I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
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Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Sprout"

I wrote an apt post about "sprout", mostly about my bloody fantasies about a groundhog who is decimating my garden, but my heart just isn't in it.  Well, my heart is definitely into dead groundhog fantasies, but the groundhog will probably continue to live despite my frustrations.  I'm also waging a war against maple tree sprouts, but I guess that's as bad as talking about groundhogs.  I am an excellent farmer of maples, nightshade, coltsfoot, dandelions, etc., but maybe not so great at actually achieving vegetables.  Grrr.

I'll talk about going to a nursing home instead.  Right up there with hospitals and funeral homes, nursing homes prick unpleasant memories, and I avoid them -- which makes it all the more remarkable that I had a good time at one this weekend.

My 86-year-old friend has been struggling to live independently, and breaking her arm put an end to her negotiations on the subject.  Technically she's in rehab right now, but it seems unlikely she's going back to her condo once her arm is healed.  Yes, I know, this all sounds as bad as dead groundhog fantasies, but give me a moment to explain.

First, it was an absolutely glorious day, when snow-haters decide to move back to Ohio because it's so balmy and beautiful.  Poofy clouds in a bright blue sky, birds singing, and good will towards all.  I alleviated some of my nursing home dread by going with another friend who spilled a steady stream of political damnations to which I could nod and agree while laughing at her colorful observations.

We wound our way through endless halls of the pleasantly lit nursing home, smiling at the room full of parrots and tanks of fish.  This is a Jewish home (which is odd since my interred friend is ultra-Catholic), and I was interested in all of the Jewish art adorning the walls.  There were some old testament themes, some men's portraits showed yarmulkes, but mostly it was just art.  Some of it good, some not, but it's always good to see real art.  Somehow I missed the large sign that I wasn't allowed to bring in food or drink, and got chided for my probably-not-kosher cup of iced tea.

We finally found Helen, who asked about my recent writing, and who definitely wants mentioned in my pending book.  (I assured her that of course she's included!)  We chatted and laughed, commiserated with her injury and her inadequate lunch, then rolled her down a million hallways flanked with windows, gardens, and sculptures for a Judy Garland concert.  I learned I apparently know all of Judy Garland's songs and trivia.

The singer encouraged her audience to sing along.  Some of the old folks are alert and able.  One woman had on a colorful, vintage hat decorated with flowers, and I smiled at her chair dancing to the music.  One man looked about a breath away from coma -- but he faintly sang the songs too.  Part of me couldn't help but notice that the singer didn't hit every note exactly right, but as she made her wide, welcoming, inclusive gestures to the old people, she won me over.  There must be a special place in heaven for nursing home singers.  Well, if Jewish people have heaven?  (Quick google search was inconclusive.)

I left the nursing home happy.  That's a first.  I hope never have to live in such a facility, but may all the people who do need a home like this be serenaded with Judy Garland songs, and blessings to those who make old people's lives better.

And a P.S. regarding wildlife, a robin broke into my house and pooped purple mulberry juice on the linens I just washed yesterday.  I think I'm losing the battle with wildlife!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Three"

The thing I like about Illustration Friday's words for the week is that they prompt me to think about things in ways I wouldn't bother thinking about otherwise.  Random thoughts like "two is a pair, and three is a set" pop into my mind.  I think about being three years old.  My first brother was born, and I started running away from home to explore my world.  But mostly, I am the third and last girl in a large family.

My mind feels like a wheel stuck in rut once I arrive at the importance of three -- but I don't know what I want to say about being the third girl of a set.  I think about running and playing games with my sisters.  I think about how hard I tried to keep up with the things their older bodies and brains could do.  I remember special moments and torments.  There is simply too many sister associations to consolidate all of it into one neatly typed blog post.

I'm the one on the right who needed a boost to keep up
We're alike.  We're different.  There were times when we were tightly packed into the backseat of the car, or a bed, or a bathtub, or in a writhing mass of arms and legs rastling on the floor.  Everything in my life was explored and used before I had a chance at it.  I learned from their successes and mistakes.  We played, we fought.  Sometimes we bled.  I often envied only children.  I feel blessed to have sisters.

