I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell – mine sell out!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Sea"




I wrote a post this morning when I was fresh as a daisy and eager for the day.  Now I’m trying to work up energy to take a bath.  The earlier post just doesn’t feel as pertinent any more.

The original idea had to do with the sea of leaves in my backyard with hopes that my brother Pete would blow them away.  That didn’t happen.  He started the lawnmower and set me to mulching the damned things while I cursed my younger self for teaching him about self-sufficiency and female empowerment.  My hands are bruised from the stupid mower and I worked up a sweat while freezing to death.  You wouldn’t know it from these photos, but it’s a big backyard.  Mulching took hours.  I’m thinking of letting the back 40 reforest.

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Peter came over with his bud Dave to take down a couple of trees.  One was dead, the other growing way too enthusiastically too close to the house.  The gas company came out and ripped up the front of my yard fixing gas leaks recently.  I’m not sure if the gas leaks killed the birch tree and nearly killed a rhododendron, but any way you look at it, my front yard is a mess.  My house looks blank without the trees.

This is where I think I ought to be good at landscaping, but I’m not.  Just because I’m an artist with some creative ability doesn’t mean I’m good at this.  My goals are simple enough.  I want the birds to hop around in shrubs or trees just outside my windows.  If the replacement flora provides food for me and/or birds, even better, and pretty flowers, best yet.  Oh yeah, and no weeding.  I want a perpetual garden without effort.

The front yard is tiny, so I think this should all be possible, or it would be possible if I knew how to put it together.  I suppose that’s why somebody planted rhododendrons and pachysandra there in the first place.

I’ve been in this house a long time.  It was my 5-year plan to get $ together enough to buy a real house.  I was renting a 1-bedroom apartment in a haunted Willoughby house for $350/mo when I decided I might as well pay a mortgage and have something to show for it after a while.

5 years came and went, but I was comfortable.  I moved to another state for a while and let some friends move in.  I came back when I got divorced and was really glad to have a home to come back to, especially when I hear what other people pay for mortgages and property taxes.

I got laid off the day the realtor gave me the keys, and spent the first day in my house crying in the basement because I didn’t know how I’d be able to keep it.  Hard work, sacrifice, and a lot of scrimping, but I kept it.  Now I own it.  The letter came from the bank one day, and I felt prouder than you can imagine.

I suppose this post is a stretch for “sea”, but whether it’s a sea of leaves or a sea of debt, or any other kinds of seas, this is my little bit of world where I am the queen of my universe.  I could point out that I’m 2 miles from Lake Erie as the crow flies, and that’s an inland sea.

Peter wouldn’t cooperate with blog photos today, but thanks to him and Dave today!!  BTW, both Dave and Pete are available and have useful skills.  Any takers?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"Light"



Solstice is coming!  Yay!  Hey, we’ve all got to look for the light when things aren’t all sunshine and puppies.  I’m not going to share any more bad news this week.  This blog is supposed to be a happy place.

I watched friends hang lights on their house.  I even helped plug them in and kept my usual bah humbug wasting fossil fuels thoughts to myself.  Surely nobody could hope for more out of me on the dark side of solstice. The consolation is that this is the season for cookies.  One of my vendors even gave my office a big box of chocolates yesterday.  Sue decorated the office with dancing, singing stuffed animals.

Forgetting about the current mass murder of pine trees, only 15 more days and winter begins and the days start getting longer.  If you want seasonal cheer, go to Jane’s blog.  She has the right attitude and even makes me less seasonally temperamental with her real commitment to celebrating Christmas.

I grew up getting underwear and socks for Christmas, and nobody has to tell a kid those are sucky presents.  (Mom sputtering and protesting in the background about being fiscally responsible...)

Moccasins were the best gift I received.  Dad (who never bought gifts) bought them for me before he died.  I held the present unopened for a long time, coping with grief, disbelief, and fears of disappointment.  I wore those moccasins for years.

Gifts can be so many things, and I often feel that we’ve gone from white cotton underwear to extreme excess.  We buy things out of guilt and obligation.  Kids barely look at one gift before they’re ripping into the next, almost everything left on the floor, forgotten and unappreciated.  Yet gifts can be like moccasins too, warming our heart long after the leather has worn out.

I want to give “moccasins” to people.  I want to share the feeling that I’m glad people are in my life.  Then I go to stores and find that there’s nothing meaningful in any of it, or the stores just don’t understand my giving needs.  It tires me to think of shopping.  So much for the clich├ęs that women like to shop.  Some women enjoy it.  I’d rather stay in and finish reading my latest book.

Which by the way is the last in the “Game of Thrones” series by George R. R. Martin.  I’ll give a conditional recommendation.  Too violent for me, but it is a good story if you like heroic fantasy.  An unqualified recommendation is for Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss which I absolutely loved.  Maybe I’ll give books this Christmas?  What books did you like this year?

In case you can’t tell, I’m trying to work up the energy to go shopping and jolly myself into the holiday season without shooting out speakers playing Christmas music.  I’ll get through the spending, wrapping, and baking.  I like parties and camaraderie.  I’ll enjoy myself despite myself once I force myself into the spirit.

