With 30 years filled with a job or career, there has been little time to develop any outside interests or passions. As point #1 above notes, retiring into nothing means you aren't ready to retire.

The most pleasurable retirement happens when someone has things to retire to: hobbies to pursue, new interests to explore, travel to take, grandkids to visit, books to write, volunteering opportunities to accept......things that bring meaning and purpose to your days. These are the things that cause you to get out of bed full of energy and enthusiasm. For those faced with another day of puttering around the house, reading for hours at a time, and ending the day falling asleep in front of the TV, retirement becomes a type of prison, locked into a behavior whose only goal is to get from morning to night.

6. Are you ready for the time of your life? As someone whose whole existence was defined by his work, who did a poor job of relationship building and who entered retirement unready emotionally and without real goals, I have finally arrived at a place where I can honestly state that this has become the best stage of my life. I stumbled badly for several years. I read too much, watched way too much TV, spent too many hours surfing the Internet, and longed for the security of my former high profile career.

Then, I found my stride. I stopped worrying about finances. I found passions that ignited me. I discovered the thrill of giving back and making a difference through meaningful volunteer work. I allowed my spirituality to blossom and define why I am here on earth. I rediscovered the thrill of a relationship that is growing and respectful.

I wish I had sen a post like this 18 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of wasted time and frustration. Retirement is just another part of life. It takes work, You will make mistakes. You will occasionally throw up your hands and ask yourself why are you doing this.

But, then, suddenly you will find the correct light switch. You will figure it out. You will have what it takes to live a satisfying retirement.

September 7, 2019

Highs and Lows

I know regular readers enjoy posts that feature pictures of places Betty and I visit. If so, you are in luck.

A few weeks ago we headed north for a 4 day trip to revisit a few places we enjoy: Flagstaff and The Grand Canyon. With temperatures predicted to be around 110 at home, even the mid 80s up north seemed pleasantly cool. 

Flagstaff was our first stop. Surprisingly, we were a bit disappointed this time around. The downtown had several more vacant storefronts than we remember. Our favorite place to eat is gone. Another that offered nice dinners on an outdoor patio had become the home of fast-casual type meals. The homeless population has increased while the streets and parks are less clean. Overall, things just felt more frayed at the edges. 

Even so, the weather cooperated, with clear sunny days. We decided it was a good time to ride the ski lift to the top of Snowbowl ski resort, about 20 minutes north of town. During the winter, several hundred inches of snow blanket the slopes and the 55 different trails.

Our visit was much more to our liking: low 70's and nothing but wildflowers, green grass, and towering trees. The 25 minute trip up the lift travels to 11,500 feet. Though still 1,000 feet below the highest peak,  the view is amazing. We saw the Grand Canyon some 70 miles away,  mountainous volcano cones in every direction, beautiful meadows, and even the beginnings of a forest fire on a distant ridge. The Forest Service was aware of the blaze and letting it burn, but the sight was still a little unsettling. 

Here are some pictures that don't really capture the total quiet and peacefulness, but give you a chance to armchair travel (without the effects of rather thin air over two miles above sea level).

Less than two hours north is the Grand Canyon. A mile deep in some places, covering well over 200 miles from end to end this is a really big hole in the ground. Even though the distance from the popular South Rim to the less-visited North Rim is just 10 miles, to drive from one to the other takes five hours;  there's this wide chasm in between, you see.

This is one of the few places in the country where the majority of people are not starting at cell phone screens. To walk along the trail near the edge of the canyon does not lend itself to distracted strolling. Instead, thousands are using the built-in cameras or simply enjoying the breathtaking beauty and power of the place.

Another thing we noticed were the number of languages being spoken by the clusters of people walking by us. German, Japanese, Italian, Greek, Polish and others we didn't recognized filled our ears. English was very much in the minority.

Obviously, this little fellow has done this before

Beautiful sights, a great time to reconnect as a couple, and some lasting memories. Thanks, Northern Arizona.

September 3, 2019

Being a Beginner is Not Natural... For Me

I've written before about my dislike of feeling like a anything. For some completely irrational reason, I believe I should go from not knowing how to do something to being proficient within a month or two. Not being good at something for a long period of time just has never worked for me.

Ask Betty how long my various attempts at dancing have lasted. Two lessons and I want to leave the moves to Fred Astaire. Tennis? Don't ask. Guitar? I think I have finally found a course of study that is slowly working for me, but it has been at least half a dozen failed attempts up to now; I get to some point and become discouraged with my lack of progress. Oh, and my dogs and family find places to hide behind closed doors when I practice.

So, it was a powerful mark of either boredom or emotional growth that I started oil painting a few weeks ago. If you name one skill I do not believe I have, painting would top the list. I used to joke that I couldn't draw a straight line with a ruler. Even my stick figures have to be explained. So, why am I subjecting myself to being a beginner in every sense of the word? 

Oil paints are different from acrylic? What is a fan brush? Is there such a thing as odorless paint thinner? How much does paint cost? How about canvas..can I use a less expensive choice? Landscape, still life, portrait, abstract...good gracious, you mean there several different approaches I can screw up?

I am slowly learning the answers to most of these questions. I am also learning that Bob Ross makes the whole process seem much less difficult than it is. Bless his long departed soul, Mr. Ross had a voice and presentation style that would convince anyone with a pulse that painting is as simple as breathing.

I fell for it. First was a trip to some crafty-type stores. One thing I quickly learned is that the people who populate these places love to talk to the checkout clerk, apparently about every single thing being bought. 10 minutes per customer is not uncommon. And, there is always a line and too few clerks.

Anyway, with Betty's help and the all-forgiving Mr. Ross, I settled on oil paints, mainly so I could follow each step of his video lessons. Oh, and the answer to a few of my initial questions is: expensive! A tiny tube of Prussian Blue (doesn't that sound pretty!) is close to $10. Mr. Rose requires I have 9 different colors plus something he calls Magic White, which is some special type of base coat that is spread all over the canvas first. It is not easy to find and not inexpensive.

One of the stores was having a sale on canvas and easels so I loaded up my shopping cart. Then, the hunt for brushes. Mr. Ross insists on natural bristle brushes; I couldn't find any labeled that way. I finally settled on an assortment that had bristles of undetermined origin. 

I have publicly displayed my first attempt on an earlier post. I am pretty sure my grandkids could have done better. I recognize some shapes as tree-like objects and a smear of blue as probably water. Otherwise, forgettable.

Since then about every four days  I pull out a new canvas, or canvas board, watch a video, set up my paints, easel, and dropcloth, and give it a go. My representation of the sky and fluffy little clouds is slightly more recognizable. Mt. McKinley in Alaska, not so much. Apparently, using a palette knife takes even more skill than a 1" paint brush.

But, I guess here is the important lesson I am learning: being a beginner is not a fatal condition. I have not hurt myself nor damaged the house or the carpeting. Even though my family tends to hide when I strum the guitar, occasionally I hear Betty singing along with the tune, so what I am doing must be somewhat recognizable. 

Being a beginner and a bit of an obsessive perfectionist is a dangerous combination. Both the painting and guitar fly in the face of my self-image and how I usually conduct myself.

Maybe that is a good thing. After all, I have managed to stay married to the same marvelous human being for 43 years, and I was a total beginner when that journey started (probably still am, in some regards).

So, bring on the paints and tune up the guitar. Just don't expect me to show you what I have done or play a song for you for quite some time! My comfort level with beginner status does have its limits.