Amantha Tsaros installs new artwork in Cambridge Common Restaurant, Cambridge, MA.
Mother’s Day is a really big bag of nonsense. For all the daily garbage we choke back, we get ONE day where your kids pretend they are the Von Trapp Family and you’re Mother Theresa.
Mom’s are actually a bit more Joan of Arc - radical, ballsy, going into all kinds of battles and ultimately - all unappreciated and misunderstood, we somehow end up getting burned. (Well, that's a comedy killer.)
Look, the commercial image of “mom" in pastel soft-focus haze is really romantic and lovely. But that wasn’t my mom. She liked to kick fear in the teeth (or more likely knit it a hat). She was a fantastic mom. She hated fancy recipes or baking - My mom wanted to expose me to all forms of art. She took me to museums and the theater. She showed me sculpture and musicals. Of course, the sculptures were often in cemeteries and the music at drag shows.
She found art everywhere and tolerate foolishness nowhere.
My mom’s not here to celebrate and that is sad. But I’m still gonna sit my big bottom in the I-Don’t-Iron-Throne and watch my minions will do my bidding for just one day.
Actually, I will probably just order take-out.
Mom said to never have any expectations and you’ll never be disappointed.
Don’t have any expectations. You know how to be sweet to others - be sweet to you. Treat yourself. Go get all the goodies you keep wishing for.
While I'm barking orders at you: Send me your mom stories! Tell me all about it. I love a good story.
Now, go to your room until I call you.
Big embarrassing hugs to you,
Are you shedding light or spreading darkness?
What’s it gonna be?
We are not perfect creatures but we can try our darnedest to be kind and spread love. In these challenging times, see out those sunny green spots - the places where goodness grows. Find those who are doing good things to make the world a brighter place.
Just a few to lift your spirits:
LexRAP is working to make my local area kinder to refugees and asylum seekers.
LexEat Together serves a free community meal every Wednesday to those who need a nutritious meal and companionship.
You! - you send me encouraging and cheerful notes. And I am so grateful for every single one of them.
And me? I’m doing whatever I can - for today, I am offering a brand new you a Valentine-sy card to print out and share with those who need a lift.
Do you know someone who is spreading love? Send me a note or comment on the blog with their name and a link to their organization. Thank you!
When you are seven years old, everything is probably for you. At Christmas, this was especially true.
Adorable chocolate snowmen? Must be for me, right?
Enormous poinsettia brooch with sparkles? Aw, I LOVE THEM!
Every gift that mom took out to wrap, I hoped was mine. Especially the cute ones. Mom had pretty soaps with sophisticated designs baked into them and boxes of chocolate that called my name.
"Who are those for?", I asked hopefully.
"Oh, these are for people who may visit us but who we haven't met yet."
If you haven't met them, why did you buy them a present?
"Well, no one should ever come into our home at Christmas and not get a present. Everyone should get something. No one is left out."
Mom gave everyone everything she could - no exceptions.
Sometimes people mom was kind to - people she took in or people she would feed - would steal something of ours and mom would brush it away breezily, "Ay! He probably needed it more than you. You can afford another one."
Hugs were extended to EVERYONE at first meeting.
After awhile, I realized that every gift, hug, or smile we give away always comes back in greater numbers.
Let's do something extra special for ourselves this year.
No matter what you celebrate or even if you celebrate anything - have an extra box of chocolate on hand or a big hug unwrapped and ready to go. We get so much more than we give away when we give with an open heart.
Have a beautiful week. Spread Love.
Let's make this fast and painless - like ripping off a band aid but without the sting.
You've got a guy.
He needs a gift.
Typically, you'd consider just giving him a steak and a... ah...something nice... fill in the blank.
But really you want something you can put under the tree.
Top Of Line The Line Awesome comes from Mancrates. They make fantastically masculine gift crates - notice I did not say "baskets". They put together fantastic jerky and other bacony joy in a crate that can only be opened with a crow bar (included). For an extra $10 they'll wrap your gift for you - in duct tape of course.
Check out the wide variety of manly crates. You won't be sorry.
