Oct 23

When you are unprepared for your dream to come true

Artistically, I’m still on stealth projects. I hope to have something to show you soon, but I won’t know if it turns out until a little later in the game.

The big excitement this week was my own stupidity.

Back in September I got word that my painting, “The Turn”, had been accepted into the Northwest Watercolor Society annual Waterworks Exhibition (members only.) This is a BIG DEAL! Getting into Watercolor Society of Oregon (WSO) is a big deal. This is REALLY BIG DEAL!

I was on vacation at the time, so I celebrated, but didn’t do much else (Foolish Action #1.) A few days later I got a phone call (still on vacation) asking if I had received the acceptance packet… because the first thing I should have done was not celebrate, but let them know I got it! I apologized and assured the beleaguered show chair that I had indeed received the packet, I was very excited, and my painting would be coming.

Then, Foolish Action #2 happened. I got distracted. Vacation, the WSO show, the Paint the Town show. My attention, never great, just kind of went away. But after the WSO show, I sat down and read over the packet.

I was in trouble.

I had to buy a frame and the shipping time for that is usually about 10 days. That put me beyond the “shipped paintings must be delivered by” date.

Foolish Action #3: I decided to “save” money and drive the painting up to Seattle. This WOULD be a savings because I would be able to get a less expensive frame and would not have to pay for shipping (just shipping coming back.)

There is some possibility that this decision would have been okay, but I forgot another part of the equation. It’s (effectively) monsoon season in the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle traffic is ugly, though Portland is getting bad too. Plus, Seattle planners seem to have a moral objection to “through” lanes, so in addition to making the current turns, you have to be very careful about what lane you are in. Add torrential downpour to the equation, and I white-knuckled large portions of the trip.

But my painting go there, and NWWS posted the following montage on Facebook, so I know it’s been hung.

When I dropped off my painting, many of the paintings were out, but not hung. It’s not very good manners to look at a show before it’s been hung, but my quick glimpses shows the paintings were amazing. I’m not being modest when I saw that I wonder if my painting (however sharp it looks in its new frame) was included as some kind of mistake.

But it’s up now and I’m going to go with it.

Anyone wanna play hooky and go back up to Seattle Thursday for the reception?

Oct 16

Stepping back

Wow, I’ve painted two days in a row. And blogged both days. Someone mark the calendar.

Unfortunately, I’m still on “stealth projects” so I don’t have much to show. Instead, I will explain a decision I’ve been coming to for a while as I show you random pictures from my cell phone that I claim one day will be paintings.

As this is from an i-phone, I’m not sure anyone can see how great the shadows were. But they were cool enough that I contemplated doing a landscape with buildings…

The end of pet portrait commissions

The decision to step back from pet commissions has been coming for a while.

While I enjoy painting pictures of animals, having to do it to meet the tastes of other people is sort of dragging me down. All joking aside, this project was a difficult one for me. Another project I have has been ongoing for over two years because I am so stuck. I finally just restarted it, which is something I don’t like doing.

My painting time is limited and I feel like this is something I can take off my plate (after I get done with my current load.) If I was painting for a living, it would be different, but there is really no point in having a job that interferes so much with my painting time if I have to treat painting as something to please someone else.

Also… the deadlines are killing me.

The final straw came recently when I did not get paid for a commission. It was a friend and someone I thought would honor her word. When it became obvious that she had taken the painting and “ran”, it made me wonder if the small amount of monetary reward was really worth it. (Also, I don’t think I have to go into how hard this “friend’s” actions were to deal with personally.)

I can still do gifts or spontaneous paintings, but right now I’m stepping back from commissions.


To detract from the trauma of this announcement (wait, only I’m traumatized…?) here are more photos that I claim might become paintings.



Oct 15

The extra bedroom

I grew up in a three-bedroom/1-bath house. We always had an extra bedroom that I was relegated to whenever my grandparents came over. As a teenager I remember being fascinated by that room and it’s haphazard contents: sewing items, old textbooks, photographs, old computers. I remember wondering why my mom (sorry, Mom) didn’t DO something with the room.

It’s taken me 30 years, but I now have an answer.


Since coming back from Montana, I feel like every day has been a struggle just to get basic needs met.

The first week, obviously, was all about unpacking and foraging for food. That weekend I had my “Plant and Patio Party” where several friends came over to help me install the plants that would complete my summer-long yard improvement project.

