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Sunday, July 24, 2016


I will have the most perfect illustration for "Trapped" because I have an assignment for a magazine article on the topic, but the illustration doesn't exist yet and I couldn't show it until after it's published anyway.  All I can show for now is that I'm building a cinder block wall as a part of it.

The Republican National Convention has left Cleveland and as far as I know there weren't any international incidents other than the inevitable Trump nomination.  The people of Greater Cleveland may be divided in politics, but we're all heaving a collective sigh of relief that the event is over.  I realize the national drama isn't over, but I'm glad Cleveland came out of the event okay.

As for "Trapped", I keep flip flopping between bad memories and thoughts of freedom:  the misery of a bad marriage, the joy of divorce, bad jobs, great jobs... climbing tall, tall pine trees and looking out at the world with the view of a hawk, swaying with the wind as I clutched the trunk because the brittle branches won't hold even a skinny, little kid, especially if you go too high.

I think I knew at the time that the world was full of opportunities, even when I felt unhappy and limited.  I didn't want to be president, but I fought with my father that I could become one if I changed my mind about it because I deeply felt that women could and should challenge traditional limitations.  "Not in my lifetime!" Dad said.  "It will happen in mine!" I pronounced.  Maybe it will turn out that we were both right?  It didn't happen in Dad's life, but it will in mine.

I don't know if Hillary Clinton will be the one to break this glass ceiling, but she's come farther than any women before her -- and good for all women as a result.  I could say a whole lot about what I think of the American political system and how that has made a mess of things, and probably threatens the entire world, but I can't tackle everything important in one post.

I didn't vote for Hillary in the primaries, and even that feels like something of a victory because I chose my preferred candidate based on issues instead of gender.  I'll admit that I still wish for a Bernie Sanders upset at the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia, but I realize this is just my personal fantasy.  I loved Bernie before most people even knew who he was.

Long before all this craziness, I was actually in the same room with Trump once.  I went to New York City for work and my boss got us tickets to "The View".  One of the guests was Donald.  He was perfectly pleasant and charming... and that's the last good thing I'll say about him unless I get the opportunity to say that he accepted his defeat with grace.

Perhaps, perhaps my childhood vision of a woman president will come true in my lifetime?

Sunday, July 17, 2016


I've continued watching psychiatrists' youtube videos about mental disorders and one of them called tv cooking shows "Food Porn".  What?!!  I looove cooking shows!  Friendly people chop, mix, sizzle, and chat, and I like to play this in the background when I'm trying to relax.  It's not like I'm going to actually follow any of their recipes.  I just prefer cooking shows to seeing a video of who's gotten blown up in the streets last.

Nice people cooking is a normal, pleasant world, and I want life to be pleasant and normal.  They remind me of the safety and love in Grandma's kitchen.  A full stomach means there's enough to go around and share.

The perky youtube therapist said my Food Porn is an unhealthy preoccupation with food.  Grrr.  I suspect she's probably right, but that doesn't make me want to give it up either.  Well, I'm very willing to give up vegetarian cooking shows, but I don't want to give up the fat old ladies making cookies.  I'm not eating them, so it's a non-caloric food obsession.

The strawberries and yogurt is a memory of a shared breakfast.  If you've followed my blog a while, you may have noticed I've painted other shared meals.  Food and love go together no matter what Dr. Phil says.  I had dinner last night with a couple of friends.  Lunch was with more friends.  Friends --> food.  Okay, maybe my friends and I should spend more time in the park walking it off too?

Big meals at Grandma's house were always followed by a walk in the park with the men while the women cleaned the kitchen.  I held Grandpa's hand and we journeyed across the street to Goodyear Park to poke around at the pond and hike through the woods in the summer, sled and warm up by the burn barrel in the winter.

I recently visited my friend's new condo in Akron, Ohio, not far from where my grandparents lived.  I decided to go past their house.  It's been years and years since I've been there, and I was happy to see that so much of the neighborhood looked the same as when I was a child -- until I got to Grandma and Grandpa's house.  It looked horrible.  The pretty porch windows with a fan design at the top were falling apart and paint was slopped on the glass.  A sign hung on the door that said the police were watching the property, so I suppose it's been used as a drug house.  The garage looks like it's going to fall down.  Grandpa must be having a fit in the afterlife.

