A Quote, A Definition, and A Discovery

The Quote:

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dreams.”

Vincent Van Gogh

For many, many years I have carried around a greeting card with that quote on it, and for those same many, many years I have used it to beat myself over the head as an artist. I don’t dream of painting, I’m actually one of those people who rarely remember their dreams. I took that quote quite literally, like the children of The Night Before Christmas, but instead of visions of sugarplums dancing in my head I thought I should be conjuring up great works of art.  I paint from my photographs and sketches. There are gifted artists who can imagine worlds of their own creation, I’m just not one of them when it comes to painting, and quite frankly I’m not sure Van Gogh was either. He painted what he saw in front of him, from sketches he made of places he’d been, or places he lived, and maybe a little dreamy magic. I seem to have a gift for getting in my own way as an artist. I tell myself I’m failing at it, or somehow don’t have the right to call myself one. That leads me to…

A Definition: (Thank you Google)

art·ist
ˈärdəst/
a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.
a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.
a person skilled at a particular task or occupation.
I started drawing at a very young age, I began to paint at twelve, and I sold my first piece at fifteen. Did I call myself an artist? Yes I did, at least in the beginning, but then the self doubt began to creep in. There’s the “I’m not good enough” monster that resides in my brain. I mentioned the monster back at the beginning of this blog four years ago. I was under the illusion that I had defeated it, but I haven’t and thought I couldn’t. I’ve spent a lifetime with this constant companion; it lives inside me as much as every other part of me. I think part of my artistic problem is last I’m living in the land of “Supposed To”. In my mind an artist was always a painter and a skilled technician in drawing or sculpting.  I realize that’s ridiculous. Read the definition. I should have it tattooed on my forearm so that every time I feel the monster raise its ugly head I can read it myself. I think that from a very young age I thought that I had to paint to call myself an artist. The reality is that I have no problem acknowledging the art of others and giving them the title, I just have a problem with myself.  Which leads me to…
The Discovery (actually discoveries):
I haven’t posted on this blog as of late because I had no work to post. Have I been working?  Yes, I have been working every single day.  The problem (in my own mind) is that I haven’t been painting. What I am about to write is so absurd that I can’t believe it myself. I have been embarrassed to call myself an artist because of the work I have produced. There, I said it out loud. I have spent the last several weeks producing work for a show, a show that calls itself an “Artisan Walk”. Was I invited to be part of the show because I am a talent-less hack? Nope, I am just being me again and getting in my own way.  I gave all of this a great deal of thought yesterday. Much of the thought was inspired by an outing with a dear friend on Sunday. This dear friend has a tendency to be highly critical of me, but when he saw what I have been producing he called me a genius. My discovery is this: I don’t dream of painting, but I have very magical and enchanting visions when I am awake. It involves fairies. That’s right, fairies. I have been making them for more than twenty years, and it has been my greatest financial success as an (dare I say it?), artist.
My second discovery or better yet realization is that as much as might dream of painting, I am more compelled by anything in my life to make children happy. I love creating enchanted worlds, of inspiring little ones to use their own imaginations, and to hopefully give them a moment of magic in a world that can be a very difficult place. I have loved the idea of fairies since childhood. At the last show I did I was approached by a woman much older than myself who was so excited by my work. She spoke to me of growing up in England near a forest. She and her sisters would play at the edge of the woods. Their mother would tell them tales of fairies, and leave them “fairy notes” tucked in tree trunks and flowers. While she was speaking to me her face took on a faraway look, as silly as it might seem in that moment she looked like a little girl again, lost in the memories of her youth.
I may never produce the masterpiece that I thought I was supposed to do, and in the years after I am gone no one may see my work hanging in a museum, but I have no doubt that in the imagination of many children I have planted a seed that they will hopefully remember and pass on.
If you happen to be in or near Fallbrook, CA on April 23rd, I will be at The Artisan Walk on Alvarado as part of the Fallbrook Avocado Festival. Stop by and say hello.

What It’s Really All About

Merry Christmas to all!

