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!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Giant"

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

"Hairy"

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

"Utopia"

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

"Transformation"

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

"Pink"

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

"Crown"

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

"Monkey"

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:

          Meditate
          Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
          Mindfulness
          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

"Mushroom"

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

"Twins"

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

"Talisman"

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

"Piano"

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?

Friday, February 23, 2018

"Knight"


There are a lot of people who think they'd be the knight in shining armor if they ever faced danger.  Most of those people would fail to be heroic.  It isn't like the movies or video games.  Quite a few people would freeze or piss their pants, and the rest would run or hide which is the most sensible thing to do.

The news has been non-stop about the school shooting in Florida.  Whatever the actions of the individuals in that crisis, I think the kids who are facing down the politicians are on a quest we can all admire.

Guns aren't my issue.  I've been more active in promoting actual education in schools than worrying about school safety.  I grew up with guns, know people who are rabid about having them, others who are rabid to get rid of them.  I feel like the last moderate.

I'm aware the NRA owns politicians, and the NRA isn't a responsible owner of the people.  It's an organization that profits from gun sales and therefore death and injury.  I don't care (much) if hunters want to hunt.  Come to my house and take out the deer and groundhogs.  I'll feel bad about it, but also rejoice to have a decent garden again where I can feel bad about shoveling a worm in half.  But knowing hunters, I also know you don't need a semi-automatic to take out a deer.  Stop BSing us.  You just want the most lethal guns to cover your insecurities.

The facts are against gun owners.  A gun in your house makes you and your loved ones more likely to getting shot either by accident, suicide, or domestic violence.  Countries that have banned guns have less gun violence.  Arming teachers isn't going to happen.  Pay for proper security and school supplies instead.  Having responsible background checks isn't going to change your life unless you can't pass a background check -- and then I think everyone else would agree you shouldn't have a gun.  I also think we can all agree that if someone is on the do not fly list they shouldn't have a gun either.

I can sort of understand gun owners' statements about rights, but at some point your rights end where they infringe on someone else.  Your freedom of speech doesn't allow you to shout "Fire!" in the movie theater.  Public safety has to be taken into consideration.

I'm glad the Florida kids are speaking up and protesting, yet at some point the adults need to take over to pass reasonable restrictions.  Pressure needs to be put on the politicians and companies which support the NRA dictatorship.  Mental health care needs to happen when someone is at risk of becoming violent (and in general for a happy society).  Movies and games should quit glorifying violence in ever increasing realism.  There are many things we can do, and must do, including having reasonable conversations.

I don't want to romanticize knights who made games of violence.  More than anything, we need to address our violent culture which is rife with child abuse, spousal abuse, rape, harassment, misogyny, murder, war, etc., etc., etc.  A better world is possible.  Let's work together to make it happen.

The tools are part of a work in progress.  Right now I'm thinking of using them to dismantle and bang up military grade weapons.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

"House"

The closest park to my house has a pool and ball fields and too many yelling kids.  There's a tiny pond with an arching bridge and half the geese in NE Ohio, so you know even when the grass isn't green there's enough green goose poop to keep things colorful.  People like to take wedding and prom pictures by the sculpted gardens and fountains.  The police station and city hall are on the property which makes me feel over disciplined even if the only thing I'm doing is walking the dog.  Even the sculpted gardens feels overly disciplined.

The next park is a golf course so I don't think that really counts, but the park after that has actual trees and wildlife.  I like that park, but it's just far enough away to drive, and such a short drive feels wasteful.  My new exercise goal is to not only walk to the park, but to actually walk it too.  I'm either going to get healthier or have a cardiac arrest.

Maybe I should point out I live downhill from everything except Lake Erie.  This means I have to walk up 2 fairly significant hills just to get to the first park.  If I ever achieve my goal of getting to the nature park, there's 2 significant hills within the park.  The last time I walked up that second hill I stood at the top with spots in my eyes.  Uh uh uh ugh.

Yesterday, I decided the weather was crappy enough I could justify only walking the first hill, but all this stupid exercise made me feel energetic enough to walk up the second too.  Then, oh why not, I'll walk a bit more.  The freezing Canadian wind chilled by the frozen lake whipped my face raw but I persevered.  I got to the next stop on my exercise plan and saw the sign for the good park in the distance.  I turned around and walked home with the frozen wind whipping my other cheek.  It took hours to feel warm again.  My shoulders hurt.  Since when does walking make shoulders ache?