A young couple with a baby watched me from the steps of Mrs. Edward's house.  A picnic was going on behind Aunt Sally's.  The park looked green and inviting.  Everything looked happy and wonderful for a new generation except our house.

I went home and thought about all the warm memories and cookies in the bright, turquoise kitchen and decided that the current state of things doesn't change anything.  The house and my grandparents live within me.  They're like rereading a beloved book, something I can pull off the bookshelf anytime and feel the warmth again with thanks.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Teeth 2"

I found a complete bird skeleton this week which I decapitated, sanitized, and added to my natural history display in my office.  I was pleased that the skull still had its lower jaw and noticed the way the lower jaw fits into the upper is the same knob and socket arrangement as mammals.  Its pelvis was very different than a mammal, but I didn't keep that part.  Cleaning the tiny, fragile skull bones was a delicate effort and I carefully placed it next to the last skull and stood back to admire my collection.

There's a lot of traffic in my office, but I'm almost certain that nobody notices this shelf on the bookcase.  The other offices at work are filled with pictures of grandchildren, or world travel, or religious images (since I work for Religion).  I got an ad with a nice reproduction of a Saint Luke painting and framed it.  People noticed that, but didn't see the new skull. 

 Paula Kuitenbrouwer sent me a postcard with Mandarin Ducks and Sharon Wagner sent me a pink flower.  These are on the bulletin board and people pause and admire their art without looking slightly left to bird skulls, feathers, eggs, and nests.  Maybe they are just polite and not pointing out the macabre? Flowers and living birds are clearly prettier than bones.

All of my natural history items came from the garden at work.  I make a point of going to the garden for a few minutes (in every kind of weather) at least twice a day to clear my mind of numbers and people.  It keeps me sane and centered.

As much as things change, some things stay the same.  When I was a child romping alone in the woods, I spent a lot of time examining animal anatomy because the world is littered with bones if you stop to look.  You'd think this would make me a good biology student, but I was completely icked out by formaldehyde and intestines -- which wasn't helped by flirtatious boys leaving dead things on my seat or down the back of my shirt.  Boys can really learn a lot about better flirtations, and I didn't even understand this was flirtation.  I was mad at stupid/mean boys.  One of them explained his flirting to me many years after the fact.  It's a wonder our species survives.

Okay, songbirds don't have teeth, but illustrationfriday.com didn't give me a new word for the week so we're even.  I posted this bird skull art a couple years ago too, so I'll admit to taking shortcuts this week.  Sis1 is visiting from out of state, and I've been trying to make the most of her visit.

The new guy started at work and as I expected, he seems perfectly fine and friendly despite my pre-arrival anxiety.  Change may be good in the end, but the unknown of it stirs things up.  I went to the river after work one day and felt more peaceful because as much as things change, some things are the same.  I'm calmed by the river and the things that live in it.  Minnows tickled my toes, I picked up stones, and I studied a bird skeleton.  I could've been 5 again, especially with sisters around who remember me then.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


In 2nd grade, the teacher asked us the proper method for brushing our teeth.  Hands shot into the air and she picked X, who proudly demonstrated little circles.  Wrong!  I knew the proper answer of brushing from the gum to the end of the tooth, but I didn't put my hand up.  I almost never did.  I got picked as default too often as it was.

X had perfect little teeth.  The plaid pocket of his perfectly pressed shirt matched the shirt pattern exactly, his perfectly shined shoes complementing his pressed pants.  His hair was cut professionally and always combed neatly.  I hated him.  This was made harder by the fact that he was smart, polite, eager to help, and just terribly nice.  I kept my bad feelings to myself and we often played together pleasantly on the playground.

I was ashamed of myself.  Even at 6 years old, I knew I was wrong and probably going to hell.  I glared at my girl scout uniform with 100 buttons and ironed it hatefully, knowing boys didn't have as many buttons and X's mom did all of his ironing (with starch!).  Life was unfair, and X symbolized every unfairness.

He's had a nice life.  Of course he has.  That's why I put so much energy into hating him.  He started with everything to ensure that kind of success -- which I honestly don't begrudge him.  Nice people should have nice lives.

