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Acceptance and Hope

March 20, 2014
Honeybee coming in for a landing on our Plum Tree

Honeybee coming in for a landing on our Plum Tree

I’ve discovered that one of the major causes of my right arm nerve flare ups come on when I sit at my laptop for extended periods.  Today I’m trying something new in order to get this blog post out there, because so much has happened since I last wrote. I’m wearing my glasses and writing on the old beast, aka my ancient and insanely slow desktop.  It has a better positioned screen for my neck. I figure while I’m waiting for it to process, I will be forced to get up and do my stretches. That way I can get through this without having to spend the evening with my ice pack and Advil.

About a week after I wrote my last post with my right arm afire, I visited my PT and cried to him that I was not getting any better.  I unloaded on him for about one hour, commiserating about the possibility of requiring another surgery.  Despite hardly sleeping that evening, I awoke the next day with **almost** all numbness and tingling in my right arm dissipated, minus my right thumb.  Regardless of feeling like a huge jerk for crying to my PT the day before, I felt something I really needed and wanted for so long. Hope and Acceptance.  This isn’t to say I haven’t had some crappy days since, but knowing I can get this nerve injury to a tolerable level,  I can live with this.  If I never feel the end of my thumb, that seems somewhat livable as compared with my entire right arm/shoulder.  =)

Therapy Ball

Therapy Ball – my first painting back at it

Cutting back on time usually spent visiting therapists has allowed me to start to think about painting again, but it’s not without challenges.  My husband’s job is extremely demanding and requires a great deal of travel.  This has left me in a position of solo parenting for the most part.  Balancing parenting and creative production is something I’m striving for, but it is very well possible that I may not be able to devote as much time to my art as I have in years past due to our current circumstances.  I am working on accepting this and I’ve created some hope to this situation. To allow myself some freedom and time for art, I’ve signed myself up for 2, week-long workshops this summer with some notable artists.  Getting away to immerse myself in my creative, rather than my logistical brain for a week at a time I know will be incredibly therapeutic.

My family, Hiking at Smith Rock State Park on my 40th

My family, Hiking at Smith Rock State Park on my 40th

Lastly, I know some of you are wondering if I will continue to paint horses.  The answer is YES! with a but… For the first time ever, I feel inspired to paint other things.  The Pacific Northwest is so full of beauty in nature and landscape I find myself to wanting to explore capturing some of this.  It will take me a while to develop some connections with the equestrian community here,  embracing other subjects and diversifying my skills in my portfolio will be a welcome addition.

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Hurry up and Slow Down

January 23, 2014
Reflections at Sunrise, Oregon Coast

Reflections at Sunrise, Oregon Coast

Have you ever endured a difficult time in your life and craved to know just simply WHY? Since my relocation, I’ve spent five of my six months in this new city with a continual pins/needles, numbness, atrophy and nerve pain down my right arm.  If you are a regular here, you read in my October blog entry I was hoping for  some relief with a nerve block. Much to everyone’s surprise,  it didn’t work.  Two days later I was sitting in a neurosurgeon’s office discussing surgical options.

I underwent a “Foraminotomy” at the end of November.  This procedure would drill a larger opening in my C5/C6 vertebrae, remove the spurring and herniation to allow more room for the nerve. 90% of patients see improvement immediately following surgery.  Unfortunately, I fall in the other 10% category. Ironically, I was given the same stat prior to the failed nerve block.

Sunrise over the Pacific

Sunrise over the Pacific

As a regularly physically active person, being out of commission for ongoing five months, has started to take its toll on me mentally.  For months I have felt the weight of two ton concrete boots slowing me down, when all I long to do is run. I’m in a new city, there are new things to explore and new people to meet.  However, the bulk of my life has not been making new friends or discovering new hideouts, but trying to find good health care practitioners and juggling my schedule trying to see each one of them.

When I try to think clearly about the answer to how and why I’ve ended up in the journey that I have been, a common thread of conversations surface. “Slow down and be patient”  My massage therapist said it, my doctor said it, husband said it, my personal trainer just said it yesterday. A whole stream of people in between have said it.  I’ve ignored them, until smack, those words have hit me deliberately across the face.

I realize I am not patient, I want everything yesterday. There is no doubt I am in a period of life change, just as I approach my 40th birthday. Perhaps this injury’s purpose is to strip everything that I know as normal routine in order to create a new and better me on the other side. I am unpatiently waiting to see who that person will be.

