Saturday, March 2, 2013


The Gatekeepers
Hubby got three new paintings recently -- one for Christmas, one for his birthday on New Years, and one for Valentine's. Usually, when an artist does three separate paintings that are meant to hang together as one, it's called a triptych, but I call Hubby's paintings a trilogy, for not only does each one tell part of a bigger story, the process of getting them painted was a story in and of itself -- one which I'd like to share with you.

You see, each year our little town hosts a studio tour, where you get a peek behind the scenes of seven or eight different artists.  Many people go for the art, but me? I'm nosy. I just love getting to see how different artists live, and most especially, the spaces in which they create. One artist on the last tour, Margaret Stone, bought an ex-clinic just down the road from us, and turned it into her home/studio, with easels set up in at least three different rooms, and an apartment upstairs which she rents out. One of her paintings, a much larger version of the one above, made my hubby stop in his tracks. When Margaret noticed how absorbed he was, she came over and asked if he wanted to hear "the story" behind it, which had something to do with the images that had been coming back from the Hubble Space Telescope. She mentioned that she was thinking about doing a whole cosmic series. I actually considered buying the painting for him at the time and putting it away for Christmas, but I am a tightwad, and it would have cost more than the two shadow boxes he got last year combined, even with her special studio tour discount!

Gatekeepers II
Of course, by the end of October -- what with John spending half the month in the hospital with a brain bleed -- I was beating myself up with regret, so I emailed Margaret to see if she still had that painting. Alas, she had given it to a local gallery, who then doubled the price! I said "Ah well, my fault for not grabbing it when I had the chance", and went on to tell her how much we enjoyed seeing her work, and hearing about her process. (She starts with her backgrounds, lets the paint dribble and flow a bit, then waits to see where the painting tells her to go from there.) I also told her that my hubby had always had his head in the stars, read nothing but Sci-fi, and would jump aboard a spaceship in a heart beat, if given the opportunity, whereas you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming, and if she ever decided to do that cosmic series she mentioned, to be sure and let me know. Know what she said? "You know, if I did a smaller one, say 11" x 14", I could let it go for less than half of what I was charging for that first one." Know what I said? "Could you do three?"

The best part of the whole process was the dialogue that ensued, with emails flying back and forth as she tried to learn a little bit more about me and my hubby. She even offered to let me come by and add a brush stroke to the first painting, or embed something personal, like a hair strand from each of us, in the paint. I told her that wouldn't be necessary, but that I would love it if she would write a note to my hubby, about what was on her mind as she painted, so I could give it to him with the first two paintings. This is what she wrote: "John, I have been thinking of doing a cosmic series for a number of months and these paintings are my first explorations in that direction. We go outside and look up and usually perceive what we see as a ceiling in the room of our current reality. After all, the weather people call it our 'ceiling.' We have extended that a bit with technology, putting our internet information in 'The Cloud', off there in off-planet space. I think about our connections, our planet's connections to the great expanding universe. I want to explore that direction in my artwork. I have said we are cemented to the earth by gravity, but our imaginations are free to soar and explore the great cosmic spaces. Perhaps my work will be like a little seed and encourage the viewer to move past the 'ceiling.'  Margaret Stone"

Before she began his Valentine's painting, she sent me a note asking which of the first two he liked best, and why. He thought about it for a while, and decided he liked the first painting, where the gatekeepers seem to be watching us and taking notes. He said it comforts him to think there is someone out there watching our struggles -- whatever they may be and regardless of the outcomes -- bearing witness to our stories. That lead to this final volley of emails:

Hi M.,
Just wanted to check and see when you thought the last of our three Gatekeeper paintings would be ready for pick-up. I'd like to give it to my hubby for Valentines on Thursday, if possible.

I was just about to write to you this afternoon and I can't believe it is going on 4pm. It will be ready Wednesday. It was almost completed several days ago and it started taking a different direction, which I wanted to follow. I like it! We have gatekeepers and a scribe in the foreground, and by golly, there is a doorway in the sky to another place. Good thing we have the gatekeepers. :-)

Sounds marvelous! I especially like the idea of a scribe, since I am a blogger and the scribe for our family -- the collector of stories!

