This is not the post I thought I was going to write tonight. That one was about art. Imagine that! This being an art blog and all.

And then I saw something FirstBorn posted on FaceBook.

Himself, my handsome brave crazy-ass son, legs dangling from an amusement park ride, the sole purpose of which is to go straight up. And then…STRAIGHT DOWNNNNNNNNNNNN. As fast fast FAST as possible.

The kind of ride you do not go on immediately after lunch.

The kind of ride I do not go on EVER. Ever ever ever NEVER.

The kind of ride my adrenalin junkie son has loved since he was tall enough for The. Sign.

I looked at the photo and saw his legs hanging down. Yep, I’d recognize them anywhere. Then I saw a pair of legs next to his. Teeny tiny little legs that didn’t hang down so much as stuck out. And I realized holy effing crap! That’s my GRANDAUGHTER on the ride with him. My too-young-for-kindergarden-for-at-least-another-year granddaughter.

Who apparently has her Daddy’s gravity defying fearlessness. Because she likes it so much they went back the next weekend and rode it at least 10 more times.

Are you dizzy yet?

There’s a piece of me, the grandma part, that screams nooooooooooooo! It’s dangerous. Someone could get hurt. She should stick to the Merry-Go-Round. Or better yet, stay home and color. Something safe.

But there’s another piece of me, another grandma part, that is jumping up and down whistling and clapping and doing hand springs and back flips because I’m thrilled, positively absolutely thrilled that this girl-child is being allowed, encouraged, to be FEARLESS.

It’s easy to raise a fearful child. Just tell them they’re too young, too small, not ready yet. Tell them they can do something later, when they’re older. I was raised that way. I was the youngest, the baby of the family. Never able to do what the big kids did because, well, they were bigger. Older. More capable.

And so I grew up never believing I was ready for anything. Other people published novels, wrote the screenplay, started the company. Other people who were more…grown up.

I’m finally figuring out how wrong that inner programming was. Finally. And it’s about time.

Does this mean there’s a totally insanely scary amusement park ride in my future? Hell no. But I will gladly wave to my granddaughter from down below. Will take photographs and blow kisses and never, ever let her know that it scares the shit out of me.

I will never hold her back from being fearless.

And I WILL finish that novel. Count on it.

Oh My Preciousssssss

I called my friend Harriet once, around the time FirstBorn was thirteen. Maybe fourteen. Whatever…he was feeling his soon-to-be manly oats and was a total, absolute pain in the ass.

I wanted to kill him.

Oh, indeed I did. But first I needed to find out if a jury of my peers, i.e, mothers of teens, would put me away for life or give me a high five and send me to a spa. Prison was out, horizontal stripes make my ass look fat. But a spa? I could handle that.

So I called Harriet and asked if it was against the law if I did away with my son. Figured her kid, a few years older than mine, was still alive. I wanted to know if it was by choice or grand design.

She told me it was perfectly alright to kill him, as long as I ATE him. She said it with conviction, without any hesitation, so I knew it must be true.

But there wasn’t enough Maalox in the world to pull that one off.

I’m kind of glad I stuck it out with FirstBorn. He turned out okay. Pretty good, actually. And now when he calls and tells me what’s going on with Princess GrandDaughter, I find myself laughing and wheezing and enjoying myself immensely.

Because grandchildren are the best payback.

And now that we’ve established that, I’m going to put on my Arty Life hat and tell you to gather ’round. Because I don’t want to shout, not on the interwebs, not where everyone can hear me. Because they might not understand when I say artists must kill their children.

No no no…don’t jump to any conclusions and call me as your defense witness. The children I’m talking about the ones that bleed paint. Or clay. The ones you’ve put your heart and soul in and then one day you look at them and think you suck. Or maybe just I can do better than this.

The number one lesson I teach my students is nothing you do is precious. You need to be free to experiment and push beyond your comfort zone in order to find your creative boundaries. And once you find them you need to push past them too.

It’s incredibly liberating to create without attachment to the outcome.

This was an assignment from Judy Wise and Stephanie Lee’s Plaster Workshop. I carved a portrait of a young girl into a plaster covered board and then painted it. There was nothing wrong with it, I’m sure someone would’ve bought it some day. But to me it was an assignment. I didn’t feel my artist voice. So after letting her hang around the studio for a couple of months, I whipped out some joint compound and had my way with her.

Looks like buttercream icing, doesn’t it? But it’s not, I assure you it was death-in-a-can for the poor dear. But her passing gave rise to this…

One of my all time favorite pieces. Something from the sweet creative spot.

The title? Portrait of a Young Girl, Revisited. Of course.



The Scream

The Scream

You see that face? That sweet, innocent face?

