Past Midnight

Happy Birthday to me today. Dan and I have a longtime affectionate argument about age. He is four months older than me, or one hundred twenty-five days (not that I’m counting). He will refer to us in age in some conversation, and I will immediately remind him that while he was out on the town (at four months old), I was still in utero awaiting my introduction to the world. Yesterday he said I was fifty-five, I said, “After midnight.” It’s past midnight, actually its five-thirty in the morning so it is official. I’m sort of old. I say sort of because apparently the rest of the world doesn’t know me. I am not in the least bit “old”, I may have some wrinkles, and definitely fifty-five year old knees, but I’d say in attitude I’m somewhere around thirty-five. I’ve been getting a lot of AARP stuff for years now, but my favorite mail is from funeral homes. It goes something like, “Hey now! You’re getting closer to death by the second. Don’t leave your loved ones in a lurch. Plan ahead.” I know I’m no spring chicken, but I’d like to think I have another decade or two. For those of you who are of the gloom and doom persuasion, yes, I realize I could get hit by a car tomorrow, I’m just not planning on it. I also received a reminder a few weeks back from our car insurance company. They wanted to let me know that life insurance rates would go sky-high as soon as I turned fifty-five. I called yesterday…it wasn’t midnight yet. That process was interesting. They are very happy to have you call them, they are very happy to sell you insurance, but then begins the inquisition. A questionnaire about my medical history. It seems that they need to know everything that has ever occurred to me medically. Now at fifty-four (remember it wasn’t midnight yet) a lot, and I mean a lot of stuff has gone on in my life. What I really enjoyed was the section where they asked if I’d ever had any X-rays. Seriously? Who hasn’t, oh the Amish (not to offend, but I’m sure they don’t read my blog anyway). I started filling out the X-ray section, which includes normal X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds, and so on. I have had two children, had a miscarriage, fallen down a flight of stairs on my hip, six knee surgeries, broken fingers, and…I could bore you with more medical details, because I am after all old now, and isn’t that what old people do? I won’t, I will remember my thirty-five year old mindset and stop. I called them back. I spoke to a very nice young man. Do they really need every X-ray ever? He was stumped. I have to call back Monday (I guess the inquisitor gets weekends off). I get it if they want to rule out something that will cost them, but if they insure me it will cost them in the end anyway, it’s not like I’m immortal or something. (Of course if my plan to rule the universe doesn’t happen soon I may have to figure that one out.) Rule out the biggies for the moment, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, but why make me relive some rather painful personal moments? Does it really matter that I was anemic when I was nineteen? Or that I was depressed for a while after my mom died, wouldn’t they be too? That I miscarried? What does any of that have to do with life insurance? Who needs to read the gory details of my five decades? Does the fact that I broke my index finger mean I could push the wrong elevator button and plunge to my death? Or will they use the fact that I snapped my ACL hanging a kitchen curtain as a reason for non-payment when I fall off a counter to my demise in my new home hanging new curtains?  I feel like the odds are stacked against me before I even begin. Maybe I should have signed up for life insurance at birth before my total lack of coordination was evident. I guess if I die too soon they will have to pay too soon. I have to say, I’m with them. I hope they make lots of money from me, but meanwhile a little privacy please. (Happy Sunday to all of you, but I feel better now. I needed to rant to someone.)

On to what really matters…

I’ve created a new ad for today’s post. It looks like this:

MISSING: ARTWORK

Last seen several months ago on this blog

Wearing coats of many colors.

Mediums of all kinds.

Subject matter varied upon mood of the artist.

If you have any information please contact the artist and ask “What’s up?”

I started this blog to force myself to create every day. Along the way the original purpose was usurped by my life heading off the deep end. I need to find it again. My art is my life’s saving grace. It has always been the thing that got me through. It hasn’t been a good year and a half for Dan and I. We are grateful for what we have. We talked last night about how close we came to losing everything. We didn’t, and we are stronger than ever, but I have been letting a very important part of myself slip away once again. I need to create. It is as important in my life as food is. I need that artistic nourishment, and I have been living on crumbs. My birthday, start of a new year in my life, an arbitrary benchmark of time passing, but today it becomes my new “start line”, my new 365 day project. Today I will be spending the day with Dan, so I will post a piece from last year. New work begins tomorrow.

