Category Archives: Life, the Universe and Everything

Boo Who?


This is the 14 year old me.

The year is 1962 and it is Halloween, my last year of trick or treating according to my horrible mother. I  am about to cross the magic line into that place where grown ups look askance at your size and give you the worst piece of candy in the bowl and ask, “Aren’t you a little old for this?” Mind you, this was back in the day when we still locked up our garbage cans and put everything away for fear of pranksters with mayhem on their minds. I longed to live in the days when kids put outhouses on the school roof and played other elaborate jokes on unsuspecting adults. The best we could ever come up with was soaping all the gas station pump windows in town, pretty puny.

Spookiness, this is in Colorado and perfect for halloween don’t you think?

Halloween 1962 was my grandparents 48th wedding anniversary. Who gets married on Halloween? They lived next door to our big white Victorian house in a brick bungalow right across the driveway. My grandad Floyd had been living in twilight for about five years after a diabetic stroke left him unable to move or communicate.

My grandad always had a cigar and my grandma always looked put upon. I think she was born wearing a hair net and sensible shoes.

My grandmother was his main caregiver and I can only imagine now how hard that must have been for her. At the age of 14, none of this even dawned on me. I used to go into the bedroom and read to him, I worried that he was lonely in a room where the only window was high up in the wall. I liked to think he could hear me as I read the Reader’s Digest aloud and carried on one-way conversations.

My grandmother was a cook who worked in her profession until she was 85. I have good cooking genes.

Before his stroke, my grandfather was a terrible grump who yelled at everyone. He had a cigar in his hand at all times, sometimes I wondered if he slept with it. I was never afraid of him, as his only granddaughter I was the princess and I remember very well how patient he was with me, teaching me to tie my shoelaces and my doll’s bonnet strings. It was probably because he was sick of tying my shoes for me but it made me happy then and it does now.

A black wreath hung on the door. This door is actually in Philly but its much cooler than my grandparents’ door.

Halloween afternoon, 1962, after 48 years of marriage, my grandfather died. I remember being sent to go call the doctor when he passed. My mother ordered a black wreath from the florist in town and when it came she hung it on the door so everyone would know not to knock and trick or treat there.

My mother decided I couldn’t go trick or treating. I had to be the responsible dragon at the gate, keeping the hordes of kids from thumping on grandma’s door. Rats. I remember being devastated because I was already facing the end of my candy-gathering years and here the last one was yanked right out from under me.

I had a set of beautiful gold angel wings but I more closely resembled a devil under that white gown.

I had my costume ready and everything. For some odd reason, I had landed the role of the angel in the Chritmas play when I was twelve and we were still living in Colorado. No one was further from angelic, but I ate that role up. My dad had made me a set of cool gold cardboard angel wings with little gold glass balls all the way around the edges. My mom had made my white wide-sleeved angel gown from old bedsheets. They were always white back then. I even had a gold halo that was cleverly mounted on a circle like a tiara. It sat on my head allowing my halo on a wire to float above me.

Yes, I was a sneaky snake that year and proud of it. Photo taken at RC Ridge in Olympia, Halloween spooky perfection.

No! They couldn’t take it away from me! Yes. They could and they did. For about five minutes. It took me that long to realize I could sew a pocket into the bottom of my wide-winged sleeve and cleverly drop it off over a kids bag of candy with some snappy patter. I figured it would take me about two seconds to scoop up a nice fat fistful of candy from every victim’s hoard bag and drop it in my giant sleeve pocket.

Angels have been inspiring me since 1962, I love taking photos of them. I wonder if Halloween is why?

I was sent out at dark to park in my grandmother’s driveway on one of her metal chairs. I still wish I had those chairs. I loved those chairs, I see chairs like them now and they bring back so many memories of granma on the porch. This night it was just me in the driveway with a flashlight and a bowl of cheap jelly beans. My mother was nothing if not frugal. We gave out the kind of candy kids throw away, orange circus peanuts and black gumdrops.  The Whitman’s Sampler she hoarded in her lingerie drawer, ‘hidden’ from us kids and we knew better than to touch her chocolate so Halloween was our chance for a chocolate fix.

My granma’s chairs were like these although I found these deep in Oklahoma. Memories.

The whole thing went off without a hitch. The whole town was trick or treating and bringing their candy to me. Bwah ha ha ha!  I had a pillowcase full of candy and I didn’t have to walk a step to get it. I felt like Donald Trump that night. I did excercise some restraint and I didn’t pillage little kids who had just started their rounds but the big kids who practically had to put wheels on their candy bags were fair game.

As Garfield put it, “Candy, candy, candy!”

Luckily for the neighborhood’s candy stash I had discovered the wonder of boys by the next Halloween and my my angelic/devilish trickery was a one time event. Still, I wonder if it would still work….hmmm….somewhere I have a witch costume…

Happy Halloween!



Is it Dark in Here or is that Just Art?

The first backyard martyr, the accidentally murdered St Squirrel

I am bemused today. The gallery that handles my work returned 3 pieces to me yesterday. I am not upset, I understand why completely. The 3 pieces were from the series “Backyard Martyrs” and they are deeply satirical and very dark, but not at first glance. I love Matter Gallery, Jo is super supportive of her artists and in a funny way, I think I just made my first real statement with my art.

The gun that threw viewers for a loop in Saint Squirrel

The series takes a look at the animals we love to hate–with a vengeance–when they come in our yards and destroy OUR gardens, OUR yards and OUR space. It was originally sparked when I accidentally killed a squirrel last year. Honest, I shot at it with a pellet gun to scare it, not commit homicidal mayhem on the squirrels that were absolutely destroying my bird feeders. Sara Jessica Parker’s character on Sex in the City summed it up, “You can’t make friends with a squirrel.Squirrels are just rats with cuter outfits”. They may be cute but they are rodents and they are not fun to have around when they are destroying flower beds and bird feeders. Yes. Its what they are programmed to do but I would prefer they did it somewhere else, along with 90% of the gardening and bird feeding population.

Yes. Rats with cuter outfits

Mea Culpa people. I started out to make an altar to honor the squirrel as he was martyred in the line of duty, but this devolved into something darker when I started really thinking about it. Backyard Martyrs.

