Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve already?

Boy, that was fast. I know Thanksgiving was late this year, but still...

It's been a busy season. I had some paintings to do, some baking to do, and I finally purchased a candy thermometer and tried my hand at a temperature-sensitive something-or-other... But mostly? Well, I fell back into the typical Mel at Christmastime persona... Crabby, ungrateful, ashamed of what our culture has done to Christmas, alarmed at the state of our country and the happy state of denial where most people reside... My Christmas roller coaster doesn't neatly align with any step program; heck, it isn't even consistent from year to year. But each December, without fail, I end up feeling down about the whole thing, stricken with guilt because the joy I'm supposed to be experiencing is quite absent a lot of the time.

Although, I suppose I am going through some kind of step program, because I've arrived at the acceptance stage now. And I do have some peace about the entire thing. That's no program, though—that's God. I prayed for peace, for the ongoing awareness that Christmas means For Us a Savior. Our pastor did a great sermon on Sunday about that very miracle. It was just what I needed. We have to be intentional about seeking joy. Did you know that?

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to flit in and out of holiday-induced depression for the next few days. But through it all, I'll be singing a catchy little song to myself: Jesus Christ is coming to town.

Wait, He's already here! He was here, and He is here. That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

I wish you the same song in your heart, through stress and bad weather and Christmas returns. We can still sing.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Given the day, I figured I'd share these song lyrics; we sang this song in church recently, and it was so simple yet so sincere. I have been humming this for days now, and that is a genuinely good thing. Praise and thanks precede blessing, in my experience at least...

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now let the weak say, "I am strong"
Let the poor say, "I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us"
Give thanks

Have a happy Thanksgiving, and I hope that you spend the majority of it doing just that: giving thanks. There is strife, there are trials, but there is always a Companion by your side.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A little glimpse of warmer days

These three were clucking around at my sisters' house one day last summer. The sun was warm, the sound of their chatter was soothing, and I snapped a photo in hopes of preserving the moment.

Not quite the same as being there in person, but still powerful enough to evoke a vague essence of balmier days...

It's for sale in my Etsy shop. Now I'm off to start the next one! Carpe diem, right?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Facing the front

I'm a light sleeper. I believe I've already written about that here, probably more than once.

For the past few days, I've been mulling a post about how frequently things change in our lives. It's the same kind of post that just about everyone in the world has read, usually penned by someone in the midst of personal upheaval. The gist of my thoughts is quite familiar: The only thing that's truly permanent is change. It's the one constant factor upon which we can rely.

It became crystal clear to me overnight, as I was awakened countless times by the noise of wind punishing the trees outside and rain trying determinedly to beat its way into our home. All those noises that woke me were the indicators of change coming—colder temperatures, precipitation where there had been none, wind rushing forth to usher in the new weather pattern. Each time the gusts blew with vehemence, I was reminded anew that I'd wake to a very different kind of day than the one that had preceded it.

My husband? My son? They slept through it peacefully, oblivious to the disturbances just a few feet away.

I think it must be nice to sleep through the approaching storm. I can't do it. I feel it, I hear it, I'm jerked awake over and over again with each new gust front. There are things swirling around me in my life, the lives of my family members, and I feel them full force: New patterns, difficulties and obstacles, unwelcome shifts in behavior and lifestyle.

I guess I am a person who directly faces the gust front in order to feel prepared to handle what's coming. I want to be ready each time a front nears... but is that even possible? Knowing that it's lurking doesn't really prepare you for what it's bringing. And yet, you can't spend your life waiting in an underground shelter. Sometimes I'd prefer to be like those folks who simply sleep through the oncoming storm, but I wonder how they do it. Are they standing sideways, weathering the blast without even realizing it's here? And what about those who never see it coming at all? Are their backs to the wind? Doesn't it blow them right over? How can they withstand the force without ending up on their faces?

I suppose there's a comfortable balance, of knowing but not dreading—preparing, but not suspending life during the prep. I have yet to achieve that balance. I face the front, and fret, and watch its swirling destruction. And yet, as someone recently reminded me, we humans are a resilient bunch for the most part. The changes wash over us, and we adjust our internal gauge to accommodate the "new normal." And happily, our stalks usually grow stronger when the wind is damaging. Sometimes we break, but far more often, we endure.

With help, we endure.

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. -Nahum 1:7

Friday, October 18, 2013

Butternut Lovely

Fair Butternut, thy beauty pales

Near rounder cousins—orange, bright—

Yet all alone, thy shape and hue

Shine perfectly in their own right.

(I"ve always rooted for the "under-squash.")

This one was done quickly, from real life. It's for sale in my shop. Hope you are enjoying a beautiful fall day, as am I!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Doggedly making my way

Hello! Here is a dog painting I squeezed in recently. His name is Jack. Don't you just want to fondle his ears?

Life goes on, and the leaves change colors, then stiff breezes blow them down from their branches into the yard and driveway. Suddenly, I'm smelling pine and dry grass and wood smoke. There are a plethora of Octoberfest activities from which to choose; I have yet to make it to one of them. Family health concerns and serious discussions of all sorts have sapped my enthusiasm for autumn.

Still, it's here. And it is a thing of beauty—even if you're oblivious most of the time. Let's both try to notice it today. Deal?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Life lines

I don't mean the line that runs across your palm, that favorite of palm-readers the world over. My reference is supposed to be a play on words, a twisting of the utterly inappropriate term "laugh lines." You know, that lighthearted misnomer that some joker created to describe the deep indentations near mouth and eyes that are supposedly caused by too much joviality?

Yeah, right.

Mine are now Life Lines. As in, caused by life. It's been a stressful couple of weeks. I won't burden you, dear reader. But please pray that my family and I will have wisdom and compassion in generous doses.

This painting is a few days old, completed before things became too topsy-turvy. It features a quick rendering of our very own garden-grown, heirloom tomatoes. We've eaten plenty, and will eat more. One must indulge when the indulgence is in season.

Take nothing for granted. Perhaps that will be my new mantra. Can a Christian have a mantra?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Busy, busy

The days fly by during this time of year. There are too many places to be, school- and sport-related tasks for my little dude, garden items to harvest and preserve, a filthy home that begs for attention, a misbehaving cat who may or may not have an intestinal disorder, and the quiet but insistent footfalls of autumn as it nears...

