Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Hair of the Dog

If you know someone who tries to drown their sorrows, you might tell them sorrows know how to swim.
I like liquor - its taste and its effects - and that is just the reason why I never drink it. ~Thomas Jackson

Some of you who have followed my blog for awhile may have the suspicion that someone in my family had a drinking problem. Twern't me! It has taken me awhile to work up the nerve to talk of this in a forum anyone in the world can read, but it is the time to speak of it; not to do so would be like ignoring an elephant standing in the living room. Drinking --and recovery from it --consumed much of our lives and our marriage, but also gave us lives worth living.

James was not a drinker when we met and he didn't drink a lot at first; on the rare occasions he did, he was a happy drinker and we had a lot of fun. The fun didn't last; by the time our youngest was a year old, James had become a problem drinker. He drank 3 or 4 times a week and his personality degenerated into something ugly. Eventually the alcoholism affected him in such a way, he wasn't even pleasant when he was sober. Things might have gone better, though, for me and the family if I hadn't been so uptight and went with the flow, instead of screaming in my mind, "Noooo!!..this is not the way it is supposed to beeee..!!" Not knowing any better, I became part of the problem.

I am not going to tell drinking stories, because they are his stories, except one because this one has become part of the family lore. Actually a lot of stories are in the family lore but I am only going to relate this one now.
We had planned a camping trip to New Mexico; West Texas is hot and dry in the summer and I was ready for the cool of the mountains. I had everything ready to go the night before our departure, but James had a late night drinking. It was very rare that he would drink in the mornings; that would only happen when he didn't get to sleep off his drunk properly. That night when he said we should hit the road early, I took him at his word and woke everyone up at daybreak; I am always taking people at their word and that gets me into sooo much trouble! James hadn't had enough sleep and he was still inebriated when I got him up. We all piled in the car and he told me to drive, and right away he pulled a bottle out from under the seat. He said, with a grin, that he needed a drink to help him sober up-- hair of the dog that bit him, so to speak. Sigh. I was mighty disappointed, but encouraged when he told me that we could stop for breakfast at 8. I knew that if I could get a meal into him, he would stop drinking, and all would not be lost. The only place on that lonely country highway where we could get a meal was in Clayton NM, and I timed it so that we crossed the New Mexico line at 8 AM, and started looking for a restaurant in Clayton. He laughed at me and informed me that it wasn't 8; we crossed into another time zone at the New Mexico line--it was only 7 AM. He was happy because he had pulled a good one on me--he loved teasing me about that over the years. I drove on. When I had a drunk in the car, I tended to drive like a maniac. People think I still drive like a maniac today, but I learned how to do it in West Texas on those long straight roads with a drunk in the car. I wanted out of the car as soon as possible, so I didn't let any grass grow under the wheels. The sad thing is that one of the kids would be apt to say, "Uh, Mama, there's a curve coming up." They must have had the sense they were catapulting down the highway to their doom! By the time we got to campground, James wasn't feeling so good which meant he was quiet the rest of the weekend, which served him right by my reckoning. ;o) The kids had a good time exploring and fishing and I sat at the picnic table with stating at a sketchbook, wondering how I was going to get out of the mess I was in. That was nothing new, I always spent a lot of time wondering how to get out of the mess I was in. I did find help but not in any way I envisioned.

I want to talk about recovery now--his and mine. I start attending a 12 Step Program for families of alcoholics--a program I still attend today, because it changed my life and probably saved it. I can't begin to tell you the difference Al-Anon has made. I am no longer a scared introvert hiding at home stuffing all the pain and anger. I have friends, I am a friend, I am happy. The members of the groups loved me until I could love myself and gave me tools to use to process the anger, pain, fear, guilt and shame, and to get through the hard times. When I was in school, having to give an oral book report would make me sick for days prior, but now I speak in front of groups sharing my story. I give back what was given me. I am bolder, more confident, and can recognize and use the gifts God gave me. I have developed the skill of having fun. I love to laugh and have fun.

James entered recovery 4 years after I did when he went to treatment and began to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. His life was changed and he loved AA for the rest of his life. After he got sick, he couldn't get out to meetings, so he held them in our home for awhile. He was still outgoing and attracted people to him. I swear, we'd be in the grocery store waiting in line at the check out and strangers would approach him to chat with him. And his favorite topic was AA. He'd ride his wheel chair to Walmart and be gone for couple of hours. When I'd check on him, he'd be talking to someone. Someone he knew or a stranger he struck up a conversation with, and always the topic would turn to AA.