The raccoon I love to hate

Among the martyrs: I have a raccoon visitor I loathe because it destroys our pond just for fun. We had koi once upon a time. They were eaten, but the stupid animal still thinks we’ll be repopulating the buffet real soon. I have contemplated killing it because raccoons are gnarly and truly evil but its so cute with those little hands. Have you seen their teeth? They are vermin infested burglars who are saved by their human-like hand-paws.

Imagined mayhem for the raccoon

Crows. I love crows thanks in part to my old friend Carl Cook who passed away a few years back. Carl loved crows and convinced me to slow down and take a look at them too. I do however hate them in the spring, when the whole damn family is talking to each other at the top of their lungs at 7:00 a.m. Crow babies have horrible voices. They sound like old ladies who swallowed a kazoo and a bullhorn at the same time.

The crow, another backyard martyr

Among the cast of characters are the deer who ate the neighbors raspberries and roses–in the middle of town. Go figure. There is a mole that I have been trying to murder for years. I am waiting for my house to topple into his tunnel system which is more extensive than the French Metro by now. Cats. I love cats, I just don’t love my neighbor’s cats. They are proud that their cats are bird killers–in my yard. They also poop in my flower beds indiscriminately. I don’t love them. I would like to spray paint them purple and send them home.

I love the wings on this piece

So, Backyard Martyrs is a series that takes a look at the American obsession with anthromorphizing critters we also loathe. Yin Yang. How many cute raccoons, moles, mice, cats and birds has Disney given us? We persist in saying ahhhh….cute.

The bottom of Saint Crow is hammered spoons with crow words

I myself am guilty of being a rabbit devotee although they can be yard and crop destroyers bigtime. This from the girl who shot jackrabbits in her teenage years. I should have known I would kill that squirrel because I have always been an excellent shot. What was I thinking?

Top of the raccon martyr with Froggy

I digress. It seems that people who saw these pieces were drawn to them by their bright Mexican colors and feel; and of course, the cute animals wearing crowns in the paintings mounted on tin panels. When viewers got closer feeling all warm and fuzzy, Good Heavens! A gun, squirrel poison, arrows! Folks were shocked and appalled at the potential for mayhem I laid right out there as part of the work. But I’ll bet most of them have actually tried to do harm to their own backyard martyrs. Its not all Bambi out there although for some reason we want to think it is.

Each piece has the latin name of the martyr. Crow has a bit more in English.How very Catholic of me.

The true weirdness. Here it is. Viewers were shocked and surprised at the mayhem portrayed, not even portrayed, just the potential for critter harm is depicted for the animals we love and hate. Yin Yang still going on. But, a metric F*** ton of people and the kids of these people play violent, bloody, do-as-much-harm-as-you- can video games. So why are these paintings/collage/sculptures so disturbing? Our culture provides instant access to violence and mayhem on television, in the movies, even in music. Yet the suggestion of shooting a charming squirrel who is actually, really truly doing harm is over the top? I would love to know what people think.

Or was it the poison bottle that says “Why Not?” on the squirrel piece

This culture of ours is truly odd. I make dark art that is also fabulously bright and funny at the same and it is too disturbing for people. Dance floors in clubs are crowded with people doing moves that 25 years ago would have had them arrested, seriously. There is no subject too taboo to talk about on the boob tube. Women in clothing that leaves nothing, nothing, to the imagination are all over the media. Violent porn is a mouse click away. At the same time there are at least three men running for public office in the USA who believe that there are degrees of rape and one of them had a daddy who told him some “girls are easy”. Check my favorite blog for details on this particular info.

Every Saint wears a crown as Saints should–and a halo.

So in conclusion, Americans are daft. We are the most open minded close minded, blind people on the planet. I’m satisfied. I finally made art that is too much to take for people who don’t think about more than the surface. I’d like to think that the people who were appalled are the same ones who buy art by the yard to hang over the couch.

I’m wondering how to explain these pieces to my grandchildren as they are in residence above my couch and I’m truly enjoying the work. That should be a fascinating discussion…

And by the way, this work is for sale at $200.00 per backyard martyr. $175.00 each for all three. Such a deal!


Queen Day is Coming to a Head Near You


Princess Kate’s tiara–you can buy this replica for under thirty bucks and feel like Prince Charles’ daughter-in-law

Just, because everyone needs to wear a tiara upon occaision and because its just one of those days I propose Queen Day. I know there are several takers out there who will embrace the concept with open arms and empty heads. Okay, empty as needing a tiara on top. All the women I know are of course, brilliant. We have evolved beyond being princesses and will leave that for royalty and Barbie.  We will be QUEENS!

Princess Margaret’s wedding tiara, sold later for a million bucks!

Everyone taking part will wear their tiara and take a photograph of themselves en tiara delicto, sort of like en flagrante delicto but with clothes on and a tiara on top. Wearing of the tiara for the entire day is to be encouraged as is feeling good about oneself. Cultivate an “I am the queen” attitude and be kind to your subjects if possible. The photograph should be taken in the grocery store, gas station, car wash, school, work, or other place where other humans abide. NO hiding your crowns in the shadows ladies.

I have been known to slap on one of my two tiaras for doing loathed chores around the house. It helps. In light of the imminent celebration of Queen Day, I started looking around for tiaras on the internet and the history of tiaras. Eye opening. This is from Wikipedia:

“Traditionally, the word “tiara” refers to a high crown, often with the shape of a cylinder narrowed at its top, made of fabric or leather, and richly ornamented. It was used by the kings and emperors of some ancient peoples in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, notably the Hittites. The Assyrians used to include a pair of bull horns as a decoration and symbol of authority and a circle of short feathers surrounding the tiara’s top. The Persiantiara was more similar to a truncated cone, without the horns and feathers but more jewels, and a conic-shaped tip at its top.”

tiara tiara boom de ay! English royals

Maybe we could scrape up a Texas Tiara with horns? Personally I find it hilarious that the pope’s hat is called a tiara. Crowns for royalty that are basically half a crown and worn only in the front wound up being called tiaras too and the Russian ones are crazy! (Do you think the half a crown concept was invented by po’ folk royals who couldn’t afford an entired jeweled doo dad for their noggins?)