Fresh Find

Fresh Find

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“Wherever you Go, There you Are”

October 30, 2013
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Spectacular Sunset, Neskowin, Oregon

After a year-long of preparation and anticipation here I am, writing from SE Portland.  In a mere 4 months I’ve been transported into a different country with entirely new terrain surrounding me. I find myself traveling through a range of emotions. Most days I bounce along the streets as I walk my dog, smile on my face, fascinated by new foliage, backyard chickens and reading bumper stickers (Portland seems to love bumper stickers) Then there are other days, where I long to see a familiar face among a crowd and deeply miss Canada’s Healthcare system, but I’ll get back to that.

The first two months here was mostly filled with logistical duties. All those boring jobs that come with a move, such as setting up utilities, and changing addresses – except this time, we had no clue who the utilities were or where anything was.  Though, I am happy to report, I passed my Oregon drivers test and actually have an Oregon drivers license now.  The DMV is a place I am happy to NOT have to visit for a long while now.

Fleur, Head study, framed up, 10"x10", Oil on Canvas

Fleur, Head study, framed up, 10″x10″, Oil on Canvas

I have yet to pick up any type of paint brush other than those used for painting walls.  Sadly, with the last two moves I have had, I never felt more at home than when my house was up for sale. I’ve been determined to build a nest here and make my house feel like a home before it’s on the market again!  Some of you know that my previous career and school training was as an Interior Designer – it’s been fun wearing that hat again for my own home. One thing I love is that this Portland house is entirely different from my Orangeville house.  Coming from a warm palette, this time around I’ve gone with cool grey blues, accented with Chartreuse and other random punches of fun colour. I’m working with an eclectic mix of mid-century modern furniture and shabby chic type finishes.  In keeping the slogan ‘Keep Portland Weird’, I’ve thrown the odd fake feathered bird in unique hiding locations.

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The beginnings of some assemblage in my new home. clean lined furniture, sheer soft window coverings, a stunning rug and of course, sleekly framed artwork by friends. This one above the chair, courtesy of Kathi Peters. http://www.kathipeters.com

After a summer filled with exploring the area and working on the house, it was about time to prepare for fall and with that the start of school for my son.  I was eager to get into some kind of routine at home and work in this new life here in Portland. However, my body had other plans for me :( The morning of August 28th, I awoke to the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced (and I have given birth before!) Electric shock waves rushed from my neck, across my chest and upper back, shooting down my arm, and landing at the tip of my right thumb.  Of course my husband was away at the time, my poor son watched me in horror as I screamed and cried in pain trying to figure out what to do, how to get help, where to go??? Of all the logistical hurdles we had jumped through to that date, we had yet to find a doctor or figure out how US healthcare worked. I guess there is nothing like just getting yourself thrown right into it.

I’m not going to get into a healthcare debate, I admit to completely not understanding the system here – I am just not used to having to pay for care and having insurance dictate much of your treatment. On the positive side, I was able to have an MRI much sooner than I’m sure I ever would have in Canada, I’m just awaiting the bill for that – lol.

So here I am, three months later typing this blog post over an icepack, my right arm still ringing and burning.  Turns out I’ve got a nasty bone spur at my C5/C6 that is enjoying cuddling with the nerve beside it.  It’s not like the spur grew overnight, why it decided to rear its ugly head here, just when I was about to start really settling in, is a complete mystery to me.  A few doctors suggested that perhaps it was the stress of the move that caused my muscles to tense and lock up, not allowing my joints to move as well.  For whatever the reason, I’m sick of being laid up! I’m ready more than ever to move forward!! I cannot imagine living with this nerve pain for the rest of my life!!! Along with physical therapy, I am getting a nerve block injection next week to try to calm the nerve down.  Let’s hope it works.

My first Encaustic Painting, from a workshop, 8x10

My first Encaustic Painting from a workshop, 8×10

Enough with the pity party over my bummed arm, and back to the burning question of what does the future hold for me and my art career? I’m still working on that picture. I feel now, more than ever that there will be a shift.  I am not sure if it will be medium, subject or style. However, just as patient as I’ve been waiting for my arm to heal up, I am trying to be patient, stay present and enjoy the journey to whatever direction that may be.

