08 Nov

“If You Want Something Done, Ask a Busy Person.”

That’s what my father used to say, and apparently he was right (again). At least the reverse is true for me: I’m not busy and I’m not getting much of anything done.

“If You Want Something Done, Ask a Busy Person.” | DebzWeb.com

Subtle fabric I’m using to make Roman shades for our den

I have a list, of course. But everything on it could be done tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month, for that matter. So I never get around to doing these things till I can’t avoid it any longer.

I know there are better ways to do things. I read David Allen’s awesome book, Getting Things Done years ago, when I was as busy as everyone else. His point: get the small stuff out of your brain and on to paper to manage anxiety (What if I forget? Was it Tuesday or Wednesday? What was that woman’s name?). That leaves you free to focus on the big, important things.

Actually, that’s just one thing I’m not doing. I’m also not walking, not doing yoga, not taking vitamins, not flossing every day. I’m not proud of it, but I have to admit there is a certain satisfaction in not doing things, especially after all those years of taking care of everything.

So what am I doing? Learning to draw, keeping a creative journal, making pillows and shades, knitting a blanket, hanging out with family and friends, writing a blog, reading mystery series, and playing with colored pencils, markers, paper, letters, lines and shapes. In other words, everything i loved to do when I was eight years old.

“If You Want Something Done, Ask a Busy Person.” | DebzWeb.com

Homemade pillows out of coordinating fabrics

I finally found my way back to that girl who didn’t worry about getting things done, and now that I’m here, I’m not leaving. Guess the laundry, groceries, and dishes will just have to wait.


26 Oct

Learning How To See

Learning How To See | DebzWeb.com


Here’s what I’ve learned about drawing. It’s not the drawing part that’s hard – it’s the seeing. And the problem isn’t our eyes; it’s our brains that get in the way.

We learn to “see” in shorthand and make assumptions based on our experience – a necessary skill for managing in the world. As soon as you start drawing, though, you discover that it’s also a real obstacle to seeing what’s in front of you.


So when I draw what I think I see, I wind up with a remarkably distorted image: a table standing on one leg, a vase on top floating in space, a flower that looks more like a wet rag. Fortunately, a couple of talented artists, Marty Baird and Emma Skurnick, have helped me loosen up and begin to learn how to see.

Of course, the real trick is practice. Practice, practice and more practice. I’m not doing enough of it, but I did draw something that looks like what it is: the bookshelf in our kitchen. It may not look like much to you, but it means the world to me: evidence that I am, finally, beginning to see.

25 Oct

29 Years? How Did That Happen?

Unbelievable, but true: Sam and I have been married for 29 years.

It’s not just that so much time has gone by, which is amazing enough in itself. It’s that we have almost nothing in common.

  • He’s from Tabor City, NC; I’m from Rochester, NY.

  • He was raised Southern Baptist; I’m Jewish.

  • He’s an engineer; I’m a writer/artist.

  • He worked at one place for 35+ years; I had 35+ jobs (it seems).

  • He’s calm and steady; I’m an emotional roller coaster.

Plus, we survived the horrors of mental illness and addiction in our kids.  The doctors told us early on that very few couples make it. So how did we? I attribute it to four things.

  1. Grit. This is a second marriage for both of us, and we made a different kind of commitment. (Like, I told him he wasn’t getting out of this marriage alive.)

  2. History. We’ve been through things, especially in raising our children, that no one else can experience or understand.

  3. Chemistry. We’re still attracted to each other after all these years.

  4. Luck. No matter how well you know someone before marriage, you’re in for some surprises. We’re lucky that most of the surprises were pleasant ones.

29 Years? How Did That Happen?



Sam celebrated by giving me an iPhone 5, mostly because the camera is so much better than the one I had. He used it to take this picture, which says as much about the photographer as me.

20 Oct

San Francisco is Its Own Reward

San Francisco is Its Own Reward | DebzWeb.com

One of the highlights of my trip to San Francisco: seeing the modern art exhibit at the de Young museum – and finding this book in the gift shop.

Paul Madonna says he’s a writer who draws to make a living, but it could be just the reverse: he’s that good at both. In Everything is its Own Reward, Madonna combines his experience of the city and his perspective on life. This guy knows something – and you don’t need to know San Francisco to be inspired by it.

Other highlights of my trip:

  • Driving on Route 1 along the coast and twisty back roads

  • Dipping my toes in the Pacific Ocean

  • Staying at a quirky home in Corte Medera

  • Riding on the ferry to the city

  • Eating at the Slanted Door in the Ferry Building

  • Seeing the Contemporary Jewish Museum

  • Shopping with Lynda, who has a great eye and a talent for bargains

  • Meeting Becky, her sister-in-law and wise woman

  • Sitting outdoors in the cool evenings, watching the sunset (with no bugs!)

It was wonderful. Fortunately, so is home.

12 Oct

A Magazine, a Book and the Women Behind Them

A Magazine, a Book and the Women Behind Them | DebzWeb.comI have two new heroes: Janine Vangool, designer, publisher and editor of Uppercase  Magazine; and Lisa Congdon, artist and author of A Collection a Day. These women are not only remarkably talented – they want you to be, too.