Towards the last of his life we spent a lot of time in the ER and the hospital and James shared his AA story with everyone he met there. In variably, when a nurse was doing an intake on him, he/she always asked "Do you drink alcohol?" It didn't matter if he was nearly unconscious, James snapped to at that question and said, "I haven't had the need to drink alcohol for 23 years." That always made me smile.
All I can say is that I am grateful.

Friday, May 28, 2010


If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it. ~Anthony J. D'Angelo
Man spends his life in reasoning on the past, in complaining of the present, in fearing future. ~Antoine Rivarol

I am at loss what to write right now. This is the third post I have started, saving the other two to drafts waiting for the courage and wisdom to write in them. I need to talk about the wedding and I want to cover some of the issues of my marriage, but it is best to proceed with caution about that. I need to be careful that I don't focus on the negative and paint myself blameless, because I played my own role in this relationship. I spent a lot of time in regret, but as I wrote in a previous post, things had to work out the way they did because it was just the natural outcome of combining these two personalities. Kind of like mixing baking soda and vinegar; combining the two elements creates a third different than either. It is what it was, and as it says in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, "Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake." If I am to believe that, then everything that happened--good and bad--were for a reason and I can relax and not fret about hurts, wrongs and mistakes that were made and learn what I can about the journey. I can be free of the bondage of the past. My experiences brought me to where I am today, right here writing in a blog about sensitive things that potentially the whole world can read. Where I am right now is a good place to be; and where I will be next week or next year will be different --as it is a journey, but it will be good too. And where James is --in heaven-- is the best place to be; I can be pretty sure that he is not having to write a blog to process his feelings. :o)

I guess I found some things to write about after all. There will be more on all this later, but I don't want to stir up emotions so close to bedtime.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A matter of Faith

Faith is like radar that sees through the fog. ~Corrie Ten Boom
Faith is courage; it is creative while despair is always destructive. ~David S. Muzzey

When I first started writing this blog, I promised it would be real, and warned that I might use a bad word on occasion. Considering my state of mine throughout this process, I am surprised that I was guilty of that only a couple of times. Now that many more people are reading Maxie's Life Unfinished, I am resisting the urge to go back and clean things up to make my posts pretty. There are what they are, and they will stay that way. And I am not concerned about future posts. I am actually more concerned with making grammatical errors, than saying something inappropriate. My personality still has a lot of rough edges, and God keeps polishing them off. Ouch! That hurts! :o)
I think it is time to talk about my faith. Though I don't hesitate to speak of God and how He works in my life, I want to tell of how I got where I am today in matters of faith.
My parents didn't go to church when I was small, but my grandmother took me to services with her, I remember the struggle of sitting still on a hard pew, except for once a month when the Missionary Lady came and the children were allowed to go downstairs to see stories told on the flannel graph. I loved that. After Grandma moved away, I eventually began to attend a small chapel, with a bus ministry which picked up kids every week. Most of the congregation were children, as that was the church's main outreach. I went to summer and winter camp, and Bible school. I learned how to read the Bible, and memorize Scripture. During that time God became a fixed star on my journey; even when I ignored Him, or forgot about Him, He was always with me.
By the time I was a teenager, my parents became Christian and we started attending a much larger church. After the small warm congregation I was used to, I never really felt comfortable in the new church, but we attended until I left home. My sister Linda Jordan continued on in the church until her death in 2001, over 40 years of attendance, and she worked in the church's daycare.
Jim Simmons told me he was a Baptist and that he went to church with his cousins, and spoke glowingly of the church in Texas he belonged to. I learned later that his total church experience was 3 months, during the time he was staying with his cousins. Jim accompanied me to church until after we were married, when he left off all church attendance altogether, and it was many years before he would go again. But I tried to continue on alone.
We moved a lot and every time we'd go to a new town, I would find a church and attend sporadically, taking my kids with me, until about 10 years into my marriage, I stopped altogether for 5 years. I didn't intend to quit, but when we moved that year, I never got around to finding a church. We had moved down by Houston--camping and fishing paradise and that is what we did most weekends. I stopped reading my Bible and my thoughts were far away from God. Eventually I joined Jim in his party lifestyle and I threw myself whole-heartedly into it. I didn't want to hear about God, I didn't want to talk to door to door evangelists or little old ladies from the church. Basically I said , "See ya!" to the Almighty. Bad idea. That was the most painful dark time in my life, and I did irreparable damage to my life, family and marriage. But I did turn back to the God of my youth and became more and more faithful in the Christian walk. I had to overcome a lot of shame and self-loathing, and deal with the consequences of bad choices, but I know that God loves me today and that He has given me precious gifts--grandchildren, art, writing this blog and the boldness to present both to the world; He is teaching me to just be myself; He is allowing me to be of use to Him and others; he has given me countless loving, encouraging, fun friends and a church family. He has his hand on my future and I am a work in progress, so we will all have to stay tuned to see how it all works out...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


A blog is in many ways an unfinished conversation. Andrew SullivanYour blog is an unedited version of yourself.

