Jump Into Life While It’s Moving Or Miss It

Painted using Corel Painter 11

From the River Banks

I asked a teacher-friend if she’s ready for the start of the school year.

“The last two weeks have been very busy for me,” she said, “but I don’t know that I’ll ever be completely ready. It’s a little like jumping on a raft as it moves downstream with the current. It’s not going to stop for me, but if I don’t get on, I’ll miss the ride.”

She continued: “Likewise, the school calendar doesn’t slow down for me to catch up, but my work is there — scheduled – and I don’t want to miss all that comes with it. So I prepare myself as much as I can, and, ready or not, I just start when the kids come in the door.”

We both laughed. But I walked away wondering: How often do any of us wait for the rapids to calm, or the raft to edge up onto the banks of life to give us a chance to board—easily, safely, while staying dry!

The truth is, life doesn’t stop. We do need to jump aboard an opportunity as soon as we see it, or else we miss that particular one.

For example, my writing calls. My journals are still loaded with questions and ideas. My painting calls — the stories are everywhere, observable, ready to be explored and told, with both brush and pen.

If I don’t tell my stories, who will?

Lisa Canning wrote a blog post called  “Ten Steps to Finding Your Artistic Voice.” Just one of her excellent points — good for everyone, not just artists, but all creative people — is this:

“Be who you wish to seem. What type of artist (professional, worker, pastor, musician, writer, etc.) do you want to be? What audience will you serve? What will your medium be? Will you be politically oriented? Will you dedicate your energy to the classics? Will you serve as a bold visionary?”

Put in your own words for whatever fields of interest you have and want to pursue. Find your raft, I guess I’m saying. And don’t delay on the banks forever. Time does not stop for us…

What do you think? So what if we get wet and have to paddle like mad? It’s worth it, isn’t it? Please feel free to share… over coffee.

It’s good to see you again. Thanks for stopping in… The coffee’s always fresh and hot. I’m learning to make the cold slushy coffees too. :)


Watercolor Sketch in Art Rage

The other day I drove into our small village and came to an abrupt stop by the cold creek that runs through it. The creek never freezes, and in the winter the geese and ducks who’ve remained up north like to sit on the water. Warming their behinds maybe? Often steam rises when the water is warmer than the air.

Cold Water Creek

Photo reference for watercolor sketch below.

This day, though cold, there was no steam. The sun came from behind me and rendered the scene absolutely beautiful. I grabbed a shot of it on my phone through the windshield — there was so much color for a normally-dreary January day.

Back home I traced some of the main lines and shapes into Art Rage on my Mac, and then used Karen Bonaker’s Custom Watercolor Brushes to block in the wet paints. Using layers, I began with the sky, then came forward by degrees to build the depth.

I put it into Corel Painter to pop up the saturation some, but I’m discovering a lot of that can be done in Art Rage.

Watercolor Sketch of Cold Water Creek

Watercolor sketch of Cold Water Creek. I used a limited color palette though the day was unusually bright for January here.

This is a watercolor sketch, on its way to becoming a painting. Up close and big it isn’t very smooth. But if you squint or look at it from across some distance, you’ll see some potential, I think.  smile

I see I missed some water reflections. And those ever-dramatic shadows in the photo are missing from my work.

The sketch is in the process of becoming a painting…

As I am in the process of becoming who I am. I too am still just a sketch… maybe even a translucent watery-color sketch on the way to becoming a full painting. That’s okay. The day is still young… there’s time to work on me and my painting.

I’m wondering what you’re working on today that is still in sketch form? Do you step back and squint at things to determine what areas still need work? Do you share imperfect, partially-finished work with others, maybe getting their input?

Thanks so much for visiting. My life is taking some turns, but I’m so glad to be back here, over coffee, with you…………….

Barb :)

Can We See the Potential?

Broken concrete and dirt now brick patio

Corner of brick patio, once broken concrete, gravel and dirt.

What Potential?

Years ago, when we were looking for a larger house to buy, one in the country away from city traffic and sounds, my husband led us on a search for property that had what he called potential.