That is so cool, Becky. When you see it you can take the fact that you are the family scribe, the storyteller, and work a whole story around it. When I was in process, I had to put the scribe in, had no idea why except she belonged there. She is sitting and writing on a long long scroll and I am not sure yet exactly where it needs to go. Our gatekeepers are hanging about, like in the other paintings, holding on to the papers they have. Yes, I expect you will be able to work out a story around the whole thing. What fun!!

The Gatekeepers and The Scribe
Our final notes:

Margaret, he loved it! Especially that portal into an "alternate universe"!

Becky, I am so glad. Thanks for the feedback. Here's a note for you. You said John had worked as an engineer. Where did he work? When I lived in California, I did a short jaunt working in aerospace. I was given the title Associate Engineer and I was one of the book planners for both the straw man proposal and the final proposal to NASA for the Space Station. We won the bid! So, when the weather people make an occasional announcement to go outside at a given time and look in a given direction to see the Space Station, I do! It is fun to think I was some small part of it -- probably part of my interest in space and other dimensions, etc. Enjoy Valentine's Day, Margaret

We did Margaret. We did indeed.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Happy spring ever-buddy! Despite that coat of frost I spotted on my pickup this morning, spring is definitely upon us here in the Texas Hill Country. No bluebonnets or poppies in bloom yet, other than the ones you see in my new banner photos, but there have been many other signs. First it was the yellow, honey-scented blooms on all of the spiny agarita shrubs. Now it's the grape-Kool-aid-scented panicles on all of our Texas Mountain Laurels!

I've also heard many reports of daffodils in bloom, but all I've spotted so far are these three little clumps of greenery. Note to self: Plant more bulbs come winter!

The clumps of grasses that I trimmed way back in January are now sending up colorful new blades.

The sad news, however, is that it took three whole weeks for me to harvest enough asparagus for two good-sized portions, and now it's time to stop picking!

I read somewhere that if you want to continue having healthy harvests year after year, you shouldn't cut any spears at all the first two years, harvest for only three weeks the 3rd year, 4 the 4th, and so on. At some point you can quit counting, but I don't remember exactly when, and you must always leave some spears to go "ferny" towards the end of the season. Do I have the willpower to resist these slender beauties? Well, that remains to be seen.

I suppose this means it's time to get to work on my spring to-do list, and to get the rest of my veggies planted, huh? Spring slips into sizzlin' summer in the blink of an eye here in these parts, so I've got to make the most of every single moment!

Thursday, February 28, 2013


My art table was a bit of a wreck, so I decided I'd better put a few things away before starting any new projects -- like the art goodies Hubby gave me for Valentines along with my box of candy...

the card I had painted and attached to his gift...

these rub-ons (my very first ones) which I picked up when exploring the new JoAnn's store that opened in south Austin...

and these magazines I picked up to peruse while at the hospital.

Now here's the odd thing. I found those rub-ons hanging amidst a whole wall of scrapbooking/art journaling/mixed media gee-gaws -- part of a collection by an artist named Kathy Davis. There was something about her work and her name that seemed vaguely familiar to me, but I just couldn't put a finger on it. A few days after I bought those rub ons, I decided I needed some reading material for the hospital. I went to a different craft store this time, and picked up the latest issue of Where Women Create. Well, guess who was on the cover of it? Kathy Davis! And, the more I saw of her work, the more certain I was that I knew it from somewhere else -- somewhere that had absolutely nothing to do with scrapbooking, art journalling, or mixed media art. But where?

At first I just flipped through the magazines, looking at the pictures. However, several days later, when we were still at the dang hospital, I went back and started reading the articles. I was midway through the story about Kathy's artistic path when those bells started clanging away. As it turns out, one of her first big jobs was for a company called Recycled Paper Greetings, and, about 18 or 20 years ago, I happened to be a merchandiser for Recycled Paper Greetings. In fact, I still have a huge stack of their cards and envelopes in my supply cabinet. When I ran to check, I found quite a few by an artist named Kathy Davis...

including one of my all time favorites -- the one I sent to all the best teachers that my kids had over the years -- about making a difference in the life of a child. Isn't life funny? So what's on your table?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Well, Hubby's finally home from the hospital, but I wouldn't say we are out of the woods just yet. For one thing, we now have a shelf in our refrigerator designated for "killer drugs". John will need to stay on his antibiotic cocktail for another five or six weeks -- the trade-off for not yanking his pacemaker out, I suppose. The best way to facilitate this is to have them being pumped into him continuously, via a PICC line in his upper arm.

