Friday, December 31, 2010

One year of Blogging.

Snowy Day
"May I look back at this past year as a good one, in that nothing I did or said was wasted.  No experience--however insignificant it may have seemed--was worthless.  Hurt gave me the capacity to feel happiness; bad times made me appreciate the good ones; what I regarded as my weaknesses became my greatest strengths.  I thank God for a year of growing."  The Little Brown Book--A Day at a Time

I started this blog one year and 3 days ago and it has been a wonderful adventure. I was actually inspired to write it by the move Julie and Julia, and I discovered that if you do write a blog people--even those you have never met--will read it. The original purpose of this forum was to explore art--especially mine--and to overcome a serious artist's block.  I discovered much more than that.  I learned that blogging was an effective tool in healing from grief, a way to get to know myself a little better, and that I had something to share with others.

In tandem with recovery from emotional pain and grief came physical pain.  My hip troubles started a year ago.  I went to the local orthopedic and he scheduled surgery for last February.  A few days before the surgery was cancelled because the doctor got into a squabble with the clinic and he went on administrative leave.  They brought in a man to fill in for him, but I didn't trust him--by this time I didn't trust any doctor.  I hesitated to let him do the procedure so he suggested physical therapy.  PT helped but I still limped through the summer and I lost interest in doing a lot of things that I loved--like gardening, especially as the pain increased again.  By autumn I was back where I started and I could barely walk with the cane.  I actually started using the walker in the house but I had too much pride to take it anywhere with me so I just hobbled around.  I found a doctor in Spokane and scheduled surgery for November 8.

I am very grateful for a new hip and the amazing recovery I have had.  The first time I went out of the house--with the walker; had to swallow that pride--I looked down as I walked and noticed that my foot was straight--it had been crooked for a long time.   I was pain free and driving within 3 weeks; I gave up the walker shortly after that and the cane a couple of weeks later.  I still need to do some work to retrain my body to walk right--limping is a bad habit--and to build up endurance, but I am very pleased today to be on the road to recovery.

I am also extremely grateful for my friends and family who helped and encouraged me throughout this year.  People who would wait on me so I wouldn't have to get up, my daughter and daughter-in-law who took care of me after surgery; grandsons' who helped with heavy things and shoveling snow.  I also appreciate the ones who visited me in the hospital and at home or sent cards. I have a princess balloon from a friend who said it was for the little girl in me; he also gave me a ballerina figurine so I would remember that I would dance again.  I am amazed by people who celebrate my progress with me.  The first time I went to a recovery meeting--with the walker--everyone cheered.  I have never been cheered before.  Who Hoo!!  I am looking forward to being more active in 2011.

In regards to the art, I did 4 drawings and finished 2 paintings this year. I also did 6 sketches for my grandchildren for Christmas.  Not a great body of work for the year, but it has turned my head and heart back into the right direction.  The goal is to think about art, not critically, but to encourage myself and let others to encourage me. And to encourage others in finding and using their talents. I have an art page on my Face Book account where I sold 2 paintings: Art of Maxie Lee, and I also found a sight where I can meet artists from all over the world and create a collection of my favorite works and also display my own:  I am working on my setting my studio in order so that a real artist can work in it; funny how something that is not being used gets piled with stuff.

The other significant thing I did this year was put my house on the market.  It hasn't sold yet but nothing else in town has either--it's just a sign of the times.  It has been an adventure getting it spiffed up and I couldn't have done it without help of family and friends. Having the house for sale has been good for me forcng me to keep the house tidied up every day, as I had been letting things go around the house--more bad habits.  One day my home will sell and I can get the kind of house I really want; I had placed the matter in God's hands, though, and it wouldn't do for me to get impatient.

I have been thinking about the new year, not making resolutions, but thinking on new directions.  A friend suggested that I make a list of what I really want to do.  I think one thing I'll put on that list is to draw a self-portrait; maybe I can learn something new about myself.  I am optimistic about 2011.

The drawing is one I did a few years ago but I haven't shown before.  It is of a house here in town.  I took the photo on a snowy day, so that is the title.

I hope everyone has a good year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions....

Proud to be American may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.  Christopher Columbus

Happiness can only be found if you can free yourself of all other distractions.   Saul Bellow

I guess I haven't had the same focus as that of good ole Chris, as my attempts at creating art --or doing anything for that matter-- have been hit or miss.  I still haven't  found a way to get my old task-oriented, success-driven life back that I had before the death of my husband. When that life left, it also took my confidence and  motivation with it, leaving me with inertia, insecurities and (gasp) procrastination.  I seem to have lost the ability to study, and to pray and I have lost the joy of reading--which has been with me since a little girl.   I have filled the gap with social networking both face to face and on the internet--good things but insufficient.