Potential? I was looking for a house we could call home, on property we could enjoy. Room for a garden, play equipment for our three small girls, safe roads to run, skate and bike on. And a neighborhood safe enough to leave the back door open if we wished.

We had such a place already, in town. After a year of scrubbing and tearing out and rebuilding a neglected – and therefore affordable — property, we had a home we loved. But it was small, and it was in town.

Look for Potential

My husband, however, wasn’t interested in a home already-made. He wanted one we could turn into a home — again.

So we hunted. And we found a corner, half-acre property on a small four-street residential allotment abutting hilly farmland, in a township mostly farmland.

Perfect location.

The house, however, was a disaster. As we approached it from the back, on the property’s side road, we saw…

Behind the house, concrete rose and fell, cracked and bumpy and chipped with institution-green paint. A canopy of corrugated plastic – also green – covered the patio, held up by skinny wooden posts at intervals running its length and width.

Red slate tiles covered the house – except where they didn’t anymore…

A garage, some distance away, leaned toward the house, just enough to look funny.

And that was just the outside.

Inside, walls had holes, and most of the woodwork was scratched bare. Walls in two of the bedrooms had never been painted, just white-washed, slap-dash. The carpet and wooden floors reeked of cat urine. Cat and dog dishes sat here and there about the kitchen floor, dried food still in them, though the tenants were long-gone. (The property owners lived in another state, across the country.)

An efficiency apartment had been built onto one end of an otherwise very small house, extending the space if opened up, but quite tight if not.

I had zero interest in the property, from the drive up, to and including the tour of. I couldn’t escape quickly enough.

Pursue Potential

Two days later, though, when my dear husband told me the owners of the red house had accepted our offer, I sat dumb-struck, my mouth hanging wide-open. There just were no words!

It has great potential, he said.

There was that word again. I saw no potential, but he saw what we could do.

After all, he said, we had already taken one run-down, holes-in-the-walls house with backed-up debris in the basement from flooding, and scrubbed and rebuilt and decorated it into a beautiful though small home in town. One we could turn over and realize a nice profit. We could do it again, he said. This time in the country, where we wanted to settle and raise our kids.

Reach Potential by Planning and Doing

Sweat equity is not difficult to build into a property when you have youth, energy, a dream – and a husband with building skills and desire to do the job. We had all that…

So we went to work. Working side by side, we tore down and rebuilt or refinished, added to, rearranged the inside and outside walls, put in all new windows and roof and siding, painted and wall-papered and made draperies – until the house no longer resembled the mess we moved into. We made it home…

The Real Challenge Isn’t the Work Itself

Work has never bothered me. The real challenge is, can and do I see the potential? In a project? In my own abilities? In a co-worker’s? In a new career, or just a career change? In new relationships?

If I can’t see potential, there is nowhere to go. But if I can, there is nowhere I cannot go!

That house was a great life lesson for me. One I’ve never forgotten. I fought it, trusted my husband in spite of it all, worked as hard as I’ve ever worked, and enjoyed the results for many years.

The most exciting thing about it is, everyday has potential, for all of us. All we have to do is anticipate it and go with it.

Can we see it to embrace it? I’d like to think yes. What about you?

Barb Hartsook

It’s OK to Unfold Gently

“It’s ok to unfold gently.” So said Joanna Paterson at Confident Writing. Her blog post title The Need Not to be Found resonated with me.

I have two directly opposing needs that others may or may not understand:

  1. The need to share stories through my writing and painting. To communicate and engage in conversation. To be with people.
  2. The need, at times, to retreat, be quiet, listen, breathe and absorb. To be alone. To unfold gently.

I have a need not to be found. Sometimes.

Summer mornings I often write from the front porch. I’m part of my neighborhood and part of the unfolding day, yet I’m alone in the quiet.

Bird rests on the Echinacea plant

Other side of the patio wall. Birds and butterflies love the cone flowers.

The early morning stirs…

birds chatter

doves mourn

a few walkers pad softly by.

Some wave.

Betty, across the street,

waters the flowers in her porch pots.

Sounds travel from a distance.