Next Up - If you want to show your affection all year 'round - you will totally score big with a beer of the month club. The testosterone-infused creature in my life liked this gift the most and it is Christmas every time it arrives. I use Beer Of The Month. Their customer service is fantastic and you can choose a delivery schedule that suits you - you can order a club for every other month or quarterly. They are very flexible. And the beer is great!
And for guys who actually dig ties - you have to try The Tie Bar. They have a great selection of trendy and classic ties from skinny to average. Prices are just $19. You can spring for a few. And grab a tie bar, too.
By the way, I am NOT an affiliate for any of these companies. I just really like to share good stuff.
Like Dr. Jekyll I Tried It Out On Myself
Last Thursday, November 10, Lexington MA held their annual-ish Art Walk. The Art Walk turns Lexington center to one big art gallery. Art is displayed in shop windows along our main street. Artists and guests met for a reception followed by a tour of the art on display. Our Tour Leader discussed important aspects about the artists' work and their motivations behind their pieces. about the various pieces. Many of the artists were on hand to chat about their work and their inspiration. We allowed ourselves to delve into the artworks on a cool fall night at the end of a tumultuous and nerve-wracking week. It was a lovely evening of art that was relaxing and uplifting.
For a time I was able to forget all my worries and fears. Crossing the main street I commented to a fellow artist "this is wonderful. It is amazing. Art REALLY DOES help - it TRULY CAN be uplifting and healing!" She responded with wry amusement, "Well, Amantha, that is funny to hear you say that considering that is what your work is all about."
"But I'm never on the receiving end!"
Was I a guinea pig? I had just maneuvered a maze of art and found a big hunk of peace at the end. "Man! This stuff REALLY WORKS!" I had been feeling so defeated and discouraged. With a renewed faith in the healing and helping power of art, I am going to work to help others get as much art as they possibly can into their days. We need the color and joy - we need to take care of ourselves when it seems to much that there are so many forces against us.
My first step is to launch a new Freebie section of my site. This is a library of my free downloads available to everyone*. It currently hold three items but will be expanded regularly.
If you could just take a minute, please share this page on social media. Everyone needs art and healing.
*Please remember that there work there is for personal use only. If you would like to license any of the work for publication or a design project please contact me to discuss rates.
It is always on those chilly, rainy days when you fail to grab a shopping cart but then exit with way too much in your arms.
Carrying two giant bags of guinea pig bedding out of the local Petco while spritzing rain ruins my hair (my HAIR!!!) and mucks up my glasses (I can’t see! I can’t see!) I really should have grabbed a cart - ah well. I lean the bulky packs of shredded paper against my filthy SUV and wonder how I’ll find the keys.
“Need a hand?"
A friendly and just perfectly nice and perfectly ordinary man came around the corner of my car and very kindly and non-creepily helped me. And he went off splashing off toward the shops. Just like that. It was so nice! So neighborly.
My Minor Samaratin was a mid-sized white guy with graying hair and a gentle smile. A fast moving guy in plain khakis who just saw a person in need and he wanted to help.
I tossed my damp carcass into the drivers seat and buckled up. I cranked up the heat and willed it to get toasty and fast.
“Well, that was really nice to have that little help.” It brightened my mood on that dreary day. The Nice Guy had zipped off into to the store to grab some dog food - or maybe cat food? Or birdseed? I didn’t know.
I also didn’t know anything about him. I sat in my idling car and reviewrf a quick list of things I didn’t know about The Nice Guy:
I didn’t know:
who he was going to vote for;
what his religion was (if any);
if he was straight or gay or whatever;
if he was liberal or conservative.
It didn't matter.
I KNEW he was nice. I KNEW he helped me. I KNEW that felt good.
It was so soothing to settle into a quiet piece of goodness that followed his simple kindness. I was assisted by a total stranger- and it was wonderful. It was a tiny gift that we could just be two people being good - well, he was being kind and I was being grateful.
If i had known all those details. If I had known them and he had known all about me, would he have not been kind to me? Would I have been less appreciative?
Would it have changed anything?
Such simple humanity.
How much we need it.
Before all the disagreeableness and all the insistence that we are right - let’s allow kindness in the door FIRST.
- you know - "One nation under God. With liberty and justice for all." Yeah, you heard me: ALL.
Spread some love and wild joy with little note cards that say it all with verve, baby!
