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!

Friday, September 21, 2018


I discovered a murder scene, but I was a suspicious even before I saw the evidence.  It started with the creepy guy standing just out of sight from the parking lot.  He had a dog, and that's usually a good sign.  A villain wouldn't have a yellow lab, right?  I saw him immediately, but I had to do other things for several minutes.  When I returned, creepy guy was still there.  I decided to take my walk anyway.  My 69-year-old girlfriend boasted about biking 60 miles in 3 days and I feel like I'd better get some regular exercise too so I'll be able to keep up with her in 20 years.

The first murder evidence I spotted was a small black feather.  It could've been a baby feather, but it's too late in the year for babies.  A chest feather then.  Suspicious.  Birds don't pluck out chest feathers in fall for nests.  I'd just spotted the next bit of evidence when a woman jogged through the crime scene.  A black wing feather with a white shaft.  Hmm.  Not a crow then.  The chest feather should've been red if it were a robin.

I decided to look for evidence of the murderer.  Yeah, yeah it's against state law to have raptor feathers, but a hawk feather would look nice on my hat.

I found a broken egg.  The mystery deepened.  Maybe that bird did make a nest?  No, don't be ridiculous.  The victim was a songbird.  This egg was large and white.  A duck?  A chicken.  Well!  The mystery continues.  I prodded the shell.  It was clean inside, so it wasn't like it fell from a tree with a baby inside.  The feathers were lightly resting on top of the newly dressed trail, so the murder couldn't have happened long before.  It seemed unlikely varmints would've had the time to eat the egg, and the egg was crushed without evidence of egg on the ground.

I stood up and put on my pondering face when I spotted the second egg a few feet away.  I found 3 eggshells in all, no egg contents, 2 more black feathers, no hawk feathers, and a highly edible mushroom.

The cross-country boy jogged past me for the second time.  I decided I'd dawdled long enough at the bottom of the steep hill I'd been dreading and resumed hiking.  The teenaged boy passed me again by the time I'd been up the hill around the loop and back to the murder scene.  The evidence was gone.

I only saw 4 people in the park.  Cross-country boy, woman jogger, creepy guy, and an old guy who was walking kind of lopsided.  None of them looked particularly murderous. 

I did discover what creepy guy was doing though.  He was gone when I got back to where I'd seen him, but I could see what he was looking at through the thin screen of trees -- high school girls in short shorts playing soccer.  You just can't trust some people, even with a yellow lab.  I called the cops and told them to keep an eye out for him.  I didn't mention the murder.

As if the various food items above weren't enough for this week's IF word, I finally finished my latest painting!!  Woo hoo!  YAY!!!  This one was a struggle mentally, emotionally, and artistically and I'm feeling the joy of accomplishment.  It even fits this week's prompt as it not only has an apple, it includes beer, sage, a pig, Pepsi, herbal vinegar, Blue Gill, and a filet knife.  Figure that all out as you see fit :)

Saturday, September 15, 2018


I looked up top 10 lists for fear and saw zombies.  Really?  How many zombies have you fended off recently?  How many spider or snake attacks?  Have you fallen off any tall buildings?  Did your plane go down?  Crazy people.  I'm kind of pleased that some of my fears about the environment and politicians have moved up on the list in the last year -- though quite displeased there are impelling reasons for those issues to move up the list.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to look at spiders either.  I just think it's unlikely one of them is going to kill me -- unlike my perfectly legitimate paranoia about ticks, which gets to the point of a lot of fears.  Ticks are foreign to me.  I'm afraid I don't know how to protect myself adequately.  The deer raiding my garden carry ticks, so it's a reasonable threat.  Ticks carry Lyme disease.  I don't want to catch that.  Kill deer.  Reverse climate change so ticks die in winter the way nature intended.  Vote all the climate change denying politicians out of office.

I'm willing to admit my tick paranoia might be a little overblown.  We don't have to kill all the deer, just the ones plaguing my neighborhood.  Give the deer birth control and napalm the places ticks lurk.  Maybe cull the herd and feed orphans venison.  I'm reasonable.  There might be a few action plans which I could buy into supporting.

The point is to actually look at our fears and figure out ways to address them.  Let's take fear of failure as an example.  If you're afraid to try something because you're afraid you'll fail, you've failed.  If you half-ass something because you're afraid, you've failed.  I understand dread of putting yourself fully into something and finding in the end that you didn't achieve what you wanted but that's the risks in achieving success.  You have to try or you certainly won't win.  Sometimes a failed effort leads to a better victory in something we didn't even know to look for before the attempt.