I finished a couple of paintings recently—one a commission of a neighbor's pet kitty, and the other just for me because I liked it (a nuthatch, in case you're not familiar with that type of bird). I made salsa, twice. And froze some tomato sauce. Next on the list? Peeling apples for apple butter, in between layers of paint on an old wooden chest that needs a facelift.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll force myself to get registered on LinkedIn in an attempt to drum up some freelance proofreading. I so prefer the painting and preserving; if only those pastimes paid better. Sigh.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Filtered (and filter) thoughts

Here's something I'm not going to write about: the denial-turned-melancholy in my heart when I walk along our road and see the first leafy hints of autumn, fluttering nonchalantly to the ground, spinning dizzily as they fall.

And the feeling in my stomach when my son climbs on the hulking yellow bus and rides away from me. I'm not going to write about that either, because I don't want to ponder the empty feeling in my stomach that has nothing to do with an inadequate breakfast. I choose not to dwell on his fleeting childhood that I am free to witness, but never to slow or delay. The uneasy feeling that time is slipping away from me, and moments are passing more quickly than I can record them—I'm not going to write about that.

Maybe I could write about how I recently canned homemade items from garden produce. That would be a happy post, right? Well, no. Not when I remember how much work and how many tomatoes go into creating a very small assortment of canned goods. Besides, I've already written about it here and here.

Hey, I know! I'll write a letter!

Dear Makers of the Kindle E-Reader:

I am the owner of an older model Kindle Fire. I love it, except for one design flaw—when I'm sitting in reasonably bright light, reading from the Kindle, I have to place the reader in such a position that I see my own, awful, loose-skinned lower neck reflected back at me from the smooth surface of the reader. The sight of that hideous neck skin is so ugly, and so much resembles a turkey wattle, that I am sickened and thus rendered too ill to finish my Kindle activity. I'm guessing that you've already addressed this flaw in newer models of the Kindle Fire, but that doesn't help me as I am unable to part with that much cash again when I have a perfectly good Fire in my hands already. Perhaps you offer some kind of beauty filter? A scrim of sorts to fit over the Kindle surface, something that will soften or alter the appearance of my awful lower neck? I'll hope to hear back from you soon with a solution to this issue.

There, that ought to do it for today. Happy Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sunday evening at Turnbull Lake

The husband and I were hurrying once again. We tried to ignore raindrops spitting on us as we began our belated drive from a family occasion on the opposite side of town. We were likely going to miss the whole thing, I fretted, hadn't got out the door when we'd planned, and we scanned the threatening skies and sped northward. We were forced to stop repeatedly for a plethora of reasons, it seemed. I pondered the wisdom of this decision... Yet we drew closer. Does this number 7 on the map mean that this stretch of the trip is 7 miles long? That can't be right. Shouldn't we be there by now? Is that a splash of rain or a dead bug? And then, familiar faces ahead, silly teenagers that we knew—they were pointing out parking places with excessive drama. Todd maneuvered our big station wagon to the indicated spot (yes, we still drive a station wagon, not an S.U.V.) and turned off the engine.

We leapt out, and I could hear people singing softly; we scurried up a steep backyard slope and saw many human backs standing before us. Small, tall, thick and thin, dark and pale. As unobtrusively as possible, we threaded our way through the many bodies, then landed at a spot near friends. I dropped the quilt I'd been carrying (for sitting on the ground in relative comfort, if we chose), and the kid and I kicked off our shoes. Lyric sheets were shared, and we joined the throng and sent hymns of praise Heavenward. Voices rose together, and we took turns gazing first at a beautiful lake of considerable size, then at the lightening sky.

The moment was approaching, and my son couldn't see; he is only 8, after all, and even shorter than I am. I took his hand and we carefully made our way to one of the picnic tables near the back of the gathering, where a stretch of empty wooden bench offered "high ground" on which my little dude could stand, thus gaining a better view. We watched as a widely varied group of folks began to populate the small beach next to the water. There were statements, explanations, and prayers. Then names were called, and one by one—children, old men, new moms, sheepish teens—each person stepped forward to be reborn. Pastors waited in the water, and the people came to them; some were shy, some confident, a few wiping at their eyes. Of course we applauded each time a soul was renewed. They came up out of that water dripping, and smiles abounded in both the dipped and the watchful. Were you wondering about those gray clouds that had dogged us all the way there? Well, they hovered and teased, but they never wept a single drop.

Afterward there were boat rides, wading, opportunities to feed the lake owners' tame fish, much visiting, and a general hubbub of joy.

From one family event to another, from blood connection to a brotherhood and sisterhood borne of confession and water: How blessed am I to have both.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

At last, a new painting

Finally I've finished another painting. (Painting in July and August is just plain difficult. Unless I have time on my hands and, in this current monsoon summer, a covered patio under which to pitch an easel... which I do not.)

My source for this one was a lovely photo taken by the fine folks at North Woods Ranch. It features one of their fuzzy beasts, eying the camera (with suspicion?) on a foggy and somewhat mysterious morning. Every time I look at it, I think of the song "Misty Morning Hop" by Led Zeppelin. Not that the cow looks ready to hop around—especially not to that thumping tune. But the mist, people. The mist.

So. It's for sale in my Etsy shop.

Not much else is happening here. We are sadly marking the days until school begins. We camped out in the yard last night, and let me tell you, there are plenty of creatures stirring around 2:30am. Including me, with a small hill and at least two tree roots under my spine...

Enjoy the weekend; I hope you are able to squeeze in at least one activity that delights you.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ahh, yesteryear

Every now and then, a ditty from my childhood pops into my mind unbidden. I do not know from whence it comes, but it comes nevertheless. One of my recent inexplicable memories was a child's book that included a song.

Back in the day, we didn't have all this here techno-gimmetry. We had a handful of read-aloud books with little 45-rpm records that fit into a slot in the back cover of the book. I'd get the turntable ready, and clumsily put my record on it, then set the needle in position and hurriedly open my book to read along to the scratchy story. I believe I had a rendition of Bambi, or maybe some other tragic Disney story, but my favorite read-along was Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet.

Being a clueless child, I didn't realize that the genius of Johnny and Alice's story was found in the liltingly beautiful voices singing the words to the storybook—none other than the fabulously talented Andrews Sisters. Add one corny, touching love story to those gorgeous pipes, and you have a winner.

I told my son about it, and he was curious. I found it on YouTube (of course I did, because if you look hard enough, you can find anything on YouTube). I made him listen to it, which he didn't mind because it turns out that my little storybook was based on a cartoon movie that accompanied the song. Then my husband heard us singing the words; it turns out that he was not familiar with this classic. Can you believe it? Grew up in a cultureless vortex, that one...

