Which One Will They Choose?

My mother, since my dad died, has a habit of falling down and hurting herself, and then forgetting to tell anyone about it. So when she called to say, “Guess what? I sold the house!” I knew this was the opportunity I had been hoping for, when I wrote on my wish list in The Artist Way class, “I wish my mom was in a better place”. My brothers and I had a texting conference, in which I was unanimously chosen to move her in and take care of her.
All this to preface the events in which we, my Mom, Kenny and I, find ourselves living in our very own real life episode of House Hunters, as we try to find a house that hold all three of us and our specific needs.
If you have watched HGTV at all, you know that real estate is the latest obsession, and following people around as their agent takes them through the Goldilocks story over and over is popular entertainment. I assumed it was completely staged, because surely housing choices don’t come down exactly 3 choices every time.
Well, perhaps they do.

After 30 days and countless home showings, we are down to this:

1.A beautiful, move-in ready home CLOSE to the area my mom can easily navigate by herself, with a posh living area for Kenny and I (a fireplace!  Our own jetted tub!)  and a rather tiny but use-able space to work in clay. No privacy in the backyard. Its, way, way at the top of our budget and we would have to install a chair lift to get mom up to her suite.

2.  A beautiful, move-in ready FARTHER away from the area mom can easily navigate.  Mom’s space is completely level and beautifully updated. We would have to move the laundry upstairs and put in another bathroom, but it has more space for Kenny and I to live in, and a bigger studio space. More privacy in the backyard, and the price is nice.

3.  An ugly, terribly laid out house PERFECTLY located, right where my mom can get herself to the post office and grocery and doctor. We would need to raise the floor to eliminate the steps to the added-on master suite, but the kitchen is beautiful and baths are updated.  It has a huge studio space, as well as plenty of parking, if I should decide to open my own studio for classes and sales out of my home.  Plenty of room on the property for gardens and orchards and outbuildings, and the price is well within our budget.  Did I mention the house is UGLY?


To be fair, there are 2 other choices in our perfect location, but one is deep, deep in the heart of Adventist land and needs new flooring, paint, trim, and updated bathrooms; the other has a swimming pool and detached garage with loft and almost 2 acres…but the house is a disaster, requiring major renovations beyond our budget. We have eliminated them.

So, which one will they choose?

Cut to commercial break.

How to Get __________ to Go Hiking With Me.

1. Say, “Let’s go get donuts”
2. Put on hiking shoes.
3. With a mouth full of munchkins ask, “Where does that road go?”
4. “Stop and let me look at the trail map”
5. “Indian rock house is that way! Let’s go see it!”


Caution: The first step is the most important.  May only work the first time.

Last Day of Summer

Today was the last day of my summer with my kids. This morning we got up and loaded the car with Grace’s things for college, and we said goodbye to Mindy and Patrick and the doggies who came for a week, and drove to our destinations. Jay left on a plane a week ago, but I had the girls to console me after I returned from the airport, and after I learned of his canceled flight and how he had to spend the night, penniless, at O’Hare. “He’s alright, Mom. He is going to be fine”, Grace repeated to me over and over until he finally reached Maine.
But this afternoon, after Grace was unloaded and I drove away, the emptiness surged in for real. I was prepared, I knew they were all doing well and were pursuing their education and going to be with their friends, but this year they are all off to completely different locations. Like a shotgun.
I wasn’t prepared. True preparation would have included a friend to ride along and help me through the trip home, or at least a smoke stowed away. But no. I had to be stone cold sober and alert for the next 3 and a half hours until I made the drive home safely, suffering every wave of nostalgia and emptiness, full strength. Nothing but my ipod and a container of macaroni salad to carry me through the trail of sadness. I longed for a cigarette, a joint, a drink, anything to numb the feelings. I turned up the music until I felt it in my chest, and I started on the skittles, and then the sunset on the curving river soothed my sadness enough to remember the things that I had planned this fall. Writing, and turning the guest bedroom into a studio, and churning out clay objects like a one-woman factory. Going on dates with Kenny, teaching new classes, and taking new classes. Walking around the house naked. Writing more letters and making more phone calls to the ones I love. Taking more walks and going back to the gym.
These kids, that you invest your life and your time and your everything into: they just pack up and leave one day, and the holes they leave behind are enormous. I miss them like crazy and worry every day that they are eating right and getting sleep and making friends and doing kind things for others. They don’t call for weeks sometimes. Why we humans keep having them, I don’t know. Why all parents don’t end up on medication, I don’t know.
Those of you who feel my pain: May your back to school be filled with comforting, understanding friends. My heart goes out to all of you.