The next week (I think) a few things started falling into place. Groceries  made a modest comeback and the laundry was now in its proper spot. But before I could get too excited the WSO convention came along. In addition to heading up to Troutdale to admire my painting, Saturday I took classes and made small talk with all my painting buddies.

I painting these three starts based on a reference photo in my journal and Doug’s inspirational teaching.

I was supposed to go back up to the convention on Sunday, but I decided to skip out in favor of finally catching up with  my grocery shopping (gosh, I am SO exciting!)

Maybe taking a day to plan for the week helped, however, because about mid-week I caught a glimpse of my “studio” and realized that it bore a striking resemblance to “the extra bedroom.” Items were piled up, chairs rested helter skelter, the goodwill pile was out of control. It took me 45 minutes on Thursday evening to get down to the “painting” layer.

So today my goal was to find enough time to actually get in there and paint. Once again I am up against some deadlines which seems to be my main source of motivation.

I’m proud to say I DID do some painting, but I can’t show you any of it. All three are deadline-driven stealth projects. But to prove my honesty, here is a glimpse of all three.

I’m going to try to get some more painting in tomorrow. I’d like to get to a place where I’m working on what I want instead of deadlines.

But before I forget, it’s been pretty exciting around here the last few weeks and I have been too busy to share.

The American Academy of Equine Art’s 37th Annual AAEA Fall Showcase is currently up (you can see the show online as well)

The Turn got into the Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS) show (my first non-horse national show.)

Artists in Action’s “Paint the Town” event is finally up. When I went to the opening reception on October 4 I was THRILLED to see that not only had I received an Honorable Mention but one of my paintings has the coveted red dot (sold)!

I think you, and I, are now all caught up to date. Fingers crossed I can continue this good work…

Sep 27

Montana adventure – days 9 and 10

Well, we are home, safe and sound. I even think Mom and I are speaking to each other (it was a near thing at the end. Crossing four states–639 miles–in just over 12 hours will test anyone’s relationship.)

Our last days in Montana were fun. Sunday I took a long hike with Key, then we drove up to see Skalkaho Falls.


Wild… Life… Whatever





Monday, of course, was ALL about the drive. But we’re home (Mom’s last leg was this morning), safe and sound.

Home. Still the best place on Earth.

Sep 24

Montana adventure – days 7 and 8

I always hate to admit it, but about day 6 of any vacation, I begin to get homesick. It’s silly… I have my mom and my dog with me, but the undeniable fact is that I’m a LONG way from home.

As if to make sure I feel welcome, the last couple of days have been spent with good friends of the family, the Dunbars. Laurie is my Mom’s best friend since… 1st grade? Her children, Bonnie, Amber, and Jeremy, were my main playmates when I was over here during the summer. We’ve spent the last few days laughing and touring and eating together (without Jeremy, sorry.)

Mom (Maggie), Laurie, and Ray.

On Friday, I got up and took a cold and wet walk with Key to Hieronymus Park (say that fast). All sensible birds were holed up someplace warm.

The park has neat interpretive signs. I am putting this one up for a friend who I think will enjoy it.

We then met up with Laurie and after lunch went out (again) to Metcalf.

On the way home, we saw this dark morph red tail hawk at the Teller reserve.

Today (Saturday), the weather couldn’t have been more different (at least initially).

Hieronymus Park was teeming with little brown birds; I was fooled by yesterday’s lack of birds, I didn’t take my camera. But my binoculars served me well, and we barely made it back to the house in time to meet with the crew to tour the Hamilton farmer’s market (awesome), window shop the downtown, eat lunch at the local brewery, and finally hit the yarn store where I got a couple of “orders” that will keep me busy for a little while.

A brief stop at the house to unload my purchases, and we were off to tour the south valley and have dinner. I’ll leave you with these images. You can judge how it was.

Sep 22

Montana adventure – days 5 and 6

Yesterday I explored Missoula and vicinity in the morning before spending some time with relatives in the afternoon.

In in the morning, I went to a hiking are at Blue Mountain, which was beautiful, but I only saw a few birds, most of those Clark’s Nutcrackers.

However, I’m grooving on the rocks here. Very different than Oregon rocks.

This morning I got up and explored Greenough (said Green-o) Park, which was a nice little riparian park within the city limits.

There I saw American Dippers, but not too much else (lots of flickers and magpies with a squirrel thrown in for interest.)

