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

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Saturday, July 14, 2018


Last night I happily settled down to what someone called "food porn", in this case, The Great British Baking Show.  The theme for this competitive cook off was "pie".  I love pie, and TV is a great way to enjoy it without calories.

I was confused right off the bat.  The contestants made Wellingtons.  That's interesting, but it isn't pie in my mind.  One of the hosts took a side trip and ate eel pie.  My face still screws up painfully at the thought of it, and I wouldn't call that a pie either.  It was kind of like a hot pocket.  Then, the contestants made a molded meat pie.  Okay?  I sort of see the "pie" in this, but not really.

I was feeling very unBritish about this point when they said the grand finale was to be "American" pies.  Yay!  I sat and ate rhubarb gooseberry sauce (which is good, but not quite as yummy as rhubarb mulberry) and scowled as the British slammed American pies as "too sweet".  Well!  They should try some of my rhubarb.

I'll admit, I didn't realize my pies were "American".  I thought a pie is a pie.  Maybe I should've realized "As American as apple pie" is often said because pie is an icon of Americanism?  But you can say the same thing about hot dogs and Germans make sausages.  I imagine they make something hot doggish.  I figured the same was true for pies.  French make tarts, and that's fairly similar, right?

I've made a lot of pies in my life.  I should go over there and teach them how it's done because British ideas of American pies is just wrong (though Ryan, the winner, clearly got it right with a key lime and ginger beauty).

I'll also admit that the more I thought of British ideas of American sweetness, the more I remembered pies that were disgustingly sweet.  Okay, if all you've ever had is that kind of thing I can understand a preconceived distaste for pie.  Block those images from your mind.  Think of the natural sweetness of fruit in a flaky pastry.  Mmmm.  I've even blogged about pies before which you can see here.

I am not about to touch the subject of current political relations with the US and Great Britain and other NATO allies because it's just an embarrassment like too sweet pies.  Just let me offer my continued apologies and express appreciation for the big balloon and your protests.  I don't think pie could even make the president behave properly.

On happier news, despite the deer and other vamints repeatedly mowing down my garden I got my first tomatoes.  Hooray!

Friday, July 6, 2018


I saw the word and thought, "but I'm not in a funk!" -- which made me wonder what a funk is in the first place while singing Play That Funky Music in my head and chair dancing, physically demonstrating that I'm in a decidedly good mood for no particular reason other than the weather is spectacularly pleasant after a blisteringly hot week.

1. noun, North American, a state of depression
2. noun, British, a coward. verb, avoid (a task or thing) out of fear 

Oh funk.  I like to write about happy things when I'm feeling happy.  I took time to wash gooseberries.  The bushes have sharp thorns and are one of my few deer-proof garden happinesses these days.  Have I mentioned one doe has twins??  Not to be confused with that other doe with a single fawn.  My only competition for these berries is from song birds, and I'm willing to share with them.

I use gooseberries in chocolate cake because then it's health food (obviously).  I put in cranberries and/or currants sometimes too.  Chocolate cake is clearly the best way to get vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  My latest, best cooking discovery is combining rhubarb and mulberries.  I cook it into a thick sauce to mix with plain yogurt.  The berries make it possible to drastically reduce the amount of sugar usually used with rhubarb.  I added cinnamon and ginger with just a touch of cloves.  Oh, oh, oh!!!  Mmm.

I suspect many, maybe most people don't know about these foods.  I've never seen gooseberries in the store, but I spent countless hours of my childhood laying on my back under my neighbor's bushes, carefully plucking berries off one by one and stuffing them in my mouth.  Sun warm, tart sweet, and delicious.

Perhaps I'm being a funk not to write about being in a funk?  I've been depressed.  It sucks.  I've been seriously, chronically depressed.  That sucks even more.  I found the best solution to that state of being was divorce.  It's amazing how quickly I got happy and healthy once my ex was out of my life.  This solution might not be advantageous for everyone, but I bet there are some who could benefit from it.

I've been reliving that period of time in my head recently to see what I can learn from it.  Simply, I put up with too much, waded past warning signs, allowed myself to be put down, ignored, overworked, and other unpleasantness.  I tried to resolve issues with someone who wasn't interested in resolutions.  It's no wonder I got depressed.  I was shoving every reasonable instinct and thought deep, deep underground.

I'm lax about showing works in progress so I thought I'd show a bit of my latest.  Sometimes I think showing finished pieces ignores the struggle to get there.  I found reference photos of baby food and UNICEF from the 1960s, which didn't exist the way I wanted so I pieced parts together for accuracy.  I'm not happy with where the train is so I quit working on it and will start over and repaint it -- despite putting the layout together in PhotoShop in the first place.  That stupid form in the background caused me all sorts of misery getting things to line up properly.

I'm not perfect.  I make mistakes.  I try to learn from those mistakes and persevere.  Then, I chair dance and revel in my happy days!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

"Outer Space"

I had trouble with this post.  I wrote about aliens, art therapy, Bobby Vinton... Everyone can see how aliens relate to "outer space", but Bobby Vinton and art therapy might be harder connections to follow.  Trust me, it all makes sense in my head.

I've gotten a lot out of my art therapy excavations of my "inner space" and this painting is the latest in these efforts.  You can jump to outer space from there.  Too much tweeting, tv, and whatnot obscures our ability to think for ourselves and own our feelings.

Bobby Vinton?  He tried to get me into his hotel room when I was a 15-year-old maid.  He was in his 40s.  His songs make me want to rip the radio out of the car.  It's a mostly repressed hatred, but that's how art therapy can be helpful.  I don't think about him until "Mr. Lonely"* comes on and I have a 15-year-old's reaction.  Back then, I was further annoyed because Mom was star-struck and a bit jealous when I vented to her about it.  She's of the generation of teeny boppers who worshipped Vinton as a teen idol, but still.

One memory leads to another, some of those memories so old and forgotten that I would never have thought that they still have power, but they do.  Remembering and seeing the past from my present helps me change the narrative of my life.  It's liberating.

I think of this series of paintings as my resume, not to be confused with my portfolio.  A portfolio is full of examples of best work.  A resume is more about what happened and what was learned.  I've got the finished paintings propped up against the back of the couch and it's interesting to see my life in such a visual way.  One more painting to go and then I'm calling this series quits.  I've even got ideas for the next series.  (In case you're looking for Vinton in this painting, he's in the painting in progress, not this one.)

