Saturday, December 27, 2014

How To Say Goodbye - With Cats

My best friend is dying. We met in 1989, and became daily companions. But after 8 years I had moved away, and we had seen each other sporadically thereafter.  Now that the cancer is taking its toll, of course, I wish I had put more energy into calling her.  Whenever I did call, she would fire questions at me.  How did my gallery show go?  What is happening with the baby horse?  How is the writing coming? 
I am learning the sad fact that the current trend is to resent this type of inquisition.  It's been labeled, "Interviewing." This stems from the habit of questioning for information to use as an arsenal.
But we were never like that.  The quick exchange of information is a treasured thing.  My friend Rita is an excellent listener, with a razor-sharp mind and ravenous curiosity.  She is a great lover of animals, especially cats.  She had established a cat rescue in Ann Arbor, called Mosaic Feline Refuge, which she kept open for 22 years.  They finally closed this spring.  They couldn't keep up the time, energy, and the vast expense of caring for and surgically altering and then homing hoards of roaming house cats and kittens.  "I just felt like I never did enough," she told me.
"That's because you see the bigger picture," I said.  "But what are the numbers?  I mean, how many cats did you save?"
"I don't know.  I'm sure they're logged somewhere."  She sighed, a futile huff acknowledging the vastness of an unending problem.  I thought the numbers might make her feel better.  After all, one saved cat can prevent literally thousands of unwanted kittens.  And Rita had saved, certainly, thousands of cats.
I had called her a week before Christmas, because I needed a name for my own rescued kitty.  Rita was the first one that came to mind.  She is endlessly creative and names all her cats and dogs after food.  Over the years she's had some real classics -- Toast and Trifle, Lamb Chop and Wafer.  But her husband returned the call and told my voicemail that she was in hospice and hopefully coming home in a few days.  He didn't know if she would want company.
I called back, thinking I would be able to maintain composure, and then left a sobbing mess of a message on his answering machine.  I didn't know what to say.  I stammered that I wanted a name for my kitty.  "He likes his belly rubbed!"  I wailed.
I was able to finally talk to Rita yesterday.  She was home.  "Chuckles," she said immediately.  "You know, those candies that come in all the colors?  They stick -- and your guy has stuck."
The moment she said it, I knew, of course, that this was indeed his name.  I had found this silly ornament on Christmas Eve, a tiny handmade kitty that looked like my kitty, but it was wearing a clown hat.  I brought it home and put it on the window sill next to the wooden chicken.  Rita, with her uncanny insight, had called out the name "Chuckles", and that ornament says it.  Chuckles.  Chuckie.  Chuck Chuck.  A final gift from someone who has already given so much.
When she answered the phone, she sounded down, but the more we talked, the more she seemed like her old self.  We laughed and talked about cats and dogs, and Clifford and Trudy, and their new little brother.  She asked if I was riding him yet.  "No!" I said.  "I don't bounce like I used to!"
"I understand that," she said.
She asked about my new book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN.  "Any way you can send it to me?"
She is a voracious reader.  She has devoured everything I've ever written.  She said, "Everyone's been sending me books!  You wouldn't believe the stacks of them around here.  I've been telling people it's the only thing I can still do."
I was so anxious for her to read this, because she knows Amanda, and she has her own history with family dysfunction.  Her opinion is so important.  I'm working on getting a copy to her ASAP.  I know at this time in life, every day is precious.  While we talked, I kept wondering if this would be our last conversation.
I wish she wasn't going.  But at least, this time, I had a chance to tell her she was dear to me; she was like a sister.  No, better than a sister.  She just laughed and said, "Yeah, you're family."
Through the whole conversation I worried that she might be getting tired.  But she rattled on and on, laughing and chatting.  I was driving to a friend's house and when I finally reached my destination and regrettably had to hang up, we both said, "Bye!" quickly, just like always.
There comes a point when there is nothing more to say, and yet so many things to say.  If I could have a friend like this for the rest of my life, we would never run out of things to talk about, or run out of questions.  I hope I can help her though whatever remains of her lifetime.  But the irony is, in reality, she is helping me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Interview, The Thugs and The North Side of Down

Creativity seems to attract bullies.  Like many other movie buffs, I have watched with interest as Seth Rogan's new film, "The Interview" was yanked from its schedule, caving to apparent non-specific threats from an angry Korean bunch.  One could only feel the pride of patriotism when Sony was verbally spanked for this decision by everyone who mattered, including the likes of George Clooney and President Obama.

