Memorial Day & memories

Today I went on a guided hike in Canemah and had a blast, but I’m going to write about that in tomorrow’s post.

While in Canemah, the historic cemetery had its gates open to allow Memorial Day traffic, and our group went in to admire the lovely grounds. As I was walking around I got to thinking about Memorial Day, which was originally designated as a day to decorate the graves of veterans in the Civil War and then eventually morphed into the holiday it is today.

I am not the biggest fan of holidays, but this year Memorial Day has made me stop and think. It’s probably because my dad is quickly fading from dementia / Alzheimer’s disease. It’s hard on me because I remember him as the man who put in the garden every summer, taught me to drive, and helped me roof my first house. Now he does very little; while he is still “at home”, he can’t really travel and has trouble with a lot of daily tasks. It’s even harder on my mom who takes care of him. I worry about them both.

choateuniform_smchoatonship2_smMy dad was drafted into the navy after finishing college. He served as an officer on the USS Providence (CLG-6) from around 1964-1967. During this period, he went to the following places:

  • Guam – July 19, 1964
  • Fiji
  • Port Swettenham
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan
  • Hong Kong
  • Beppu – 1967
  • Japan
  • Subic Bay, Philippines, September 1967

choatwithpipeI have to say “around” in my description of his service because Dad never really talked about the details of his time in the navy. The stereotype of those who serve is of men who came back and tell war stories. Dad would occasionally tell a few stories about his friends in the navy when he had a few to many, but he never would say much more.

When I was in my teens I learned from my mom that he had spent some time behind enemy lines and that was why he didn’t like rice and kept his hair so short (he still wears a crew cut. )

Going through old photo albums, and we are lucky enough to have many, I can see Dad’s artistic side in his photographs and meticulously detailed photo albums, in some cases complete with notes.


There is no description of what this is, but I think it must have been a rocket being launched off Dad’s ship.

When I look at these notes, I really feel that how young and scared Dad must have been.

Dad came back to the states in about 1968, re-entered college as a graduate student, married my mom in 1969, and became a shop and art teacher in Oregon about 1970.


Dad’s Naval Retirement ceremony, June 1985.

He stayed in the Navy Reserves until 1985, serving 20 years.

Its more than a little sad to think about Dad’s period in active service, because I know it left him with unpleasant memories. But I’m proud of him. And grateful.

I just wish it hadn’t been so hard on him.


Short and random recap

Last week was a very long week and Friday capped it off with a variety of small computer disasters. The minute I got home, Finn and I hit Canemah.

Immediately the day vastly improved.

Saturday was marked by the farmer’s market, a TRAG board meeting, and a shift as an SEO volunteer. Once I got those obligations out of the way, I did some major gardening. I did so much gardening I actually woke up last night because of soreness!

But today I was out again. I lost a lot of plants over the winter and I had to redo some flower beds. Plus the weeds are crazy.

I’m sore and tired again tonight. So please forgive my short post and just enjoy the pictures!

Know when to give up

So tonight was my self-imposed painting night. It’s been a tiring week, but I settled down to paint anyway. I was pleased with myself.

geeseI started with “Twilight Flight.” It’s hard to tell, but I added another layer of darks and the eyes to the geese. I’m still not sure what to do about the background.


ospreyI switched to my osprey painting. I filled in the talons and tweaked the shape of the beak. I need to enhance the fish, and then I may be done.



bathNext I worked on this horse painting that has been around for a while. I still have a goal of taking it up to Equine Art in July, but it’s not progressing very quickly. I went “back to the drawing board” a little today and redrew some sections. I also took off the masking. Then I got stuck again.

Finally, I moved to “Follow the Leader.” What I thought would be a simple matter of adding a horizon time, ended up being a major change. Frankly, I’m not sure for the better. I think it was a big mistake adding pink to the palette. I thought the painting wasn’t colorful enough, but I didn’t realize how colorful it was until I added another color. Now there is no going back.

leaderIt was here that I decided to stop. I wish I had stopped just one step before…

Paint me!

