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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Deck the Halls and other Traditions


Every year after the Christmas decorations are up and the tree is glistening in all its glory, I play my favorite CD that was purchased at a Christmas pageant called “Child of the Promise” written and produced by Michael & Stormie Omartian. My husband also purchased an album because we were not yet married, and we each wanted our own copy.

Hearing Bible verses sung by Donna Summer, Steven Curtis Chapman, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith, to name a few, really gets me in the mood for Christmas.


After my divorce from my children’s father, and the scattering of my children to the far corners of the U.S; I was left feeling shattered and broken. I had always loved this Holy holiday, but after this I could barely deal with Christmas. When the last two were gone, I stopped decorating altogether. It brought back too many precious, but painful memories.

It wasn’t until I met my current husband 16 years ago that I finally began to celebrate Christmas in baby steps. 


My dear husband helped me to heal. He stood by me, cared for me, and restored my faith in myself and in my God.

I remembered those long ago years when I filled up the empty spaces in my heart with work and good deeds. I Decked the Halls to excess, and cooked up a storm for friends and family. I started so many new traditions each year that I could hardly keep up with them. So in looking for a topic for this blog, I decided to forewarn you: beware of what you start. It has to be done each year (others will demand it), and what you add makes your annual job get bigger and bigger.

My traditions started with the making and decorating of a Gingerbread House. Of course, the children plastered the house and yard with so many candies that the roof became top heavy, but that was part of its charm. After Christmas, they looked forward to smashing the house and eating the candy-covered pieces. I also rolled out gingerbread men for ornaments at the same time.


Then there was the making of doughnuts for our Christmas morning breakfast. I prepared cake doughnuts and risen ones that were frosted and sprinkled with coconut, slivered almonds and candy. I served these with slices of orange for nutrition and home-made eggnog. We never worried about salmonella back then. I guess we were either lucky or blessed.

I also baked various cookies and arranged platters for some of our friends. One couple said it was the prettiest tray of cookies they had ever seen. Of course, their praise gave me incentive to widen my list and bake some more. I also loved to make mini poppy-seed cakes for gifts and family, and special breads like stollen, and muffin sized cherry cheese cakes.

We lived in Kansas City and had incorporated local menus into our holiday traditions.  Barbecued brisket was a favorite, along with the usual trimmings, cheesy potatoes, green beans cooked with ham bits and onions, fresh whole cranberry relish, crab dip and a shrimp cocktail that was made to be drunk in a cup. I cooked so much that in my “old age” I cannot even bear to read a recipe let alone cook one.

Now I’m apt to buy some or most of our traditional meals unless my husband decides to cook his favorite stuffing for a turkey. He does almost all of our cooking, anyway. Whenever I risk a foray into the kitchen my nerves start to frazzle and all the work I did in the past comes barreling back like a bad dream rather than a cause for rejoicing.

But the most important parts of our family traditions have stayed with me. After our Christmas Eve banquet, we’d gather together dressed in our robes and towels and read from the Bible re-creating a live Nativity Scene. 

I can still see the number of new babies in our household that played the part of baby Jesus over the years. A child would progress from baby Jesus to angel, and then to Shepherd. The older ones played Joseph and Mary.

When I listen to “Child of the Promise” it brings those images back, in a good way. There are times when I wish I could have my children all with me once again. I loved the hours spent rocking in their grandfather’s old chair. Drying tears, comforting sorrows, bandaging skinned knees and all the other motherly services performed of which I never grew weary. Each task was special in my heart. 





Imagine rocking the Christ Child?  I treasure the words to my favorite Carol “Mary did you know.”

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby
You've kissed the face of God

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding
Is the Great I Am

Oh Mary did you know?

An old favorite by Kenny Rogers and Winona Judd


A more modern version with Pentatonix:  



Monday, November 21, 2016

Painting the Faces of Misery – Capturing Emotional Pain


Many years ago, I was shopping for groceries. My gut felt raw as I floated around the store in an “out-of-body” trance. I was going through a difficult divorce, and felt empty and forlorn.

There were no relatives nearby where I could seek comfort. I was completely alone. My heart was broken. A clerk, seeing only the superficial face I put forward remarked, “My god, can’t you at least smile?”

I must have looked pretty bad. My first thought was that he had no idea what I was going through. I was certainly in no condition to smile or talk. I tried to fake a smile, but it was impossible. I was in misery and I couldn’t hide it. His remarks had made me feel even worse.

