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Ed

His Name Was Ed

The first time I went to Omaha, Nebraska, it was October of 1994. It has since become like a second home, it bears that sort of feeling.

But that first time, I was there because I was in liver failure. I was twelve years-old and my parents had exhausted options in our home state of Florida.

This was an era before Internet; fax machines were the hot technology. The information and support available to patients and families was limited. Being as we were so far from home, we stayed in a sort of group home offered as a patient resource. It was a converted Victorian-era home called “The Potter House”, where families from out-of-state could stay more affordably than a hotel for extended visits. We were in room six, on the second floor. Our room had a lovely sitting area, a sunroom of sorts, that was ideal for reading. It overlooked the quiet neighborhood about two miles west of downtown, which is now known as the Blackstone area.

Every act of kindness creates a ripple with no end

I was being evaluated as a candidate for a liver transplant. This process can be lengthy, requiring all sorts of tests before learning whether one will “qualify”, for lack of a better term, for the national waiting list. And, once a person is listed, there is no guarantee that they will receive the organ they need. Life on the waiting list is precarious, but that’s another story for a different day.

The idea of a liver transplant was terrifying, as in the early nineties, it was still kind of a new thing. There was a support group and some books available, but I was unclear about what my future would entail, should I receive a new liver. Would I be able to attend school or play sports? I was at that time very sick and home/wheelchair bound, so all my hope was to be a “normal” kid again.

Then I met a man named Ed. To this day I don’t know his full name or really any details about him. I just remember coming downstairs to breakfast, gathering in the communal kitchen; I watched Ed lace up his shoes and sprint out the door, going for a run.

Ed had very recently undergone a liver transplant. And he was out for a run. I was fascinated.

“What advice can you give me?” I implored, incredulous, to this man that was a picture of health.

He smiled and considered my question. He replied: “it’s gonna be hard, it’s gonna hurt, but you gotta push through it.”

I was floored. In that moment he became a sort of enigma, embodiment of a muse.

Nearly 25 years have passed and I have thought of Ed’s advice every day. It was simple advice, but he represented the very torch of hope to me.

In many instances, his advice has gotten me through the day.

I don’t know what became of Ed, but I am still here. His advice helped me navigate and recover from two liver transplants, one on April 16, 1995 and another on August 5, 2011. His advice taught me how to be a good patient, because that in itself is a difficult prospect at times.

Ed will never know what he did for me that day. It’s amazing that we can touch another person’s life without ever knowing it.

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A Bit of Treasure

A wonderful act to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I so very admired my great aunt; her name was Gizella. To my family and I, she is known as Aunt Giz.

She was the epitome of chic, which is the perfect balance of humbleness and sophistication. One of my earliest memories is feeling enchanted by this marvelous woman. She conversed with me not as a little child, but as a lady, and as such, she made me feel valued and grown-up – which, to a little girl, is everything! She was so genuine; Her generous affection was pure, radiant and sincere, but her dislike for something was not unknown either. I admired that about her: such an honesty of being.

I think many people feel as I do, about relatives and friends passed on: I didn’t get to know her as well as I’d have liked to. Much I know about her was, very sadly, gained after her passing.

Aunt Giz

When she passed, my family was tasked with the “final arrangements”, which included the dismantling of her life – in literal terms. What to do with the books she read, the silverware and tableware from which she ate her food, the blankets that warmed her? Sad and stressful, the undertaking altered my perspective of life, particularly about its details. We would call to one another, from room to room: “what do you think should be done with this (insert object)?” (The things we picked through were sorted into roughly three categories: toss, sell, donate.) It was an uncomfortable feeling, crossing into someone’s personal space and deciding how to dispatch their things. After a few days at this task, a sort of numbness came over me and, most of it, was a job to be done. Closing her estate took a long time, but that is another story for another day.

Amid the chaos, there were a few little treasures that begged me to keep. I have three pieces here in my studio space with me.

Photo Album

One is a thick, heavy photo album, brimming with an era of photographs of Aunt Giz and her beloved husband, my Great Uncle Eugene (known to all as “Gene”). It is an intimate portrait, a delightful pictorial story of her life from about 1965 to 1980. They are in love with one another, it is evident. They lived in an incredible home in Malaga, Spain, sparkling Mediterranean on the horizon. There they entertained with fabulous style among numbers of friend; lovely people with smiling faces, of whom I cannot name.

Aunt Giz with Happy the dog and Marta, a 1966 VW Camper Van
Aunt Giz with Happy and Marta the 1966 VW camper van

I wonder if, after my time has passed, someone will look at my photos and feel the kind of radiance and love that I do for Aunt Giz? That, in my opinion, is a testament of a life well-lived.

The second item is another photo. This one is 8 x 10”, black and white, and we believe it to have been taken by Andre Kertesz; he was a close friend. That is an interesting detail to a photo buff —  Here, it is the subject of the photo I love. Gene is seated, looking at a pamphlet of some sort; my Aunt Giz stands just a little behind him, leaning against the wall, looking at him in evident adoration. It’s a beautiful moment; I consider it art.

A moment, a lifetime: Aunt Giz and Uncle Gene

The third item is a page of handwritten prose; I don’t know to whom to credit for the thoughtful and serene discourse. I have it tacked to a corkboard that hangs above a bookshelf; now and then I seek a few moments’ comfort, as I hope you will too.

In closing, I affirm that this is one of those articles about “the best things aren’t things”. The belongings I speak of aren’t of monetary substance, but they conjure the invaluable memories of an Aunt I cherished in life — and even more afterward, in her legacy, that alludes to the colorful, astute woman that will always be representative of Aunt Giz.

Goal

To live content with small means.

To seek elegance rather than fashion

To be worthy, not respectable and wealthy, not rich.

To study hard

Think quietly

Talk gently

Act frankly.

To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages

With open heart.

To bear all cheerfully;

Do all bravely

Await occasions, hurry never.

In a word, let the spirit be unbidden

And unconscious grow up through the common.

This is to be my symphony.

The Wall

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In February 2018, my friend Darren reached out to me regarding a project at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Darren is the recipient of a kidney & pancreas, and I am a liver recipient. (I have a chronic condition known as Budd Chiari Syndrome, for which there is no cure. Because of this condition, I received my first liver transplant April 16, 1995. Unfortunately, I needed a second transplant on August 5, 2011, due to recurrence of BCS.) Darren and I have worked together on a number of organ donation-related causes, and this one sounded especially interesting.

Still living in Tampa at the time, I traveled to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Darren introduced me to Debbie Alexander; Debbie brought together a small group of hospital staff with the hopes to find suitable artwork for a wall that had been allocated for a project.

The project is called “Wall of Heroes” and was designed by a caring physician named Jeff Sadowsky. Dr. Sadowsky believed something needed to be done to honor organ donors and their families. He explained that when someone passes, and they choose to donate, their families leave the hospital with their grief and a plastic bag containing their loved one’s belongings. They return to their lives within the community without distinction – but they are heroes, their loved ones are heroes, and they deserve recognition.

Dr. Sadowsky chose to act, founding the organization GR8 to DON8 in 2009. Merging his love of fitness to the cause, he formed the GR8toDON8 8k Run for Organ Donation. Contributions from the GR8toDON8 8k Run were allocated for a second passion project of Dr. Sadowsky’s: The Wall of Heroes. Dr. Sadowsky thought families and loved ones should have a place to go in which they could honor and memorialize their hero. A wall within Orlando Regional Medical Center was designated for the memorial.