I'm writing this on Sunday, and I've been thinking about being the third girl of the set since I saw the word for the week on Friday, feeling like everything I think and feel on the subject is too personal, or too ingrained, for me to recognize or share, yet also feeling my internal reluctance and difficulty is part of the point of the exercise.  Personal growth and creativity are results we gain from pushing past our comfort and resistance.

My oldest sister made her annual trek to Ohio this weekend.  I was very glad to see her.  Should I talk about sitting around the picnic table talking about menopause?  See, it gets pretty invasive, but an older sister is a window to understanding my body, my thoughts, my feelings, and my future in ways only kids don't get.

Sis1 had a health scare this year.  Thankfully, everything seems fine now, but I've been thinking of her a lot as a result... and then my mind goes into a galaxy of swirling thoughts and memories which seem so personal and important and trivial while chastising myself about taking too much for granted.  We can't count on people always being there when we think of them as absolutes in our existence.  Value them while they're here.

I feel a bit out of sync with the world to write about sisters on Father's Day, but the same point hold true with dads too.  If your dad is alive, I hope you have a spectacular relationship together and that you let him know you love him.  If it's too late for that, I hope you have great memories.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads!

Friday, June 9, 2017

"Skate"

Some people skate by in life, which is an odd expression because it seems to me that gravity is kinder to children than adults.  I distinctly remember sitting bruised on the ice the last time I skated.  Despite this fact, I'm pretty sure I have 3 pairs of ice skates around the house.  It's like the hiking boots, 1 expensive pair, 1 garage sale pair, and then the nostalgia of Dad's hockey skates which I can loan to a male skating partner if necessary.

Dad could spin on the tip of a hockey skate, which I'm pretty sure is a skill most men don't share.  Since we lived in a valley, and all water runs downhill, we had a lot of frozen water in winter.  Ponds were usually better for skating, but we skated the river too when the winters became extreme enough to freeze the running water.  That didn't happen every year, and some years we thought it was frozen enough, and it wasn't.

One year, I tested the ice and it failed.  I stomped home while fighting hypothermia, and Dad busted a gut laughing at my cold, wet, miserable self.  When he was done laughing, he built a fire and threw me a blanket.  I was toasty warm when Sis2 came in bedraggled, wet, and miserable.  I was warm enough by then to join Dad's laughter.  We might've even been consoled with hot cocoa, which was a real treat in our painfully sugar-free home.

I'm trying to cheer myself with warm memories because the nearer memories are rather painful.  There was another funeral this week, of someone too young to go.

Danny Flannery died just short of his 29th birthday.  He was one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet, which I suppose proves the good die young.  He was smart, funny, gentle, sensitive, and kind.  He was also a giant.  I don't really know how tall he was, but big enough to make me feel downright petite when I gave him a hug.

He worked in my office which was filled with mostly ladies older than myself who had known him since he was a kid in school.  The Dan memories that really touch my heart are quiet, sharing moments that happened between just the 2 of us, but I smile at drinking and laughing with him too.  But I'm sad.  Really sad.  Can you tell?  He had a long, painful last few years, and I'm sad about that too.  I wish he'd had a long life with a loving wife and children and grandchildren.

I felt like a coward, but I didn't go to the funeral.  Besides, I knew the place would be packed.  Nice guys have a lot of friends and loved ones, and they didn't disappoint.  I hear the parking was impossible.  Good for Danny.  I'm glad he was loved by so many people.  Maybe a packed funeral is the best sign of a life well lived?

I swear he's been talking to me in my dreams, but I don't know what he's saying.  I can hear his voice, but not the words.  It's like he's behind the tattered curtain in the Department of Mysteries -- which once again shows that Harry Potter addresses all the important stuff.

I feel like I should write something uplifting, but all I can think is that I hope Dad takes Danny skating in the afterlife.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Mind 2"

Okay, it isn't May anymore, but Illustrationfriday.com didn't give me a word for the week either, so I'll play by my own rules this week.  Besides, the May apples in my yard aren't ripe, which begs the question why they're called "May" apples in the first place.

For those of you who don't know May apples, they grow in the woods and the deer love them.  If you are able to show up at the exact moment when they're ripe, and before the deer get them, May apples actually taste pretty good.  They're kind of non-remarkable, or even a bit bitter if you try eating them before the magic moment of ripeness.

