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

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Rock 2"

Happy holiday of your choice, including Merry Christmas and happy New Year.  Illustrationfriday.com must be celebrating something already because there wasn't a new word on their site this week.  Let's just say a ribbon is a rock and call it even?  I provided a lot of extra rocks last week anyway.

I'm happy for all of you who are surrounded by people you love for the holiday.  For those who aren't, you've got my sympathies.  Too many people are reminded of their losses at this time of year while inundated by Christmas specials.  If you're missing someone, try to think grateful thoughts of how you were happy to have that person in your life in the first place.  Remember the happy times.

These are my goals.  I'm not always successful at it, but I try to be an optimistic, grateful person.  Life is better when we choose to be happy, and I do think we have some choice about it.  I saw a kid smash his toy because he didn't get what he wanted.  That meant he didn't get what his ideal toy, plus didn't have the second best toy either.  Even as a child, I knew that was stupid.  Make do.  Eat a burned cookie and laugh.  A good life isn't necessarily picture perfect.

2016 wasn't the best year for me.  I'm looking forward to the next one, even while I fear for the future with politics being what they are in the US.  Feel free to discuss that over the holiday table and see if any of the dishes get dumped over someone's head during dinner.  Make sure you take a picture.  That will make everyone else happier for years to come.

Sis1 went through a period of time when she dyed food green, all sorts of food that weren't intended to be green.  I hit the limit at a giant bowl of mashed potatoes.  Remembering green potatoes in her hair still makes me smile.  I'd almost like to see another bowl of green potatoes.

Let's face it, if holidays weren't stressful and filled with inappropriateness, we wouldn't be able to laugh so hard at the sitcoms and movies featuring these kinds of special moments.  Holidays are a reminder to all of us to exercise tolerance and/or keep our sense of humor.  If your people need some help getting into the mood, you can add alcohol or maybe bring up religion.  I can come up with more ideas for you if necessary, but I'm sure you can come up with some ideas of your own.

Wishing you all the best through the holidays and in the New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2016


Dad and I made rock paths around our house.  We loaded the wheelbarrow with rocks at the river and trudged them back home where we dumped them out on the grass and contemplated the jigsaw puzzle of potential combinations.  I sometimes wonder if this early rock fitting was key to my brain development.  I'm sure it built muscles since we did probably 3' x 200' of stone paths.  That's one heck of a lot of rocks, and they had to be basalt or granite, and those are extra heavy rocks.

Had I known that all these stupid rock paths would later require endless hours of weeding, I would've been less enthusiastic about making the paths in the first place.  A few years after we made them, Dad and I pried all the rocks back out of the ground and we poured cement under and between them.  That helped, but the cement would crack and nothing stops weeds from growing where you don't want them.  This is all my brother's problem now since he lives at our old house.  He just sprays Round Up.

I still collect rocks.  I walk along the river and seek the best lucky stones, the prettiest granite, or maybe the nicest shaped addition for my backyard pond.  (Time out to notice and rearrange my clam shell of stones on my computer desk and to wander around the house taking photos of my various rock piles.)

I like painting rocks too.  It's a freeing subject since nobody expects them to be actual portraits of specific rocks.  It's just my concept of what a rock looks like, but that statement oversimplifies what goes into painting a rock.  First, I had to study rocks to know to the core of my being what rocks look like.  Second, I have to understand how to paint mass with appropriate lighting.  Sometimes I paint things on actual rocks.  Lately, I've been wrapping stones with wire to make mobiles too.

I'm beginning to think I have an unusual rock obsession?  But if I do, it's genetic.  When my uncle introduced his future gemologist wife to various family members, we all said the same thing.  "Oh!  I collect rocks too!"  Then we showed her our rock collections, which aren't "gems", but are special anyway.

When I was older and started studying New Age kinds of things, people sang the praises of crystals.  To some, crystals are the answer to anything.  I like shiny things, so I picked up some crystals to put in the window, but it occurred to me that all my lucky stones are quartz crystals too, they just aren't shiny.  But if crystals are powerful, my hoard of lucky stones will keep me alive forever.

Sometimes, when I've had a really hard day, I lay on the couch and put a basalt rock on my forehead, or maybe on my heart.  It just makes me feel better, or perhaps just gives me something else to focus my thoughts on instead of my irritations.  Rock is solid and connects me to the river, and the river washes bad things away.

I wonder if that's also true for rock paintings?  I showed this floor painting last year, but didn't feature the rocks since I spent more time on leaves and animals.  Seems silly to paint more rocks for this post when I'm so surrounded by them.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


After spending most of two days shoveling snow, I thought it would be a good idea to put that de-icing stuff by my door.  One step outside, and shlumpf!  I was on my ass and banged my head.  Sometimes life isn't kind to me.