However, I am convinced, that I won't be able to live in the old life again as it is impossible to return to yesterday and we only have today; I am in the process in building a new life--some days I participate in that better than others.  While I am not pleased with the procrastination and I miss the motivation, it is all a part of the transition.  I have learned a lot in the last 16 months about myself, God and about other people.  The dust is still settling, and we will see where Maxie will be when it does.  Meanwhile I am getting a hip replaced. My first hope was that this would help me to get part of my old life, but I realize that this hip has been has been impeding my ability to move freely for some time, even before I noticed the pain, so in that respect I want my new life to be better than the old.  I do want reading part of my new life so I am ordering books by my favorite authors to read while I am laid up. All I can say is: hide and watch and see what kind of Maxie emerges....

The drawing is titled Proud to be American.  I found a website that provides a gallery for my art and where I can create a gallery of works of other artists.  I am enjoying it very much. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hope is putting faith to work when doubting would be easier.

Kayla on Sun
Once you choose hope, anything's possible.  ~Christopher Reeve
Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops... at all.  ~Emily Dickinson

All of sudden I feel hopeful.  I don't know where it comes from, why it comes or why it leaves, but I am going to cherish it tonight.

Maybe it is because I sat down and drew a picture.  I have had such an artist block, just getting to the drawing table has been difficult.  I say I will do it and then get distracted.  This week I just did.  I may do it again tomorrow.

Maybe it because someone looked at the house.  The housing market is practically dead here so the showing was a surprise.  And the family is interested.  And if it sells I have a wonderful home to buy since the owners, my friends, insist that they want me to have it.

Maybe it is because I am finally thinking positively about getting my hip fixed, believing that by spring I will be free of the pain and immobility.  I think that up til now I couldn't see the possibilities.

Maybe it is because I am getting a little of my old life back--being task oriented, and taking care of chores, taking care of business and helping others.

Maybe it is simply because God loves me and He wants His children to live in hope.

The drawing is a study for a painting I plan to do.  It is titled Kayla on Sun, a picture of my grand daughter.  I am pleased with it even though I am not an expert on horses and tack (even though a son and grandchildren are cowboys/girls :o).  I just drew what I saw in the photograph, I am hopeful that I will be able to do the same for the painting.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Redecorating, Comic Relief

It has been almost a month since I have posted here.  I have been too busy being stressed. :o0

My real estate agent asked if we could have the downstairs painted before an agent showing, and I said, "Oh, sure!" Not clear thinking.  Then I told my daughter I would drive her across the state to Seattle for a doctor's appointment--being gone 4 days.  I also promise to participate in a recovery event.  I did not take into account my room mate Mary Rose would be gone 5 days when we needed to be painting and she was the number one worker downstairs.  I did not take into account that we'd have to leave 2 days before the showing to get my daughter to her appointment, and would get back just in time for the special event.  But we got er done.  I started painting walls during Mary Rose's vacation-When Mary Rose returned--using one of her days off, she took over the painting, I concentrated on making chair covers and curtains and cleaning the rest of the house.  A grandson spiffed up the yard. So things were under control when we left for our trip.  The trip was long coming and going because of road construction.

I was able to spend some time with my sister and to meet up with a couple of friends I went to high school with.  I have not seen them since graduation day, we had so much fun as we always do in Face Book.

I got back just in time to attend the Recovery event which was great fun.  I had promised that I would be part of Saturday evening's entertainment.  I would have loved to been able to sing, but I doubt that would have been entertaining so I just did a comedy routine.  And I got laughed at!! Imagine that.  People said I didn't know you could do that.  I told them I didn't know either until I did it. The trick is to not be afraid to laugh at yourself and not be afraid of what others think.  I just talked about some of my adventures living for 25 in West Texas.  I even beefed up my Southern accent. I related about my job at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas and how I served delicacies like Rocky Mountain Oysters and rattlesnake.  It was all too funny and I loved doing it and I am apt to do that again.  I certainly have lots more weird stories to tell and I believe I will keep the Southern accent--I kinda like it.  It was like I let out part of my personality that I have been suppressing-- as my friend said, it was Maxie Unleashed!

So this week I have been very lazy--decompressing.  I am sad about the change of the season-- I am not ready to let go of summer.  But it is part of the stream of life.  I am feeling very blessed with the friends and loved ones I have.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Housework is something you do...

White Rabbit
...that nobody notices until you don't do it.
 My second favorite household chore is ironing.  My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.  ~Erma Bombeck

August cranked up to be a pretty busy month. Since the house is on the market, I have been having to tend to household duties, like making the bed and making sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink--it's like housekeeping boot camp --or retraining.  I have also been doing some thorough cleaning, sorting and packing and I am pleased to say that I have been able to stay on task.  I even cleaned the oven--which was pretty scary, but while I was polishing the stove, I imagined how nice it would be for the new family to have a sparkling clean stove to cook on in the first day in their new home.  Maybe I was being a little too idealistic, but it helped me to push on with a thoroughly boring chore.

August is fair time and I normally enter a lot of items from my garden. This year my garden suffered from neglect and I had fewer things to enter.  I felt guilty, like I had abused my own little family.  However, I am happy to have entered some art.

I have also been looking at homes to buy which can be an emotional experience, but I am trying to just have fun with it and trust that when the time comes to make a decision, God will help me make it.  My normal mode is to lock in on scenarios like a heat-seeking missile and decide how these situations should come out, so I get flustered when things don't work according to plan or if I am offered a whole new set of options; I have trouble making a plan "B". 

