In Memoriam: Ken Christensen

From Left: Ken Christensen, Libby Hubbard, Craig Riger, Dianne Parker, Lou Giordano at a Leadership Huntignton Founders Dinner in 2014

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” ~Google tells me this quote is attributed to Nelson Henderson but to me it belongs to Ken Christensen, who spoke those words often and took them deeply to heart.

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Rise and Shine

photo of bird rising over Cold Spring Harbor 2022

Photo entitled “Cold Spring Harbor: Rising 2022” by Katheryn Laible

I remember the wisest, sweetest, most incredible woman I know saying,
“People pray for power. It is better that they will Love, for Love is the greatest power of All.”
I pray: May I remember her teachings well. May I understand them at least enough.
May we together channel more than ourselves, manifesting Love and Light.

Pray for Love. Pray for Truth. Truth and Love in equal measure
For as many before and after have somehow said,
“Truth without Love is brutal, and Love without Truth is false.”

This has long made sense to me.
I am still learning that it takes a third leg. Faith. To make a sturdy table.
Faith, Faith, Faith …to cast away fear, have faith…

“Nothing boils in lukewarm water.” She says…
Remember to command, to commune, to comfort.
Harmony in thy multifaceted being…Truth, Love, Faith…

Faith in the Greater. Faith in each other. Faith that as we will it already is.
Faith that this Flame I feel deep within is far from mine alone. Faith that you feel This, too.
Humble before God, equal before man, recognizing the God within and the human as well,
Each manifesting in its own way.

May we will and channel Strength with Dexterity, Grace and Mercy.
Open to the Greater Good without and within, in places that we do not know.
She reminds me, “There is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future.”

“He loves you not for what you are but for what you are becoming.”

Ho’oponopono. Ho’oponopono. Ho’oponopono.
I hear other voices say. She speaks to me of Lady Quan Yin.
They remind me to start with myself.

Be grateful for every blessing and each accomplishment no matter how small,
For the smallest is the greatest. For so little do we know,
For we all know a little. May we appreciate all that is Good.
Humble and Grateful to be so blessed. She advises Joyful Anticipation.
Discerning and Healing. Flexible and Strong. Reconciling. Overcoming. Divine.

Calling all who Will to Transmute the lesser,
To Receive, Accelerate and Amplify the Greater,
Manifest Love. Be the Light. Keep the Faith.

This indigenous wise-woman who communes with All reminds me of St. Francis’ Prayer.
“Let me be an Instrument of Thy Peace.”

Faithfully. Humbly. Gratefully. Evermore.

This I Pray. Namaste. Amem.

Reflections on a Pandemic Rainbow

Oil Painting - Pandemic Rainbow, March 2020

Oil Painting from March 2020 Entitled “Pandemic Rainbow”

While I give it my best to be the adult and hopefully a halfway decent parent, often it is my children who end up guiding and grounding me.

One example of this was mid-March 2020. We were far enough in to know that COVID was serious, but it was still a largely inconceivable looming horror that had hardly begun to hit home. I had followed the story since before the disease cancelled Lunar New Year celebrations abroad, so I was not quite as surprised as some seemed to be. Still, I am pretty sure I was in shock.

Honestly, I think I might still be in shock.

At that time, though, my brain still wanted to treat COVID as a theoretical construct, not something…real. I had yet to have a case reach the outskirts of my personal orbit, let alone see a dear one pass or begin to experience the painful details of how everything would go. I was already thinking of collateral concerns that for so many were already more pressing than the disease but, for me, it was all processing like a computer with too many programs running, a computer with not just a mind, but a heart that was overwhelmed as well…and I know I was among the luckier ones…

The first case was confirmed on Long Island by March 5th. A week later, in what felt like a watershed moment, the NBA suspended its season right at the tipoff of a Jazz/Thunders game while at the same time Tom Hanks told the world he was sick. The next day a “temporary” school closing was announced, followed promptly by the shutdown of just about everything.

Teachers, parents and children turned on a dime to transform education as offices also emptied into homes. Overnight, Zoom went from being a cool app someone had suggested we play with, to the platform that would host most human encounters for the next two years.

In true apocalyptic fashion, folks that couldn’t stay home were suddenly being called heroes. This was an honor some immediately warned was less than empty and that others are actively praying we will more substantially appreciate to this day. Given the scarcity of tests and plethora of potential symptoms, it was fairly impossible to tell whether one had hay fever or might kill grandma.

This was just a sliver of the world’s hardships, with some facing suffering far worse than others. Already, we were realizing there wasn’t even sufficient protective gear for nurses. Hoarding was a concern. We were in it deep. There was hardly any toilet paper. Coming together as a nation seemed sadly and painfully less likely than ever, but at least folks were washing their hands.