After my walk, we packed up to move to our final destination, Hamilton. After settling into the new digs, I headed out to Lee Metcalf NWR, which is the premiere birding location in this area.

A flock of American White Pelicans was feeding in the slough.

But they weren’t the only spectacular sight.

As I was driving home, I captured this image of what I think is Blodget Canyon.


Sep 20

Montana adventure – days 3 and 4

Rain. Our prayers across the PNW have been answered.

Of course, the rain arrived a little too late to save our Glacier plans, so I’ve been exploring the Flathead valley before heading down south to Missoula via the National Bison Range.

Monday I visiting Wayfarer State Park, one of the places my dad’s ashes are scattered (picture above). The hike was lovely, with the under story foliage starting to turn.

Then we turned east and explored Swan Lake.

Monday’s birding wasn’t exceptional. In fact, with the exception of some wild turkey’s I saw on the side of the road, I think the day’s checklists were pretty sparse.

Today, however, was better. I got up early to explore the Kalispell area. To the west of town there were some “ponds” that were supposed to be good birding. I saw Sandhill cranes, Trumpeter swans, and yellow headed blackbirds, so I agree!

After returning to pick up Mom, we headed to the National Bison Range.

In addition to bison, we saw…

But honestly, the most staggering thing is…

We are now in Missoula for the next couple days. I’ll keep you informed!

Sep 18

Montana adventure – days 1 and 2

In spite of the fact that the entire Pacific Northwest seems to be on fire, my mom and I set off for our vacation to Montana yesterday. This trip had not even started when serious logistical problems challenged it.

The first was time. Mom and I had talked about hitting Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Bitterroot valley to see friends and family (Mom grew up in the Bitterroot.) I have this pesky job, and illness and various art classes have made racking up a bank of leave a challenge. But I have enough to take a week off, so we scaled back to Glacier and the Bitterroot.

Then Glacier National Park caught on fire. I was willing to chance it, but Mom made the (probably good) decision that a trip there might not be our best bet. So, we revamped our plans and decided to tour the Flathead.

Then, the Columbia Gorge caught on fire. I think it’s safe to say at this point both Mom and I thought about calling the whole thing off. But, I want a vacation and Mom wanted to see her friends, so we set off anyway.

We had to go down the Washington side of the gorge until Hood River, adding a little time to our first day of travel, but we reached Spokane with daylight to spare.

Spokane arrival

We went out to dinner with a college friend of Mom’s and then settled into a hotel. Where Key (yes, he came for the adventure, too) proceeded to keep us up all night telling us about every person who walked by the door.

Exhausted, I got up this morning to give him a bit of a hike and traveled to Liberty Lake county park. It was lovely, and I saw a Chipping Sparrow as well as several woodpeckers (it’s Ponderosa country, so it’s important to look for the little woodchippers.)

When I got back from the walk, we hit the road again. We had less distance to travel, so after crossing the pass, we stopped to look at the southern edge of the National Bison Range and saw four of the big guys. One, in particular, looked ready to meet mating season in heavy weight status.

From there we decided to tour the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge and saw many birds, including a Say’s Phoebe, prairie falcon, American white pelicans, and lots of water birds. Mom really liked the painted turtles, too.

A short break for lunch, then we arrived at our destination, the home of generous schools friends of my dad’s.

We all stretched our legs, especially Key. Deer roam here, and he made sure he enjoyed that.

The bed here is soft and the location quiet. That’s good… because after last night, we ALL need a good night’s sleep.

Sep 11


I spent the weekend in what my mom always called “putzing” mode. I didn’t do anything exciting, but I certainly did a lot of little projects.

After the exhaustion of Friday, I slept well and then slept in Saturday morning. After (finally) getting up and walking the dog, I hit the Farmer’s market. Apples are coming into season, but berries are having their last gasp. While coming home, I saw a sign for free figs and I decided to stop and pick some to do some preserving. 

I ended up making three varieties of fig jam: simple (an unfortunate pale green color, but yummy), blueberry fig (shown above), and Southern (contains ginger).

I also fussed around my yard. In spite of my lack of posts, I am making steady progress on my big yard project and I think I’ll be ready for my big planting part on October 1.

I saw some nuthatches checking out the newly placed birdhouses this morning.

I also started on my Peace Pole, though there were an unfortunate mishap with the nozzle to the spray can at one point.

The next step will be tracing the words on all the sides.

Key got good walks both days and went to training today. I went to church and heard a good sermon.

