Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Mating Game is a Fascinating Dance of Chemistry and Attraction

"This will be perfect!"
I'm not a photographer, but sometimes I get lucky and come up with a winning photo or two. I decided to repost one of my favorite blogs with photos.  

Mating season is underway here in Florida. The other day, I drove into a parking lot and nearly mowed down a great egret that was wandering about in a drunken erotical swagger. In the movie Bambi, Disney’s Thumper called it “twitterpated;” and by the flashy green down between the egret’s eyes and bill, I had to agree with that spunky rabbit. 

Being twitterpated is not limited to birds. Alligators get downright mean and nasty when the urge to mate overtakes them. One lusty gator saw its reflection in the sliding glass door of a local resident and pursued the image aggressively thinking it was a prospective mate. The terrified homeowner called animal control when the twitterpated reptile stood upright against the glass to “get a little closer.” Lucky for her the door held until local authorities arrived. 

One memorable morning, a “testy” gator proceeded to crawl across the road in front of me. Apparently a grate at the edge of the pond prevented the gator from swimming under the roadway to the other side, presumably, to meet its prospective mate. The gator drew quite a crowd as it hissed and snarled across the asphalt, warning passers by to stay their distance.
"This will be a fine nest."
Even anoles get in the act; pumping their bright red throat fans to impress the opposite sex. This undulating process goes on all summer and into fall as these lizard-like creatures mate and nest. During the winter months, anoles and lizards hibernate, and I rarely see them scurrying across my path.

Love bugs are another southern phenomenon. These red-headed black bugs spend their entire adult life copulating. The male and female attach themselves at the rear and remain that way even while flying. They splatter themselves over windshields and car radiators from April through May.

Shortly after mating, the love bug male dies; but that doesn't dampen the female's incredible urge to reproduce. She simply drags her dead mate around until she lays her eggs in the grass; and then she dies, most likely from exhaustion. Her eggs will hatch in the warmth of rotting grass mulch and become the next season's wave of love-bugs.

"Do I smell alll right?"
Squirrels in my neighborhood get downright silly during the mating season, which usually happens two or three times a year. They showoff, turn backward somersaults, and play games like “twitch” the tail and “tag you’re it!”

For two seasons running, squirrels built their nest in our cabbage palm. The mated pair cleaned and secured their nest in the spiked bark that protruded from the top of the tree. Their nest included escape tunnels and front and back points of entry.

During the gestation period, all was quiet except for excursions, in turns, by the parents to obtain food. After about two plus weeks of silence, three babies appeared. The youngsters brazenly crept to the edge of the palm fronds that made up their front porch and peeked over the side. Before long, they were chasing each other through the tunnels and playing “hump” games in preparation for future mating and nesting experiences of their own.

"It's a long way down, father. Will our babies be safe?"
When the squirrel mama decided her litter was ready for life outside the nest, she carried each baby by the scruff of its neck much the same way a cat carries its kittens. One by one the tiny squirrels were transported to a nearby live oak. The process was repeated until all three babes were safe. 

Two families of squirrels were born and nurtured in my cabbage palm, and then hurricane Charlie whipped through the area and scattered the nesting bark to the far winds. Many times the squirrels and their offspring returned perplexed, sniffing and searching my cabbage palm for evidence of their former home. I miss those squirrels.

"Three Newborns" (photo a little blurry -- they move around fast!)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Foodies who Love to Paint, and Artists who Paint what they Eat

We all love to eat. Food is the essence of family get-togethers and camaraderie. Dining is our point of caring, celebrating, and nourishing those we love. There is an intimacy in eating together and biting into succulent morsels of exquisitely prepared food in the warmth of family and friends.

Food is also survival. It is life. Food is pleasure. It’s not only pleasing to the palate, but to the eye. Good cooks and chefs are as creative as any artist. Their finished products look like works of art and taste even better!

I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Artists from past to present have recognized the richness of color and the distinction of form that food presents. Photographers and advertisers have been aware of its beauty for a long, long time. Artists are again turning to the variety and fun that food can provide. In recent years, there has been a revival of sorts in the painting of everything scrumptious.

Today many artists are using their culinary skills in designing and presenting food as art. Their tantalizing compositions literally look “good enough to eat.” 

If you want to know what’s trending in the world, check out Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. In all likelihood, food is playing a major part. Recipes are being tried and shared as never before. People are concerned about nutrition, gluten, lactose, fats, and GMO’s (genetically modified organisms).