Writing these episodes of the blog are getting pretty intense. Especially posting just before I go to bed as is my custom; thoughts they stir up keep me awake at night. So, as I write about my marriage, I need to pass on posting if I can't find time to write during the day. I plan to continue with reflections on me and Jim, but I need to take a big breath right now.

On a lighter side, I would like to talk a little bit about music tonight. Jim was born and raised in rural Oklahoma, so he grew up on "shit-kickin'" music; like the Barbara Mandrell song, he was country when country wasn't cool-- he actually did put peanuts in his coke. I was a town girl and experienced a wide variety of music in my home from classical to Johnny Cash. Like any teenager, the music I loved best was the popular music that was played on American Bandstand . After we were married, Jim informed me that he would not listen to rock and roll, only country music would be in his house. I listened to my music when he wasn't home, but soon we moved to rural Texas and the local hick radio stations did not play Elvis, the Beachboys or Neil Sedaka, so I gave in and for the next 20 years listened to Country music. We named two of our kids--Brenda and Waylon-- after country stars. Until my youngest son (who always was a rocker in a family of shit-kickers) loaned me his Eagle's Greatist Hits album, when I abandoned C & W music altogether.

As I said in the previous post, Jim got to know the band at Belfair quite well, and he especially liked the fiddle player, Ernie Reed and we hung out with him and his family. After we left Bremerton, Ernie went to Nashville and when we saw him again he was playing for Faron Young. You can see him with Faron in the U-Tube link below. He played with several different groups over the years and joined Mel Tillis in Branson MO, where I think he still plays today. Anyway I have a picture I took of the Reed family and I know a few stories about Ernie, but it would not be polite to tell them. Jim did look good in a cowboy hat, though. :o) Sooo we'll get onto more serious stuff soon.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Roller Derby

"It is the woman who chooses the man who will choose her."
A man is already halfway in love with any woman who listens to him. -- Brendan Francis

We met at the roller rink. I grew up in a Navy town and a good place to meet sailors, without going to a bar, was the roller rink. Certainly there were families and little kids present, but also lots of girls--and sailors. The rink management accommodated the singles by playing "couples only" segments with the lights dimmed. It was a really odd way to meet a man now that I think about it. I had left home and was working as a live-in care giver. I had never been to the roller rink to meet guys before--my mother would not allow it. I guess girls who did that got a reputation. Yet I knew a couple of girls in high school who went to the rink to meet men and they seemed to have a lot of fun. I wanted to have fun.

The first time I went skating was with some girlfriends. I met a sailor all right, his name was Tex. He got tired of holding me up (I couldn't skate worth a lick.) and he bought me a Seven-Up so we could sit and talk. All I recall about the conversation was vague descriptions of his hometown in Texas and his new tattoo. He scolded me for bumping it as it was still sore. Then he asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I was pretty naive then, but I knew that leaving the rink with him was not a good idea so I declined, and Tex immediately abandoned me. I wonder how he thought he could do anything without hurting his precious tattoo?

The second time I went skating, I went alone on a Friday night which I believe was May 15. I walked to the rink, which included a hike up a long hill; I must have expected my friends there later--I can't imagine being brave enough to do that alone, but maybe I did. I couldn't skate any better that night than the first time, and I was clinging to the half wall berating myself for thinking I could skate, and he came through the door. I stood there watching him rent and don his skates begging in my mind, "Please, please please!!" Wishful thinking and hoping never worked very well for me, though I have done a lot of that in my life, but that night I got lucky. When Mr. Cute stood up, he glided straight to me and asked me to skate. I told him I didn't know how and he said he would teach me. He had more patience than Sailor Tattoo From Texas, and spent the evening gallantly holding me up, dragging me along, or picking me up off the floor, but I never learned to skate. He could skate though--smooth and easy and he could even skate backwards; I was impressed and he impressed his own kids later on with his skating prowess. I guess he had spent a lot of time at that rink. He still had the energy to accompany on my long walk home--unlike Mr. Tex, he didn't have a car.

His name was Jim Simmons and he was from Oklahoma. He had served in the Navy in Bremerton WA, and after his discharged he returned there to live; he worked in an auto parts store, and lived in a rooming house.