Now that the frantic shopping has ceased (at least for a day), I thought it was time to reflect on what this holiday truly means. I have a very simple story to tell that will say it all…

As you may or may not know, this blog began as a way to force me to focus on my art for a year. I had spent a lifetime putting the needs of everyone in my life ahead of my creative dreams. It worked for a while, but then life thumbed it’s nose at me and the blog became more about my life’s journey. I have however in the process produced a lot of art, and some that I am quite proud of. I hope to return to its original purpose soon. For today I am posting art, it just isn’t mine.

I have never posted the work of another artist on my blog, until today. Last week my dear friend Theresa asked me to pick her daughter up from school. Emily is six. We had a great time together, we made matching poinsettia bracelets out of felt for both Emily and her mom, and with me handling the hot glue gun, and Emily choosing the silk flowers, we created an angel for her bedroom Christmas tree. We weren’t quite finished when Theresa came to get her. As we continued to work on Emily’s angel Theresa and I talked about the holiday. I mentioned that I wasn’t quite in the spirit, missing Jessica, Dan’s long commute keeping his days away from me quite long, and that because we had packed to move I couldn’t find half of my Christmas decorations. Among them my nativity set. Emily left the room and came back bearing a shoebox she had come out of school with. “You can have this.” I opened the shoe box to find a nativity scene she had created in school. I said, “Oh Honey thank you, but I’m sure your Mommy wants this.” Theresa said, “No, she wants you to have it.” I said that I would put it out every year. Emily cleverly pointed out that it was only paper and might not last. I said not to worry. Amongst the many, many art supplies that I own is a small machine to do lamination. This morning I laminated my nativity scene. I will keep it forever and display it with a warm spot in my heart. That lovely gesture from Emily is what Christmas is all about. No UPC code, no brand-name tag, no fancy wrap. A simple white shoe box filled with love from the heart of a six-year-old. You can’t get a better present than that. I bring you my first guest artist, Emily Navis. Have a Happy Holiday.

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Validation

I didn’t expect to be writing again so soon, but as always I write when I am moved to by the universe, recent events, or sometimes because I need to blow off steam. This morning I write for a different reason. For many years when people asked what I did I would say, “I am an artist”, while the entire time in my heart and mind I felt like a fraud. Last year in one of the earlier posts of this blog I wrote about a woman I met who in a way challenged me on calling myself an artist. She asked if I had sold any work, the implication being that if I hadn’t, that somehow I couldn’t claim the title. I have also heard of others being called “professional artist”, again the implication being that unless one is earning a living by selling their work, they are somehow an amateur. I was angry about it for some time, that is until I came to understand that the proclamations of the judgmental crowd are merely words of jealousy cloaked in self-righteousness. Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Wood, O’Keeffe, names sound familiar? There was a time in each of their lives when they didn’t earn a living as artists, they still painted, they were still artists, they just weren’t selling any work yet. I guess if you read my blog you know by now that judgement is a sore issue with me.  I honestly didn’t intend to head down the rabbit hole of defending myself to these people, but I feel my temper rising when I think about being judged as an artist by people who can’t or don’t create…..breathe…breathe…

OK, so now the real reason for my writing this morning. Last night I mentioned my work on etsy. Again, there are not as of yet many offerings in the way of prints of my work. It is at the moment more crafty kind of stuff. One of the things I have listed is a box. It is called the “Key To My Heart” box. It’s a small box made of paper, not quite cardboard, though it is sturdy, and inside this box I made an accordion of paper sentiments about love. A few days ago a young man on the other side of the world reached out to me. He said that he couldn’t think of a better way to express his love for his girl than with my piece of art. We have exchanged a few messages back and forth. My offer on etsy is to create a personalized version for the recipient, including quotes, verses, song lyrics, etc., anything the purchaser wants included. Last night he told me that the reason he wants this box is to use it as a means to propose on New Year’s Eve. There are no words to describe what this means to me as an artist. That someone is so touched by what I have created means everything to me. I have had to deal with more than a few detractors in my life. People who are not supportive of what I do, and have no respect for my talent. On the other side of the world there is a young man who is anxious, excited, and thrilled in anticipation of receiving my work in the mail so that he can give it to his love. The last page will be his proposal. I am hoping she is as moved by it as I am in creating it for her. When you can create something through words, through music, through painting, photography, or even craft that causes someone else to feel, you are successful, you are an artist. I need no more validation than that. I may not be Picasso or O’Keeffe, but I am no less an artist than they are.