With hardly any discussion it suddenly became perfectly legal to get take-out cocktails. Fellow Gen Xers were filling my Facebook newsfeed the way many of my friends do when things are stressful, scary and beyond our control: One part public service announcement, two parts “how y’all doin’ out there?” and three parts bad jokes as we collectively decided this was all way too serious not to laugh. It all seemed terribly surreal, especially when paired with the emergence of Tiger King, the unbelievable, utterly meme-able Netflix documentary about an ill-fated private zookeeper. We didn’t watch it here, but we couldn’t miss it either. Somehow, it seemed to fit.

Me? I was doing what I generally do in times of crisis, shunting aside feelings and endeavoring to be useful, going into overdrive to keep things moving and to share news of so many wonderful folks I saw giving it their best to be of service…teachers, human service providers, scientists and so many folks who sew or learned to sew just for the occasion. Grateful for so many artists and librarians rising to a quarantined call, I was also warmed by the concept of “Rainbows across Nassau and Suffolk Counties,” which were largely drawn by children and starting to appear everywhere.

I thought it would be nice to publish one. I asked my youngest, who had just turned 12, “Would you please draw me a rainbow for my newsletter?”

My daughter is a born artist. It’s just who she is. At this particular time in life, she was also (hopefully) at a height of adolescent prickliness toward her mother. Perhaps, this time at least, it was well deserved. She gave me a drawing she wouldn’t have been satisfied with when she was three.

“I’m not using this.”

“Use it.”

“Well, I’m not putting your name on it.”

”Fine.”

So…I used it. Without her name. She was fine with that.

A child's drawing of a rainbow

A few days later, I was up late working. It was sometime after midnight when she emerged from her room, came to my desk and thrust her arm forward.

“You want my rainbow? Here’s my rainbow!”

I looked at it, a ragged, shaken assault of color. Marks that looked like tiger swipes tore through it. Other areas were marred by splotches of brown as though dirt and other…stuff…had been hurled at it. Smears of white evoked flashes of terror…and…contagion….

I was stricken to see my heart laid bare on her canvas. Her heart laid bare on her canvas?

“I’ve never used oils before,” she said, her voice sweet and childlike as she considered her work. Funny how they switch back and forth so suddenly at that age, “I’m really pleased with how I got this wash along the edges…”

She’d always been all about the process, even when she was three…

I looked her in the eye. She looked back. Words went unspoken. Feelings, however, I think, transmitted. She retreated to the room that would become her fortress, her cocoon for the next several months.

The painting remained beside me, saying more than either she or I had words for. It got me to pause. It got me to think. It forced me to allow the weight of the situation to settle, to allow her the space she needed to process, to be a bit more mindful with her and all I encountered.

The work was soon followed by a similarly abstract piece entitled “Earth Day.”

“I sure hope we get it together.” was all she said.

“Me, too.”

Oil Paintins, "Earth Day" April 2020

Prints of “Pandemic Rainbow” (top of article) and “Earth Day” (immediately above) are available at The Firefly Artists in Northport. While she’s not nearly as attached to them as I am, the originals are not for sale. I am grateful to the galley for hosting these pieces, and for everyone who gives it their best to make the best of things and guide others to see the light. It matters more than we know. Thank you.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: To Reflect and Serve

Photo of MLK Monument in Washington DC

The third Monday in January is reserved to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is the only federal holiday formally recognized as a national day of service, “a day on, not a day off.” In the spirit of listening and thinking first, people are warmly encouraged to study the works of King, and to devote time to serious reflection on how we will endeavor toward a healthier, more just world for all. Here are some ways you can learn about and advance his legacy.

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Happy New Year! Thank You, Friends for these End of Year Resources!

Photo of sparkler with heart shaped core by Katheryn Laible

Photo “New Year’s Love” by Katheryn Laible

Happy New Year! We thought you might appreciate the following:
 
Let’s start with this fascinating piece on the history of New Year’s and its traditions from History.com
 
Then, let’s reflect on our own recent history. Here’s a blog post on a 7-Step Year in Review from Strength Leader Deb Ingino to help guide us! Deb is great at quickly boiling things down to key takeaways. Here, she picks a particularly timely nugget out of a great podcast from John C. Maxwell, while offering the link to his full 7 steps. I found it well worth carving out time for!
 
Many of us are still doing year-end giving! Today, my dear friend Nancy brought this New York Times newsletter: A giving guide to my attention. There’s a lot of useful stuff in here. As we might expect, it offers resources from a much more global viewpoint than we do, but also noted that LOCAL giving — including to local news sources —  is really important.
 
Along those lines…this piece written with David Okorn of the Long Island Community Foundation,“Foundations for the Common Good — A Call to Action” remains timely. If you want to quick-update it to account for the impacts of the last few years, just underline the sense of urgency in triplicate. The article explains growing holes in the LI safety net and how we might fill them. It also shares how the LI Community Foundation itself helps givers make the best use of their philanthropic dollars, as well as how it serves issues they’ve identified as critical directly.
 