The painting, White Rabbit, is one I finished 3 years ago, but it never got photographed.  There were some things about it I wasn't happy with but I solved the problems by adding the foliage, which I did in one painting session. Voile!  A new painting to show in my blog and at the fair.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Victorian II
You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right.  ~Maya Angelou
Home is where you can say anything you like cause nobody listens to you anyway.  ~Author Unknown

I have been too busy to write, or more likely too scattered.  I launched into a new phase of having my home ready to show for sale after months of inertia and letting things go and that has been a tough transition, but I am getting the hang of it.  I am keeping the house up pretty well by tidying up, making the bed and stuffing clutter out of sight.  The real estate agent has not place any high expectations on me--it is me who wants it to show well.  I am slowed down by the bum hip but I have been getting it done.  Mary Rose, my daughter-in-law, and part time room mate, has been working on the downstairs where she stays and it is looking nice.  Helpers have also worked in the yard.  The agent, a friend of mine, and another friend have been working on the house--a couple of things have to be brought up to code to please the lenders--and they rock.  They won't accept any pay for their work; this is what they do-- helping others.  I am touched by their generosity.

I did get approved for a loan but not in time to make an offer on the house we have been looking at--a small disappointment.

The weekend was fun; I did a lot of socializing.  It was Rendezvous  Days-- an annual celebration in the city park.  Friday and Saturday nights concerts were held in the Pavilion and the music was awesome, and the crowd was happy, dancing on the lawn or in front of the bandstand.  I even danced--rock and roll, with a cane.  I used to go line dancing with my brother and there was a lady who danced with a cane which seemed a little odd, but I tried dancing at the Native American Pow wow, and it actually works.  The cane helps me keep my balance allowing me to relax, and it shifts some of my weight so that I can move more freely.  I had fun.

A son and his wife came to visit Saturday, and it had been awhile since we have seen them.  Sunday was church in the park, and that afternoon I painted Memory Boxes with my artist friends. The boxes we paint are sent to hospitals to give to mothers who lose their babies to keep their mementos in.  That evening I went to another event with other friends.

Today, I looked at another house which is even nicer than the last one and put in an offer on it.  I am feeling oh so bold!  The truth is that the whole thing is in God's hands.

I am tired so I am going to ring off without checking for errors.   More later.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

No one can get inner peace by pouncing on it.

Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.  ~Richard Carlson
Stress is an ignorant state.  It believes that everything is an emergency.  ~Natalie Goldberg

The last week has been intense, and maybe a little too exciting.  My goal was to get out of that paralyzed state of inertia caused by grief and move on with my life, but, phew, what a ride!  The week included my car breaking down, but my son fixing it, putting a house on the market then frantically cleaning it and calling on family to help, attending a weekend Pow Wow with Native Americans, disappointment in a relationship, having strangers walking though the house, finding a house I can see myself living in, dealing with banks, having friends help weed my garden, pain, a couple of emotional meltdowns, typing for the church, designing a mug for an upcoming event, completing the first painting in a year, flowers, sunshine, music, hugs, laughter, friends and family.  Life is good because God is in control.  We will see where my new life will take me.  Relax Max.

The painting is Goldfinch on a Cone Flower.  Oil on canvas panel. 8 x 10.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bad news then the good.

Dahlias Oil on Masonite 8 x 10
If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem.  Everything else is inconvenience.  ~Robert Fulghum
If you're going through hell, keep going.  ~Winston Churchill

It has been an interesting week.  Filled with frustrations to say the least.  Bad New... I got into trouble with a "Christian" website with their free trial to join.  They only asked for $1.99, which I paid for with my check card.  Immediately I received an email from the bank saying my account was overdrawn.  This site had charged me for 3 months membership.  I called the bank and was told to call the company--all I got was an answering machine, and believe me I left messages.  I did some research (which I should have done to begin with) and found out that the site was powered by a secular group and a lot of people were unhappy with it. Good news: they withdrew the charges. 

Bad news: my computer got a vicious virus.  The internet provider switched to Norton and I downloaded it.  It seems that the Norton program that came with the computer, which I didn't resubscribed to when it ran out, was so firmly entrenched in the P C, that it became territorial and wouldn't allow another version be installed properly, so I had no protection. The computer has been slowly dying for weeks.  Good news:  A person starting out in the computer business fixed it cheaply for me.  And he managed to save my files.  Bad news: I have to start over in reinstalling my programs, photos, files and I had a lot of links in favorites which are gone now.  Good news:  I have all my art in Face book, so I just have to copy it back into the computer--easier than getting it off of disk.

Bad news:  It is getting hot out.  Good news:  My daughter-in-law put the AC in the studio window, and the hot air is drying out the weeds and grasses which a friend is mowing down and they probably won't grow back this year.

Phew!!  I have learned some valuable lessons, but I am glad to say that I spent a lot of time with friends this week.  That is always good news.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Life is like playing a violin solo in public...