They sent us home with this big ol' cooler full of supplies, which will be replenished once a week when we go back to Infectious Disease Doc's infusion lab to have blood drawn and dressings changed.

In addition to the drugs, we got saline syringes for flushing the lines, heparin syringes, all kinds of sterilizing equipment, plus an extra battery for the pump, in case we forget to recharge it. Between the PICC line, which can get kinks and clogs, and must be kept absolutely sterile; the pump, which is like a mini computer with alarms that go off; and the drugs, which come in bags that must be kept refrigerated, and need to be changed out right at the same time every day, well, that's a whole lot to learn and absorb for this needle-hating, blood-adverse, memory challenged, anti-nurse! We spent an hour and a half at the infusion lab yesterday afternoon, being schooled in all this, and I've already forgotten everything they told me. Good thing they sent us home with two notebooks full of reminders!

The other good thing is that, knowing my limitations, and being rather fond of "gizmos", Hubby actually paid attention to their instructions this time, and can pretty much do everything for himself. My only concern is that he might get a bit lax about sterility issues over time. Guess that's where I come in -- Designated Nagger!

And now, let us hope, we can return to our regularly scheduled programming. I am in desperate need of some time alone with my art supplies!

Monday, February 25, 2013


Well, hubby must be feeling better. He's gettin' mighty pissy about being stuck in the hospital! Liver tests all came back good, and the special heart test this morning showed no signs of bacteria, though that doesn't necessarily mean the pacemaker was not the instigator in this fiasco. Found all that out early  this morning, then sat around waiting for Infectious Guy to come tell us what's next on the agenda. Aaannnddd, we're still waiting.


It's the day for the big test -- the one that will allow them to get a closer look at John's heart, and the pacemaker leads that are running down into it. Hopefully, it will also be a day for getting some answers, though I'm not really certain which one I should be rooting for. Do I want them to find that the staph infection is definitely attached to those pacemaker wires, and run the risk of needing to have the whole thing ripped out? Or would it be better to find that his heart is perfectly clear, but run the risk of not being able to eradicate the infection because they can't locate the source?

Ah well, perhaps that's a choice best left to a higher power. I think instead I shall just pray that, whatever the result, they are able to bring my hubby back to a state of health where he can finally begin to enjoy life again. It's time to get this Winter of Discontent behind us!

Sunday, February 24, 2013


for those who are stuck in the hospital over the weekend! We're kind of on hold until they can do that special echocardiogram on Monday. They have John on two antibiotics at once now -- one drip, and one by mouth which seems to work better on the bacteria that have become attached to something metal. Hubby is slowly gaining back some strength and a bit of appetite, but they are a tad concerned about his liver function numbers, and are running a few tests to see what's up there. Remember friends, just because a drug like, say, Tylenol, is OTC, does NOT mean that you can use it indiscriminately!

The good thing about being in the hospital on the weekend is being able to park right near the entrance instead of on the roof of the parking garage, and actually getting a table to myself in the cafeteria. As you know, I'm an introvert, and not one for making idle chit-chat with strangers. When I dine alone, I always head for a quiet corner and pull out a crossword puzzle so people won't try to converse with me.  So, the other day the cafeteria was jam packed, but there were two tables off in an alcove by themselves -- one empty, and one filled with housekeeping staff. I took the corner seat on the booth side of the empty table. Next thing I knew a bunch more from housekeeping had arrived, mostly men, and after giving me a few strange looks, proceeded to crowd around MY table, even pulling up extra chairs. I was completely blocked in until they had all finished eating. Awk-ward! Well, how was I to know that was their special spot?!!