Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Christmas Wedding takes my Holiday Plans into Overdrive

"Saguaro Cactus"
My tail is dragging; how about yours? Sooo hard to get back to work after the holidays; and, of course, another celebration is looming ahead.

I’ve been on the fly, literally. We had company on Christmas day, and the next morning, we flew out for my grandson’s wedding in Phoenix, Arizona. I had jet lag the whole time we were there. Couldn’t sleep in the full-sized bed (no tossing and turning allowed!) and kept awake by strange and unfamiliar noises.

A fallen cactus, petrifying; illustrates how pourus they are

On the return flight, Sunday, I simply couldn’t keep my eyes open. I spent the whole flight bobbing my head and snapping my neck whenever my mouth began to sag. Our flight had a layover in Indianapolis and left an hour late because of a freezing rain. The warmth that greeted us when we stepped off the plane in Fort Myers was a huge welcome home.
"Joshua Tree" and desert terrain
I once lived in Phoenix, so I was eager to return and find out what I’d missed. Couldn’t believe the changes that had taken place! The city had gone from a sleepy, Mexican hacienda-like atmosphere to a thriving metropolis with super highways and luxury accommodations. Still, the desert’s resounding voice spoke volumes about constancy, permanency, and the wisdom of the ages.

Saguaro cacti, the sentinels of the desert, reminded us of our eternal nature and the timeless quality of our existence. I photographed Joshua Trees, prickly pear cactus, and the unusual vegetation and trees that grow in spite of the intense heat of summer. For we Floridians, the evening temperatures seemed frigid; plunging from a daytime high of 74 and then back to 46 degrees overnight.

My fourth child was born in Phoenix. This was her first time back since she was three years old. One of our family pleasures was to take walks on the desert floor in late January and February when the cacti were in bloom. Colorful splotches of pink, yellow, and red were masterfully dotted over the terrain with a Master’s brush. The sand underfoot became a velvet cover of green that would burn off by mid March.

There is magic in the desert. Silence is broken only by the chirp of a bird or the monotone humming of bees. There is space. The vastness of the land spreads endlessly before you and as far as the eye can see making you feel small and insignificant in return; a good place to put your life in perspective. Problems seem minuscule in comparison.

I wish we’d spent more time there. When I made the reservations, I was thinking in “wedding” terms only. Now I wish we had stuffed in a few extra days for sightseeing and pleasure. As always, hind sight is more valuable than making snap judgments. I hope your holidays were well spent and enjoyed. In the meantime, Happy New Year everyone!
"another Joshua Tree"

"prickly pear" cactus

Site of a family hike; all the way up to the rock ridges and the top!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cyber-rattling – the Skeletal Remains of Abandoned Blogs

"All that Jazz" acrylic on panel in red boxed frame
 (repeat of a blog from 2012)

We’re all eager to start them. We want our own public space in the sun to share our personal trivia or our hopes and dreams. Millions of blogs attest to that fact. But what happens when the enthusiasm fades, a blogger moves to another space, or just leaves his or her audience hanging as weeks turn into months and months into years?

The search engines are clogged with the skeletal remains of countless blogs hanging in the pathways of cyberspace. I was amazed as I searched for viable art blogs how many of them have not been updated in months; some for more than three to five years!

"Lucky Lady" acrylic, mixed media on panel in red boxed frame

Amongst the casualties were new mother blogs, created by first time mothers who wanted to share the miracle of birth and their amazing adventure into motherhood. Others wanted to share a wonderful vacation with humorous stories and full-color photos. But when the vacation excitement fizzled, the dazzle of motherhood wore off, so did the blog.
Many blogs are started with good intentions, but they fail miserably when the blogger realizes there is no substance. There are no long-term goals. There was a beginning, but no ending. The blogger had no vision for the purpose of his or her blog or the discipline to finish it.