My crooked smile, lopsided eyes, and fun-house features were simply revealing my inner emptiness and utter brokenness.

Later when I became an artist, I realized that you can’t paint misery and hurt unless you understand the underlying emotions that caused the pain in the first place.

For example, grief after a loved one’s death is different from the shattered grief of divorce. 

In a good marriage there are fond memories and the loss can be shared with friends and loved ones who knew well our partner or spouse. After a divorce, you don’t want to share the failure and the tragic details with anyone.

"Brokenhearted" 9 x 12 Pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame
Anger between loved ones is different from that between strangers or friends. The emotions cut deeper. The fragility of ego and insecurity add to the exploding feelings. There is often far more to lose. The relationship hangs by a thread unless you can get past anger’s unpredictable course. Forgiveness is almost mandatory. The anger with others is sometimes quickly forgotten. There is no intimacy or long-held expectations that stretch the ties that bind.

Try to create studies of people’s emotional reactions. Distinguish the simple breakdown between different kinds of anger and pain.

These subtle differences may slightly change the tilt of the mouth or a wrinkle in the nose. Emotions may be altered only by pushing one eyebrow upward to change an expression. Glassy eyes may add to the sadness. Body language and the way the hand is used to cover up what others see adds another dimension.

Practice will make these changes better over time. Be observant and find out what happens when slight movement gives your markings life and nuance. Your scenes will have more energy and drama; your story on canvas will become more dramatic, more interesting, and definitely more real.









"Serena Shines" Pastel on Bristol, matted
person’s face is like a road map of the life they’ve lived and the things they’ve experienced. Once you have mastered unhappy faces, go on to those of joy and passion.

The decisions you make about “center of interest” must be made before you put one brush or pencil to canvas; where the face goes so goes the body. Every emotion portrayed must agree with the body language expressed.

"A Joyful Heart" 9 x 12 Patel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The People have Spoken; it is Time for Acceptance


This was a tempestuous election. I think the media was responsible for fueling most of the misinformation and angst. Their failure to report the truth, and to manipulate polls and push their own bias rather than straight reporting caused much of what’s happening in our streets today. In any case, those who lost are displaying sour grapes as they gnash their teeth in disgust like naughty, spoiled children.

Whether these agitators are professional protesters paid to stir up trouble is in question. Many of them come from other places and are being transported to different areas. I can understand their disappointment, but I do not excuse their violence and property destruction. Protesting is one thing; rioting or breaking the law is quite another.


Before the election of Donald Trump, Hillary’s campaign message was “We will build bridges not walls.” Now that the election is over, I ask, where are those bridges? Was this just hyperbole? What I’m seeing in the streets looks more like “Our way or the Highway.”

Brute force should never be used to get your own way. Have you ever seen conservatives riot and destroy? And when did liberals stop defending “free speech” except for themselves? When did the press start publishing opinions and stop reporting the news?

In times like these, artists need to be more productive not less. How would you paint chaos? What colors would you choose to explain violence, protest, and hatred: black, red, orange, and white?

Would you illustrate politics using angry reds with shades of bittersweet? Would your depressed psych slather on rainy grays and blue blues to represent your sadness? Wouldn’t it be great in our divided world if people could express their anger or sorrow in words or in artistry instead of unproductive and destructive demonstrations that only add fuel to the fire?

"Victims of War" 24 x 18, Mixed Media on canvas

When the Iraq war was at its peak, I chose to illustrate my feelings on canvas. Who are the real victims in the wars that are usually started by men? The women and children. My purpose was to show how history, especially in the Middle East has a tendency to repeat itself, over and over again.

Most fighting in the Middle East begins as religious wars between Sunni and Shiite. Why the U.S. inserted itself into these cultural wars was never fully explained. Was it to help the people become a democracy? At least that would have been a noble endeavor. No. the real reason was likely oil; and efforts to protect our own selfish interests.



Driven by men with big egos these wars have lasted far too long and seem to have no end. The countries have dissolved into terrorism and vicious hatred toward their liberators viewing them instead as captors.

Many called President Obama the “Divider in Chief” because he spawned racism and created an underbelly of lawlessness. Now the Left’s protesters are blaming Trump for the division simply because he won. We are not a democracy, but a republic, friends. As in sports, the best team or man always wins. This is the will of the people. Trump won by a landslide. He has been given a “mandate” and the will of the people must be respected.