Our first date was the next day. There was a parade downtown, when he got off work at noon, so I met him in front of the parts house. We watched the parade until he got hungry when we went to a cafe where he ordered us shakes and burgers. I had eaten just before meeting him and I wasn't hungry--and I was really nervous, but I didn't want to offend him so I ate anyway. (Geez Louize, Maxie!) After lunch, we walked to the park over looking the bay and sat on a bench and talked. I don't know, I might have talked, but I certainly know he did. He talked about his break-up with his last girl friend, and his adventures since his release from the Navy, and his girlfriend he met in Japan. (Did I tell you I was naive?) He assured me he was a good Baptist boy, (I found out later that he had stretched the truth on that one.) I was captivated by his easy going charm, and attentiveness. This began a whirlwind courtship.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Politics doesn't make strange bedfellows - marriage does. ~Groucho MarxIf you want to read about love and marriage, you've got to buy two separate books. ~Alan KingMen who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage - they've experienced pain and bought jewelry. ~Rita RudnerNo rhyme or reason for the quotes, except they made me smile.
Ever since I was a little girl, few things held an appeal for me as a blank piece of paper; it is crisp, white and holds amazing potential. If it was lined, it was waiting for me to write words on it, and if it was not, well, it cried out for a picture. I don't recall receiving much encouragement from anyone to do either, though. Once I drew a picture I was proud of and practically begged my grandmother to put it up on the wall; she always promised to do it later but never did; I stopped asking.

I learned to write letters as a teenager, a practice I have used all my life. A letter to a family member or friend was carefully crafted with the intention of entertaining others. Of course, I didn't speak of what was really going on with me and my family, yet I was able to write humorous, discriptive letters people loved getting--especially my sisters. One day I was visiting my younger sister not too long before she died, and she brought out all the letters I had written to her over the years and I spent the evening listening to her read them to me, laughing and crying; I was touched that she had kept them and found so much enjoyment in them. I carried this love of writing to email, and later to this forum--a perfectly natural extension of myself. I spoke with my other sister last week and told her I was writing a blog, and she encouraged me to continue, saying she always loved my letters.
I didn't seriously start drawing and painting until after my second son was born. I always had a hard time impressing James with much, except for one thing: My art. He never failed in his praise and encouragement. I remember showing him my first drawings --primitive compaired to what I do today--and he said "Wow," a response I could always count on. Not too long after I started creating, I was struggling to paint with a child's set of watercolors, and my neighbor presented me with my first set of oil paints. I fell in love. I love the brilliant colors (something missing in acrylics), the smooth texture, the way the paint moves on canvas and even the smell; I love the brushes--and I have dozens, and I still love the potential of a blank paper piece of or a canvas. James had an art gallery in his room; if I painted something he loved, he would talk me out of it, and he was sure to show it to everyone who visited him. Art is a gift of God to me and so was James' encouragement.
This picture was taken of us not long after our wedding. I love pictures like this where his love is evident; there are times when it wasn't, especially in the last 10 years when he was sick. I am still not ready to look at recent photos of him but I love the old ones.


Romance has been elegantly defined as the offspring of fiction and love. -- Benjamin Disraeli
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go through time with. -- Jim Croce
People said things about my husband. Things like, "He could charm the birds out of trees," or "He could sell a refridgerator to an Eskimo," or "He could talk a man out of his shoes in a sticker patch." I didn't stand a chance.
Some time after I found myself married to this guy, I spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how I got myself into such a pickle. Today I have more perspective on our meeting. I don't know if I would call it destiny, but what happened was just natural: A timid love starved girl, meets a outgoing charismatic man who thought--and lived--slightly on the shady side. He was a whole lot like Harold Hill in The Music Man. I don't know if it was love at first sight but it was an attraction that can't be denied, and that's just the way of it.
After we met, we spent every moment we weren't at work together. I was caring for a sweet elderly lady who obligingly went to bed every night at 8 PM and I was free to do as I pleased. We went skating a couple of more times, but my roller skills didn't improve much and the walk was long. Besides the rink had already served its purpose in getting us together, so there didn't seem any point in going back. We walked a lot, or sat on the porch where I was living. The weather and the time of year was perfect for courting. One evening we went to visit my friend who lived on the other side of town--another long walk. However it didn't seem long as we talked and talked and Jim picked flowers for me along the way--out of people's yards, and I went home with an armload of flowers. I put them in a vase in my room where the scent of lilacs filled the air. I was mesmerized. It never occurred to me that perhaps that was not the most honest way to receive a bouquet. Over the years James bought me flowers from time to time, but he generally didn't think about doing it much. However, the autumn before his death he was at the doctor's office and saw brilliant flowers growing in the flower beds at the clinic, so he wheeled his chair over and picked some and brought them home to me. If stolen flowers could be a benediction on a life, then that is the way it was.
I remember going dancing with Jim at the Belfair Barn, in a town a ways from Bremerton. It was too far to walk, so Jim had to secure a ride for us, which wasn't too hard for him--he was never afraid to ask for what he wanted and he didn't take "no" for an answer often. When he was stationed in Bremerton he danced at The Barn often and got to know the band quite well. He persuaded a couple of musicians to give us a ride. They drove an old Ford coupe, which only had a front seat, so the only place to sit was on Jim's lap, which nobody seemed to mind. The players were very kind to me. I didn't know I was beautiful when I was young, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. But I enjoyed it that night at the Belfair Barn. I was treated like a princess and Jim felt like he was a very lucky man. The future looked bright indeed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Imaginary Vacation.