So we made him listen and watch, too. He wasn't as entranced as I thought he should have been. Alas. I try to bring meaning and purpose to his life in every way I can. If he refuses to accept my offerings? That is beyond my control.

What's that, reader? Is it possible that you, too, are unfamiliar with this gem of Americana? Well, now, we can't have that.

Go here. Enjoy. And remember a time when even children's entertainment was of a higher class.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pondering other people's youth...

So, a few years back, my husband and I scanned a ton of old slides for my parents. We watched as each tray-full revealed painfully young, gangly versions of the people I call Mom and Dad. We saw faraway places (my dad did a stint in the Navy during the Korean War), we saw nattily dressed youngsters who turned out to be elderly aunts and uncles and family friends, and we marveled at how America had gotten a lot more big and full of itself in the past twenty or thirty years. It was a sentimental journey because we knew some of the travelers. It was nostalgic. It was mostly fun and light.

More recently, we scanned a bunch of slides for some of my parents' neighbors. They, too, are family friends, but not quite on the same level of familiarity as many of that first bunch of images we handled years ago. To add heft to the occasion, these slides were being scanned for an upcoming sober family occasion, when family was gathering around a very ill, fading member. These films were full of many strangers, at least to me. Over and over, I popped the slim cardboard squares into position, hit some buttons, and waited while the pictures contained therein were magically transformed into digital images. The act was performed quickly, because the task was somewhat urgent, and yet I found myself staring at the pictures that appeared on my computer screen. Children, dressed in past clothing styles, sporting old-fashioned hair cuts; yards and homes now mostly gone, or changed beyond recognition. People in a small town, riding ponies on the street (my goodness, when was the last time you saw that around these parts?) Men working on and posing with their cars, showing off, hamming it up for the camera. Women in swimsuits and pretty dresses, smiling at the viewfinder.

My husband and I scanned slide after slide, marveling at the likely correct assumption that many of the featured faces had departed this earth, that the children we studied in the pictures were now older than we are. We grew quiet and thoughtful. At one point, he turned to me and said, "What do you want out of life? What do you want to accomplish?"

And I lazily replied, "I don't know." I didn't want to think about it, the impermanence of my time here, the fact that we are all just passing through. Even as a believer, even while I consider myself a citizen of Heaven, I still want my time here on this little blue planet to matter. I don't want to end up a 2-D image so removed from this moment that it seems fictional. What do I want to do? To be? To accomplish?

I still don't know. I should probably say that I want to lead others to our Creator, and I do. Is that enough? Does any of it really matter? We're just blips on a radar, really. Dust. Not to God, but to this world. It's a sobering thought, yet also refreshing in the same way that realizing no one is watching my show was liberating. We're all going to be pictures on a screen someday, and likely not the Big Screen that many in this media-saturated culture are shooting for.

Let's just live, and be kind, and give our best, and bite back the things that maim others. Ours is but a fleeting moment on Earth, after all. A snapshot, if you will.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cool, uplifting stuff

Now this is a story that amazes me. Check it out here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sorting on a contemplative Independence Day

I'm having a moody day, if you wondered. Holidays and special days bring out the bleak, morose side of this girl. I can't reason or even pray myself out of it sometimes; this life is just heavy. I was sorting books, trying to decide which to keep and which to send away, when I happily rediscovered Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea. It's a gem, and as timelessly appropriate now as it was when published in the 50s. At least it is still appropriate for me, being still in a traditional non-earning wifely role... But I suspect it'll strike a chord even in most formally employed women.

I found myself flipping through the pages, skimming earnestly in search of a passage that had resounded so strongly with me when I first read the work. I found it after intent scanning (thankfully, the book is a slim volume at best). I share it with you here because, unbelievably, I could not find it anywhere else on the Web.

Here is a strange paradox. Woman instinctively wants to give, yet resents giving herself in small pieces. Basically is this a conflict? Or is it an over-simplification of a many-stranded problem? I believe that what woman resents is not so much giving herself in pieces as giving herself purposelessly. What we fear is not so much that our energy may be leaking away through small outlets as that it may be going "down the drain." We do not see the results of our giving as concretely as man does in his work. In the job of home-keeping there is no raise from the boss, and seldom praise from others to show us we have hit the mark. Except for the child, woman's creation is so often invisible, especially today. We are working at an arrangement in form, of the myriad disparate details of housework, family routine, and social life. It is a kind of intricate game of cat's-cradle we manipulate on our fingers, with invisible threads. How can one point to this constant tangle of household chores, errands, and fragments of human relationships, as a creation? It is hard even to think of it as purposeful activity, so much of it is automatic. Woman herself begins to feel like a telephone exchange or a laundromat.

Purposeful giving is not as apt to deplete one's resources; it belongs to that natural order of giving that seems to renew itself even in the act of depletion...

And that is where I find myself today: Watching as I swirl down the drain. There I go, hurrying away in my purposeless busy-ness. No worries—it's probably just peri-menopause knocking on my door.

On a side note, I wonder how much longer Independence Day will be observed before it is found to be offensive to some small minority of interlopers here?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kids and creeks

Water and children—they go together like peas and carrots.

The home where I grew up had a seasonal stream in the back yard, small and friendly, that flowed down from a natural spring on the hill behind the yard. My parents still live in that same house; we go southward to visit them, and once there, I often end up losing track of my young son. When I seek him? Inevitably, I locate the kid hunkered down on the edges of that little creek; it still flows there when rains are plentiful.

He has to keep his balance because it's a deep-set trickle, with a grassy slope on either side that descends to the tinkling sparkle. Sometimes he has found a rock to settle on, and sometimes he's just folded his legs on themselves; I find him gazing at the water's bright surface, listening and watching the flow. More often, though, he is hard at work on some small, strange, water-related task: giving an ant a ride on a leaf boat, or building a waterfall, or trying to create a dam for the tiny swimmers in the water. It's very serious work, this water world re-design; I am reminded of a quote by kid expert Maria Montessori, about how "play is the work of the child." It is absolute truth to me, as I watch my little dude build, excavate, place and replace rock ledges, set various insects adrift, toss in sticks to see them float, and rock back on his haunches with satisfaction as he directs the diminutive cascade in his desired direction.

I remember doing the same thing at his age, even when I was older. I could sit by that water and lose myself in the musical sound, in the endless flow to points known and unknown. Toys made their way to the creek, visiting children got muddy there and loved it, and even my fashionable, wasp-waisted Barbie dolls took a few wild rafting rides after heavy storms.