That sweet little innocent face put TEN YEARS on me in a matter of three seconds. Turned my hair white. Sent my heart leaping from my chest in fear only a mother can know. Only a mother who KNOWS that the end has come.

She was around the age you see up there, outside in the backyard playing with her brother. I was in the kitchen making lunch. Or dinner. I don’t remember exactly what.

But I’ll never forget the SCREAM.

High C. Higher than that. A stratosphere piercing wail capable of bringing down passing aircraft. I. Am. NOT. Exaggerating. Not at all. A cry so awful, so dramatic it could only mean one thing. Three things. Blood. Broken bones. Death.

I saw it in my mind’s eye. AWFUL THINGS!!! Arterial spewing. Jagged bone jutting through muscle, flesh and princess tights. Lifeless children (except the screamer) tangled in the swings.

I dropped what I was doing. Raced out the backdoor. Took in the sight before me in a nanosecond. Two children, both alive. The screamer upright, standing next to the swing. Looking for all the world like she was posing for Edvard Munch. Her brother standing nearby begging her to stop.

No blood. No broken bones. No fallen aircraft, monsters or rabid dogs.

Just. A. Spider. A little, bitty spider. A spider that wasn’t even there anymore, most likely incinerated by her hot flaming piercing FREAKIN’ scream.

I fell to my knees, hugged her tightly, kissed her sweaty little cheeks. And then when things settled down I told both children that screams like that were only for  the most dire emergencies. For blood. Broken bones. Severed body parts. And that Mommy most likely would not survive another one.

Well, I gave them the kid version. But they knew what I meant.

We all survived. They grew up.

The screamer graduated with honors from one of the world’s top universities.

And moved back home because there aren’t any jobs.

I was sitting on the sofa an hour or so ago. Exhausted to the point of vegetation. It was late. Probably 10. Quite dark when she took one of the dogs out in the back yard. Not a fancy civilized back yard, just a fenced in area to keep the coyotes out. And the bears. And mountain lions.

I was sitting here thinking I was going to skip writing a post tonight. I was too tired. I was okay with that decision and was settling in even deeper on the sofa…we have very comfortable furniture, a little ragged but comfy… I was almost drifting off when I heard THE SCREAM.


The same scream. Except this time she’s an adult. And we live in the country. Wild animals. Hungry animals. And dogs so small, they’re no protection, just appetizers.

Oh. Dear. God.

I tossed the laptop aside, ran to the door, fully prepared to fight off a bear, wrestle a dog or my daughter from the jaws of a lion. We reached the door at the same time. Me from the safety of the living room, daughter from the wilderness. The dog was with her. I saw no blood, broken bones, gaping wounds.

WHAT??? What what what what WHAT?????

It took a few seconds for her to settle down, to explain what happened. And when she did, she sounded like she had a world class wedgie and a few hits of helium. But I was able to piece it together. Mothers can do that, you know.

We have to.

And if she ever sees another moth and screams like that again, well, I’m not about to lose any more decades over creepy crawly flying things, if you know what I mean.

Even if it was a really BIG moth.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Holy crap! Today was Memorial Day in the US…and you know what that means…Shopping! Barbecues! White shoes until Labor Day! Flags! Flags! More flags and bunting!!! Because people died and we have to show our respect, right?

Banks closed. Stores open.

WTF??? Well gather ’round, girls an’ boys, ’cause Arty Life has a story to tell you.

Once Thrice upon a time my son was in Iraq.

He was not there for the scenery.

I can say, without a doubt, that I spent all three of his deployments AND the time in between deployments AND the four years after he got out when they could still call him back…I spent all that time dwelling in the various stages of bat-shit crazyland.


It ain’t easy being a warrior mom. In fact it sucks.

Because war sucks.

On his 21st birthday, FirstBorn told me he felt like he was 40. Said his hair was coming in gray. Well hell, he did some growing up in a way that most of us will NEVER know. But in the end we were lucky. He came home.

But not all of his friends did.

I stopped painting back then, started writing. Writing when life was one-step-at-a-time-make-it-through-another-day-fragile. When every car coming up the lane was cause to stop and hold my breath until it passed our drive.

When I didn’t know if I would ever see my son again.

I wrote. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.

I wrote my heart. And I kept it close. Shared parts of it with one or two friends.

They read it and gently suggested I ‘talk’ to someone.

Someone who wouldn’t have a clue. Who wouldn’t understand.  Who didn’t know what it was like to have people shooting at their kid. Don’t think so.

So I ‘talked’ to my computer. For years.

And in the end, I came home too.



Ice Cream

Got my feet up on the coffee table. Computer on the lap. Dog by my side. One of ’em anyway. One dog. One side.

I left the camera in the studio, no new photos tonight. I could walk on down and fetch it but then I’d get eaten by a bear. Which means you still wouldn’t get any photos. On top of that I’d be blogging from the other side and I’m not so sure I’d care much about blogging over there.