A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time. ~Anne Taylor Fleming
Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then. ~Katherine Hepburn

I am approaching the first anniversary of my husband's death and I decided to write about him, and our challenging relationship. I know some of our relatives will be reading this and I hope I can paint the picture of our lives together with a palette of truth without the brush of rancor. I am going to write as the things come to me without any chronological order.

James was a dominating, type A, take-charge personality and when he was young and handsome, he could get away with controlling quite charmingly. I was a timid introvert, who always did what she was told. A match made in heaven, right? It would have been if he had been the cowboy with the white hat, or the knight on a white steed. I would have followed him to the ends of the earth. Truth is that he was a complicated man with a whole lot of issues. And he drank.

As years went by--when he failed to live up to the white knight role--I was forced to think and act for myself and my family. I became more and more independent. This created conflict between us, because he accepted the changes in me at a slower rate than I was changing. I was no longer the sweet docile girl he married, and that often rankled him.

When he developed Parkinson's, with other health issues, and became more and more home bound, he attempted to orchestrate our lives from his wheel chair, which created challenges for the whole family. Oh well. It gave him something to do between episodes of Forensic Files and Judge Judy. It was his hobby. This brings me to the imaginary vacation. I call it that because the trip only happened in my dreams and plans. Oh, I tried to pull it off with everything I had, but--well, read on.

My daughter and I were going to the Pacific Coast to camp. I had it all worked out down to the last detail--organization is one of my assets -- or faults. I had reserved the campgrounds and paid for them, planned the menus and bought most of the food and gathered all the gear we'd need. Brenda's son Brad, my niece Whitney were going with us. We were so excited; I haven't had a real vacation in a long time. The first indication that things were going awry, however, was when Brenda broke her ankle 2 weeks before we were to leave--that was a really big red flag! When I suggested we cancel, she insisted that she would be fine and really wanted to go. Not wanting to be disappointed myself, I only made a half-hearted attempt to talk her into cancelling, so we continued on with the plans. I spent hours loading the station wagon just right and we left bright and early one July morning. The second sign that we should call the trip off was when we got to Spokane 70 miles away; the transmission in the car started slipping. I stopped at a station with a mechanic, who gave me the sad news that the transmission fluid was black; since the oil had been changed a few days before, it meant that the tranny had burned up. We limped the car back home.

But I did not give up! I called my son, who agreed to loan me his Explorer. It took all day to get the Ford serviced and packed with our stuff--which wasn't packed quite so carefully as before. But we were on our way again.

We were cruising at 70 MPH on Interstate 90 somewhere east of Moses Lake; we were happy and the only concern on our minds was if the campground would hold our place at our first planned stop. I heard a pop in the engine and glanced in the mirror and saw smoke pouring out behind car, so I pulled over. The engine was on fire. I am not the right person to have on hand in a crisis because my reactions are dumb! I asked Whitney to open the hood. She tried but it was too hot. Uh, Maxie!! It's on fire! I got out, and forgot to undo the child safety locks so everyone else could get out. Uh, Mom? Could you unlock the doors? By this time engine is fully engaged causing the hood to buckle and I am sort of wandering around. Good news is that other motorists knew the car was on fire before I was aware of it and they pulled over when we did and I thank God for them--they took charge. One fella pried opened the hood with his golf club, ruining it. These guys put the fire out with their beverages, including a gallon jug of iced tea, and case of bottled water--they were quite jovial, like rescuing damsels in distress was welcome break to the monotony of the road. I swear, after a guy emptied a bottle, he crushed it before tossing it to the ground--must be some kind of male reflex.