Clanking around this wasteland, I still found some good information, an interesting fact or two; but it required an investment of time to find that juicy fruit, that bright star among the scattered bones of defeat. Some bloggers move frequently from space to space, leaving their old blogs behind like bread crumbs to lead their followers back home. Some links failed, leading me on a wild goose chase.
"Shimmy Shake" mixed media on panel in black boxed frame
With all the apps and gizmo's out there, I sometimes have difficulty uploading my own updates, especially in the evening hours. The large sites like Facebook and Twitter become unpredictable and double tweets or failed tweets happen on occasion.
Abandoned bytes and cyber debris join other waste materials in the heavens. Our Satellite Station over the years has dropped scraps and junk that still circle the globe endlessly polluting the atmosphere. Our oceans are filled with garbage and the ghostly remains of plastic bags. Japan’s Tsunami debris floats around the globe, butting up against foreign shores and introducing them to alien species.
"Vamp on a Ramp" mixed media on panel in gray boxed frame
Our “throw away” society continues to add to our mountain of debt and our growing landfill piles. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could find a way to clean up this wasted space or manufacture things that would last? If our economy is so bad, why do so many people throw thousands of pounds of food in the trash each year? Solutions not rhetoric is what we need. Suggestions anyone?
"Yes, Sir, that's my Baby!" mixed media on panel in black boxed frame
(All Retro prints and originals are on

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Holidays are not always Merry and Jolly

Christmas Lights and Gates within Gateway
The Holidays are difficult for many of us. My children happen to live in the far corners of the U.S. and I see them infrequently. Of course that makes me sad. I almost died one Christmas which was the precursor to a divorce that also clouds the holidays. But let me explain.

It was Christmas time. The freshly cut spruce we had purchased days before was decorated and waiting. My baking was complete; our freezer loaded with cookie trays for friends and casseroles for company and unexpected guests. I was on my last round of cleaning, adding the final spit and polish that “make the season bright.”

We wrap our palm trees in twinkle lights
Two things happened that day to add to the confusion: 1) I banged my wedding ring finger on a table and wondered if I'd broken it, and 2) I cleaned ever-so-efficiently behind the toilet bowl in our guest bathroom. At the time, a strong stinging sensation in my finger caused me to pull my sudsy hand back. It was the same finger I'd banged earlier. On my initial examination, the skin had been unmarred. Now the water-soaked skin had a slight abrasion or opening in the flesh.

I shrugged and finished my scrubbing. I was taking the kids to a holiday movie and put the events of the day out of my mind. Half-way through the movie, I was in a fit of agony. My finger felt like it was on fire, but its temperature was as cold as ice. What was going on? To make a very long story short, the continued pain sent me to three different hospitals over the course of the holiday weekend. A medic cut off my wedding ring as it cut into my flesh and restricted blood flow. An x-ray revealed there was no break. Puzzled, the nurse on duty sent me home and told me to soak my finger.

Love these tall graceful palms wrapped in lights!
At the next ER, I was feeling extremely ill. They asked if I'd been bitten by a spider, but I had no recall of such. On the surface, the finger didn't look that bad, nothing to warrant such pain. They sent me home with more instructions, none of which helped.

A third trip to another ER in the middle of the night proved as useless. While there, my whole body became immobile. I couldn't blink. I couldn't speak. I couldn't move one solitary muscle. I heard them say I had probably hyperventilated. It would pass. They sent me home. I was given no medication or antibiotic on any of these visits.

On Monday, I saw my own medical doctor. By this time a bright red streak ran from my finger to under my arm. My skin had a yellow cast, and my gums were purple. The doctor pronounced: "blood poisoning,” and asked again:” Are you sure you weren't bitten by an insect? " None that I could recall, I told him. When I mentioned the diagnosis of hyperventilation, he shook his head. "You were probably going into convulsion,” he said.

My ultimate favorite: a southern oak tree wrapped in lights. Spectacular!
I was placed in a private hospital room, and x-rays were ordered for my heart and lungs. The doctor had prescribed a complex antibiotic IV drip, but since the hospital was under staffed, they waited for my IV, wanting to avoid attaching it and then having to unhook me for x-rays and then having to start it up again. The IV was put off until after my x-rays; a six hour delay as it turned out.

Over the next few days, Gangrene set in my finger. A dermatologist was called in. He was the one that finally recognized my condition as the results of a brown recluse spider bite. He took one look at me, read my record, and said: "You should have been dead in 36 hours." It had been 72 hours before I received my first IV antibiotic drip. If they had known what it was from the beginning, they would have administered cortisone as well.