A few years ago, a child confessed her jealousies to me.  I was all adult and sympathetic and gave her my best advice to improve her situation with her peers and within her mind.  Afterwards, I felt like laughing at my own childhood jealousy.  It all seemed so important at the time, but it really wasn't.  Whatever X had or has in his life has nothing to do with my path in life, and jealousy is such a waste of energy.

I wish I had better teeth, but wishing for that doesn't mean cavities in X's teeth would my life better.  Another friend lost all her teeth.  That doesn't make my life any better either.

We live in a world that keeps telling us to look at what other people have instead of looking within.  The underlying message is that we should be envious enough to get whatever they've got.  The overt message we get is that jealousy is an ugly emotion and we should all stuff that inside so we don't make anyone else uncomfortable.  Either way, the message in our society is to focus on other people to achieve our own happiness.  You know that's never going to work.

We've all felt jealousy, and once in a while I still get a hot stab of it about something.  I'll never claim that I've mastered everything with a higher intent.  I try to do the best with what I have and find my happiness within my abilities to gain it.  I wish all of us that kind of cavity-free happiness, especially all the children who face feelings for the first time.

Sometimes I think the secret to happiness is simply choosing to be happy, or just finding contentment wherever you are.

Wishing a merry 4th to everyone!

Sunday, June 26, 2016


I bet nobody outside Ohio knows that there are quite a few wineries in Ohio.  For many of us in the state, we pucker at the memory of drinking native vintage, but our wine has gotten remarkably better and even wins some big awards.  Some people enjoy winery tours around here, and you know, the more wine you sample, the less picky you get about it anyway.

We have the right climate for it -- to which I can personally attest since I was trying to tug grape vines out of my yard this week.  I landed on my butt and gave up.  I also gave up the battle with thorny raspberry vines.  I've achieved the usual mid-summer defeat in the battle between landscaping and nature.

I lack motivation to do much this week.  Sometimes I look at all the stuff everyone else is doing and feel like I've got to do more too.  Mostly I think that I need a real vacation and excitement, but that would all take motivation which I've already said I lack right now.  I want to curl up with a book and ignore the world.

I know a lot of this has to do with some major reorganizing they're doing at work right now.  I'm in limbo, waiting for a new person to start in a couple of weeks.  Everything may work out great, but the limbo of waiting to find out if it will be is wearing on me and sapping my energy.

I think we all go through phases like this?  Sometimes I think it would be better for everybody if we talked more about the times when we aren't winning awards and going full-tilt because the down times are the fertilizer for the later successes.  Or maybe I should say that these kinds of times are part of my life, and necessary to build up energy and ideas for later efforts.

Maybe I used up all my emotional energy earlier this week when the Cavaliers won the NBA championship?  GO CAVS!!!  Bzillions of people turned out for celebrations.  I went out for margaritas with some older ladies and we watched the parade on tv.  These grandmothers wanted our team to put on their shirts, quit getting tattoos, and "get a haircut!"  LeBron James is everyone's son, neighbor, friend this week since he's a local boy who's done good.

Maybe I should put in the disclaimer that I usually don't watch sports and mostly don't care, but the energy of everyone was electric this week.  I even watched the second half of the last basketball game.  GO TEAM!!!

But the joys of early week have faded and I'm lazy today.  I have some good wine that was made by an Italian with California grapes, but the wine was made in Ohio.  I wonder if that still counts as local vintage?  I'm thinking of putting my feet up and drinking some of it on this lazy summer day.  Cheers!

Saturday, June 18, 2016


I poked around in Grandma's stuff once and found a bunch of bobbins.  In the classic "what, why, how, show me!" way of children, I pestered her until she showed me how it all worked -- reluctantly, miserably, and demonstrating the definition of antipathy, she made some lace at my bequest on the special lap pillow with a project started and long discarded in the closet.  Grandma moved the bobbins around and pinned threads back while twisting and knotting things until my outspoken sister stated the obvious, "This is SO boring!"

We gave it up and made a pie instead which made everyone happy.

Tatting shuttle & lace
I inherited Grandma's dislike for such hobbies and love of pie.  Both of us preferred to crochet if we got out yarn.  Yet, I have her tatting shuttles and my heart feels warm that she humored me that day.  (Lace making by tatting is a bit more like crocheting.)