OK. This is the third--and final-- message we weren't going to make it to the ocean. And it was bitter defeat. Even though the fire was out we still had to wait for the fire truck, the State Police and a tow truck. During this time we engaged in a flurry of phone calls to Hubby, and my son. My son said he didn't want the car to be taken to the impound yard, he wanted it left at the truck stop--so he could tow it home the next day. Brenda and Brad rode with the tow truck driver and Whit and I rode in the back of the patrol car. The officer opened the back door to reveal narrow bench with little leg room--I guess the comfort of prisoners is not a high priority to the state. Whitney, who was small said, "Wow how do they have room for prisoners?" And I said, "Yeah, especially fat ones." But we squeezed in--a more difficult feat for me than for little ole Whit. We were taken to a hotel next to the truck stop, where we secured the last available room; I am grateful for that. It was 11PM, none of us had eaten anything for hours, and all the restaurants had just closed, so I sent the kids to the truck stop to forage for food in the convenience store. Then James called. He gave me instructions about how to have the car fixed so we could drive it home. Uh, James, it's toast! The wires are fused together --and to the engine and the console is ruined. "No," he said, "just do what I say." I didn't promise anything, I told him good night.

We were rescued the next day by my daughter-in-law. The things that had been so meticulously packed a couple of days before were tossed into her car like trash bags in a garbage truck. A gloom settled over me as we traveled--we were going in the opposite direction of the Pacific and two vehicles and a golf club had been ruined in the attempt to get it there. I especially regretted the loss of my son's car, even though he never thought it was my fault. I was feeling low enough to play handball against the curb.

When I got home, James was very angry with me for not following instructions. (Somehow, even after all those years, he didn't get that I don't follow direct orders very well.) "Honey," I said, thinking I came up with the perfect argument, "One day you may be gone, and I have learn how to handle things myself." His response? "That is why you need to listen to me now to learn how to do things right!" Sigh.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Path of Pain

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break. ~William Shakespeare
"There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go."
I have a dear friend who has been walking on a similar path of pain as I have. We have been friends a long time and have poured love and mercy into each other's lives. Years ago when I learned of my sister's death while my friend and I were in Yakima for a conference, she took me to the airport, bought me a ticket to Tacoma and waited with me for three hours for my flight. On the day of my husband's funeral--when the rest of the family was busy getting things ready, my friend sat with me all morning until time for the service.
Now, though we are on separate journeys, we are walking together and sharing it with her has been sweet-- Hours of talking on the phone, in person and in instant messaging. We go to meetings of support groups together, where we are seeking messages of hope. When one of us says she is depressed and spent the day crying, the other understands.  But, often, before our time together is over we find ourselves laughing, and we part company feeling lighter and much loved. I am getting better now and pulling out into the light, but her grief and loss is still great. I won't leave her behind, though; I will continue to give her what she has always given me, love and acceptance and willing ear, until she passes out of the darkness herself. That's what friends do.
The iris is called Mornin'.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Part of the Wolf Pack

"Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is."

I was thinking to day about a wolf I once knew. No, not the two legged kind, though I have known those too. I mean a real wolf.

I know that wolves have a bad reputation, maybe justly so, but I became friends with one. In the small town north of here, we moved into a house that was next door to a man who owned a wolf--there was someone in the area who raised and sold wolf pups. This wolf was no longer a cute pup but a grown animal who was chained in the neighbor's yard. The guy told me that the wolf's name was Buddy and not to approach him.

I will never forget my first encounter with the animal-- there he was standing in a classic wolf pose with his head lowered, looking at me with those incredible eyes which seemed to look into my soul. Then he snarled at me. That is when I started talking to him. Every time I was in the yard, I spoke to him and he started to settle down. He spent his time pacing as far as his chain would let him or sitting on top of his dog house, staring off towards the woods that were only a block away. I thought he lived a cruel existence; since wolves are pack animals, he must of been lonely. I got permission from the neighbor to feed him table scraps and started sharing our meals with him. After that Buddy was always happy to see me. I still never approached him--I couldn't imagine petting him like a dog; I respected his wildness. As I went about my business in the yard, carrying on one-sided conversations with him, I enjoyed knowing he was there.

One day, while working in the garden, he broke his chain and got loose. He didn't run for the forest down the street as you'd think he would, or run anywhere at all, except over to me. He raced around me like a frisky pup and then snatched up a glove and ran off with it dancing about out of my reach. I told him to bring it back but he dropped it and raced in to grab a plastic pot and took off with it, then he dropped it and came back to where I was standing to steal something else. For the first time ever Buddy looked happy; he was playing with me and I realized then that he had made me part of his pack, and he wanted to be with me more than he wanted to be free in the woods. His owner noticed him loose and caught him and our game was over, but I was deeply moved by this animal, and sad that he had to go back on the chain. He seemed to become distraught after that and started howling at night, and the neighbors complained --Duh! DUDE! He is a wolf! So Buddy went to a new home, but I still wonder about him; I hope he was happier. I would like to draw a picture of a wolf, but I need to find some reference photos for artists; I wouldn't want to use a photographer's copyrighted picture. Someday, I hope to show you a picture of a wolf titled Buddy.