In what amounts to either the biggest international scandal ever caused by a film, or the smartest publicity stunt ever concocted, "The Interview" is due to release right on schedule.  But the message is clear:  We don't negotiate with terrorists.

While this scenario was unfolding, a similar situation (on a much smaller scale) was happening in my own life.  However, "The Interview" is a work of fiction.  Our story is all true.  On Thursday, December 18 at 9:14 pm, I received a barrage of text messages from a family member.  "I strongly recommend that you remove, 'The North Side of Down' from public review.... Others will strike back."

They went on to say that Amanda would lose her guardian, and I would lose all assets including any horses, dogs and vehicle, and face potential jail time. 

Amanda and I had anticipated a reaction like this.  After all, our story unfolds within a volatile, belligerent family.  But we had decided that our message was too important to ignore: That people with disabilities need to have a voice.  That it is important for people to get their affairs in order, to make their wishes known in a legal, undisputable way.  That just because someone is a blood relative, they don't need to be in your life.  That no one has the right to take your happiness.  That real love can withstand anything.

She knows I have a lawyer standing by, and that our manuscript was scrutinized with a fine-toothed comb before release.  As my attorney said, "The truth will set you free."

I waited through most of the texts, which went on and on.  Then I replied with, "You had better treat Amanda with nothing but kindness and respect from now on", and, "Please stop contacting me."

After the texts stop coming in, I looked around at my four dogs, sprawled around the room and panting happily, and wondered how in the heck they qualify as "assets."  Have I missed something?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Because Mean People Suck


I have a sweet friend who is slipping away.  Even though I haven't seen her in a year's time, I can feel her spirit leaving.  It might be because my consciousness knows she is going, and I am becoming resigned to the idea. 

I met her in 1989.  She is a great lover of animals and a champion of homeless cats, especially.  She is a tremendous patron of the arts.

But she is fragile.  The abuse she was witness to has hit her hard.  She was bombarded with dysfunction in her family and, probably because of her involvement in rescue, she had a high number of encounters with jerks.  Her sadness pervaded and there was always an air of desperation about her; an energy of forced attempt at happiness.

She wanted to die for a long time, but she was resigned to living.  Finally, cancer is having its way with her.  And this is our loss.  The world is losing a tremendous benefactor, a vessel of generosity.

Yesterday I had an unpleasant encounter with an unhappy person who oozes hatred, who puts her energy into twisting words and facts in order to trick people and fool people and cause dissension.  I am faced with the age-old question:  Why are the creeps allowed to stick around, while this beautiful, educated, kind hearted friend's life is cut short when she is barely 60 years old?

Because mean people suck!  They suck the living life blood right out of you.  They suck your energy.  They suck away your happiness and your positive thoughts.  They spread misery because it is all they know.

This is why the kind-hearted often succumb to disease, while the evil people forge onward.

Evil people will kill you.

I learned a valuable lesson from my sister Amanda, who has Down's syndrome, and recently went through a horrific time following the death of our Dad.  In the midst of bad behavior among her relatives, she stayed focused on what was important to her:  Love.  She was somehow able to shed all the abuse and hysteria that was heaped upon her, and concentrate on the thing that mattered most:  Her love for her family.

Now with my friend's demise, I am reminded again how important it is to turn away from the negativity dished out by those who thrive on it.  Concentrate on people who make you laugh, who love you, who are grateful for the time here.  Life is a brief and precious gift.  No matter who someone is, be they blood relative; be it a sibling or a spouse or a parent; no one has the right to steal your life away.  Get rid of the jerks; move on; stay focused on those who are kind, who have empathy, and who know how to love.  It's never too late to learn to truly live.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My Sister, the Author

Our book is published today. THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN joins the select few books actually written by an author (or co-author) with Down's syndrome.