Russian tiara, too fierce for words, Countess Alexandra Feodorovna

The American Princesses Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn wore them best IMHO

Grace Kelly’s wedding tiara from Van Cleef and Arpels jewelers. Very Nice.


I propose to mark the occaison of Queen Day with a mascot, a mentor, a fearless leader, a guiding light, one to whom fealty may be given, etc. etc. Looking for a Queen with a September or October birthday I ran across Queen Matilda of England, also known as Empress Maude. Like many of us modern day ladies she had to fight like a crazy girl to attain the position that was due her. Those English royals really did know how to throw a war…

Our Mascot Matilda of the English

She didn’t get to be Empress and Queen for very long after she finally managed to fight to the finish and become the Queen, but she is a marvelous colorful and strong woman–besides Queen Matilda just makes me laugh to say it. I am naming my next cat Queen Matilda in her honor. This is the Wikipedia short history of a long fight for you to read if you are so inclined. Her birthday was September 10th, close but we missed it. What the heck let’s just name it the Merry Month of Maude! The kids are back in school, life is settling back to normal, the weather is gentle. Its time to celebrate us. So get yourself a tiara girls and get ready!

I hereby propose September 28th be named Queen Day in celebration of the Merry Month of Maude. This gives everyone a few weeks to obtain a tiara should one not already own a few. There are copious places on line which have tiaras for sale at a plethora of price points. This is a picture of the one I am coveting at 30 bucks.

I love this. Want. I already own two so I don’t exactly need this one but….

And then for those who need everything largesized I give you the ulitmate in trashy tiaras….

wow, this thing probably gets six channels and sheds enough light to read by. Its called the large Mideastern Crown.

I love tiaras and have acquired two which I adore, but I would be happy to have more, just not that crazy crown thing, thank you very much. Here are my own sparkly head blingy things. One was acquired in celebration of a family wedding. I bribed all my helpers with tiaras. You know who are and you’d better haul those things out and dust them off! The other is my true treasure, my beloved niece Heather, aka Hed, sent me her wedding tiara as a gift. It makes me happy to wear it, the Hedpiece.

The Hedpiece, my favorite tiara

The first tiara I ever owned








Mark your calendars, shine up your tiaras and get your cameras ready! Post your tiara pix to Facebook or email them to me so I can share them.  Matilda Tiara Queen Day is September 28th, unless someone has a reason we should change it?

Politics: 1960 Flashback

I picked up an old McCall’s magazine yesterday out junking with my partner in crime, Lynn W. The date? March 1960. Cosmic, because now its March 2012. I bought it for the fashion layouts which will be very cool reference material for my vintage clothing passion for fashion.

In strolling through the magazine I found a “Busy-Day Lemon Cheesecake” recipe which I am dying to try and if its as good as it looks, it will wind up in my blog as well. On the facing page there is an article called: “Policy on Politics, 1960.”

Some things never change…here it is reproduced for your reading pleasure in its entirety. The parentheses are my own comments.

1. The wife of this house is entitled to work for the party of her choice. But if it doesn’t happen to be her husband’s party, a good hot dinner MUST be on the table when he gets home. (Okay, that part has changed-a lot.)

2. The words “Democrat” and “Republican” are not to be injected into arguments involving other sensitivies. The fact that Mother is on the other side doesn’t mean she can’t spend Easter vacation here.

3. In partisan discussions, the one who shouts first and loudest is not to be the first to say, “Now let’s be civilized about this when the other person finally gets a chance to rebut.

4. The words, “conservative” and “liberal” are permissible. Off limits, “radical”, “reactionary”, “fellow traveler”, “facist”, “egghead”, “stupid.” (Interesting how the selection of insults has changed since then).

5. No child under ten has any right to disccus campaign issues more learnedly than his or her parents. Campaign buttons may be worn in quantities of up to six at a time, provided they do not make holes in clothes. ( I just bought a Johnson-Humphrey button myself, I’m looking backwards.)

6. Dimples in the chin cannot be used as a legitimate political argument. Neither can prowess on the playing field.

7. Upon the acceptance of item #6, the phrases, “just like a woman” and “just like a man” will be eliminated from all discussions.

8. “Inside dope”-unauthenticated slander from such highly placed authorities as taxi drivers, the laundryman, a fellow at the office, and a cousin with friends in Washington-is to be stricken from the record. (does this include Rush Limbaugh and his icky ilk? Talk about inside dopes…)

9. “Let’s play charades”. When guests are present and voices and tensions rise, it is time for both the host and hostess to come to the aid of their own party–and change the subject.

10. Politics should never make estranged bedfellows. If husband and wife are irrevocably opposed, it is wise to suspend all political discussion at a strategic point in the evening. (Still true.)

11. What neighbors think, what the Russians think, what the boss thinks, or even what one’s loved one thinks is not quite so important as finding out-after careful reading, listening, sifting and weighing of facts and issues–what one oneself thinks. Political argument is part and parcel of democracy. But its essence should be light not heat–facts, not prejudices. (Wow. I love that part, it should be light not heat. Well said Editors’s of McCall’s Magazine 1960.)


Shiny vs. Art: Is the Rabbit Really That Distractable?

Watches faces and hands waiting to become something new

Sadly, I’m as bad as the dog in “Up”. I can be on the trail of something deep and meaningful and suddenly  I hear, “Squirrel!” or see something shiny. Ooh,Shiny… and I’m off on another tack.

Lost Childhood of Anubis: front

I have epiphanies, sometimes as many as three a week, like an artist’s seizure for lack of a better description. My epiphanies have me swearing to complete the whole series of Lost Childhoods immediately, or make twenty poured resin pieces with original drawings, or master papier mache, or, or, or…there is so much I want to try and make and do.

In the studio with friends, working on My Pool

Sometimes I think I could just lay down and roll in the craft of art, like a joyful paint-covered dog. Now, if the days only had 36 hours each I’d be on to something.

I don’t seem to be able to work on just one thing. Is that wrong? It’s not about focus because I can disappear down that rabbit hole and emerge in a daze asking what day it is two days later. It’s about shiny…ooh, shiny….and suddenly like a two year chasing a butterfly I’m off in another direction. I make myself crazy.

Literally shiny, hanging next to my computer. I really do love shiny things.