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To Be Continued…???

I’m back. Posting just a little tonight. One of the unfortunate side effects of moving west is leaving our sports teams behind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big sports fan. Actually if I never watched a sporting event again it would be fine with me. I think it has something to do with my childhood. My Dad played professional soccer when I was a kid. Every weekend my Mom would dress my sisters and I in matching dresses, frilly socks, with bows in our hair, and make us sit on the sidelines watching our Dad play. The other kids would be running around enjoying themselves, not us, we were like little matching dolls all sitting in a row. These days I’m just trying to be a supportive wife. The Blackhawks are in the playoffs, and if we want to see them we have to go out, and of course they went into triple overtime. We thankfully left before they lost. So here I am writing at ten when I should be going to bed.

I did manage to eke out a watercolor this afternoon. Still working on my super secret project that I can’t unveil as of yet.  The lovely Theresa came by today and gave me some beautiful tulips. I managed to paint them right before we walked out the door. Tonight is my last night of posting retrospective work. I’m still not sure now that my year is up how I will proceed with this blog. Lots of changes ahead in my life, most of which I can’t reveal quite yet, but I missed writing when I took the night off. I can’t promise myself that I’ll write every day, but I feel like its been something to hang onto in these troubled days since Dan lost his job. I think we know what we have to do. Making the plan is the easy part, jumping into it is a whole other matter. That may seem a little cryptic, but I will explain in time. Meanwhile, the last of my favorite pieces, and the first to head into the future. As for this blog and project? The title says it all.

4 17 14  Today’s work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo Riley, one of my cats in pencil.

 

 

 

 

IMG_9711  The children’s play area that we built for the children at our daughter’s wedding.

 

 

 

image  The tabletop I painted based on a vintage French powder tin that I own.

 

 

 

 

Ab aeterno (4)  Altered Art. The photo is from a gravestone in Virginia.

 

 

 

 

005  A piece I did fairly early in the project. An ode to my artistic journey.

Marker on Bristol.

 

 

5 13  My faux brick wall, made entirely from cardboard. My most often pinned pin on Pinterest.

 

 

 

image  Pastel desert scene.

 

 

 

 

 

6 3 3 6 3 (1)  The “before” and “after” of a table I bought for $5. Wood burned design painted with pearl paints.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0831 Theresa’s old kitchen cabinet door. Canvas cut to size to fill the center. I reproduced the business card of the restaurant where Dan and I had dinner in Paris for our 20th wedding anniversary.

 

 

 

 

12 20 Riley once again in pencil.

 

 

 

IMG_3262 The sign I made for my daughter and son-in-law for Christmas. Cardboard and burnt glue.

 

 

 

 

12 25 Custom designed Christmas fairy.

 

 

 

 

IMG_3427IMG_3430  More of the burnt paper and glue on a cardboard pencil box base.

 

 

 

 

2 7 14 (1) Polymer clay sculpting attached to a small cardboard box.

 

 

 

 

2 23 14 (2) Old window transformed into a memo station with mirror.

 

 

 

3 24 14 Another cabinet door.

 

 

 

 

4 4 14 (1) Antiqued mirror with one of my Paris photos tinted sepia.

 

 

 

 

There were a few more pieces that I love, but I’m tired. I think the triple overtime did me in.

 

 

 

 

 

Oops!

At the show, and the fact that I have time to write tonight’s post should give you some inclination of how it’s going. Not a customer in sight, this despite the fact that I am between an exit door coffee/ice cream stand. I was assured that this was a successful show in the past, but not for me. Oh wait, I did make one sale, an adorable little girl came by and was looking longingly at one of my zombie ornaments so I sold it to her for a dollar. What can I say? I’m a sucker for kids. It’s really disappointing. We didn’t get to bed until nearly twelve thirty, got up at six fifteen, and have now been standing on my feet since about eight fifteen this morning, it’s currently 12:27 Pacific Coast time, two and a half hours left to go. I know I’m in the wrong place, if you were to look around me you would see quite frankly momentous amounts of crap. I’m talking manufactured merchandise, the toilet paper cover crafting that I abhor, and a lady trying to sell massages. An “art show” it’s not. I try not to judge the work of others, but I know that my work is heads above what I’m seeing. I always swear I’ll never do another one of these school shows, but I thought maybe I could add a little to the family finances. I’ve gotten several comments on my work, “Beautiful!”, “You’re so talented.”, etc., but no one seems to want to pay the price. My pieces are always marked less than they are worth (insert lack of self-esteem here), but still people don’t seem to want to buy them. It’s hard, I’m tired, I’ve worked really hard for nearly a month, and I just wanted to succeed a little. I need to learn from this, and discover where I belong. I need to find better shows. I’m not sure how, but I guess a little internet investigating is in order. As for today, I can’t wait to go home and get off my feet. Tomorrow everything will go on etsy. I probably should have done that in the first place.