Amanda has long been a writer at heart.  When she was a baby, she used to climb the stairs and sit with me in my bedroom while I wrote page after page on spiral-bound note paper.  I wrote and illustrated hundreds of pages of horse stories while my patient companion was content to just sit cross-legged on the bed near my desk, watching me or quietly coloring or just waiting.

At that time, I didn't realize the impact this was having.  Amanda was just a baby then. I graduated, moved away to Alaska and then the western states.  In the meantime, Amanda grew up illiterate.  Finally, when she was around 20 years old, I had moved back to Michigan and was spending lots of time with her.  I sat with her in the big gold chair in the living room looking at the back of an Eddie Rabbitt album.  She was a huge country music fan.  I was reading the words to, "I Love a Rainy Night."

She was attentive as always, and I began pointing out the letters and sounding them out.  When we reached the end of each line, we would sing it.

Perhaps it was the simplistic repetition of the song, but I thought she was catching on.

Later, watching a "Hooked on Phonics" infomercial, I told my then-husband, "This might work for Amanda.  They use music, see?"

He wanted no part of spending $200 on that program.  So, I saved my money and ordered one, and brought it home on my next trip North, along with a couple of Dr. Seuss children's books.  Mom and Dad wisely sent the program to Amanda's school.  It not only helped Amanda. but other kids in her special ed class learned to read, too.  When I asked Dad about her progress later, Dad said, "Yes, she is learning, but it's going to be limited."

I will never forget the first time Amanda stumbled through, "Green Eggs and Ham."  I was in tears.  She was 21 years old by then, and opening a whole new door for herself.

From that point on, the household exploded with paper and notebooks.  Amanda was filling every spiral-bound notebook in sight, practicing her writing in her shaky, angular cursive hand.  She copied pages of old paperbacks.  Eventually she began writing her own thoughts; page after page.

A writer was born.

When finally she began journaling after our Mom's death, I asked her, "How would you like to write a book with me?  We can write about our mother, and Dad, and our experiences with the family."

She loved the idea.  We pored over our story, building it one page at a time, editing and discussing and reading to each other.  We lost Mom, and we cried and wrote.  We lost Dad, and we cried and wrote some more.  Our siblings battled over Amanda's guardianship, and we wrote on in determination.  We were partners in a combined effort.  This was our project; our journey.  When I asked her if she was ready to become a published author, she said, "I cannot wait!  I. CAN. NOT. WAIT!"

So the little girl who quietly sat by has become a literary force in her own right.  Unencumbered by her disability, she forges onward.

"Limited," indeed!  ...If Dad could see her now.

Click to Order

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Coming December 1
Click to order!
My new book, "The North Side of Down" will be available in just a couple of days. This is a bittersweet time for me, as this is my sister Amanda's story, and it involved a lot of heartache for both of us.  Amanda has Down's syndrome and she lost both of her parents within the space of 3 years.  As if that wasn't bad enough, she became enmeshed in a belligerent guardianship dispute between two siblings.

"The North Side of Down" tells how Amanda bore the pain of this era, this life-changing state, as she was hurtled through funerals, fights, being moved from one home to the next, court cases and isolation.  She managed it all without losing her dignity and in fact, came out smiling.

As much as I am horrified by the behavior of our siblings, I marvel at Amanda's elegance.  It's unfortunate that, due to more legal red tape, I was unable to keep her name on the book as my co-author.  But this is her story, heart and soul.  She will still get 50% royalties and I still expect her to attend events and book signings with me.

Our hope is that this story will give others a heads-up to get affairs in order.  You may grow up with someone, but you may not really know them until the chips are down.  At that point, you will find your true hero.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

I'm a Believer

Clifford makes his stage debut this Saturday as Lord Farquaad's trusty steed in the Community Theatre of Howell's version of, "Shrek the Musical."

This wasn't my idea, despite the fact that I fell in love with the movie.  Hard.  I was so in love with, "Shrek," in fact, that I saw it on the big screen no less than six times. 

That's excessive, even for me.

I also bought the soundtrack and played it in my car until I wore it out.

When my friend, director Ann O'Reilly, first contacted me asking if Clifford could step in as Farquaad's horse, I didn't hesitate to jump at it.  But my first reaction to the idea of a musical play was to wonder how it could ever measure up to the dynamic genius of the film.  The answer, as with most good plays, is that it doesn't try.  It has the same characters, or some variation of them, the same story, and much of the same dialogue.  The music is different.  The acting and dancing and special effects all fall upon the mercy of whatever company is producing the effort.