This painting is full of memories of my early art career.  Yeah, triangles, T-squares, ruling pens, press type, and rubber cement.  The good old days.  Well, maybe not entirely good since I've felt a need to do art therapy about them, but there was good in those days.  There's good in all periods of time, even when it feels like there isn't, though sometimes that's hard to remember.

I miss the joy of working in an art studio full of other creative people.  We played, we laughed, we came up with really great ideas for our clients.  We built off of each other's ideas.  For instance, the Lake Metroparks logo began with two other artists.  I fished one of the ideas I out of a waste basket.  All of us were happy when the client was happy after I remodeled what they had begun.  There was so much to learn, and so many people who were willing to teach it. 

I love it when I varnish these paintings.  It's like all of the issues represented are finally addressed without a need to revisit them again.  The varnish seals them from infecting my current life.  Done, done, finis.

As for aliens, did you know about half of Americans believe in UFOs?  About 17% say they've seen one.  Of course some of those people may have been looking at Venus, but there are still quite a few sightings by credible people which aren't explained away by swamp gas.  The logo below is something I created for a local group who investigates the topic.  Their website is here.

*I was nice about the link for Mr. Lonely's song.  The clip shows him at his teen idol best, which was waaaay before my time.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

"Squirrel 2"

I took a trip to Pennsylvania this week.  I won't mislead you, getting to PA isn't far on a well-maintained freeway; it's just far enough away to feel like I did something out the ordinary.  A friend got a new car and we christened it with a day trip to Presque Isle (which is actually a peninsula).  I don't recall seeing any squirrels, but "squirrel" was last week's word without a sign of a new one.

I tried to take photos of Baltimore orioles while I was there.  I was mostly unsuccessful since they're quick and camera shy.  No problem at all to walk up to Canada geese though, even with juveniles.  They're everywhere.  It's hard to believe they were an endangered species 100 years ago.

I'm pretty sure the world knows about the recent US treatment of immigrant children.  It's heart-breaking and a disgrace.  Of course this only applies to brown or black children as far as I know.  I find it so upsetting, especially since Trump goes out of his way to insult US allies and befriend dictators.  I hope there is a significant change in leadership in the next election and nobody blows up the world.  I miss Obama.

Ohio is a bellwether state, and I live in a bellwether area of it.  Racism exists, it's stupid to think otherwise, but people generally get along.  I haven't heard overt racism for a long time -- until lately.  Now I hear it more than I can bear.  I had a week of migraines after a woman I know well vented a racist tirade at me.  She's gone from "liberal" to supporting Trump and the Republican party.  I'm shocked and horrified.  Whatever talking heads on tv say about American voters, I suspect they're underestimating the liberation racists feel under this regime.  Be warned.  Get active.

I've been struggling with an existential crisis lately.  Are people good or evil?  I'm seeing too much horrible behavior and it's making my head explode.  I suspect I'd be happier if I quit watching the news, but I can't help myself.  The insanity is gripping because it's planned that way.  The reality tv star is just producing in a different show which he goes to great pains to keep interesting.

Let's change the tone of my lamentations.  Since I live near an international border, I see foreigners all the time.  I used to joke that Canada is our best state, but for some reason Canadians took offense.  Hey!  I'm giving you a compliment!  I said "best"!  I want health care and a smart, handsome, and sane leader.  Canada is beautiful and I really enjoy being around pleasant, polite people.

However, since the current US leader is waging a war on the borders, I suppose there's some sense in insulting Trudeau?  Watch this video about Cleveland BorderControl here.

The painting is a tidbit of my current art therapy project.  Can you identify the tools?  If you can, you're showing your age!  But I'm not judging.  These are things I know how to use and keep squirreled away.

And explain to me this... Why after bothering to drive to another state, why did my friend and I eat lunch at Applebee's?!

Friday, June 15, 2018


The many dogs of my life received simple directions.  Get as many groundhogs and bunnies as you'd like.  Leave birds and squirrels alone.  My current dog peacefully walks through the mourning doves and the robin hops out of her way.  However, my puppy is 1/2 Jack Russell.  It's constitutionally impossible for her to ignore a squirrel.

She's an old dog, so I've been without squirrels for a very long time, but the squirrels are back.  Maybe they figured out my puppy is old and can't climb trees anymore.  She's had 2 expensive surgeries to repair leg ligaments from that kind of activity.  I'm glad to see the squirrels again.  I wish they'd get the groundhogs and bunnies.  I've missed the days when my Dalmatians would bark at the squirrel and the squirrels barked back.  It was a game they played.  I think the squirrels enjoyed it as much as the dogs.

My dad had it out for squirrels.  He'd sit by his garden with his slingshot just waiting for an opportunity.  Maybe some behaviors are hereditary?  At some point he got out the .22 and cleared the trees of them.  Not the kind of guy to let anything go to waste, he cleaned the squirrels and plopped them on the kitchen counter for Mom to cook.  She gave him a memorable and scathing look and refused to touch them.

Dad wasn't deterred by Mom's attitude.  He happily whistled his way through the kitchen cupboards and banged a lot of metal things together talking about how country people would be thrilled to eat squirrel.  A horrible smell started emanating from the kitchen after a while.  It didn't get better, and actually looking at the horribly naked, splayed bodies on a platter was stomach curdling.

The house rules were to have a minimum of 3 bites of whatever was served.  Taking tiny bites resulted in being given more of the unwanted item until the minimum was satisfied with penalties.  I looked around the table at my siblings and shared their horror.  We even took extra servings of milkweed pods that day in order to scare off starvation.

Dad admitted defeat.  He didn't know how to cook and didn't intend to learn.  He left the squirrels alone after that, and I was glad to see them bouncing around in the trees unmolested.  They must've remembered the murder spree though because they left his garden alone.  Dad transferred his vendetta to bunnies.

Onto a different topic, I told a friend I hate Jane Austin, and my friend said she looooved her.  Trying to be sympathetic, maybe understand something more about my friend, self educate, or whatever, I read a couple of Austin's books.  I still hate her.  Maybe I hate her slightly less, but I'm not reading her again.  As I told my friend, it feels like interminable discussions about planning a dinner party I don't want to attend.