When the infighting in Iraq was at its peak, I painted “Prayer Circles” out of respect for those around the world who worship in this way. Respect, tolerance and understanding are the hallmarks the left espouses at least until they lose. Come on people – you are better than that! Get a grip.

"Prayer Circles" 24 x 18 Acrylic on canvas

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bamboo is Strong; Resilient and Exotic

In Florida people often refer to bamboo as cane. There are so many varieties, that one word “cane” manages to cover them all.

For artists bamboo is more than a building material or a symbol of good luck. Bamboo has become the exotic favorite in paintings signifying well being and a good and prosperous life; more than that its jointed stalk is not only sturdy, but uniquely oriental in nature. Chinese and Japanese paintings almost always include a smattering of bamboo and sometimes include a Panda bear or two since bamboo is their main diet.


Indigenous in many parts of the world bamboo cane is used to construct houses, provide privacy and fencing, and in the construction of lasting dinnerware, utensils and furniture. In numerous countries, bamboo is the key ingredient to peaceful domesticity and protection.

Bamboo is a fast-growing plant; between two or three foot a year. The coverage is thick and vibrant providing a tall privacy hedge within two or three year’s time. This fast growth can also be controlled by pruning and purchasing clumping varieties. Some types grow vine-like strands across the ground that allows the bamboo to spread.




Many artists vary the existing colors to lend a bit of magic and aura to the finished painting. Examples in this blog of actual photos and artwork show the depth, design and creativity of each individual artist. I have toyed with the idea of creating a canvas of my own, but haven’t yet decided how to give it my own personal flavor. 

You may want to design your own unique original. There are myriad examples found on fabrics and textiles. Tommy Bahamas’ exquisite patterns on men’s shirts often use a palm frond motif along with hibiscus flowers and/or bamboo stalks and leaves. The Tropical and exotic when combined create sensational color and movement.




Monday, October 24, 2016

Sea Glass – There’s Magic in the name and Romance in its History


What is sea glass?  Where is it found? Why do so many colors end up together in one location? What can you do with the beautiful gems you’ve found?

Before you get all excited about gathering some for yourself, be aware that many beaches restrict taking any glass away. And some of the best places to find glass are out of the way locations that may be difficult to reach.

The following site explains where this glass comes from and how long it takes to make the smooth rounded pieces that people seek.


The Colors of Sea Glass
Where Do They Come From?

...Just where do the colors of beach glass come from? Sea Glass is simply old glass products that were thrown into the sea, but, "Sea Glass is JUST GLASS, like Diamonds are JUST ROCKS"©

It takes decades for broken glass to "become" sea glass.
If you think about it, the common colors of sea glass, Green, Brown & White are still in wide use today......Rarer colors of sea glass are pieces that the color has not been made or used commercially for many years.

“We have broken the colors into rarity categories, it is a general rule and not to be carved in stone (or glass!) as certain colors can be found more readily in some areas. For Example, lavender glass can be a rarity in some areas, yet abundant in Maine & Canada; but hardly ever found in the islands. Next time you're in an antique shop or flea market, look at the glass items and see if you haven't found a piece of glass this color!



“By The Sea Jewelry is proud to offer the finest Genuine Sea Glass Jewelry in just about every color of sea glass in the world! This glass knowledge is based on 28 years of collecting and decades of researching the origins of our glass.”

The rough and tumble journey back and forth in tide water creates rounded corners and a smooth surface. The colors become almost translucent. If you find some in a shop or from an artist, check it out carefully to make sure it is real sea glass and not fake. The color and clarity can give you clues.

Google has a wonderful search bar where you can find just about anything. They have a guide to show you where to find sea glass, a book on how to tell if it’s real, and items that are made from this precious glass. Remember that what makes it valuable is the origin of the original glass, and the years it took to tumble it into a smooth, clear stone.


GOOGLE LINK: All about Sea Glass

There is a difference between fresh water glass and sea glass that is made smooth and beautiful by the salt water. According to the following link, there are also legends attached to this fascinating wonder of the world. Sailors long ago thought that the blue ones were mermaid tears that spilled ashore.




For some more history and help with identification, go to:  Glass Beach Jewelry  

This remarkable gift from the sea can be yours for a price, unless you’re lucky enough to find one of those hidden coves where the tides have come and gone for hundreds of years. Many of these pieces will still be in a state of development. Their edges may be sharp; their size may be small, and their shape odd.