Our food sources are not only at risk, but more people have allergies and food sensitivities than ever before. I’m lactose intolerant and, in addition, was forced to restrict myself to gluten free products. People in general are focused on eating healthier foods.

Even that staple golden honey is at risk. In a Monsanto AD recently, the discussion centered on endangered honey bees. Without honey bees, some of our most nutritious fruits, vegetables and nuts would not be pollinated. 

Farmers rely heavily on honey bees in order to grow a crop. When the Biblical heroes talked about wanting a land “of milk and honey,” they knew how important these creatures were to the production of good things to eat. Even here in Florida, 80% of the orange groves are pollinated by honey bees. Without them there would be no oranges and no honey!

Beginning artists often focus on food in learning about color and form. Still life works with fruit is popular in practicing shape, shadow, and light. This is a wonderful way to experiment and branch off into cubism and abstraction. Pick up a brush and try it! The results may be delicious.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Contract Agreements Need More than a Signature; they Demand Integrity!

"Art Show"  two of my paintings available at
We’re hearing a lot about respect these days. Do the “cops” respect blacks? Do blacks in general respect police officers? When people disagree with the President, is that showing disrespect? I’ve listened to the arguments on both sides.

I saw the NYPD turn their backs on the mayor who they felt was culpable in the killing of several police officers. I heard the angry mobs shout: “What do we want? Dead cops!” 

Finally, a lone voice spoke up. A voice addressed to both sides. “Respect must be earned,” he said. “Respect comes when both parties feel that their concerns are being addressed.”

Instead, what we got on the public stage was a “shouting match.” Even hard facts were ignored in deference to emotion.

Trust is another one of those words. We all want it. Some of us think we deserve it. But trust is a condition that exists when both sides feel they are being listened to and heard. Trust is not given out like a smile; it should be tested and proven. Like respect, trust must be earned. When both exist, it is because both sides have met half-way to make the relationship work.

"A Joyful Heart"  Pastel on 11x14 bristol; matted and ready to frame.
I did a writing project some years ago for a man who belonged to my church. Because of the so-called “spiritual connection” I gave him my trust and accepted him at his word.

When the project was finished, I turned it over and expected a check in return. Come to find out, he had messed up his end of the negotiation and “connected” with a person who had no authority whatsoever. The person in charge had already commissioned the project from someone else. As a result, the friend who hired me refused to give me payment.

I viewed it as a lack of integrity. After all, I had put in my time and kept my part of the agreement. Turns out he did not have the wherewithal to pay me. All he had was a dream and a slick sales pitch. I regretted it, but I had to take him to Small Claims Court to get paid. By the time I received my commission minus court fees, it was a pittance. In addition, I’d built up an enormous amount of resentment toward him.

When people make promises they know they cannot keep that is a lie. When people lie to us, we can no longer respect them. When respect goes out the window, so does trust.

Here is the formula for success:  Integrity = respect + trust.  In the reverse: Lies = lack of respect, lack of trust, and a broken relationship.

"Fish Market" acrylic on canvas
Trust and respect have nothing to do with color. There are almost as many black cops as there are white ones. Respect is a way of treating others. But here’s the kicker. You cannot give respect to someone who calls you names, abuses you or threatens your life. It is impossible!

Trust is a gift people give you when you treat them well, and you’re upfront and honest with them in your dealings. You cannot trust someone who calls you names, lies to you, threatens you, or harms you in any way. It is impossible! On the other hand, they cannot trust you if you have broken the law and refuse to obey authority. In other words, by your actions, you have not earned their respect.

Do you see how important integrity and honesty is in your dealings with other people? Oh, sure you may get away with a lie here or a punch in the nose there, but sooner or later it’s bound to catch up to you. When you use bullying tactics on others it may turn against you in the end. When you persist, don’t be surprised if someone or something puts a stop to it one way or another. 

Trust and respect is a two-way street. If you refuse to cooperate or listen to what others have to say, it’s like putting up a road block. If you know you’re in the wrong and you refuse to make things right, you’re simply making matters worse.

"Tansy's Pride" pastel on 11x14 bristol; matted and ready to frame.
Agreements cannot be made when there is a lack of trust or respect between the interested parties. If one side is willing to compromise or cooperate and the other one isn’t, you cannot reach a consensus. Only if both parties are willing to put their grievances down can you move forward into reconciliation and resolution. 

When my former employer made known that he was unwilling to keep his end of the bargain, I had no choice but to pursue him legally in order to get paid which is what we had agreed to. Lesson learned: Get things in writing and ask for half the full amount up front as all contractors do. It’s only common sense!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Long ago, it was: “Let it all Hang Out!" Today they sing: “Let it Go – Let it Go!”