When I put the JA books away, I pulled out Dickens' David Copperfield.  In a way, you could say it's a lot like JA.  The depressing roles of women in 19th century England, archaic language, etc., but I love Dickens.  He's got women running off with their lovers, crotchety and interesting old people, nice people, villains, gritty and painful realities -- everything you need for a good story.  I'll have to check back with my friend to see how she feels about Dickens.

What about you?  Do you read any of these classics?  Can you explain to me the allure of Jane Austin?

Saturday, June 9, 2018


You are the type of person who reads complete sentences.  I know this because you're reading one right now.  I think people like us are on the way to extinction.  I even text people with spelled out words and punctuation.

I understand that there are millions of people who don't use words anymore.  They just grab an emoji someone else has created to express the quickest thought or emotion.  They click "like" on Facebook without pausing very much to consider how much they like the post, or even bothering to watch/read the post.  Hurry up, hurry up, you have more time to waste on other things online while hoping someone likes something you've posted.  Maybe someone will even type a poorly spelled sentence in response?

In a way, it's all just fun for fun.  I read your blogs, you read mine, it's a happy, international sharing community -- but we're the grownups who actually have thoughts and the patience to read complete sentences, and I'll be the first to admit that I spend way too much time hitting "like" or other useless online endeavors.

I think the emoji world of desperately seeking likes is another story.  Conversations are limited.  People are isolated and lonely.  Young people have never lived in the world where people actually had verbal conversations with ideas and feelings communicated and commiserated.

I'm saddened this week that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.  You'd think they would've been happy given their successes?  They both seem to have had people who loved them.  I'm sure they both racked up tons of likes along the way, and yet they were clearly miserable.

Misery has existed as long as humans have existed.  Suicide has also always existed, but the rate has increased 25% in the US since 1999.  Globally, it increased 60% in the last 45 years with a death every 40 seconds.  The World Health Organization says it will be every 20 seconds by 2020.  That's a lot of miserable, hopeless people -- and you aren't going to cheer them up sufficiently with an emoji.  They need real conversation with an empathetic person, and they aren't getting it from an eggplant cartoon.

Everybody knows this, and still, every suicide is a shock.  It shouldn't be at this point, but it is.

Maybe you're the unhappy one.  Reach out.  Talk to someone without emojis.  Use words and sentences to really communicate what you feel and what you need.

If you're happy, spread that around.  Reach out to someone who could use a helping hand.  Listen.  Care.  Avoid telling others how they "should" feel or what they "ought to" do unless that's really what the other person is hoping from you.  Listen some more.

Projected statistics aren't an unavoidable eventuality.  We can change them.  My hope is that all of us will contribute to a better future where those who want to escape life can see happiness shining through.

Sunday, June 3, 2018


A friend of mine fixed my slingshot yesterday.  I am now armed and dangerous.  I'm just waiting for the deer or groundhog to show up.  I've acquired a squirrel and bunny too.  Forget all my earlier warm and fuzzy feelings for wildlife.  I'm feeling murderous.

I was weeding my garden the other day when a fawn jumped up and leapt away.  I briefly thought "How beautiful!", then lamented the fact that I hadn't hit it on the head with my shovel.  To make things worse, I found a tick on my leg.  This is a new thing for my part of the world, and I know the deer brought it.  The tick hadn't attached itself yet so I picked it off of me and the damned thing bit me, which hurt far more than you'd think a little bug could hurt, except I'm still suffering from spider bites from my basement so I know small beings can create a world of misery.  Nature is against me!

My turnips are thriving and the rhubarb is doing great.  Sigh.  Really, how many people want to survive on turnips and rhubarb?  The happiest thing I can report on my garden is that my peonies have finally decided to bloom after 3 or 4 years of disappointment and my slingshot fixing friend gave me a new idea for deer obstacles.  I'm also very pleased that the caretaker of my next-door neighbor is clearing that backyard of years of neglect.  The view from my back windows is a very happy green and I'm trying really hard not to let the incessant sound of the chainsaw or tractor drive me insane.

My city had a garage sale day and I lugged lots of things to my garage.  About 10 people showed up because apparently all the other sales were on the other side of town.  I don't think I can even count all of my visitors because that included a neighbor and Mom.  I'm torn between putting all my stuff back in the basement or donating it to a good cause.  I also wonder about leaving it all in the garage and having another sale later in the year.  I did manage to sell 3 large and heavy objects so even with such a poor turnout I'm counting my sale as a success.  Besides, a few friends came over and kept me company, and that always makes for a pleasant day.

The sentence which spawned this illustration for the Mensa Bulletin is "For dinner, the Girl Scouts ate steak, onions and ice cream."  Well, that's just silly.  It sounds like the ice cream has onions in it, and that isn't an ice cream any of us wants to eat. 

I am not a grammarian.  I know some of the rules, and I've read a lot, but I'll admit I just put in commas where they feel right.  I think I get it mostly right?  Sometimes I ask my friend the former English teacher for advice.  Despite my lack of conviction about most grammar rules, I'm certain that I fully agree with the article's author, Richard Lederer, in the use of the serial comma (also called the Harvard or Oxford comma).  Example:  The groundhog ate my basil, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.  The comma we're talking about is after "chard".  It has become a popular trend to leave that comma out, but that trend needs to be stopped!

It feels like I should say something nice about Girl Scouting, but I have to stop writing and rearrange the garage sufficiently to get the lawnmower back into it.  Maybe I'll help the noisy neighbor for a while too, but especially, I'm going to find some time to just look out the window at the lovely green of the season :)

Another green thing, though not an original idea, a cactus I made by painting rocks as a gift to someone who hates taking care of houseplants.  She was thrilled with it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

"Guinea Pig"

I've been thinking this blog has been too heavy lately.  Write a cute story, a nostalgic story.  What's the word for the week?  (2 words actually.)  Guinea pig.  I only have one story about that, and while there might be some nostalgia in it, I'm not so sure about cute.

Well, it started cute.  My 2nd grade class parented a guinea pig.  It rustled around in its paper strips and wood chips during class.  It called "Weet, weet, weet!" when all the kids trooped in.  We took turns feeding it carrots and giving it love.  I adored it.  I happily swapped out the soiled bedding when it was my turn, and just as happily did the task for prissier classmates.