The painting is Sunshine. Yellow is a hard color to mix and paint. I have learned it works best to have lots of shades of yellow, and to paint directly out of the tube, rather than to mix the colors, as I had to with this picture.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Relax Max

Relax, Max
Your nerves are just like jumpin' jacks, Max
Your heart is thumpin' with a crazy sound
Hear it pound
Bumpin', bumpin', bumpin'Jumpin' up and down. Dinah Washington
Rule #1: don't sweat the small stuff.
Rule #2: it's all small stuff.
Rule #62 Don't take yourself too seriously.

I think I am finally beginning to relax. I don't realize how tense I was until I started to relax. I have been calmer lately and happier and that is an answer to a prayer. I am still facing some challenges in my life, but when did I get the idea that I wouldn't have any? Well maybe I thought I could get a break from them--just for a little while? Please God? I believe, though, that I am called by God to serene no matter what is going on and I have been sorta failing at that, getting too caught up in my own tragic story, and that only takes me to dark places. I want to live in the light, if that means I have to focus on the positive even when I am not feeling like it, then--so be it.

Lighthouse a very relaxed painting. Watercolor is a challege for me because I don't do "looseness" very well. When I first painted it, I almost threw it away. I am glad I didn't, because looking at it years later, I have decided I like it--it's looking very relaxed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

God's Gifts

"When a person stumbles through the day in a pit of despair, wishing to die, but refusing to die; when a person gets up the next day and does it all over again--well, that takes guts. That takes a kind of real, basic survival courage, a courage that can be put to good use if that person ever finds his or her way... (and) find new and beautiful ways to use it." A Day At A Time

I have been thinking a lot about the above passage since I read it yesterday and I realize that I have been given many gifts to use to live my life. The gift of art is obvious, but I have received other gifts during the trauma of the last couple of years: courage, wisdom, perseverance, bravery; maybe I have always had them. I have always thought myself as wimpy, but I realize that God doesn't give us this life to live without the necessary means with which to live it. He encourages us to use these gifts and doesn't mind if we tell others about them, maybe bragging a bit. So, I am brave and have courage and if I lived a few centuries ago, I might have been a dragon slayer-- in armor on a white steed; I like that image. How can I use this courage today? What dragons do I need to slay?

This picture is for my friend who likes landscapes. It is the first heating panel I did--acrylic 24 x 48 --big for me. I like the landscape, but I find the cloud a bit intimidating. I couldn't help it; it just grew and grew as I was painting it, much the same way cumulus clouds grow in West Texas; it seemed to have a life of its own, so I let it be. I imagine there is a farmer in the barn watching the cloud with concern, wondering if it will grow into a serious storm because, see? His wheat is ready to harvest. The title? Two Barns and a Cloud. Of course, what else could I call it?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Family, Original and Otherwise

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. ~Jane Howard
If minutes were kept of a family gathering, they would show that "Members not Present" and "Subjects Discussed" were one and the same. ~Robert Brault,

I have a great family. I love my kids and grand kids and I am always happy to be with them, and they treat me like a queen. I have nieces and nephews and a sister whom I love, but there are family members already gone and others who don't talk to me. I am so needy that I expanded my relatives out beyond my family of origin, finding sisters and brothers in a spiritual family who enrich my life--people who are beyond just friends. Both families have carried me through dark times, and I am grateful for them in my life today. It is hard to believe that I used to be such an introvert who isolated from people--very socially challenged; I am happy to say that I have gotten over that... well I am getting over that. Thank you, my family.

The drawing on the bottom I did from a tin type I found at a yard sale, it is titled Sisters. The other one is from a photo my dad bought at a thrift store--he said it made him think of his three daughters. I call it Cousins.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. Harriet Beecher Stowe
The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person's determination. Tommy Lasorda
I am planting my garden, and I still haven't fully recovered from the hip problem and garden chores are difficult. But the garden is part of my art, and I love being outside, so letting everything go to seed is not an option. So I am determined to get it done. I know that it will get easier and I will be glad I persevered.

The picture is Nevada. I took a photo out the back window of a restaurant in Virginia City NV. I think the street was paved but I changed it to dirt and I didn't like a house on the right, so I replaced it with a house from a picture taken in Oklahoma. Because I was looking down on the scene, to help it make sense, I painted a hill the foreground that the viewer is supposed to be standing on. This was one of my husband's favorite pictures.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Women Healing

There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women. ~Madeleine K. Albright
Women are never stronger than when they arm themselves with their weakness. ~Marie de Vichy-Chamrond, Marquise du Deffand, Letters to Voltaire
Because of a history of living with toxic relationships, I go to a lot of Twelve Step meetings, but the one group I am beginning to love best is a women's meeting; we share in there on a level that is impossible to do in a room with men in it. Sorry guys, but there is no one who understand the level of a woman's pain, but another woman. But by this kind of sharing we can find healing, and when a girl is healed and whole, all will benefit--including the men in her life.