Currently the Associate Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center, he was initially impacted by the power of donation during his early years in training, where he often saw very ill patients in need of transplantation.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives (hence the 8K Run for Organ Donation) while tissue donation can improve the quality of life for dozens more. Last year, nearly 31,000 lives were saved due to the generosity of organ donors. Today, more than 120,000 children and adults await that precious gift. Hundreds of thousands more patiently wait for the gift of tissue donation.

Dr. Sadowsky’s vision for the wall was a piece of artwork that would somehow convey gratitude and honor for organ donors. Darren and I brainstormed on an interactive project that educates the public about the importance of organ donation and will hopefully inspire individuals to choose life and register to become a donor (if they have not already). Meanwhile, Dr. Sadowsky and the collective group of Team Orlando assigned the concept of the ripple effect. How would we create – and fulfill – the vision of these caring people?

The blank wall

As a liver recipient, the mission to honor donors resonated deeply. I sketched a few designs but the painting that was ultimately selected came together quickly. I named the painting “the Odyssey” in honor of my beloved physician, Dr. Michael F. Sorrell, after something he said many years ago.

The Odyssey. The droplet signifies the act of donation, which triggers the ripples to begin moving. Like water, emotion runs deep, with each ripple representing the different aspects of the donation and transplantation process.

Dr. Sorrell is now retired, but in 1994, he saved my life. I was an eleven-year-old child with an undiagnosed disease. I went from being a healthy kid to deathly ill and spent a year bouncing through countless doctors and tests, to no avail. My parents had heard of Dr. Sorrell, and although he did not typically deal with pediatrics, agreed to see me. My family traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to meet him, and I was finally diagnosed with Budd Chiari Syndrome. Due to the advanced state of my disease, I learned that I would need a liver transplant to survive. I’ve always appreciated Dr. Sorrell’s kind but matter-of-fact way of speaking, and he described the transplant experience as an “odyssey”. In all the years that have passed, I’ve yet to find a better term. This odyssey begins as a patient, hoping you’ll qualify to be listed, despite that your opportunity at life means tragedy for another. Then the call comes that the transplant team located a match: you’re simultaneously so many emotions that it leaves one breathless. It’s an experience in extremes.

My painting is a simple design: a cascade of ripples that are created by a single water droplet, comprised of a bold but limited palette of blues against a bright white background. The water droplet represents the action of an organ donation, and the ripples are all the lives positively impacted. Some ripples will be organ or tissue transplant recipients, some represent organ donors. There are eight definitive ripples that represent the eight transplantable organs.

Darren and I contacted an organization called Intermedia Touch to take the second part of our idea to fruition. We wanted to fulfill the message of the project through means of a digital and interactive product. This piece is especially unique in that while it resembles static artwork from a distance, it is live and interactive on a 70” monitor. The painting was animated so that the water droplet falls, causing the eight ripples to move. As viewers approach, they’ll notice the soft sound of water moving. Users can touch any one of the eight ripples to learn about organ or tissue donation, to dispel the common myths and misconceptions about donation and transplantation, to register to become a donor, or to register for the GR8 to DON8 race. The piece honors donors by allowing families to recognize their loved ones in the Heroes gallery, where they may share up to five photos as well as video. It is a place where families can honor their loved one and by sharing their story, hopefully pass on a message of hope to others.

The project went live January 7th at Orlando Regional Medical Center. It will be officially revealed in April for Donate Life month.

The painting remains in constant motion

Meanwhile, I have been trying to put The Odyssey into words:

The Odyssey.

IV’s embedded: in your hands, the tender flesh at the crook of your inner arm, in your neck, a port in your chest.. they go on.

 Labwork at 4am, or some timeframe like that; the phlebotomist going in before you can fully wake, lights suddenly on, elastic tourniquet snapping around your arm, searching for and hopefully finding an irritable vein.

Transplant Team arrives, you get bad news. They leave in a flock-like formation, white coats, sympathetic smiles and heads nodding. An hour later, the door bursts open, a uniformed aide whips a wheelchair into your small room. They usher you out of bed, filing your attached IV cart in sequence with the awaiting chair. They wheel you and your IV down the hallway, into an elevator, and into a freezing cold, darkened room. A tech awaits with an ultrasound, CT or MRI, or some machine. You cooperate as they direct, the test is performed, and you come and go. An aide rolls you back to your hospital room. As you ride through the crowded hallways you notice that most people do not look at you, or make eye contact, with a person in a wheelchair.

You take a moment to recognize your own slim, jaundiced face in the mirror of your hospital room bathroom.

The hospital at night, quiet finally falls, the pace slackens. You try to sleep.

But the worst.

Beyond any physical pain or anything a patient endures;

Is watching others watch you.

Seeing the effect it has taken on the people you care about, that care for you. You identify sorrow, grief, deep worry, bone-deep fear.

There are no plans for the future. A baby shower for a baby you hope to live to meet; an engagement party for your best friend — and she asks you to be a bridesmaid. I think to myself, I hope I am still alive to see my best friend on her wedding day.

And then the call comes, perhaps the most significant in your lifetime: we found a liver, it’s a perfect match for you. In disbelief — As the news washes over you, you realize with your heavy, heavy heart that another family has arrived at their darkest hour. It is a surreal feeling; you are being given a chance.

Despite the heartbreak and pain, something miraculous is taking place. So many people come together, no matter the hour of day, they rise to the occasion, they are at their best. An orchestra plays beautiful music.

You wake on the other side. You have crossed over.

A new kind of fight begins: The journey to recovery: who knows what life will become? Will life be like it was before all the illness and pain?

It will be better; Each day, you strive for that. It’s difficult, there are setbacks, but there is the victory that you are on the other side and you can look forward to things again. There are lots and lots of small victories, like the first day in months that you can sit properly at a table and enjoy a simple meal with your family. There are the first stairs you ascend, wobbly and quite weak but determined.

Is He okay? I made a pact, took a vow, that I am going to be the Guardian of this new liver, and I’m going to LIVE!

So many put their hearts into saving your life, so go LIVE your life, gratefully humble. ion(e){retur

Ghosts

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Mourning the loss ofsomeone very important to me, lost in an aviation accident, my father offered consoling words that have ever remained in my heart: “You will never again turn the key in the ignition without thinking of them.”

I became interested in general aviation in 1998. I worked in the field until 2008, though I still fly and consider it a passionate hobby. In the wake of losing friends, as has unfortunately happened, I came up with my own assessment: aviation’s greatness can be equaled only by its terribleness.

I’m referring to the bleak days in aviation, when the news spreads that an accident has happened. We check in with one another and find relief when they respond back – they’re okay.

Some people do, but I do not consider flying to be dangerous. We train for emergencies, we are hyper-aware of our own well-being and take precautions to make our flights safe. But. Things happen.

Aviation has taken some very special people; people I admired, that mentored me. These people were hugely influential in inspiring and sharing the passion for airplanes and flying that I hold dear. Not all were aviation accidents, but they all left an impression.

When we lose someone dear to us, there is of course grief. But when it is an aviation accident, a whole other dynamic comes into play, another layer upon an already devastating situation. These were good pilots, people worthy of respect, flyers far more experienced,talented and dedicated than I.

I’ll think of them at themost random times when I’m in the plane. Sometimes, I’ll hear their voice,coaching me on a landing or reassuring me about a quickly-executed decision. We lose them, but we never really lose them. They teach us, guide us, and will forever be our friends, no matter where they are.