Do I want to do just one thing? I could just paint. I could just sculpt. I could just design jewelry. I could just work with mosaic and glass, but I can’t. I see things and I think, I could do that, I could do that and make it better and different and more. And I do, but then the next thing shows up and I have to try that too. I exhaust me.

Ghost town glass ready for grinding

It’s almost garden season which is another facet of art making for me. My outdoor space is overflowing with plants and art. Its an art garden. The good news is that it is really restful when summer comes and I can slow my brain down a little, until…ooh, shiny….what if I???? And I’m off again.

I can relax for a little until...ooh, shiny...

Summer in the garden, my favorite time. My rabbit window and wonderful round things.

So my question for me is how am I doing walking the line between craft and art? Am I okay with not being a gigantic success hanging in a New York gallery? Writing this down has been a good exercise for me. I think I found my center again and it feels okay. I have made choices in life and I can’t regret those. My boys are amazing and when I could have chosen the big city and starving in a loft, I didn’t.

Salt shaker garden hanger. These are such fun to make.

I still think I need to figure out how to weed out some things but what?  What should I give up? I have no idea because I know the next time I go to Barnes and Noble and see something beautiful in a magazine I’m going to say to myself, “Wow, I can do that, and if I did this to it or that to it, it would be even cooler. Ooh, shiny…”


Does the View Inside My Head Make You Dizzy?

“Process gets you through times of no ideas far better than ideas get you through times of no process,”so sayeth my favorite college prof., Paul Sparks.  The quote is alleged to be from the Far Out Furry Freak Brothers. I really hope it is, because I have loved it for twenty plus years. Hearing it was an epic lightbulb moment when I was an art student lo these many years ago–and as an artist, that quote may be the truest thing I know.

One of three worktables full of pieces, in the throes of creating it can get pretty wrecked in here.

Process. It may be more important than the initial idea behind a piece because when the race horse of ideas goes through the fence and runs for the barn, the mule of process is still putting one foot in front of the other and plowing all day long. Yes, I do have a sketchbook or six full of jottings, notes, remember to dos, and ideas, but they all depend on process. I can say unequivocally for me  as a multi media artist,there is  a deep and grounded pleasure in using a tool I have mastered and having it do what I want. That’s process. Process informs everything from cutting glass, grinding glass, mixing paint, gessoing a board, bending metal, using a colored pencil, twisting a wire or laying down a bead or seam of solder. Its all about the process.

Process. Knowing the materials and how to make them make magic for me is the important piece of all.

I actually work very, very fast. I worry about that sometimes. Does it make me less of an artist because I don’t have to toil over six square inches of canvas for a month? Before I ever get to that canvas, or piece of wood or glass or whatever my hummingbird brain is enjoying today, I think. I think a lot. I think for days and weeks and months sometimes about a piece I want to make. I think about a lot of pieces a lot of the time, rather like Alice in Wonderland who worked on believing the impossible. To paraphrase her, “Sometimes I think about six impossible things before breakfast.” Yes. I write down what I think too. Sketch books, pieces of paper, sticky notes.

I try really hard to contain it all in one of about six sketchbooks I drag around with me. My poor books have grocery lists and what the kids want for their birthdays and the name of a plant I fell in love with yesterday, all jumbled up with websites I want to look at and things I want to hunt for and ideas for a new piece.

Creepy baby heads are tried out with different bits and pieces to bring them to life.

Which brings me to the process behind the series I call “Lost Childhoods.” These pieces may be my all time favorites and they take a lot of rumination before I ever start assembling them. The Lost Childhoods, so far there are four completed, are all about the imagined childhoods of cultural iconography in my life. Mother Nature, Father Time, Death, and King Neptune are finished. My starting point was to imagine what their early lives were like and then build cabinets which contained imagined memories and artifacts that defined who they were, although since they are not real, I guess I could say, who they weren’t. They are built with found and recycled objects. They all have in common: parts that open and close, words, photos, ideas, artifacts, hands, and heads. I am using doll heads and I have to tell you it feels pretty macabre dismantling baby dolls and stuffing their parts in a drawer. My youngest son is so creeped out he can hardly look at them which I find wonderful, it means I am connecting on some visceral level.

Mother's Nature's Lost Childhood. Doll head transmutation into something wondrous.

The latest piece on the worktable is Betty Crocker’s Lost Childhood. Betty has been on the list for over a year. I have hunted and hunted and hunted some more for the right body. Her head was selected last summer after I got it as a present from my friend Jaimie. Old and fantastic, it looks like Betty Crocker to me. I thought seriously about hollowing out a cookbook for her body.

Betty begins. Vintage doll head and antique hands and a vintage toy stove. Let the process begin!

I  was actually contemplating the cookbook idea until…insert angelic chorus….I was in Space Oddity, a weirdly cool basement level store in Ballard, Washington, last week with my hipster child/son Tor. Insert beam of light…there it was! An ancient Magic Chef Toy Stove. I managed to convince the owner to mark it down some from the sixty-five bucks he had on it and I triumphantly carried it off into the sunset. Okay, so Torin carried it off into the sunset for me, but Betty Crocker’s body was found.

Eureka! The Toy Oven

The same day in another of Tor’s favorite stores, Lucca, I found two sets of Santos hands. Beautiful carved wood hands. Eureka times two! Betty Crocker’s hands. Today, I finally had a chance to begin the project I have been accumulating bits of and ideas for, for over a year. This stove actually still had its electrical cord on it. Thank God, the plug is gone.

Tin snips and time. No bandaids needed. Fear can be a great motivator when you are worried about blood loss from cuts.

I remember this toy. At least one of my friends had one of these. This toy did not bake cakes with a light bulb. Nope, this puppy is wired for some serious heat. I was so curious as to what it was we were baking our tiny cakes and heating our tea with back in the fifties that I was determined to pry the back off and take a look. I turned it over and over and over, kind of like a dog with a Kong toy full of biscuits. There had to be some way to get into the thing. The inside of one oven was undone anyway, so to fix it I had to find out how it was put together in the first place.

And the oven doors even open, the pencil is included for scale.

