Precarious Unpacking

Are you familiar with Jenga? You know the game where there are a stack of pieces that you pull out one at a time until someone pulls the wrong piece and everything goes tumbling down? Welcome to my world. Nearly three months in and still unpacking. We left a house that was a little more than three thousand square feet, and moved into one just shy of fourteen hundred. To say space is an issue is an understatement. My studio is jammed with books and supplies, and there are still unopened boxes in the garage. The kitchen isn’t even half the size, actually about a quarter of the size of my old one. The weight of “stuff” is upon me. I mentioned Jenga because that is how things are happening around here. I open a box and put a precarious stack of things together, and hope nothing will fall. It’s not that I am being careless; it’s that I actually don’t have anywhere to put anything. As I told Dan this morning, “You know I’m in trouble when I’m happy that I broke something. It means that I don’t have to find a place for it!” We are collectors. (Actually it’s more me than Dan, but this is California, you know 50/50? He owns half, I own half, so he gets half the blame) Thirty years of flea markets and antique stores, and our shared passion for books. He is equally guilty on this one. We love to read, for Dan world events, current events, and history; I have an addiction to design, art, and cookbooks. We built shelves, lots of shelves, but there just don’t seem to be enough. There are bookcases in the studio, one in the guest room, and soon to be one in the very small master bedroom. Then there is art. This one would be obvious because I’m an artist and photographer, as is my daughter, and my son (if he could ever admit it) has a good photographer’s eye. My mother-in-law is an artist, as is my brother-in-law, we love Maxfield Parrish, and vintage prints, photography, and have cool funky fleas market pieces….I think I’m starting to sweat, like I said, overwhelmed, buried alive, frustrated, and unfortunately, extremely sentimental. It makes getting rid of things a nightmare. I look at a box with dread, but then I open it and the “Oh I remember this.”, or the “But the kids made this…gave me this… might want this…”, and then there is, “It might be worth something, we can’t just get rid of it.” Breaking stuff (on accident I swear) takes the decision making out of it for me. I feel an instant pang of regret, followed by an equally joyous moment of elation because I have to throw it out. I’m sure to some of you it would be easy. No room for that old doll? Off with its head. Another antique plate? How many plates can one eat off? Gone! But not me, I remember every piece, every moment. I know that the vintage wooden pillars with the delicious aqua patina were a steal for $35 at the Wheeling, Illinois Flea Market. The guy had no change and I did, so he let them go. The white shabby half column? From a road trip through Ohio with Dan and the kids, the same trip that brought me the reproduction funky, slightly creepy, painted crow with the glass eyes that seem to stare right through you. The four green Depression glass plates that Jessica bought for me, one of the first gifts she bought me with her own money. The little ceramic chef that was a gift from my mother-in-law that reminds me so much of Brian. I obviously have issues. For me vintage pieces come with a former life, a connection to another soul, something that someone cared enough to hang on to, maybe it comes from the desire to have a larger family. Most of our family is in Ireland. No big family reunions, no crazy aunt that everyone giggles about behind her back, no old family home with an attic filled with treasures. For most of my life it was just my parents and my three sisters. When the four of us were married and had eight children between us, I was thrilled. When the kids were small holidays were great. Now I am here in California, the kids have all grown, my daughter lives in New York, my niece currently resides in Nebraska, another nephew exploring the idea of Texas, my sister soon to move to Nevada, and our parents are gone. We’ve gone from a party of eighteen to three, and that is only until Brian decides where he will end up, and then there are two. There is no one in the world I would want to be in a duo with more than Dan, but it does get lonely in our little world…did I get sidetracked? Yes, of course I did. Back to the stuff! The boxes are dwindling. I am finally making some headway, and making some hard choices along the way. We have decided to set aside some things we really love, even if that means they live in a box in the garage for now.

In an earlier post I mentioned the possibility of starting a blog about our new home and the renovations we would undertake. The truth is that the house just isn’t large enough to do that. We have made some changes, significant ones, but I think that I could cover it in about two posts. Some changes will have to wait for monetary reasons, some because quite frankly we are tired, and some because we have decided that this time, in this house, we will take our time and get what we really want. So for now I’m off to the land of bubble wrap and moving boxes, and hope that in today’s game of Jenga I come out the winner.

One final note, our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary was June 24th. Dan’s job made it impossible to go out for dinner. As anyone who reads my ramblings might know, the one thing we miss the most about our old house is our garden.The new garden is a hideous mess of dead weeds and hard cracked ground, but there is just a small bit of a patio. I decided with a little help from Brian to create a little piece of our favorite city, Paris, in our own back yard. A quick trip to the home improvement store for some lattice panels and metal brackets, some rummaging through our stuff, and a bistro was born. We had dinner in the garden, and enjoyed it so much we plan to expand on it. (That will be of course once the Jenga game is completed) A few photos of the “bistro”.