Across the Years, Over the Miles

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While living in Tampa, Mike and I shared a spacious hangar at Brooksville airport (KBKV). Upon notice that we were being assigned to Albuquerque, we had many things to consider and plan for, including moving two planes out west. Mike took his Pitts S1S at the end of summer, flying short legs, completing the trip in three days. In Albuquerque, we chose Double Eagle (KAEG) as our new home airport. We moved to New Mexico at the end of August, and the Champ (named Daisy) remained in the hangar at Brooksville. I wished to wait for cooler, and hopefully, less stormy weather.

One of our hangar neighbors from Brooksville had, over the course of months, expressed a repeated interest in buying the Champ, and as life in Albuquerque picked up, the idea grew on me (I had initially waved off this notion with a flattered decline).

In November, I had to return to Florida for an art project I’m collaborating on. I had been in communication with the prospective buyer and planned to show the plane while I was in town. As the time grew near, the reality was giving me horrible anxiety; I had never wanted to sell Daisy. While I try not to get wrapped around the axle with possessions, my fondness for the sixty-year old Dame ran deep.

As the time grew close in which I was to show the plane, there was no word from the prospective buyer — and I made no attempt to reach across the silence. An excitement began to build for the next step: bringing Daisy home.

Prep

My trip kicked off to a picture-perfect VFR forecast and outlook.

When it comes to packing, I’m a total chick: I did in fact possess a hair dryer, curling iron, cosmetics, and a diverse array of clothes for an uncertain climate. However, there are three things that are absolute essentials, when it comes to flying:

• Garmin 495 handheld GPS, mounted on top of the dashessentials
• IPad, for ForeFlight, as well as music (I cannot fly without music!)
• My trusty grey New Balance “flying shoes” – they have the perfect thin sole and rounded heel for flying, especially with Daisy’s heel brakes (that were intimidating at first, but I’ve come to love)

Lastly, I went to Publix and gathered a bag of assorted snacks and lots of water. And then, I felt ready.

The Ship: a 1958 American Champion 7EC, powered by a Continental C90; electrical system with lights, Mode C transponder, intercom & radio. Flight instruments limited to altimeter, airspeed indicator; RPM gauge and oil temp.

The Trip
11/16/2018: I departed Brooksville into clear-blue-and-a-million skies. North/northwest bound and skimming the coast, I drank up the views of the shimmering flats that had played host to so many wonderful memories of my life. Manatees, grey torpedo-like shapes, loitered over swaths of golden sand. I observed a pack of dolphins aggressively circling and crashing upon a school of fish, the powerful thrust of their bodies and the frothy shockwave of water brilliant.

IMG_0653
Daisy of the Gulf coast of Florida

My first stop was Tallahassee for fuel and a quick break. The airspace was buzzing with traffic, mostly military. As I waited to takeoff, I held short for a C-130 on a missed approach. (A novelty, as this is the airplane my husband, Mike, flies for the Air Force.)

I continued west, communicating with flight following in the congested airspace. As I hummed along in the golden afternoon light, I heard the Blue Angels jet team interacting with controllers.

The sun had begun to slant in descent, casting long shadows on the acres of trees below. In the way distance, I could still see a little sparkle of the Gulf, and I felt a pang of nostalgia for the place I’d called home my whole life.

IMG_0700
The Florida coastline

I had hoped to go a little further, but decided to stop for the night at KMVC, Monroe, Alabama. ForeFlight gave promising reviews, so I decided to see what was there. (When flying cross-country, at some of these out-of-the-way places, it’s never assured what you’re gonna find on the ground. This is all part of the adventure!)

The cold front had left behind limitless skies, streaked with a few feathery cirrus clouds. The airfield was quiet and not a soul stirred as I taxied in to a deserted ramp. I discovered a couple of employees inside the FBO, who assured me that I’d find decent lodging and food just across the street. I secured Daisy at the tie-downs, apologizing to her for the lack of hangar for the night. Lugging my three duffle bags, I bummed a ride to the hotel, which was only about a quarter-mile. If I didn’t have so much stuff.. (Please!)

The hotel was decent and after getting settled, I headed to the diner-style restaurant next door, AJ’s. The fried catfish and cheese grits were absolutely delicious and a perfect ending to my first day “on the road”.

catfish
fried catfish, cheese grits and hushpuppies from AJ’s in Monroe, AL

11/17/2018: Up early, I bummed a ride with Betty, the hotel housekeeper, back to the airport. 8am, and Army helicopters were already coming and going; many of the small airfields in the region rely on the military traffic for a sizeable part of their fuel business. Conditions were ideal for the flight and I was eager to get airborne. Taxing to the run-up area, I swung Daisy’s tail around and held the brakes, sliding open the side window, pulling off my headset, and listening carefully to the engine (as I always do). However, my magneto check was frighteningly ugly, the engine violently lurching and struggling to make power, even on both mags. I tried the left magneto again, thinking fouled spark plug, but quickly decided this was way over my head. I taxied back to the ramp, befuddled.

The lineman at the FBO called someone, who then called someone else and a mechanic was located. He was nearly two hours away but willing to come out if he had the correct parts in stock. The plane had just come from its annual inspection in October, and I just so happened to have my logbooks aboard (thinking I would need them for the sale). Stored way in the back, I dug out the retro suitcase containing the logs. With this magnificent streak of luck in possessing the logbooks, I was able to tell him exactly what was equipped. By even greater miracle, he had the parts in stock. Freddy and his son Beau were a Godsend, overhauling both magnetos on the tailgate of their pickup truck.

tailgate repair
Just a Saturday afternoon magneto overhaul…

Meanwhile, I drank coffee and killed time on the veranda at the FBO, enjoying the cool morning air and bright sun, watching the planes come and go.

I observed a woman setting up a small corral in the grass adjacent to the tarmac. A moment later, she returned with a litter of the cutest puppies I have ever seen. Naturally, I was over there in a hot minute. She was an employee of the county, the animal control officer. She explained that while the county operated a “kill” shelter, they worked with various programs to get as many animals adopted as possible. In this case, the pups were going to Florida through a program in which private individuals donate the use of their aircraft and their piloting time to transport high risk animals to new homes. I was becoming rather attached to the sweet little black puppy I had been holding; I inquired about his availability and learned that he, and all his littermates, were already adopted and enroute to their new homes. A bit misty eyed, I nuzzled his soft ears with my cheek and wished him luck. I handed him to the people that were flying him to Florida, to a new and hopefully wonderful life.
puppy
Inside the FBO, I was offered lunch. I learned that they cooked an assortment of food every day, which was hungrily devoured by the droves of military crews and hungry travelers. I helped myself to the soup, which was excellent, just as Freddy was finishing up on Daisy. He suggested that I make my next stop in Madison, Mississippi (KMBO). Starting the engine, I could instantly tell the difference – she felt like herself. I made one approach over the airfield, my confidence in Daisy’s repairs rising as I felt the returned strength of the engine.

It was a perfect, quiet, late-afternoon flight in crystal-clear air. I landed and taxied up to an elegant plantation-style FBO building. Quite impressive, it greeted travelers with soaring columns and potted topiaries. I was able to get Daisy into a hangar for the night and took a Lyft to a nearby Hilton Garden Inn. I was delighted at the availability of Bonefish for room service; hungry and beat, it was the perfect ending to a crazy day.

