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The Long Summer

July, 2022. What a long time ago. What a long, dry, warm time ago. We had a summer to rival my childhood memories of growing up wild and free in Nevada under the blistering sun, barefoot on the concrete, bathing suit and towel tucked under our arms as we made our way down to the public outdoor swimming pool. One hundred degrees. Our feet hardened to the concrete, but we still ran across the pavement and the creosote railroad ties. Sprinklers kept the lawns alive.

The Willamette Valley of Oregon heated up and dried out. Sprinklers are for flower beds and vegetable gardens: lawns go dormant in the stifling heat of an unusually dry summer. The mercury dipped and climbed between the normal eighties and the unusual triple digit days. I no longer go barefoot and there is no outdoor public swimming pool I would be caught in (not even a swim suit I would be caught in!).

My mother-in-law had a sudden decline in health. She’s dealt with A-Fib most of her life, but her primary care giver retired and a new doctor took over her care. The A-Fib freaked the new doctor out and new meds were prescribed. All of our lives turned upside down for the rest of the summer (she’s fine now, for the record). My husband was about to spend the best part of the summer in a town across the state from me and I was about to spend the summer alone.

Alone, with the dog.

I like solitude. I was perfectly fine with no one here. I avoided most social contacts. It was a summer for me to work in the yard, clean the house, sip some wine, and enjoy the quiet. If I needed companionship, I knew where to turn, but – for the most part – I soaked in the solitude. Quiet. Just the dog and me. And a single phone call every evening between five and seven o’clock to catch up on the news with my beloved.

He was not having a good summer, but he was making the best of a bad situation.

We spent six weeks apart. He was four and a half hours away (four, if he drove hard). I was here, tending the vegetable garden, the apple trees, and the flower gardens. I deep cleaned the first floor of the house. I socialized on weekends. He socialized on weekends in a tri-county area, watered his mother’s lawns and vegetable garden, and mediated between his siblings.

I loved it, but I missed him. Some social events need a partner in crime, and he’s my go-to. We have mutual friends, but it’s not the same when you are the third wheel. And our oldest grandson came down to visit us, only there wasn’t an “us” during his visit. That was hard: not having Poppa here to visit with Z. Grandkids need to know their grandfathers.

We timed Z’s visit with the Bigfoot Festival in Canby, Oregon. Z’s mom flew down with him. The temps soared into the triple digits and we have no A/c in our 1930’s bungalow because no one has ever really needed it here (and, as a native Nevadan, A/C is overrated). Too hot to sleep in the house, so we did what I did as a child growing up: we camped in the back yard under the stars. We didn’t have Wolfman Jack to DJ the music on our transistor radio. West Coast people my age will recognize that reference: the best DJ ever.

Ruger. Ruger had a bit of trouble accepting new people into his life. Z already towers over his mom and I. Ruger was a tad bit afraid of this gangly giant in his yard. The first night when Z had to go into the house in the dark and come back out, Ruger thought he was seeing a ghost. He barked. His tail tucked. He never raised his hackles, but he was afraid.

Ruger and the Ghost

We went to the Bigfoot Festival. What a waste of money! It was pushing triple digits. We sweated. We looked at vendors and we spent money. There were speakers from different television shows and supposed research people. There were NO exhibits of actual evidence. We are open, but we’re also very logical. The local store that sells Legos™ was the big hit. Screw Bigfoot Festivals that can’t bring in any evidence and only want to sell you junk.

They only spent a week with me.

Don returned home after his weeks were over. His mom was stabilized (it was her meds all along, much like my scare earlier this year). Ruger was over the moon. I am happy. I was beginning to get a little lonely.

Summer has been over for a few weeks, but the weather is only now beginning to change. I think it stayed nice for a few weeks so Don and I could enjoy it together. I just wish he had been here to visit with Z.

Dear Daughter

Your anniversary is coming up this week. Six years. I want to wish you a Happy Anniversary, but I don’t know how to reach you – and I can’t say I like the person you married. Nevertheless: I hope you have a good anniversary. You never needed my approval for who you chose to be your life-mate. I hope you understand that.