Since the last word for the week IF provided was "Mind", I'll share piece of mine about tardiness.  If you're one of those people who are late all the time, I'm talking to you.  I don't want to confuse the perpetually tardy with someone who got stuck in traffic or took an important phone call.  Everybody experiences something which might make them a bit late once in a while.  Responsible people call and say they're running late.  Or, if they're the ones in traffic, they might not call because they're being responsible drivers and don't want to add to traffic incidents.  It's you other people, the ones who don't care if I'm stranded at a restaurant alone for half an hour or more because you had to fuss your hair a bit longer, or whateverthehellyou'redoing when you're supposed to be HERE, you people make my blood erupt through the top of my head.

When you show up, I might ask if you're okay, pre-supposing you might've encountered a legitimate delay.  I might even say "It's okay" to your insincere apology, but let it be known, it isn't okay.  I'm just trying to salvage whatever's left of the get together or meeting that you have already messed up.

I had a memorable fight with a long-time friend (A) after she was late for an appointment I set up for her with another friend (B).  Friend A was out of work (perpetual tardiness being a factor in her firing), and she was very stressed.  B is a counselor, and I asked him to see A free of charge as a favor to me.  A showed up at my house half an hour after the appointment time, then drove like a lunatic to B's office, making us only 45 minutes late.  I don't often yell, but I yelled that day.  I pointed out an unemployed person had no reasonable grounds to be late for a 10:00 appointment.

A thought I was unreasonable and mean.  After all, the reason for the appointment was her stress.  Pity party for A.  I pointed out she had given both B and me a great deal of stress.  No, it's more important to remember that A was stressed.  Pity, pity party for A.

It took me a long time to come to the realization that prompt people are considerate and overall better friends, lovers, and business associates than the perpetually tardy.  They care about sharing time together, take turns at listening, and care about other's feelings.  I love these people.

Life is short.  I'm not going to waste my life waiting for someone who doesn't care about my time or feelings.  Let's celebrate the punctual!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"Mind"

Great grandpa said, "If you want to keep your mind, you have to use your mind."  He lived by that maxim too.  His mind was great in his late 90s because he read the dictionary.  He studied the Bible so he could discuss it with people who knocked on his door.  He liked talking with children who were learning everything for the first time.

This week I heard that 1 in 3 people will get Alzheimer's by the time they're in their 60s.  I was stunned, since I'm unaware if anyone I ever knew had it, and I've known a lot of old people.  (This can explain a lot about American elections though since most voters are 60+.)

Sometimes I think that people stagnate at about the mental age of 20.  That's about the age they've finished learning how to learn.  Everything they do after that age is a variation of a theme using the mental skills they've acquired by that time.  Even if they learn new things, they're just using the same synapses in their brains to add to their store of knowledge.

When I went to college, I was confronted with the need to actually study.  This was a very unpleasant awakening.  I had managed to skip through school up till that point with very little actual effort, and I liked it that way.  Watching my college classmates studying, I felt both reluctance and curiosity.  Most of them looked miserable, and who wants to join in misery?  At the same time, I wondered how they did it, and I asked them about their study techniques.

Most of them did some variation of endlessly repeating things and reading text books until the knowledge got wedged in their brains.  I'm too dyslexic, and honestly don't have the attention span to dedicate to rote learning.  One friend told me she made up little songs with the lyrics being test facts.  That worked much better for me.  Another told me to take really good notes.  I could do that while attentively listening in class.

Most of the things I studied after college were learned in the same ways, and I got to a different point of mental laziness again.  Again, I found myself liking it that way.  I think it's human nature to do the least amount of work necessary.  It's why we get fat.

At one of my jobs, I found my old methods didn't work as well as necessary for the tasks at hand.  I read and took copious notes.  I listened hard.  I experimented.  I tried to remember what I'd learned in 3rd grade math classes.  I could feel synapses painfully growing in my brain -- and I found that after the initial doubts and misery, I loved it.

The most important thing I learned is that I needed to keep learning.  It didn't really matter what I learned.  I just needed to keep stretching my brain muscles to keep them limber.  I'm not going to get Alzheimer's.  I hope you don't either.  Keep your brain and enjoy learning as a life-long process

Happy Memorial Day for those who live where it is celebrated.  Remember those who died for your freedom to enjoy picnics!