Ohio gets snow, sometimes a lot of it, but most of the snow usually falls to the east and/or south of me.  This time, I got all of it.  I shoveled my drive 3x Friday, about 4-6" each time.  By the time my puppy had to do her last night piddle, the snow was so deep she got buried in snow.  She and I agree winter sucks.  Saturday, the snow was deeper than my knee boots are tall.  I repeatedly worked up a sweat while simultaneously freezing.

I stare out the window and type very few words, hypnotized by fat, spiraling snowflakes.  Griping about shoveling is just recreational.  The weather report said I'm not getting a thaw before Monday to erase all this white stuff.  I had to shovel it, and I accepted that.  It's my winter exercise plan.  The sore knot in my shoulder is just a reminder that I'm healthy enough to move mountains, or in this case, create 5' mountains of white matter.

I watched my neighbors handling their snow problems.  A teenaged boy tentatively poked at the stuff and weakly tossed a couple cups worth of snow onto the pile, resting for a few minutes before doing it again.  His dad cleared yards in the time the kid did a foot.  Meanwhile, the woman next to them spent hours with her snow blower.  She was extra considerate and neat.  My crabby neighbor actually joked with me while we shoveled.  A guy drove down the road with a plow, saw me shoveling, and cleared the apron of my drive.  Bless that guy.  I'm not even sure who he is, but he seemed to think my grateful wave of thanks was payment enough for his kindness.

The roads were awful when all this snow was coming down, and I didn't have a choice about being in the mess.  People were understanding and resigned.  Someone got stuck, and a woman jumped out of her car and helped push, leaving her car in the middle of the backed up street.  Nobody honked.  I think we were all glad helping each other still exists.

Lately, I've seen too much in the news about how divided the US is.  I've been appalled at how many people want women barefoot and pregnant and how some people talk so hatefully about women, minorities, and gay people.  Get rid of environmental protections, public school, and overtime pay.  Yet, there are still people willing to help a stranger stuck in snow.  Just as more people voted for Clinton in the election, I have to think that most people are decent and cooperative.

There's something about nature dumping a load of snow to make us stop our usual self-interested vanities and become a community again.  Sitting inside and watching snow spiral down from the sky lowers my blood pressure and gives me a little hope that things have a natural order, that human nature isn't as bad as it seems to be on tv.  Maybe things would be better if Washington, DC got more snow?

Sunday, December 4, 2016


I make soup when I'm stressed.  The mindless chopping calms my mind.  My freezer is full of it: chili, lentil, potato, squash/bean, chicken/turkey.  There isn't room for more varieties, though I contemplate making some split pea soup and clam chowder anyway.  It doesn't help that I make gallons of each variety.  At this point my dog loves soup more than I do.

Besides eating soup, I've been reading a lot because I don't think TV is improving my life and I might as well learn something.  I went to the library and really thought about my childhood experience of being surrounded by books.  How I had made sense of the place?  How did I choose my books?  I stood in the library entry, really looking at the place for once.

There are displays all over the place.  Sometimes I borrow a book from a display, but this time I noticed a sampling pointed me to books beginning with numbers 300-500.  Oh.  Seems kind of obvious now.  I dutifully went to those bookshelves where I skipped wars and found a couple of books on childhood trauma.

Did you know victims of child abuse suffer long-term physical effects from their experiences?  People who suffered multiple types of abuse including physical, sexual, neglect, verbal, etc. are likely to die years before their more blessed peers.  They can die 20 years earlier, often from heart attacks, cancer, addictions, and adult abuse.  The experts are saying we need to quit sweeping the topic under the rug as the long-term effects of childhood trauma are the leading cause of death.

I'm not just reading heavy topics like this.  I've been switching back and forth between escapist fiction and learning new stuff.  I don't know what else I'll be learning.  There are a lot of books in 300-500 and I almost went back for history books in another section as I was heading to the check out counter.  I already had 4 books and I've decided that 4 is enough for the library's 3 week borrowing window.  If I use them up, I'll just get more and start a new 3 week window.

I've gotten old enough to be ingrained in some of my ways.  Looking at the library with fresh eyes makes my world bigger and better, as does learning new things.  When I put myself in my younger self, I can feel the excitement the library meant to me.  Every aisle was an adventure, and every book an opportunity.  Reading about other people, real or imaginary, let me try on their lives to see if I wanted to be like them when I grew up.