This is Snapdragons. I think it is a mediocre picture, but the redeeming factor is the watering can, which is excellent. However, I learned a lot from doing this painting so therefore it is extremely valuable.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France
If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.

I am feeling a little sad about the blog tonight, as things seem to have shifted. I am running out of art that I want to show, and since I am feeling better I don't have much earthshaking to share. What this really means I am moving through another change--into wholeness I hope; if this means things get boring, then so be it. I have my doubts about the boring though--my life has never been that, so I guess we will all just have to hide and watch....

I drew this picture, Art Teacher's Cabinet, in college. I had a professor that was a stickler about drawing from life rather than photos and one day I was at loss as to what to draw so I went into another room and found this odd assortment of objects in a cupboard, and I drew them; I didn't keep all my drawings from school but I like this one. This teacher used a lot of bottles as subjects for pictures and this may be where I discovered my love for drawing and painting glass.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Know Thyself

The unexamined life is not worth living. ~Socrates
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves. ~Henry David Thoreau
It's a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy. ~Lucille Ball
I am getting better, recovering from the darkness of the last year, which is a relief. Being lost gave me an opportunity to find myself. This didn't just happen, though--recovery requires that I do some work, searching out destructive behaviors and discovering my strengths, but the rewards are worth it. Knowledge is power; knowing who I am, empowers me to succeed at this life of mine.

This painting, The Wedding Picture, is painted from a reference photo I made. Besides the lilies, I used wild sweet peas and another wild flower. The arrangement wilted soon afterwards, but the painting preserved it for posterity. I didn't like the object I had placed on the front right--can't remember what it was--so I replaced it with the brass pitcher. The flowers were easy to paint this time, it was the fabric that gave me trouble. The picture is my in-laws' wedding picture--of course it really doesn't look like them, but I know it is them!! Posting these pictures on the blog helps me to see the weaknesses of the composition--for future reference.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Laugh or Die

Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die. ~Abraham Lincoln

Laughter is pretty serious business, and I am grateful for the gift of it throughout my life during hard times and good. I believe that it actually takes the edge off of grief and pain, and makes the good times more wonderful. I love to laugh and have fun and seek every opportunity to do so. Sometimes it is like ole Abe said-- I laugh so I won't die.

This is a watercolor, Yaquina Head, (Newport OR) that I did for my sister Linda. She showed me a picture she took of her favorite lighthouse and when she wasn't looking I borrowed the photo and made this painting for her for Christmas. She loved it so much that when we lost her 9 years ago, her husband used the painting to make her funeral bulletins. I miss ya, Linda.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Expect a Miracle

There are two ways you can live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein
Don't leave before the miracle happens.

It is a miracle. It is a miracle to come through desperate times and survive; to be able to laugh again and to sleep without tears. It is a miracle to survive the storm with my sanity intact and a few more things I didn't know I had or could get, like strength, courage, increased faith and more friends I could ever imagine having. It is a miracle to look people in the eye, learn their stories and to share my own; to be comfortable with sharing my thoughts and art with any and everyone. I have a medallion given me on a special occasion that says, "I not only believe in miracles--I depend on them."

This painting is Cape Disappointment-- a light on the Washington coast, which I painted from a photo I inherited from my dad--it looks much different today. I didn't paint a stormy day but a sunny one, belying the name. Maybe we can call it Cape Miracle

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Just a Thinkin'...

The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking. ~Albert Einstein
"Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny." Tryon Edwards

I have read: "Don't go into your mind alone, it is a dangerous neighborhood." That is true of my mind, and my thoughts do affect the outcome of my life-- interfering with creativity. I have been feeling happier lately, but today out of the blue, some negative thoughts came back, the kind that can paralyze me into inaction and take me into mental darkness. I didn't intertain these monsters, though and began to do some chores around the house, forcing my thoughts elsewhere. This has really changed my future--tomorrow I don't have any ironing to do!

Telling you about this painting involves a confession. I borrowed the composition--tree, winding road, and hills from a painting I saw online. I made note of the artist--somewhere; I can't find it. It is a heating panel I did for myself and it hangs in my living room, so I don't plan to profit from another artist's idea by selling it--besides I love it too much. I may have borrowed the composition but the painting is mine-- the hills are inspired by the hills near where I live, and the buildings are taken from a old photograph of the farm where my grandpa grew up and where my dad was born--near Oak Harbor WA, and the tree is defitely a Maxie tree. It is titled, Family Farm. Oh, Unknown Artist of Unknown Painting, please forgive me. :o)