It was a wonderful, age-appropriate classroom experience... Until.  Until the disaster.  Someone left the bag of high protein pellets too close to the cage on a Friday and the guinea pig ate and ate and ate until it exploded.  Thankfully, the teacher was the only one who actually saw our exploded pet and shushed us quickly out of the room until she had cleaned up whatever needs cleaned up from an exploded guinea pig.  We weren't allowed to have any more pets in class after that, which I thought was quite a shame.  I would've loved to have a class dog, or even a fish tank.  We grew beans in Styrofoam cups instead, which you have to admit lacks the same kind of cuddling ops as a guinea pig.

Even with the disaster, I still think it was a good experience for our class.  We learned about the consequences of shirking our responsibilities.  We learned about death and shared our grief.  We cemented our sense of empathy.  We explored our sense of humor as a coping skill with many, many exploding jokes.

I look back at this and think to myself that it couldn't have been 2nd grade.  I had Mrs. Brinnager back then, and she was a caricature of severity.  She had a permanently clenched fist from some kind of medical issue, a red splotch in the middle of her lined forehead, and wild gray hairs haloing her face despite her strict bun.  She was beyond firm in her rules, and quick to punish offenders.  I'd watch her bony stride across the playground and think "Oh no!" even when I was completely innocent because she constantly looked angry.

Mrs. Brinnager looked like the Wicked Witch of the West, but she was kind to give us a guinea pig.  She taught us things.  She granted terse compliments when merited.  By comparison, my evil 1st grade teacher looked like Glinda the Good Witch.  The unintended lesson of don't judge a book by its cover was a life-long lesson -- though I was even happier with my 3rd grade teacher who was both attractive and nice.

It's strange to me that so many people don't remember their teachers.  I think I remember them all, both good and bad.  Some of them were extraordinary people, and some should never be allowed near children.  And both good and bad, they impacted my life.  It's hard to spend so much time with someone without feeling that impact even when we don't consciously remember them.

To the good teachers, thank you!

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Have you ever felt sorry for Goliath?  Maybe you don't really know the story, just that the young hero David triumphed over the giant with a rock.  In a nutshell, the Jews and Philistines had a war, Goliath was a giant, the Philistines' biggest, most fearsome warrior.  Goliath waged a psychological war by coming out every morning and challenging the Jews to send a champion to fight him one on one, victor wins the war.  David, a shepherd, hears the challenge.  Instead of fighting hand to hand, he uses his sling to kill Goliath with a rock.  David cut off Goliath's head and David is a hero forever more.

Maybe Goliath was just a braggart?  Maybe he just wanted the war to end?  Maybe he knew that taunting the Jews was keeping his side alive?  Since victors always write the history, the Jews tell this story as the true religion triumphing over the infidels.

David was brave, but maybe he was an idiotic young kid who hadn't seen enough of life to know he might be in over his head, but since his tactics won nobody seems to question whether or not he played fair.  He was clever and God was on his side.

I'm not preaching religion by talking about David and Goliath.  Whatever the religious ramifications, this is an old story which is believed by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  I suspect most believe the story as it's told without looking very deeply into it, if they bother to read it at all.  What I'm trying to say is there's always more than one side to the story, even if the losers don't get to write it.

The war between the Jews and Philistines never ended.  We just call the Philistines Palestinians now and they're David at this point and the Jews are Goliath.  The Palestinians literally threw rocks this week while the Jews mowed them down with gunfire.  We're still fighting the same religious wars that we've been fighting for millennium.  I sincerely wish it would stop.

Every side of every war, each side thinks God is with them and not the enemy.  In most cases, both sides are praying to the same God.  Horrific things are done.  Whatever bad things happen because of us, well, that's unfortunate but forgivable.  Whatever bad things happen because of our enemies, they're evil.  Kill them.

What if Jews welcomed Palestinians as equals?  What if they shared power and worked towards agreements?  What if they just got together and honestly tried to get to know each other without weapons?  What if others stayed out of the fight?

I reshaped the flower beds in front of my house this week.  A neighbor went out of his way to tell me I'd done a good job.  It cost him nothing, but it made me feel good.  I gave him tomato plants.  He feels good.  I volunteered to plant the city's planters.  That's a task off a city worker and we're both happier.  What if more people looked outside of themselves to see what they can do to spread some happiness?

Power shifts and morphs.  If you're Goliath now, be careful, you might meet a David.  Maybe you'll become a David.  Plan ahead by getting along with your neighbors.  Send them some love.  Compliment their flowers.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


I almost varnished a hair into my latest art therapy project, which if it had escaped my notice would've irritated me until the end of time.  Maybe my OCD tendencies require some attention?  I feel like I've been working on this piece forever, but I guess it's been just over a month.  Keep in mind, I wasn't actual painting all that time.  Sometimes I ignored it or just carried the painting around my house and pondered it and the issues I wanted to resolve.  My dog follows me around and sleeps when I settle somewhere.

The composition turned into a hairy nightmare because I'm letting these paintings grow in their own ways as I discover new ideas about the issues I'm pondering.  It's so much easier when I know what I want to paint in the first place, but I'm loving the challenge of these projects, and when I get to the point when I actually sign them I feel joy.  I even enjoy looking at these paintings when they're done, which I think is an odd result when I'm painting about unpleasant events in my life.

Part of the pleasure is finding good times during periods I've remembered as blanket negativity.  I racked up quite a few honors and accomplishments.  I met really interesting and influential people.  I helped kids rack up honors and accomplishments too.  I stood on a stage and gave speeches to hundreds of people without passing out.

At the same time, the people were truly terrible.  Two of them are currently in prison.  I was repeatedly threatened, assaulted, harassed, and stalked.  My house and office were repeatedly broken into.  I couldn't get support from anyone including legal authorities, relatives, or friends.  And oh yeah, one of those friends was having an affair with my husband.  Bleak times.  My health suffered.

In times like this it's hard to see life getting better, yet it did -- and then the cycle repeated, which is often the case because when I shut the door on that past I failed to examine some critical lessons.  I kept people in my life who failed me when I needed them, so it shouldn't have been a surprise they didn't help me when new problems entered my life.  I was still surprised and disappointed.

Victims are told not to talk about negatives.  Think happy thoughts.  Quit dwelling on the past.  Forgive.  No.  Perhaps these advisors live rosy lives without this kind of grief, but I suspect a lot of people can relate to some of my miseries after witnessing the Me Too movement.  Me Too gives victims a voice they've been denied, and I think there's something very healing about hearing their stories and empathizing with their pain.