I wanted to be present when you got married. I remember letting you try on my mother’s hand-made wedding dress and you looked so pretty in it. You took it home. I thought that my husband would walk you down the aisle. I think that was the second-to-last time I saw you. The next time I saw you, you had been married for a few months and I convinced you that I needed to bring you a wedding gift so you made time in your day to accommodate me.

You returned some items of mine, but not the wedding dress. I should have asked after the dress. It was my wedding dress as well. I didn’t know it was going to be the last time I would see you in person. I didn’t know I was a trigger for your anxiety. I apologize for that.

You were emotionally destroyed before you ever came into our household and I wish I had known what to do with your pain. I tried to let you direct our steps: did you want counseling? No. Did you want to talk? Some. Should I treat you like my very own child? Yes.

But those were not the real answers, were they? You needed counseling. You needed to talk to someone other than me. You needed to be treated differently than our cousins. You were lost, abandoned, alone, defiant. I tried to set the bar high but you wanted me to set the bar low. And now we both are lost to each other.

I want you to know that I was always proud of you. You made your way without asking for much help. When you did ask for help, I tried to be there, and while I may have been irritated at the choices you made to get you in the situations you found yourself in, I was proud that you found the courage to ask for help in getting out of those situations. You were the child who had to learn the hard way.

I have respected your need for distance. I respect your choice of mate, of lifestyle, of boundaries. But I want you to know that I miss you. I miss your sharp humor. I miss your critical observations. I miss your smile.

I did not know you were so damaged. Your little brother and sister are damaged, too. No one should lose a beloved mother at a young age and have to be raised by strangers. I want you to know I did my best, but I understand it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have the understanding or the resources.

I am not going to carry that guilt to the grave. I have forgiven myself, even if you never forgive me. I will love you forever, even if I never hear from you again. Your cousins – your brother and sister – told me to let it go. And here I am: telling you that I love you, I forgive you, I ask for your forgiveness – but I am letting you go.

These are your choices now, not something I have done to you. I wish you a happy anniversary with the man who has chosen to stand beside you. That’s it, kiddo.

Shalom.

May Musings

                It is May. The month of flowers and weeding. Lots and lots of weeding. I do little else in May: the house can get dirty, the houseplants wilt, and artwork go by the wayside. Genealogy is an obsession that can wait until the last weed is pulled and flower bed edged. Everything in my world is about dirt: the texture, the smell, the tiny creatures that live within it, and the clumps of it that cling to the roots of the weeds I just pulled. Dirt under my fingernails, behind my ears, and pressed into the fabric of my jeans. Dirt cleanses my mind.

                Because we have had a wetter (than usual) April, May has brought forth more weeds. I feel like I am fighting a losing battle.

                Weeds are subjective. There are some plants you do not want in your garden because f how invasive and plant-soul-sucking (meaning they crowd out plants you want to grow) they are. Herb Robert (“Stinky Bob”, St. Robert’s Herb, Geranium Robertianum) is one of the most invasive in this area. Pretty pink flowers, edibility, and herbal uses aside: Stinky Bob is a weed to eradicate. Chickweed in all of its forms. CLOVER. Grass – Lord, GRASS. I despise grass. Crab grass, saw grass, clumping grass – I don’t know the names of the invasive grasses in my flower beds, but I know how much I despise grass. I’m allergic to all grass.

                But – I love foxglove, forget-me-nots, Japanese anemones, daisies, “baby-blue-eyes”, and speedwells – all considered “weeds” by others. We allow dandelions and false dandelions to grow, flower, and seed in our lawn (sorry, neighbors with the chemical lawns). Native milkweeds make their way under the concrete and into the garage on deep runner roots. I have daylilies in the public right-of-way (should the city ever develop the area, I won’t be out much in terms of flowers, but they are pretty when they bloom).

                Sword ferns are a weed in the Pacific Northwest. I have spaces for ferns.