Are you like Jane or me during the holidays?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Wobble"



We used to hold hands and spin in circles on the playground until we couldn’t hold on any more and wobbled around before falling down and laughing.  There was a push-action metal top at Grandpa’s house.  I sent it wobbling across the floor over and over and over.  He had a gyroscope too.  I stacked blocks until they wobbled and crashed down all over the floor.  The word for the week makes me think of a lot of wobbling play, not the least of which is learning to ride my too-big bike on a tar and chip road.  I’ve still got the scars.

Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”  My little brothers loved Weebles and we sang that a lot.

Sometimes I wish life were still so simple.  I woke up thinking about work problems, then the fact that I have to drink 32 oz. of water in an hour this week for a medical test, and then I remembered that Mickey died on Friday.  Life sucks.  That’s 3 people for me in November, so if deaths really go by 3s then I guess I’m done?

I don’t know if I feel physically wobbly from all the stresses, but I feel emotionally wobbly.  Or maybe just bone tired from dealing with life and funerals.  I’d rather sit on the floor with the jacks my sister got me for my birthday.  1s… 2s… 3s… start over, 1s… 2s…

I played jacks a lot when I was a kid which is why she gave them to me now.  Life wasn’t perfect then, but the simple act of counting and bouncing was a calm in the storm.  Sometimes I would count before going to sleep and wake up in the morning still counting.

Sometimes I wonder if other people ever learned to calm themselves?  There was a time that my niece was having a fit and struggled to breathe between tears.  I put her on my lap and told her to ignore the instigators.  Breathe!  A ragged sob inward.  Good.  Do it again!  A slightly less ragged inward sob.  I rocked her back and forth and kept reminding her to breathe between new sobs of the unjust world.  She finally got herself together and then the instigators had to start up again, but at least she found that she had the power to control herself.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I have that same power.  Unclench my jaw and fists and breathe.  Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet, nothing I can do about the past, just breathe.  Remember the happy times when Mickey came through the door 40 years ago, all smiles and handsomeness, ravioli, back step talks while we marginally watched the grill or maybe the kids in the back yard.  Little moments, but important to my feelings of acceptance and affection.

I baked cookies from the recipe Sharon sent me.  I’m pretty sure ginger, cocoa, and sugar solve at least some problems.  Thanks Sharon!  Cookies will go great with the post-Thanksgiving soup I made yesterday.  Today I’ll help make 200 meatballs for the post-funeral lunch.

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the people who have made my life better.  Perhaps all these funerals are a reminder to appreciate all the important people who have already passed on and appreciate the people still living while we’ve got them.

My deepest sympathies to the Caine/Rosato families and to all of Mickey’s many friends.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Slow"



I said something was “slower than molasses in wintertime” and my girlfriend asked “what’s molasses?”  A: a viscous by-product of sugar refinement (Southern variation sorghum, British variation black treacle).  Cooking tip… instead of brown sugar, which gets hard if you don’t use it often, add molasses to regular white sugar when a recipe calls for brown sugar.

Sometimes I wish I still lived in a world when knowing about molasses meant something and times were slow enough for me to make cookies from scratch.  Oh alright, I could make them today if I felt like it, but do I need any more cookies?  I just want some of my obsolete skills to be valued.

Which leads me to one of those seasonal push-me pull-me moments.  Sometimes I like to cook, but I don’t like it when I’m expected to cook.  Cooking can get expensive and I dislike it when men won’t pull their weight in the kitchen.  But then, I’m actually pretty good at cooking, and I like to feel appreciated. 

What to do, what to do?

Last week I made clam chowder.  I noticed a surprising amount of it was missing the next day.  I asked my brother if he’d eaten it.  Yes.  Did you like it?  YES.  Good.  Even better that he washed the dishes.  See, that’s all I really need for positive reinforcement.  I might make clam chowder again sometime.  This brother has always known how to work me.  I might let him have some cranberries and non-dairy pumpkin pie this week.

I work around some staff and volunteers whose life work has been cooking for their loving families.  They’re the last of a dying breed I think.  Most people seem to “make” cookies by scooping out pre-made batter from the grocery store, plopping it on a baking sheet, bake 10 minutes, and general acclaim by the recipients.  I’m pretty sure that my cookies with butter and eggs will make my loved ones live longer.

When my grandma was alive, she spent most of her time in the kitchen.  She didn’t have to do all the other stuff that I have to do in a day, at least in my lifetime.  When she was young she was a single parent had to work and support her sons, and I’m sure that was very hard.  After she married my grandpa I bet she was grateful to spend days perfecting her recipe for white cake.

It’s not all about cakes and cookies either.  I told my brother I had a yen for greens.  What kind?  All kinds -- turnip greens, mustard, collards.  I got collards.  They were in the fridge the next day and I spent who knows how long washing, chopping, simmering, and especially thinking that I have to be careful about out loud yens if my wish fulfillment was going to work out this well.  I suggested that a free-range turkey might be a good idea.  We’ll see if that shows up.

My view is that we lived better when we ate better, and best yet when we ate together.  I hope everyone has a warm and loving Thanksgiving this week, and for those of you outside the US, please join us in the best of holidays when the point of everything is to slow down long enough be with people you love, sharing gratitude for all of the good that comes into our lives.  And yeah, good food :)