Okay, time for a smooth transition into ducks and fish...

Dark and gloomy lake full of ducks
The lake's spillway, which is the overflow for this human-made lake
I went to Pennsylvania this week.  It was dark and overcast.  Kids were in school.  To me, a perfect for a day trip to Linesville Spillway at Pymatuning Lake to look at carp.  This was my friend's idea.  I don't usually go out of my way to see carp, but apparently quite a few people do -- but not on my dark, overcast day.  You can see video of the reason why here.  That's a lot of fish.  They're really big too, like 3-4' long.

Close up of ugly carp mouth which was big enough to swallow your leg
We took country roads back to Ohio and stopped at the cheese factory where I bought a huge block of Swiss which I later broke up into smaller chunks and froze for later.  We ate lunch at the Amish restaurant and had comfort food.  We stopped at a produce stand where I bought pickling cukes and more.  I love this time of year for produce.  I was back home early enough to can plums, chop up peppers, and who knows what else.  It was a very nice day.  Who needs sunshine?  It just gives me migraines anyway.

I'm noticing that I like to paint apples lately, and each kind of apple has different meanings to me.  The apple above is a bit of my current painting, the part next to the post office box I showed you last week.  I've made progress on this piece and am starting to hope I'll be able to show you the finished painting soon.

Friday, September 7, 2018


When I give to charities, I prefer to give anonymously.  If I send a check with my info on it, I tell them to only contact me once or twice a year and don't sell my name and info.  Some charities are very good about this.  Some aren't.  The breast cancer people make me want to throw the phone out the window.  Stop robo calling me!

I understand quite a bit about charities since I used to be in charge of fundraising.  There's probably some karmic thing going on with the breast people because my work plagued so many others.  I'm sorry.  Please forgive me.  Please make the robo calls stop!

Charities make money selling your personal information.  Maybe you enjoy getting a lot of junk mail and robo calls.  98% of the rest of us don't.  If you want off the mailing lists, contact the charity and tell them to block you from future mailings.  If you send their mail back to them with that message, leave your info on it with the tracking number.  Some people like cutting this off or blacking it out with marker.  If the data entry people can't see who you are they can't take you off the list.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed some of the messages people wrote on their returned mail when I worked for Religion.  Let's call them, um, colorful.  Lots of cuss words sent to priests with quite a bit of damning in it too.  Some of the messages were really creative.  You've got to encourage creativity, right?  I also figure that quite a bit of that damning was earned by the pedophiles.

Better charities control how often they mail to people.  Like I said, I only want to get a solicitation once or twice a year.  If they don't honor my request I quit giving to them.  Some people only want to get mail on Mother's Day, but never Father's Day.  Whatever, if they have competent people and software they should be able to do this for you.  They should be able to block you from being sold to other charities too.

If you get unsolicited faxes, call the 800 number at the bottom of the ads.  You'll get an automated message to opt out of future ads.  Mark email ads as spam and delete without opening.  I never answer robo calls.  I have called the breast people to cease and desist.  It's been a little while since they've called.  Maybe it's finally over?

That's enough of my public service message.  I think IF is trying to make me talk about the NY Times anonymous editorial trashing the US White House.  I don't feel like weighing in on this because it feels like this is still a work in progress.  The bigger issue is the Supreme Court confirmation hearing going on.  I hope and pray that the result will be what's best for the people.

This post office box is part of my latest art therapy project.  It's a slooooow painting compared to the one I posted in August.  I guess I have more things to think about with it, but it's an artistic problem too.  I keep moving things around and trying to get a decent composition out of it without feeling satisfied.  I figure it takes as long as it takes and then I'm done with those issues once and for all.  I just wish I was already finished with them!

Saturday, September 1, 2018


I live near a lot of Jewish people, extra-concentrated back to Adam Jews where women shave their heads.  They wear wigs, often of human hair, which makes no sense to me on so many levels.  If God gave you the hair in the first place, why is God offended you have it?  I can ask the same question in regards to circumcision too, but I suspect I'm already getting myself in trouble.

There's a yeshiva, a rabbinical  seminary, at the end of my street.  Oddly, it's next to a Catholic seminary.  Cleveland, Ohio has one of largest Jewish populations in the US.  (Wikipedia info here)  Most of these people are unremarkable in the ways of let's say Mormons to Presbyterians.  Okay, you go to temple instead of church.  That's interesting, but it doesn't impact me unless I go to a wedding or funeral.  I keep mostly kosher because my grocery store is Jewish.  I'm told kosher meat is the result of better animal treatment so that makes me happier.