I have crocosmia that needs reined in and Shasta daisies ushing the limits of their location. Asters, “pearly everlasting”, and carnations that just seem to grow despite everything. The peonies – and I have a lot of peonies – need mulched and fertilized.

My flower beds are a mix of natives and perennials I like. I don’t do much with annuals, except to plant marigolds around my roses every year to fight off aphids and the petunias I plant in hanging planters. My fuschias are “hardy” ones that dies back in the winter and come back up in the spring. I once thought that going “all perennials” would make each growing season easier except there’s the profusion of weeds that are so difficult to eradicate naturally.

Tomorrow (or Sunday) I will apply a mix of vinegar+salt+Dawn dishwashing soap to some of the hard-to-weed areas. I’m using professional grade vinegar (Home Depot): one gallon+1 cup cheap salt + TBS of Dawn. I’ll spray it on the ivy, the grasses, the “stinky Bob”. I can’t use it near my flowers. It won’t kill the roots – at first. Multiple applications will eventually kill the roots. It doesn’t have a half life like commercial herbicides. (But I will confess to having used Round Up on Himalayan blackberries, the scourge of the PNW – but I now have those mostly under control and just stripping them of leaves kills them: can’t grow chlorophyll which feeds the stems.)

English ivy is harder to kill: the roots are under my neighbor’s fences but the plants grow on my side of the fences. The neighbors poison everything, but as long as ivy can find a place to get chlorophyll, it thrives. My side of the yard. I am hoping my vinegar solution will work on the ivy. I have a week of nice weather for it to soak into those leaves and kill them.

This is my life every March-June. Everything else falls to the side until I get the flower beds whipped into some sort of order.  Then the weather gets warm and I avoid the loft where my computer is. And, finally, the season of dead-heading comes upon us, but only those plants that the birds will not use for foraging throughout the winter. I’ll mulch and make a final pass at weeding in the hopes that I will beat the grasses back before Spring comes around again.

I always lose.

I have debated what to write for my next blog post. 2022 has brought about quite a few changes in my heart and my goals, and it has caused me to consider where I want to go with this rambling blog of mine.

I do want to touch on genealogy here and there. Family stories and family tree findings. I will be migrating all of my art related posts to this blog as I am shutting down my “professional” (ha!) website for my artwork and promising myself to do most of my marketing on Facebook and Instagram from here on – but only the finished images. Here is a place for me to write about how I got to the finished image so I can remember the process and keep it public in hopes that it will inspire some other faltering artist. I also want to record things that go on in my life between gardening (we are headed into that season again) and those I love (especially the subsequent generations).

I did go in and delete certain pages as I feel they no longer apply to the ME in 2022. No little bios of my children who I was still homeschooling when I started the blog. The oldest has moved on to become a homeschooling mom (reluctantly) of four children. I understand the “reluctantly” as I felt like my own time during the homeschooling years was just putting off my own dreams and plans for the future. But I also felt (as she does) that my children were more important than any feeble plans I had. I think I did pretty well.

The second child died at the age of 34. I’m still grieving. I am involved with a group Bible study called “GriefShare” and it is helping some. I did decide that any advice I would pass on to another grieving parent would be this: don’t listen to anyone who offers you a “Christian platitude”, e.g. “God had a better plan..” I stop short of advising anyone from slapping said Sister or Brother in the face with the Bible, but only out of a better conscience. I would slap them. My husband and I are wading through our grief and I share with my daughter-in-love and daughter often. I have resources that many bereaved parents and spouses do not have. I am grateful, but I still hurt deeply.

The third child… Well. I know many adult friends who suffered some sort of trauma at the hands of their own parents, and many of those friends are adoptees. I listen. I read. I respect her distance and her decision to cut us out of her life: her younger siblings, my husband and I, our children, and so many other relatives. I can’t pretend I understand, but it isn’t about my understanding, is it? It’s about her perception of her childhood, the trauma of losing both of her parents, and choosing to live with people who were very different from the mother she loved. It has been four years… or five? – since I last saw her in person or actually spoke to her. Her choice, not mine. I grieve the loss of that relationship but I am finding it easier to let go of because I know she is well, I know she contacts some of her old friends and some relatives, and I know that it was her choice, not mine.