I watch my son staring in that running water, how the sun reflected on its surface also makes light dance across his serious yet delighted face; the creek is alive, still drawing life to it after all these years.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spewings of a discouraged, uptight visionary

There was an old eighties song with this refrain: "What are words for when no one listens anymore?" (Remember that song, that band, the singer with her trademark breathy, squeaky style? You do? Then you, too, are old.) But the song stuck with me, and I keep singing it to myself lately. More true, it is, every day. (Now I'm being Yoda.)

When I was young, I loved words. I loved to read, to write, to journal, to gab for hours and hours on the telephone. Words were magical, a sanctuary for me, a means of achieving change and growth, of acquiring new relationships and knowledge. Back then, I put a lot of stock in words.

Years passed, and I began teaching school. I honestly became aggravated by my own voice; perhaps every teacher does at times. And then there was grad school, where words themselves started to become tiresome. Often, nothing new was being said, it was only being expressed in a different way. I wasn't quite as enamored of words; I stopped short before finishing the Master's. I just didn't want more words in my world.

I switched careers, and technical writing and editing fit better, because it encouraged a more terse, to-the-point style of writing. Fewer words seemed like a good idea; being taciturn was downright appealing to me.

Words took center stage once again when I had my baby. Watching a child learn to understand language, then try to speak for himself, is fascinating. I grew tired of the sound of my endless voice, explaining, conversing, reading aloud, but it paid off. Thankfully, my son speaks and reads well.

But now? It seems I release my words into the wind, where they soar away, unheard, resented, ignored. My words have become traps, because what I say can and will be used against me. The words I employ are almost always displeasing to others, because they involve responsibility, work, jobs, schedules and timetables, commitments no one wants to keep. I am the lone Type A, and therefore I am the regular bearer of bad news.

I was recently accused by my partner; he informed me that I love telling people what to do. Truly, I do not. I am a reluctant leader. On personality tests, I always score high in leadership yet low in soft edges and relational skills, and I know that about myself: I'm effective but often insensitive when in charge. I don't enjoy leading, just like I didn't enjoy teaching; since I know I can be a cruel leader, I am guilt-stricken the entire time I'm doing it. Am I being too black-and-white? Do those I'm leading find me callous? Will I achieve anything other than hurt feelings? Usually, I end up leading only because there is a lack of leadership and an abundance of indecision, which I can't stand. Sometimes others are willing but not able—or the others who want to lead would clearly wreak havoc for various reasons.

I tried to defend myself, to explain to the accuser that I don't enjoy telling people what to do. I don't. But someone has to do it. To make matters worse, I told him, I am skilled not only at seeing inefficiencies, but also in foreseeing danger and mishaps and the like. I imagine the near future, and all sorts of avoidable but probable events leap out with crisp clarity. I want to help people get work done faster, reach their destination sooner, avoid any silly foibles. I want to help them steer clear of painful consequences, of injuries and unfortunate occurrences. And a lot of times, I am right; the things I foresee with concern pan out just as I'd feared. I hate it. There's no joy in being right about that stuff, just as there's no joy in leading when you know you're likely leaving a wake of bitterness.

I ponder the rest of my life, and I feel laden with the burden of silence. In all human situations where I'm involved at more than a surface level, I will be required to either bite my tongue or annoy people. Always. And how can I bite my tongue every time? Work still needs to be done, projects still need to be completed, meals need making, shopping must happen, laundry and tasks and cards and gifts and homework checks and appointments... how to accomplish it all without speech? Must I be the responsible, nagging wife and mom for all my days? And there's anxiety in being that one who supposedly "loves telling people what to do": I fear for my son and husband if I die. I ask my friends, Please, check in on them. Make sure they don't become hoarders, make sure the kid still goes to school, eats something other than pizza.

Would a big chalkboard work? A daily agenda that is written and need not be spoken? Doubtful. I fear it would go unseen, as do the jobs, assignments, timely meals, household messes, grass un-mown... It would likely be one more thing to go unnoticed by them, and yet one more item on my to-do list ("#47-update daily agenda"). I am weary, so weary.

I wish I would remember that no one is listening, and that more importantly, people learn best by doing... even if that do-ing involves falling flat on one's face. I wish I could remember to pray more and talk less,. And I really wish I were a mature enough Christian to say that I find as much satisfaction in God's working things out instead of me warning, reminding, carping, and then saying, "I told you so." No one likes hearing that.

Alas, I am not that big a person—yet.
I'm a small man in some ways, Bart. A small, petty man.
-Principal Skinner from The Simpsons

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Long weekend thoughts

Last summer, we spent an extended weekend in Cape May, NJ. I love that place. (I wrote about that visit here, and I even featured the same seagull that's shown above, but in photographic format instead of acrylics; just scroll down if you do click on that link, because the gull photo's at the bottom.)

Now that Memorial Day is upon us (don't forget to hang an American flag if you don't display one already!), I have begun thinking summer thoughts. Many folks head beachward for the big weekend. Sadly, we will not be among the beach-bound, but perhaps we can finish some half-completed home projects in between barbecues?

I finished this painting a couple of days ago. He's for sale in my Etsy shop. This made for a prettier picture than another gull image that's seared in my brain; on that particularly memorable occasion, while enjoying our lunch at an outdoor cafe, we observed a gang of sea gulls attacking a beachgoer's bags of unsecured snacks, then devouring them... only to find out later that the victims of the thievery were staying in our bed and breakfast. Poor folks. They hadn't learned, yet, the incredible damage a flock of seagulls can wreak.

Gulls are very smart birds; experts train them to do all sorts of tricks at the National Aviary on the North Side of Pittsburgh. I could digress here, and lead into a rant about birds being smarter than some bird-brained individuals I keep encountering... but I don't want to lay that on you when there's an important holiday, and another long weekend, winking at us all. So, gulls are smart. I'll leave it at that.

Thank a veteran for service. Thank another in honor of those who lost lives while serving; pray for those who've come back and brought injuries and anguish with them. This cushy realm we call America could not exist without their sacrifice.

(Although, if the current leadership keeps up its relentless efforts to kill the freedoms I love through lies, deception, and the systematic dismantling of the Constitution, our cushy realm will completely cease to exist... Oops. There I go again.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

I really have done more than paint...

...but all the other stuff I've been doing is ongoing and never "finished" and, hence, there is nothing to show for my labors. Thus, I show you these creations.