I resorted to tin snips and carefully cut the thing up the back and then rolled the tin offf the rivets. The hubs came out to view the result and we both almost fell over. Holy Crap! I wonder how many house fires these little toys started? Not one but TWO porcelain heating elements are inside the back. I carefully rehooked the tabs on the ovens so I could use them as containers for Betty’s life.  I think I will put plexiglass on the back and use the oven innards as part of the piece too. Who knows what may lurk in the back of Betty? I cannot wait to find out as the process informs my ideas. That and the box of pieces I have been saving for Betty’s story. I plan to write about the process as I go sharing my process and the product, stay tuned.

Holy Cow! They gave these to kids!!!?? Check out those heating elements on all metal stove with tiny little plastic knobs and the top heated up too!

Down A Mississppi Rabbit Hole


I loved the hands I saw, the one clasping a wreath on a stone

This post is about a visit to a very bad rabbit hole which left me feeling like Alice. Perplexed, confused, mad, upset, and helplessly along for the ride.  It’s also about me processing the toxic leftovers of being robbed at gunpoint in Jackson, Mississippi. I thought had forgiven the two thuglets who changed my worldview, but I think that will take more time and work. Right now, I would happily shoot them both if I had a gun, which fixes nothing and takes me to their playing field. I choose not to go there.

So many beautiful stone portraits in the Greenwood Cemetery

Jackson, Mississippi, it turns out is a crime-ridden festering wound of a city, facts which are not bruited about in the guidebooks touting the history of the place. Eudora Welty is probably sadly spinning in her grave in the Greenwood cemetery. It is a city of have everythings and have nothings.

I have never seen another sleeping angel, loved this

I landed up in Jackson as a result of wanting to see something of the area before I got down to the ‘bidness’ of grantwriting instruction in West Monroe, Louisiana which is about 80 miles away. Vicksburg is about 30 miles from Jackson and the whole of Mississippi is full of sad southern history. The South has most definitely not risen again in this part of Mississippi.  I started my Sunday hoping to find a few second hand stores and some curious vintage, but I discovered everything but restaurants is closed on Sunday in this part of the country. Buffets full of  fat men and pick ups everywhere I looked.

400 unknown confederate soldiers graves are lined up in rows in the center of the Greenwood cemetery

The people I met on my visit were unfailingly kind and nice with the exception of the two well-dressed in gangster duds wannabees who collided with my world. It took two of the scumlets to have enough courage to rob a woman alone in a cemetery on a Sunday morning at gunpoint. That to me, is the definition of cowardice, I find them rather like hyenas who only hunt in vicious packs. Yes, I understand they are economically oppressed, terribly poor, living in substandard housing, etc. etc. etc. Hurting and terrifying others is not the answer.

Greenwood cemetery and the little house where I found the dropped key

Why is America sending billions and billions to other countries to help their people and here we do nothing. I get these two guys have no opportunities, no education and no future. They were between 18 and 22 and probably each one has fathered children, the ubitiquous baby daddy. Their single girlfriends will be raising the next generation of thugs and hyenas alone and crying when their boys get shot in the streets or go to prison.  Wake up America, you can’t turn your backs and expect things to get better.

I thought these were hilarious, no nonsense headstones, probably a whole family of middle class merchants

That being said, it is still really unpleasant to become the target of two black thugs in a very white historic cemetery on a Sunday morning when the entire state of Mississippi is in church. You could go bowling on the empty streets of Jackson on a Sunday. I had made my pilgrimage to Eudora Welty’s home in Belhaven, very nice upscale older residential area, and I knew she was buried in the historic Greenwood Cemetery.

The cemetery is right smack downtown, a stone’s throw from the state capital and the supreme court. I felt safe, I was on my guard. I even drove all the way around the cemetery before I went in to check it out. There were rolls of barbed wire on the top of the fence and only one way in. My assumption, wrong, it turns out, was that this was to discourage vandals because the cemetery is old, historic and pristine. More cemetery angels intact than I have ever seen in one place.  Sunday morning, empty streets, historic cemetery, another couple on a motorcycle in the cemetery on a sunny morning. I decided to go in and look around. I parked, got out my camera and began happily snapping pictures.

Martha Eliza and Laura Louisa Mims, twins? Odd headstones.

I noticed the hyenas, one in an orange hoody and one in a red hoody, just kind of standing around and talking to each other. I wasn’t comfortable so I started slowly back to my car. I have to believe God was on my side because I reached in my pocket for the car key and it was gone. Just remembering that moment makes my heart pound all over again. I started retracing my steps and there is a little wooden house in the middle of the cemetery. The key was on the front porch in plain sight where it had fallen from my pocket. I truly think if I had not been able to give them the key and the car they were after, they would have gunned me down without a second thought.

The Harper family has a Harper angel

I was shaking when I got to the car, I opened it with the remote button and I thought, “I’m safe, I made it.” I sat down  in the car and had not even swung my legs in, when suddenly I heard footsteps running my way, the heavy set thug had run up and I could see his boots. Expensive, suede work boots, untied, white socks. I looked up and saw the gun. A matte black pistol, probably a 38. “Get out da cah”.  He grabbed my camera and my car key and waved the gun at me, “Walk away”. I did, I started up a small hill, fully expecting to be shot in the back. The second thug, a thinner punk in a red hoodie, said, “What’s in yo pocket?”  I said, “My phone.” “Give it here” , he held out his hand impatiently and grabbed the phone, again telling me to “Walk away, walk faster.” As soon as I heard the car start and get put in gear, I turned around to see them backing out of the cemetery at a high rate of speed to turn right and race away.

General Barksdale was shot on horseback leading a charge in the battle of Gettysburg, he died two days later in a Union Hospital.

My purse with my i.d., credit cards and cash was in the trunk with my jewelry. I was a good tourist, I put everything out of sight, I kept it safe. My i.d. was gone, my phone was gone, my money and credit cards were gone and I was forty miles from my hotel room.  My beloved camera was gone but my phone I missed the most. Iphones seem to gather up your life and carry it around for you. Photos, contacts, messages, internet. Amazing how dependent we become and how fast.

Barksdale, "Tell my wife and family I am killed" were his last words.

Jeff Rudis and David McCarty were in the cemetery the same time and day I was. David was driving a white car parked about a football field from me, and Jeff was walking his dog Chase on the other side of the cemetery. In your dreams you cannot call out for help, but in real life I had no problem at all hollering “Help” at the top of my lungs while walking towards where I had seen the two guys.