I could follow that rabbit hole into a dissemination of my own childhood and my neglectful parents, but I also know how much I was loved by those people. They weren’t perfect but they would have laid their lives down for me or for either of my siblings – or the countless other young people they helped along the way. I was raised by some incredible human beings with large flaws and larger hearts.

2022 has been a muddle of health concerns. I realized early on that I could no longer push a grocery cart the length of our local Fred Meyers (Kroger on steroids). Every muscle hurt and my breath came up short. I started walking to an app that measures my steps and how far I have walked. I figured I was simply out of shape due to the past two years of Covid., grief, and Covid. And I developed a DVT (blood clot) in my left lag.

I think that would have been enough, but the sonogram specialist freaked and I ended up waiting 4.5 hours in the emergency department of the local hospital only to be told to “go home”. The ECG they took showed an anomaly and they recommended I see a cardiologist and have an echo cardiogram. My primary also freaked and asked my to NOT continue with my exercise regimen. “Light” work only and “strolling” only.

Two weeks later, the cardiologist dispelled any of that. He wants me to pursue my walking itinerary to the point of “not being able to sing, but being able to talk”. He changed my blood pressure meds. He took ‘Heart Disease’ off the table. I still have the DVT, but I am – once again – free to push my physical body to the limit (which isn’t much: I’m up to a whole 2/3’s of a mile in a single walk). But I feel better about the potential prognosis. And I’ve gotten a LOT of gardening done as it is the first week of April and I am plant crazy.

This Saturday is “Garden Palooza” back for the first time since 2018. I will spend money buying perennials. Wednesday is the stress test on a tread mill. I will see how that goes. Right now, I am hoping for the Dx of “you’re just out of shape” and “nothing wrong with your heart”. I have a rock wall to build. I’ve been planning this particular wall for two years.

I also have several “pop up” art shows to attend for the summer. I need to hawk my wares. I want the exposure. I will be blogging about those more in the upcoming days. Art is at the heart of my soul.

Resin Pour

My latest projects have to do with resin pour. I had a kit as a teenager but lost interest in the art for whatever reason (I was a teenager, what can I say?). I’ve had the supplies in my locker for a few years now but just recently decided to try some pours with photos of my own art (reduced, considerably) and some molds I have.

The largest (oblong) is 1.5″ long and the smallest (square) is 3/4×3/4″. The biggest issue was deciding how much resin to mix at a time. A full teaspoon was too little, two tablespoons was too much. I also learned to stir the mixture slower as you get fewer bubbles when you do the final pours.

You can easily tell which ones have too many bubbles. Oh well. These were silicone molds (except the squirrel with the camera).

I’ve had these little metal frames for jewelry around FOREVER. It never occurred to me to use resin to seal a photo inside them. The photos started as 3×3″, but I reduced them to fit the frames.

I’m addicted. I’ve started a new line of things to sell. 🙂

Physical heart issues, I should clarify: Issues *of* the heart can be harder to recognize and I’m still learning.

The past week has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for me emotionally. I noticed I had some swelling in my left leg on (or around) the 8th of February. It raised a little red flag, but the swelling wasn’t severe, so I filed it under “check that out daily”. I knew it could be the sign of a blood clot, but I also knew I hadn’t injured my leg in any way. My brother had a clot in his leg around ten years ago, but he had an injury to his leg that precipitated the clot.

Friday morning, the 11th, my leg was taut and obviously swollen. I showed my husband and he noticed the difference between my legs. We had plans for the afternoon, but I came upstairs to my studio and called my primary caregiver’s office anyway. They could get me in at the same time we had plans for: oops. So we changed plans slightly: doctor first, skip the shopping trip to Home Depot, but go out for an early Valentine’s dinner anyway.