 ...and learning the instrument as one goes along.  ~Samuel Butler 
Feelings are much like waves, we can't stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.  ~Jonatan MÃ¥rtensson  

As I adjust to a new medicine, I find myself suddenly without any energy.  A former insomniac, I took two naps today after eight hours of sleep.  I find this sudden change disconcerting--especially since I have so much to do.   However, I am grateful that I have always been so healthy that I don't know how to be sick; I get discouraged and even pissed off.  I am learning that I squander my energy on useless past times like obsessive thinking,  negative emotions and fighting situations instead of accepting them the way they are.

I have a painting I want to enter in the fair which means I have to finish it soon so that it will be thoroughly dry.  I haven't had the energy. But I know all the slogans, "this too shall pass," "one day at a time," "let go and let God," and "go with the flow."  Putting them into practice and keeping a positive outlook will help me through this rough spot and even get the garden weeded and the painting finished.

I found a painting I hadn't shown  --The Color of Lilacs. (The photo of the painting  is not the best--a little yellow) It is an early still life where I discovered I could paint  glass and reflective surfaces -like the vase and picture frame.  I picked the flowers from several varieties of lilac trees.  I made much of the painting up like the books, the landscape and the portrait.  How cool is that?  How does one paint a vase of water?  Paint the background, then the back of the vase, then the contents of the vase (always considering the distortion of water and glass) and the front of the vase.  Works for me!!  

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sign Painter I Ain't...

Emu Eggs
To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist.  ~Schumann
The artist gazes upon a reality and creates his own impression.  The viewer gazes upon the impression and creates his own reality.  ~Robert Brault,

Moose Shed
I will paint or draw on anything.  Not because I am versatile, but because I can't resist a blank surface.  If I were in a different time or culture I might  have painted on cave walls by firelight or hung upside down to paint graffiti on an overpass.  The upper picture is of emu eggs (they're about 6 inches high) that I was asked to do for a fund-raiser.  I am especially pleased with the landscape that covers the entire egg.  The other is, of course, a moose antler.

But I'm not a sign painter.  I was asked to create signs for a yard sale recently, which I did with some struggle.  People often think I am the perfect choice for painting signs because I am an artist.  Uh, excuse  me?  But making signs requires math, rulers and  geometry, and I am totally right-brained, meaning you don't want to trust me to balance your bank book, or measure a piece of lumber to be cut.  And you darned sure don't want me to cut it!  While I can make the letters of the sign pretty colors, and maybe even make a pleasing design, the positioning of the letters is frustrating.

 I often get roped into sign-making projects.  I remember one very bad experience.  I had painted a sign on the side of Hubby's car for his business--just on the front doors.  It wasn't easy but it turned out well with pictures on it.  It also took me a long time.  A man who owned an ice business saw it and wanted a sign painted on the side of his building.  I agreed to do it.  He said that just he wanted simple block letters.  I worked very hard on the design for the huge sign.   I spent a day in the West Texas summer sun standing on top of a cab over camper laying out the sign--hating every second of it.  Towards the end of the afternoon when I had started painting the letters, the owner saw it and started yelling at me and told me it was not what he wanted and for me not to finish it and to collect my money and to get the hell off his property.  I was so embarrassed, but he didn't give me a chance to finish or discuss how it could be better--in short, he was a jerk. I was so humiliated, I didn't even pick up my pay.  He painted over my work and hired someone else to paint another sign--that sign remained there for years to taunt me.  That ended my sign painting career and even today when I am asked to paint a sign, I get a clutch in the gut. A sign painter I ain't.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Home

Home is not where you live but where they understand you.  ~Christian Morgenstern
 Where thou art - that - is Home.  ~Emily Dickinson

Houses always have held a fascination for me.  I used to think that it was because of my interest in architecture--when I was in high school, I wanted to be another Frank Lloyd Wright, but that wouldn't have worked since architecture requires a lot of math.  I am strictly right brained which allows me to appreciate the beauty in a building, but would leave me at loss at how to build one.  I love looking at houses.

Most newly married couples plan to buy a house as soon as possible, but not so for James and I.  He was always content to be a renter; some people just are--nothing wrong with that.  I, on the other hand, have always had a yearning for my own home.  While I didn't always think about it, I found myself collecting houses--figurines,  art,  fabric, or dinnerware or glassware.  I even had a collection of tea pots or tea sets in the shape of houses or cottages.  And I loved to draw houses.

We never bought our own home until nine years ago.  James was still set in his renter's mode, even though we had settled down and stopped moving around.  I couldn't interest him in even looking at houses for sale, but I became determined when I decided that receiving an inheritance a was perfect time to buy a home. I started looking on the internet and I compiled a list of houses I was interested in.  Before I could call any realtors my daughter, Brenda, called to tell me that she saw a house for sale that was  perfect for us.  It turned out the house was the one on the top of my list.  So I asked James to look at it with me and his sudden change of thinking about buying a home left me breathless.  He immediately decided this was the perfect house for us, and we made an offer, closing on the house in record time.  It was the only house we ever looked at.  I was ecstatic; we were homeowners. 