Moonshines -- Abstract mixed media on canvas (on my online gallery)
After my recovery, I analyzed the holiday puzzle. I remembered seeing tiny spiders in the toilet water during the holiday week and wondered how they got there? We later concluded there must have been a spider's nest behind the tank. So much for thorough cleaning! 

I never repaired my wedding ring or put it on after that. I looked upon it as a foreshadowing of what was to come. In spite of the good things that have happened to me since, whenever Christmas rolls around, I remember my near death experience, a separation and a divorce that became imminent one holiday long ago.

A Sandhill Crane in my neighborhood painted on black. Christmas Colors!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Victorian Art Has a Message and so much More

After reviewing Russian Lacquer art, Victorian art seems like child’s play. When the Pilgrims made their trip to America and cut off ties with their European forefathers, they also cut themselves off from the depth of culture and training that had inspired previous generations. Except for memories, many of them had no books or paintings until later immigrants brought them.

There is an innocence about their first efforts at duplicating what they saw; although, drawings from the Lewis and Clark expeditions are fairly detailed and accurate.

Children's books were not only written to entertain, but to teach values and principles.
During the Victorian era, the drawings appear playful and somewhat unskilled. Many scenes are detailed, but the characters seem misshapen or top heavy. Perhaps this was part of their naivety and charm.

At a garage sale a few years back, I purchased an old book titled: “Little Wide Awake, an anthology of Victorian Children’s Books and Periodicals,” by Leonard De Vries. Printed in 1967, the description states: "an authentic and fascinating panorama of the world of the children of a bygone era.”

“Little Wide-Awake” was one of the most popular children’s periodicals of the 19th century. It reveals shocking details of life in the Victorian world. The stories contain surprising grimness and more stark realism than many of the children’s stories of today.

These black silhouette drawings were a favorite!
In contrast, there is also a cloying sweetness in many stories and poems that many may find “sappy” and sentimental. To quote from the cover: “The religious ideas of the period are expressed in selections from publications of the Religious Tract Society. Also included are fine examples of books of instruction, alphabets, and forerunners of the comic strips.”

Nevertheless, there is humor and lightness in rhyme, as well as superb examples of poetry and “early art nouveau illustrations.”

Young women were taught to mend. Imagine having to darn socks, but it was economical.
The author, Leonard De Vries would be worth one blog on his own. While studying physics and chemistry in Amsterdam, his education was brought to an end when the Nazis overran Holland. De Vries was born in 1919 in Semarang, Indonesia, and considered life a voyage; a discovery full of adventures and surprises. This attitude helped him get through the war and inspired him to write children’s books.

I loved the composition of this drawing.
In 1957, when looking in the attic of a children’s library in Amsterdam for pre-war juvenile books  on science experiments, Leonard found some 18th century children’s books. These were the basis for this anthology and for many of the over two dozen children’s books that he wrote.

His experiences during the Nazi persecution, and a stay in Israel in 1953 helped him write “The Land is Bright.” In 1960, De Vries made a trip around the world, wandering many months through Thailand and Ceylon, to write a book about the inspiring work of UNICEF. 

Whether you like Victorian art or not, the appealing characters and stories of the period give us a glimpse into the past.

The last painting below is my favorite in the book for its overlapping elements.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas – Is there any other Kind?

Getting ready for the holidays here in Florida means that we plant flowers. Yes, you got that right! We use Christmas lights at night, but during the day time, our yards send a message of color, fun, and festivity.

Wrapping our palm trees and oak trees in twinkle lights tells everyone “this home is ready to rock!”

Added color in the garden sends the message that we’re “decking the halls” and yards with what we do best: grow things. Freshly mulched beds are planted with pink or red impatiens, silver leafed foliage, red begonias’ and geraniums. Even the acacia and catalpa trees are in bloom to welcome the season. In case you’re wondering, mowing lawns year-round and pruning are the norm here.

Those who don’t go north for the holidays are preparing for winter guests. We want to look our best. Our “winter wonderland” is a walk on our white sandy beaches. Wreaths hang on every light post accented with a red ribbon. The streets are bedecked with green boughs and lights.

My husband and I are participating with our church in a “Live Nativity” that mirrors the town of Bethlehem and recreates the story of old. Costume clad volunteers make the telling come alive through improvisation, scripture, and interaction with the people that come to see the event each year.