Sadly, I think walking some more might help.  Stupid exercise.  There's some sort of built in addictive process involved.  I wasn't even interested in dinner afterwards.  Unlike some of you people, I'm obviously a reluctant exerciser.  I just want miraculous physical ability without wasting my time and effort.

I'm trying to keep things interesting so I don't lose interest and give up.  The word for the week was blue not long ago.  I looked for blue things on my walk.  Now I look for other colors too.  I noticed a house with pink shutters and awnings for sale.  I looked up the price when I got home ($116,000).  I amused myself by imagining a little old lady living there.  Another house looks like it's been split into 4 or more apartments with adjoining decks.  I imagined some excellent deck parties.  The garage for someone else's house looks about the size of my entire house.  I figured out the comparison and it is.

It occurs to me that all this stupid exercise has some benefits beyond my ability to walk up hills and endure weather.  With nothing else to do other than try to avoid a heart attack, my mind is going places it hasn't gone in a long time.  Fantasy, math, and observation are as essential to the creative life as a paintbrush.  We need quiet time to hear things in our minds.  The act of creation is a physical activity.  It can help to actually live in our bodies instead of just our heads.  I'm going to keep looking at houses and making up stories for the people who live in them.

Friday, February 9, 2018

"Olympics"

My first grade class was meekly herded into the gym for a school assembly.  We obediently stayed put in our designated spot while the older classes monkeyed around.  An older girl did a cartwheel in front of us.  I was flabbergasted.  Forget the flagrant disobedience, what would possess that child to put her head at risk by jumping around upside down like that?!!

I asked my girlfriend if she had ever seen such a thing.  She had.  "Can you do it too?"  She got up and did a shaky cartwheel.  I was awed.  I had no idea my girlfriend could defy gravity.  The older girl came back and did 3 perfect cartwheels in a row.  I felt like a backwoods hick who didn't know city tricks.  (Keep in mind, these kids also lived in the boondocks.  They just weren't quite as deeply buried in the woods.)

When at home again, I told Sis1 about this amazing feat of daring.  She knew about cartwheels, but had never tried to do them before.  She gave it a try, then several tries.  She sort of had the idea, but not the actual knack.  Sis2 came home and quickly mastered it.  I got off the grass and tried too.

Eventually, all of us mastered it.  I thought that was enough gymnastics to last a lifetime, but Sis1 enjoyed athletic things.  She started coming home with more ideas of things for us to practice.  I managed to bend over backwards until I could put my hands on the ground, then I eventually managed to get my legs over too.  I walked the railroad ties next to the driveway and pretended it was a balance beam.  The Olympics gave us ideas for more balance beam tricks.  I found a nice broken tree in the woods so I could swoop my legs further down than on the railroad ties.  I did forward and backwards somersaults on that tree too.

Sis1 often spotted me during some of the more difficult maneuvers.  If she wasn't around, I might get a concussion.  I decided gymnastics was stupid, but by the time I got to middle school gymnastics were required.  Those city kids had been collecting more sophisticated tricks in the intervening years too.  I eyed the parallel bars with the same mistrust as I had felt when witnessing my first cartwheel.

I was out in my back yard a few weeks ago when I had a random thought about cartwheels.  Could I still do one?  I almost gave it a shot, but my rational mind quickly shut down that idiocy.  My 5-year-old and 50-something brains are in complete agreement about the rules of my body's verticality and risk.  Perhaps I'll watch some of the Olympics from the safe harbor of my couch.

My wish for this year's Olympics is that North and South Koreans build positive relationships with each other.  I also hope their combined team wins something together creating hope for that region and for the rest of the world.

Friday, February 2, 2018

"Mythology"

The Greek gods were so human.  I love them.  They make me feel so superior, while lazily avoiding life-threatening quests.  If you have kids, you've probably seen Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books.  I like the way Rick captures the humanity of the gods: haughty, selfish, spoiled, sexual, jealous, vain, and every other elevated and base emotion.  Rick also wrote about Roman and Egyptian gods, but they just don't speak to me at the same level.  They're more into law and order and being god-like.  The Greeks were just plain raunchy and fun.