"Living the Dream" Valentine Card @ 
In the process of making goals and resolutions, I’m reading two books that I would highly recommend: The first is “Transform: Dramatically Improve Your Career, Business, Relationships and Life: One Simple Step at a Time” by Jeff Haden, a motivational style book filled with great suggestions. And the second is “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover that contains practical advice on how to make things happen.

For example, Jeff Haden directs: “Do little things differently.” We usually think our goals should be larger than life and that we need to “eat an elephant” in order to really accomplish anything. Precisely why we give up too soon and don’t fulfill our dreams leaving us feeling discouraged and disappointed.

But if we do small things first and enjoy a sense of accomplishment, we are more likely to keep going. Even better, if we try to do those “little things” in a different way, we may develop style and flare. We will stand out from the crowd. Haden’s theme is probably a new twist on the old “Think outside the box.”

"Flamenco Flamingo" 
Nir Eyal provides a real study guide, discussing the importance of devising a “trigger” designed to “hook” your audience/buyer into “Action” by offering “variable rewards” for their initial “investment” of time and money; all designed to increase “retention” (of customers) and get them into the buying or reading habit. Of course, the study is much more detailed than this, but you get the picture.

Most of us have allowed things to slide during the holidays, and now it’s time to get back to work! I know I’m dusting in places that haven’t been touched in weeks. Bits of glitter and pine are nestling into my carpets and will probably catch my eye for many weeks to come.

I’m intent on cleaning out the cobwebs in my head, the contents of my desk and the inside of my closets. Like Elsa in the Disney movie “Frozen,” I’m determined “To Let it Go – Let it Go” as I cleanse the house of clutter and excess. My jammed closets will finally get relief as this “saver and hoarder” is determined to purge or perish!

"Flamingoes in Love"
Always preparing for “hard times,” I hold on too tightly and too long to things that have already served their purpose. Even my older paintings have probably brought me to a higher skill level and deserve to be retired and given a fresh coat of paint and a new perspective.

I’m going to come to grips with what I am: an artist and a writer, and quit trying to be like every other woman I know. I’m me. Yes, I can be messy at times, and I’m not a fanatic housekeeper; but I sure do enjoy creating a new story or composition using colors I’ve never tried before or trying to express, in a new way, my passion for living. 

Whatever it is in your life that you’re trying to unleash and bring into focus, I hope you’re successful. At the very least, you should enjoy the process.

"Puppy Love"

“Let it Go” from the Disney Movie, “Frozen”

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Beginnings – A Ring of Hope in the New Year

"Twigs and Twitters" 11x14 oil on canvas
The bells are sounding, balloons are dropping, fireworks are exploding. A chorus of “auld Lang syne” rises on the crisp air. Couples kiss, and a glimmer of hope glazes every eye. Old things are gone, but not forgotten. The New Year is upon us.

Remembered are the things we’ve done that need a “do over.” The mistakes we’ve made that haunt our thoughts. The angry words spoken now hanging heavy on our list of regrets. Perhaps next year will be better, we think. If I just try harder, maybe everything will be all right.

The problem is we can never get better on our own. No matter how hard we try, alone we usually fail. Some people add prayer to the equation which gives them strength. Others need the encouragement of family or friends. Alone, we may cave in or hold a pity party in our honor. We may sink into depression. Together we become strong.

No wonder groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have a buddy system to keep each other on track. They also look to a higher power than their own. There is no shame in depending on others, especially God. There is no dishonor in failing to achieve alone what you desire.

(First lay-down of acrylic paint on 11x14 canvas) Decided to eliminate egg-beaters!
Self esteem is increased when we refuse to give up. It is strengthened when we get back up after we fall and try again. I’m battling my own problems. My eyesight is not as good as it used to be and the monovision contact lenses I wear make it difficult to see perspective and detail accurately even with the aid of glasses. Arthritis in my hands is making it increasingly difficult to paint or draw a straight line. I don’t have the mastery and control I once did.

We all have challenges we need to cope with and problems that arise each day. The New Year’s lighted torch can inspire us with hope as we overcome discouragement. Like Olympic runners who keep their eyes on the goal, we must keep our dreams and hopes in clear focus. If we falter, it’s usually because we take our eyes off the prize. 

When I give my “pep talks” I’m usually the audience I have in mind. Of all people in the world, I need those words of encouragement the most. If my words can help others, too, then I’m pleased. 