Birthdays, yard work, house projects, Mother's Day, etc. have all been sweeping us into a vortex of busy, and I realized yesterday, with speechless awe, that there remain only 4 weeks of school.

Good heavens! I'd better get busy! Lord knows how little I'll get done with that sweet kid at home.

Take care until next time. Carpe diem! And don't forget your jacket!

P.S. The cat painting features one of our neighbors' kitties. Isn't she regal in her repose?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Spring painting

This is a recent painting—some cute cows from the fine collection at North Woods Ranch. I love this type of painting. Making it, and gazing at it, can transform my mood.

But painting things to protect and update them, say perhaps a metal porch glider, or an old, beat-up picnic table—that type of painting is amazingly transformational. I love what a clean, fresh coat can do to a worn or unimpressive object. The beautiful weather we've been enjoying has allowed me to give some much-needed makeovers to some of our outdoor furniture, and what a difference! I love the feel of the sun as I'm working, the breeze, even the slight fumes of the paint...and the results, of course.

I guess it reminds me of myself, and how in the right hands, I am being made new. How good to rest in that.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Friday, April 26, 2013

Critters on canvas

Two recent paintings I've done have found their way to their permanent locations, so now I may post photos of them. One is a belted galloway cow, painted for a lovely lady whom I've never met. (The cow now lives in Texas.) And the nasty hyena? That one was a special request for my son, who simply adores savage, vicious wild-dog types (from a distance, on a page or screen, of course). He'll be able to admire this one's hideousness daily, since it's hanging in his room.

It's funny; whenever I'm painting an animal—or depicting it in any medium—I am forced to really examine the subject's body, and I usually end up seeing some trait that I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't studied it for myself. A hyena's legs, for example: I looked and looked at the legs in the source photo, and they honestly were that long and ungainly looking. The front legs are noticeably taller than the back ones, as well. And the cow? Every single time I paint one, I am reminded anew that a cow's ears are not nearly as high on their heads as I think they should be. Is the cow morphing into a horse inside my mind? Why do I keep trying to put the ears on top instead of on the sides?

Anyway. That's what I've been up to—when I had a choice, anyway. ; )

Enjoy the sunshine if you, like me, are blessed enough to have it shining in your midst today.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stepping aside today to give stage to a better writer

I found this very uplifting article on FoxNews.com, and I am sharing it with you. I hope it lightens your heart a bit, as it did mine.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

No cowboys to be found

(I might put some of you in a snit over this one.)

I was looking for a song on YouTube earlier, and had to sit through a stupid advertisement in order to get to the video I'd been seeking. The ad was for the razor/shaver/shave cream-producing company, Gillette. It seemed harmless at first, featuring a well-groomed fellow in a casual suit, chatting with beautiful models around what appeared to be a swimming pool party. He would question one lovely about what sort of fellow she preferred, and all the answers had something to do with the chickie-babe's body hair preference. "No back hair, just a bit on the chest, and there's nothing weird about a guy who's absolutely hairless..." You get the picture. The ad finished with close-up shots of a man's chest, being shaved clean of all hair, and then it flashed one last time to Mr. Groomed Interviewer—who made a smug comment that clearly implied how a hairless dude was sure to score with these gorgeous gals who shun body fuzz.

Okay, if divers and swimmers and male dancers want to shave all the hair, go for it. Your body, your choice. (Except, wow, I'll bet those parts itch when they start to re-sprout...) But honestly, isn't it bad enough that we pressure women to shave everywhere? To be smooth, thus more attractive and sexy? Now America is trying to brainwash its young men that overpowering cologne and aftershave will no longer suffice, and he must also shave his naturally occurring body hair? Really?!

It made me ill, then mad. Then I began to consider how our culture embraces unmanly men. The metrosexual, if you will. I know that term is outdated, but it doesn't really matter what we call them, does it? They're seriously short on masculinity. They might be the guys who spend too much time getting ready, who fear the outdoors, who think that manual labor ends with trimming the perfectly manicured grass or spreading bags of mulch. I saw some men's clothing ads in magazines recently, and the "men" on those pages were painfully skinny, harmless-looking guys with highlighted hair, wearing pastel shorts and un-scuffed, spotless bucks. They looked like fellows who'd prefer shiny cars and restaurant meals, who'd eschew sweating unless it's performed in the proper place (a crowded gym or club, of course). Where are the man's men? Where are the cowboys?

I know, the cowboy is a bit romanticized. There were probably times when he stunk and had dirty underwear; it's unlikely that he knew how to hold a goblet correctly, or the best way to consume oysters on the half shell. Some of them were possibly rough characters who lacked nobility and thought women were servants. But seriously, which one would you rather have in an emergency? Whom would you call if you heard a noise in the night? The gun-toting steak lover who fell asleep on the couch in his stained T-shirt, or the pretty boy sporting silk pajamas and a pedi?

I fear this is part of the downfall of America—not just the falling away from God, the epidemic of fatherlessness, the dissolving traditional family unit, but also the absence of real men in general. Men who encourage risk-taking and even a bit of foolishness. Those men started charcoal grills with gasoline, gave their children pen knives with which to forage and explore, and forced the kids to mow the yard before age 16 instead of keeping things safe and moving to a townhouse. I'm not saying I embrace the stone ages, that I'd give up my education and my freedoms and my vote in elections; those are invaluable rights that I deserve as an American, let alone a woman. But God made boys and girls different. Making girls more powerful and men more feminine won't change human nature, and it's doing a serious disservice to our country.

I see it especially with children. Kids need a balance; they need to have a parent who teaches them caution, and tidiness, and the finer points of navigating the feelings of others...yet they also need a parent who encourages them to build a bike ramp or clubhouse, collect bugs that might sting or bite them, or wrestle it out in a spacious area. We all need balance. While our youthful characters are developing, we need for both those types to be present in our lives, so we know not just how to walk away from trouble but also how to make a proper fist and not end up with a broken thumb. When all the parental figures begin to look like the fussy, safe ones? Then we're in serious trouble.

This isn't meant to be a statement on men who shave everything, nor on people living in townhomes. I'm not condoning gasoline as a safe fire starter. But I do see a connection between commercials that encourage men to shave so women will like them, and the dwindling numbers of old-fashioned men in our culture. To my way of thinking, we could use more straight-talking, straight-shooting cowboys these days.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Scrabbling for spring and clinging to hope

Here's my latest: Robbie Robin. I'm scrabbling for a toehold on springtime, and it's a slippery slope for sure when there's yet more snow falling outside and the heat continues to blast. Goodness, what a tenacious winter.