But Howell is doing it right.   Mark Mazzullo's Shrek is a giant, green, bumbling behemoth.  Fiona, played by Annelise Hoshal is a flaming-haired goofball with a mean set of tap shoes.  Kevin Rogers' Donkey has the comic timing demanded of someone dressed in a suit with floppy ears.  The dancing, the music, the colors, the lights!  With the flash and glitter of the headdress of the formidable Dragon, the mighty Melinda Towns has a voice that could rival Adele.  And as Lord Farquaad, performing the entire two hours on his knees as a tiny little man who "overcompensates", Chris Salter is stealing the show.

Clifford has attended two rehearsals and, as I expected, is reveling in the glamour and attention.  His role is mercifully short -- he is to carry Farquaad down the aisle between the seats, deposit him on the stage, wait while he proposes to Fiona, and then deliver him back up the next aisle and out the back doors.

One of the most impressive things about Chris is that he is not a rider, but he is making it work.  "Cliffy, come to Daddy," he croons, as Clifford sidles a step away from him.  I realize this is one of the great things I miss most about live theatre -- the quick thinking, the ability to improvise during the inevitable unexpected moments.

Clifford is handling everything just fine, despite Farquaad's struggle to negotiate with the fake legs.  The hardest part for me will be getting through it with a straight face.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Are You a Retard?

Amanda saying, "Hmm..."

Today I would like to address the label, "Retarded."  I have heard this misused twice in the past three days.  In both cases it was applied to my sister Amanda, who has Down's syndrome.  In the first instance, the word was used by a cousin (in-law) in a flustered attempt to define Amanda's "condition." She finally finished with, "Well, there are a lot of names you could call her, but she's a child!"

My response to that was, "There are a lot of names I could call you, too.  But she's an adult."

In the second, the label was used by the producer of the shows my dogs perform in (more accurately now described as, "my ex show producer") in an attempt to hurt my feelings and insult me.  The phrase was, "You're retarded, just like your sister."

My response to that one was, "Thank you."

Ignorance is found in all walks of life and in all professions.  I have experienced the gamut of reactions to Amanda, but the most offensive ones often are from people who I thought would know better. One Michigan library director said, "We have a coupla Down's Syndromes who work in the cafeteria." 

 Uhmmm... A couple of WHAT?  Excuse me?   And you work WHERE?!  I think the title of my next book should be, "I Am Not My Disability!"

I have friends who, when joking around, will say someone is, "retarded," or, "such a retard," and then they catch themselves, look at me and apologize.  The funny thing is, when it is used in this way, it doesn't even bother me.  I have never been hypersensitive about the label, "retarded."

The actual definition for "retarded" is, "Occurring or developing later than desired or expected; delayed."

To me, this would more accurately describe someone with a learning disability.  For instance, I could say that I myself am mathematically retarded.  Ironically, my cousin-in-law is apparently emotionally, certainly socially, and perhaps intellectually retarded.  The show producer is intellectually, emotionally and socially retarded.  And both, in terms of understanding disabilities, are suffering from educational retardation.

Amanda, on the other hand, has an extra chromosome.   She is academically as advanced as her chromosome collection will allow.  She is not "late" or "delayed" at all in her emotional, social and intellectual development.  Therefore, I can state pretty accurately that she is less of a retard than the three of us.

So, before you take offense to the word, "retarded," remember that it does have its applications.  The question is, is it being used correctly?  To muddle it over seems a good idea, because it might save you a knee-jerk reaction.  Or better yet, to use one of Amanda's catch phrases, "Think again!"