But if you persevere, you may find a colorful stone that possesses that clear see-through sparkle. If the color is rare and the size is large you may have the beginnings of a treasured necklace or the centerpiece of a priceless mosaic table.




Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Building Habits that make Painting Daily Automatic

"Queen of Diamonds"  20 x 20 mixed media on canvas
If your paintings could talk, what would they say?  I think mine would want me to set them free!  They would want me to let loose instead of trying to control every move. We’ve all been taught to think carefully before we make a brush stroke and to know what we’re going to do before it happens. But that creates anxiety doesn’t it? If you’re like me my hand begins to shake and I stress over “getting it right.”

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” Jon Barrie, author of Peter Pan from Jan. 2015 Woman’s Day.

Those doubts tighten your muscles, the flow of paint, and the release of energy that makes your composition exciting. Having a well thought out plan is one thing. Allowing spontaneity to occur and to alter your initial concept is when the “magic” happens.

“A watched pot never boils.” When you keep too tight a reign on every stroke, every composition, or you over analyze your progress, you may miss out on something enchanting and remarkable. Let it happen! Just do it.
"Cafe' Costa Rica" 20 x 20 acrylic on canvas
If your paints could talk, what would they say? Mine would be angry with the disorganized mess, with the damaged caps from using a nut cracker to get them off, and the crimped twisted tubes, etc. A neat freak I’m not! I get so caught up in painting I sometimes forget that a neater pallet and a more organized paint box would actually make my job easier.

Recently I subscribed to Eric Maisel’s “Sunday Newsletter: Emotional Healing”. With my free subscription, Eric had a free gift: “The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever” by Eric Maisel, 2011 all rights reserved.

I’m going to share with you the first 10 tips on Eric’s list.

1.  Be consistent in showing up. Getting to your creative work only once in a while won’t keep it alive. Make “routine” and “regularity” sacred words!

2.  Who knows how many artists fail because the light that shines through them is refracted in a thousand directions and not concentrated in a single beam? Pick projects and complete them! It is not really possible to work on a thousand things at once.

3.  One of the best ways to help yourself create every day is to craft a starting ritual that you begin to use regularly and routinely. When your ritual becomes habitual you will find yourself moving effortlessly from not creating to creating.

4.  Make the following pledge: “I will do some creative work every day, if only for fifteen or twenty minutes.” Honor your pledge for the next two weeks and spend fourteen consecutive days creating.

5.  Looking for only the perfect time to create? Forget about it! You are always in the middle of something so it is right in the middle of things that your creating must also happen.

6.  Even small amounts of time can be used for creating. Do you make use of fifteen minutes here and twenty minutes there?

7.  Are you good at capturing your own creative thoughts? Or do you let them slip away by telling yourself that they weren’t really all that good or all that important? Stop that! Start right now doing a better job of capturing and recording your ideas.

8.  You must reckon with your own character. Creativity requires curiosity. Are you curious enough? Creativity requires risk-taking. Are you willing to risk? Creativity requires energy. Can you marshal and unleash your energy? Creativity requires patience. Have you cultivated that quality? Turn yourself into the artist you need to be!

9.  Telling our truth can bring us pain and get us into trouble, but worse pain and worse trouble await us if we keep silent. Tell your truth—carefully, artfully, and courageously!

10.  Say yes to your creative work! Avoid maybe like the plague. Maybe is a state that takes you right to the edge of meaninglessness. Maybe plays to your weaknesses, your anxieties, and your doubts. Maybe frustrates you and disappoints you. Avoid the maybe trap!


Monday, October 10, 2016

Fall Harvest has Inspired Artwork through the Centuries

"Auburn Nights" 20 x 16 Oil on canvas
Autumn’s color and crisp clear weather define my favorite season of the year. Pumpkin fields, apple orchards, and yellow cornstalks turned into scarecrows on doorsteps. The smells of bonfires, burning leaves, wieners and marshmallows roasting on sticks. The colors of yellow ochre, red orange, burnt sienna and raw umber capture the mood and the feeling.

When my children were still of trick-or-treating age, we’d pile into the car and drive out to a favorite farm where we’d purchase apples for making sauce and jack-o-lanterns for carving.