11/18/2018: The mechanical delay had cost me an important bit of time, as I was now dealing with another cold front passing through the Dallas area. While I had planned a more northwesterly heading, I was going to have to jog south to try an avoid the band of weather. Trying to gauge the edge of the front is difficult: what is going to be safely out of the path without compromising too many miles? I headed to KIER, an airport I could not pronounce, “Natchitoches”. The line guy just smiled and kindly offered the correct pronunciation (which still befuddled me). I took some fuel and studied the weather, as I was starting to see thickening layers of clouds and spots of misty, poor visibility. Limited options ahead, I decided to try for Lufkin, Texas, which was just over the state line. KLFK was reporting VFR conditions, but I was concerned that none of the other airports on the 248nm jog had any weather reporting capability. Those airports were remote outposts, but if I had to, I could always set down at one and wait for conditions to improve. This strategy in mind, I took off, happy to be making progress. The weather to the northeast was daunting, a thickening deck that was pushing me further south. I was able to maintain 1,500’ AGL but felt a pang when I looked behind Daisy to see a curtain coming down. The south was clear, but I didn’t want to use it unless I had to. With fifty miles to go I had two choices: continue to KLFK (which was reporting VFR) or go to one of the “remote outpost” airports. (I had a picture in my head of spending the night sleeping in the plane, not ideal.) Sometimes you can read forecasts all you want, but you just have to see for yourself. Knowing I could go south if I had to, I pressed onward, avoiding misty patches and breathing a sigh of relief as Lufkin airport came into view.

Shutting down and opening the door, I was shocked by an icy blast of cold air (my stop one-hour prior had been warm and humid). The temperature plummeted and as I had a look at ForeFlight, I saw the airport had just changed to MVFR conditions. I was relieved to be on the ground – again, not a complete day of flying under my belt, but I was in a friendly, safe place. Daisy had a large hangar, safe and sound from the cold and damp. The FBO was generous in allowing me use their crew car for the night: a gianormous, mile-long maroon Mercury Grand Marquis that had been formerly used as a law enforcement vehicle.

The light faded very quickly that afternoon and the sun succumbed to wet clouds. I found refuge at a Hampton Inn. At the hotel’s suggestion I tried Ralph & Caico’s, a New Orleans style seafood joint. I loved their shrimp stew and even bought a couple bottles of the hot sauce for home. It was tasty and warmed my belly on the cold and rainy night.

I set my alarm for 6am, hoping to get in the air bright and early. However, I awoke to the sound of rain sheeting against the window pane. I got moving and to the airport early anyway, hoping for the best. However, I was socked in. Even after the rain moved off, the tops of the trees were barely visible against the edges of craggy grey clouds. We weren’t going anywhere. I felt exhausted.

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Daisy tucked away from the weather in Lufkin, Texas

The FBO housed a great little restaurant, a breakfast and lunch place. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of eggs, sausage and toast overlooking the rain-soaked ramp. I hung out at the FBO for most of the day, checking and re-checking an unrelentingly bleak forecast. Disappointed, I returned to the hotel and called it a day. Once again, the FBO was generous with the use of their crew car, and I was grateful to have landed in such a hospitable place.

11/20/2018: I launched into the bright morning sky, so different from the day past. Brownwood Regional would be my first stop. A friendly place, the line guy explained with a chuckle that I had to flip a switch to turn off the police light located on top of the Crown Victoria (another former law enforcement vehicle-turned airport crew vehicle). I took the car a few miles into the town to find a burger.

For a few hours I had zero cell service, which is a confusing thing altogether, because I was able to send a receive messages in the air in some very remote places. Back at the FBO, the manager addressed me, telling me to call my concerned husband and directed me to a landline. She explained that Mike had called looking for me, concerned when I had not checked in. So, I used a landline and called my husband, assuring him that all was just fine.

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windmills in central Texas

Pressing on, I made my next stop in Odessa. (Yep, still Texas!) I would’ve liked to make one more stop but was running short on daylight. For the overnight, Daisy was directed to an executive hangar, complete with heat, living it up among a crop of mid-size jets.

As I unloaded my bags and secured the plane, the line guys had questions about Daisy: did it feel different to fly a fabric airplane as compared to metal? How old was the Champ? And, everyone always asks me this question (I don’t know why): how long have I been flying?

Odessa
Daisy makes some classy friends in Odessa, Texas

Making small talk with the Turkish Lyft driver, enroute to the hotel, I hoped this was the last night on the road. As fun as the flying had been, I was weary.

11/21/2018: High clouds made for a grey start, although it seemed to be predominantly VFR across the northwesterly route. Directly west was clear, but I needed to jog more northwesterly, and I was beginning to contend with altitude.

I flew over miles upon miles paper-flat land, oil fields as far as the eye could see, some shooting bright orange flames into the dreary sky. The cloud deck descended, a soft white curtain falling, just fifty miles from my next stop. I was forces to turn back and land at a desolate airfield called Lea County. On the bright side, I was finally in New Mexico. But I felt like the only person on earth, shivering as I walked cautiously toward the small brick FBO building, uncertain as to what I would find. To my surprise, it was cozy and warm, and a television blared from the wall, though no one was to be found. I sat at the table near the window and discovered stacks of pilot magazines, none with a publication date more recent than 1979. I seriously wondered if I fell into a time warp as I pored over articles and advertisements boasting state-of-the-art avionics equipment that was now defunct.

An hour passed and sunlight began to stream through the clouds. I decided to take another shot at getting to my next stop, Roswell. The timing worked out and the clouds were breaking, revealing a changing landscape: small, taupe-tinged hills ranged in the distance.IMG_0834
At Roswell, I was cleared to land behind a C-130 (caution, wake turbulence!). Feeling very tiny, I taxied to the FBO, marveling at the rows upon rows of retired airliners parked on the tarmac.

boneyard Roswell
Rows upon rows of retired airplanes at Roswell

The FBO fueled Daisy while I took their crew car to a nearby burrito joint. I was jittery for my next and final leg because of the mountainous terrain. I knew how the route appeared on the sectional but couldn’t picture it for myself. A lifetime flat-lander, I regard much respect for the rugged terrain of the west. Daisy’s density altitude performance was another unknown. My strategy was to climb and allow myself a wide berth.

As I climbed back in the airplane for the final leg of my journey, the sun shone brightly and the air felt crisp. The engine sprung to life; applying takeoff power, the tail popped up quickly, a good sign at the 4,000’ field elevation. We bid farewell and a happy thanksgiving to the friendly controllers.

On this leg, the landscape changed from flat oil fields, and steepened. I climbed first to 6,500 and as the mountains loomed ahead, kept going to 8,700’. We cut through the Sandias just south of an airport called Mountainair, and then, literally, we were home free. It was the last small jog of the journey, a cloudless, late afternoon, illuminated with bright sun.

Daisy does nothing quickly, always remains humble, but she took care of me, and as we touched down at our new home, Double Eagle, I thanked my sixty-year old airplane for her faithful service. Fabric and spruce, she had delivered me through a time capsule’s worth of technology, amid sleek business jets and modern airspace.

foothills
The terrain changed from flat Texas oil fields to sage-covered foothills

Mike was waiting at the FBO with the dogs and it was a joyful reunion, just in time for thanksgiving. As I begin a new chapter in Albuquerque, I have such abundance that I am genuinely humbled. This trip was extremely difficult for me, physically, and in turn, mentally, but it was an experience I truly wanted to see through. It was 19.7 hours of stick and rudder time and in my opinion, one of the most authentic ways to see the country in which we live. Daisy is from another era of aviation; when I fly this airplane, she forces me to slow down. With permission to live slowly, we open our eyes, our heart, and even our imagination. All of the friendly people along the way that helped get me where I needed to go reassured me that the heart of general aviation is still alive and well, and unspoken kinship still abounds. And with Daisy, I know I can go there – to a place that’s timeless.