My First Artist Residency

This is my first residency at the Home for Waywards, an artist residency for the poor, the off-track and unnoticed here in Tennessee. Since I couldn’t find anyone to join me at the last minute, its a solo gig.

A little background: I agreed to share a table at a holiday craft fair with one of my students from last semester. I thought it would be a good motivation to do some clay work, since I have made working full time priority number one for a while. Not just working full-time, but actually Making a Living, including keeping the power on without interruption, and paying off debts I accrued while trying to make it as an artist. And soon, hopefully, having our own house and studio to live and work in. I knew that putting my art on the back burner might cause further existential angst, so, I agreed to the craft fair.Through an involved turn of events, I managed to have a few days off this week, which is my sign from heaven that its time to make hay while the sun shine so that I will have some things made (anything) to sell. At this point its not even about making any money, its about keeping my promise and not flaking out on Merita.

This week, our little rented house is taking on the name and function of my future artist retreat and residency, Home for Waywards.

I got up early, enjoyed coffee  and then had a productive morning pinching mugs and carving porcelain.  I made soup and toast for lunch, (it just seemed like the kind of food that a place called Home for Waywards would offer) and listened to NPR’s lineup.IMAG0351

I took a look at email and facebook (this place has wifi!  Score!) before I went back to work on handles for my mugs, and subsequently this afternoon have been ruminating over an article I happened to read.
It was by an art graduate student whose thesis contained the major pretentious phrases of the day, and his big idea was: Art – I Just Don’t Get It. I was interested until I saw the entire argument revolved around a Tracey Emin retrospective, and then I started searching for the irony..he’s making some kind of devil’s-advocate point, right? If so, I couldn’t find it, but I’m dense like that sometimes. I went back to making stuff.

And thinking snide comments, like: You might take a look at the cultural significance of a woman using her body as her medium. Can you not even get a teeny bit of the sexuality driving her wording, or the inherent irony? Do you understand what storytelling is? Or did you dismiss all that because she’s a chick, not a dude? Geez, if there’s an artist that is NOT mysterious or esoteric, its Tracey!!!

Modern Painter has an fantastic interview with her, did you think about finding out what SHE has to say? Because, and this is the most important point I have to make today: Tracey Emin says this is art. So, my advice to you is, do what we do when people call their stuff art: look at it as if it is art! That’s all you have to do!! You don’t have to like it or understand it or ‘get’ it! You don’t even have to look at it! Go find you a Thomas Kinkaid gallery, they are everywhere.
I think I will take a nice long walk, the fall leaves are beautiful here. Wish you were here.


Out There..

This fall has been has brought change and  adventures for most of us, hasn’t it? As for me….

I let go of my part-time teaching job.  I let go of my youngest daughter, to a college campus far away.

I started a new job in car sales, and….

I committed to selling my clay work with my former student, Merita,  at the Chattanooga Market.

Every day,

I put myself out there.

Just me.

Not me as a mom, surrounded by kids. Not me sequestered in my studio, working the clay. Not me as a well-educated instructor.

Just my appearance, and my wits, and my training.
Its not a pretty sight.
I’m chubby, I’m goofy, I forget what to say next and so I say something off the wall. I grin like an idiot while people tell me to go away, or lie to me to impress me. I don’t have any hard edges.
I am, however, happy to report that I am developing a nice thick skin.
I don’t know if this is correct procedure or not, but every day I let myself feel the frustration and self-loathing of all the dumb things I did and important things I forgot, And when I wake up in the morning, I actively kick all that out of my head, and I believe that today will be great, that I will nail the process, that I am the best at what I do. Even if I have to roll my eyes a little at the last one.

I plunge out there again, all in.

Sunday, I sold some of my work.  And even though I didn’t feel like getting up and doing this….I have to admit.  I enjoyed talking to people about my work, and collecting their emails so we can keep in touch, and having them ask if I would be there next week.  That felt…really encouraging, and motivating. Maybe selling my work isn’t so bad.


Yesterday at work I met this sweet couple who needed  a vehicle that he could get in and out of easily and would hold their kids and the wheelchair and a stroller or two.   They were so excited with the Jeep Commander!  They didn’t seem to mind that I typed the name of their street wrong or almost forgot their drive-out tag.