The latest book I'm reading is Drawing Blood by Molly Crabapple.  I think she would have a hell of a good time with the Greek gods.  She supported herself in art school by posting risqué photos of herself online, nude modeling, and dancing.  She got into burlesque entertainment, which strongly influenced the subjects in her art.  She's also into social activism and travel.  It's an interesting read with interesting art.  I'm surprised I found it at my small and conservative local library.

Molly writes of her struggles to make it in the art world.  She's finding success by paving her own path and excellently using social media.  Good for her.  Her energy makes me feel ancient and tired.  Like I said, I want to be lazy and avoid quests.  After all, I've been on my art quest longer than Molly and have had more fights with Gorgons.  Sometimes a successful quest is continuing to put one foot after the other.

I like Molly's expressive style, but I've been in an ultra realistic mood lately.  I sometimes wonder why I'm doing it since nobody will pay me enough for the time I spend on these things, but it's what my heart wants to do right now.  One thing I've discovered is that when I fight what I want to do nothing good happens.  It's like my internal creativity seizes up.  Maybe there's a good reason for me to contemplate the end of a toothbrush?  Maybe Molly will inspire me to use it to flick more paint on a canvas?

The art I've been making for me lately has been art therapy.  I need the realism to make me slow down and really think about things.  This painting is the result of a challenge someone gave me to paint something just for fun.  I didn't look very far for the subject.  It's just stuff in my desk drawer.  At some point I started thinking all I was doing was exposing my messes and hanging them on a wall instead of hiding them in the drawer.  I had to push through my reluctance to finish it, and now I'm happily self-satisfied that I did.  I'm also thinking it was just a gentler therapy than the last couple of paintings.  Exposing our internal messes can make our work (and ourselves) more interesting.  The real myth these days is that everyone should put on a perfect, photoshopped face to the world.

I'm also noticing that I'm not being as nitpicky as I was in the past.  I painted my eraser very quickly.  If you stop to look at it, you can see I didn't fuss it to death.  Yet, I kept trying to pick it up once it was painted.  That's plenty realistic enough.

I've got an illustration project due next week.  I think I'll do some Molly-inspired paint splatters on that.  There's room for everything and all creative expression is good.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"Blue"

When I was a feral wolf child in the woods, I spent my days really looking at things.  I stared a dragonfly in the eyes while it glared back at me.  I looked at a crawdad's feet, not just the pinchy big claws, but all the little claws on the skinny legs too.  I touched the spiny fur of its shell.  I noticed how algae sways with the river current and how water bugs scamper across the water surface.  I listened to the birds singing and found the softest moss bed in the forest.

Why do we let this world of wonder belong only to children?  Not that kids today have the requisite infinite boredom to explore the world so minutely.  It seems nobody makes moss curl up with a finger touch anymore.

The other day I was entranced by the vivid blues and purples of my snowy world.  I started feeling like I "ought to" paint what spread before my eyes.  Thinking about what I "should do" takes away the beauty and just becomes a chore.  I decided not to paint the colors and watched the fat snowflakes fall.  It seemed like the absolute best way to spend my time.

The snow melted and the sun came out.  In the brief moment of sunshine between weather fronts, I walked to the store, a distance just far enough away to be discouraging, about 1 1/2 miles away.  I saw the word "blue" before taking my walk and decided to pay attention to blue things in my world: blue sky, blue jay, blue signs, blue dumpsters, blue trash on the side of the street, blue cars, blue coats.  Oddly, there aren't any blue houses.  Around here it seems they are only white or brick, except for one gray house and 2 beiges.  Nonconformists.  My house is both white and brick so I've clearly adapted to my environment.

I got up and refilled my glass from my blue water pitcher and noticed my next door neighbor's blue house with a blue appliance repair van in the driveway.  Okay, even when I'm trying to pay attention to my world the obvious can escape me.

I think this is really the point though.  How often do we really look around?  If we're zipping around in cars or glued to our hand-held devices, all those blue signs go by without notice.  Why would we notice blue dumpsters?  How long has it been since they replaced the industrial green, banged up dumpsters in the business parking lots?