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The North Side of Down

"There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women."
- Muhammad Ali Jinnah
It has been a rough couple of years:  Rougher even than my divorce, or the subsequent foreclosure of my home.  What made the past few so difficult was the loss of my parents, magnetized by the suffering of my poor sister, Amanda.  She has Down's syndrome and became the object of a feud between two siblings vying for guardianship.  Amanda had made her choice, but the entire family was still dragged through an excruciating legal process that lasted for nearly two months, immediately following my Dad's death.
During these weeks I devoted nearly all my time attempting to comfort and reassure her.  Though terribly depressed, grieving, confused and scared, she handled the situation with tremendous dignity.  She handled it better than I did.  I was furious.
Amanda is in her forties.  She spent her whole life living with my parents in the remote Northern Michigan village.  She was their buffer, their companion, their servant (often unwilling), and their endless source of entertainment.  Amanda is a brilliant wit and, since she is universally underestimated, her snappy one-liners can ambush the innocent bystander.
For instance:
Me: Did you have a good birthday?
Amanda: Yes.
Me: I would hope so. THREE birthday cakes, jeesh...
Amanda: Yeah. Tomorrow it's back to normal food. Snickers and Milky Way.

One thing Amanda and I have in common is that we both love to write.  During those terrible weeks in 2013, we found solace in sharing our thoughts, and putting words on paper.  Even then, I saw the start of a book happening.  We were living it.  Every day that we were together, we made notes.  Often Amanda would initiate these sessions by saying, "Let's work on our book."

It brought tremendous comfort to both of us.  Now I am finding that most memoirs having to do with Down's syndrome are about babies, written by the parents...  People reeling from the reality of how their life will never be the same, and not in ways they expected.  But Amanda's story is one of later years, and hopefully will serve as a warning to folks about getting their affairs in order.  I hope that this story will spring from the ashes and help someone. 

The manuscript is in the final editing stages now; our story is told.  We are searching for a publisher, but teetering on the brink of indecision, as there are so many self-publishing options available.  Please follow us on Facebook for regular updates.

THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN will describe, as no other book has, what life is like growing up with someone with Down's syndrome. It will show how sometimes those with the softest voice have the most to say. It will show how appearances can deceive, not only in those who seem simple, but in those who seem the most loyal. It will examine how the legal system can paralyze a disabled person in the wake of the loss of a guardian. Perhaps most importantly, it explains the concept of true forgiveness.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Clifford Visits Fernwood Botanical Garden and Gallery

We had a whopping turnout of over 300 people to meet Clifford, pose for photos and see him sign books at Fernwood Botanical Garden and Gallery in Niles, Michigan.  The setting was beautiful and so was the weather!  You can't ask for more.


Sunday June 15

Monday, May 12, 2014

If You Call, I Will Panther

When I was in high school, my art class took a field trip to a gallery in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, to view a show featuring some Canadian wildlife artists.  I wandered around the room looking at various paintings of foxes and wolves and loons.  They were all impressive, and I thought I could have stayed there all day, but one kept drawing me back.

It was an arctic gyrfalcon sitting on a cliff.  The thing that was most remarkable to me was the atmospheric feeling about it.  Even though the focus was on the bird and the rock, it gave the feeling that I was viewing something that was very high up in the air.

I went back to this painting so many times that my classmates started making fun of me.  "Nancy really likes that one!"

I didn't care.  I wanted to make sure I remembered the name of the artist.  And his name became emblazoned on my brain:  Robert Bateman.

That was in the late 1970's. Now everyone who is the slightest interest in the wildlife art world has heard of Mr. Bateman, and most are familiar with his dusky technique, his soft naturalistic stroke, his muted colors.  I can usually identify his work on sight.

I was even able to meet him in person one day in the early 1990's, when he was riding the crest of his fame and success.  I had stopped at a bookstore in Ann Arbor, and saw a modest sign on the door:  "Artist Robert Bateman, here today."  I could hardly believe my luck!  I went home and got the book I had featuring his work, and brought it back so he could sign it.  Like many artists, he was rumpled, soft-spoken and modest. He spoke reverently about the earth and its creatures.  I was smitten.  I was so tongue-tied that I couldn't express my admiration, or even propose marriage.  But I did hold out my hand, and he shook it and I came away thinking I'd never wash the hand again.