You’ve had enough already, haven’t you?
Sure winter is coming. It is already colder than we can bear out there -
the vicious, biting windbags;
the brutally cold assessment of the future;
the slippery slopes of nasty discourse.
Join me in fighting the darkness. Bundle up against the bitterness, baby. Our armor is bold colorful optimism on tender silk.
Wrap yourself in a cocoon of color and charge forth — well, saunter forth - no charging or battle is needed when you know you are right, right?
Draped in exuberance you will slay negativity with vibrancy and optimism.
These new silk scarves are Art, baby, and they cover you in protective joy. Choose your colors: bright and swirling blues, giddy orange, pink and teal or even bold black-is-a-color-too on a field of white.
Yeah, it may be dark out there, sure. But you are a beacon of goodness and light.
There is a bright spot of color in Lexington Center - right across from our historic Battle Green. Stop in to the First Parish Unitarian Church to see my new exhibit.
Art school can really bring out the goofy in a person. No, really. You do find the flakiest of people. But take care to not judge - you never know what you are in for.
Highly energetic and charming misplaced California girl, Ms. P was my favorite teacher of first year. She smiled a lot and loved to laugh. She shook her blond hair and looked up at the first-day projects we had pinned across the wall. She slapped those black rimmed cat eye glasses on her face, and took it all in. “Oh, okay!’ she chirped. “I see that half of you have to redo this project."
She took no nonsense and if you did not follow directions you had to do it over. Ms. P was a friendly, sunny tower of steel. I loved her. She had high expectations. This was no flake.
That year we learned how to communicate with our audience through shape, color and composition. Her favorite lesson - and mine - was the color experiment. She insisted that color could impact a person's mood. "Oh boy." we signaled to each other with unsubtle raising of eyebrows. "We've got a real kook on our hands." We had to choose a color as a class and we were going to live that color for the entire class. And then we would observe the results. Blue was a popular color. Everyone found it reasonable. “I’m so glad she said. One year they chose red and fights broke out.” Oh, ha ha. She was kidding, right?
The next Friday, we hustled in at 9:00 am freshly caffeinated and wielding all things blue. We covered the room in blue paper, fabric, objects. We brought in things that felt blue: ice cubes, cold water. Things that tasted blue: original crest toothpaste, for example. We wore blue. Blue art. Blue everything. We listened to what might be blue sounds. Different shades of pure blue but never blue that had been contaminated with yellow (think teal) or red (edging to purpleness). For three hourse, we were plunged into an entirely blue environment. It was gentle rainy music and blue-blue-blue everywhere we looked.
At noon, we emerged from the classroom blurry-eyed and exhausted. Stepping into the NYC sun I thought, “Well, its Friday. I’ll just go to my dorm.” I had planned to hang out with my classmate, K. “Yeah, I’m tired, too.” he agreed. We went back to my dorm and he slopped himself on to my bed. He looked up at my Edward Gorey poster and the wall around it. “Wow, the composition of that poster is perfect. see - that goes to that…” he examined the composition groggily. “You know. The walls of your room are light blue.....I really just need to close my eyes.” He crashed into a dead nap. A drooly blue-inspired nap. I was too tired to care.
We found that just enough blue could soften all the hard edges in a day. Too much blue would slide you into an afternoon-consuming slumber.
We lost three or four hours that day - eaten up by the patient and quiet color blue. But we learned to never doubt Ms. P and we learned that we could harness the power of color to affect our environment.
We were also really glad we hadn’t chosen red.
It’s All Good
Mom lived kindness and generosity to others. She said it just felt good to help and that because we have much we must help those who are not as lucky. When I balked at doing the right thing, she’d appeal to my young selfishness and say that kindness is never wasted. "Everything you do to help others will come back to you." At the end of her life my mother was surrounded by an army of those who loved and cared for her. She said, “You see. I told you. I told you that all the good you do comes back to you. I chose to help others and now I have so much.”
Who doesn’t appreciate a good end-of-life I-told-you-so?
Meet LexEat Together - a free, nutritious restaurant style 3-course meal served weekly. Respect and companionship are main ingredients to the meals.