I boohooed about getting divorced and found the sun shone more brightly on the other side of the courthouse.  I worried about money and earned more after getting out of that hellhole.  Life gets better, and bad cycles don't have to repeat when we own the cycles of the past.  It takes some honest soul searching and effort, but it's worth it.

I think it's time for me to take a break from art therapy though.  Something happy?  Less intense?  But let me encourage everyone to find their own self expression and growth.  Maybe something that doesn't include itsy bitsy portraits?

And yes, I stretched the "hairy" topic this week even though I have lots of art with hairy subjects.  Sometimes it's just better to follow our own music!

Friday, May 4, 2018


I think I'm pretty easy to get along with.  If you believe and do things differently than me, okay.  Live and let live.  All I ask is that you treat me with the same liberty.  Of course, people aren't like that.  They want you to believe and do the same as themselves, and anything other than that is seen as a challenge that must be overcome or destroyed.  I can't change my inquisitive, questing temperament, so I imagine you can see the difficulties I've encountered.

I was the same as a child.  I went to church every week and did my best to follow the rules, but then they described heaven as a glimmering city with streets paved in gold.  I was horrified.  There was no way I wanted to spend eternity in a city on my knees saying endless hosannas -- without dogs!  Sounded like a hell to me.  My adults had an impossible task in trying to make this sound like a reward for good behavior.

I went back home to my utopian woods and river and pondered deeply why God wanted me to live in a city on my knees.  It was just one thing of many that didn't make sense.  So, even though I'm easy to get along with, I was sometimes called a difficult child.  I suppose I still am?  Perhaps we all are until the adults force us into conformity?  Then, we become the adults forcing conformity.  I don't think any of this makes us happy.

This isn't just about religion; it's everything.  Everybody says you should want to be married.  Tried that; it didn't work for me.  Everybody told me to be an engineer.  I became an artist.  On and on and on.  I'm sure you have your own list of "ought tos", "have tos".  What I've come to realize is that the advice others push on us is the advice they'd like to take themselves.  It's what they want, and they want you do it for them.

I've always thought the golden rule should be do unto others as they would have you do unto them.  Not how you want to be treated, how they want to be treated.  Otherwise, it's extraverts forcing shy people to parties or introverts forcing extraverts to sit quietly.  Or simcity civil engineers forcing me into an eternity of their concept of heaven when I need trees and dogs.

I was asked a while ago to describe my perfect life.  I spent weeks considering my answer.  Eventually, I came to understand that perhaps I'm living it.  Well, keep in mind this was before I spent so much time scrubbing my basement free of mold and mouse poop, but still.  (And for the record, I'm still scrubbing.  My allergies won't allow me to work on it any faster.)

The point is, decide for yourself what you want, and appreciate it when you have it.  If your ideal afterlife is a golden city, mazel tov.  I'd like to think God will provide a place in the woods for people like me -- with dogs.  And paint.  I would hope that making art would count towards my hosannas :D 

Sunday, April 29, 2018


There's odd satisfaction to seeing people scavenge stuff piled on my tree lawn for garbage pick up.  I felt I should run out and say it's all been contaminated with mouse poop and mold, but it rained.  Nature protected them by washing it.  I was also tempted to ask somebody to help me carry out bigger pieces of furniture, but I was tired.  Maybe next week?

I've been trying to transform my basement, but it's a slow go since I'm very sensitive to whatever lurks down there.  I suspect the worst culprit is mold I found on the rafters once the mouse poop ceiling came down.  My eyes have been red and swollen.  My tip for the week is to put used teabags on them to suck out the evil spirits.

When not washing rafters (spiking my delicate hands with a nail and splinters), I've been washing endless basement stuff.  There's a lot of it.  You wouldn't know it to walk through the main part of my house, but I collect and hoard things.  For instance, 8 teapots -- and I never use a teapot.  They're just pretty.  One was Grandma's.  I can't get rid of a Grandma thing, even if it's contaminated with mouse poop and mold dust.  I carefully washed it and packed it nicely in a new box.  Some of the others have unpleasant memories attached though.  I'm debating whether or not to start selling things.

I've also continued to try to transform myself by plodding along on my latest art therapy painting.  This latest has been dragging, but it is accomplishing its purpose.  Slowing down and really thinking about a hard period of my past helps me see things differently.  I can see positives.  I can sew negatives together in a different way.

I think most of us create a shorthand in our minds about the past.  For instance, my ex-husband is a narcissist.  He hurt my self-esteem.  Bad husband.  Slam the door on the past.  The painting isn't about him, but I can't think about that period of time without remembering the part he played, and throwing out the mental shorthand, really spending time thinking through things, I discover new truths that I can actually feel in my body.  Fiddling with the painting layout, I actually laughed when I came up with a moment of gratitude towards him.  I didn't think it was possible.

We can't ignore the past.  We carry it around all the time, even when we refuse to acknowledge it.  It effects our decisions and behavior.  It creates who we are now.  It becomes our choice what we're going to do with it.

We can't change the past, but we can change the narrative.  The fact that this painting is taking me a long time to create is an indication of how complicated the issue is for me.  It gives me something to think about when I'm washing rafters and dishes.  And like cleaning physical things, I feel like I'm scrubbing my mind.  I think I'll be a lot happier when all the mold and mouse poop is gone, really and metaphorically.

BTW, the keys are just a part of the painting.  I'll post the whole thing if it ever gets finished.

"Adding wings to caterpillars does not create butterflies, it creates awkward and dysfunctional caterpillars. Butterflies are created through transformation." ~ Stephanie Marshall

Friday, April 20, 2018


I love pink.  Not the plastic pink in the girls' aisle in a store, but pink flowers and pink cheeks, pink awnings, pink lipstick, pink puppy bellies, pink, pink, pretty pink.  It's a living, happy color -- which has very little to do with what I've been up to lately other than the pretty pink scarf I tie on my head before descending into the pits of hell.

You may remember that I mentioned I've been on a dust elimination quest.  This has helped my sinus issues, but it didn't solve them, and I was running out of things to dust.  Then, a ceiling tile fell down in the basement.  I noticed a hint of an odd, indefinable smell and studied the old, crappy ceiling.  I've never liked these acoustical tiles, but I never felt like getting into the mess of tearing it down.  I don't spend any time in the basement other than wash clothes and store things anyway.