My primary caregiver is a Nurse Practitioner and I truly adore this woman. She examined my leg, tossed out a few scary terms like “blood clot” and “heart failure”. Blood clot was the foremost theory. But you know how your mind runs away with things? Yeah, my mind did exactly that.

I did put my leg up the next few days and the swelling all but disappeared. I called and scheduled a sonogram for as soon as I could get one, which was yesterday. I also let close family members know what was going on (this is important because my parents never let us kids in on any major medical issues whey were having, or they would tell my brother but not me, or me but not my brother: I won’t do that).

Well, I had the sonogram done. I arrived early and was called back to the lab early: no waiting! This just never happens, so I should have taken a hint: “the day is not over yet”. The sonogram itself was interesting: the technician sometimes punched my leg where the vein was to get a stop and flow of the valve (I could hear the “whoosh” of blood on the ultrasound machine). I remember thinking I should have checked to see if there was any arnica in my purse because I was (for sure) going to bruise from all that punching and pressing (I didn’t bruise, I discovered I did have arnica in my purse 24 hours later).

The tech escorted me back to the waiting room while she attempted to call my primary care give and discuss the results with her (which automatically reads: “there are results to discuss”). I had a 2:30 lunch date with an old friend that was looming on the clock in the waiting room. When the tech reappeared, I still had 30 minutes before I had to head north to the restaurant we were meeting at – except…

Except the tech was agitated. She had not been able to reach my primary caregiver. She left two voice mails and was “dropped” by the system once. She was making an executive decision (and if you know me, you know I LOVE people who are capable of making executive decisions that are above their pay grade and they make them anyway. I really hate wishy-washy people who hem and haw about making that decision when it is clearly the only decision to be made.

She broke protocol to tell me mt test results without my doctor being present, and she made the decision that I should go to the ER to be seen (and after reading the MyChart notes this morning, it was the decision my NP would have made. I was, after all, in the same building as the ER). I was escorted by the tech to the other side of the hospital to the ER waiting room where she explained to the receiving clerk what was going on. And left me.

I texted my friend first: cancel lunch. Called my husband next: I don’t know what’s up, but I do have an acute blood clot in my left leg and I am in the ER waiting room and I have no idea what to expect. Texted the people closest to me, including two precious prayer groups. Turned my phone onto airplane mode because I didn’t have a charger with me and I didn’t know when I would have a chance to charge it again.

LET THE WAITING BEGIN. It’s a small hospital with a small ER waiting room. And I digress here from knowing the symptoms (which I pretty much covered in the first paragraph) to people watching. I had no idea how much people watching I would get in. I *felt* fine. No pain, no chest tightness or pain, no struggling to breathe: just a pesky swollen leg (but not too badly swollen) and a Dx of an “acute blood clot). (My brother texted back: “Why can’t it be an ugly clot?” Me: “Because I *like* cute!”)

There were some pitifully skinny teenagers in Emo clothes who came in. One was with her mother. The other was with a girlfriend of friend who wore funny slippers on her feet and outweighed him by threefold. She had a tiny orange plastic purse just large enough for her ID and debit/credit cards which he held onto for her. There was a drama queen, an older guy who complained about the wait and who took to groaning and coughing loudly to get attention (I don’t know, maybe he really hurt that much? How could I know, not being in his shoes? Still, I labeled him a drama queen). A girl who looked five shades too pale, who moped and tried to nap, but still had the nerve to joke with the National Guard guy who was looking for someone. A Hispanic guy who must have been injured on the job, information I picked up from his coworker who kept leaving the waiting room to talk to someone who was calling to check in on the status (a foreman, I would guess, by the snippets of conversation). An elderly man in his late 80’s or early 90’s who fell onto his side and injured (or broke) his shoulder and hip. He was with his daughter who was on the phone whispering and cancelling dinner plans and letting her adult children know that Grandpa was in pain at the hospital. They took him back twice for x-rays.