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Looking For The Light

Several years ago a young man named Michael, who worked with Dan, was killed. He was hit by a car while playing Good Samaritan. He had stopped on the side of a highway to help someone who had a flat. It was one of those things in life that make you pause and ask “Why?” There are memories of moments like which bring me to look at things in a different perspective. Let’s face it, we are all self-centered and a little narcissistic in our misery. Some of us need to talk about it just to blow off steam, others wear their misery like a badge of honor, showing themselves to the world as if to say, “Look at me, I can handle this, I’m strong. I don’t let things get me down.” Some of us crawl inside ourselves, we don’t let anyone in, and build walls that say, “Stay out. I don’t need anyone.” I think in my case there is without a doubt some self-pity going on, but can you blame me? Yes, I am putting my misery out there for the world to see, but I think I in many ways am doing something really good here. My life at the moment is pretty much your basic nightmare, loss of job, loss of house, not knowing what’s next, but in all the darkness, in all my public decrees of misery, there is something more, there are the bright spots of friendship and support from family and friends, but in the center of it all there is love. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. What is happening to us could tear people apart, but Dan and I continue to get stronger and closer each and every day. Despite what I have lost, and continue to lose, nothing can take that away from me. While packing my life away yesterday, I came across the card from Michael’s funeral. I never met Michael, but I hung on to this card because of what it said on the reverse, “Once in a while you will get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if you look at it right.” I loved it when I read it, and these days I grab the moments of light every chance I get. I mentioned the quote to Dan, who told me it is from the Grateful Dead. A twenty-five year old man died doing the decent thing. I have a wonderful, decent man right here, and he is struggling as much as I am, but every single day he makes me laugh or smile, he tries to take the worry from my shoulders. I am sad, a little depressed, exhausted and worried, but I am loved. To quote another song, “Who could ask for anything more?” Another positive for today. A small step in the right direction, I worked.  I played around a little with my pastel chalk, a spray bottle of bleach, and a little starry night thanks to a paint program. I think the piece is pretty self-explanatory. IMG_9203

Back In The Saddle Again

It has been six days again. I know I said I would post twice a week, but much going on in my life and no time to write. Our daughter heads East later this week, lots to pack for her, and the Chicago Blackhawks are in the playoffs, so of course that takes precedence…We actually found a local pizza restaurant, a franchise from Chicago, and honestly it felt like being back home when we went to watch the games. Chicago is full of little neighborhood bars, the kind where everyone knows everyone. This is much the same. It felt nice and nostalgic, and of course the hockey and deep dish pizza weren’t bad either.

My cheesy title tonight refers to yet another tabletop for our bookstore. I had posted one some months back for little girls, a checkerboard with fairies on it. Tonight it is all about the boys. I had an idea, and I am happy to say it came to fruition beautifully. A western themed board, which is particularly appropriate here in Temecula. This is a town from the Old West. Another unfinished piece from the home improvement store. Preliminary sketches on the first pic.

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Now the finished wood burned piece.

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And finally a shot of the finished piece.

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I’m really enjoying these pieces. I love the effect of the wood burning and the pearl paint (although my burnt fingertips would say otherwise!), the plan is to continue to work towards the business, and in the process the furniture. As much hand painted by me as possible.

No complaints tonight. I was right, Dan was right, working makes me happy. I feel my stress melting away with every piece, and that is a very good thing.

Finding My Way Back…Once Again

I was going to name this post “Did You Miss Me?” The truth is that I’m missing me. The year I spent on my artistic project and blog had re-energized my creative self. It had, as I expressed before, become a lifeline, but then I let go. I allowed the waves of misery, depression, sadness, and self-doubt take over my life. It has now been almost fourteen months since Dan lost his job. There is an interview on the horizon, and it looks good, but I think the hope has been drained out of me. Our plans for the business are still alive, just far more complicated than we had anticipated. And now for the positive. I refuse to give in.  I kicked myself in the backside (which would be quite an accomplishment if I could actually do it), I decided to focus on what I can do in the midst of this beyond my control situation. I realized not only had it been days and days since I posted on this blog, but also that I hadn’t done one artistic project in the process. In fact I have three projects all started in the last six weeks that are languishing in my studio. Yesterday I was adding items to our etsy shop when inspiration struck. A Majolica plate that I was on the verge of listing spoke to me. Last year I posted two table projects I had painted. As it turns out both will be part of the furniture for our shop, but it is a cafe/bookstore therefore I need more tables. I ran to the home improvement store and grabbed a circular wooden tabletop. Using my plate as an inspirational starting point I sketched out the design, grabbed my wood burner, and went to work. When I was finished with the burning (I still don’t have full feeling in my finger tip), I used my Martha Stewart Pearl, and Martha Stewart Metallic to paint my waterlily design. Dan and I decided that we didn’t want the entire table to be painted, but that we liked the look of one of my other pieces where the pearl paint was set off by stained wood. I think we were right. I’m very happy with how the tabletop looks. A little touch up tomorrow when the stain is dry, and a mission will to be to find just the right piece to create the bottom.