2nd of first Encaustic attempt. I like the first one is better, but it's part of the learning curve

2nd of first Encaustic attempt. I like the first one is better, but it’s part of the learning curve

Thanks for checking in and reading my update.  I may not have new work to share for a while yet, but I will try keep you all in the loop :)

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2103 – A Year of Change

January 8, 2013

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I am not sure how many New Year’s one gets to start in their lifetime knowing ahead that it will be a year of monumental, yet exciting change. Some of you may have felt some apprehension in my last post, announcing my family’s move to stateside to Oregon. I’ve come to embrace this change. In fact, I think all of us, including my young son are ready and excited to go sooner than later.

We had the opportunity to travel to our new home in November. That is when all worries we forgotten. We walked through forests, climbed waterfalls, ran along the Columbia Gorge, biked along the Willamette, fell in love with the coastline (understatement!) and last but not least sampled numerous outstanding locally produced Pinot Noirs =) Oregon is beautiful and I cannot wait to explore every inch of it. All that said, there is no question I will miss all my friends and loyal clientele back here in Ontario.

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Fleur, Head Study, 10×10 oil on canvas

In the studio, I’ve been slowly working around household renovations to produce a follow-up commission of a young mare named Fleur. I painted her back in 2009 as a foal. It’s always so exciting for me to revisit these subjects after they have grown and started to fill out. I worked out a sample palette in the head study and begun the large final, to be 36×36 of her in motion.

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Fleur, Work in Progress, Rough in Stage, 36×36 oil on canvas

Last but certainly not least, I have proudly been accepted in my third Ex Arte Equinus Juried Show. Poppy was accepted into the painting category. Be sure to check out the rest of the show of Ex Arte Equinus VI – a fantastic array of equine art from around the world. http://www.arthorsemagazine.com/exarte6/art_competition_winners6.html

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Poppy, 9×12 oil on canvas – accepted in ExArte Equinus VI

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Re-Location, Re-Location, Re-location

October 1, 2012

Twist, 14×18 Oil on Canvas, Private Commission

Two months ago I had a rare date-night with my husband. If you have young children, I’m sure you understand how special and hard to come by those nights are. While sitting cozily in a quaint, local restaurant sipping a glass of red, I confessed to my other half that I had been feeling that some kind of life changes were coming our way. Of course he asked what change?? The truth is, I had no clue!  That explained my feeling of restlessness over this possibility of change. I could not put a finger on what change was going to take place. A couple of weeks later my husband received a job offer which would re-locate our family from the Hills of Headwaters, Ontario – to somewhere yet to be determined in the USA…?

Am I part psychic (lol) or did my openness to the possibility of change allow this opportunity to come through? I’m still scratching my head over this in between my feelings of excitement, anxiety and pure terror!!! I am of course incredibly proud of my hardworking other half for his well-deserved promotion.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve networked with other families who have made similar moves over the course of their lives as well as families that didn’t take the chance – only to regret it. When I stop worrying about logistical challenges and leaving dear friends & family behind, I begin thinking from a positive frame of mind. How lucky we are have the opportunity to have a chance to live in a completely different setting. We would meet new people and explore new landscapes. Our seven-year old son surprised me the other day by stating out of the blue – ‘Mommy, I can’t wait to meet the new students at my new school’…this made me tear up, because I’ve been quite fearful over him not coping with the move and leaving his friends behind too.  I’ve since been told my many friends, that it’s parents that cope with change poorly, not kids!

Piles of Places…now where to live??

We have the option to live anywhere from the mid-west to west coast USA. Given our lifestyle and proximity to the coast, many friends have told us that Oregon might be the spot for us. After spending hours pouring over travel literature, I’ve since learned that I’ve been saying it all wrong, Oregon is pronounced ‘Or-uh-gun’…not ‘Or-ee-gone’…am I ever grateful to figure that one out before looking like a fool by possibly moving there and saying the state name all wrong!

Thankfully we have some time as this move will take place sometime in the late spring/early summer of 2013.  In the meantime we are seeking our new home, suggestions welcome! ;)

btw- in effort to clear some out before impending move – Dutch Auction is up and running – click HERE for included works.

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Thinking Bigger

July 4, 2012

It is possible I think about painting more than I actually paint. Or to be more specific, I think about “the process” of painting more than I paint.   I don’t think this is a new habit, but one that I am becoming very aware of as I evolve my style into a looser, expressive genre. It seems to make sense that all my studio processes evolve too.