The house has very good bones but needed a lot of cosmetic help (the kitchen cabinets were painted black!)  and we have worked very hard improving it.  And it was the perfect house for us, allowing James to have his own space and a measure of independence as his condition worsened, and allowed me to have a studio. 

I have appreciated my house and because I have decided to sell it doesn't mean I don't love the gift of it in my life.  But I have also learned to let go of things, and the property is more than I want to take care of alone.  It is on 2 and 1/2 lots--almost a half acre on a slope, and only a small part is landscaped--the rest is bush, and I have to rely heavily on family and friends to maintain it.  I want a smaller home-- all on one floor-- on a smaller (level) lot  that I can take care of myself.  

I don't know if what I want is realistic, or if this is what God wants for me but I can only find out if I step out in faith.  First thing is to get my mind around the prospect of moving and to start doing my homework; to start cleaning, clearing out and planning.   I have started the process of making lists and discussing this with family and friends some of whom have offered to help.  This is a new leg of the journey--exciting and overwhelming, but I am grateful for the possibilities and for those who cheer me on.  We will see...

Monday, June 28, 2010

What's wrong with Maxie, anyway?

He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.  ~Mary Manin Morrissey
It is none of my business what others think of me.
OK,  so Maxie has issues.  I admit it.  One day I will smirk at them and say "Seeya!" but meanwhile they still dog me sometimes and ruin my day.  However, I am happy to say that their effects on my life are not near as great as they used to be. And it helps me to look how recovery has improved my life.

Fear.  I was born afraid.  When I was a little girl I used to play on top of the dog house because I was afraid of the snakes in the grass.  Garter snakes.  Not pythons or cobras, but in my mind they may as well as been.  I was afraid of everything:  school, new situations, preachers, men, monsters, the dark, other kids, the phone, my mother... OK maybe I should have been afraid of my mother.  Every kid is scared, but what was abnormal is that I carried these phobias into my adulthood, which can be harrowing for a wife and mother. I was so used to worry and fear, that when I had no reason to be scared, niggling little feelings, which I call "free floating anxiety," troubled me anyway .  I let fear rob me of opportunities.  I didn't go to college until my late thirties because I was afraid to try.  One thing I have learned is that if I am paralyzed and don't take an active part in my life making my own choices, someone or something else will choose for me.  The life I want won't automatically happen, if I stay stuck in wishful thinking.  I have to be proactive!  On the positive side I have come a long way in overcoming fear.  Courage and bravery are not feelings, they are what you do in spite of the fear.  "If you're scared, just do it scared."  Living this way allows me to face the fears, and helps reduce anxiety.  I have done amazing things and will continue to do amazing things because Fear no longer has any power over me unless I entertain him. 

Insecurity is Fear's brother.   This fella tells me that I can't do it.  Or that I am not good enough.  Or that I am too fat, and that my smile is crooked; he afflicts me with a poor image of myself.  Or that I really don't know what I am doing. Or that I am about to make the wrong decision.  I met a man who said, "Be who you are."  When I heard that it struck me that I have been trying to live up impossible standards--some other people set for me, but mostly those I set for myself.  I wasn't being fact, I wasn't really sure who that was.  When I quote the mantra, "I say what I say, I do what I do and I am what I am," I am free from the Insecurity that often leads to....

Self-Loathing.  This is a demon that has tormented me much in the past, and I dealt with him aggressively and thought I had him buried, but he re-emerged in the last couple of years and I have had to go into my dragon-slaying mode. I used to say that I was so low, I could play hand-ball against the curb.   Self-loathing can lead to self-pity, martyrdom, depression and Very Dark Thoughts.  Not cool and very dangerous.  Most days I am OK, but others...

People Pleasing.  I am co-dependent "Codependency  is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. It also often involves putting one's needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.  Codependency may also be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, and/or control patterns."  Wikipedia.   This definition pretty much sums me up.  This characteristic has been in place since childhood and was reinforced by a marriage to an alcoholic.  While these tendencies don't actively affect my relationships today, they still make me overly sensitive to what other people think.  If someone is cold or indifferent or snippy, it can wreck my day, even if others' actions probably more to do with their own bad day than with me.  One of my favorite quotes is the one above about what other people think about me is not my business.  On days I get that, I am free of people pleasing, and better equipped to take care of myself.

So these are the fellas I walk with sometimes, but I seek their companionship less often these days as I have the presence of Faith, Peace, Love, Joy, and Laughter in my life, which means that at rare moments there is absolutely nothing wrong with Maxie. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Father's Day is a good time to remember my dad, James Henry Streutker.  I started to just create a post about him in my Face Book status, then I decided what I had to say was too big for that; it a perfect topic for a blog.

My father had a great wit and taught me how to laugh; it is a gift that has carried me through hard times and enhances my life today.  He was a great jokester and story teller.   He loved the funny papers, especially Far Side.  I have a stack of cartoons he clipped out of the papers over the years that he had started putting in a scrapbook.  The project is still unfinished.

