I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
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Friday, October 7, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 2, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 23, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 13, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 6, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 30, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, July 24, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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