Someone recently asked me how long it takes me to complete a painting. Every artist has heard this question and has their own response, the most realistic being “it took as long as it took.”

For me, I would guesstimate it takes me about two months from “first paint on the paper” to “signature”. Sometimes even longer depending on how the painting goes. The initial parts of the process are pretty quick; it’s the critiques and small changes that take all the time.

Today was a rainy, stormy day so I wasn’t very active as far as getting outside the house, but I did spend some quality painting time with three of my recent paintings.

geeseTuesday I started this painting, tentatively titled “Twilight Flight”. Here it is with the masking off, the black wing feather defined, the beaks started,  and some preliminary shading on the body. It has just been calling “paint me” all week.

I think that once I get the remaining details on the geese done, I’m going to have to make a decision about the background. I love it, but I don’t think it’s going to work as undefined as it currently is.

My original idea was to have the orange part be trees like in the reference photo, but I liked it so much with just the initial wash I thought I could skip that step. I don’t think so. I think a little more suggestion will be needed.

swansI also worked a little on “Follow the Leader” but all I really got in was the feed and five of the six beaks (I need to find the other beak…) Like “Twilight Flight” this will need shadowing on the swans, and more definition on the background. Also, looking at it, I’m going to have to think of something clever to do with the water placement.

ospreyFinally I worked a little more on “Mine” an osprey painted from a reference photo of a Sauvie Island osprey I took last summer (not the osprey I saw last week in Canemah).

I need to emphasize the fish, add some tallons, adjust the eyes, and add some shadows. Then I’m going to have to figure out if the post needs more work.

This is only three of the eleven paintings I have going right now (not including ice painting backgrounds, sketches, or other ideas).

I’d like to promise I won’t start anything else until I finish these… but I hate to lie.


Dreams, wishes & work

California Chrome won the Preakness.

Stacey and General George made the top 10 and will do their freestyle. One goal down, two to go.

And I finished a 5K walk.

routemapI work for Multnomah County, which has been doing a series of heart awareness events. This is where I won my Nike Fuel and new i-pod; this inspired me to start my recent quest for lifestyle improvement.

I decided to try this 5K walk as good way to get some exercise on a Saturday and do something I’ve always wanted to do: walk the East Bank Esplanade.

I have walked a 5K before, but it’s been many years.

Before I begin, let me say this. I had a good time, but being among so many people is really not my thing.

afterstartSo at 9:30, Finn and I started.

My safety net was there was a 1-mile turnaround for those needing a shorter route. But at the 1/2 mile mark I felt okay and kept going.

quarterJust before we reached the Steel Bridge, things were thinning out, but the bridge clumped everyone up again.

steelbridgeAfter the bridge was the halfway mark, and there was a hydration station. I had brought water for Finn and I, but he enjoyed drinking from a real bowl and playing for a few minutes with the other dog, and we were off again. Finn

From here it was simply a walk back to the finish line. I was definitely feeling it, but I knew I could do it. finish

As we were nearing the finish line and I knew I could do it, I got to thinking about this walk as a metaphor for my weight loss journey.

I had prepared with a few supplies. I had a buddy and support in Finn. I had taken breaks. I had a backup plan.

I hope I remember this day the next time I have a bad day with my new lifestyle. Because while California Chrome’s owner had a dream about hose this horse would win the Kentucky Derby before he was born, and while Stacey Riggs wishes to win her competition, it’s really work that makes it happen. One step at a time.


Horse Madness

This is one of my favorite times of year for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is Triple Crown season. It’s like March Madness, except with horses!

This year a horse named California Chrome swept the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. He’s definitely the horse to beat in tomorrow’s Preakness and many are making a case for him being a Triple Crown contender. It’s been 35 years since the last one, so we’re due.