Dad was also a carpenter who built our home--I associate the scent of sawdust with him.  He patiently let little kids dog his steps while he was working and gave scraps of wood and used nails for our own creations.  Every Father's Day, he receive a fleet of homemade boats --pieces of two by fours with a point created by a handsaw and a mast inserted in a hole painstakingly made with a hand drill.

Dad on his way to school.
My grandfather--Henrick Streutker immigrated from Holland with his parents when he was four years old and settled on a farm in a  Dutch community on Whidbey Island WA.  Henry met Gertrude who had come from Winnipeg with her Dutch father, married her and together they settled on the Streutker family farm. 
Wedding Picture
During WWII the Streutkers moved to Bremerton where Grandpa opened a filling station and Dad went to work in the shipyard.  His vision was so poor they wouldn't let him fight in the military but they let him work on ships.  ;o)  Due the influx of workers in the Yard there was a housing shortage in Bremerton and my grandparents took in roomers, including the Kellogg family from Wisconsin-- who had a beautiful daughter, whom my dad fell in love with.

After the war my father worked in construction until he found a job at Sears in the automotive department where he worked for the next 33 years.  I have shiny trophies with angels on top that he earned for sales .  I put them in the garden.

Dad loved his son-in-law and they became great pals.  James actually got to do more with my dad than I did on visits.  They were like two outlaws trying to escape from their wives.

Daddy was an easy spirit who hated conflict, and would do everything to avoid it.  Over the years he deferred to my mother who had a lot of issues and she ruled the family with an iron hand.  Before his death, and after conversations with James, he realized the role he played in the family dysfunction by not standing up for his children; in a bold move, he held a family "intervention" on my mother's anger, even though he was very weak and short of breath.  This was an amazing day that all five kids got a chance to tell our mother how we felt and she had to listen, but it gave us all a great deal of peace about our childhoods and our Mom.  It gave us closure and Dad peacefully left us in three weeks later.

One of the jobs he held-- Sears or the shipyard contributed to his death because of the use of asbestos.  He died at age 76 from lung cancer.

There is so much more I could say about my father, but this is enough-- I am already crying.  I love you, Daddy and I miss you, and I am looking forward to seeing you in heaven.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What now?

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say.  ~Sharon O'Brien 
I love writing.  I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.  ~James Michener

I am at a breathing place in the blog and I am not sure of what direction to take.  I was informed this morning by my son, that I couldn't stop writing--that lots of people are reading.  I know that I can't abandon it ; it has become part of my life now.  Like the above quote we will have to see what will happen in the next leg in this adventure of Maxie' life unfinished.  I haven't a clue now, but stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sayin' Goodbye-- a Balloon Adventure

Sometimes you have to say Goodbye to see if there was anything worth hanging on to.
Don't cry because it is over; smile because it happened. Dr. Seuss

Today was the anniversary of James' death, and I decided I wanted to something special with my friend Lisa.  I wrote about her in the post, Path of PainShe and I have shared our journey together this last year; both of us had our husbands taken away--in different ways but the grief is the same.  Since we understand each other on the level that few know, it made sense to me that we spend this day together.

The day started out raining and it poured buckets all day but we went ahead with our plans.  We went to the Dollar Store and bought balloons; we looked like we were headed for a party as we left the store.  Maybe we were.  We went to Lisa's house and wrote all over those balloons, pouring out hearts.  Lisa picked out a Dora Explorer balloon with a picture of Dora running free because she wanted us to be that way.  Lisa choose a red heart for her friend she recently lost from cancer.  We wrote our private thoughts to our husbands on the pink hearts.  On the star shaped balloons we wrote negative things from the past on one side--such as pain, grief, depression-- and positive things for the future on the other--like love, joy, peace.  One thing I noticed my handwriting on the "bad" side was wild and messy, (see photo) but lovely on the other--I didn't do it on purpose.  We read what we wrote to each other as we cried.

It was still raining when we left the house.  My original plan had been to release the balloons on the hill above town, but I was also counting on sunny day.  We decided instead to go to Lake Roosevelt (Columbia River) 20 miles away.  I was concerned about the balloons lifting off in the rain and asked God to give us a few minutes of no rain.  He heard.  After we turned off the road into the campground the rain let up; it was not falling at all by the time we got to the lake.  This still gives me goosebumps.  If folks around here wonder why the rain stopped about 4:15--that is why.

With both of us holding onto the ribbon, we released Dora the Explorer first and she sailed into the air and over the trees and the wind took her out of sight, with us cheering her on.  Lisa let go of the gold star, and  I let James go next, telling him goodbye; he chased after Dora; I still have the picture in my mind of a pink heart rising above the trees and catching the current.  Lisa released the red heart for her friend and it went into the trees and got stuck.  I let my last balloon go and made it over the trees even though it was getting soft on account I got it caught in the car door--besides it had a lot of heavy stuff written on it.  Last to go was the other pink heart which got caught in the trees.  Lisa said her husband didn't want to go.  She she was able to pull it out of the tree and let it go again, but it still didn't want to go, so she started slapping it, yelling "Go, go, go!!" until finally the wind caught it and it was gone.  Then she found a long branch to dislodge the red balloon.  We were both laughing by now, and she said her friend was probably laughing her ass off watching her free the balloon.