They both came running, blessings on them, and both had cell phones. We waited about 15 minutes, no cop, so David went to hunt for them, the officer had managed to miss the cemetery entrance. He finally arrived, a young black officer who was very to the point and probably used to this sort of thing in his sordid city-although hopefully not female tourists in cemeteries on Sunday mornings.

I am so glad I did not lose this little shot of a nest on top of a tombstone

He was a bit clueless though. I told him the stolen car was a rental. A black Dodge Avenger with Ohio plates.  He wanted to see the rental agreement and know the license number.  Really Officer? Really? It’s a RENTAL. David helped me get hold of Alamo National car rental and get the plates and the VIN. The officer said, “We will get the car back, maybe not this week, but we will get it back.” He took a very short statement, gave me a case number and left me in the cemetery where I had been robbed. No offer of transport or help in Jackson. You get robbed at gunpoint here and you are on your own.

This Goddess was amazing, in fanastic shape, so beautiful

Jeff Rudis stepped up and offered to take me back to his apartment and let me use his computer and telephone to shut off my credit cards and let people know what had happened. We walked to his house with Chase, his big white dog. The thuglets had approached Jeff and asked him if Chase bit, when he told them sometimes, they backed off.  Hint: carry a loaded dog in Jackson. It seemed so normal, people talking on the curb outside a place that is revitalizing the neighborhood, nice houses and apartments, all just a few blocks from the cemetery and behind it a burned out ghetto. Jeff had moved to Jackson from Hattiesburg to take a job promotion just a few weeks before so this was a nasty introduction to his new hometown. His girlfriend was moving to Jackson too, and I think all this probably helped them choose a safer neighborhood for her new apartment. I cannot thank Jeff enough, he handed me a beer because he thought I needed one, he offered hospitality and help, and he gave me a ride home when we figured out the rental company was not going to help me out. Actually, I have been told they will be coming after me for their lost car. The icing on the cake.

I have never seen so many cemetery angels. I would like to go back--with a bodyguard--and take more pictures.

I got back to Vicksburg and Jeff insisted on coming in to make sure I was safe and hand me over to the hotel staff before he made the long drive back home. I hope he shows his girl friend this post and she understands he is a really great guy if she doesn’t already know that. The hotel staff were wonderful and comforting, they had spoken to my friend Corky who had flown me in for the consult in Louisiana, and they fronted me forty dollars for food until he got there the next day.  Even the maid knocked on the door to check up on me. I had about twenty four hours alone to process all that had happened and in retrospect I am glad about that. I never cried or fell apart but I didn’t sleep well for days. Flashbacks  to the sound of  the boots the gun and what if?

Even the borken pieces were all gathered up and carefully kept with the graves. I found that amazing

Terry sent my passport so I got home at the end of the week after a rough travel day and I spent the next days  getting my life back, Iphone, i.d., and credit cards. On Sunday my family came over because they had been without electricity for five days. They all had long hot showers, played on the computers, charged their phones and ate the ham and potato soup I made. Here’s the thing. When I was making that soup with my left over ham bone and chopping up potatoes in my warm kitchen I knew I was the lucky one. I was not in some roach infested rotting old tenement wondering where my next meal was coming from. I got everything back and I’m fine. They are not, they never will be. Their lives are already over. Its just a matter of time, they are walking dead men one way or another.

Two of tthese little angels flanked a gigantically tall capital with a southern gent on the top. Only birds could touch him.

The tragedy is not the carjacking and robbery, that’s a scary irritation, the tragedy is in the human lives that are being wasted every day. Christians fight like crazy against abortion but do little to save the people that are already here in the worst parts of this country. Why don’t we care for each other more and better?

Broken urn

The final illumination and grace note to this whole thing was getting my Iphone back. The pictures I shot with my Iphone were stored in the I cloud. Bless you Steve Jobs, wherever you are. These beautiful angels are the ironic illustrations to this long story which ends with me safe and whole and home.

Angel head, so pretty and so intact, I loved seeing these



Alice in Wonderland Does Politics

I have an ancient fallen apart copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It no longer qualifies as a book because the binding has gone to bits, its more like a collection of pages now. The paper is this amazing old ivory color and it is getting fragile. I wanted to save them, so I pulled out all the illustrations and scanned them one by one,  rereading the marvelous story again as I worked with the book.

Lewis Carroll had a seriously droll sense of humor and one piece especially struck me as perfect today. In Chapter III everyone is wet from swimming about in Alice’s pool of tears and their attempts to dry off make up the chapter. The mouse gives it a shot by reciting dry history, which doesn’t work very well so the Dodo comes up with the brilliant idea of a Caucus-race. Given that here and now we are headed into our own ridiculous Caucus Race season I give you Alice in Wonderland’s Caucus-race.

     “In that case,” said the Dodo solemnly, rising to its feet, “I move that the meeting adjourn, for the immediate adoption of more energetic remedies-“

“Speak English!” said the Eaglet. “I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and what’s more, I don’t believe you do either!” And the Eaglet bent down its head to hide a smile, while some of the other birds tittered audibly.

     “What I was going to say,” said the Dodo in an offended tone, “was that the best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.”  “What is a Caucus-race?” said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that somebody ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

    “Why,” said the Dodo, “the best way to explain it is to do it.” (And as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.) First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (“the exact shape doesn’t matter”, it said,”) and the all the party were placed along the course here and there. There was no “One, two, three, and away,” but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had  been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out, “The race is over!” and they all crowded round it, panting and asking, “But who has won?”

     This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead, (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him,) while the rest waited in silence. At the last the Dodo said, “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes”

So, here is my question, how did Lewis Carroll foresee the American primary system? I mean really….


heading home in the snowhed

St Nicholas and My Shoes

Once upon a time…

This is where we came from, 1955. Easter in the desert, home.

in November 1956, as an eight-year-old California kid, moved to Germany with her family for her Air Force dad’s three-year tour of duty.

We were posted to Bad Kreuznach where there was a huge army base. My dad was Air Force and did not work on the base. He did something arcane and secret with codes, working in a locked facility close enough to the Rhine River to toss a rock into it from his window. My mother was having none of living on an army base with THOSE people.

To her way of thinking the vast herd of army people (in the 1050s) were small town culture-free morons.  For my family it was total immersion in the European community for which I will always be grateful.