Life happens around me, but unobtrusively so. I’m aware that I’m part of something shared – our neighborhood space – yet I’m alone on my porch. Unseen unless looked for.

I love this time of day.

Am I wrong to want not to be found sometimes?

I used to think so – that perhaps something was wrong with me for sometimes wanting to be alone.  I don’t think so anymore…

Alone is my time to be still and breathe in what’s possible for my day and to write out my responses, to ask questions and wonder about things. To sketch patterns the sun draws on lawns or streams or stone walls.

It’s my time to take note of and be thankful for my blessings. Here are a few I never want to take for granted:

I can think, write, communicate in a language others can read and understand – the head is clear.

I can put on my walking shoes and go – the body still works.

I can breathe freely, on my own. (Others with occasional asthma will appreciate this one.)

I have an incredible family of sisters, kids and kids-in-law and their kids, and fun relationships with all of them.

I love. And I am loved.

Alone I can get out of my own way so the day, my life, can progress with less chaos, with more clarity.

Can I be alone at a retreat?

Joanna’s Summer Writing Space is not a class. It’s a retreat. In Scotland. Online. With other writers who want to focus on areas of their writing, alone and in a group.

I won’t be in Scotland. But I can meet them there, from my front porch.

What do the grounds look like? How does the air feel? What are the natural textures there?

Where will I walk? Will there be coffee? Wine with dinner in the evenings? A secluded nook where I can take my pen and journal?

Will there be a gathering place where some or all of us can share and encourage each other?

These are for me to imagine from my own summer writing space…


Do you have the need to not be found sometimes?

Strangely enough, my mornings, while quiet, are my most energetic and productive times of the day.

How about you?

Do your needs seem to oppose each other?

Do you experience your high levels of energy during down times or when engaged with others?

It’s all okay, you know. :) Please have some coffee and share…

Barb Hartsook

Do You Check In With Friends Every Day?

Susan told me she and Beth were friends.

“Not the everyday, check-in-with-each-other kind of friends,” she said. “But the every-couple-of months kind. Where you see each other and it’s as if no time at all has passed. You just pick up your last conversation and are comfortable together for an hour or an evening or a day.”

I nodded, thinking a friend like that is a blessing.

Friends over coffee

Friendships pick up where they left off…

But then she wondered out loud to me:

“I’ve been thinking lately,” she said, “that’s the only kind of friends I have. There aren’t any every day buds. I’m wondering if…”

“…if something’s wrong with you?” I finished for her after a silent pause.


After more silence the conversation turned to other things. But I kept thinking, who among my friends would I want to check in with every day? My girls maybe.

And then, who else among my friends would want to see my number on the caller ID every single day? Not even my girls, with their busy lives.

I too have sometimes wondered if I were different — if maybe there was something wrong with me socially because my friends don’t live next door so-to-speak. I’ve rarely had anyone to coffee-chat with over the back yard fence. Thinking sometimes that would be nice.

I know those who do — just not me.

I have the every-couple-of-months friends Susan described up top. I count them as precious treasures. We can meet for coffee or lunch, dinner or shopping, or grab our watercolors and brushes and go paint somewhere. Or phone-chat now and then.

I do have a very small handful of those whom I could call anytime day or night if I needed to. Or they, me.

But a daily check-in-and-check-off list of friends? Nope, I don’t have that.

What about you? Do you have an everyday list of friendship contacts, other than a friend at work? An over-the-fence kind of buddy? Bless you if you do, but if you don’t, you’re not alone. :)


Thanks so much for coming by. Help yourself to the coffee and let’s talk. :)

Study Dates Then and Now

First the Library…

My husband’s and my first dates were study dates at our university library, an old brick structure with high ceilings and tall windows. We climbed a dozen concrete steps to enter through massive, ornate, wooden double doors. Once those doors closed behind us, they shut out all sounds but our footfalls echoing up from the lobby’s marble floor.


Our college library, which has since been replaced with a new one. The entrance is on the left, hidden by the evergreens.

The library’s main study room was quiet, even when filled with students. There were no clicking keyboards, no personal phones jingling or vibrating, no jacks connecting ears and iPods.