It is much later in the day, 7:15 in fact.The earlier blog was posted by accident…oops, from Dan’s iPad. So the result of all my hard work? $68 Whoopee!!! After five hours of standing on my feet, weeks and weeks of hard work. We took my meager earning and went out to dinner. Our feet hurt, I was understandably upset, and we were hungry. No new art to post tonight but some I haven’t posted yet. Taking the night off. I deserve it.IMG_6551 IMG_6549 IMG_6548 IMG_6547 IMG_6546 IMG_6545 IMG_6544

Nothing to choose from right?

Last Minute Projects

I’m on deadline, and as always happens the night before a show, I am nowhere near ready. I lost my man Friday, because it is after all Friday (So sorry for that. I assume we all know Robinson Crusoe, right?), anyway Dan had a job interview that turned out to be a waste of his time. (It’s never good when the person interviewing you tells you he needs to be armed because “people” want to get him) As much as he needs a job, this is one I’m not sure I’d want him to take.

I’m a procrastinator, one might say the queen of procrastinators, but not this time. I’ve been working every day, but with so much on my mind my creativity has been hit or miss. I’ve messed up quite a few projects, started some that won’t be completed, killed myself with fumes, but in the end what will be, will be. I always think I won’t do well (you know the Irish broken glass on the floor thing), occasionally I do very well, sometimes terrible, shows are like gambling, sometimes you get lucky, sometimes not. I made an attempt to cut the mirror for the “Mirror, Mirror On The Wall” piece. I bought an inexpensive door mirror for another project and I had more than half left over. I broke the mirror four times. Hmm four times seven, another twenty-eight years of bad luck for me, oh and Dan broke two, another fourteen years, added to my twenty-eight equals forty-two. OK, so we’ll be unlucky until we are dead, what else is new, although I did manage to break four mirrors without slitting my wrist, or needing a band-aid, and trust me that is progress, and more importantly… Success! Dan finally cut a piece of mirror without breaking it.

Sometimes in the midst of the chaos (which would be my kitchen at the moment) something great happens. I love aging mirror. You know when the glass is old and the silvering is disappearing? The patina of it is gorgeous. I was messing with a mirror that I bought at the thrift store a couple of months back. I was aging it with chemicals (so cool!), but it wasn’t turning out exactly as I wanted. Then I turned it over. Beautiful! I added one of my photographs from the Eiffel Tower, which I had changed to sepia, painted the frame in metallic black, and I love it. It’s one of the best “night before my homework is due” projects I’ve ever done. Now comes the hard part, selling it. Everything I do is one of a kind. Especially when it is the “accident that turned out incredible” kind, I’ll never be able to do it again.

Short post tonight, work still to be done, but here is my happy accident, and my frame with a mirror.