(Robbie's for sale in my Etsy shop.)

Even if the weather had turned lovely, it would have been a rough few weeks. Not personally, thank goodness—but for friends, former neighbors, church family...

There have been a number of deaths. None of them were a total shock; all involved illness, sometimes a long, drawn-out illness. But as far as I can see, that doesn't make the loss easier.

Yet, while the memorial service I attended yesterday was sad, so sad, it was also uplifting. The one who'd left this earth was painfully young. A lifelong health struggle had finally worn her down. But the celebration of her life was joyful in spite of tears. She had lived well, changed people for the better, and she isn't "lost," the pastor reminded us. We know exactly where she is and Whom she is with. And that made it bearable, even when I hugged the young lady's mother, a strong woman who had suffered with and now mourned her only child.

I am very glad to have that hope. I am praying that if you don't have it, you'll stop reading right now and call out to Jesus, have a little tête-à-tête with Him. It's Holy Week. He bled and died for you and me, so we could have eternal life. What better time to invite Him in and make Him your own savior?

I can say with truth I've never regretted letting Jesus into my heart; I only regret that I didn't do it sooner.

I wish you peace, blessings, health. And warm sunshine!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Signs of spring

Here's the latest painting: a hoppity little fellow. Easter's approach always connotes the images of bunnies for me, probably for most of us. After wondering about the origins of the tradition, I read somewhere that Easter's pagan beginnings had a sharp focus on fertility. Heck, what's a better example of that than rabbits? Hence the "Easter Bunny." Weird. The savior of the world was raised from the dead, and we hide eggs (more fertility symbols) and give credit to a long-eared, madly breeding furball.

I have seen a few bunnies scrambling frantically in my evening headlights of late. Guess they're starting to get bored in those burrows, too.

Anyway. The painting is for sale in my Etsy shop.

I'll resume muttering at the stubborn snow now.

Friday, March 8, 2013

More fur

Here's the most recent commission: a lovely dog that went to its rightful owner yesterday. Now I am free to share her with you. Isn't she sweet?

What is it about animal eyes? I don't believe that animals have a soul that can be saved... and yet, their eyes are definitely soulful. Can something be "full of soul" but still lack one? The smartest animals I've known definitely have feelings, simple emotions, sensitive instincts that go well beyond their innate animal drives. We've all seen how they have loyalty to protect those who care for them. Are they capable of love? It would seem so, if you've ever come home to an animal that missed your presence and was happy to see you.

I suppose the jury is still out for me on this topic.

I did laugh out loud recently, though, when I witnessed our cat's latest trick. She has decided that she prefers the freshest water to drink, so she leaps lightly into the bath tub to steal any lingering drips from the faucet. That's not the trick, because a lot of cats do that; our last cat did the same thing. This kitty's trick is waiting for her turn in the bathroom.

We have only one bathroom, you see. (Yes, we dwell in the stone age.) Twice now, I've come out from having showered, and have found the cat sitting tidily, patiently on her gray haunches, a few inches from the doorway. The minute I open the door and emerge, the cat heads into the steamy room with much purpose and jumps into the tub. She doesn't scold me for lingering too long—at least, she hasn't done that yet. She can be rather smug and entitled, though; such an attitude from her wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dog days of winter

The last two commissions I've painted have been dogs, beloved pets. (I forgot to post this one—it's been with its proper owner for a week or two now.) Shown here is my interpretation of a much-loved, now deceased collie named Petey.

I just finished the more recent pup yesterday, but the client hasn't seen it yet, so I'll keep it to myself until it's safely in her paws—I mean, in her hands.

If anyone out there wants a custom pet painting, I'm your girl! Just let me know. People surely do adore their fuzzy companions.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A flippin' victim

I have really struggled, since becoming a Christian, with a number of tenets of Christianity. The toughest ones to follow, it seems, are the building blocks of the whole saving grace. Of course they are. If it were simple, I wouldn't need grace, right?

The one that stumps me daily is the need to love others. This is how the world will know the followers of Jesus—by the way we love one another. Yikes.

I was not feeling love yesterday. I was feeling many other emotions. Not love.

It was my turn to take my son to his little Lego class (snapology.com). I had just dropped him off, and I prepared to pull out of the parking lot, making a left turn so I could then turn left again to reach the gas station for a refill. It was a messy, rainy night, the shiny road surfaces reflecting bright headlights like mad. People were going too fast, as people who drive big killing machines on sleet-y nights are wont to do. I made sure I had lots of time and space, pulled out of the lot, and then drove a short way and into the turning lane in the middle of the highway. I used my left turn signal. Maybe I went too slowly? Maybe the poor visibility made me a tad more cautious and timid than usual? Or maybe I did nothing wrong. Maybe I was just in the path of someone's misdirected rage.

I had come to a stop in the turning lane, blink blink blink went my turn signal, and a large pickup truck pulled in front of me on a slight angle. It halted. The window rolled down with a fervor, and I looked with shock as a clean-cut young man threw his left arm out in my direction and flipped me a very angry, deliberate middle finger.

He glared at me as he saluted me, looking right into my eyes to ensure that I knew this bird was for me and me alone. It took a second or two for it to register in my mind that he was, indeed, flipping me off. Me. Why? I did not know. How to respond? I gathered my wits, smirked at him, and waved a friendly hand. He pulled his arm back in, rolled up the window, and sped back into the moving traffic lane.

How to respond to that? I sat, shaking slightly with bewilderment, perplexed as to what I had done to merit his supercilious assault. Then I got a break in the oncoming lanes, and I pulled into the gas station and filled the tank. Still confused. Still wondering what crime I had committed.

I ran to the grocery store for a few items, still replaying the scene in my mind. Still uncertain what wrong I had done.

I parked and went to get a cup of coffee to waste the remaining half hour before Lego class wrapped up. It began to dawn on me that it might be a good thing that I don't carry a loaded weapon. I began to realize, too, that no matter what I had done, it would not have merited such a mean-spirited, personal attack. I could only hope that the enraged kid had gotten the ire out of his system when he sent his clear message to me, and that his evil would end there.

I know, it's just a finger. Worse things happen to people every day. I guess it was just the senselessness of the act, the sheer meanness of it, and his utter lack of consideration for anything that might be going on in my world. And I pondered, for the millionth time, how God can love us, and how in God's name I can ever rise to the occasion of loving my fellow men and women.