So when I was approached by Fulcrum Gallery to blog about their product, and they offered to send me a print, I skimmed through what they had available.  I was thrilled to find Bateman's "Tropical Cougar" in their inventory.  Fortunately, their website was easy to navigate.  I pored over matte colors and deliberated over how to frame it.  Finally, I picked a soft eggshell matte and dark wooden frame to match the understated tones in the image.  It arrived two days ago, packed securely in cardboard, flawlessly framed in the colors I requested.  It now hangs in my bedroom, designed to inspire me every morning.  Thanks Fulcrum Gallery.  Thanks Robert Bateman.  I did eventually wash my hand, but now at least I have one of your prints.

Tropical Cougar by Robert Bateman

Friday, March 28, 2014

Border Collie on Slate

My friend Barb's border collie is featured in today's slate painting. This beautiful dog has appeared on billboards promoting pet expos all over the country from Michigan to New York. She is easily one of the fastest dogs I have ever seen. I was happy to be able to paint her and I incorporated the image of the sun in honor of her name: Bryte!  About 6x8"

Feline Art

I was a little tempted to change this cat into a Somali or Abyssinian, as that is my "breed bias", but this time I decided to leave it black.  I think it works with the coldness of the marble sill, the snowy day and the blue glass.  This painting is about as close to a still-life as I get.  It is actually a study in textures.  I found it an interesting challenge to have black fur, under the circumstances, emanate warmth.

This is acrylic on 9x12" gallery-wrapped canvas.  I have prints available in my online gallery at Fine Art America.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Endless Equine Art

Last night I watched "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" on Netflix, Werner Herzog's documentary about the Paleolithic-era paintings in the Chauvet cave of Southern France.  Deemed the oldest works of art on record, the paintings were primarily of horses.  Their scruffy manes, knobby heads and arched necks are easily recognizable, and they are pictured running in groups.  The lines and textures of the images are so beautiful that I want to get a copy somehow and hang it on my wall.

Morgan stallion on black canvas, 9x12" acrylic
It leads me to reflect on this equine wonder, a limitless source of inspiration though the ages.  The horse lives on, forever stretching our collective imagination.  When I learned to hold a pencil and make a mark with it, I started drawing horses.  Even though I had never owned one, I drew them galloping with flowing manes and tails.  I drew long heads with pointed ears and rounded cheeks.  I drew bent legs and bulging knees and comma-shaped nostrils.  Now all these years later, I am still painting horses. It seems only appropriate on this Valentine's Day that I should be reflecting on my first love, the horse.

Here are two new salutes to our eternal friend.

"War Horse", Mustang 9x12" acrylic

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Paintings on Slate

For my gallery show, I ordered a few slabs of slate from . It was my first time ordering from them. I was happy with the product, except that one of the holes wasn't drilled all the way through. But that's easy enough to fix.  They come with holes so they can be hung with something like rawhide or baling twine.

I had painted on slate before, but it's been years.  My first attempt this time was this chickadee with winter berries, on a small piece, about 3x5"  The teeny, tiny detail makes for an interesting challenge on the textured surface of the slate.

Next was another small one, this lady cardinal on a wrought iron gate. 

Once I got the slates, I couldn't seem to stop painting on them.  I am learning that slate has a rough side and a smooth side, and for some reason I keep opting to paint on the rough side! Duh. Also, it sucks paint like a sponge. It likes a lot of layers. Sometimes you think you are done but then your paint disappears!

 Today's project is a group of horses running in snow.  This piece is 6x9"  A coat of glaze made a big difference in all of these paintings.  It darkens the slate and adds a nice sheen, for a good finishing touch. 

Here's another pic of the running horses, after glaze was applied.  The glare in this photo shows the bumps and ridges on the slate which makes it a challenge to paint on.  However, it was fun and a nice diversion for me -- so I will probably order more.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Gallery Show at Fernwood Botanical Garden

Several of my paintings, including "Dots", this watercolor of an Appaloosa filly, will be hanging in Fernwood Gallery for their Contemporary Show beginning on Valentine's Day.  Fernwood Gallery is located in the sprawling and inviting Fernwood Botanical Gardens in Niles, Michigan.