ABQ
The final ridge before Albuquerque

Ready

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I recently heard a friend say that she wasn’t ready to get another dog. (The context was: not emotionally ready to adopt a dog, because she was still very sad about the loss of her previous dog about a year earlier.)

A few months back, a different friend told me that he was reluctant to try online dating because he didn’t want to get hurt. Entering the dating arena placed him and his vulnerability front and center as easy prey.

We say: Timing is everything. And, while it’s true that timing is everything, we don’t get the luxury of picking the when.

The definition for ready is “completely prepared or in fit condition for immediate action or use; duly equipped, completed, adjusted or arranged, as for an occasion or purpose; willing.”

But are we ever ready for life as it unfurls before us? Isn’t that part of the fun, not knowing what lies just ahead, around the slight bend and just out of sight?

Furthermore, what constitutes our readiness for things?

In the end, isn’t it the suddenness or element of surprise that gives us an extra mite of joy in receiving the gifts of life? We adapt, softening and often delighting in the new puppy or meeting and getting to know a special person. Furthermore, isn’t it that things and events always turn out a little different than what we have imagined (hopefully for the better)?

On the other side of the coin, we pay individuals with psychic gifts to hopefully gain insight about what lies ahead, shrouded in the mists of our future. Do we really want to know? If we are told to expect the arrival of our perfect prince, how does that change the way we view life and the near future? Contritely, what if we are involved in a wonderful relationship and are told that it is about to come to a dramatic end?

In my experience, we are never really “ready”.

About five years ago, I was not dating. I had “taken myself off the market” or whatever you’d call it. Just being single.

A few weeks before Christmas 2015, my good friend was hosting a holiday party in Orlando. If you know me, you know that I loathe driving, and even on its best day, Interstate 4 is hellacious. The trip would’ve been approximately three hours each way, which really isn’t a big deal. But, I have a valid airmen certificate and an airplane ready to fly – and it’s a short 35 minute flight. It was December 4th, 2015, and I woke to sparkling sunshine, clear skies and light winds. With travel options, I chose to fly to Orlando, instead of driving.

When I fly, I always patch in my iPhone so I can listen to music. With good music playing, I lifted off from runway 5 around 10:30 am; once airborne, I executed a gentle turn to the east. My route of flight would take me directly over a small airport called “Pilot Country”, but other than that, it was an easy, direct path to Orlando Executive airport. I leveled off in the smooth air and settled in, enjoying the sights and sounds of the flight. As I approached Pilot Country airport from the west, I keyed in their frequency and made an announcement that I would be over-flying the field from west to east at a thousand feet. It was a Friday morning and I didn’t observe any other traffic, so I expected to continue my route of flight, uninterrupted. In that moment, how was I to know that my whole life was on the brink of changing forever?

A gentleman’s voice replied on the frequency, announcing that he was also in the vicinity, flying a Pitts. We deconflicted, and then he asked if he could form up on my wing? A Pitts is an aerobatic biplane and has always been one of my favorites. And in so far as forming up on my wing? Ummm, sure? This isn’t normal, but it happened so quickly – and I’m always one for some impromptu fun.

A black biplane popped up next to me, just as quickly and unexpected as could be. I snapped some pix with my iPhone, and the cheeky aviator asked if I’d kindly text those to him. He proceeded to give his phone number over the frequency, and I sent them along, realizing I had just given my number to a stranger, possibly the stalker-type. We flew along in a loose formation for a few moments before he pealed off, zooming off into the blue sky from which he’d emerged only seconds earlier. I continued to Orlando, the rest of the flight uneventful. I met my friend and recounted the strange encounter I’d just had.

Hello there
The photo that started it all!

The mysterious Pitts flyer and I began exchanging text messages. I had no idea who he was, just a fellow flyer on a sunny day. Intrigued, I agreed to meet him at a small area airport a week later.

On the day we planned to meet, it was another lovely day, warm for December but good for flying. I arrived at Zephyrhills airport before him and parked Daisy, the Champ, near the main runway. I always keep a blanket aboard for such occasions and spread it below the wing to sit and wait. A few moments later, I heard the authoritative sound of a powerful engine, and the black Pitts roared down the runway, abruptly pulling up into a steep climb and making a turn to re-enter the pattern. The Pitts landed and taxied up, parking next to me. I was suddenly kind of nervous! The moment of truth had arrived: who was this mysterious charmer?

The canopy opened, and a dark-haired man pulled himself from the narrow cockpit. I froze, staying seated right where I was, totally losing my cool. Seconds later, he finally stood before me: a handsome, clean-cut guy around my same age named Mike. I observed no wedding ring, another good sign. We were both nervous to meet one another, I could tell! He sat upon the blanket beside me and we got to talking, sharing a beautiful afternoon in each other’s company.

Mike, the bold Pitts flyer, and I were married on February 22, 2018 – and if you put those digits down, they make up the radio frequency on which we met (122.8). I might not believe that story if it were not my own — but you just never know what life has up its sleeve. Was I ready to meet Mike? I would’ve probably said that I wasn’t, but we were obviously meant to meet. I have often wondered at the timing – two minutes in either direction and we could’ve missed one another.

There’s no such thing as being ready, but it serves us well to anticipate the good that can come when we least expect it. Know that The Universe listens. Things can and sometimes will go wrong, but more oft than not, they go right. Try being ready to receive good things, believe in it, and keep your eyes on the sky. ❤

New Artwork & New Scenery!

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We’ve just relocated to Albuquerque, NM, from Tampa, FL.

It was daunting to leave Florida: my roots: my friends and family, my love of the water, everything. But, change can be a good thing, and it will be what I choose to make of it.

Before our big move, while Mike and I were house-hunting, one of the items on our wish list was a space of some sort for my artistic endeavors. About a year ago, I decided to dedicate myself to painting, and made it a priority. I had not anticipated how much art I’d be making, and before long, one small easel was joined by two large, free-standing ones. (Being that I work in oils, I usually work on three paintings simultaneously because of the time it takes them to dry.) Well, before long, my canvases and materials took over the living room, and beyond.

 

My beloved husband has always supported my artistic endeavors, but I was still flattered that he made my art a priority in our house search. (I still have a hard time referring to myself as “an artist”. Mike’s endorsement gave me a much needed infusion of confidence.) Anyway, we ended up finding the perfect home with the most amazing loft space! A few weeks later, in the tedium of unpacking, I had an “a-ha!” moment, realizing how art has both carried and delivered me. About six months ago I learned that my artwork was selected for use in a very unique, public memorial that will debut in April of 2019. Furthermore, the loft in our new house is the most wonderful studio space! I’m beyond thrilled!

But — I didn’t set out for this — and I initially fought the change from corporate career woman to independent writer and artist. Of course I did; what foresight could have told the twists and turns to come? But alas, here I am, feeling as if I’ve found not only my groove but something that is congruent to my soul. In many ways, this journey has been a spiritual one, teaching me to believe in myself and to trust. About two months ago I heard a saying, and it has uplifted and empowered me ever since:

Let go
and Trust
that you are
Always Guided.