The Jews in my neighborhood stand out in the same kinds of ways as Amish people stand out.  They dress funny.  Amish women have crisp, white bonnets and Jews have those ugly wigs.  They keep to themselves and the mystery of it all makes me want to know what they're keeping from the rest of us.  On Fridays, the Jews walk in a long black line to temple.  Even that's a mystery because I don't know where they go.  It looks like they're walking to the grocery store.  There isn't a building with "Temple" written on it.

I go out of my way to start conversations with them, particularly with the women, but I keep to non-objectionable topics like "Nice day!", "Horrible weather!", "Cute baby!"  One of these days I'm going to break past the facade and get one of them to talk to me for real.  The kids are friendly enough but they're just kids.  I assume they haven't learned all the secrets yet.

I did a DNA test a while ago and found out I'm 2% Jewish (and less than 1% Asian).  It's beyond me where my ancestors found a Jewish Asian in colonial America, but it pleases me to have a little cultural diversity in my genes.  It doesn't give me any insight into my yeshiva neighbors, but it adds to my curiosity about them.

I think, what's the point of all this rambling?  Should I start over and say something else that's worth saying?  Then I think, maybe that is the whole point.  People are different.  We're curious about the differences.  We want to communicate and learn.  Well, quite a few of us do at any rate, but it's hard to have those conversations because there's so much history of wars, prejudices, and so on.  We fear talking because we don't want to offend, but when we don't talk we don't understand each other.  Too many talk about building walls instead.

I've been heavily bothered by the increase of racist activities in the news lately.  Seems to me the best way to get past those issues is to talk without the intention, but risking the possibility, of offending.  Hopefully the spirit of community can help us get past any inadvertent offenses and we all live happily ever after.  We should at least try.

Monday, August 27, 2018

"Jail 2"

My dog won't eat rhubarb.  It's one of life's mysteries -- like why illustrationfriday.com forgets to post a new word on Friday (or sometimes, by Monday).  Therefore, we'll revisit "jail" with a blue jay feather.  Let's just consider it a jail bird, okay?

I danced happily around my house when Paul Manafort was ruled guilty last week.  I wanted to share my happiness with a friend and was surprised she was actually depressed about it.  "It's so sad there's so much criminal behavior going on these days", she said.  "Yeah, but we knew that!", I replied.  "It's a happy moment because one of the criminals has actually been found guilty!"  It was extra icing on my cake when I discovered Michael Cohen plead guilty in court at nearly the same time.

Manafort and Cohen's tax evasions cost all of the citizens money.  They stole from us.  If all this talk of Russian collusion turns out to be true, then that's another form of stealing from the people.  We should all be glad when criminals are caught and punished.

This goes beyond politics.  Republican Senator John McCain died this week and I'm sad for his family and the country.  I gave serious thought about voting for him once.  Of course this was before he gave us Sarah Palin, but I'm mostly over that now... well no, I'm not, but I'm working on forgiveness.

The point of my happy dancing is the feeling that maybe there are enough checks and balances and good people in the system to prevent the criminals around the world who are hell-bent on destroying democracy.  I want the guilty parties in jail and better laws to protect us from this kind of mess in the future.

Despite what we see, politics isn't a game or sport.  One side winning and the other losing is like a bad marriage.  The process of deciding what's best for a family is the same for our societal family.  For instance, when I was married every disagreement was war no matter how much I tried to find a middle ground.  I resented always being the peacemaker and never getting what I wanted.  When one side won't budge, there's no armistice, and eventually, no marriage.

In the 1860s, the US was in a similar situation.  The industrial North wanted to abolish slavery and punished the agricultural South with harsh tariffs.  The country split in two and fought the country's bloodiest war, and as it's been often said, neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother.  Those resentments still fester and play a part in the continuing racial issues in the country.

I want a better world and think it's possible to avoid this kind of conflict.  Compromise.  Punish criminals and traitors.  Protect citizens.  Do what's best for the majority while defending the rights of minorities.  It's possible.  Try.

John McCain often spoke about the need for regular order and reaching across the aisle, even when you have deep, fundamental differences with each other.  One of his best friends was Ted Kennedy, one of the most liberal senators in Congress.  May their lives be examples to all of us.

Unrelated to all of this, I keep meaning to take a new picture for my profile, but I never get around to it.  I've decided to let people see my inner child for a while instead, especially since my hair is kind of like this lately.