Not Grandma's hands, but this shows how lace is made
Lace was a way of showing status a long time ago.  Anybody who had the leisure time to make it wasn't worried about how to pay the rent.  Anyone who could buy it had extra money to spend.  Lace collars were popular, lace on pillowcases, lace on the arms of chairs... they put lace on everything.  And sadly, a lot of it ended up at the garage sale for a quarter, or "go ahead and fill a bag for a dollar!"

Tatted doily on my table
I've gotten a lot of doilies and lace from old ladies at garage sales.  I have exactly one on display on a table under a glass.  The others are boxed up and waiting for someone to love them in a different generation.  Having seen Grandma demonstrate the hideously tedious process, I feel for the women who made these things.  I'm supposing that some of these ladies might've enjoyed it, the same way some crazy women like to knit, but I just appreciate the amount of labor they put into making the beautiful lace designs.

The lynx on scratchboard took a year of my life to create.  About 2/3 of the way through, I started really resenting it.  I didn't feel like I could start a new project until I finished it, and the amount of work to finish it seemed insurmountable.  I finally said "screw it!" and just completed it, but I wasn't so perfect anymore.  I had it done within a week or two, and I don't think anyone can tell which parts I did fast and which I bled over.  In fact, I think the less labored parts are better.  That's a lesson I've carried with me.

The lynx hangs in my house.  I described to a friend the pain of creating it, and he called it "wampum", which is highly valued beadwork Native Americans made from shell.  The true value of it was in the labor it took to create.  Indians had to find the shells, sand them into beads, drill holes (without metal drills, and having to make the drills they used), and then they stitched them together for the final product.  It took many hands many hours.

Ever after that conversation with my friend, I see the wampum in certain things.  Hand-made lace is one of those things.  Painstaking art is another.  I think the world would be better if more value was placed on the wampum ideal.  In the meantime, I'll keep rescuing lace.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


I have a tornado story, but I don't really feel like talking about it.  Is it relevant?  The tornado that I spend quite a bit of time thinking about is the upcoming Republican convention which will be hosted in Cleveland next month.

Clevelanders are both hopeful for Republican convention chaos and fearful things will happen to embarrasses our reputation.  We're still suffering from the Cuyahoga River catching fire in the 1970s when we became the butt of jokes for decades.  Our dream come true would be for the Republicans to be the only idiots in play against the backdrop of our historic city, bucolic suburbs, thriving businesses, and beautiful parks.

Cleveland will vote Democrat in November.  Greater Cleveland which is the surrounding suburban counties, will be hotly contested.  That's why the Republicans are coming.  There are people I know and love who enthusiastically support Trump.  (?!)  Can I remind them that Cleveland was called "The Mistake by the Lake" because unbridled greed killed our ecosystem?  Cleveland is the reason the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exists.

We have racial demonstrations and conflicts without conventions.  Something unpleasant will probably happen in July despite the regular reassurances on the nightly news that the police have everything in hand.  I don't think I'm the only one who's cringing at the coming storm.

I don't know anyone who will be in Cleveland during the convention.  I'm almost certain no one I know will be interviewed for "man/woman on the street" interviews and that whatever tv shows you about my home will be skewed in significant ways.  All I'm asking is that you blame the tornado on the visitors instead of the natives.

As for the real weather tornado, I was happily playing on my grandparents’ living room floor when Grandpa came in and hurried my sisters and I to the basement while Grandma threw windows open in a rush so the glass wouldn’t break in the tornado.

We waited and waited in the basement… and then we started hearing a strange noise.  It got louder.  It really did sound like a train was going to run over Grandma’s house.  There was a wild few moments when things that didn’t normally flutter fluttered around, and then the train moved off and the sun came back and we went back upstairs.

The next day, Grandpa walked us around the neighborhood.  There were mangled trees and houses, and a street sign had flown sideways several inches into a large tree’s trunk.  I started to understand Dorothy getting blown to Oz.

I used to watch water spouts on Lake Erie, but water-bound tornados don’t really do anything other than suck up fish.  The first one I saw got me all rattled and perturbed though.  I was driving along the lake with my little brothers and the water spout was enormous and close to land.  I ran into the building with the boys and told the security guard about it.  He just laughed at me.  No big deal to old-timers.

Maybe the convention will just be a water spout?