Also present will be my experimental acrylic collage on 10x20" stretched canvas. "Bubbles," features a family of dolphins undulating over paper background "sand," which  has script in it about love and affection. I added some adhesive gems for the sparkling bubbles, giving this painting a whole new dimension of light and motion. It must be seen in person to appreciate! See it at Fernwood in Niles, Michigan, Feb 14 - March 16, 2014.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Sleeping Lion -- Waking Up to Change

Back in 1990 I decided to write a science fiction story called, "The Sleeping Lion" based on an idea that I had.  The story is about a young woman named Kelly who lives with an abusive boyfriend.  She escapes for an evening hike in the mountains to find a meteor hurtling into her path.  It crashes, but then she finds that it's not a meteor.

Of course, as with most of my stories, there has to be an animal with a primary role in the story.  In this one, it is Art, a Somali cat.

I had plenty of experience with some of the subject matter -- including life in Colorado with an abusive boyfriend.  Spending weekends hiking up in the mountains in Estes Park was one of the best experiences I've ever had -- nasty boyfriend notwithstanding.

About five years after the Colorado stint, and when I decided to write the story, I was in Michigan and married.  Unfortunately my taste in men hadn't improved a whole lot.  He was still abusive, only in more subtle (therefore longer-lasting and ultimately more damaging) ways.  Because he was essentially a rocket scientist, I was able to glean some good information from him for the story.

I didn't have any luck in the publishing world at that point, so the book lay inactive for years, until just recently when I dug it out again, rather accidentally.

Though it is a sci-fi story about a crashing meteor, "The Sleeping Lion" is ultimately about relationships, with the central theme being about personal inner strength.  It is a message I keep re-exploring.  I don't seem to consciously realize it, but it appears that my deepest desire is to be strong.  I admire strength which doesn't sacrifice kindness, empathy which doesn't sacrifice dignity.

In reading it, I was happy to note that I have changed, mainly in that there is no way I would now put up with that kind of treatment from anyone.

I knew that my writing skills have also matured, but I still have much to learn.  It is, however, still an entertaining read. 

I especially liked revisiting Art, my long-lost Somali cat, and the trails in Estes Park.  I need to get back there someday.   I hope that, unlike me, they haven't changed too much.

"The Sleeping Lion" is also available on Kindle

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Am the Eagle, I Live in High Country, mid Rocky Cathedrals that Reach to the Sky...

"Spirit Bird" 9x12" acrylic
 Yep, I am flying on Cloud Nine these days as my artistic career has reached an all-time high (wait -- that's a different song).  Beginning June 22, 2014, Fernwood Gallery in Niles Michigan will be featuring my art in a one-woman show, through most of July!  That's right -- all me, all the time! 

Fernwood is a lovely place, a state-of-the-art facility located in a beautiful botanical garden.  I can't think of a better setting for wildlife art than a place surrounded by trees and fields and the flora and fauna of Southwest Michigan.

Needless to say, this is a dream come true.  I have my work cut out for me as I now need to have 30 original pieces ready to hang on display.  Yikes!  It's a good thing I have a few months to do this.  Here are a couple of my first attempts to fill the gallery.  Both are eagles, and both are acrylic on 9x12" stretched canvas (which is easily hung without the expense of framing).  I have an affinity for raptors and so probably will be including some owls in the mix.  With these will come some other birds and wildlife, and of course, some of my equine art.  All pieces will be for sale as I produce them.  I will try to keep my blog updated with new art -- so check back for lots more where this came from!

Golden Eagle, 9x12" acrylic on canvas

Wo, Wo, Wo, it's Magic!

Since the console of my car had no change dispenser I thought a handy thing to do would be to keep change in the ashtray.  Since I am not a smoker, this seemed like a logical solution.  Well, unfortunately my car has a ciggy lighter (charger) inside the ash tray.  Explain that one!  Anyway, inevitably, a dime skipped down inside the charger.  It wedged in there so perfectly that I had to take tweezers to get it out.  I didn't realize it at the time, but the dime shorted out my charger -- rendering it non-usable unless I replace the fuse.

Do you know how inconvenient it is to drive around without a car charger?

Presto!  For Christmas, a company called Powerocks sent me this fantastic portable charger called the Magicstick.  I had never used a portable charger before but now I wouldn't know what I would do without this thing.  It fits anywhere and when I don't use it, it holds a charge for days.  It comes with its own cool little reversible cord that works for charging the Magicstick, and then charging my phone.

I want to send special thanks to the folks at Powerocks for this great little gadget!