We had expected this to be a solemn ceremony but instead it was wonderful and lighthearted-- we couldn't  be sad at the sight of balloons flying away with all our cares on them.  We laughed all the way back to town.  An amazing afternoon.  God is good.

Monday, June 14, 2010

That Last Week...

Wal-mart... do they like make walls there? Paris Hilton
A bargain is something you can't use at a price you can't resist. ~Franklin P. Jones

James loved to shop.  Through the years he never minded going to the grocery store with me or by himself. And he loved a bargain.  He was quite fond of the clearance items at Wal-mart and bought things to share with others. 

Jame also enjoyed yard sales.  To him it was like an adventure, never knowing what he would find.  He liked toys, but his collections weren't limited to those.  He often brought things home to me from Wal-Mart and yard sales; while I enjoyed much of what he brought me, some of it I didn't care for, wondering "why did he think I wanted that!"  I had a friend whose Hubby presented her with many yard sale gifts, and she used to grump about it until someone told her that maybe it was his way of making amends for the years of drinking.  After I heard that, I just thanked James for everything he brought me and put some of it away, eventually donating it to a thrift store.

He even shopped the last week of his life.  James was at peace, knowing where he would go when he died.  He let us know his wishes about his remains and just trusted us with the rest.  It was like he knew everything would be taken care of.  One morning he decided to go to Wal-Mart, and rode down on his wheel chair.  He didn't buy anything for himself, but bought about 6 canvas totes that were on clearance; James was pleased with his purchase and passed them out to family and friends.   A few days later, he wheeled outside, declared it a beautiful day and decided to take a ride in the sunshine -- just around the block he said.  Around the corner he found a yard sale and he came back excited-- he bought a lamp..... for me. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Of Perfume and Flowers

Perfumes are the feelings of flowers.  ~Heinrich Heine
A woman's perfume tells more about her than her handwriting. Christian Dior
God loved the flowers and invented soil. Man loved the flowers and invented vases.

 A couple of things happened in the last year of James' life that I thought were significant, though I didn't know the meaning of them at the time.

One is flowers.  If you remember that James picked me a bouquet of flowers out of other people's yards while he was courting me.  But generally he didn't see flowers--I would have to point them out..."Oh see how nice the flower bed looks."  His gifts of flowers were always a surprise because they were sporadic.  I remember once we had a horrible fight on Valentine's Day and James stormed out and stayed gone for a couple of days.  That afternoon, the florist delivered a dozen roses--he had ordered them that morning before our fight.  He did not sign the card, so I spent the evening trying to figure out who the heck sent me flowers!  The interesting thing that happened was about 8 months before James died, he was at the clinic for a doctor's appointment and he saw flowers growing in the beds around the building.   He was struck by their beauty so wheeled over and picked  some to bring home to me; he actually saw flowers.  It reminded me of the first bouquet.

The other thing was perfume.  James rarely bought me any since he had trouble remembering what kind I used.  I'd remind him that it was Chantilly, but it would slip from his mind when he thought about buying any for me.  I bought the fragrance myself or my late sister gave it to me as gifts.  James  hadn't bought any perfume for me for years and after he got sick, James' memory wasn't the best.  He disliked shopping for gifts, so he just gave me cash to get what I wanted.  That last Christmas he surprised me, though, by giving me a gift he bought himself.  On Christmas Eve I was stunned to unwrap a bottle of Chantilly.  I wondered then, if this was a message of some kind, and it comforts me to remember that bottle of perfume.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.
Stand up and walk out of your history.-- Phil McGraw

I was asked why we moved around so much.  The answer is complicated, but it is part of our history and since I am looking at our life without flinching, I have to write about it.   Aside from the drinking, James' itchy feet was one of the great issues of our marriage.  There is a country song that describes our relationship perfectly, titled My Elusive Dreams:
       You followed me to Texas,
       You followed me to Utah,
       We didn't find it there so we moved on.
       Then you went with me to A-la-bam',
       Things looked good in Birmingham,
       We didn't find it there so we moved on.
       I know you're tired of fol-low-ing
       My elusive dreams and schemes
       For they're only fleeting things,
       My elusive dreams.....
In Twelve Step Recovery they called moving around "geographic cures."  The truth is that Jim was always ready to move on when things weren't going well.  And drinking played into a lot of decisions--he'd get caught up in a dream or idea, or he would get mad at a family member or his actions on the job would be about to catch up with him.

I have to say that I played my role in this.  At first I'd fight the idea of moving, but once the die was set, there was nothing I could do but pack up and go, I'd get caught up in the adventure of being "enroute," and believed that maybe this time things would be better.  The first move was the hardest because I had spent the first 19 years of my life in the same town, but he was persuasive, and he was, after all, my prince and what else could I do but jump on his white steed and charge off into the future?  We took a dog and a cat with us.  I remember the cat kept running off at the rest areas, so Jim hooked the cat to the dog by a leash.