To Mindy and Patrick

The trunk is unloaded and the wedding finery put away, and everyone has gone back to school and jobs today.  I am left to myself and re-living all the highs and lows of the past few days, and of course thinking of all the things I wish had said or done, as is my usual introspective habit. (I’m learning to deal with my initial regrets by giving myself another chance to express what is in my heart.)

I wish I had taken more pictures!  I also wish I had remembered that my phone takes pretty decent video, so that I could have recorded the amazing ceremony that my daughters wrote together.  Allison did an amazing job officiating her sister’s wedding. I am so proud of her!


I wish I had gotten more pictures of the lovely venue, Greenbank Mill, on the outside (even if it was 92 degrees outside)…. I know her photographer did, so, I will have to wait for those pictures.

I wish I had told her father how much I appreciated his support of her non-traditional wedding plans…I know that could not have been easy for him.

I hope I told my dear friend Julie how happy was to see her again after so long, and to know that my girls are still in        her heart is such a blessing to me, and that I long to re-connect with her.IMAG0088









I tried to tell Michelle how grateful I was of her taking over the decorating.  Everything detail was incredibly beautiful and fun, and Mindy loved it.

And thank you for buying extra pies. Because I really wish I had not left the homemade pies in the same room with Kingsley……IMAG0071




(If you look closely at the chocolate pies, some of  the edges are slightly, um, removed)

024 021 022 023 025 018020 We all had a chance to paint a leaf on on their new family tree….








And most of all, I hope I conveyed to my daughter and new son-in-law  how proud I am of them.  They really worked together  as a team and catered ALL the food themselves!  I’m so proud of their abilities, and the happy life they are making for themselves. I love you both so very much!IMAG0113 IMAG0115 IMAG0116 IMAG0127 IMAG0128

On The Creative Life….

This is a long and intense article on the ideas of inspiration and the conception of art. I read it with great fascination, and then checked the date of publication. Holy Cow! 1985! No wonder I found it so interesting. No one is talking about the origins of creativity like this today…..


The Sun is a Peach

Encaustic is a technique of painting using hot wax mixed with pigments which has fascinated me for some time. Beeswax is the preferred wax, and encaustic pigment sticks are the preferred colorants, and if you shop for all the supplies and tools you need to use this medium they will take a serious, bleeding bite out of your budget.

I don’t even have a budget for art supplies right now, which leads me to doing one of the things at which I excel:  using whatever is available to create things.   Here is where my parents and I differed in our maker’s philosophy,  leading to  frowns and discouraging remarks and the label “careless” to my persistent experimental habits.

This is why I cherish that label:  because everything I ever made that was good began with that restless determination to make it work, without waiting for everything to be ordered properly or learned correctly.

I began this painting with acrylics sometime last summer, and lost interest in because it was so timid and blah. It couldn’t get any worse, so I went back over it with encaustic, genie-style.   Just a blow torch, wax, and oil paints.




Things I made that i love….






I’m at that place once again where I have to decide what to make. Beginnings are more difficult for me, so I tried this exercise:     I made a poster of all the things I have made in clay that I know that I LOVED.








I initially made two columns, one for things that  I loved, and one for things that others have loved and critiqued well.  But my column filled up and I still had more, so I eliminated the other one.

Here’s what happened:


I think I know what I need to do next.






I Apologize in Advance of of my Bitter Frustration with Theoretical Know-it-Alls.

Come on, all you bootstrapping (insert political party here)

you Ayn Rand  enthusiasts.

Please, show me how its done. Not by your pompous theories and meaningless words. I need to see you put your money where your mouth is.

Show me how your ideas hold up to reality TODAY. Not twenty years ago.

I will walk you through it:

As of today, you have:

No savings. No retirement.  No valuables on hand. No job. No experience. No credit.  Your credit score is 80.

I’ll give you $200 in checking (monopoly rules).

Keep your vehicle, and continue living in your current abode, as long as you are paying a mortgage or rent.

Your resume may include your education, but no work experience beyond age 21. 

You must keep all your debts.

As of today, you have no spouse or parent to support you in any way.

No health insurance, no car insurance.


Enlighten me. Show me how great the current market system is, and how well it helps hard-working Americans succeed. I am having trouble understanding the practical applications.

Now, if you need me to switch places with you, I would be happy to help you out with that.

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