Eternity has it’s privileges, after all. And blogging…that’s soooo early 21st century.

I worked with a woman once who’d had a near death experience. She died from a pulmonary embolism. Not nearly as dramatic as a bear attack but an interesting story none the less. She went through the whole enchilada of witnessing the scene from above her hospital bed. Floating off…the white light. She was able to tell the doctors things that were said after she was supposedly dead. Things she saw. But she came back. I can’t remember why. Maybe for her kids. They were young and hadn’t turned on her yet.

susan hilary william

This photo was taken the summer I took the kids to Norway. We spent six weeks running around the woods, clambering over rocky hillsides. Not so much as a skinned knee. A couple days after coming home I took a tumble with the help of a large dog crashing into me at warp speed. My legs went up, head went down. On concrete. Of course I didn’t know any of that. I was just a formless being with other formless beings and I was pissed off. I wanted KIDS. I mean, LOOK at them. Look how CUTE they were. How could I be a mom WITHOUT A BODY??? And then the formless beings said some sort of celestial version of okay, okay, go back to your kids. And JUST LIKE THAT…poof… I re-entered my body. Only it wasn’t a poof, it was more of a crazy spinning round and round the third eye spot until whoosh I was back in my body. 

And in an ambulance enroute to the hospital. But I didn’t know any of that. All I knew was I was in pain. Excruciating pain. But that was GOOD. Because pain meant I had a body. It meant I was alive. And I welcomed it.

Meanwhile, Zach-the-dog-who-knocked-me-down, knew he was in BIG trouble and decided what the hell, in for a penny in for a pound…so he ate his girl’s American Girl Doll. Not a cheap Barbie knock off from the dollar store. Oh no, the EXPENSIVE doll. Taking him from bad dog to B.A.D. dog. And while he was doing that, sweet little DaughterDear began whining for ice cream because Mommy promised her some before she fell down. This did not set well with FirstBorn who had been so traumatized from the sight of his most beloved mother being loaded in an ambulance that he had to set her straight. He had to make her feel bad. As bad as he felt. Because that’s what brothers do.

So he told her no ice cream… because Mommy was DEAD.

Her answer… “So? Daddy will get us a NEW Mommy.”

It’s hard to traumatize a four year old, especially one with her sights set on ice cream. She had her priorities. And Mommy’s accident screwed up her trip to Baskin & Robbins. Dead Mommy. Dead goldfish–what’s the difference?

Oh yeah, she cried for the goldfish…

So I don’t really know what happened or where I was during my great adventure to what I call the void. But I’m reading a book right now about a woman who had a remarkable near death experience followed by a miraculous TOTAL healing of stage 4 cancer. Dying to be Me. Anita Moorjani was admitted to the ICU on the brink of death. She was in a coma, her organs were shutting down. She was dying. And she was in that other place, where everything was bliss. She made the choice to come back because she realized “heaven is a state, not a place.” Within weeks of returning to her body she was CANCER FREE. Completely healed. It’s a fascinating book. I’m not going to try to condense her experience in a few sentences here. If it’s something you’re interested in click on the link above and read the reviews.

And she wanted ice cream when she came back.

Fallen Angels

Tree unadorned

Well here it is, the infamous tree from yesterday. the camera/computer connection is still out so I took a picture with my phone and emailed it to myself. Not the best way to do it but it gives you a visual.

Pictures are good. I like pictures. Which is probably why I’m an artist.

So right now the tree is naked. The lights go on tomorrow, along with whatever ornaments DaughterDearest Chooses to put up. We have glitter crusted macaroni angels going back over twenty years, treasures made when my kids were in preschool. And hung on the tree every year since. It sounds sweet but in reality it’s, umm…bordering on pathetic. Because some of them are little more than a single piece of pasta dangling from a tired red ribbon. I believe the originals were more complex examples of preschool art. Ziti bodies, elbow mac arms, bowtie wings. And of course the glitter. Lots of glitter.

They did not age well. Angel crumbs haunt the ornament boxes. Maybe it’s time to let them go. Flush ’em down the toilet or bury in the back yard with the dogs and cats. A couple of rats.

Or we could scatter the angel crumbs out front with my mom and dad. I’m sure they’d like that.

Or I can throw them in the garbage when no one is looking…except Santa. And God. Oh dear…how does one dispose of fallen angels?

Bringing a tree into the house inspires me to clean, something I do as infrequently as possible. I spent the day dusting and polishing. We’re all looking forward to sharing the holiday with the grand baby. She’s two years old, the perfect age for building sofa forts and cutting out sugar cookies with granma, aka moi.

Missy B

Look at that face. OMG…I’ll be putty in her hands.