LexEat Together was founded by Harriet Kaufmann, John Bernhard, George Murnaghan and Laura Derby. This Gang of Four saw a need for a local, free community meal. This wasn’t going to be just any soup kitchen. They envisioned a warm and dignified meal with real dishes and tablecloths and centerpieces. They sought to create a setting to nourish the spirit as well as the body. After many months of planning and finger-crossing, LexEat opened its doors almost one year ago.
When you come to Lex Eat Together, volunteers welcome you with friendly smiles and greetings. Guests and Volunteers enjoy dinner and conversation. Everyone is given a warm meal and genuine companionship.
At Lex Eat Together they are working to eliminate hunger and isolation. I am so proud of them and so glad to be a (small) part of what they are doing. Join them. Learn more at www.lexeattogether.org
I have seen the organizers of Lex Eat Together in action and they are an astounding crew of energetic and joyful volunteers. To support their work, I've created this bold and kind tote bag. $5 from each purchase goes toward Lex Eat Together. Grab this friendly bag and let them know you're one of the good guys.
I came so close to giving up this spreading joy in art thing.
I thought I should quit. I'd been wrong all this time - I'd unintentionally been lying to myself (and to you). Nothing was going to be okay - not ever again. I saw that there is pain and dark places that no beauty or bouncy color could ever pull us from.
My mother died on February 10th. That heartbreak - that feeling of being pulled inside out and the sense of being beaten from within - I couldn't see how a simple picture could make any of that better.
Mom was larger than life. "She's a planet. Planets don't die."
Well, Miss Exuberance and Shiny Lipgloss, can you justify your old bloated, jolly optimism now? Who was I to send messages tell people that things are awesome?
- and then -
- soft, shy lights - tiny ones.
Flowers to express kindness and sympathy and love. Gentle messages to soothe my aching soul. Donations to hospice in honor of Mom's memory.
Every small word.
The meals that materialized on my doorstep. These expressions of care created a safe, warm glow around my family.
I can still put on a really ugly cry. But I feel so lucky.
Those tiny lights are flares that illuminate happier shores ahead.
Your love and caring proved to me that I was not wrong. The simplest and smallest gestures are the light and we need them most when it is dark.
So. I'm not quitting. I'm only going to get bigger, brighter and louder.
Grab your sunglasses.
But first - let's light up the world. I made a downloadable card (it's free - sign up and get it here!) Print it. Fold it. Give it to someone who needs a lift - especially if that person is you.
Everything is going to be okay. (Even if it is really lousy.)
As usual, I’m a teensy bit afraid to tell you this. But, already, I have to admit that that previous line is a bit of fakery.
I got hit by the Facebook-Drama truck recently. What a gift it was.
I've most of my 48 years cringing, wringing my hands and hanging back and hoping that you would like me. Please like me. And when I got old enough to speak my mind - um, at 35? - I also found that I would apologize and pacify - “Look, I have this opinion? and I um? Want to express it?”- states opinion and follows up with a lot of smiley faces and justifications why you should please please please still LIKE me even though we may disagree." Ew.
Last week I took a dramatic virtual lashing on my personal Facebook page for a post that ended with a promise to remain a force for good. It was just one troll but she really gave it to me. My phone detonated with the fiery support and love from many many people who were appalled. I defended my friends from the troll on my page. I argued my point and tried to remain kind to this person. On one hand I wanted to treat her with as much love as I could siphon out of my reeling soul while also maintaining the respect of my friends.
Later, I sat in the virtual wreckage with bits of cottony internet debris in my hair. What was the point of all that? Who was right and who was wrong? Would trophies be awarded? Who cares?
Yesterday I posted something to my personal wall and I wondered who would object and then I automatically added “shitty comments will be deleted” I fretted that people would be offended that said “shitty”. (“Hi! Father D.!’) I added a joke about that to soften it. But then I thought that I don't need to soften my desire on constructive approaches in our vitriolic world. and I am not taking any nonsense (see, I spared you a naughty word - you're welcome.)
So I popped back into my FB account and added that “those”comments will be deleted without explanation or apology.
Those four words strung together in a new way (for me) have just revolutionized my world.
Imagine no longer having to apologize or explain my thoughts or feelings? Is that a thing?