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Return To The Past

My writing has been a bit dreary as of late. I decided today to forgo any and all complaints, and instead write about my curiosity with human nature. I think I’ve mentioned once before my fascination of why people are who they are. I was reminded of it this morning when I was choosing what to wear today. I have a plaid black and white blouse. In fact I always seem to have a black and white something in my wardrobe. When I was a little girl my Dad took our clothes to the laundromat. (A momentous occasion I assure you) It wasn’t his habit to do the laundry, but I believe this particular incident happened around the time my youngest sister was born which means I’d have been five at the time. Dad put the wash in and went next door to where there happened to be an Irish pub. While he was at the pub the laundromat went on fire. Amongst the clothes that were in the laundry was my favorite dress, a black and white check with a red bow at the collar. I remember being very upset at the loss of that dress, and all these years later I still love black and white. It makes me wonder what little occurrences happen in our lives, some when we are too young to recall that shape the people we are to become. Wouldn’t it be interesting to visit our younger selves and discover secrets of why we are who we are? There is a book about what kind of advice that you would give your younger self, but the truth is that our journey makes us who we are, both the good things we’ve done and the ridiculous antics of our youth. I like who I am. I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes and some fairly stupid choices. I’ve also made some really spectacular choices. I’ve reached my age with a wonderful husband that I adore, two amazing children, and a very good man as a son-in-law. Any change that I would make in my past would change what became my future. I’m not interested in going back.

No boxes tonight! A return to fairyland. The show on Saturday is to benefit a Christian school. I came up with a new design for my fairies. My Mother would say a prayer with us at bedtime. It was the prayer she knew and said as a child. My Dad has a different prayer, one that his mother said with him. When I called him not long ago to get it he was rather upset with me for not knowing his mother’s prayer, but as I pointed out to him it was Mom putting us to bed. My new design pays homage to both. My fairies kneel before a prayer, half dedicated to my Mom’s prayer, half to my Dad. Some fairies, some elves. One day left to prepare, and I can’t wait, because I’m tired!

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Determination

Just finishing up a twelve-hour work day. Still plugging away at having as many pieces as possible for Saturday. We’ve put all our decisions about whats next in our lives off until Sunday, too much to do. Dan has been a tremendous help, he is sort of like my artistic sous chef. He preps for me on many of my projects and with finishing work as well. We really do make a terrific team. I was mistaken, because the one plan that we are talking about is our business. It is past the time when we need to take control of this situation we are in. We are both intelligent, hard-working people. We are also very determined people. I no longer want to watch Dan give his all to people who don’t appreciate his efforts. I want us to do what I know we can do, and that is succeed together. No more self-pity. Time to take a leap of faith in ourselves.

In amongst all the things I have picked up over the years was an old plaster frame. I haven’t looked at it in years. I pulled it out the other day and took a good look at it, it screamed, “Mirror, mirror on the wall.” This was a Disney piece just waiting to happen. Tomorrow I will attempt to either find a mirror or cut one to fit, although with my history of accidents…

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Creating With Heart

Before I begin my rant, and there will be a rant, I want to acknowledge that I have touched on the following subject more than once before. (If you’re interested 4/23/13 I Am An Artist, 6/15 What Makes An Artist, and 7/16 We Are All Artists) When you post every single day for a year, and your brain is as full of knowledge as mine (a nice way of saying I’m getting older), there will be times that I may repeat myself. I can’t remember every single thing I’ve written about, but there are things that I am passionate about and things that get under my skin and I just can’t let go. Two days ago on Facebook there was a post about a photographer named Vivian Maier. She was a nanny by profession, but also a gifted photographer. There is a new documentary about her that opens this weekend. Ms. Maier was an unknown talent until a man named John Maloof purchased a box of negatives from a Chicago auction house in 2007. (One more recommendation from me about something to Google!) This morning while reading the NY Times I came across a review of the documentary and some criticism about Ms. Maier. I have in the past touched on the fact that I have no formal art education. My only exposure to an art class was in high school, and well, it was high school art. My teacher thought I was gifted and didn’t give me much in the way of guidance. I had upon showing her my work been allowed to skip Art 1. I now think that may have been a mistake. I don’t know the basics, but at this point I don’t really care. I could always actually take a class or read a book, but I am me, and that means I do everything my way. Some of the criticism leveled at Ms. Maier was that she had no formal training, and that she didn’t print her own photos (which I might add would be difficult because she is deceased), thereby she shouldn’t be called an artist, and also questioning photography as an art form.  Two days ago I wrote a post about the judgements leveled by other people. Why the need to demean this work? Any five-year old can take a photograph, but with an artist’s eye? Last night we watched American Idol (Yes, I am part of that demographic that no one cares about but still watches) Keith Urban made an excellent point. He told one of the contestants that you can sing from your head or sing from inside yourself, you are still singing the same words,but the performance changes. (Not an exact quote but the general gist of what he was saying) I am related by marriage to a very talented and successful artist. I love his work. He has been fortunate enough to have training that I have not. I don’t envy him, I admire him and have told him so. There was a point in my life ( before the blog) when I would use his talent as a weapon against myself, to further the agenda of “not good enough” that resides inside my head. I made myself feel inferior, that and another member of this same family called my work “primitive”. I would say to Dan, “Look how wonderful and talented he is. What could I have done if I had his training and family support?” That is a ridiculous question, it is the question of someone who doesn’t believe in them self. These days my mantra is, “Look what I can do when I’ve never had any training.”  (Thank you Mr. Urban for inspiring the following thought) I could paint with all kinds of skill if I had the right schooling, but my skill comes from my heart, and is God-given. Who gets to decide who gets the title? I see quite a bit of work in museums that I really, really dislike. It’s still art. The creator of that work is still an artist. The terms “outsider”, “primitive”, “amateur”, are words that I find offensive. Vivian Maier was an artist every time she pushed the shutter button, I am an artist every time I pick up a pen, a brush, a pencil, or for that matter a frying pan.