Here’s a list of JUST A FEW incredible local organizations that could use our support...use it as a starter guide. We look forward to sharing many more in the New Year!
 
We’re also going to keep repeating this: The idea that a not for profit organization should be judged primarily by the % going to admin and fundraising is just plain wrong! Find out why in this article written with Marian Conway of the NY Community Bank Foundation: “Stop the Nonprofit Budget Fantasy. It’s Not Right!”  Marian’s run a foundation for years and in one way or another served and studied countless organizations. She literally has a Ph.D awarded for her dissertation on “What are the general operating expenses for nonprofits and who pays them.” She knows what she’s talking about. Please listen to her!!!
 
Finally, New Year – New Beginnings. Let’s talk a little bit about resolutions. Considering joining the Dry January tradition? Dr. Jeffery Reynolds, CEO of Family & Children’s Association has some great tips that I think can also be applied to helping follow through on other pledges, especially when paired with this good advice from Forbes.com on how to actually keep your resolutions.
 
Among mine, resolutions tend to involve committing to lifelong learning and development. Toward that end, I find the Farnam Street Newsletter to be something I regularly open and intend to dig more deeply into next year. This week, among other things, they offered snippets from their most downloaded podcasts. As for just a few favorite sources of local guidance, I really appreciate the Fair Media Council channel on YouTube, and everything Vision Long Island puts on its Vimeo.
 
I also resolve to more deeply appreciate our wonderful local treasures. Thank you, Cindy Mardenfeld, for sharing this Newsday article on the membership perks of Long Island attractions(it’s Newsday, so, please forgive the paywall). It covers all sorts of great museums, theaters, kids places and parks. The best part is knowing they’ve hardly scratched the surface!
 
Let me know your year-end reflections and resources, and what you’d like to see focused on in 2022. Thanks!!!

Call to Artists: The Snowball Effect

Logo for The Snowball Effect

CALL TO ARTISTS! Deadline to Apply is 12/20 for this January show at The Firefly Artists. The theme is winter-inspired works. The term “Snowball Effect” also speaks to the momentum of creative manifestation….so let us know about your inspiration and/or process by sharing a brief paragraph or early sketch as well!

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Firefly Lights – 11/21

The Firefly Artists Logo

Come to our community-oriented gallery created by and for local artists at 162 Main St, Northport. We’re open Tues-Thurs 11am-6pm, Fri and Sat 11am-8pm and Sun 11am-5pm. There is ALWAYS something new on the wall, and often being created on site! Send Katie an email if you’d like to meet up down there!

Like elves themselves, Fireflies are planning all sorts of wonderful things for the Holidays. We can’t wait to share! Visit our beautiful new website, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for emerging details.

Now’s the Time! We don’t wish to rush things, but if you want to ask an artist to make something special. NOW is the time to order it! Come on in, see what strikes your fancy and ask to be put in touch with the artist!

Welcome New Firefly Diana Anton! Diana Anton’s work “reflects the process of its making,” yielding beautiful, enigmatic pieces. Check out her Website. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. Better, come see at the Firefly!

Firefly Friends & Family Exhibition We reserved our beautiful upstairs Darcy Arts Center for the Fireflies for the holidays, and invited them to invite other artists to join them! Some are freshly emerging creators whom Fireflies are encouraging to get their work out there. Others are established artists whom they’ve invited in. All together, it’s marvelous!

Exhibition Date: November 12 – December 31

Reception: December 4th, 3-5pm

Masks are warmly welcomed (we have some beautiful ones for sale!) and required for those not vaccinated.

We’ve Been Nominated “LI’s Best Gallery” in the annual “Bethpage Best of LI” contest! One of our Fireflies, Kirk Larsen, has been nominated as well! You can vote for both of us – and other great local treasures – EVERY DAY between now and December 5th!

Here’s the link To VOTE for The Firefly Artists

Here’s the link To VOTE for Kirk Larsen

Jewelry Making with Rachel Kalina! Want to make a very special gift? Or do the holidays just make you want to hit something with a hammer? Perhaps both? Rachel Kalina of The Wood & Watch is here for you!!!

She can guide in stamping a phrase onto metal for a very special token, or help you commence your own full-on jewelry smithing adventure. See her work on Instagram @thewoodandwatch. Inquire further by emailing thewoodandwatch@gmail.com

We’re being honored! with a “Special Citation for a Business Award by the NYS Art Teacher’s Association (NYSATA). It’s all Beth’s fault, really, what with all she does to keep teaching teachers and advancing young artists, supporting NYSATA and so much else. Her and all those other amazing teachers we get to call our own…Grateful…

More classes, holiday events and specials are coming! Check our website and social media often!!