An Invite

So much to do, and running out of time. I continue to work on my fairies, my game board, and a couple of small wooden mirrors. The mirrors were unfinished wood. I painted one, and am thinking of adding a little decoupage tomorrow. The other I decoupaged with photos of vintage book covers. I’ve been photographing them at antique stores for art projects. They are really quite beautiful. I am now in countdown mode for my December 7th show. If anyone lives in the Temecula/Murrieta area in Southern California and cares to come by, I’ll be at the River Springs Charter School Holiday Show, Saturday, December 7th. It’s at 41866 Kalmia, Murrieta. I’ll be the one with the glitter trail. On Saturday, December 14th, I’ll be at Old Town Antique Fair at their outdoor Holiday Fair, 28601 Old Town Front Street in Temecula. If fairies aren’t your thing, I will have other items, and possibly some prints. There are so many artistic things I enjoy I never know what I will end up doing. This is my Christmas shopping money so I’m hoping to do as well as possible. Dan and I were both having a difficult day today, it seems these days that one of us is up while the other one is down. Today was the exception. Heading into the holiday’s worrying about our future isn’t the best feeling in the world. I thought about all the times that he was kidding and said that I should be supporting him because of how talented I am. The thing is he is right. I just never had the confidence, but there’s nothing like worry to motivate me.  I also believe, and again and again I say it, as long as we are together we are good.

Here are a few photos of projects in the works for my shows. Feel free to introduce yourself if you stop by.IMG_2659



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Torn Between Two Loves

I was finally able to grab that elusive moment to paint this evening. We have spent most of this week holed up in my Dad’s house. Today we ventured into our old neighborhood after dropping my Dad off with his friends, and I came away inspired. I wrote the other night about Temecula, and missing home.  So here’s where I change my mind. I grew up in the heart of the city, and there is something about being in the thick of it once again that makes me feel alive. Chicago is such a mixed bag of nationalities, we were driving down Lawrence Avenue today past the Greek bakery across from the Vietnamese bakery, having just dropped my Dad off at the Irish Heritage Center, at every bus stop there are people of obvious racial or national diversity. I absolutely love that. We drove by a home that I owned at one time, it’s for sale, and I’d buy it back tomorrow. The neighborhood has only gotten better since I left. We drove down residential streets where wild flower gardens were lush with overgrowth, no home owners association to tell the home owner that their aesthetic doesn’t “fit in”. Streets so narrow that one car has to pull over to let the other pass, and the sound of the El train rumbling from the next block. I love being in the rush of people, catching snippets of passing conversations, feeling part of the community. I have to admit it, I’m really torn between Temecula and Chicago, and then there is Paris….life is just too short, and costs too much! The area in Chicago that we were in today is a neighborhood named Lincoln Square. It is a very old neighborhood, at one time primarily German. There is still very European feel to the neighborhood, one of the really fantastic old German restaurants, and Merz Apothecary, which has been in business since 1875, still one of my favorite places. With all of that said, tonight a watercolor inspired by my old neighborhood. A European street scene.image

Heavenly Inspiration

Heavenly Inspiration, And A Reason To Celebrate, was what I was going to name this post, but decided it was much too long. I’ll start with the first part.


Long after I’m gone I think one of the things my children will remember most about me is my never-ending, “Look at the sky.”  “Did you see those clouds?” “Isn’t it beautiful?” I love a beautiful sky, a sunrise, a sunset, and in particular a cloudy day. Not too cloudy, just the days when the clouds look thick and rich like you could scoop up a spoonful, or bounce on them like a trampoline. They are also my favorite thing to paint. Clouds are actually what inspired me to paint in the first place. I’ve mentioned before that I have been drawing since about the age of five, but painting came later. I think around thirteen or fourteen. My Dad signed my sister and I up for a Chicago Park District painting class. He made her go because I was shy, which was unfortunately for her a price she paid more than once. We were the only young people in the class. I actually don’t remember too much about it. (I have a very convenient mental block for some of my more regrettable childhood moments) but I do remember what I painted, I may even still have it somewhere, it was a bowl with fruit and flowers. The woman teaching the class wasn’t a professional, she was a college med student making extra money. We went once a week for I think about six weeks, and I really don’t think we learned anything, but it was enough to whet my appetite. Our house was a bungalow with open attic space on both the front and back of a dormer that had been bumped out on the second floor. I claimed one as my “studio”, and would sit contentedly painting clouds, and non-distinctive landscapes. The best part about it was that I didn’t know enough to know that I didn’t know what I was doing. (Did you get that? Tongue twister anyone?) All I know was that it was a place to lose myself, and hide away from everyone, and create my own world right there on canvas. I have mentioned that I was a shy kid, but I was also the kid everyone made fun of, art and reading were my security blankets and only friends. When the teacher would leave the classroom for a moment and chaos would erupt, I would be sitting quietly at my desk, my new Nancy Drew Mystery in my hand, always anxious to get back to the next page. Art was the only class in school where I could feel happy and safe. I forgot about everything else when I was creating. When I began to paint it gave me such a sense of freedom, watching the oils swirl together magically under my brush, creating the days I wanted to have, and places I wanted to be.