I waited four and a half hours. I played a few games on my phone. Rued that I didn’t bring my Kindle. Wondered if any of the others in the room had as wonderful a support system as I have. Thanked my support system (mentally) a dozen times. Prayed for everyone else. Concentrated on NOT thinking about myself, but about putting all of these before me (and, indeed, most of them were taken care of before me, except the poor girl who was five shades too pale). She did arrive after me, but nearly everyone else was after me. I guess she & I just didn’t make it up the triage notch. I do hope she got hep for whatever was wrong and that she feels better today.

Around 4:15, I was finally called back to a private room. Until that time, honestly, all I heard coming out of the actual ER was that there ‘were no rooms available, do you mind being in the hall on a gurney while we see to you?” I was kind of embarrassed to get a private room. But, there I was, with no idea as to whether or not I was spending the night or having surgery (not usually how they tackle blood clots) and how much of this was Medicare going to cover (a question I will not have the answer until I get the bill). The nurse drew more blood and ran the same panels my doctor had just run five days earlier, but I guess they needed to see if anything had changed since then).

My husband showed up about that time. He had waited until he thought I would probably be in a room (good guess!) and until the dog was settled enough to corral him in a kennel (you’d have to know the dog). He could at least take my mind off of myself for the last hour of waiting. I really didn’t want to be focused on myself: my imagination can do the greatest damage. I was already living one of my “worst case scenarios” from the night before: being in the ER for the clot!

The denouement: The ER doctor came in (finally). Did I know anything about blood clot treatment? I told him I had enough knowledge to be scared: my brother injured his leg and had a blood clot and they prescribed Warfarin or coumadin. I didn’t want to give up leafy greens or any of my Vitamin K foods.

Fortunately, they prescribe one of those TV commercial medications for dissolving blood clots now: Eliquis. The only side effect is that I could, possibly, worst case scenario, bleed to death. No, really. Thin blood, less clotting ability. Oh, and I would bruise easily.. As in, more easily than I already bruise. As my husband joked, “She already bruises if you just look sideways at her.” As is, I better have that arnica ALWAYS in my purse going forward.

The point of this entire tale is this: if I had not known that the swelling in just one of my legs was not natural, I may not have called my primary care giver in the first place. Then I probably wouldn’t have had an untrasound that eventually led to me waiting for hours in the ER waiting room only to be told, “Take two of these and go home”.

No, the blood clot would have just loosened in the vein in my ankle and made its way into the lining of my lungs, shutting down my ability to draw a full breath and resulting in an ambulance ride to the hospital and God-knows-what-else. Or it would have made its way to me heart and stopped it altogether (only after it depleted my ability to breathe).

Know the symptoms. If one leg swells more than the other and it’s never done that before… Call your doctor. My brother’s was caused by an injury and he called his doctor. Mine is called a “predatory” clot: no injury precipitated it. But I knew the symptoms because of my brother’s experience. And if you have to sit in the ER waiting your turn, remember this: other people are hurting more than you right now.

Be patient. Be kind. Know the symptoms.

I love you.

Gung Hay Fat Choy.

That was always written on the chalkboard by the back door in my childhood home on February 2nd. My dad loved Chinese New Year. I think he liked it mostly for the “Fat Choy” part. I never quite understood why it stood out to him but the memory persists even though the Chinese New year always changes dates. It runs from sometime in January or February to the following January or February. I still celebrate it eve though Dad has been gone since 2011 and I can’t remember the last time he uttered those word, “Gung Hay Fay Choy!”

I was born in The Year of the Monkey. I despise monkeys. There was a woman who lived across the street from us when I was in Middle School. Her name was (ironically) Jackie. She had a “pet” spider monkey. Monkeys do not make pets. They have incisors. They fling feces at people. They can be cannibalistic. I hated that monkey as much as it hated the neighborhood children. When it would escape, it would sit on the wires over the places where we would play and it would fling feces at us and bare its yellowed and sharp canines. Our parents would have to call the fire department which, in turn, would have to contact Jackie so she could corral the little monster. If you like monkeys, kindly do not comment. I despise all monkeys.