No noise but the turning of pages, the shuffling of feet, chairs being moved out and in. The occasional cough, or discretely whispered comment between friends.

Mostly it was quiet.

Books, Paper, Pencils and Pens…

  • Research was done in the stacks, from books. There was no Internet, no Google or Bing. :)
  • Writing was done in notebooks — the paper kind, not the web kind. With pen in hand. Once a paper was finished, it was typed on a typewriter — the kind with black ribbon. There were no laptops. :)

And Now Netbooks in the Coffee Shop…

Wes and I still have our study (reading) dates — not in libraries, but in coffee shops wherever we go. Sometimes it’s quiet, though more often it’s not.

People come and go. They sit for a bit of conversation.They study on their laptops or netbooks.They read their books or e-readers. News can be had on most phones, and everyone has a phone. Did I mention the ring tones added to whatever music is playing?

We do that too. We take our laptops and books. And we keep our phones at the ready so we don’t miss an incoming message or newsletter. Or heaven forbid, a text or phone call.

Technology brings about interesting changes, doesn’t it? We’re still about being who we are and doing what we do, but modern gadgets put us on faster ground, I think. Certainly noisier…

Do you have “back then” memories that contrast to your daily life now? Do you need to step out and away sometimes to find your own quiet space?  How do you adapt to changes technology brings?

I’d love to have this conversation with you in the coffee shop… :)


Life Happens in the Small Moments

Life happens in the small moments. I sure don’t want to miss it!

crabapple tree blossom

Single blossom on the crabapple tree limb. Wes missed this one in his pruning. Thankfully.

Yesterday the sun shone, and toward late afternoon, it angled its way across my neighborhood and brushed the prettiest shades of color on the tree blossoms.

It was a don’t-stay-out-too-long-without-a-jacket, fresh air day. So I put one on, hung my camera strap on my wrist, and headed out the door. On foot.

The flowering trees only bloom for about two weeks every spring — some of them less than that. I often wish I could just hang onto their beauty and fragrance —  but it’s not meant to be. They bloom and pour out their perfume… and then they are gone.

For me it’s a small moment. One that makes me richer though, if I pay attention to and appreciate it.

I Nearly Missed the Violets!

Across the street is a huge patch of violets, not visible unless I walk through it. Yesterday I did, nearly clapping my hands at the discovery! Weeds? Not the way I see it…

field of violets growing wild

As a child I was allowed to pick the violets. I treasure them still.

As a child I used to make little cone-shaped baskets with handles from colored paper, and then fill them with violets to hang on my neighbors’ doors as gifts. (Then ring the bell and run.)

I treasure violets and the memories they open for me…

Traveling the Back Roads vs. the Highways

Traveling the highways gives us glimpses of the landscape; but it’s on the back roads that we see the pieces that make up the landscape. It’s here we can touch and appreciate those pieces.

It’s true of our lives as well. Travel the highways whenever time crunches. I get that. It’s necessary and we all do it.

But it’s on the back roads and in the small moments that we live and love and wonder and hug and listen and explore and discover and learn stuff.

It’s here that we experience, appreciate what we will accomplish in life.
It’s here’s that we get to know who we are becoming.
It’s here that we live.

I sure don’t want to miss mine. How about you? Do you live in your moments and recognize their significance?

Please help yourself to coffee and share your thoughts. Thank you so much for coming over.


Spring Cleaning and New Beginnings

We crave new beginnings, don’t we?

If New Year’s is the time to write resolutions and begin anew, spring is the time to freshen up and begin yet again.

In northern Ohio we watch closely for the signs of spring long before the temperatures rise. Long before we even think of opening the windows, or of cleaning.


Harbinger of Spring, Digital Ink and Watercolor, Barbara Hartsook

Spring’s Harbingers…

New blossoms push up through last year’s twigs.

Birds chatter after a long season of quiet.

The dry limbs of winter fill with buds, and sunshine slowly melts the cold.

We lift our collars against the March winds, yet feel the promise of balmy breezes yet to come.