Priegerpromenade, where we moved and lived for three wonderful years, in the snow. (Thank you for this marvelous picture. It has not changed at all).

I wasn’t so grateful in November when we moved from California sunshine and the 70s to snow and frigid temperatures.  We arrived at night and were driven to our temporary housing, which was an apartment on the fourth floor of an eight apartment building, until our house was ready for us.

It was like falling down a snowy rabbit hole, everything was different. I remember vividly dragging up and down the stairs with a coal scuttle to the basement to get coal from the bin several times a day.  It was terrifying to go down into that dark place, but facing my mother’s wrath by resisting her orders to fetch the coal to fill our wonderful old ceramic stove was worse. over the course of the next few weeks my little brother and I met all our neighbors coming and going  on the stairs with our coal buckets.

We spoke no German at that time, and that was terrifying too. To see smiling faces chattering down at us in a completely unknown language, to see signs I could not read, to always be cold was scary, my whole life was scary and I lived in terror of getting lost and not being able to find my family.

We made good friends among the American air force families. Our best friends and our parents were musicians. My dad is in the foreground and Jim Fahey is in the background with the Clark Gable stash. Mom is in the front on the right and Arlene Fahey is in the bark. The four of us kids who should have been in bed were probably hiding under the table where we couldn't be seen.

The fear passed with the enchantment of getting out of our apartment and discovering I lived in a fairytale. The houses were old and looked like something in my books. There was a river, the Nahe, and a bridge with little shops on it stretching over the river. The streets were cobblestones and people shopped with  string bags at bakeries, butcher shops, and the open market. There were no grocery stores and I loved it.

The bridge houses, medieval and marvelous on the bridge over the Nahe river.

Downtown there was a wonderful department store that smelled amazing inside, and just outside the store there was a pretzel vendor with warm pretzels in a basket and next to him was a lady selling hot chestnuts. Chestnuts and hot pretzels are still two of my favorite things in the wintertime.

The Corn Markt, where we bought our produce twice a week.

The first place my mother took us and her dictionary was to that store. I got furry silvery reindeer hide boots with silver metal zips and red trim, long woolly stockings fastened by garters that were part of warm pink silk undershirts, and warm woolly sweaters and a thick coat and hat. The American kids in their Mary Jane shoes and anklets laughed at me–for about five minutes, until they realized I was warm and their bare legs were turning blue.

The summer I turned 9, Me on the left, my brother in the middle and our cleaning lady Annie and her daughter on a picnic on Kuburg hill.

To this day, the smell of burning coal in the evening air makes me happy. I associate it with those magical holidays long ago and it brings back so many memories. My very happiest Christmas memory was made even more intense because I was still a lost little American kid figuring out my new world.

We got to Germany just before Christmas and somehow, the other apartment dwellers  got it across to my parents that we should put our shoes outside the door on December 6th because Saint Nicholas would come and leave presents in our shoes, and if we were bad we would get a switch (rute) instead of treats.

Saint NIck, who comes on December 6th

In trepidation, my reindoor boots and my brother’s reindeer boots went out on the landing to wait for St Nick. In the morning, we ran to yank open the French doors that led to the landing outside our apartment. Our boots were full of oranges and chocolate! We were dancing around and squealing with glee at our bounty. My mother shushed us when we started hearing the neighbors doors click open, echoing up the open stairwell.

When she turned to shoo us inside and shut the doors we saw it. There was a giant green wreath with a huge red ribbon hanging on our door. We had pushed open both doors to rush out to the landing and see what was in our shoes and the open door on the left had hidden the wreath.  It wasn’t until we turned to go inside that we saw the wreath.

It must have been three feet across and it had a red ribbon bow across the top. It smelled like Christmas, but even better were the toys and candies and cookies and fruit fastened all over that wreath. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

He made a believer out of me. The good in people is everywhere!

We were the only kids in the building, just two noisy little American kids clattering up and down the marble stairs, tracking in snow and mud and spilling coal. We were lost and lonely and completely confused in our new life  and our neighbors knew that. They had gotten together and purchased that wreath and the toys and cookies and candy tied all over it to surprise us. It was 1956 and there were still ruins from the war everywhere, bombed out buildings and broken hearts. No one had a lot of money and I know that filling our wreath was a sacrifice for each of those people. To us it was St Nicholas who made the magic and it wasn’t until many years later my mom told me it was our neighbors who wanted us to be happy that cold winter morning in our new home.

We were.




heading home in the snowhed


This very lonnnggg link leads to my blog friend’s Lisa great blog.  This week in her ‘experimental year’ of blog entries, she talked about heroes. I love her blog because she invites us in and she invites us to share. She makes me think and I like that. I like electronic conversations, I’m sure no one knows that about me…right. I never shut up in person or on paper and this has turned into the Great American Novel. Good thing I’m married to a good listener.

Terry at Glacier, one of our marvelous motorcyle trips. This is the Terry I married

My good listener husband is my own hero. We have been through so much together in our almost ten years. The plan we had for our lives when we got married didn’t work out in the end. It all changed when he clobbered a buck doing sixty uphill at night in Montana on his motorcyle.

The last picture in Terry's camera before the accident. He and his riding buddy Don, another one of my heroes, clowning around

Like Gabby Giffords, Terry suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, TBI in the common parlance these days. We watched the Diane Sawyer hosted show with Gabby and her husband Mark a few nights ago. It was hard for Terry to watch, it made us both cry. It brought back so many tough memories. Terry remembers very little of the early days after his accident but I kept a journal down the whole road back, for which I am eternally grateful because memory can change when you revisit it.

Finally conscious, he knows me, but that's about all. Trach tube out, IV tubes out.

It does get better. Torin took this picture of us all three years after. Son Corey in the middle and son Joel on the right at the annual Christmas Toy Run for Charity.

My friend Faye is a hero to me. She dropped everything and jumped in the car and drove to Montana with me to be with Terry for those first terrible days in the ICU in Billings when we didn’t know if he would live or be conscious again. My son Corey is a hero too. He rode his motorcyle out to Montana in October, just beating the snow, to be with me after Faye had to leave. He also stepped in when I needed him desperately to care for my son Torin who was only 14 at the time. I was in Bakersfield and Torin was alone because of an issue with Terry’s family. Corey gave up two weeks with his own kids to take care of his little brother and our house.