Sometimes we were crazy--taking off not knowing where we were going or how we were going to get there.  If it occurred to us that this was not normal behavior, and that we probably could use some professional help, we ignored the thought.  However, God always seemed to watch over us and we landed on our feet, though we scared ourselves at times.

It wasn't until after I started college and got into Recovery, that I was able to put a stop to the impulsive moving.  We had been in Amarillo Texas for several years and he decided to move to OK, again.  I told him he could go but I wasn't leaving school mid-semester.  He stayed.  I didn't know that all I had to do was refused to go to stop him in his tracks.  I could have used that information a long time ago.  After he went through alcoholism treatment we moved to Arizona for 9 years before we returned to the Northwest.

By the grace of God, we recovered from the insanity of our youth, and we settled down in to more normal behavior and bought a house.  I always yearned for a home of my own, but James was happy as a renter--a mortgage would tie him down, even though we had pretty much settled down.  I had to talk him into looking at this house, and amazingly, when James saw it, he made up his mind immediately that this was the house for us; we made an offer on it without looking at anything else.  We got a very good deal and put a lot of work in it.  It turned out it was the perfect house for us.  I am sooo grateful for my home, and that I can be part of a community and church.  Rolling stones gather no moss, and they don't make many friends either.  The best gift I have for staying in one place is many friends.  I am grateful.

(The picture is of Jim and the kids when he was a trucker; he did look good in a cowboy hat.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

A final Celebration

Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into. ~Henry Beecher

James was in the hospital  a lot, but especially in the last two months of his life--4 times.  They'd get his breathing stabilized and then after he went home he would start to go downhill again. The last time he was in the hospital we were told that he wasn't going to get better and to call hospice. 

Most couples who are married a long time can look forward to a 50th anniversary, but that wasn't possible for us so I threw together a last minute party for our 45th.  I did this for me as James wasn't really interested, but I felt the need to have a party.  I got a cake from Walmart--James' favorite kind and invited people by word of mouth.  He got out of the hospital on the 5th of June and the next day we had a party.  The kids brought food and cooked out on the grill--James enjoyed their company and the food.  Later friends came to celebrate with us-- or with me, since James got tired and slept through half the party, but I was grateful for those who were there for us.

The flower is a bloom on a cactus.  I have had the plant for about 12 years, with nary a bloom, but it was covered with flowers for our anniversary.  The plant hasn't bloomed since.  I didn't get the connection until just now.  God surprised me with flowers at my wedding and He did it again for my last anniversary.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Here comes the Bride or D-Day..

There are three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.  - I Corinthians 13:13
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;  Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. - W.B. Yeats

We were married Friday June 6, 1964.  I didn't realize it until later but that was my paternal grandparents wedding anniversary and it is also the date of the great Allied invasion of WWII.  I always thought both facts were significant.

We were married in the First Baptist Church of Bremerton WA by Rev. Felthouse.  I do remember his name--I didn't have to look it up.  I wanted to be married in a church and because of my mother's fit of anger, I wasn't bold enough to ask to take my vows before my church family.  My mother could be very difficult and I would have to fight her to have a wedding in our church, and I was not that brave.  So we went another church. 

Jim had decided that we didn't need anyone at our wedding--not friends or family.  The pastor arranged for two young men to be witnesses of our vows and they would be expected to be paid.  I was bothered by that.  I still may be.  There a number of our friends and family who would have loved to have been there, but I deferred to Jim's wishes.  I told a friend today that I let a hayseed from Oklahoma plan the most important day in a girl's life.  But it was what it was.

The church was large, but it had a chapel for small events, and when we arrived that afternoon, I found the chapel decorated with  the most amazing flowers.  There was to be a large wedding later on in the evening and the pastor borrowed some of the flowers  for my wedding.  I will always remember how touched I was; I think he thought it would be sad for a girl to get married without flowers.  I wore a  simple white dress, and the ring was a simple gold band Jim bought at a pawn shop.

The big surprise was that my dad came.  He rarely stood up to my mother, but when he made up his mind to do something, he would not be deterred.  We were married before two paid witnesses and my father surrounded with flowers.  The vows were the traditional ones of "Love, honor and cherish" for him and "Love, honor and obey" for me.  (It was that "obey" one that always gave me the most trouble over the years.)  The ceremony was over very quickly.

We rode the ferry to Seattle for the honeymoon.  We just stayed one night.  Jim didn't see any sense spending money for a longer stay when we had a perfectly good apartment.  :o)  I remember I had spaghetti for our wedding supper.

I have no photos, no honeymoon mementos--only the marriage certificate and a copy of our vows.  I no longer have the ring, I lost it during a period when we weren't getting along and I didn't make very much effort to find it, and the dress was ruined when I tried to dye it pink.  On our 25th anniversary, which was during one of the best time of our lives, James gave me a wedding set with a diamond.  James has given me flowers over the years, including the bouquet in the photo above.  But the most important thing I have is a very clear memory of a wedding in a lovely chapel filled with flowers, the kindness of a minister and the comfort of having my father with me.