Maybe I still want to look at the lives of others to see what I want to be?  We're only limited by our imaginations.  I could study Buddhism or Jane Goodall or who knows what.  May everyone spend some time wandering their library.  And eat soup.  It's good for you.  I meant to put soup in the bowl but after this art existed it just felt better to let the bowl either be waiting for a serving or empty because the soup has been eaten and enjoyed.  Your choice, half empty or half full? :)

Saturday, November 26, 2016


My grandparents taped all sorts of unlikely things together.  I found a crystal lamp I admired was broken and "cellophane" taped together when I was clearing out their house, not to mention other broken and taped things I discovered.  I could've been disappointed by the damage, but I was glad they were resourceful, and grateful they let kids play amongst their treasures.  This tolerance, support, and example had a lot of impact on my development -- necessary towards success according to GRIT The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth.

Angela's book is well researched and readable.  It also challenges a lot of what many of us think about achieving success.  Let me summarize her main point like this: what matters most is how hard someone is willing to work towards success, and people aren't willing to work that hard unless they have passion for what they're doing.

I've gotten irritated when people have said "You're so talented!"  Most people don't understand my irritation because they think that's a compliment, but I'd like my hard work to get noticed.  I've put in a crazy amount of time, money, and study into my art.  I put in all that time because I enjoyed it and got occasional praise for it, key factors towards success per Angela.

I was also musically talented, but didn't pursue that.  There was a nice girl in my chorus with much less "talent".  It would be generous to call her a "fair" singer.  I saw her many years later and discovered she's a professional singer with a voice that puts mine to shame.  She studies and practices obsessively to always get better.  Good for her and congratulations for her success.

The prevailing wisdom is if you spend 10,000 hours (10 yrs.) studying and practicing something, you'll become an expert.  You won't put that much time into something unless you're really passionate about it.  You also won't get that many hours into something if you spread your passions to multiple topics of study.

I've been giving this a lot of thought.  If you'd asked me to identify my one passion before reading this book, I would've answered "art".  Now, I wonder if that's true.  Yes, I've spent my 10,000 hrs. and more, my heart palpitates at a masterpiece, but I haven't been painting like I once did.  If I look at my efforts in the last couple years, I've spent more time studying narcissism than on art.  I'm well on my way to being a narcissist "expert" (to the stretched patience of some who hear me talk about it).

I look at the things I care about: art, writing, politics, history, psychology, education, the environment... and feel concerned Angela would say I'm too spread out for my best success.  What is the connecting thread?  After some serious soul searching, I think my personal mission statement is understanding myself and others in order to achieve better mental health and happiness -- and I'd like to share the things I've learned through the talents I've spent my 10,000 hours upon.

There are too many things in the book for me to consolidate into a 1-page blog post.  I hope you read the book.  I got a lot out of it and I hope you do too.

This is another piece I did for the Mensa Bulletin for a fictional article about wanting to break out of school.  I don't think even Grandpa could tape that wall back together.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


I was in the eaves of my house the other day.  I don't go in there very often, but I keep old furniture in there, and had some items I wanted to tuck away.  I should've looked first, but I went in head first and got a faceful of spider webs.  Ick, ack, yuck!

I swept it out and stored the furniture, plus discovered about 100 years of Grandpa's National Geographics.  I thought back to lazy days on his porch, listening to old folks talk about the usual things while I looked at African women's breasts, Indian women's nose rings, Eskimo's harpoons, South American pyramids, and Russian mummies.

My sister thought the nose ring was very cool and wanted one.  Dad said something decisively prohibitive.  I said it wasn't very practical since it had a golden chain looped to an earring.  Picture climbing a tree with a chain hanging out of your face!  What if you got in a fight and your opponent had a ring?  I vividly imagined a bleeding nose and decided this kind of jewelry was foolishness.  Sis understood suffering for beauty.  I rejected the concept.  If the number of people with nose rings these days mean anything, more people think like Sis these days.  She was clearly a trend setter.

I know I'm not alone in having my world expanded by National Geographic.  I looked into the eyes of people far away and felt their humanity even though I lived in a lily white area and the only black person I'd met was Santa Claus.  I saw women archeologists, deep sea divers, anthropologists, and animal watchers and knew I could grow up to be whatever I wanted to be.

A friend of mine rejected a job offer with National Geographic.  As a photographer, how could he possibly walk away from such an opportunity?!  "I didn't want to lay on my belly in a swamp for weeks just to get the perfect photo of an alligator staring me in the eyes."  Well, I suppose that makes sense.  But still, I'm glad somebody is willing to do it.  My world was larger and more inclusive because of their sacrifices.

I talked with someone about selling Grandpa's magazines once.  I was told everyone saved their National Geographics, so there really isn't much value to them.  Financial value that is, because I still value being able to look at them.  They're beautiful and they make me 10 years old again on Grandpa's front porch with the delicious aroma of Grandma cooking lunch wafting in.  I'd be willing to sell the really early magazines before photos though.