I just have one thing to say:













As befits any elite athlete “Chrome” has merchandise like T-shirts and hats:









As well as a relationship with the paparazzi:













It’s a great time of year to be a horse watcher because you can totally geek out, and with the addition of Facebook and other social media… well, the sky’s the limit!


Photo of Stacey and George (I hope you don’t mind I used your picture.)

But something just as exciting is happening that really has me checking the social media. Stacey Riggs, one of the trainers at Sound Equine Options, is take her adopted-on-Valentine’s Day-mustang “General George” to Norco, California (known as Horse Town USA) for the Extreme Mustang Makeover. Everyone at the barn has a soft spot in our hearts for this cute horse, and under Stacey’s tutelage he has bloomed. But as much as we like George, Stacey has taken the hardest hit and now is hoping to buy back her horse at the auction at the end of competition.

10255810_631785126912944_4493183062614086923_nAll her friends and SEO members have been barraging her Facebook wall with well-wishes.

Today was the first day of competition, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who checked Facebook, waiting for results to post.

After the first event, a pattern class, she sat second. Her trail ride (a city course through the town of Norco) was compromised by George’s impatience; the horse he had been stalled next to took off right before him and he was raring to go. But by the end he settled down enough for the team to take 20th in trail. This left Stacey sitting 3rd overall. The final event of the day was a showmanship/conditioning class that they took 1st in.

The last mustang event Stacey entered, she just missed the top 20 position, which meant she didn’t get to do her freestyle routine. This is smaller event and she needs to make the top 10 to show in freestyle.

I’m so excited for her, but as I told her, it’s a bit of a nail bitter as well. If she does good, there is more chance George will go for a higher price.

Tomorrow is a Adult Combined Leading & Riding Obstacle Class, the top 10 are announced. I hope you will join me in rooting Stacey and George on and wishing them luck for bringing George home.

P.S. If you are really interested in this, check out all the things Stacey had to teach George in 90 days to get this far!

Description of Mustang Makeover Event

A. Handling and Conditioning – 20 points
Handling – 10 points – The trainer will bring the horse into a small pen and the Handling and Conditioning components will be judged during this time. During the Handling portion, the trainer will un-halter and release the horse in the pen. The trainer will exit the pen. The trainer will then be allowed back into the pen. Upon re-entering the pen the trainer will halter the horse and exhibit the horse to the judges at a walk, trot, stop and back, then exit the pen.

Each handling maneuver (halter, walk, trot, stop and back) will be worth 2 points for a total of 10 possible points for
the handling score. There is not a time limit for this class.

Conditioning – 10 points –  The horse’s conditi on will be judged in two areas:
Appropriate weight/muscling (5 points)
Overall Appearance –  this score will reflect hair coat, feet condition, etc. (5 points).

B. Pattern Class – 40 Points from each judge
This class is intended to show the horse’s willingness and ability to complete a pattern of generic horsemanship maneuvers. Judges will assess exhibitors showing in either Western or English discipline accordingly. A horse will be given credit for traveling with
his head held in a natural position, ears alert and moving at a natural speed for the gait requested. Credit will also be given for making a smooth transition between gaits and for keeping the correct lead. Maneuvers may include but are not limited to:

  • Walk
  • Trot,
  • Lope/Canter
  • Change directions while on the rail
  • Stop
  • Back
  • Pivots or turns to right and left
  • Lead changes

C. Combined Leading & Riding Arena Obstacle Class – 40 points from each judge

This class is designed to show a horse’s ability and willingness to perform several tasks that might be asked of him during the course of a normal trail ride or work day. Exhibitors will be asked to lead and ride their horse through a course of obstacles and maneuvers
in the arena.