Today felt good. It’s time to grab the lifeline, time to get back to what kept my head above water, art. My lifelong best friend, the one thing that has always been there for me. There is also my husband, Dan, the guy on the other end of the rope pulling me back in. He reminded me how focused I was while I was involved in last years project. Good days and bad I worked, maybe not always my best work, but I created every single day. So here is the commitment, it’s to myself, minimum twice a week for posting. As for art, something creative every single day. Unfinished work, new work, things for the business. No more feeling lost when what I need to find myself is right here in my hands.

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Bittersweet

This has been my longest break in a year’s time from this blog. I had just referred to it as a lifeline when I let go. My last post I spoke of finding hope in an unexpected gift, but even that little flicker didn’t seem to last long. I’m struggling. I’ve applied for several jobs, only the one I wrote about last time I posted called me back. I haven’t been working on any art. Just not feeling it. I did a very small piece for tonight.

I also mentioned some life changing news was at hand. I wasn’t at liberty to say so before, at least until it was official, but my daughter is moving to New York. Her husband has gotten a new job there. It is an incredible career opportunity. They are young and excited. For me it is bittersweet. I am very proud of John, and I know living in New York is something Jessica will love, but it is far and I will miss them terribly. I am stealing myself up for what is soon to come, but it isn’t easy. It has been a tough year with no end in sight, I knew this move was in their future, but it is one more hard thing for me to get through at the moment. I also understand that it is life. My Dad left his family behind in Ireland in July of 1956, my Mom that same October. They didn’t return for seventeen years, leaving friends and family far behind. Neither saw their fathers again.  I left Chicago just about eleven years ago to head west to California and it broke my Mom’s heart despite my promises to come back often, and to have her visit as well. I guess I now know just how much it hurts.  The good thing is that it isn’t 1956, I am fairly computer savvy, there are cell phones and texts, and although I am absolutely terrified of flying, my flying companion Xanax is always ready for the trip.

Life never goes as you think it will. Years ago my son Brian gave me a recording of a song called “What Sarah Said”, from the band Death Cab For Cutie. I liked the melody but hadn’t really paid attention to the lyrics. Then my Mom died, and suddenly the song had real meaning for me. I thought about it again today. I spent the day with Jessica. A lovely Mother’s Day gift. A day out with my daughter. I was thinking tonight about all the plans I thought I had for my future, our future, Dan and mine, for hers, for Brian’s, and then the line from the song popped into my head:

And it came to me then that every plan
Is a tiny prayer to father time

There are no plans, only hopes and dreams, and reality. My new reality. I have no idea what mine will be, what Dan and I together will do, where Brian will be in a year or five years, he is still in the process of self-discovery. I know my tiny prayer includes happiness and self-realization for my son, success for my daughter and son-in-law in their new journey, and many visits to New York. I’m feeling a little lost and out of sorts these days. I don’t know what life has in store for me, for us, but one thing I do know,

I know I will miss my girl.

 

Part of my heart is leaving town…

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Dark Skies Ahead

I’ve been away for a few days. Not from my home, which I will unfortunately have to leave soon enough, but from this blog and its accompanying art. It turns out that this has become a bigger life line than I thought. Focusing on the writing and the art has kept my mind occupied and forced my troubles to take a back seat. I gave it up for a couple of days because they were bad days, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t create. On Saturday I spoke of a “funk”, this wasn’t a funk, but rather a full-blown depression. The end of our line is so close I can almost taste it. Dan and I have both been applying for jobs to help us through these tough times. We need something to keep us going while we work towards the business. Trouble is no one wants to hire us. If I hear one more politician speak of those who won’t help themselves I’ll scream. I want to work, Dan wants to work, but in this youth obsessed culture we are dinosaurs. By Monday of this week I couldn’t stop crying, that’s it, crying all day, unable to function with my wonderful husband comforting me and promising to take care of me, the entire time feeling the exact same sense of doom. This isn’t about “stuff”, the house, the cars, the things we own. It’s about mourning the loss of the life we were living, not nearly as well off as some, but grateful to not have as little as others. We are part of the disappearing middle class. People who do the right things, work hard, take care of our family, educate our children, and help those less fortunate with whatever we could, only to have the rug pulled out from under us with no end in sight. I am a self admitted control freak. My life is spinning out of control. I need to be on the other side of this no matter what the outcome. Its definite, our home will have to go, but where do we go? No jobs? No lease. We can’t even rent. I am scared. It is no longer about saving for retirement, the question now is how do we live at all? There are those around us that have lent a helping hand, they will never know the amount of gratitude that we feel because there are no words. I am rambling as I write because my mind is in a whirl. I just need to be settled, somewhere, somehow.  So many questions, so few answers. Dan is my rock. He keeps telling me we will be OK. He reminds me how happy we were years ago when we were young and broke and living in an apartment paycheck to paycheck. We were happy, but we also had hope, and we were young with the future ahead of us. Now we are middle-aged, on the edge of losing everything, and terrified of what the future could bring. We want to work, I cannot say it enough. We want to open our business, and we want to hire people like ourselves, people who will work hard and care about what they do. I don’t want to give up, and I know all of this sounds like I already have, but I’m trying. I struggle every day to accomplish something towards our future, our business, we just need to get it off the ground. If you’ve stayed with me though all of this, thanks for listening. Sometimes it helps to just get it out of my head. Call it therapy, group therapy if you will.