May it bring you the same peace. ❤

Eight new paintings have been added to my Etsy shop. A preview is above, or you can view at the Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/poeticflight

As always, thank you for visiting! – Julie

Follow Your Heart?

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For the past three years I have worked as a writer for a dating website, writing profiles for men and women across every walk of life. It is one of the more unique ways I have used writing as a means, and I enjoy the work.

As most would expect, the variety of people is interesting, although the things we seek in love seem to be universally similar: respect, authenticity and honesty. Most say that followtraveling tops their list of interests, followed with food and friends. Having written for all kinds of personalities, I see their uniqueness – but I don’t think we’re so different when it comes to our emotional being. We are all afraid of getting caught up in some crazy, painful situation and being made to feel like a fool.
Singles always say, “I don’t want to get hurt”. Ponder for a moment: what we’re really saying is that we don’t deal well with discomfort. Comfort is a luxury, but we treat it as a necessary commodity. The way I see it, the moment a person sets foot in the dating arena, they’re accepting the risk. Perhaps they’ll hold back emotionally or maintain the most superficial of contact. Having nursed a broken heart a time or two myself, I can certainly understand why we conspicuously avoid the myriad of awful emotions tied up in that.

Moving in a slightly different direction, consider: not every relationship is meant to be forever. Many people come and go — there are many whose absence leaves longing but others (hopefully very few) to whom we say, “good riddance”! I’m a fan of the author Elizabeth Gilbert, and one of my favorite sayings about matters of the heart is hers: “a soulmate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention, so you can change your life.” Soulmates, I think, come in various forms, ranging from friendships to those of the romantic persuasion. We often (inadvertently, I believe) gain much of own growth from those around us, friends and lovers alike. Every relationship in life suffers an inevitable fate of some imperfection. However, from such elasticity, we grow.
Passion leads us into situations and circumstances of great possibility, for richer or for poorer. We laud and admire those that are great risk-taskers, anyone from characters in books and film or even political leaders and artists. In closing, I would always encourage any one to take the risk. I’ve always believed in love, and I mean that about the love we have inside ourselves for others – not the other way around. I imagine that love resembles a lighthouse, emitting a giant, powerful sweep of brilliance. By keeping that light to ourselves, we never know what we could be shining it upon.

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New(er) Pictures

Roses in glass vase, oil on boardIMG_2773

This painting was a blast! I used a palette knife instead of a brush for a good portion of it, which is a new technique for me.

Below, horse is also oil on board

IMG_2201

 

IMG_2874Here comes the next feather! (Incomplete as of this posting.) This is the largest painting I’ve attempted yet, with a dimension of 36″ by 18″ — so, it’s not like the Sistine Chapel by any means, but a definite step in painting in the larger scale for me.

The name of this painting is “The Source”. When I think about creativity and from where it comes, I imagine a cool, dark place where earth and sky seamlessly intersect. There is a soft, chilly and audible wind that moves across the land, bringing beauty and invention to the seekers. This place is called “Inspiration”. While it may look like a place of endless dark, there is much to behold. When I visit this magical place, I am sometimes gifted in feathers, which float down from the starlit heavens to land softly upon my offered palm. But this particular feather emerged from the clear inky sky, softly backlit by stars. This painting is many layers, many colors, from navy to lilac and sepia tones and a lot of gray. Being that it’s not yet complete, I don’t know quite where it will end up yet, but it has been a blessing and joy to make.

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Out of Sequence!

I bought this delicious dish of a novel, used, and upon reaching a very crucial part of the story, discovered a huge swath of pages missing!?!?

pagesSkips from page 96 to page 161

I tried flipping thru to locate pages, to make some sense, but they’re all out of sequence!

…Guess I’ll be locating another copy on Amazon…

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What April 16th Means To Me

green ribbonDid you know that April is National Donate Life month? Each April, we celebrate the generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye, tissue, marrow, and blood donors.

What does this mean to you?

Organ donation is something that people tend to feel uncomfortable about, as it involves end-of-life decisions. I do not understand this hesitancy to explore things that involve death; we celebrate birthdays, the coming-into life. We must also consider the going-out-of (which we all hope shall be merciful).

Firstly, I find it amazing that we can perform the act of transplantation – organs, tissues, everything. Initial attempts at transplants were devastating. The transplant teams were fighting hard for their desperately sick patients but were failing time after time. It broke their hearts – they had grown to know their patients and their families. The brave pioneers of transplant surgery failed so miserably that they shut down the program for years. One of their biggest hurdles was in preventing rejection of the transplanted organs, chiefly due to a lack of reliable anti-rejection methods and medications. The concept was revived as technology evolved, and modern transplantation is nothing short of amazing.

Furthermore, transplantation demonstrates the transparency of color, gender and class, which I whole-heartedly support in my overall view of society. Additionally, I think it’s beautiful that someone can simultaneously leave this life and give life to another.

That said, on to the date of April 16th. On that day in 1995, I was twelve-years old and withering away in a hospital bed. People chose not to give up on me – family, doctors and nurses, and complete strangers.

April 16th, 1995, is the date of my first liver transplant. I went to sleep, the doctors went to work, my parents tried to nap in an uncomfortable waiting area throughout a very long night.

As this was happening in our lives, another family was dealing with sudden tragedy; the death of a twenty-one-year-old: son, perhaps a brother, a friend or a nephew. I’ll never know.

While volunteering for the cause of organ donation, I have had the pleasure to meet a number of very brave donor families. Many have shared that donation was and is a small comfort to their grieving hearts: knowing that another human being was able to live and carry a part of their loved one. I speak for the community of transplant patients in stating that we all are very grateful and regard our donor as a hero.

After my liver transplant, I enjoyed sixteen healthy, happy years. Unfortunately, my disease is chronic, and I would go on to require a second transplant in 2011. Both donor families chose to remain anonymous, and that’s OK. Regardless, I think of my donors every day. And each year, on April 16th, I pause and reflect upon the day that changed our lives.

Organ donation saves lives. The spectrum of donation is very amazing and does incredible things for people: corneas can restore sight for someone that is blind, bone can mean the difference for someone’s ability to walk, a heart can beat for someone else. I urge you to consider this important decision. If you haven’t already, you can register here.

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Perfect Design

I had a bit of an epiphany today while walking one of my two adorable dogs, Stella Mae. In Florida, where we reside, this time of year brings lots of falling leaves and foliage. The sidewalk was littered with heaps of brown leaves, sticks and other plant matter. It had rained recently so I was trying to avoid the squishy and slippery globs of leaves and didn’t pay them any mind until one in particular caught my attention. About twelve inches long and a camel-tan color, it’s like a smooth, elongated pinecone. It was absolutely beautiful and reminded me of a textured leather bracelet or the handle of a well-made handbag. And so, the epiphany is that my love of art comes from my obsession with design, and more particularly, beautifully designed objects.
Perfect design

My great uncle Eugene Lux was a fairly successful packaging designer during the 1940’s. Compact cases were one of his specialties, and this was during an era where little compacts and mirrors were a trademark of luxury and class. He made other things as well like packaging for children’s toys, but I’ve always regarded compacts with a special fondness. What an elegant and lady-like little luxury – a beautifully designed little piece, like jewelry! They’ve been out of style for many years now, but a few cosmetics companies still carry beautifully designed compact mirrors, meant as a special treat and a nod to an era of supreme elegance.