We are, so help me God, an unlovable, awful, wretched, ignorant, smug, self-righteous bunch of jerks.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wading in unfriendly waters

I have often thought that if I were to seek another career, a selfless one, it would be advocacy for the elderly.

(Of course, I'd much rather pursue music or art, the things that I really enjoy. But those pursuits would be for my own interest and enjoyment... which is not very noble. Sigh.)

I've spent a ridiculous amount of time lately "chasing my tail"—trying to set things right with our property taxes, making sense of the many statements coming from various medical suppliers, fighting for Highmark coverage of damage caused by my recent concrete face plant, and sorting through electric bills in order to discern who, exactly, is our supplier... I've racked up hours on the telephone, more hours reading and creating forms and documents, experiencing deep frustration and annoyance at every turn.

Through it all, as I make minute, circuitous steps toward reaching various finish lines, I think of older folks who are attempting to do the same awful work. People who, by and large, are not familiar with computers, and complicated forms, and the parking arrangements downtown. People who may or may not be able to read small print. People who often have even less money to work with that I do.

It depresses me to imagine that sort of scene. While sorting through countless medical statements, I keep thinking how many elderly people I know would pay them without a thought, even though most of them are EOBs (explanations of benefits) and not invoices at all. Incidentally, this theory of mine has been proven many times through conversations with the people who work for dentists, doctors, and utility provides. The workers have all confirmed what I suspected: that the older generation doesn't want to be beholden to anyone and will often pay a non-bill out of fear of penalty.

I'm sick when I picture these unfortunate folks enduring the nonsense I've been experiencing for months now. Grandmothers and grandfathers, gray-haired widows and widowers, grizzled old fellows who meet and drink coffee all day, and little old ladies who love their TV shows and hair appointments... I'm sure that they, too, are assaulted by the same amount (or more) of denials, threats, and misleading non-bills that befall nearly all American adults on a regular basis. And I cringe when I picture them pulling out the big ol' checkbook to pay, pay, pay these people so they stay in the financial clear.

I did a quick search to see if there are volunteer advocacy groups where a younger person can sort of "champion" an older person in need of support and help. I didn't really find anything. It seems that most of the advocacy programs are handled at a higher level (translation: government-run, which makes me run away), or controlled by a larger company that is already supplying something to the public in general (and therefore also to the elderly). And when I think about how much information I need to have to figure this stuff out for myself, I realize how personal a relationship would need to exist between the giver of such assistance and the recipient.

Maybe it's just a matter of reaching out to elderly family members, friends, and neighbors so they feel comfortable asking for help when it's needed. Would they ask? Would pride keep them from asking? Would they be offended if I offered to help sort through paperwork and online information? I guess I'd offer anyway if I thought help was needed, even if I feared insulting them; I'm a straight shooter, and I'd rather err by being too pushy than by keeping a respectful (read: unconcerned) distance.

There's at least one good thing about my possible future career: if I ever go this route, I'll know I'm doing it because I want to help people. God knows how much I despise doing that kind of detective work for myself and my family; I can't imagine that navigating the cesspool of services and information on behalf of someone else would be any more enjoyable. The only satisfaction would be achieving a good, fair, affordable end for someone.

P.S. On a lighter note, here's a nice little story about how today's youth can play a helpful part in assisting older folks.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The winter of my discontent

It's been a rough few weeks. Nothing monumentally bad has happened, really. Yet there have been hours spent first asking, then whining, then fighting with insurance company representatives (Highmark, this means you. Quit running all those @!?*&# cutesie televisions ads with blue hands, and use my premiums to actually cover me for a change, you schmucks). There have been winter storms and scary, slush-covered roads to screw up plans. There have been more phone calls and visits to downtown, to try to wade through the unbelievably archaic, poorly organized property tax assessment system. We're smack-dab in the middle of the ugliest time of year, and I can't find a green leaf to save my life. Everyone is sick of being inside at my house (well, not so much my son, who loves inside especially when it's filled with Legos that stab my feet and clog the sweeper...) And the headlines? The country? The world? Bad. Bad. Bad. Long story short, I've been stumbling a bit. I don't think it's only me; it seems the whole world is feeling rather testy with itself and everything around it.

It's quite defeating, when efforts go unrewarded, when what should stand instead must be delayed, or changed a bit, or altered dramatically to meet ever-crumbling circumstances. Expectations? It seems, some days, as if they can't be set low enough.

I was really hitting a wall today. Gray day, gray mood. Dim light, more dim thoughts. Bleak bleak bleak. So I took a hot shower, preparing to pity myself. A funny thing happened, though: I started to cheer up. I just couldn't sustain the bleakness, and I ended up thinking about other things. I decided I'd make some fresh coffee when I finished showering, and from that point on, I just kept moving farther from the bleakness. It was a relief, stepping out of that tedious, exhausting landscape of grim self-absorption.

Speaking of books, someone gave me a great one (thanks, Cari!) and I'm re-reading it already. (I'm never able to fully absorb a book the first time through.) The author's gist seems to be that we must deliberately, daily pursue a thankful attitude toward God and everything He's created, and that this thanks is manifested in blessings—not lottery blessings, but a blessedly new perspective that allows us to see God more fully, to see everything in light cast by Him. The author really struggles some days to embrace this way of thinking; it's not an easy, automatic thing for her in any way, at least not at first, and it's especially challenging for her in the midst of trials.

But it's got me thinking that if we must strive to make deliberate choices to be thankful (and I believe we do), then perhaps we must also be equally, stubbornly determined about the other end of the spectrum... Meaning, to my twisted thinking, that the opposite, ungrateful, cheerless end of the spectrum is just as difficult to maintain. Right? Wouldn't that be illustrated by my easily distracted, cheerier shower-and-coffee self? It's hard work to be happy—and it's also hard work to remain miserable. Yes?

Does that theory hold water at all? I'm hoping it does, because I've been hanging out on the dark end of the gratitude rainbow for too long, and I am hoping that this break in my personal barometer is going to stick around; I simply don't have the energy to stay irritable and/or furious with everyone any longer—not even those &*#@?!! decision-makers at Highmark.

(Well, I might need to keep working on that. I just checked, and I still have some energy for Highmark...)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Voting with your fork (and your dollar)

Here's a little painting I just finished last week. (This painting, like most of the paintings I've featured here, is for sale in my Etsy shop.) The subject of the painting is one of a bunch of awesome Berkshire pigs, which are owned by the fine folks who run North Woods Ranch. I featured this ranch once before, right here, after I had painted a different sow from their growing herd.