The tile on the floor looked disgusting.  I mentioned this to a buddy who reminded me of my plumbing disaster a few years ago.  He suggested that the mold in the basement may have gotten into the ceiling.  Ugh.  I went back to the basement and studied.  On my friend's advice, I put on a face mask before reaching up and pulling down another tile.

Mouse poop!  Eeks!  Disgusting!  My house has been defiled!!!

I knew I had a mouse a few years ago.  It got into the dog food and gnawed on a couple of my sweaters, but I found its corpse before I got around to murdering it.  Mouse problem over, at least that's what I thought.

I decided the ceiling had to go and started pulling down more tiles.  There wasn't a little mouse poop, there was a lot of it.  Eeks, eeks, yuck, ew!  Since it was trash day, I loaded up the bin and stopped for the day.

I woke up the next day obsessed about mouse poop.  Could it really be the thing that has been making feel lousy?  I looked it up online and found out it can actually kill you.  No wonder I feel so icky about the situation.  I pulled the rest of the ceilings down, loaded up the trash bin again, and bagged the rest where they are piled in the driveway awaiting next week's trash truck.  Included in that trash is mammal poop, mouse nest, and a bird skeleton.  I feel like I can't wash my hands enough at this point.  I've bought plastic gloves and disinfectant to wash everything I own.

In an odd way, I'm actually feeling good about all of this.  First and foremost, because I'm getting rid of something disgusting, but also because it feels symbolic.  I sometimes think of my house as a mirror.  The first floor is everyday life.  Upstairs is higher ideals.  The basement is subconscious.  I didn't know I had mouse poop and a dead bird in my subconscious, but I'm glad to discover it and eliminate it.  And in an odd synchronicity, my current art therapy painting recently made me aware of the disgust I feel towards some people in my past.  It feels like cleaning mouse poop is cleaning my brain too.

I have a lot of scrubbing to do.  I think I'll play some P!nk to make the chore go happily.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


The weather was glorious in Ohio for a couple of days this week.  I went to the park and smelled flowers.  I listened to a deafening riot of frogs trying to get lucky at the pond.  I felt the sun on my face and was feeling generally at peace with the world when a man jogged past.

Joggers are common, but this guy stopped me in my tracks.  He was shirtless and had on tight, spandex, uh, what to call it?  Let's say it was less material than underpants, and the brightly colored British flag's X was clearly marking a spot that us Ohioans keep private.  He also had on brilliant lime green spandex on his wiry calves that were sort of like rippled knee socks, or maybe neon greaves?  He smiled, and I was dimly aware that he was good looking, but it took me some moments before I could put that whole picture together in my mind.  I hope to see him again sometime.  It was kind of like seeing an exotic and fascinating insect, or maybe a Sasquatch sighting.

When I look at Jane's blog, she never has such skimpily clad and brightly colored men jogging through the English parks.  What's going on in this guy's head?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Aside from these cultural exchanges, I can say that I don't care about the upcoming US/British nuptials.  We aren't living in a Disney movie.  If Princess Di's life showed us anything, wearing a crown comes at a cost.  I hope her son and his wife fare better than Di did.  And yet, Queen Elizabeth looks a lot like my grandma.  I have red headed siblings.  It feels like a family wedding, which leaves me wondering why I didn't get invited, but thankful I don't have to buy a present.

I'd like to say that I think monarchies are obsolescent and democracy is patently superior, but I watch the news.  Current events make me doubt the wisdom of letting some people vote, besides making me question the value of humanity in general.  It's like the old curse, may you live in interesting times.  We're living it.

Oh well, I've been waging a personal war on dust lately.  This goes against my general reluctance towards housekeeping.  My house is clean and tidy enough, but I've a theory that dust is causing some of my sinus troubles and headaches and I'm working on stamping out this scourge from my life.  It may kill me.  I did a thorough cleaning of all the hidden spots in, under, and behind furniture in one room and spent the following several days coughing, wheezing, and miserable.  When recovered, I attacked everything dog-related, including the dog.  This caused a couple more miserable days.  The dog's bath seemed to only create more shedding.  I feel like I'm losing the battle, but I shall persevere!  I'm feeling considerable sympathy for whoever cleans monarchs' palaces.

Friday, April 6, 2018


A friend commented on my "monkey mind" when I split our conversation into maybe a fifth or tenth tangent without completing a point about any of the subjects.  "Say what, huh?"  He quietly explained how our minds can behave like monkeys: aggressive, fearful, scattered...  At the time, his patient voice soothed and comforted my monkey brain, but the conversation stayed with me ever since.

Google "monkey mind" and you'll find lots of articles on the topic.  Here's one by Forbes.  In it, the author suggests the following 8 ways to quiet your mind:

          Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
          Color, count, recite, run
          Talk to someone or write
          Practice acceptance
          Help others
          Reword the rhetoric

Obviously, my first pick is "color"!  Though to be honest, on a good day I use most of these techniques.  On a bad day, well, probably none of them.  I certainly don't want to present myself as holier than thou about such things.  I'm a work in progress.  This painting is the latest in my art therapy efforts where I explore my past jobs and try to soothe my monkey mind from yelling "Die, die, die!" to people in my past.

This painting made me think about the job in different ways.  I did a lot of good work there, and I wanted to show my portfolio on the canvas -- but that wasn't the point.  It was more important to remember how many variations of stripes, dots, hollies, snowflakes, and hearts I created.  Also, the fights with China through online translation services, the complex math and technical drawings my coworkers refused to do, the number of Advils I swallowed for migraines.

 And for all of that, working my way through the painting lets me find gratitude.  I'm a far better artist for having working there.  It's just been hard for me to feel thankful when the people were so awful.  Painting lets me slow down and quiet my monkey mind enough to feel that gratitude.  It also helped me discover aspects of working that matter to me.

Actual comic by Bill Watterson which I hung in my office at that job.
I love Calvin and Hobbes!

Onto the next adventure, being the job before that, which had even more awful people.  To give you a clue, my first step for that painting was to look up prison records of a couple of them.  You can't say my life hasn't been colorful!  But it's like the reindeer jumping off the canvas, the point is to leave these people behind and to find happiness in the experiences.

Saturday, March 31, 2018


The old man next door used to pick mushrooms under the pine trees at my childhood home.  Last fall, I noticed similar mushrooms under a friend's pines.  I really wish I knew whether or not they're the same type.  I'm very nervous about eating wild mushrooms since they can kill you.  Whatever the old man ate must've had life-giving properties though.  He lived almost forever.