I had a brilliant idea this year. The Chinese horoscope has twelve Zodiac animals. I painted Zodiac animals for my daughter-in-love, her brother and his wife, and their combined children plus my son’s children by his first wife. They just received the package I mailed (in hopes of arriving on 2/1/22, Chinese New Years’ for 2022). Simple cards.

2022 is The Year of the Tiger Our son was a Tiger.

These were simple cards. I hope my attempt at Chinese characters passes muster. I also hope my grandchildren and great nieces treasure these.

Rescues

Last weekend one of our friends gifted me with several unfinished clay creations he found in the trash bin. He works as a janitor at a local high school where the art teacher disposes of unclaimed half-finished creations (and sometimes finished but unclaimed pieces). These pieces of art are not necessarily “bad”, they just are unclaimed and not relevant to the instructor. The students moved on, got bored, or graduated. My friend, fortunately, has an eye for the beauty in the discards and he often gifts some to me.

It happened that since I posted about doing “art rescues” last week that three of the items he brought to me are some sort of animal, hence fitting into my theme. Before I get into the pieces, let me digress a little. A Creative friend of mine (“Creative” is a title, therefore capitalized) ran with the newest idea of additions to my artist “zoo” (see my other website, which has sadly not been updated in a year: twocrowfeatherwoman.com). She thinks I should display the rescues like one would display rescued pets, with a little blurb about their imagined past and their current adoption status (plus adoption fee). I like it.

We both decided I should have a name for this part of my zoo. She was going for an orphanage title, but I lean toward something akin to Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I’m leaning heavily toward “Miss Corvid” or “Miss Corvidae” either of which is a continuation of the Two crow Feather Woman theme for my artist’s studio name. If you feel inspired, please weigh in in the comments section.

Of the four items my friend gave me, the Dia de los Muertos mask was the least inspiring. My birthday falls on the Day of the Dead (November 2nd) so I should feel inspired, right? It’s just that all the masks I have seen were mundane. A quick search of images on the Internet showed me just how wrong my assumption was. The raw mask is missing some pieces of clay, but that is what makes it “fun”. I used the same tissue paper/liquid starch/varnish style I used in my previous blog.

The second item now… It was half-painted and I forgot to take “before” photos, so what I *did* do, was take “before” photos halfway through the project. Acrylic paint and varnish. Note: all of these items have been fired once, but I do not have access to a kiln, so I don’t worry about a second firing. I just paint and varnish.

I have a grandson who would love that, so it may become a birthday present.

The bear in a box was a little harder to wrap my head around. The Original Artist had a rough time with the front paws, leaving the left arm looking more like a stub than a paw.

I took apart a “fish hook” earring hook, snipped it to size, and hot-glues it into position for the hook. Aluminum foil glued down tight and a double coat of silver paint finished off the “hook” effect. Now paw, no problem. I now have a polar bear with a hook for a paw. I left the inside unfinished. I figure it will be a boy’s “treasure” box for found items like feathers, rocks, screws, nails, and robin’s egg shells. I might have a grandchild in mind as well.

The LAST item, now…

This was really rough: sharp edges on the handle and a gaping hole for the mouth. It looked like something a bored high school student would make, no care at all about the carving and the smoothing of edges, although this particular artist paid a great deal of attention to the eyes.

I got out the Dremel and gave all of the rough edges a light sanding. I created the teeth with air dry clay pressed into that gaping hole. The wart on the nose was a flaw in the original. Because it has only been fired once and I painted it with your garden variety of acrylic craft paints, it isn’t something you would want to drink out of (if you could, it isn’t actually very conducive to being an actual mug). It would make a great pencil holder or just something odd to sit on a shelf and gather dust while staring at you with that grimace on its face. I’m certain the Original Artist had something much “darker” in mind, but this is the cup rescued.

I think my “rescue zoo” is getting a good start.