There's also something beautiful in the fact that many people saved their collections.  I'm glad so many appreciated expanding their worlds through the work of scientists, writers, and photographers.  It was worth a faceful of spider webs in my eaves to remind me of their efforts.

There's been much talk of bigotry and chauvinism this week.  Maybe more people need to dust off their pile of National Geographics and look into the eyes of people who might look different, but are humans with feelings, hopes, and dreams?

Saturday, November 12, 2016


I am just a little fish in a big ocean.  My one vote doesn't count for much, but in this election the majority of Americans voted with me -- and we still lost the election.  One shark can take out a lot of fish which is why fish often swim together for protection.

I accept the results of the election, while wanting to smack some heads (bigly).  I fear for the future, especially when I hear Sara Palin's name being floated for the Secretary of the Interior.  Everything I value, education, women's rights, the environment, world peace, a stable economy, feels precarious.

Such is the way of American politics.  I had hoped for a sensible election, but there were an awful lot of Trump yard signs in Ohio.  I was afraid, and sadly, that fear was justified.  Candidates and voters have the ability to be inspiring or not.  Hopefully we can salvage things in 4 years, and I really hope many of the current idjits will be voted out in 2 years.

I don't have much confidence in President Trump, actually none, but I have to accept they get a turn to mess things up for a while.  The eternal optimist in me hopes that there's some chance the idjits might actually accomplish something worthwhile without causing Armageddon.  If end times come, I kind of hope I get blown up in the first wave instead of watching the painful disintegration of our republic and world.

Elizabeth Warren gave a speech that echoes many of my thoughts and feelings about the election.  She commits to helping Trump if he strives to work towards positive changes.  She also commits to fighting him every step of the way if he works against the values we hold dear.  I'm with Elizabeth all the way.  If she runs for president in 4 years, I will happily knock on doors and do whatever I can to make sure she is our first woman president -- which actually would bring me greater joy than Hillary being our first as Warren is inspiring, intelligent, knowledgeable, and ethical.

I know many people share my fears for the future.  After all, we are the majority.  We need to remember this next time we vote.  Sometimes a good can come from disappointment.  Until then, let's remember Michael Moore's advice which he wants us to start implementing now...

Take over the Democratic party
Fire the pundits and pollsters
Obstruct Republicans in Congress
Stop saying you're "shocked"
Repeat: "Clinton won the popular vote"

Saturday, November 5, 2016


Did you know steam is hotter than boiling water?  That's how pressure cookers can cook food faster than a regular pan.  I never use a pressure cooker.  A girl I knew got badly burned with one when we were kids and that scared me off of them.  Fear can be a useful self-protection and hot air can be dangerous... which of course brings me to politics.

I promised myself that I wouldn't write about the election until November, mostly because I didn't think my perfectly reasonable statements on the matter would matter enough.  Facts won't sway people who want to elect Trump.  I've decided to talk to those who can be persuaded to put on their shoes and vote for the sane candidate.

Psychiatrists keep saying things about Trump such as "of course I can't diagnose someone I haven't met, so let me talk about sociopaths and narcissists in a general way..." and then they describe crazy, selfish, and dangerous, implying without exactly saying that's what Trump is.  I'm not a psychiatrist, so let me say it for them.  Trump is a sociopathic narcissist.  There's no way he should be trusted with any aspect of our futures.

I started studying cults and narcissism about 1 1/2 years ago.  I'm pretty sure that everyone around me is sick to death hearing about it, but I can't help but share what I've learned in my research.  You can see some of the traits of narcissists here, and there's loads of excellent information on the subject online.

It frightens me that Trump could actually win this election because there's no telling what he'd actually do in that position.  There's no comfort in thinking the people he's surrounded himself with would be any more sane or responsible than he is.  They're insane too.  Chris Christy is supervising aspects of Trump's operations and Christy's people were convicted this week for vengefully shutting down a major bridge and causing massive traffic jams because another politician wouldn't support him.  Multiple people said in the trial that Christy knew about it in advance.  He might end up going to prison too.  One of Trump's party friends was convicted for pedophilia.  A case has been filed against Trump for pedophilia too.  His first wife testified in court that he raped and beat her.

One of the problems (of the many problems) in this election has been the smear campaign against Hillary Clinton.  This is a classic move by narcissists.  I won't say she's a perfect person or candidate, but after decades of investigations, her enemies have never been able to bring her to court -- but the smear campaign has made many people question her actions and motives despite the fact that she has worked for decades for the well-being of others.