How did that happen? I don't know. But it felt really really good.
My resolution now - to live my life in my glorious and dramatic and loud fashion. To hug people on the street and not panic if a fresh word pops out. To continue to help others and be kind and do my thing - without apology or explanation.
I am not going to explain why oh why oh why you must agree with me.
I am not going to fret about how the world does not get me
Don't understand me.
Whisper behind my back.
Roll your eyes.
As for me. I move forward. Without apology or explanation.
Be yourself. Without apology or explanation. Comment below or email me here and tell me who you are and what you never need to justify again.
Need a reminder? I'm sending a printable poster to my peeps. Sign up now to get yours.
What does hope look like? Or happiness?
When I am working on creating an optimistic painting I often start with that thought. Is it confetti? Balloons? Simply the color yellow?
I started this painting with the sole purpose of making an image that would encourage you to seek joy and find it even in the painting itself.
I started with the happiest color I could get my hands on - a blinding, screeching yellow. Many shades of canary later I saw a very paranoid looking rectangle on my easel.
Definitely not bringing the happy, there.
For days, I twisted and turned. Alternately making the canvas a painful riot of color and shape and then a boring blinding desert - a parched yellow surface. I added shapes and painted them out. Coral, blue, peach white - why was I not able to deliver the sun?
I plopped my frustrated carcass into my teal painting chair (the one on which I’ve scrawled “Artist’s Chair: For Brooding”) and thought about joy and happiness and all delights.
And I considered. When are they most precious? And I realized that the sun is always warmer at the end of icy winter winds. An embrace much sweeter after a long absence.
I needed to add darkness to my paintings to appreciate the sunshine which is sometimes beyond our grasp.
After weeks of struggle, I quickly added dense heavy black fencing across my painting. The sunshine and confetti spill brightly between the slats - creating a promise that better days lie beyond the gates of darkness.
Happy days are always ahead.
It must be so nice to be an Artist.
You get to just sit around all day painting.
I’ve been asked if I paint “when Inspiration strikes”. If I waited for Inspiration to strike, I’d spend all my time eating cereal and watching TV. (Project Runway? RuPaul's Drag Race, anyone? Game of Thrones? Orange is the New Black - oh yeah, I love that TV)
Ms. Inspiration would just pass by my window and say, “No artist lives here.” and go get her own bowl of Sugar Pops.
You just have to work when you don't feel like it and hope She pops in for a visit.
She usually does.
She is kind of annoying Like an anxious guinea pig, she comes in and hides under the papers and makes a giant mess. Ever so slowly she peeks out and then waddles out to play. Inspiration is an annoying and fickle thing. But if you just stick with the work she'll join you. But you have to show up first and be quietly persistent in your work.
I've been asked if selling a painting is like selling a part of myself or if it is like selling one of my kids. “They're like your children, aren't they?”
Are you looking at or have you created a dynamic piece that screams holy hell in aisle 5; demands a “moon-shaped eggplant” and then bites you when you carry its shrieking body out of the store?
This is a child.
Some artists say their work is “like their children.” It can't be.
If it hangs on a wall, stands on a pedestal, adorns a person, place or thing, then this is probably art. Children will always be a part of you and you cannot sell them. You also cannot stick them in the closet if they disappoint you.
Please note the difference.
What IS it like to give up a painting?
I promise it is not like giving up a child - it is certainly the experience of selling a tender and sugary moment. Much more like selling your first kiss.
When you bring home one of my paintings you are taking possession of hopes for a kinder world and the sweetest dreams that spring from my heart.
In 1968, women didn't usually have babies at her age. 45! Who had a baby at 45?
She wasn't worried about it. She already had five children and well, what is one more? But her "friends" started in with THEIR worries and anxieties. They tried to convince to not do this crazy thing.
"What if there is something wrong with the baby?"
"What if she is born with TWO HEADS?!"
"I'll knit her two hats." She answered in that super-smug, I-don't-give-a-damn-what-you-think way she had.
And you know, it turns out I did only need one hat. A kinda big one, but just one.
Now I'm over 45 and I am not having another baby (I am just not that tough - sorry Mom.) but I have my own internal chorus of sweaty, panic-stricken fear-leaders trying to ruin my fun at every turn.