Leading elements obstacles/maneuvers may include but are not limited to:

  • Walk, trot, stop and back
  • Walk over logs/poles
  • Walk/trot between cones/obstacles
  • Maneuver forward and/or reverse through a simple chute
  • Pick up all four feet
  • Brush horse once on each side
  • Load and unload from stock trailer

Riding obstacles/maneuvers may include but are not limited to:

  • Walk, trot, canter/lope, stop and back
  • Turns and circles to the left and right
  • Walk over logs/poles
  • Lead change
  • Walk over bridge
  • Maneuver forward and/or reverse through a simple chute
  • Pick up object and carry from barrel to barrel
  • Dragging items specified length
  • Additional elements may be added such as brush, artificial foliage, rain slickers, etc.

D. Outdoor Trail Challenge – 120 total points – Approximately 2 hours of riding Trainers and Mustangs will be scored on obstacles on an outdoor trail which may include but are not limited to:

  • Negotiating rocks
  • Maneuvering up and down steep hills
  • Dismounting and mounting on the trail
  • Crossing draws and bridges
  • Crossing streets
  • Using tie rails
  • Traffic noises
  • Negotiating river beds
  • Crossing creeks of knee-high water
  • Walk, trot and lope/canter


Contestants will be judged on the execution of 10 compulsory maneuvers. Each maneuver is worth four points each.
This score will reflect completion of the maneuver as well as the horse’s level of willingness to execute the
maneuvers in a relaxed and confident manner.

  1. Walk
  2. Trot
  3. Lope/canter
  4. Stop
  5. Back
  6. Lope/canter one full circle to the right
  7. Lope/canter one full circle to the left
  8. Lead change
  9. Pivot or spin 360 degrees to the right or left

Freestyle Performance

Trainers will have 3.5 minutes to com plete their freestyle performance – music and time will start when competitor
enters the arena.

Music is a required component of the freestyle performance – if the trainer does not turn in music during the finalists’
meeting at the event, management may select music for him/her.

Overall Horsemanship-30 points – Communication/part nership between horse and rider and the horse’s overall willingness to perform and execute maneuvers correctly in a controlled, relaxed and confident manner (15 points)

Incorporation of maneuvers and their degree of difficulty (15 points). These maneuvers would include but are
not limited to: sidepass, two tracking either direction, pulling or dragging, jumping, serpentines, rollbacks, roping, mounted shooting, lead changes, circles with variance in size and speed, stops, etc.

Artistic Interpretation – 30 points:

Components of Choreography – the composition and arrangement of the ride in relation to the music and its rhythm, as well as the use of maneuvers, costumes, and/or props to enhance the performance (15 points)

The “WOW” Factor – level of originality and the overall entertainment value (15 points).

Pours, Pollock, & Painting (I need a maid now)

I am taking a break from painting class for the summer for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with my current stress levels. As part of this bargain with myself, however, I have committed to paint every Tuesday or Wednesday night. I think it’s going to be Wednesday from now on so I can go to volunteer training at SEO.

I have a lot of works in progress, but I have been holding off doing anything further on “Follow the Leader” because I didn’t want to trash someone else’s house (you’ll see what I mean.)

To remind you all, “Follow the Leader” is a painting I started a few weeks ago inspired by tundra swans I saw on my March Sauvie Island trip.

"Follow the Leader" - Masking fluid onlyStep 1: Composition and Masking

A few weeks ago I had drawn out my painting and masked off the white swans.

step1Step 2: Paint

I put a good size blob of paint in small containers. I decided to use Ultramarine Blue (my favorite), a combo of Gambouge and Azo Orange, and Pyrethol Red.