Eugene was an avid collector of art and even collaborated with some very chic artists of his time, including the incredibly famous Piet Mondrian. His rubbing elbows with the likes of such incredible fame and talent were as natural as any peers that you or I have in our lives today. As a designer and art collector living in New York City during the 1940’s, they all ran in the same circles.
The 1940’s are an era that have always fascinated me; we took our time, we made things with quality and pride, we made things just to be special things. I do get a thrill when something comes in great packaging. Side note: I’ll hand it to some of the present-day cosmetics companies, as I feel there has been a noticeable shift toward elegance with some of the new palettes at Sephora and Ulta!

Nature is the master of utterly perfect design. Nature is the creator and root to many artists’ inspiration. Artists toil to replicate soft petals, their delicate shape and sumptuous colors in perfect balance. The colors we name things come from nature, such as rose, peach or avocado. As an artist, I’m always looking at beautiful things, which are everywhere. I started seeing how we replicate nature in design in nearly all things, ranging from our clothing to home design and so many other things. I believe our pursuit of beauty leads us to make great things, and those that resent or reject the notion of beauty are missing a sensory opportunity that’s unparalleled.

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Aren’t You Scared?

One of the most gratifying gifts we can give another person isn’t an object, but an experience.

My father took me flying when I was a young girl. The thing I remember most about the day was how the flight made me feel simultaneously interested yet calm. There was so much to look at, between the airplane itself and the incredible view.

But, something I’ve noticed: When people learn that I fly, they almost always inquire “aren’t you scared”?

I’m so not a thrill-seeker. Flying fits my world view that life is meant to be enjoyed, which includes, being accepting of and embracing things (and people) with an open mind. Flying is what I want to do as a means to escape or take a break. I seek out an hour or so to get away; in the air, it’s quiet and beautiful. My phone doesn’t work above a certain altitude, so the act of unplugging is assured. I see things that move me beyond words; You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky, said Amelia Earhart. I wish more people would experience it, and understand how it works; I feel the fearful aspects would lose their power. Furthermore, I don’t feel that it’s as inaccessible as people assume.

You know what does illicit fear in my heart? Illness. Crowds. An inability to pay bills or fulfill my commitments. Car accidents. Cruelty. But flying? I don’t think it’s any crazier than many of the things people routinely engage in; To that end, we can search long enough to find the elements of danger in most anything. (Tide Pods anyone?)

Lastly, no, I don’t think I’m special because I fly. But I think that flying is special, and I want to share it with others.

I have taken people up for their first flights and it’s a gift to me to watch their joy unfold. I have a little mirror in my cockpit so I can see my rear seat passenger; we will be climbing out after takeoff and I can see their eyes gazing down, smile alighting their mouth. Then they’ve got their phone out, and their snapping pictures and guess what they’re doing?
Sharing it.

The Triumph of Kindness

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Thank goodness the Good Lord made dogs.

I love all animals, but dogs fascinate me because they’re the only animal (that I know of) that specifically choose humans to be their companions. Even when people are not good to them or betray them, (which is unfathomable to me) a dog remains loyal, and, in most cases, will return to humans again.

Between my parents and Mike and I, we have three canine companions. Two were rescues (Stella Mae, a beagle/lab, and Lili Lupita); and our little chihuahua, Badger Kingsley, was kind of a here, take this puppy, situation.

This story is about Lili Lupita. She came from a small town, Center is the name, in Colorado. Someone found her wandering the streets and she ended up at a nearby animal shelter, where they discovered that she was suffering from neglect and serious injuries. Apparently, someone kicked her, hard, in the chest; this resulted in serious internal damage. (Infuriating, right?)

Lili needed major surgery to fix her. The small shelter could not afford the operation, so they decided to try and adopt her “as is”. Lili went to a family for a little while, but they brought her back. Her situation was becoming dire; she couldn’t really eat and had difficulty drawing breath. She was very skinny and had the most heartbroken look in her eyes. She was very timid and fearful and held her tail tucked under her hindquarters.

Lili 1
Skinny and homeless, Lili was originally called “Shasta”

The shelter (Conour SLV Animal Shelter) had faith in Lili (then known as Shasta); they reached out to Dr. Jeff Young, also known as the Rocky Mountain Vet (he has a reality-ish TV show on Animal Planet). He offered to perform Shasta’s needed surgery for a reduced cost. But even with the reduced rate, the shelter did not have the funds.

Again, the good souls at the shelter fought for her. They held a fundraiser, and the community rallied behind little Shasta.

Friends of my parents (they are shelter volunteers) offered to drive Shasta to Denver for her surgery. My parents offered to care for her on the day before the trip to Denver. My parents were moved by her story, and the shy little creature snuggled up to my mom very soon after arriving at their house. My parents decided to adopt her, hoping and praying that she would survive the surgery.

Lili 3
Lili (then known as Shasta) warmed up quickly to my mom

We all waited anxiously – the long and complex surgery was hard on her frail little body. Yet, despite the rough beginnings in her short life, it seemed as though Shasta also had faith and a desire to live. She pulled through! My parents couldn’t wait to receive their new baby.

Lili belly
Lili’s belly shortly after her surgery

Shasta wasn’t unwanted anymore, quite the opposite! She came home to a cozy bed, toys, and good food. She slowly put on weight and made a full recovery. She was reborn with a new lease on life. Shasta was renamed Lili Lupita. Over time, she gained confidence among humans and other dogs. She loves to play with Stella and Badger when they come to visit.

pack
Lili, Badger and Stella, begging for vittles in my mother’s kitchen

That was nearly three years ago. She is a bright little spirit; she wags her tail constantly, and is the most loving little creature. In an instant, she’ll hop up on your lap and lay her head on you, wanting to snuggle. (Instantly heart melting!)

Waggy

Lili is amazing; her story captivates me. I was already a dog lover, but in watching her transformation, I’m even more smitten. The heartbroken look in her eyes and her gut-wrenching fearfulness slowly faded away. The dog she is today is nothing short of astounding. Lili never gave up: she never wavered on her will to live. Early in life, she learned that humans can be cruel, but she also learned that most are loving and kind.

Lili 2
Lili, bonding with my dad

Lili’s story is also about a community of people that wouldn’t give up on a small, timid, unwanted stray. Lili’s loving and happy nature suggests that she thinks humans are pretty amazing.

Humans and dogs belong together.
Waggy 2
Lili Lupita’s waggy tail and happy face! Every dog deserves to be happy and loved.

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Turquoise Everywhere

Do you ever feel compelled by a specific shade of color? It could be a piece of jewelry made out of a colored stone that you cannot get enough of wearing, or your favorite flower in a distinct hue (periwinkle!). Over the past few weeks, I’ve been obsessed with turquoise, especially in painting. I have several projects going, as usual due to the long drying time, and they’re all featuring the color to some degree. It began with the panes of glass in the window with the roses (unfinished).. I felt that contrast to the reds and ruby shades was really nice in a subtle way. Turqoise floral

Next up, a blank canvas that I’m not sure what will come of it. I really love making subtly complex backgrounds. At first they appear to be a block of grounding color, inferior to the main composition. The background doesn’t compete for space, but tells its own story — for those that are willing to look for it. Anyway, before I knew it, I was mixing turquoise (relishing the smell of the oil paint as a new shade came to life on my palette).Turquoise oil

A subtle backdrop should contrast nicely with the vase of flowers, which will be slightly abstract in white and pink hues.Turquoise acrylic flower outline

.. and…Turquoise acrylic

Yep. I’m ate up! Turquoise can be pure, like a Colorado sky, or moody when there’s deeper colors aside, or fun if purple or pink wanna come hang. Regardless of how any of my paintings turn out, working with color brings me an of-the-moment sort of satisfaction, that embodies the joy of working with art materials and the overall aesthetic gratification.