Their ranch is home not just to the Berks, but also to Scottish Highland cattle. All the animals at North Woods Ranch are privileged (in modern America, anyway) to live their creaturely lives in the traditional, humane way that was intended for such creatures. They roam freely, eating or rooting in grass, exploring small sections of field to which they're confined for a few days before being moved to another plot to exhaust that space, and so on. Their food is supplemented with natural, non-corn-based feeds. Nothing that goes into the animals is genetically modified, none of the critters require regular does of steroids or antibiotics (because they're not living nose to hind end in filthy quarters, eating food that makes them ill), and the animals are never caged or confined. As a result, the pigs and cows are healthier—and therefore, their meat is healthier in every way.

One of my favorite books of the last decade is The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I recommend it to people who can handle the truth. (Remember A Few Good Men?) I have read and re-read it, and I'm more and more determined each time I revisit it to stay committed to the task of eating responsibly and with as much awareness as I can. It's not just about meat, though; it's all the food in our industrial system. What most of us are really eating, every day? Corn and petroleum. But I'll let you read it for yourself.

The copy I have right now (having lent a couple of others, and subsequently replaced them) seems to be a signed paperback. I found it at Half-Price Books (love that place) and it sure looks like Pollen's name in the front title page. Whomever it is urges the book's owner to "vote with your fork," and while I agree with that sentiment in an indirect way, I feel as if Americans grasp the idea of voting with dollars a little better. Where we spend is what we value.

Will free-range, homegrown foods of all kinds cost more? Yes. Is it a deliberate choice about where you put your money? About which system you support? You bet. All that inexpensive food in the markets has a different price, really, but you'll never see it because the real cost is under-cut by our government. The people who help keep the sick, limping, oil-dependent system in place. Those people (as if I need to tell you this) don't care about your welfare. They talk a good talk, but in the end, when you need them to explain how all that corn syrup and corn-fed beef and steroids and antibiotic-resistant bacteria got into your and your children's bodies, you won't get any answers—they'll be on vacation in Hawaii, likely. So.

Inform yourself. I'll stop ranting now, but I encourage you, implore you, beseech you to learn more. To become a food radical. Your body will thank you. You'll be doing something meaningful, making a statement (however small). People don't need meat every day, at every meal. It's only possible because of a twisted means of bringing it to you in bulk for very little money. And when the animals suffer, so does your health. It's all related.

In the meantime? Go here and read about North Woods Ranch. Support it, and also other people who are trying to do it right. Community Supported Agriculture buy-ins are another great means of helping the little guys, as are farmer's markets. Or heck, grow your own food! Victory gardens are a fantastic idea all the time, not just in wartime. And stop buying tomatoes in winter, and asparagus in fall. Buy what's in season, from people nearby that you know, if you can. It's better for everyone.

Okay, done now.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sublime stuff

There are certain musical compositions that are able to transport the listener. They stand the test of time, surviving and even flourishing centuries after their creation.

I must be honest: I don't think most music produced today will hold up too well over time. Especially the pop pieces, the flimsy, limpid lyrics sung and accompanied by one-act hacks. How could they hold their own against compositional and technical genius?

(Don't get me wrong; I do find the occasional amazing modern artist, even in the contemporary music world... but it doesn't happen very often. What I see more frequently is that the most talented artists go relatively unnoticed by most of the world.)

However, true musical gifts do still exist. The piece below, to which I've linked, is proof. It doesn't hurt that the musicians featured there are virtuosos in their field, that it's a stringed "supergroup" of sorts.

This wonderful piece takes me to fabulous places in my mind. Why don't you have a listen, and then read below and see if we visited the same location while we listened?

Click here to listen to Attaboy

So, where did I go?

I wandered through a field in springtime, then through budding trees, watched sparrows flitter through the air, stopped by a joyful outdoor picnic and party, then ran with arms outstretched into a sunset over a meadow. And there was sun, not snow, on my shoulders.

Where did you go?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Still here

January is flowing by uneventfully. In addition to a short week because of MLK day, the intense cold has caused school delays the past two mornings, so we're feeling rather topsy-turvy now because of the toyed-with schedule. Tomorrow morning will be the first real "early" morning, and I suspect it's going to be challenging...

But already, next week is the last week of January 2013. We've slogged just over one month through the dreaded winter. The second nine-week period is ending, most folks have actually taken down their Christmas lights and tree by now, and I recently experienced a stab of horror, for the first but not last time, when I remembered the 2012 taxes (we've started to receive the stubs from employers and charities and such). Ugh.

There's not much else to report, really—just typical January benchmarks: Sweaters, dry skin, parched throats, increasingly unwilling cars, static electricity, ludicrous heating bills, boots and tracked-in salt littering every entryway, looming tax suffering from last year, new tax suffering for this year as we watch the cash being stripped away from us... Not a superbly cheery time of year.

But one third of the way through! Already! I cling to that truth, as I rise in the semi-dark chill, seeking hot coffee and warm slippers. One third is a significant fraction. We can do this. We must do this.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful

That's what this doe is saying to you. It's not her fault she's so darned pretty.

(Anyone else remember those cheesy 80s commercials, with the incomparably lovely Kelly LeBrock speaking those exact words to the camera? I tried not to hate her... and then I found out she was married to Steven "Ponyboy" Seagal. Nothing to envy there.)

I couldn't get this doe's face exactly right... I finally had to just walk away. I hate that, but sometimes it's either walk or start over—and there was no way that I was starting over.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Whole lot of nuthin'

January brings, for me, a volley of emotions, among them an immense sense of relief. Holidays have passed, normalcy may resume, a blessed routine rears its dull head again. Ahhhh. Welcome back, normal. I missed you.

But another post-Christmas emotion, in my world, would be ennui. Suddenly, the blurry flurry of fuss is all past us. (I heard an awesome quote recently: "Nothing is over like Christmas." So true.)

And I oscillate between resenting the boredom (likely because of a predominant and foolish human tendency to seek excitement), and thanking God for the boredom because it represents a lack of drama in my circle of life—a lack for which I am increasingly appreciative in my old age. Drama enters the room, and all sorts of things come sweeping in with him: upsetting situations involving life or death, important decisions that must be made, urgent needs that demand attention, frightening scenes, emotionally charged responses from self and others... No, thank you. Too much of that is downright exhausting, and I prefer it in small, irregular doses. Not that life always gives us a choice, of course.

For today, though, I'll breathe; I'll look at the sunshine outside, and smile upon the perfectly manageable calendar. Bring on the boredom.