I walked past a woman in a blue nursing home uniform.  She didn't look up from her phone.  Hey!  Let's interact!  Join me in the real world instead of just the virtual one!  Of course I didn't say that.  I just felt a little lonely for both of us.  Everybody is endlessly talking, but nobody is really saying anything.

I'm going to make an effort to take daily walks and to pay more attention to the world around me, not because I "should", but because it makes me happier than vegetating in front of the computer.  Who knows what other kinds of things are out there waiting to be noticed?

Friday, January 19, 2018

"5"

Sometimes I write some tips for artists, but it occurred to me today that tips for artists are really tips for anyone who looks at art.  We can appreciate images more when we understand more of what the artist intended.  The week's prompt is "5".  I'm pretty sure everyone sees and understands 5 hash marks here.  Maybe you notice I put 5-petaled flowers in the background.  Extra points if you notice the vertical lines are also in clusters of 5.  Each element reinforces the message 5 and adds more visual interest for the viewer.


In 1793, Jacques-Louis David painted "La Mort de Marat" (The Death of Marat).  In some ways, it looks like a comparatively simple painting for David.  The image is powerful, even if we don't know the first thing about Marat.  However, this painting speaks across language barriers and our ignorance.

Forget everything anyone else has ever taught you about looking at art.  What do you see?  How do you feel?  Whatever any of the professionals tell you, how you feel about a piece of art is the final word about whether or not a painting is great or not.

Once you've acknowledged your emotional reaction to the painting, consider the points I made about my 5 brushes.  Even though I assume you don't know who Marat was, do you see repeated themes in the painting that are giving you clues?  I would guess that you notice multiple papers, ink, and quills.  Perhaps your eyes go to the large background?  Maybe you notice the drapery falls as the hero's arm is falling?  The bloody knife is on the floor while the dying man's hands hold a paper and a pen; this isn't a suicide.

Let me tell you that Marat was a radical journalist during the French Revolution.  Now what do you think?  Does it change how you feel about the painting?  I can also tell you he was an ugly man with a debilitating skin condition which caused him to wrap vinegar saturated cloth to his head while he soaked in medicinal baths.  A board was placed on the tub so he could continue writing.  Charlotte Corday, a royalist woman, stabbed him for his political activism.  She was tried and executed for the murder.

Considering Marat was a remarkably unattractive man, David gave him a hero's death.  He used the traditions of Jesus and the saints' martyrdoms for a journalist with serious and smelly health problems.  The drapery falls with the dying man's arm.  The light and shadows move forward.  So much is expressed in such a beautiful way, for a crime scene which was anything but beautiful.

For artists, this painting is also a reminder not to get too trapped by reality.  David was true to life in setting the scene by using the green cloth and the packing box by the tub, but his idealism created an image far different than an ugly man dying in a bloody tub.  We're reminded of what the man did in his life.

What do you want to convey?  How can you use repetitions of a theme to carry your message?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Guitar"

My guitar has butterflies.  This pleases me.  I hope my butterflies don't die in the case from neglect.  Guitars sound better when they're actually played instead of propped in a corner gathering dust.  I'm not a great player, but I'm pretty sure my guitar would prefer inexpert attention than none at all.

Let me apologize again for presidential insults of people and countries with pigment, US allies, or geez, everybody who isn't blonde and Norwegian this week.  What happened to 1960s "make love not war" ideals sung around campfires?  I leaked tears when I listened to this Seeker's version.  I'd like to blame that on menopausal hormones, but I'm just in touch with an earnest wish for a better world.  We should all sing by more campfires.

I refuse to give up my idealism.  We each make the world better with every kind action and word, and even the negatives around us are a chance to learn and make things right.  For instance, this week I've learned the continent of Africa is thriving.  It's far more than famine and AIDS.  Haiti is more than a hurricane disaster zone.  45's "s***hole" comments pushed the media to tell us some positives for a change.  Yay!  Tell us more!

I've complained about public tv's seemingly endless shows about multiculturalism.  It feels racist to complain, but I feel like they're beating me with a stick about an issue with which I'm already agreeable.  Stop lecturing me!  It's like sad puppies or starving children charity ads.  I care about puppies and children, but I'd much rather see something about how a donation results in happy, healthy children/puppies.  Stop miring us in negatives.  Teach us about positives.  Teach us how to get to the positives.