Pen and ink, pencil and a little purple marker. Those little looking glasses that are falling? I’m trying to see the future through the rain.

 

Artist cards.dark skies ahead

 

Finding My Way Back

Three days since I last posted. The honest truth is that I just haven’t been feeling much in the way of creativity. Not that I need to continue to pound in just how precarious our situation here is. Speaking of pounding…I hit myself in the hand with a hammer, that doesn’t help with creativity either. We had workmen here in our garden several years ago, and to make a long story short, they messed up, we caught them, they gave us a “special” finish on the concrete paths on either side of our house as way of making amends. Now the special finish is bubbling up and chipping off. It almost feels as though you are walking on broken glass. Me, being the industrious me that I am, decided to chip it off with a chisel and a hammer just to see if I could. I can, and I can also miss the top of the chisel and hammer my hand instead. OUCH! Fortunately it was not broken, it is just very badly bruised and hurts quite a bit.

I decided tonight that I needed to be here in front of this keyboard. I haven’t been posting, and I haven’t been working. I’m in a funk, and that isn’t good. This project has helped me quite a bit in the last year. I need to keep going. I keep trying to convince myself that we don’t have it as bad as so many people, but faced with the day-to-day of watching our life fall apart somehow those sentiments don’t make much of a difference. There were times when we were younger and poorer. The key word being younger. Starting over when you are young can be exciting, starting over when you are our age is terrifying. We’ve hit a few snags on the road to the shop, but we are looking at other ways to approach the situation. There will always be unexpected challenges when opening a business, we are prepared to deal with them.

I started working late tonight. The Blackhawk’s were playing so we were out to see the game. (They won, Yea!) It was after nine when I began to paint. I mentioned a few months back that our son had moved out. I had painted an abstract for Brian, but I wanted to give him something else. This one is for him. It isn’t even halfway done, but I feel like I have a good start. Frank Zappa from the cover of a record. It doesn’t look enough like him as of yet, but I am only forty-five minutes into the painting. It’s after ten now, so Frank will have to wait until tomorrow to look more like himself.

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One more mention of our business. I’ve designed the logo. It is of Riley, the oldest of our three cats. I will also again say if you are so inclined to help us in our endeavor it would be appreciated more than I can say. Jessica started a crowd-funding option for us. Just click on the link below.

The Curious Cat Books & Bistro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.gofundme.com/8jgl04

Moving Ahead

I know I’ve been slacking off. It’s true, but there is a reason. A big funk, a big cloud of doom and gloom that settled over our house. There may have been sunny skies for the rest of Temecula, but in this house it was gray and cloudy. The unfortunate thing is that Dan and I hit the same rock bottom place at the same time, and sometimes there isn’t an umbrella big enough to make a difference. The other unfortunate thing is that it lasted for more than a day. I’m sure there are friends of mine that are happy that I was gone. Let’s face it, when you write every single day, and your friends have vowed to follow you, it becomes a bit of a homework assignment. So now that everyone has had a breather, and I’m forcing myself to see things differently, its time to write and create once again. Before I begin…

To begin with we are working hard and fast towards our business, the same one I have mentioned repeatedly here on the blog. The wait for a miracle is over. It’s official, we are in the process of opening a cafe/bookstore. So official in fact that we sought the advice of a lawyer, and bought some chairs! We are going to put our combined talents and interests together and get this thing moving. I have also mentioned my cooking. Its good, really, really good. We eat pretty much homemade everything, that is part of the plan. We own enough books between us to open a shop, but we will be keeping ours (because we love them so much!), and we will be opening an independent bookstore that carries new books. Our home reflects our personalities, warm, loving, friendly, and comfortable. Also a huge part of the plan. I’ve asked for karma and prayers here before, now I’m going to ask for something else. Our daughter was kind enough to begin a crowd funding campaign for us. We have preliminary approval for some business loans, but are short on start-up capital, in other words cash. If you’ve enjoyed my writing, my ranting, my self-pity, or my art over the last year, please consider clicking on the link below. You’ll see a little bit more of who we are, and why we are headed this way. We will be updating our progress as we move ahead. Thanks in advance even if you only take a peek.

By the way, Thank You to all who have been following me through out this year. There have been some pretty bad days, and just knowing that someone was listening helps more than I can say.

http://www.gofundme.com/8jgl04

Many of my art projects in the near future will be to do with our shop. One possibility for our “to go” lunch bags. Pen and ink and color pencil.

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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.