If you're a die-hard Republican, well, do what you're going to do, even though Trump doesn't support your Republican goals.  If you're a Republican that can't abide by your candidate, please stay home or vote for a third party candidate.  But, if you are any kind of sane person who wants to make sure we don't have a sociopathic president, pleeease get out on Election Day and vote for Hillary.

I recently did illustrations on bad presidents for the Mensa Bulletin, the monthly magazine for America Mensa.  Just remember, none of them had access to nuclear codes.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


You would think that there's only so many things you can do with stripes, but the options are endless.  Fat, narrow, pink, blue, straight, wavy, patterns in between, patterns in the stripes... on and on and on.  In case you can't tell, I've done a lot stripes.  You'd think I'd get bored with them, but I don't really.  It's like a simple toy that never ceases to please.

I did these boxes two years in a row for Gift Corp (though only kept photos of one year's boxes).  One year, the stripes were simple.  The other year, I changed up the stripes with different widths and dots.  I'd like to say that stripes are so simple it's all easy money -- but it isn't.  There were a lot of variations before everyone was happy and I got paid.

I always notice boxes in stores.  Every box has an artist somewhere in the process, whether it's Tony the Tiger breakfast cereal or generic air fresheners.  I've been known to go through all of the Kleenex boxes on the top shelf to find the prettiest pattern to keep on my desk.  I feel like my purchase rewards the best artist, even though artists aren't paid commission, but maybe the best artists get appreciated a little more by their employers?

I sometimes get annoyed that "commercial" art is less valued than "fine" art.  Okay, maybe stripes aren't going to get people very excited at an art gallery, but illustrators make beautiful art with a lot more restrictions and headaches than someone who paints whatever they want to paint.  Norman Rockwell, N. C. Wyeth, and many more illustrators were remarkable artists, "even though" they were illustrators.

I was visiting friends recently and noticed a Charley Harper book.  I happily looked through his images and was inspired, comforted, intrigued, and more as I thought about how much his art influenced my childhood environment.  How much of his work was commercial, and how much fine, and what difference did it make?  Good art is good for everyone, no matter if it's a zoo poster or a one-of-a-kind painting.  In fact, I'm enough of a populist to think the more people with the poster, the better it is for our whole society.

Another friend came to my house for the first time.  I'll admit, I can be a bit self-conscious about first-time visits because once in a while I notice that my home is eccentric and eclectic (and usually messy).  In other words, different than the ways most people decorate.  I don't own a beige wall or a properly fluffed accent pillow.  It's just easier to meet at a restaurant than to host people.  At the same time, it always fascinates me to see what other people notice when they come over.  Yeah, large painting on the floor will get noticed, but beyond that, where do their eyes land?

This stripe pattern was also
used as a tower of boxes
In this case, my friend commented on a large painting I did of rocks, though that wasn't what she looked at the most.  She looked at my Charley Harper inspired raccoon longer.  I suspect she just didn't know what to say about it.  Maybe she wasn't sure if she liked it.  I didn't ask, but after she left, I studied my raccoon and felt the same kinds of good feelings I felt when I looked through the Charley Harper book.  Maybe in the end that's the best thing we can hope to achieve through our art?  Even if we achieve pleasant feelings through something as simple as stripes?

Friday, October 7, 2016


I looked at my ice cubes yesterday and remembered drawing them not so long ago.  When I saw the word for the week, I looked them up because I thought "This is ridiculous!  I just did 'ice'!"  As it turns out, in March, 2015.  Oh my.  I think I'm getting old when time just starts sliding away really fast and we're decrepit and on a walker in no time.  My aunt warned me about this twisted reality.

Depending on the day I'm thinking about it, I either feel young or old.  Not young like a child or teenager or anything, just young enough that I can still do whatever I want to do.  I feel like there's still plenty of time to achieve things and really live.  On another day, I might feel like too many things ache and I'm inches from the grave and can't do anything spectacular anymore.

Both things are true, neither are true.  Life is what you make it, whatever your age.

I've been thinking of writing something for a while, in a vague kind of way.  I started a novel years ago.  I felt happy about what I had started too, and then it started descending into soppy and sloppy ideas that seemed like too much effort to clean up. I'm thinking of digging it out and looking at it again.

I know one of my self-sabotaging tendencies.  I'll look at it, it won't be great, and I'll think, "Why do it if it isn't earth-shaking?"  Well, why not?  Why stop myself from something just because it isn't the best?  I know lots of you have some variation of this even though we know that we have to put effort into things to gain the skill to do something well.  How much time did we put into learning to read and write in the first place?

I think it just depends on whether or not we enjoy an activity enough to perfect it, and "perfection" is an illusion anyway.  Sometimes I like to write.  Words flow out of me easily, and I enjoy that ease.  Sometimes it feels really, really hard and I have enough hard things to deal with.