Monday, August 20, 2018


Last week a grand jury reported 300 Catholic priests in 6 Pennsylvania dioceses sexually abused 1,000+ children over 70 years.  The church hierarchy hid this information and abetted the criminals.  If there are records of 1,000 children, you know there were many more who were abused but not recorded.

None of this is a surprise.  In 1993, it was known the Church paid about $50 million per year to settle such problems in America.  Between 2003 to 2010, $1+ billion was paid in settlements in the U.S.  In 2002, a U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) report showed that of 195 dioceses and eparchies in the study "all but seven have reported... allegations of sexual abuse."  Published Vatican documents bare policies of secrecy and destruction of evidence.  As recently as 2016 the Catholic Church told newly ordained bishops they didn't need to report abuse allegations to the police.1

This isn't an American problem.  Catholic clergy has spread its abuses across the world.  Irish orphanages were filled with hideous stories of abuse, neglect, and deaths.  Canada, Africa, South America, Asia, Australia, you name it, the same stories with different children and priests with a self-interested and/or indifferent Vatican to rule it all.

It has to stop.  The priests need to be put in jail.  Catholic parishioners need to stand up and say "No more!", and the first thing I'd suggest that you do is to stop donating money.   Do you really want to pay lawyers and hush money to victims?  Jesus is crying.

I'm also looking forward to the time U.S. political traitors are put in jail.  Maybe Paul Manafort will be sentenced this week?  That's a good start, but there are more where he came from.

I was a kid during Watergate.  I rushed home from school to watch the congressional proceedings every day.  Those events have had a life-long impact on my beliefs and votes.  I suspect current events will have a similar impact on another generation.  How ironic that "Lock her up!" was a campaign rally in the last election.  Lock them all up.

At the same time, this week's prompt reminds me of heroes imprisoned while trying to make the world a better place: Jesus, Gandhi, Mandela, civil rights activists in Russia, South America, China, and America.  I admire their bravery.  Most of us aren't as brave, but we can support the heroes.  I wish for the day when these kinds of sacrifices won't be necessary because we've become a better society for all.

To lighten things up on a dour word for the week, let me tell you I'm related by marriage to the guy who designed better handcuffs.  I want to say he was Grandma's first husband who was serving time for non-payment of child support, but I feel a bit wishy washy on my facts.2  It was a long time ago and before I existed.  I think he designed them because he didn't like getting manacled with heavy irons.  I have to chuckle about his problem-solving ingenuity.

Though... it seems a little ironic that I'm writing of heroes and sacrifice when I've obviously been pretty lazy drawing this week's word.  Hey, it's summer.  And hot.  Maybe next week?  :)

1The Vatican released these guidelines prepared by French Monsignor Tony Anatrella, consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family.  Some links you may find interesting on the topic of Catholic clergy abuse: bishopaccountability.org, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Frontline: The Silence 

2Cousins, feel free to correct me if necessary.

Friday, August 10, 2018


I've changed themes.  My first series was to think out issues in my work history.  I've moved onto romance.  This is basically a portrait through symbols.  Like the first series, all of the images are specific to me, and I made the painting for my own reasons, but now that it's done I'm curious what other people think of it.  Bro2 walked in my house the other day and burst out laughing at Darth Vader.

It would portray "rainbow" better if all the Trivial Pursuits wedges were in it, but that wasn't the point.  And maybe it would be more rainbow-like if it weren't so black, but obviously wasn't the point either.  It has all the rainbow colors and a prism, so it counts.

All of these paintings have a pretty limited palette.  Two hues each of red, yellow, green, blue, and brown.  One hue each of black, white, orange, and metallic gold.  I could do it with less if I had to, but I don't see a point in making life harder.  The quality of the acrylic paints are both expensive and cheap.  My favorite brush cost $1.  I had to break open a new one for this painting because I wore out a couple on the last series.

I met a friend for lunch and took the painting with me.  I propped it on the wall of our booth and we talked about it and other things.  The waitress came and went quite a few times before she asked why we had Darth Vader.  My friend told her I had painted it.

"Wow!  I can't paint a straight line.  I don't have any talent (imagine much more along these lines...), but this is great!  It's like as good as you can buy at Hobby Lobby!

I give my friend credit.  She didn't burst into laughter until we left the restaurant.  For those of you who don't know about Hobby Lobby, it's a store that sells really cheap arts and crafts stuff and fought against women's access to contraceptives because of the owner's Southern Baptist religious beliefs.  They were also fined $3,000,000 for smuggling religious artifacts from Iraq and Caesarea and ordered to return the items.  I won't shop at this store no matter how cheap their stuff is.