I wish you a happy and successful New Year, dear friends. Don’t give up, because I’m counting on you to show me the way!
(Work-in-progress) More layers of paint.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Perfect Gift was Laid in a Manger Bringing Hope and Forgiveness to a Lost World

On Sunday, we shared a Chinese meal at a popular restaurant with our dear friends before they went their separate ways for Christmas. After dinner, we took turns opening our fortune cookies and sharing out loud the good advice and bits of wisdom inside:  “Procrastination is fear of success” and “Find a peaceful place where you can make plans for the future” were a couple of them.

Every table was full; and by the time we left, people were standing in line waiting to get inside. The lack of English speaking skills and the décor reminded me of the classic “Christmas Story” where Ralphie and his mother have an ongoing battle over his wanting a rifle for Christmas. “You’ll shoot you’re eye out,” she warns him, and eventually he almost does.

After having their Christmas turkey devoured by a pack of neighborhood dogs, the family ends up in a Chinese restaurant for dinner. The Asian staff tries to cheer them by singing: “Deck the Hars with Boughs of Horry – rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah rah rah rah”

The laughter afterward brings the family around to seeing the brighter side of every situation. Perfect families and picture perfect Christmas’s don’t exist except in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens or in the homes of Martha Stewart wanna’ be’s. So we need to grasp what joy we can and accept the rest: the torn Christmas wrappings piled on the floor, the store-bought pies, the scorched gravy and lumpy potatoes.

That first Christmas wasn’t perfect either. The straw was prickly, the stench of cattle surrounded the manger and the birth pangs were painful and real. But on that night, the hope of the world was born and unconditional love was wrapped in swaddling clothes when God became flesh. Forgiveness and mercy were given a name “and you shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.”

The chasm between God and man was narrowed for “Christ the Lord was born.” From that point forward, faith bridged the gap that separated us from God; and fear and hopelessness were banished forever by “the light which shines in darkness.”

Merry Christmas everybody and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Let's Illustrate a Book -- I can dream can't I?

LINK:   Inez Ibis Flies Again, the story of a courageous ibis who never gave up

It’s not easy illustrating a children’s book. It’s even harder to get published, especially if you’re both writer and illustrator. That goal has been on my bucket list for years! When I was simply a writer, I had many stories published in leading children’s magazines of the day. The bug to illustrate came later with my book: “Inez Ibis Flies Again; the story of a courageous ibis who never gave up.”

Inez still lives in my neighborhood after eleven years, and she still limps; but she has born several clutches and never seems to lack for a mate. When I see her struggling along as she forages for food, my heart goes out to her. But up in the air she soars with the best of them, free and unhampered by her disability.

Today in my blog, I’m featuring my illustrations and some accomplished idols: names like Harriet Peck Taylor, Syd Hoff, Ben Sowards, Richard Clark and Charley Parker.

Harriet Taylor’s interest in coyote lore began with a young coyote who lived in the foothills near her home. “It used to follow me on hikes with my dogs,” she says, “and once even touched noses with them.”

Most of her books include Native American Lore and nature because “If people can appreciate the beauty of the land, they will perhaps want to protect it.”

Harriet’s Coyote story is based on a Wasco Indian legend about the origin of the constellations.  
Harriet Peck Taylor's Web Site

Syd Hoff wrote many of my children’s favorite books such as “Danny and the Dinosaur.” 
I liked Hoff’s simple drawings and felt his style was more likely to become mine.
Syd Hoff's Web Site

Jane Yolen has also written several humorous dinosaur books that are full of fun like “How do Dinosaurs say Merry Christmas!”  

Yolen has found a unique way to teach children about dinosaurs in a fun way by making them almost human and bringing them into a child's world.  Jane Yolen's Book

And I can’t forget Charley Parker who is a master at creating dinosaur cartoons.
Charley Parker's Web Site

Christmas Oranges was retold by Linda Bethers and illustrated by Ben Sowards. His realistic and tender pictures remind us of the old masters in their detail and magnificence. Based on a true story, the action takes place in an orphanage many years ago.

The next book has its origins in Minnesota and dear to my heart. My husband was born there, and is a full-blooded Norwegian. The expression “Uff da” is Scandinavian for “Good Grief!”

Born in America, my own second generation Swedish grandmother had her own version of uff da when she said: “ooh ha.”  A little Scandinavian history helped me see that what she was really saying (or meaning) was “uff da.”

The illustrations and the humorous tale, written by Cathy Martin and illustrated by Richard Clark, keep us laughing and turning pages.  
Uff Da on Amazon