When I make ice cubes, I don't worry about "perfect" cubes.  I just want cold tea.  If I'm feeling a bit whimsical, I might put a flower in the water first.  I made an apple cake, and supplemented my apples with over-ripe pears.  I wondered if it would work, but I didn't feel like my self identity hinged on creating the latest, greatest thing.

There's something about putting things out into the world that opens us up to fear of judgment.  I experienced those fears when I started blogging.  Now that I've been doing this a while, it feels like those fears were a million lifetimes ago.  I notice what other people prefer reading, but I'm not afraid anymore.  If you don't like this week's post, come back next week and see if you like that post better.  Hopefully I've gotten better at it with experimentation.

Yes, maybe it's time to dust off that book beginning?  Winter is coming and cold, dark days sound like the perfect time to try.

(And yes Sharon, you have inspired me with your own writing efforts on The Chorus of Crows!)

Sunday, October 2, 2016


I discovered my yardstick collection in my garage this weekend.  Local businesses used to advertise on these handy measuring tools.  I like that the businesses were often selling paint, and as an artist, paint is good.  I'm especially pleased that I have a yardstick from Morse Graphics and one from Fredericksburg where my great grandpa lived.

A giant praying mantis climbed onto my window screen while I was staring out into space thinking about all the other things I'd rather write about than "weapon".  Did you know the females often kill their male partners during sex?  I suppose violence exists in a lot of species, and doesn't even require weapons.

It's a little ironic that I have a yardstick collection because Mom used them as a weapon.  The yardstick broke once when she smacked it on the back of my bare legs.  I laughed.  She went from mad to really mad.  Things went downhill from there, but I had a sudden realization that she couldn't keep hitting me anymore.  Sometimes the lesson learned isn't the lesson intended.  On the other hand, I don't display my yardsticks in the house.  I'll keep them in the garage.

I've spent a lot of effort lately in cleaning out the garage and rewiring it.  In some ways, I think this is a waste of time since I don't spend much time in the garage anyway.  At the same time, it annoys me that I couldn't use the garage because it was crowded with too much stuff, dirt, and cobwebs.  It becomes symbolic for other things in my life, a large, unnecessary, rotting appendage.  Bro3 re-sided it, so at least it isn't rotting anymore.  Mostly, I'm just working off excess energy and getting some exercise.

I took a class in stained glass when I was managing a fine arts program at the local civic center.  Making something intentional creates a lot of unintentional wasted glass.  I used it to pretty up my garage windows.  Reglazing these windows is still on my to do list for the garage.  It was far more important to get rid of every unnecessary nail, screw, and hook that the man who lived at the house before me put in every few inches on every rafter and stud.  I ended up with a heavy pile of rusting iron and bashed my hands and arms pretty badly in the process.  A friend accused me of "domestic violence", pointing out that it doesn't always take 2 people for violence to happen in the home.

I don't regret these scrapes and bruises.  I've had this garage for years, and for years I had to put things where that disorganized man had left me a mismatched shelf or hook.  I ripped out the shelves on one wall and replaced them with orderly shelves that actually make sense and let me store long pieces of lumber.  I'm tired of settling for what is instead of what I want it to be.

The point of all this is that whatever you do, it's better to strive to improve the world than to just rot with the garage or take out your aggression on someone else.  Look for the beauty.  Create it.  Share it.

Friday, September 23, 2016


I'm not going to make excuses, though I do give you my apologies.  I just dropped off the web in August after faithfully posting every week since 2010.  I didn't get a horrible disease or die or anything.  Life just got stressful and I wasn't in a good head place.  I actually wrote posts the last few weeks, but I didn't post them.  Who wants to hear me whine?  I don't.  I'm sick of it.

Yet for all of that, I think people often post only the good stuff in their lives and I sometimes think that maybe we would all grow if we understood that other people have struggles to face even when their lives look perfect and wonderful to us from the outside?

Maybe some of those people actually do have perfect lives.  Good for them.  My life has been more of a challenge -- though the other day I was trying to have a good sulk and kept thinking of people I'm fortunate to have in my life.  I was very cranky that I couldn't even work up a satisfactory pity party for myself.  I decided to take out some of my frustrations by organizing my garage.  It's not going very well organizationally, but I have been burning off some excess anger issues.

There's an irony here too because I recently cleared out a friend's attic, basement, and office/bedroom.  There was a lot of stuff and I happily broke it down into categories and either stored it in better places or eliminated it.  It was so easy and satisfying -- at her house.  It's a lot harder when trying to clear out my own nest.