Art-wise, things have been a little slow, though that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working. My time in the studio has been spent mostly framing things. My piece for the American Academy of Equine Art, “At Liberty”, was framed and shipped to North Carolina.

I framed a few personal pieces for my home and I’m awaiting a delivery for “Scent of Season” and the three paintings I am entering in Paint the Town (Artists in Action.) Additionally, my mom and I will be driving over to Montana to see family and friends in a couple of days, and I will drop off “Strategy Session” in Big Fork while I’m there.

In short this was the kind of weekend that helps me get back to center and gather myself for things to come.

Let’s hope I can keep that in mind for a little extra time.

Sep 09

The fragile sorter

I am currently in the unenviable position of feeling both very fragile and having to make some big decisions.

As I said a few weeks ago, I am struggling with several issues right now, the largest being a return of my depression. Today was a big because I had two doctor’s appointment that I hoped would help me tackle some of my ongoing issues.

The first doctor’s appointment was with the podiatrist to discuss my 11-month battle with plantar fasciitis. This doctor was much more thorough that the last podiatrist I saw. The upshot is that while I did get a shot to help with the pain and a list of stretches, I need to get some serious orthotics that (naturally) are not covered by my health insurance. Over the years, I have heard various stories about orthotics, some good, more bad. So, I need to think about that step. In the meantime, my mom gave me her GoodFeet orthotics, so I’m going to use those while I ponder. And hobble.

Next, with my foot throbbing, I went down the hall to see the psychiatrist (who I will call Dr. Y because I hate typing psychiatrist). As I said, I am struggling with depression. As I did not say, part of the reason for this is because my health insurance plan did not want to continue to pay for a medication that I have been on for 17 years that works well for me. So they put me on a generic, which in the past has not worked as well. Surprise… I’m now in crisis.

Last week I went to see my long term psychologist (Dr. P, same reason); we discussed that if I wasn’t able to appeal my case (and I had tried previously) that a complete change in medication might be the next step. Today, speaking with Dr. Y, it became apparent that switching medications was about my only option at this stage. Logically, I can deal with that. Even emotionally. But I’m not sure the physical me can.

To “help” me with this, Dr. Y suggested I take some classes Kaiser offers about depression and anxiety. Okay, sounds helpful. Except they are all during working hours, meaning I will have to take more time off and I’m already concerned about my job status.

“Depression” sounds like it’s simple. Like you’re only dealing with one thing… like maybe being sad or tired. But for me, it’s a lot things. I’ve actually been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and PTSD (though the latter is less of an issue since my 20’s.)

When things get like this, every single aspect of my life is challenging, even the simple ones.

So, I’m trying to get my thoughts and emotions in order, and then medication changes come along, kind of like this cockatoo:

I have no idea if this new medicine regime will work, and it will take months to get fully on it. In the meantime, I’m pretty much an in chemical cocktail hell. I have no idea at any given point what is “real” versus what is just my various problems.

Example: Thursday, a new person had their first day on the job. Through a series of coincidences, I met her at the front door and attempted to help her get to where her new supervisor was. Afterwards, I was so stressed out and worried about possibly saying the wrong thing I was shaking. Logically, I did nothing wrong. I smiled, I introduced myself, I found her boss, I introduced her to people. I did not kick a puppy or set fire to anything. Nevertheless, i spent the next several hours worrying about the interaction.

This story is a benign version of the biggest worry about all this. I am very concerned about the possibility of loosing my job if I get too weird. One of the biggest (unspoken) mandates at my job is that everyone “get along”. Between the anxiety and irritability, my feeling is that I am not doing well at that.


Additionally, I need to watch for very real problems such as an increase in suicidal thoughts and other new side effects.

I just have so many concerns right now. I feel overwhelmed.

Dr. P suggested taking FMLA until I got all this sorted out. No one knows how long that might take, but it’s certainly an option.

On the bright side, next week I was scheduled to on vacation with my mom to Montana. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but basically, the entire western United States is on fire, and she is (understandably) nervous about traveling into and through that. So last night we cancelled part of the journey and I’m waiting to find out of she’ll cancel the rest.

If she does cancel, I need to decide if I want to take the time off and do something else, or save the time for a crisis. But I feel like I need a break. So, a staycation?

Back to feeling overwhelmed.

This is a blog I don’t intent to “publish” on Facebook, just in my own little corner of the web that few read. But I feel like it’s important to write all this down for a baseline.

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