OK, got that out of my system. I managed to finish a few things today. I’m only posting one because there are five photos to go with it. Another box, this one done with scanned images of vintage French postcards that I own, decoupaged on painted wood, trim painted in the wonderful Martha Stewart Pearl Paints (Love them!)

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Pearls Of Wisdom

We often hear about wisdom that comes with age. My personal experience is that its true, at least for me, and at least in terms of how I view myself. I was talking to a friend earlier today, she is a wonderful, warm, loyal, and very loving person. She suffers from a terrible lack of self-esteem. She puts up a fairly decent front, but I know her well. She is several years younger than I, and I feel very protective of her. I was trying today to impart some of my hard-earned wisdom in terms of how I have learned to deal with my own issues. It has taken me a long time to realize that I will never be good enough in the eyes of some people, some who know me well, some who don’t but think they do. I have spent years feeling inferior, and I believe that in many ways most of us do. We live in a judgmental society, bombarded with ads of how we are supposed to look, dress and act. Family expectations based on who our families want us to be, but not who we are. Religious judgment, people who claim to love God, any God, but are quick to condemn their fellow human being. Not smart enough, not pretty/handsome enough, too thin, too fat, wrong color skin, wrong color hair, too old, loving the “wrong” person…I could keep going, but I think everyone gets the idea. Do we do it to make ourselves feel better? Think about what we are doing to each other. Think about times when you feel bad about yourself. Do you really want someone else to feel that way? We can’t make everyone happy, we have to make ourselves happy,  we should cut ourselves and others a break. I want my friend to realize, I want everyone to realize, that the only opinion that matters is the one inside your head. Am I perfect? Absolutely not! I am stubborn, and messy, I procrastinate, have absolutely no coordination, I eat out of stress, worry about everything and anything, continually leave every cabinet door in my kitchen open, I can be controlling, opinionated, have a sometimes foul mouth, have a horrific temper, and still frightened of far too many things in life. I am also very kind, considerate, compassionate, loving, thoughtful, creative, artistic, a terrific cook, inventive, generous to a fault, a good wife and mother and a bleeding heart Liberal. I’m working on a few of my issues, particularly the messy cabinet door opening foul tempered parts of me. The thing is that when you weigh the good against the bad, I’m a pretty decent person. Do parts of me bother others? Yes, but I have learned that it is their problem not mine. I can’t please everyone, neither can my friend, neither can any of you. Be nice to each other, be considerate, help one another, but don’t judge each other no matter how much you disagree with how the other person lives their life, it’s theirs not yours. Believe in yourself, make a list of your best qualities, and those you want to change for yourself, the person who matters most.

To my friend (and she knows who she is), it hurts me to see you in so much pain, as I said this morning, you keep telling me how “Amazing” I am, if you really believe that then you need to remember that my friends are “Amazing” too.

Tonight options. Working on stuff for the show next week. One photo I took in Paris, two identical boxes, two designs, two techniques. two lids, all interchangeable. Haven’t completely finished either, haven’t decided which lid will go with which box. One more fault of mine, sometimes I can’t make up my mind.

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