Torin is my hero too. He stepped up and tried to become a man at the age of 14, taking on cooking and cleaning and helping mind Terry and keeping me in one piece. He understood there was no time or energy for him. The accident ended his childhood forever.

The intensive care unit nurses and doctors in the hospital in Billings, Montana are my heroes. How do they do that day after day? The ICU is not a place that has good outcomes in many, many cases. They see people in life threatening and life ending situations and they get up every day and go to work with positive attitudes.

Coming home. The air nurses who flew us home were the same ones who picked up Terry after the accident to Life Flight him to Billings. They didn't think he would make it. You can see the pressure drainage holes on his head and where they lifted his skull off, we call it his divot.

I still want to write a book about what its like for families facing the aftermath of TBI and I’m working on it, in between all the other things I juggle on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I was born to juggle, and it will get finished because the story is important to tell if it will help others  in the same leaky boat with their injured loved one.

We had in home therapy but it wasn't nearly enough.

Why is Terry my hero? Because he fought so hard to get back to us. When he was hurt he lost his short term memory and his ability to do things like count money or write his name or know when a pot of water was boiling. He was an athlete whose balance was gone and now he had to learn to walk again, he fell down a lot.

At home with us, he truly thought the laundry hamper was the toilet and he drank soap and put on my clothes thinking they were his. He broke his arm and his neck and all his ribs and punctured both lungs in the crash, physically and mentally he was a wreck.When he came home from the local hospital rehab center, he was physically on the mend but he thought we were keeping him prisoner, the mental issues were just getting into full swing.

Terry waves to me on the way to Bakersfield. One hour after this, he had a complete meltdown and lost track of reality again.

Another one of my heroes is Dr Joe Moisan, Terry’s ombudsman. We found Dr Joe by a miracle and he cut through red tape like he owned Arthur’s sword. Dr Joe was diagnosed with a blood disease and retired before Terry got a chance to meet him and know him, which makes me really sad. Because of Dr Joe, Terry got  a chance to get better. He was accepted into the Centre for Neuroskills in Bakersfield although he was a little past their upper limit in age.

The staff at the Centre are my heroes. They deal with with TBI patients 24-7-365 with both a residential and treatment focus.   Some patients will get better, some will live there forever. TBI is a terrible thing and its effects are wide ranging and the severity is different in every case. The only potential cure is hours and hours of one-on-one therapy and no one knows how far any one person can get. Their goal is to return the patients to independent living which means learning to shower, get dressed, cook food, all the things we take for granted have to be relearned in many cases.

TBI results in some pretty strange crazy. Terry was in many  ways a really big three year old, no ability to judge, no ability to make decisions or even actually see what was real and what wasn’t.  The people who work with TBI patients have infinite patience and watch over these people like guardian angels every second of every day.

Terry went to Bakersfield in November and got into intensive therapy. He didn’t know where he was at first and he kept trying to unscrew the window screens and escape. He thought Bakersfield was Olympia and he was trying to get home to Bellingham. Terry has never lived in Bellingham.

He had a breakthrough in December that he remembers, he called me on his little green Migo phone (for small kids only dials a few numbers) to tell me he couldn’t understand how he thought he was in Olympia because it was obviously Bakersfield out there and the doctors were there to help him because he was hurt.

I took this on Terry's first furlough after three months at the Centre for Neuroskills. Terry was back.

From that breakthrough Terry took off like a rocket. No one has ever worked harder to get better. The doctors told me in our weekly call that he was the most focused and dedicated patient they had ever seen. I remember being afraid to visit him. Would he still be that sad-eyed blank-faced person I had delivered to the Centre?  When I rang his doorbell for that first visit to his apartment at the Center in January, Terry answered the door. It was Terry, I could see it in his eyes, he was back. His strange roommates and their minders were so happy for him, that’s a moment I won’t ever forget to be grateful for.

Terry and John Neff the day before we headed to Bakersfield. We lost John to canceer a few months ago. I will be eternally grateful for everything he did for me. He was Terry's boss.

Here at home, John Neff and John Hartung and Darell A. are heroes too. They didn’t have to, but they stepped in and made sure we were going to be okay. John Neff, who passed on recently, marshalled the staff from the City of Lacey to make improvements to our house so Terry could come home from the hospital. John Hartung and Darrell spearheaded a fundraising drive which helped offset the travel costs of going back and forth to Montana and to Bakersfield. I owe so many people so many thanks I could write a blog and just list names.

Terry came home from Bakersfield in April. He was different. I have said its been like being married to his twin. A little odd sometimes but he’s still Terry. We had a huge party and invited everyone who had lent a hand, we were so happy to have Terry able to hug everybody and give them his own thanks. Best party ever.

He returned to his job as Fire Inspector, thanks to John Neff who believed in him every step of the way. It was hard for him, people look at TBI people like they might go bat flap crazy any minute, or drool, or forget, fill in your preferred symptom. He knew lots of people were waiting for him to screw up and prove he couldn’t do it. He didn’t fail. He went to work every day and he felt like a leper a lot of the time but he did it. Five years later he’s still doing it. Life has gotten easier but it still has challenges. He can’t retire yet because of the financial burden of the accident, ancillary costs of my losing my job to care for him and the things you never plan for and think about. He’s tired, but he still gets up and gets it done every single day.

Terry and Meesh walk together every day

He can’t run anymore which breaks his heart, but he walks every day, sometimes twice a day. His beloved dog Meesh would not be happy without his walkies. Terry gets foggy and forgetful when he is really tired and we adjust for that now. He has lost the ability to feel emotional highs and lows in a lot of cases which has been hard for both of us. Our lives have changed, and he was depressed enough to go into therapy. He wanted old Terry back. His doctor told him old Terry was gone forever and he needed to face that and get to know new Terry.

My hero, this summer on a top down day in the Mini

He has done that. Every day is hard when you are someone you didn’t used to be.  For 60 years he was exactly who he wanted to be and now he faces a different man in the mirror every morning. Because he fought like a tiger to come back to us, and because he proved everyone who said he couldn’t do it wrong, and because he never gives up no matter what, he is my hero.