While I bemoan the fact that too many people are like the waitress and don't get the difference between a Chinese printed image on sale for $9.99 and a real painting, I do appreciate the compliment.  I'll probably always remember it (and laugh).

This incident reminds me of another time with another woman whom I had shown a painting.  I asked her how much she thought I should charge for it.  She said $20.  I asked her how much she earned per hour and how many hours did she think I'd put in the painting?  Didn't matter.  "I can buy a real print by a famous artist from the store for $20.  I was giving you a compliment!"

Thanks.  I appreciate compliments, I really do.  I'd like some money too.

But for all that, I haven't been painting these for the money (though I'd sell them if anyone gave me a good enough offer).  They are visual reminders and meditations of lessons I've learned.  I feel lighter every time I finish one.  I'm going to keep making them and looking for the rainbows within.

To give you a sense of the scale of this 16" x 20" painting, that stamp is smaller
than the USPS stamp of Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World"

Sunday, August 5, 2018


I play computer games while thinking about how much I dislike lazy people, specifically my neighbor, pushing aside thoughts of the illustration I need to finish.  I give myself freedom to procrastinate while remembering more lazy people who don't do their fair share.  I try to whip myself into writing a blog post and play more computer games.

The neighbor issue is simple.  We had a storm.  Her tree came down in her yard.  The electric company cut up the tree (free!) so they could get their equipment in to free up the line.  Tree was piled on my lawn.  I glared at the pile for a week.  The neighbor sat on the front porch for days watching other people clean up after the storm.

The night before the city's last pick up of storm damage I dragged the pile to her tree lawn.  She came out when I had the last limb in my hand to spew negativity.  The neighbor 2 doors down (2DD) cuts her back yard.  I cut her side yard.  She does nothing and the world accommodates her.  I could go on, but you get the point.  People like this make my blood boil.  I have to cut her grass and move her tree or I'll have to look at it forever with elevated blood pressure.  It's easier to mow and move the pile.

Lazy people depend on people like me and 2DD.  Why should they do anything when they don't have to?  2DD says our hypocritical church lady has never said thank you or offered him $10 for gas for cutting her grass for years.  Come to think of it, she's never thanked me either.  She's entitled.  She doesn't care if other people are put out or that her weeds migrate to our yards.  I'm not even getting into the mess of her far back yard that has wrecked the drainage for the rest of us and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

This is all recreational bitching over what is a recurring but insignificant inconvenience with occasional peaks of irritation which provide bonding moments with 2DD.  The greater point is that I'd like to think of people as a hive of bees, each doing what they're supposed to do for the benefit of the hive.  What do bees do when they have a lazy member?  I bet they just get on with the work that needs to be done.  I wonder if they get irritated about it too?

Sometimes I think I should keep bees, and then I discovered I'm already keeping bees since a bumblebee is living under my front step.  I suspect that if there's 1 there's probably more.  I don't know if I should be bothered by this or not?  (Please advise if you know best actions.)  The brick steps are attached to the front of the house, not really part of it.  Bumblebees pollinate the flowers and garden.  I feel only mild concern for the mail man since bumble bees are pretty mild, but I'd hate to be responsible if he got stung.

Are you lazy or a busy bee?  What do you do when you have to do the work of someone who won't do their bit?

Saturday, July 28, 2018


I look at my curled up lump of a dog at my feet and search for inspiration.  She sighs.  An ear twitches.  She sinks deeper into sleep and twitches a foot.  I watch her belly go in and out with each breath.  That's it.  She isn't offering any more inspiration than that unless it's for me to take deeper breaths and relax too.  Course if I got up and said "Let's go for a walk", she'd be up and bouncy in a split second, which I think is pretty incredible since she's ancient.  I hope I'm doing as well when I'm her equivalent age.

I couldn't think of what to write next so I got up to refill my glass of iced tea.  I bashed the glass on the doorframe, sent glass and ice flying in a noisy crash, and my puppy lazily got up to see what I'd done.  She sniffed an ice cube and wandered outside.  The glass didn't break, thankfully.

I was making a sandwich when she came back inside.  She hovered hopefully underfoot.  I dropped a bit of cheese and pointed at it before carrying my sandwich back to the computer and everything became as it was before.  Old dogs are so easy.  We have a rhythm.  We understand each other.  She leaves my art piles alone.