I used to get dried morel mushrooms in bulk from Whole Foods, but they've quit carrying them.  If anyone has a suggestion for another source, I'd appreciate your suggestions.

When my niece was little, she refused to eat "Fungus!"  I told her I like mushrooms, maybe she'd like them too.  Absolute refusal.  I said, "You don't have to like everything, but try everything so you know whether or not you actually like things or not."  She tried them.  She didn't like them.  We laughed.  I still figure it was an important life lesson for her.  She discovered other foods she did like, especially green foods and fruit.

I think about what's best for young people quite a bit.  Mostly, I think they are living like mushrooms, living in dark rooms lit by televisions or their phones.  "40% of Millennials don't know how to change a light bulb!", I exclaimed to a Millennial couple over lunch.  Neither of my friends seemed to care about this staggering statistic.  "They just wait until someone else comes over who knows how to do it, or they HIRE someone to change the bulb!"  My friend nodded like that was a sensible solution and problem solved.

I shook my head in dismay.  I tried to explain how their age group spends stupid money on all sorts of unnecessary things that could be avoided if they learned how to do simple tasks.  "They don't even know how to boil an egg!"  "That's understandable.  Making eggs is hard."  I listed other basic life skills Millennials lack.  I didn't argue my points well enough, or maybe we're just speaking different languages.  They don't see that I'm worried for the future of their peers.

Maybe all my worrying is for nothing?  Once they figure out they need to learn something, they'll probably learn it.  It just seems like too many young people are failing to launch themselves into the world.  They're too afraid of too many things.  Bad things will happen, but bad things happen to all of us.  We all have to learn how to pick ourselves up and try again.

...contemplating my first broken heart, subsequent broken hearts, current unwillingness to get involved...

Wait a minute!  Do as I say, not as I do!  At least I know how to boil an egg and change a light bulb!

Actually, I've been feeling heartened by the young people marching and organizing about gun regulations.  It's nice to see them doing things, and doing things together.  Maybe some of the other kids who are living as mushrooms will start living in the daylight too?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

"Twins 2"

Last week I said my most recent painting didn't have any twins in it so I'd post it this week instead.  Since IF has neglected to give me a new word for the week, I guess the "twin" is the title?

I happily showed Bro2 my recent creative output and he said, "Nobody's going to buy your bitch paintings."  I laughed.  Selling the paintings isn't really the point, though I wonder if maybe people would want to buy them?  I've certainly put a lot of energy into them, and I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.  When I told a friend about Bro's comment, she said nobody would know I was bitching if I didn't tell them.  "It just looks officey, and lots of people can relate to office clutter."

I've said in the past that I left my last job mad.  I decided to store my anger on canvas instead of carrying it around.  It seems to be working.  Maybe it's a petty vengeance to paint the names of sinners at a religious organization, but I feel better for having done it.  Maybe religious people will like my quotes?

The wicked are overthrown by their wickedness, but the just find refuge in their integrity." ~ Proverbs 14:32

"To trust that everything that happens to us is for our good, is hope." ~ Mother Angelica

"You see Lord, how I am wronged.  Do me justice!  You see their vindictiveness, all their plots against me.  You hear their reproach, all their plots against me, the whispered murmurings against me all day long: give them what they deserve Lord according to their deeds: give them hardness of heart: your curse be upon them.  Pursue them in wrath and destroy them from under the Lord's heaven!" ~ Lamentations 3:59-66

I had these quotes on my bulletin board at work.  One day, I saw a priest reading that quote from Lamentations.  He didn't say a word.  He knew it was justified.

The charts prove points I doubt anyone else wants to understand.  The important thing is I was right.  Life would be so much easier if people understood that from the beginning because I believe in the fortune cookie's wisdom: "When working towards the solution to a problem, it always helps if you know the answer."

Nobody assigned me to art therapy.  It just seemed like a healthier alternative than bombing the church (or indulging in violent fantasies) -- and I feel healthier.  I discovered that despite all the miserable people and events at that job, there were quite a few aspects I really enjoyed, looking up vengeful Bible quotes for instance.  And beyond that, I found I was really good at all those numbers, I designed pretty and effective mailings, I improved my writing skills, and maybe most important, I made real friends whom I value.

I smile when I look at my "bitch painting".  I think my art therapy worked.  Now I'm working on a painting of the nasty job before that :)

My personal prayer request

Friday, March 16, 2018


I was rummaging around on my shelves for something and noticed my pastels.  It's been forever since I did anything with them, so I decided to get them out and spread colored dust around my house.  Well, that wasn't my original intent, but it's what obviously happened.  I also discovered that whatever the medium, I can make myself crazy with it and waste entirely too much time.

The girl is part of an illustration I did for Mensa's monthly magazine.  The accompanying article is about grammar, specifically the sentence, "The maiden held the white lily in her delicate fist".  The point being that "fist" and "delicate" aren't usually put together.  This is what it looks like in the actual magazine...

You'd think the fist would be a bother, but it was ridiculously quick and easy.  I just tortured myself on everything else, and I don't really know why.  Perhaps at some level I can't separate my art from myself?  I still see things I'd rather fix, but sometimes you just have to be done with it.  Making her a twin was easy in PhotoShop.

Twin brothers plus an extra brother
There's a Twins Days festival near me, "the largest annual gathering of twins (& other multiples) in the world!"  I could never get my twin brothers to go to it even though twins from around the world show up.  I've got a friend who is a twin too.  He doesn't go either.  I think it must be hard to be seen as a whole human being instead of half of a set.  Heck, it's hard enough for me not to get compared to regular siblings in a big family.

I finished my latest art therapy painting, but since there isn't anything in it even remotely "twin" in it I guess I'll show you how it turned out next week.  I took the painting out drinking yesterday.  That was fun.  There was an actual reason why I did it.  The painting is about my last job and I was drinking with my friends from that job.  I sat it on the bench in the booth and my friends played Where's Waldo with it.  Our waitress told us about her frustrated art studies too.

I told you last week that while I am justifiably angry and sad about things at the last job, I actually feel like I took away more good than bad from it.  After all, I was out drinking with my buddies and talking art, laughing about the old days, shaking our heads over the stupidity that's still going on over there.  Done!  I smiled happily when I varnished the painting.  Done with the past stress, done with the painting.  Onto the next!