We anticipate the energies that revive us every spring. It never gets old…

Stuff and Thoughts:  We put away. Give away. Throw away.

When I was growing up, spring cleaning was an annual ritual. We sorted through all our belongings, dusted them off, scrubbed some up to keep, gave some away, and pitched some.

Today most of us have some plan in play to keep things clean and tidy as spring approaches.

And we do the same with our thoughts, projects and plans.

  • We put away what’s done.
  • Box up and give away what we realize we’ll never do, but someone else might.
  • Or we simply throw away ideas and plans that will no longer work for us.

But not all! Some of those ideas and projects just need to be rethought and repackaged — as we would paint the family room, or rearrange the furniture. Still pretty good stuff there. It just needs polishing.

How do you approach Spring? Has yours sprung yet?

We have the tiniest hints of buds and a bit of yellow daffodil here and there. The grasses are starting to green.

Being so close to the lake binds us to winter a little longer than if we were a few miles south. Our breezes are not balmy yet but will be soon. I still put my coat in the car — just in case.

But I’m ready for Spring and all its newness and promise. How about you?

Pour some fresh coffee and let’s talk…

P.S. Some other spring blog posts you might enjoy — I did!

Hilary’s Spring Cleaning and Passion Flowers

Davina’s First Day of Spring

Do We Recognize Opportunities as They Soar Over Us?

woman-thinking-with-penI read (and copied it into my journal) a quote from William Blake: “No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.”

And the thought struck me: Opportunity is like that bird — high-soaring, inviting us to come along, take hold, and fly under our own wing-power.

Opportunities do not land…

Opportunity seldom plops itself in our path, for us to stumble over. It may hover, but not for long.

The question is, for all of us, do we recognize it as an opportunity when it appears? Seize it and soar with its possibilities? Do we know it’s possibilities?

Maybe we do, but drag our feet for a bit, wondering where it might take us if we go with it.

Do we then, by our own hesitation, lose it as it flies off?

Or do we fly with it, uncertain, yet open to go where it takes us?

If we do recognize it, how do we approach it?

  • Do we plan?
  • Think?
  • Probe the options?
  • Create our own options?
  • Dream of what’s possible?

And then what?

  • Stay in our comfy chairs and dream of those possibilities?
  • Or do we take those thoughts into our day — on the run?

See. Recognize. Dream. Think. Plan. Soar…

Opportunity — like the soaring bird — often comes in life’s small quiet moments. But it smacks us big when we recognize it! And each time we pursue, we grow.

I don’t have answers today — just a lot of questions. Are you with me?

Last week Starbucks ran an Italian Roast special, but only for the week. However, you will find it here all the time! Help yourself, as you ponder some of these questions or ask some of your own. Thanks for stopping by…

We Live Where Our Focus Is

I live where my focus is.

The Good Book says, ‘Where your heart is, there will be your treasure.”

Where my heart is… hmm.

In the ancient text, the word heart referred to everything I’m made up of – my substance.

So it must matter where I focus my thoughts, my energies, my choices, my actions — some of those things that make up my whole being.

Let’s explore an example…

If I focus on my lack of stuff, or my lack of talent, or on what someone else in my life is or is not doing, that’s where I will live. Without stuff, without developing my talents, and probably envious of what others have and what they have accomplished.

That’s not a lot of valuable treasure! It doesn’t even sound like fun.

But I’ve been guilty of all of that…….

If I focus on my abilities and dreams – and clearly understand that my abilities are only starting points from which to develop my dreams – then I will live in the process of becoming who I can be.

Then there will be hope for my tomorrows.

Setbacks may set me back, but they won’t break me.

That sounds a whole lot better to me. I have done these things too and am getting better at keeping my focus where it should be. Or bringing it back when I get off course.

I know it takes a lifetime, this process of living fully. But what treasures can be found along the way!

Where is your heart? And how do you discipline your focus? Do you treasure the  process?

Enjoy the coffee while you mull these things over. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. :)


P.S. The photo above is of our family’s hand-made dinner place cards from last Thanksgiving. I chose this photo because my family is my number one focus and treasure. Making something a little special for them is always a treat.