Lacking any blog inspiration, I go back to watching her breathing.  In out, in out, I match my breath to her's and get myself into a dopey hypnotic peacefulness.

In this relaxed state, I remember recently painting a portrait of my cousin's cat.  A cat is close enough for a "dog" post, right?  I sent the painting as a congratulations gift because she recently finished her law degree.  I'm impressed.  She's roughly my age and clearly is still tackling new challenges.  That's inspiring.  Makes me want to quit watching my dog breathe and do something inspirational too.

I also painted a portrait of my niece who recently graduated with her masters degree.  She likes Asian things and bleaches the ends of her hair blonde, or blue, whatever.  This isn't my usual kind of painting, but I enjoyed making it.  I hope she enjoys having it.

Shaking myself out of my hypnotic dog watching, I did have weather excitement this week with a microburst of tornado like winds, hail, and thunderstorm.  Trees and branches came down.  The top of a tree came down next door, flying over their garage but stopping short of their house and cars.  Really, it could not have come down more nicely.  It even just missed flattening my gooseberry bushes and hibiscus.

The neighbor next to them had a tree take down the electrical lines and we were all out of power for a day.  When the electric company came they asked to saw up my next door neighbors' downed tree so they could bring their equipment in the back yards to rescue the electric lines.  This was a huge relief as they're 2 older sisters who don't do chainsaws.

I thought the excitement was done, but no, I woke up to fire trucks and lights flashing.  The grounded wires sent electricity into the ground which traveled into the garage of the neighbor 3 doors down.  The garage smoldered and smoked, but no serious damage.  Really, I think everything turned out as luckily as it could for a micro tornado and it caused the neighbors to socialize when they were out with their dogs.

Monday, July 23, 2018


I moved the train and finished my latest painting.  I was feeling pretty darned pleased with myself when I got out the bottle of Liquitex acrylic medium to finish it.  I put on 2 coats of gloss varnish, and went to the store for a new bottle of matte.  When I got home that night I used the dregs of the old bottle of matte on my painting. 

Just so you know, matte finish isn't as durable as gloss which is why I applied the gloss first.  It's helpful too because you can tell if you've missed a spot with the gloss.  Don't fuss with acrylic finishes.  Put them on and leave them alone -- but I noticed some specks.  I fussed it a bit to get things right before setting it aside to dry and going to bed.

Next morning, it the harsh light of day, ohh noo!!  I didn't get all the specks out.  A couple areas looked misty because I'd overworked the finish.  I tried to scrub a couple of the specks and went from misty to cloudy.  This turned into continuing and deepening disaster.  I read online help.  I called a retired chemical engineer.  Nobody offered hope.  I scrubbed, dabbed chemicals, hosed it down in the kitchen sink.  Eventually, I ruthlessly scrubbed the thing with an old toothbrush.

After a while, everything looked fine when the painting was wet.  It looked horrible when dry.  With nothing to lose, I applied the gloss finish over the damp painting.  Success!!!

So, should you ever be faced with the same miserable situation you can try this when all else fails.  You may also be pleased to know that I didn't slap the chemical engineer when he told me to just repaint the whole thing.

After all of this high drama, I was next to a busy road weeding the city's flower pots when a good looking guy waved at me and yelled, "Woohoo!  Beautiful!!!"  It's been a long time since a good looking guy has woohooed me and this lifted my spirits.  At a certain age this doesn't feel like harassment.  Of course it's entirely possible he was praising my flower pots, but whatever.  I'll take it.

And yes, my painting does address camping.  The name tag tucked behind the wash cloth is from my days as a teenaged camp counselor for "slow" kids.  The kids were sweethearts and they weren't slow in any of our activities.  Teaching them to draw and study salamanders was fun.  I applauded at their somersaults off the diving board.  We skipped down the trail and sang.

My duties got expanded to include lifeguarding institutionalized developmentally disabled ("retarded") adults.  This was more challenging because they don't remember instructions.  Rule #1: do not go in the pool before the lifeguard gets there.  I can't tell you how many times I found an obese person on the bottom of the pool, and I still wonder about the other counselors who would leave them by a pool unattended.

I don't know why the skinny people didn't drown themselves, but it was always a 300-400 pounder at the bottom of the pool.  To make things worse, the rest of the class had a hard time understanding I needed help getting that person out of the pool.  They all agreed it was really, really funny when the drowned person puked on me after I gave them mouth-to-mouth and got them living again.  I was puked on too many times to count.  Character building, right?  I loved that job, and I loved all my kids and my kids in adult bodies.

I'm especially proud of my apple!

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.