Preparing for my next art therapy painting, I read my folder for the job before this last.  Oh my.  That job was horrible.  It was even more horrible than the last job.  My jaw was clenched for 2 days after reading that folder.  It might still be clenched for that matter.  I suppose it didn't help to also read the folder on an interim job I had after that.

But the thing is, I'm actually looking forward to painting the next painting.  I left that job 10 years ago.  There's no good reason to still have jaw-clenching feelings about those people.  Time to speak my mind, express myself, let it go, and immortalize more sinners through art.  Yay!

Even my little girl art was art therapy in a way.  Maybe all art is?

Saturday, March 10, 2018


I'm still painting obsessively tiny things, with far too much detail to be entirely sane.  Taking photos and enlarging them makes me very aware that all of this would be simpler to do in PhotoShop in the first place, or easy to fix things in PS, but that would defeat the purpose.  I want to spend time with my thoughts and paint brushes.  It's meditation.

This painting is related to my recent painting of the box.  There were too many things to put in that box so I painted some folders for topics to be addressed later.  Here, the folder on my last job is opened.  It's a work in progress.  I feel like I'm spending a stupid amount of time on what is essentially the background, but yeah, meditation.

Through the process, I own that there were parts of the job that I really loved.  I made real friends.  I got to design and write printed pieces I am proud of making.  I was very good at juggling numbers and data and people.  I saved enough of my earnings to be able to paint what I want for a while.

Glass half empty or half full?  It was also such a hostile environment I had to leave.  I obviously still have enough feelings about that to feel inspired to make a painting about it -- and even so, part of me feels grateful.  Not for the abuse, but the learning and experiencing in an environment I'd never go to if it weren't for the paycheck.

We always have a choice about where we put our attention.  I'm pretty sure there are certain people at the Shrine that I will always remember with loathing -- but why should I allow those people space in my mind?  I realize we don't get to choose our feelings, but we also don't have to let those feeling take over all the good around us.  I can think of my Shrine friends instead.  One of them recently got married and is having a second baby.  Woo hoo!  Happy, happy!

I originally thought painting negative issues would be seriously depressing and I'd be left with paintings I wouldn't want to look at.  I'm finding the opposite to be true.  I'm loving my paintings.  Instead of feeling down, I'm happier.  Wrap it up, tie it with a bow, and get rid of the sh*t.  Yay!  Documenting past ills lets me quit carrying them.  Even naming my anger is liberating.  Maybe I should become an art therapist?

Anyway, talisman... "an object thought to have magic powers and bring good luck."

Saint Ann's Shrine has 1st-class relics Pope-certified as pieces of bone of Jesus' grandmother.  The chapel and relics fell under my department, and while my title was officially "Development Director", I preferred to call myself "Shrine Keeper".  The Church didn't need to know I was inspired by Merlin in Mary Stewart's books*.  I was pleased shrine keeping is an actual job in the 21st century

Religion can be fascinating when viewed from an inside seat without the indoctrination.  I said I'd put energy into getting my book on the subject published.  I'm rather ashamed to say that I haven't done it.  I've been painting, and that seems more important right now.  However, I have followed through with my walking and actually made it to my park.  I even walked the flattish bit of the park.  I then walked home and discovered impressive blisters on my feet, preventing me from walking anymore this week.  Are we sure exercise is actually good for us?

*Mary Stewart's Merlin books are some of my all-time favorites.  They are:  The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, and The Wicked Day.

Friday, March 2, 2018


I'm an enthusiastic yet terrible pianist.  On my best day I can use 3 fingers on a song.  It doesn't stop me from playing.  Sometimes I sing too, but that's asking for quite a bit out of me at a time, like skipping and crocheting at the same time.

My dog isn't picky about my musical efforts unless I howl.  She's not quite sure what to make of that.  The howling started on a date at his suggestion.  He seemed to think I need loosened up.  I think he was right.  I discovered I like howling.  I can make myself belly laugh all by myself, well sort of by myself since the dog is here looking at me with worried eyes.  She's getting old, 17 this week in fact.  Maybe I should quit worrying her with howling?  Oh well, she's pretty deaf at this point anyway.  I'm not giving it up.

I'm lousy at the piano because I never had any lessons.  Ironically, I used to be in charge of the music program at the local civic center.  I kept meaning to take lessons with the very nice young man who taught piano, but you know, one thing or another got in the way.  I'm not sure being responsible has ever brought real joy into my life?

My favorite part of the pianos at the civic center was when the piano tuner came.  He's from Sparta,Tennessee, the same miniscule town where my grandpa was from.  I could listen to the piano tuner all day, and he's a talker.  It was kind of like having Grandpa back for a while.  Now that I'm thinking of it, a day with the piano tuner was kind of like a year with Grandpa, who was definitely not a talker.

Near the end of Grandpa's life, I went to see him when he was just getting up in the morning.  He was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes when he said something, but it was hard to figure out what he was saying.  The accent was so thick you'd think he'd just come from the woods a couple hundred years ago, not at all like the mellowed accent I knew from his 70-some years living in Ohio.  The more he woke up, the more he lost that heavy accent, but I wished he'd talk that way a while longer.  I found it fascinating.

It's one of the things I never understood about "My Fair Lady".  Why change her accent?  I thought she was fun to listen to, while the Professor Higgins' accent was kind of dull.

I, on the other hand, don't have an accent.  You can listen to people on tv and they talk like me.  Sort of.  Mostly.  I asked my dog, "Dja wanna ga out?"  Okay, maybe I hear it.  Even I have never understood why there's a J in "did you".  A guy I know from Michigan likes to say "Djeat?" which is an invitation to get food.  That's nice.  Sure, let's eat.

I suppose none of this says much about pianos except nice memories of the tuner, but I'm in a merry mood today for no particular reason.  I started another painting, the intention being to work out some negative issues.  I kept thinking of pleasant associations instead, and I scolded myself for not sticking to the point.  Pfft.  Isn't the point to get rid of the sh*t so I can be happy?  If I'm already there, why mine sh*t?

I finished my tool painting.  This is small, 14" x 11", and no point to it at all other than to say everybody needs to own these basic things even if you don't know how to fix anything.  Bro2 says it should include a staple gun, but I didn't have room for that.  What tool do you think is essential?