The tour guide gives each family a bag of money to pay the tax collector at the gates of the city. In return, the children are given change back in the form of gold coins. Their eyes grow in wonder at the end of their journey when they discover they get to keep them.

A beggar also pleads for money in the streets, and some of the children proffer their gold coins to him as a gift.

An angel is seen floating in the air near the fields where “shepherds watch over their flocks by night.” A few campfires are seen as the shepherds warm themselves and cook their meager meals.

In the streets of Bethlehem a few shop keepers hawk their wares or sweep their porches.

The tour group is turned away by an innkeeper who tells them there is no room. They hear that a young couple was also turned away for the same reason. “The woman was riding on a donkey,” the innkeeper says, and points ahead: “they went that way. Perhaps you’ll find some place to stay down that street.”

A full-size stable, manager, and the Holy Family are the highlight of the evening. Mary sings a lullaby to her baby and then places him in the manger.

As the group continues down the street, they are approached by three wise men dressed in splendor that have come to visit “the King.” They ask where they might find the babe so they may give him their gifts.

At journey’s end the guests are invited to enjoy the live music (a band and carollers) performing inside where they will be given something to eat and drink after their long journey. Fellowship is what it’s all about. The sharing of love and the spirit of Christmas makes a lasting impression.

We have not only attended the Live Nativity, but participated in it each year. We never grow tired of seeing the Biblical story come to life. We look forward to hearing the beloved story retold and the carols sung illuminating the reason for the Season.

One of our late sunsets on Sanibel Island.  Below, some boats at the Sponge Docks in Clearwater on a cloudy day.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What’s not to Love – or Hate?

A glimpse of my December art show at Arts for Act gallery in downtown Fort Myers.
Yes, I’m one of those sappy people who watched Sound of Music to hear once again the familiar and wonderful songs of long ago and to watch Carrie Underwood’s take on a timeless classic.

What I was not prepared for was the avalanche of hatred aimed not only at her, but at her faith after the showing. Was the criticism aimed at her performance? No. It was simply a barrage of anger leveled at her Christian faith and her belief in the Bible; cheap shot in my opinion.

Are these the same hate mongers who demand free speech for themselves, but wish to deny it to others? Are they the ones who yell racism and discrimination whenever it suits their political agenda with little evidence to back it up. A ploy designed to stir up trouble?

More of my paintings on the brick wall in the interior office (sorry for the lamp glare!).
Where does this kind of hatred come from? Envy? Self-loathing? An empty soul? Christianity is a religion of love: “Love thy neighbor as yourself,” “Love your enemies,” “Do good to those who despitefully use you,” "judge not," "forgive and you shall be forgiven," and on and on.

Christians are sinners who are striving to do better. They are given ugly labels they do not deserve. They are only human. Why is it that when they stumble or reveal their vulnerability they are laughed at or worse called a “hypocrite” for making a mistake? The mockers defile them with crude language while their own behavior would make a sailor blush.

My paintings along the back wall of Arts for Act Arcade Gallery downtown Fort Myers -- entire month of December!
I’ve always cheered for the underdog, but when did we start putting vulgar language and crude behavior on a pedestal? Since when was innocence a negative and raunchiness applauded? Our “ship of state” is sinking into the mud, and I for one am saddened by our descent into degradation.

I think that’s why I paint portraits of children and enjoy painting scenes that children will find funny or inspiring. I like their fresh perspective, their trusting and simple belief in goodness and their frank and open dialogue. If someone is unpleasant or mean, they’re not afraid to tell it like it is. They see through the outward trappings of poverty and color into the heart. They can spot evil and avoid people who give off negative vibes.

"Beach Buddies II" mixed media on canvas
We should encourage this goodness before it becomes tainted by peer pressure and adult provocation and perversion. These are our children. They are our future. Do we want a world where hate rules and crude behavior becomes the norm? Where will we find inspiration or beauty in such a place? How will we survive if the passion to deface and destroy becomes the norm as it was in Rome?

"First Daffodil" acrylic on canvas

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Capture those magic moments before they get away!