Jaci’s Rescues

I strayed away from mini portraits of animals this past month. I decided to work on some projects that have been gathering dust, but which are near to my heart. My “rescues”: creatures I have found at yard sales or thrift stores that have been sorely abused by the previous artist.

My first rescues were this pair of plastic dove decoys. They were plain gray and boring. I decided to do a confetti of tissue paper and liquid starch (the glue), They just gather dust.

My second rescue was Daphne. I blogged about her restoration here. She has been painted twice since I rescued her, and I consider her my “mascot”. She hangs out inside the house during the rainy months and outside in the nicer months. I used house paint on her. You can purchase little cans that hold 8 ounces (one cup) of paint at any hardware store. I keep a variety on hand.

I picked up this poor wooden dog at a yard sale. His restoration story was published here. I “painted” him with tissue paper and liquid starch. A coat of polyurethane topped him. He’s just been gathering dust while I decide what to do with him.

I found this poor duck in May of 2018. It was dressed in a Santa suit, of all things! I removed the cape and hat, but it was still a sad looking duck. It wasn’t even a proper duck that one could identify in a bird book. It has languished in my studio for the past four years, waiting for me to decide what to do with it.

I opted for the tissue paper and liquid starch approach.

The back “feathers” are not done with tissue paper, but with the remains of a bald-faced hornet’s nest I found on a hike. I finished him with a simple coating of interior varnish purchased at the craft store.

It needs a name.

I told all this to one of my creative friends and said I was thinking of selling them as “Jaci’s Rescues”. She thought I should create an entire “orphanage” of the rescues. I need a catchy name, though. And little “biographies” of all the rescues.

I also need to visit a few thrift stores in the near future to all to my Zoo.

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

I want to write so much more, but there just aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to express how much it has meant to have people come up beside us this past year. Cousins, friends, strangers, new friends, old friends, Internet people.

Kindness is the greatest gift on Christmas, and the love shown through so many.

And to those who have gone on before us – so many in the past year!  – I think of you often, and the ones you left behind. Friends, spouses, parents, grandparent, siblings, children – you are all in a better place than those of us who remain are, but we carry on here so we can make certain your legacy is never lost.

To all of us who are grieving this Christmas, it’s okay. I hope that I can come up beside you and stand with you. Your loved one was very special. Take your time. Cry. Talk about them. Tell stories. Laugh. Oh, please laugh.

I have always believed in the Miracle of Christmas. Yes, the Birth in that far away stable, a feed bin (manger) for a bed, but also in the mystery of a red-suited fat man who could come into a house with no chimney (or even down a chimney with a fire in it and not get burned!). I believe in Christmas ornaments, no matter how strange. Traditions. Twinkle lights.

Silver bells.

Bells on bobtail. (His tail was bobbed to keep snow from forming ice balls in it, I’m certain – who wants to brush ice balls out of a horse’s tail, let alone pick them out of his hooves?).

The angels bending near the earth.

A star shining so bright that astronomers from far away could follow it to a tiny town in the Middle East.

The joy on children’s faces as they rip into their presents.

Fudge, cookies, and all-day snacks.

SNOW. So many of my own childhood memories swirl around snow on Christmas Day. Sledding, riding inner tubes, playing until I could feel my numb toes rolling around in the tips of my boots. My poor cousin coming down with rheumatic fever after a week spent with us in the icy depths of a Nevada winter.

And death. My Gramps died on December 22, 1972. Dad was with him in St. Anthony, Idaho, and called to say he wouldn’t be home until late on Christmas Day. We were to go ahead with Christmas, but we kids decided not to. It wasn’t Christmas without the Old Grouch home. So, we waited and watched until he pulled into his parking space out front.

We spent Christmas in 2019 in Phoenix with our daughter and her four kids. We spent Christmas in 2020 with our daughter-in-law and her six kids. This year, we spoil the dog in in the comfort of our own home and hope the snow predictions are right on.

Whatever you do, whoever you miss, whoever you mourn – I wish you a simple and happy Christmas. I don’t even care if you believe. Just find a way to smile.

Seasons Greetings.