I'm a secret hoarder.  If you come to my house, you won't see that I have every significant object of my life, countless treasures from ancestors or garage sales, and of course, every art supply that I may need for the next masterpiece.  I'm just really good at stashing things.  I think it comes from having very limited personal space when I was growing up and sharing a room with two sisters.

I think I can be exactly the same way with my mental inventory.  I remember everything.  I've got all those memories stored in compact places in my brain, stacking things on top of each other and hiding them in a pretty box.  There's good things about that.  I've written a lot of posts about happy memories.  There's bad aspects to this kind of recall too.  I remember every awful thing that people have said and done to me.

In my garage, I have a lot of lumber stacked up to maximize the space.  It's mostly stored by size -- which is sort of useful, but not really if I have to unstack it to find wood for a project.  Think about that in terms of memories.  To address a past issue, I have to sort through ALL of my issues to find the thing that I can fix and move beyond.  It's as overwhelming as my friend looking at her basement and not knowing where to start because that was her memories and stuff.  Sometimes I think my brain could be fixed easier by someone else.

Back in May, I told you about a painting I started.  I've worked on it, but not very much.  That too is part of the reality that I don't see on the web very often.  Procrastination, other priorities, laziness, whatever, are a real part of life too.  I'm far from perfect, but I'm working on being better than I was.  I think that's all any of us can do.  I might even get a clean garage out of the process.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Mom used to make a origami swans.  Us little kids gathered around in rapt attention as she folded the paper.  You know, that's when parents still had magic powers that we could only aspire to as we grew.

I should probably write something about Mom now but she hates that, and besides, I had a vivid dream of Dad this morning.  He told me something that I can't remember now, and then he sang.  It was like he hadn't sung in a long time; he was really rusty and his voice cracked.  He was young in the dream, younger than I ever knew him.  I noticed his crooked teeth and he acted self-conscious about my noticing.

I've been wondering things about Dad lately.  What did he feel and think?  What motivated him?  I've only written the pleasant memories of him on this blog, but our relationship was complicated, and I've been trying to put old issues to rest.

I wonder if he really came back to me in this dream, showing me his insecurities, letting me see what I didn't, couldn't see when I was a child fascinated by paper swans.  It didn't matter to me if Dad had crooked teeth.  I loved listening to him sing, and I assumed he could always belt out tunes with operatic quality and volume.

He was 45 when he died in a sudden accident when I was a teenager.  I never had the usual opportunities to know him more fully as I became an adult.  Who would he have become if he had lived to a ripe old age?  What would our relationship have turned out to be?  Would I like, understand, respect him?  Who would he vote for in the presidential election?  (I suspect the Green Party.)

I saw him as a completed picture.  I know he was skinny when he was young, but he was brawny and strong when I knew him.  He could do pushups from a handstand, even with a kid or two hanging on him.  He was charming and got along with everyone.  I saw women batting their eyes at him and never thought there might've been a time when he felt awkward with girls.

All of us carry the skinny (or fat or whatever) kid within our adult selves -- even parents, grandparents, teachers, and whatever other authority figure we meet when we're children.  All of us encounter a time when we look at our parents and think "that's cracked!" when they something that is clearly just plain wrong.  There's a time when we realize Mom and Dad aren't just taking a nap in the next room, and Grandma and Grandpa aren't napping either.

Then, there's the time that we see the crooked teeth and feel some sympathy and understanding that our parents are flawed humans, just like we've got flaws and insecurities.  We see the path they set us on when they controlled our lives is a path that we can choose to follow or not.  Origami swans are just paper, and we can fold them too.

Next time I dream of Dad I'd like him to sing like he did when we took cross-country road trips and when he was working in the garden... but even so, I thank him for letting me hear his voice when it cracked.

The tomatoes were on the counter when I took the swan pic
and I thought I'd share my garden happiness.
Nothing like a fresh, home-grown tomato!

Saturday, August 6, 2016


It’s easy to make a mountain from a mole hill.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we make mole hills from mountains.   They’re so much of the landscape we can’t see them anymore.

A boyfriend was cooking dinner once.  "Can I help?" I was given a pile of green beans to prepare.  I did it the way I was trained, snapping each end and pulling the string.  He grabbed a handful of beans, and whacked off the ends with a knife.  I was shocked.  My world changed in an instant.  Really, why painstakingly string beans?  I told Mom about this epiphany and she said, "But that's the way it's always been done!"  A side discussion of sitting on porches with old ladies, but in the end we agreed grocery store beans aren't very stringy, and we won't die from cut ends, though Mom still prefers it the old way.

It never occurred to me to question my green bean training.  Now apply it to something that matters.