Friday, May 19, 2017

"Team"

Every time Bro4 comes over, he says, "You should get rid of the weeds in your driveway.  They'll crack the cement."  My typical response is some variation of "I'll get to it".  Lately, I've told him about my friend's eco-friendly method of killing weeds with bleach, which prompts Bro to say, "Just use Round Up".  This conversation is as predictable as the sun rising in the morning and setting every evening.  Even if he doesn't say it out loud, I know he's thinking about telling me to get rid of the weeds until I cave to the inevitable and get rid of them. 

If you're interested in the bleach method, saturate the leaves instead of the base of the plant.  Use a sprayer with only plastic parts (no metal).  Give it a day or two and the plants will die.  The bleach dissipates, so it's better for the environment, but it's better if you don't let your pets walk on it the first day.  I'd also recommend that you do it before the plants get too big because I still ended up scraping the dying plants with my dedicated driveway shovel, which is actually a coal shovel, but who has coal these days?  I even went the extra step and swept the drive (with the dedicated driveway broom) to get rid of the bzillions of maple helicopters.

My driveway looks lovely.  Well, it did look lovely before the winds and rain came and brought down several more bzillions of maple helicopters down.  But in that golden moment when my driveway looked suburban perfect, I noticed an ant colony swarming on my perfect cement.


Ants are pretty amazing.  They display excellent teamwork.  I resisted the urge to stomp on them and let them move house in peace.  I hope they remember my peaceful nature next time one of them wants to bite me when I'm weeding the garden.  Maybe they're trying to get back at me for burning their ancestors with a magnifying glass when I was a child?  Even then, I wasn't thrilled with murder for entertainment.  I took to burning paper and leaves instead.

I watched the swarming ants for a little bit because I found it interesting that they were passing up eggs and handing them off to each other.  The eggs (or larva?) were bigger than the ants carrying them.  Then one of the ants bit me, and I decided there were better things to do than watch ants.

I don't know if it's true though?  Perhaps watching ants is the absolute best use of my time?

Thoughts, creativity, inspiration, realizations happen in unexpected moments of quiet time, and we don't get those moments if we never slow down enough to witness our own lives because we're too busy watching tv, playing video games, or doing stuff we're "supposed to" do.  Should all of our discoveries be in childhood when we have endless time to watch ants?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Mother"

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about taking hikes with my brother.  On one of those hikes, he spotted a mother owl with 2 of her babies.  I didn't understand what she was doing at first.  She caught a chipmunk, and then she let it go.  Why let it go when she had a family to feed?  The owlets perched on a downed tree and looked adorable.  The mother caught the chipmunk again and threw it near her babies.  They squawked off the tree trunk, one of them tumbling over backwards in a completely inelegant crash landing amongst the fallen leaves.

The chipmunk looked dazed and didn't know which direction to run.  The mother fluttered over and pinned it down with one foot while her babies scrambled back onto the downed tree.  When they were settled back into their spots, Mom let go of the chipmunk.  It ran for it's life, and Mom gave it about 30' of a head start before swooping down on the unfortunate animal.  She picked it up in her beak and showed her babies her prize before letting it go again, catching it again, release, capture, release, capture...

One of the babies eventually hopped off the tree and smelled the chipmunk in its mother's grasp.  When the chipmunk was released again, the owlet hopped after it for a few feet.  The other owlet hopped down to get a closer look too.  Mom continued to catch and release the miserable varmint until one of the babies actually got a foot on it.  Imagine the roar of the Coliseum going up at the victory.

After a while, both of the owlets could manage to pounce on the chipmunk, and the mama seemed proud enough to burst.  Bro and I were awed by being privileged enough to witness to the teaching moment.

The other night I watched a nature program that showed a mother dolphin teaching her baby how to be a dolphin.  Animals aren't "dumb" other than they don't speak our language, and people forget we're animals too.  I'm convinced the damned groundhog in my yard is smarter than I am, and the robin thinks I'm working for her when I shovel up worms in the yard.  She hops around at my side instead of bothering to poke around in the ground herself.  She's got babies to feed.

There are mothers all around us, and in both the animal and human world, sometimes the "mothers" aren't the ones who gave birth.  There are people in our lives who nurture and teach us throughout our lives.  So for all of the people who are mothers or who have mothered us, Happy Mother's Day!