I'm taking Mom's approach.
I'll take what comes my way and adapt.
I don't knit as fast but I can whip something up with a little felt and glue
Rejection? How about a snazzy beret?
Criticism? Slap a baseball cap on that one.
Everything can be managed. I firmly believe that it all works out fabulously in the end.
So there is no reason to NOT work damn hard and ignore the naysayers.
I survived Disney World. Kept the kids (mostly) out of the shops. Rode all the rides we wanted to. And it didn't kill my dino-loving daughter to be called "Princess". (They used the "wrong" word but their kindness and helpfulness was absolutely "right".) I forced my son to ride The Small World ride with me ("Mom, this ride is embarrassing me." he whispered frantically. "Dude, you are five years old.")
We were having a screaming blast in Disney World - not in the ironic, cynical way you'd expect. It was really fun. I left my cynicism and eye-rolling at home.
Swinging four legs on a bench, my daughter and I enjoyed the sunshine and dared each other to wear mouse ears. And right near us - it started - the grousing and complaining of fellow visitors. Two grouchy adults whining like children.
Their Magic Bands didn't work easy enough.
They hated waiting for rides.
They hated having fun on a schedule - so planning was no fun.
Everything is expensive.
They were relentless and their complaints endless. And I realized:
"Oh, wow. We are in Disney World. If good old Walt can't make you happy then what makes me think I have any power to please everyone?" And right there I felt it in every bone - I never have to worry what other people are satisfied with my art, my blog posts or anything - and you don't either.
It was freeing.
Irony & cynicism aren't always sexy. Try happiness - all the cool kids are doing it.
So here I am. Hoping to bring you the happy - if you'll have it.
Sunny days to you,
What is that thing that outlasts every tube of lipstick you've ever had? That thing that your best friend offers relentlessly. What your child sees shining in your eyes when you regard her with great love - no matter her age.
Kindness is the most wonderful trait in anyone, anywhere, ever. It is in daily acts of love and charity.
One of my aims in my art practice and in sharing my work with the world is to promote kindness and good works. I want to lift people up - to lift your spirits and to find a way to contribute and lend a helping hand, too.
Is kindness your bag, man? I'm combining two of my favorite things - color and giving back - into a special bag for those of us who want to make the world brighter and better.
Carry those cans to the food pantry and toys to the shelter in a tote of joyous color. Later, spread the word without uttering a sound. Get your "Be Kind" bag and make every day brighter for yourself and others. Click here to get your kind tote and I will donate $5 from every purchase to our local community meal for the hungry, Lex Eat Together.
It was so cool to be sitting in the cafe with these other young women. I hadn't been close to the women in my undergraduate program. But now. I felt free. Sipping coffee and brushing blueberry muffin crumbs off my black skirt.
"Wow. You know - you're really nice.", she gushed all astonished as if niceness were only available on Jupiter.
Her new friend added, "Yeah, when I first met you I thought you had kinda a bitch-face, but you are nice."
"It's just that you are always so perfectly powdered and made up."
"Oh. Well, I'm glad you realized that I'm....nice." I clutched that little NYC paper coffee cup and peered out of the coffee shop. I hoped Deborah Harry would walk by.
I looked at them - both so earnest and bonded to each other. We were in our mid-20s but I suspected that maybe not all of us had graduated from middle school. They would go on fight the good fight against sexism but were just as happy to take me out as a "bitch-face" and were rarin' to discount me because I like lipstick.
Ah, but they came clean! They were honest!
We thought you were a shallow bitch but now we know you are okay. Aren't you glad you have our approval?
The two of them went on to make a pact about how they were going to be good friends no matter what. And that they were not ever going to let silly things tear them apart.
(What is the emoticon for rolling your eyes so far back into your head that they pop out your ears? We need to make one.)
So, for the record: Never, ever, ever, EVER tell someone that they are "nice" if you are going to follow it with anything that sounds at all like "I used to think you were a horrible, no-good, talentless hack!"
Would it be so hard to just leave out the little extra and ugly part? I really don't want to make someone feel bad, especially after I just said something to make them feel good. I want to make people feel good, okay, validated or understood.
Have you been on the receiving end of one of those fabulous "compliments"?