Uppercase, “a magazine for the creative and curious,” is my favorite periodical. It’s a throwback in a way – a good way – beautiful, heavy paper, a single design vision, virtually no ads, and no online version.

What I love is that you never know what you’ll find within the covers: sculptures carved from crayons, the ABCs of cartography, tidbits like the kuretake letter pen. Uppercase also publishes a few books, and I’m so glad I finally ordered one.

A Magazine, a Book and the Women Behind Them | DebzWeb.comA Collection a Day grew out of Lisa Congdon’s online project to catalogue her collections, ranging from vintage erasers to plastic bread tags (no kidding). And it’s a treasure, a feast for the eyes and a trigger for the brain.


It made me wonder…what is a “collection”? How many things does it take? Am I a collector? Is everyone?

A Magazine, a Book and the Women Behind Them | DebzWeb.com

Suddenly, I’m seeing some of my own things in a new light. Like these hands, which I’ve accumulated haphazardly, not even realizing I was doing it.

But I do love them: the crossed fingers, a gift from Lynda; the tall black form used for making gloves; the silver hand from the flea market; the elegant black one, meant to display jewelry; and my mother’s metal hand paperweight.

I’ve got plenty more “collections” to appreciate. How about you? What do you collect? Send me a picture, OK?

08 Oct

The Practically Perfect Purse

The Practically Perfect Purse | DebzWeb.comI know what I like about this purse. It’s big enough to carry everything, including my journal or iPad, and small enough to avoid looking like a suitcase on me. It’s got the right pockets, which makes it easy to find stuff. And, well, it’s pretty.

I’m not sure what Kampster sees in it, but he seems to like it as much as I do.

That’s the problem, of course. Last week I couldn’t find my purse anywhere, until I finally figured out he was sleeping on it. His size was a perfect fit and his color the perfect camouflage.
Yesterday, however, he decided to take it a step further…

Which is sort of annoying, but also hilarious.


03 Oct

Field Sketching With the Amazing Emma Skurnick

Field Sketching With the Amazing Emma Skurnick | DebzWeb.com

I just took my first class with Emma Skurnick, and I’m ready to sign up for anything else she’s teaching, whenever, wherever, whatever.

Why? It’s not often that you find one person who’s both a talented artist and a great teacher. (Or a teacher who can capture my attention for three hours, for that matter.)

It’s even rarer to find such a teacher right in your back yard. But there she is, teaching at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel HIll. (For anyone living around here, check out NCBG’s program in botanical art and illustration.)

“Sketching is an exploration,” according to my new favorite teacher. By definition, it’s incomplete, imperfect, not a finished piece of art.

Thanks, Emma. You helped me sketch these grasses – way better than I would have expected.

Field Sketching With the Amazing Emma Skurnick | DebzWeb.comField Sketching With the Amazing Emma Skurnick | DebzWeb.com


30 Sep

Just Another Nice, Normal Family. Not.

Just Another Nice, Normal Family. Not. | DebzWeb.com

“Family is not an important thing. It is everything.” Michael J. Fox

Our family is anything but normal, which is what makes this sign so funny. One or more of us has been labeled autistic, depressed, obsessive compulsive, developmentally delayed, manic, learning disabled, ADHD, addicted, and probably some I’ve forgotten.

But what really strikes me funny is that everyone who walks into our kitchen wants the sign for her family, too. Really? What do they know about it?

My friends’ reactions support a conclusion I came to when I was 15: every family is weird, if not downright crazy. I thought it was just the family I grew up in till I started spending half my life at a friend’s house. His family was at least as weird, in its own way.

My experience over the years has only reinforced this premise. In fact, now I realize that I’m one of the fortunate ones, because my family’s craziness wasn’t destructive, shameful or impossible to escape. My parents lived long enough for me to make peace with them, and I’ve lived long enough to make peace with my husband and children.

Of course we still annoy, irritate and infuriate each other. But we’ve come to a place where we can laugh at our own craziness, individually and together. And that’s a special kind of love.

30 Sep

Being vs. Doing: What Really Matters?

Being vs. Doing: What Really Matters?


There has to be a balance somewhere, but right now the American scales are heavily tilted in the doing direction. And I honestly don’t get it.

This is something I’ve been arguing about for most of my life, starting at the dinner table growing up.


My father believed that what was most important was what you did in life – in his case, providing jobs for people, being a leader in the community, contributing to philanthropy, providing for our family.

I thought it was who you were being that mattered most, and I still do. Because what I cherish about my dad is who he was – his amazing energy, enthusiasm, and ability to make everything fun.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the achievements my father, family, and friends have made over the years. But what I really value is things that are harder to measure: curiosity, courage, compassion, insight, and capacity to make the most of what life offers.

All this is even clearer now that my friends are beginning to retire. Who are we without the jobs, titles, activities and overwhelming busy-ness of the last 30+ years? Maybe the real adventure of life is just starting…