The truth is, we're attracted to negatives.  A traumatic, abusive bond with someone can be far more enduring than a loving relationship, but time with an abuser is time that wasn't spent with someone loving.  Lately I've noticed on my antenna tv there are 2 stations devoted to murder 24 hrs/day, not to mention the other stations' murder shows.  I'm sure cable tv must be far worse.  We're rapt with attention over disasters, abuse, and strife, and media outlets will continue to offer this kind of thing because it keeps our viewership better than "good" subjects.  It takes effort maintaining positivity in a negative world, but I'm convinced it's worth the effort because surrounding ourselves with good people and experiences leads to happier lives for everyone.

I met a young woman outside a store where we were both waiting.  We discovered we shared a birthday that day.  I told her she was pretty.  She was taken aback that I'd say something nice, and then worried I was hitting on her.  I laughed and said I like boys.  We chatted and laughed some more for maybe 15 minutes before we left in different directions, never to see each other again, but with positive memories.

It was such a simple thing.  She was pretty, and nice too.  She was pleasant to talk with when I was burning time.  One small action that didn't cost me anything for a young, black woman who told me she needed a kind word that day.  My bit for race relations might be a helpful memory for her when she listens to racist comments.

Haters get more coverage than the majority of people who don't share those views.  What if all of us who care about others make more effort to say nice things to each other?  Open doors, treat people like people, express some curiosity about them?  Listen to their stories, or just smile?

Kumbaya...

Friday, January 5, 2018

"A"


I can't swear that I didn't reuse some words in this piece.  I tried to pay attention, but proofreading isn't one of my better skills.  I took this week's prompt as a test of how many A words I could think up.  I'll admit I started cheating, but sometimes getting a word off the computer reminded me of quite a few more words lurking in my mind.  I also remembered words that I couldn't define.  I can't really explain why I'd know a word exists without knowing how to use it.  I'm not sure I'll ever really understand my own brain, but I continue to look at it as an interesting object worth studying.

I started another painting, but it isn't far enough along to show it to you yet.  Instead, let's look back at the year that was.


I'm reminded that I've spent much of the last year obsessed with the news.  I try to ignore it, but I can't.  Sometimes my obsession leaked into my posts.  I tried to keep that at a minimum because I like to get along and share happier thoughts.  Some of the things I wrote about in the last year feel like they happened a super long time ago.  Did I testify in court in February?!  I'm pretty sure that was at least 5 or 6 years ago.  Went to the cheese factory with Bro2?  That had to be in some other year too.  Some things feel so immediate I can't believe they happened months ago.  I'm also reminded of things that I didn't discuss but were seeping through the tone of my posts.

I lost 3 friends in 2017.  Two died, one was very old, one was too young.  The third friend is just going in a different direction with different values and priorities than me.  It happens.  It's sad.  I wish him well.  I found out another friend died a couple of years ago.  I hadn't kept up with him, but I'd kept him in my heart.  Even though he died a while ago the fact of his death is new to me.  I'm feeling my own mortality.

I ranted about wildlife more than is seemly, which is ironic coming from a life-long environmentalist.  I even married a professional environmentalist at one time.  That was a mistake, but hey, live and learn.  My deer and groundhogs are safe from my murderous thoughts, still brimming over with glossy health.  I expect they'll demolish this year's garden and I'll probably complain about it.

I wrote a book.  I even sent out a number of query letters to publishers.  I still think the book should be published, but I didn't send enough queries.  I just collapsed on my momentum.  I mean really, I already devoted all that time writing the thing.  Why do I have to put in energy to sell it?  Besides, it's a non-fiction effort on a topic I want to forget (working for Religion).  I'm adjusting my attitude about this starting next week.

I painted this year, real paintings that I'm proud of myself for creating.  I did some illustrations for magazines.  That felt good.  Sometimes I wrote about making art too.

Mostly, I think the past year was focused on decluttering my mind, pulling out past issues that never seem to die and trying to find a new way forward, taking time to breathe and evaluate what really matters to me.  I've spent a lot of time studying better ways to accomplish these goals too.  I'm pretty sure those topics will come up in some future posts.

Wishing everyone a happy, successful, productive 2018!