I started wondering what other mountains I’ve made tiny.  It’s hard to know because our perspective is so skewed.  You can point at something like women’s role in society through the millennia and wonder how many women actually stopped to wonder if it was a good idea to cripple their daughters by breaking their feet for foot binding or giving them genital mutilation.  It all seems so obviously abusive now, but I bet millions of mothers just thought that’s the way things are.

Are we still crippling ourselves?  Even though the wounds are invisible compared to foot binding, aren't we still keeping people down in countless ways?

America has about 3 more months of political craziness before the election.  During that time we get a chance to see impassioned people spouting off their dearly-held beliefs.  Some of their invisible mountains will be obvious to a lot of us.  The white supremacist yelling about welfare mothers and immigrants had to be taught white is best and everyone of color has to be feared and kept out.  But what of our own beliefs?  How many of our own thoughts are flawed?

And really, I'm not talking politics or racism.  I'm trying to explain that I've been trying to figure out my own faulty thinking on a very personal level.  What do I believe that hurts my own success and happiness?  For instance, I've been taught that my value in the world is measured by what I do.  Whether that's my creative output, giving of my time or money, whatever, whatever.  I bought into this, but it's a skewed view.  I bet I have a lot of them, and I bet you do too.

Sometimes you just have to find someone who cuts the ends of beans with a knife to see things differently, to find people who haven't bought into your belief system, especially people who are positive and uplifting.  It’s like the old saying about what you water in your garden.  If you water weeds, you get weeds.  I prefer tomatoes.  I prefer being around happy people.

As for the mosquito, I doodled while watching a show about viruses and thought about how something so tiny can eliminate life as we know it.  Maybe I should watch happier tv shows too?

Saturday, July 30, 2016


I used to live at a place we called "Valhalla*".  I was part of a "we" at that time, and he was into Vikings.  There's a whole lot of back story I could tell about how we ended up in this 100-acre patch of woods hugged by the Grand River (1 of 2 state-designated 'wild and scenic' rivers in Ohio -- the other being the Chagrin River of my childhood), but let's skip past some of my completely justified marital bitterness and get to Valhalla.

The very large house on this property hadn't been lived in for years because it was part of decade-long divorce battle.  Hunters liked to break in and use the grand fireplace in the basement for warmth and the pool table for fun.  The woman of the pending-divorce wanted someone in the house to keep the hunters out.  Sure!  I'd love to plunk on the grand piano in the cathedral-sized living room facing the woods!

In an odd loop of coincidence, I was in this house many years before, when it was decked out in splendor.  A friend and I were riding horses and saw a bunch of older teenaged boys floating a Volkswagen in the river.  We called and laughed at them, they invited us to the fun.  The mom served us gourmet sandwiches off giant silver trays, and kids swam in the Olympic-sized indoor pool to clean off river and Volkswagen grit.  There was so much laughter; I can still hear it.

The house was silent when "we" lived there -- unless you want to count Andrew, our ghost.  I felt like I had to ask his permission each time I drove down the 1/4 mile overgrown, gravel driveway.  Someone advised me to tell Andrew to "go to the light!"  I did, and then all the lights around the house turned themselves on and off.  Ever after, my dog would put her feet on the wall and bark at light switches.  I laughed a lot at that too.

The house had a 2nd story art studio, which was a happiness I had always fantasized about.  I moved my many art supplies up the stairs and stared over the half-wall which overlooked the cathedral living room and out the 3 stories of windows that faced the woods -- and stared -- and stared -- and created nothing.

My dog and I took daily walks in the woods.  We sat at the waterfall, communed with the white pines, picked mushrooms, violets, ramps, and sassafras.  We watched the deer come up to the windows every evening... and eventually I started to become myself again after years of cheating, neglect, and verbal abuse.  I signed up for an art festival, shoved my drawing table up to one of those giant windows, and started to paint again -- and couldn't stop.

I only lived at Valhalla spring through fall of 1 year, but it was a life-changing time for me.  I didn't want to pay heat bills for a mansion so I kicked out the people living in my house and moved back to where I was before the abuse.  We were happily divorced within the year.  Well, I was happy about it at any rate.

Sometimes I thought it was ironic to call the place "Valhalla" because I was so unhappy when we moved there, but maybe it was the best and only name for the place I refound my happiness within myself.

Valhalla (Merriam-Webster definition)
1. the great hall in Norse mythology where heroes slain in battle are received
2. a place of honor, glory, or happiness

I wish I could show you photos, but I didn't take any at the time.  The painting is a bit of a larger work I did at that time.  I drove down the long drive this past winter and found the large house has been replaced by a much smaller one.  Maybe it's for the best?  It was a house of divorce, even with the echoes of laughter.

P.S. My blog buddy Jane is having a giveaway.  Click on the photo below to go to her site for a chance to win.


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?