A Little Lipstick

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The painting featured was created by my talented grandmother.

My grandmother introduced me to beauty, a fascination that grew along with me. She had a wonderful seated vanity, a classic old-Hollywood-esque station with a large, wall-mounted and three-sided mirrors surrounded by exposed, round light bulbs. A glamorously upholstered chair bellied up to a generously-sized, three-sided countertop. Three drawers rose from the floor to the counter on either side of the seating area, which were filled with all kinds of cosmetics. From a young age, my grandma let me play to my heart’s content, but there was one drawer that was just for me: the one containing all her samples from Estee Lauder, Avon and others. Wonderful, pint-sized lipsticks, blushes and scented lotions galore just set the hook; the mold was cast; this began my lifelong love of all things hair and makeup!

She was the type of lady not to leave the house without a little something on her face, a little pulled together. She had wonderful taste and her own signature style, sometimes colorful and a little bohemian, sometimes refined and glamorous in pearls and red lipstick. A gifted painter, I would assume that she was naturally drawn to pretty things. She often made her own clothes and was an artistic and truly beautiful woman in so many ways.

For me, makeup isn’t something I have to do, it’s something I want to do. It makes me feel pretty and more confident, especially when I wear a bright lipstick. I am grown and my youth is quickly becoming middle age, but I find myself reminiscing about my beloved Nunny each day as I reach for my own stash of cosmetics. It’s so fun to wear winged eyeliner or try a new product. (I find that the packaging is half the joy of the cosmetics experience!) However, I’m yet to have the vanity of my dreams, which looks just like the one my grandmother had. Someday, when I sit in front of my dream vanity, it will all come full circle, and hopefully, perhaps I too shall be remembered for my love of beautiful things.

A New Year

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To stride boldly into the new year, we must forgive the burdens and trespasses of 2017. Freeing their weight from our mind and heart will “make some room” for new, hopeful energy and experiences.

I suggest a sage ritual to cleanse and renew your personasmudgingsage3-885l space and your home. Even if you are skeptical of these sort of practices, I ask that you consider this simple ceremony. Taking a few moments to meditate on the concepts of renewal, the undressing and casting off the old and unsavory, will create a sense of calm and lightness of being.

So, I’ll share a prayer for the new year; some simple words that may lift your heart and make ready for the year ahead. Blessed be!

Into this smoke
I release
All energies that did not serve me,
All negativity that surrounded me,
All fears that limited me,
From the last year.
I walk into the new year
With light in my heart
And great hope for better things to come
So it is.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the ritual of sageing, here is a quick overview:

1. Use loose dried sage or a ceremonial sage bundle. This is also known as a wand. If you have a sage plant, you can make your own — just bundle and tie with string, and hang in cool dark space until it has dried out.

2. Next, place it on any heat-proof surface such as the traditional abalone shell. I do not have an actual abalone shell, but I use a large shell that I found on the beach some years back. Light the bundle by holding a flame to it until it begins to smoke. If a true flame appears, shake the bundle gently or blow until it is just embers and smoke. I often find that I have to re-light my sage bundle a few times during the ritual process.

3. When you have a nice smoke going, use a feather, or your hand, to direct the smoke over your body from your feet up to your head, then back down again. I use a large feather, another gift from Mother Nature that I found and kept as a little treasure. Visualize the smoke taking away with it any negative energy from your life, any darkness or malady. Find a prayer that speaks to your soul, or, just the words from your heart. As you speak words of intent, you are willingly shifting and managing your energy. After you have smudged your body, move through your home, or whatever you consider to be our personal area. Wave the smoke into all corners, across doorways and into shadow spaces. To maintain the atmosphere of ritual, repeat the words of your prayer or intent either out loud or in your mind as you diffuse the smoke.

Once the space is cleared, allow the sage bundle to either burn out or gently press it out in your shell or heat-proof container. You can bury the remaining wand in your garden to feel the completeness of the ritual. Once buried, the sage has done its work in completing the elemental cycle.

A quick note on feathers, stones, shells and such… A few years ago, I began finding feathers. They were blatant, I couldn’t NOT notice them! During this period, I would find them directly on my path; one even hit me in the head while I was sitting at an outdoor table at Starbucks in the company of a dear friend! As a spiritual person, I took note; now, I am sensitive to these beautiful treasures. I consider them gifts from our natural and spiritual world; feathers are my favorite, but sometimes it will be in the form of a beautiful shell, stone or even a leaf that will inspire creative feelings. I urge you to accept these lovely gifts as they come to you. It is said that when you accept things, be it objects, a coin dropped on a sidewalk, or even a kind gesture from a stranger, you are creating an energy within the universe that is open to receiving good things. Blessed be!

 

When Creativity Visits, Part Deux

Classic literature is my favorite genre to read; My current pick is Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Mike took an interest in the title, but he’s not an avid book reader. We decided to watch a movie version, which we both enjoyed. But it got me thinking…

Jules Verne wrote that book in 1870, in French, and an English version followed in 1872. Amazing, an idea, a tale, that Verne articulated nearly 150 years ago is still reaching people – and will continue on for how many years beyond? This idea got me thinking about ideas, and creativity, and their reach.

I’ve always imagined creativity like a mystical bird,
flitting around, landing on curiously open minds
like bright flowers…

I’m amazed that we appreciate art imagined hundreds, possibly thousands of years ago – or, even that when we use a device, such as a telephone, that was imagined so long ago, we are interpreting an idea, a manifestation of creative energy. I’ve always imagined creativity as an energy in the form of a mystical butterfly or bird, flitting around, landing on curiously open minds like bright flowers. An idea may come but it won’t necessarily stick, or it may change. Some fester and die. But I like to think of the world as full of this creative energy, flowing all the time.

I think an artist’s greatest hope is that their work engages someone, touches them in some way. Even if that moment is simply to evoke the briefest happiness — like a tactile sense of appreciation, that hope is enough to finish what was started. Painting is no doubt a selfish reward, for all the intricate joys it produces. But back to Jules Verne, or Edison or anyone that receives and engages their creative muscle – you never know who that act will reach. It may not come in your lifetime. How many artists suffered penniless humiliation only to be lauded long after they’ve passed?

It’s an endless curiosity to never know, to not particularly care, who that energy reaches, but rather that it reaches someone. Create for the sake of creation, to fulfill the quest of the mystical bird, bounding through the universe.

Once in a Lifetime

Stella Mae. This is our twelfth summer and I am grateful for her, every single day.

She was at an adoption day at PetSmart. Amid a corral of frolicking puppies, she lay aloof, by herself. As I approached the perimeter, she stood and calmly walked to meet me. She sat in front of me and looked up to me with her soft eyes. DONE! I’ve said and will always say she is a ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of friend.

Here we are in the studio, taking a bothie (not a selfie, cuz that’s just of yourself). ❤

No judgement on the lack of housekeeping in my studio…