Today was a particularly cloudy day here in Temecula. There was a storm front passing through, unusual for this time of year here in Southern California, but what a spectacular sky it gave us. Dan and I were out running errands and all I did was snap photos of the clouds. Thus my “Heavenly” inspiration. Initially I had planned to paint from one of the photos I took, but I decided to revisit my fourteen year old self and paint what I wanted to see.

As for my “Cause For Celebration”, I hit a milestone today with my blog. I have one hundred and one followers. I never thought about “followers” when I started this blog and project. It was a way to blackmail myself into doing the work I should have been doing all along. I know who I am. I am the woman who cleans the hotel room before the housekeeper comes in, just in case she might think I’m a slob. It doesn’t matter that she could probably care less, doesn’t know me, never will, but I’m that neurotic. I knew that if I made my promise to do more art a public vow, I would do it. You know, in case the WordPress police show up at my door.  I know some of you that read this blog do know me (probably a lot more now, maybe more than you bargained for), some of you are family and friends, but I don’t know one hundred people, so I want to thank all of you. The ones I know, the ones I don’t know, (and the ones that maybe no longer want to know me now that they’ve gotten to know me better!) thanks for the support, for being interested in the struggles of a woman who has put herself on the bottom of the “to do” list for most of her life. Thanks for looking at my art, reading my words, and for those of you who have reached out by commenting here, via email, or on Facebook. This has turned into a gift for myself, I never had friends as a kid, and have been a fairly solitary adult, but I feel like I’m part of something. Thanks.

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IMG_0918And just because I need to share the beauty from above, a few photos from my iPhone of the clouds over Temecula today.IMG_0945






The Power Of Perspective

If you’ve read my blog you know that perspective is my nemesis, but that is artistic perspective.  There is the other perspective, the kind I try to use in my daily life, the kind I use when I want to stop myself from being judgmental, when I try to put myself in the shoes of someone else.

Today was a tough one. I posted last week about my Dad having an accident, and although he is out of the hospital things are not well. When you are weeks away from your eighty-first birthday and sustain a concussion it really takes its toll on your brain. Dad has been with my sister for a few days and while he has moments where he seems his old self, more often than not he is confused. I am still hopeful that he will regain some of his memory and cognizance. What worries me as well is the rest of my family. I have three sisters, each with our own families and health issues. The stress and burden of caring for an aging loved one can take its toll. It isn’t about not loving someone, there is a great deal of that, but just how much it can break down communication between siblings, between couples, destroy families. I talked to my sister earlier this evening and told her how I felt. We all need to be respectful of each others lives and needs. Two of the girls are carrying the weight of what is happening to our Dad. I live hundreds of miles away. Yes, I can sympathize, I can and do make phone calls for them, but the reality is that it is their lives that are affected. I have said often in the last few days that it is easy for me to suggest something because I am here, and they are there. I told both women today that I don’t want this to come between us, most of our family is in Ireland so there is just us. If we want to truly honor what our father and our mother would want, then we need to stick together. Everyone needs to recognize that what is important to one isn’t important to another. Perspective is a powerful thing. When we as the individual suffer we see it only through the prism of our own lives. When we feel pain, it is no more or no less than what someone else might feel, but it is our pain, and for that it should be respected. In situations such as the one we find ourselves in now it is easy to look at someone else and think that something is trivial, or less important that our “stuff”. It’s not. I want to make sure that throughout this process that no one of us feels alone, singled out, or less valued. Relationships can be damaged beyond repair with a single sentence. I love my Dad, but I love my sisters as well. I would like to get beyond this and be able to look back, say we did our best, but that more importantly, we remain as sisters, as friends. Tomorrow my Dad is back in the hospital for a test that could lead to a pacemaker. Wishes for good karma, and prayers are appreciated.

I don’t have the finished “up-cycled” cabinet door to post as of yet. I am putting multiple coats of the Martha Stewart chalk paint on it. I had done two yesterday, but upon closer inspection earlier today I sanded the corners down and redid the paint. It is a project that I am hoping to sell and want it to be perfect.

What I did accomplish today is a watercolor. We spent part of our afternoon in the Temecula Valley Cheese Shop, one of my favorite places. The owner is a friend, and was kind enough to spend time with us as we consider opening a place of our own. We had some wine, and a plate of cheese. It was a little respite from my worried and troubled mind. Inspired by our afternoon, I did a painting of a cheese plate that I put together. Too bad I can’t share.8 14