I’m usually a “hang in there” kind of person. I stayed in a 30 year marriage long after I knew that things were never going to change, and I endured a miserable job even after I discovered the boss was a manic depressive chameleon. He ran hot and cold, but always impatient and mean.

I’m not a quitter, and I can always be depended upon to do my job. But when daily circumstances become stressful that’s the time to pull back and re-examine what you really want in life. Can you relate?

I’ve always been able to juggle my schedule and keep several things going at once, but suddenly I’m feeling more overworked than usual. I’m finding fewer hours for creative ventures. I haven’t painted in days, and I’m still trying to finish part of the Neptune Series I started a few weeks ago.

We all go through this hassle each day: deciding how to spend our time, which comes first the chicken for the table or the golden egg for the bank? Our well-planned days seem to unravel before us and we run from one endless pursuit to another. Our “to do” list outgrows the available minutes we have to spend. We start feeling exhausted and unfulfilled.

Surprise! It isn’t more speed, more arms or more time we need it’s a slowing down of our mind and our attitudes. Instead of trying to cram more “stuff” into fewer hours, we need to savor the ones we have.

Did you know that when you ratchet down your fast pace and live in the moment, it seems like time moves at a slower pace? When you delight in each bite of food, rolling it over on your tongue, chewing it purposefully and immersing yourself in its flavor that extra five minutes you spend actually seems like 15?

When you rein in your usual tendency to forge ahead, pause and enjoy a child’s smile, your spouse’s goodbye kiss, a neighbor’s wave, the new fallen snow or the freshly mowed lawns of your neighbor’s. Notice how your body relaxes. Instead of frazzled nerves and a churning stomach, you’re in the moment. More than that, you’re in command of your mind and emotions. You’ve mastered the art of self-control.

If it were only this easy! I know it’s a constant battle. But wanting to gain mastery over your life is a virtuous desire. I dropped some activities thinking I was going to get on top of things, but I took on more responsibilities instead to fill the void. If you really want to have more time for the things you enjoy, avoid this trap!

Pacing and balance are our two greatest allies. Life has a rhythm that helps us sense when things are off and when they’re not. By nailing down the moments and reveling in each passing second, we lay claim to our dreams.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Feed the Hungry and Allow Others to Feed You

"India Rising -- the Found" mixed media on canvas
There are times in life when we nurture and feed others. And there are those dismal dark days in between when we are the needy ones. We hunger and thirst for the missing pieces in our lives, and we try to solve the puzzle of discontent and emptiness.

Perhaps it’s simply a desire for knowledge or perhaps the need to connect with another human being.  Whatever it is, we hope not only to discover what we’re missing, but to fill that empty abyss that gnaws at our organs and psyche. Like a tantalizing crumb dangling temptingly before us,  we can almost taste this mysterious ingredient. But before we can devour its lusciousness or feel its goodness on our tongue, it is gone.

"With These Hands -- Love" mixed media on canvas
Over the holiday, we saw a brilliant and moving film called: “The Book Thief;” written about one of the most interesting and grueling time periods in history: World War II. The character, a young girl named Leasle, gains the reputation of “book thief” because in order to satisfy her craving for knowledge and life, she must read. She must learn. She doesn’t steal books, she tells everyone; she only takes them for a little while and always returns them with added benefits.

The movie reminds us of the striking contrast between good and evil, and of the types of people who inhabit the earth: those who make choices that free their souls and shape their destiny in remarkable ways, and those who destroy whatever and whoever they touch through their black lifeless hearts.
"India Rising -- the Lost" mixed media on canvas
This movie inspired the title of my latest art show: “The Human Spirit – a Celebration of People and Places.” In almost all of my paintings, I try to emphasize the goodness and light that emanates from ordinary people doing small and simple things. The way they live their lives. The results of the choices they make.

"Prayer Circles" mixed media on canvas
If you’re in Fort Myers, Florida in December, I hope you can come. A reception will be held Friday evening, Dec. 6 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Arts for Act Arcade Gallery on First Street, between Jackson and Hendry. I’ll be there with other displaying artists.

Arts for Act holds auctions and uses the commission from the sale of art to fund services for abused women and their children. Many local artists support this gallery and also participate as volunteers.  Please call 239-337-5050 for information or check out their web site at 

"Reggae Night" acrylic on canvas