Step 3: Add water

I mixed water into the paints until they were about the consistency of skim milk (thick for watercolors.)






spatters2Step 4: Pour

This step had a name that is a little misleading. I started by sucking up my mixture into a big syringe (not a needle) and squirting it onto the paper that I had propped up against the wall. Then I splash with brushes, moved paint around with brushes and my fingers, and generally had a grand old time. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get photos of this step, but here’s the end result.




step4Step 5: Let dry

Watercolors created this way will dry lighter than they start. Because I used flash, the difference between step 4 and 5 is not too obvious, but hopefully you’ll get the idea of the “finished” product.

paintsplattersStep 6: Clean

Really, this was step 5. While I was waiting for the painting to dry, I cleaned… well, everything. The floor, the door, the wall, If it was within three feet, I had to wipe it off.

twilightAfter all this, I had a lot of paint left over, so I quickly drew, masked, and started another painting. I had another title for this, but I’m liking the way the colors look that I’m thinking about the title “Twilight Flight”. It’s loosely based on some reference photos of snow geese I took on the same Sauvie Island visit.


deskEach year I have vague ideas of making a New Year’s resolution to have complete rest one day a week. My basic thought is to have a day where I can only walk. It is my hope that with driving remove from the options, I would have more time to do things like paint or play with the dog. With these restrictions, I could get to church, but would be essentially home bound the rest of the day.

I can never work out the rules of this resolution well enough to give it a shot. It seems like I’d need to go get dog food or grocery shopping, or else cram everything into Saturdays… a day that already seems too busy.

My goal today was to get some painting done. I did not accomplish it because my desk looked like this, my email inbox was overwhelming, and my house was dirty. Let’s not even discuss the weeding, budgets, or projects that I should do. I got the dog walked, but not too much else on that “optional” second list. And no painting.

I don’t know what the secret is, but I sure wish I did.

I enjoy this post and read it often:

But I still don’t have the answers.

Right place

It’s been a busy day, full of my usual Saturday things. I went to the Farmer’s Market, an art class with Patricia Schmidt, dropped off a piece of art at Grapevine Gallery for the Open Studios of Beavercreek show, then went out to the barn to muck stalls for Sound Equine Options. My last stop of the day was a hike in Canemah.

During my adventures I had some great birding. On my way out to SEO I saw a flock of vultures working over some roadkill. Okay, the roadkill part was not attractive, but I did get some great vulture reference shots.










birdThen while hiking, I caught a pretty good photo of what I think is a ruby-crowned kinglet (female) gathering nest materials (it looks like maybe some spider webs?

But the best moment was when I was walking by the old broken pine that I call “Windwalker” an osprey flew up with his catch. I wasn’t able to get any good action shots of him arriving or leaving, but it was so close I could almost figure out what kind of fish he had!

I feel another painting coming on.


The only constant is change

TGIF. The last couple of weeks have really taken it out of me. First, there is my new lifestyle; while I am already seeing changes and improvements such as better sleep, improved breathing, and more energy (for exercise), it has also been a mentally exhausting two weeks. At every step I have to make choices and decisions that I used to be able to autopilot through.



Additionally, through no fault of my own, work has been challenging due to a variety of other employees leaving. This means that new things have been placed on my agenda. While I like change, it is undeniably an exhausting process.

It’s also amazing how having a commitment on one additional day a week (Mondays, Weight Watchers) cuts back on the rest time. And, in some ways, it isn’t going to get better. I am moving my painting class to Wednesdays so I can take the every-other-Tuesday Sound Equine Options volunteer class. This leaves Friday as my only week night without a commitment.

Finally the weather has decided to be… well… whatever. We’ve had rain, thunder, hail, lightening, wind, and sun. Sometimes all in the same hour. Outdoors has not been as welcoming as it has in other parts of the world.

But tonight I got home, grabbed the dog and the camera, and took off for Canemah. The Finn-ster was overjoyed.

It’s been nine days since I’ve been to Canemah, and the camas bloom is definitely over. But there are lots of other flowers blooming, including the cutest little tiny upside-down cone flowers.


It rained hard during our walk. Finn didn’t mind, but I admit to having (and using) an umbrella.

gallerywineWhen we got home I paused a moment in the garage to admire my newly installed “gallery” (really more a way to store art without damaging it). And then I poured myself a glass of wine. It really has been a long week.


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