Ripe and delicious the wares tempted us to buy candied apples or sometimes stay for fresh apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Crunchy leaves underfoot accented the fun as we carried our finds back to the car.


Sometimes we’d buy a large jar of golden honey dripping with goodness to be used in cooked cereals and hot teas. Grandma would take some of the sticky stuff and make spun taffy rubbing her hands with butter and stretching the hot concoction until it was almost white. The sugar-sweet candy melted on our tongues.

On Halloween night at our house, I made a big pot of chili that the children were not too crazy about eating. But when they returned from “trick-or-treating” with their father in tow, they had to down a few bites before they were allowed to open their bags of candy.



At our house, Halloween costumes were hardly ever purchased. Every year, we scrounged the house for possible costume parts. After many Halloween celebrations, we ended up with a large costume box filled with various themes and sizes. The box was a big hit with neighborhood friends; and, for years, provided hours of entertainment for the children throughout the year.

The Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes my husband and I wore to an adult party were in the box plus the simple white pillowcase with cutout eyes and a cottontail glued to the rear.

Ears were tied with string and the white cotton case could become a rabbit or a sheep depending on how tall the toddler was and how long the ears.

One year I became a Geisha girl using a silk Japanese robe my son had given me. I wound pantyhose around a 1960’s fur hat and turned it into black towering hair.

After my face was painted white and makeup had been applied, I finished my “look” with white stockings and black platform thongs. My friend said that was either the ugliest costume she’d ever seen, or the best one there; she couldn’t decide which.

Many people go through life wearing disguises of one kind or another. They hide behind a false front and then take off their mask when in their own familiar surroundings.

We all try to make a good impression and put our “best foot forward.” We want people to like us. But there comes a time when the masks either come off willingly as people try to gain intimacy or the disguise is revealed painfully later on. The adage “better late than never” doesn’t work in this case. In relationships the “sooner the better” you find out the truth the better.



In your interactions with others watch for these red flags:
  • Outbursts of anger or temper tantrums. The person’s mask sometimes slips to reveal these important inconsistencies. They may apologize profusely and have convincing arguments for their behavior, but trust your own gut instincts. If the other person is covering up an uncontrollable temper, imagine the fireworks when the mask comes off permanently!
  • Irrational behavior. Tirades, spending or eating binges that come out of nowhere may be deep-seated and bubble to the surface when a hot button is pushed. This person may have emotional issues that are way out of their control and probably yours.
  • Public outbursts. If causing a public scene doesn’t bother them, then erratic loud behavior in private may be the “norm.” When their own actions don’t embarrass them, nothing you can say or do will make any difference. If you dislike public displays, make a fast exit from this person.
  • Treatment of other people. How they treat their mother or other close relatives may tell you a lot about their history and habits. If they treat strangers and outsiders better than those who are close, beware! This type is a performance artist always looking for applause and admiration. Around family they really let their hair down. Courtesy and thoughtfulness go right out the window.
  • Beliefs and values are out of step with actual behavior. Some people brag about being honest yet they look for every excuse to justify cheating, slipping into a second movie theater without paying, covering up a mistake or blaming it on someone else.
  • Possessiveness that requires an accounting.  “Why didn’t you call?” “Where were you when I called?” Who were you talking to just now?” You’re constantly bombarded with questions from this insecure type. They doubt your answers. They want to control your time, your friends, even your relatives. They smother you with affection, but it’s just another means of control. They want you all to themselves. Your life, your needs, your wants suddenly become smaller and smaller until you disappear altogether.
  • The green-eyed monster disguised as love. “Were you flirting with him?” “I saw you smile.” “Your line was busy for 30 minutes! Who were you talking to?” As the song goes: “Every move you make, every turn you take, I’ll be watching you.” When the mask finally comes off, it becomes obvious the only person they love is themselves. With this jealous man or woman you’ll feel guilty even when you’re not. You can’t do anything right. Being human is a sin.
  • A raised fist, a not-so-gentle jab may just be the beginning. Physical abuse is escalating behavior. In the beginning it may start with shouting and name-calling. Eventually the threats turn into action. If you see a glimpse of this when the mask is still on you’d better watch out! When they’re in their comfort zone they may take the velvet gloves off.

Watch out for those red flags, not only on Halloween, but every day of the year. When the smile and boasting phase is over and the disguises come off, be sure you don’t end up with a real goon or ghoul!