Commissioned Oil Study of Trapp

I’ve had a refined process for my oil commissions for years now.  Photo shoot, followed by small oil sketch studies, then after client review we move into the bigger detailed painting.  I’ve been very comfortable with this process.  I had a plan and my client knew my plan.  If I were to stay working in a realistic style of work where the end result is so predictable, this process could possibly remain lifelong.  But I’m moving forward with new freedom and expression as a painter…oh crap…does this process still work????

I’m also realizing that working bigger in a looser style requires changing some method habits I’ve developed over the years:

Habit #1, Brush Size:  Oh flat brush #2, I’ve developed a comfort level with you, but a bigger painting deserves a bigger brush so I can lay that colour down.  I want my brush strokes to be decisive and commanding.  It’s impossible to have this intent with a little brush in lots of itty-bitty brush strokes.

Habit #2, Amount of Paint to Mix:  Bigger brushes, bigger paintings, need more paint. I”m afraid this is a hard one to break begin the paint miser that I am, but I’m working on mixing larger piles. I’ve got my eye on a French Mistress (hey not that kind of Mistress!) A big glass palette box, that I can mix my large piles, rather than the 11×14 palette sheets I’m currently using and running out of room on.

Habit #3, Distance from the Canvas: ….”step away from the canvas…step further away from the canvas…”  This doesn’t require much explanation, but might require some studio re-organization so I can get farther away.

Lastly, I’ve decided to abandon the small sketch study process I’ve had for years. Bravely, I’m moving straight onto the bigger canvas. I hope some of those wonderful and spontaneous brushwork moments I experience in my small study work will begin to surface on the larger canvas as I adjust my other work habits.  I’ve realized trying to re-create a spontaneous moment in painting..is well, just not that spontanious..go figure!!

Capricho, 11×14 oil on canvas panel. This painting I abandoned all brushes and began as a finger painting. How’s that for saying bye to #2 flat? ;)

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An Empty Studio

June 5, 2012

Maddie Winter 2012

A little over a week ago,  I said goodbye to my studio companion and family member ‘Maddie’.  So many friends have faced this decision before, but Maddie was my first dog.  This was my first time having to make that choice for an animal.  In fact, in my Maddie-love moments over the years, I would start to blubber even thinking about the day I would lose her. My husband would look at me like ‘Why are you crying?  she’s right here, healthy in front of you!’  Silly I know, but she was an awesome dog.

I haven’t been able to pick up a paint brush in the studio yet, as she was always so close, keeping me company.  Things are different here.  I thought it would be therapeutic to share a few stories about her. A tribute to my Maddie, I guess you could say.  Maybe one day in the future I will paint her, but right now, I am content to look at her pictures and imagine my fingers in her fur while she looked at me with her soulful loving eyes.

Maddie and Buster, partners in food crimes, 2001

It is possible that I could entertain you with Maddie’s adventures in food crimes alone as there are plenty of stories.  She often employed other dogs to enable her to reach whatever treat was just beyond reach.  In the above sketch she is smiling with her buddy Buster,  back from when we lived in Erin, Ontario.  Buster, our landlord  John’s dog, was famous around town for going out on garbage day and helping himself to all the neighbors trash.  Together formed a formidable food stealing duo.

One night in Erin, we were so lucky to have a friend come over bearing fresh seafood ingredients to make his famous seafood Paella, complete with homemade fish stock  (ie, all sorts of fish parts, required) . We enjoyed food and (many) drinks with friends, forgetting about the seafood smorgasbord the dogs were likely already conspiring for. After a hangover curing, greasy spoon breakfast, we returned to a pungent odor from outside the screen door. Inside, a  seafood war had broken out.  Our apartment was strewn with mussel, clam shells and shrimp heads.  That wasn’t the worst part, it appeared the fiercest food battle between the dogs took place in our bedroom.  Under the covers, we found the components of the homemade broth. This consisted of fish heads, guts and other grizzly remains. Yes, it was disgusting. We found the two dogs, blissfully sleeping in the yard with somewhat distended bellies.

Maddie and Buster also celebrated holidays together.  I’ve always been told chocolate can make dogs very sick, but it would seem the stomach of steel duos could also survive helping themselves to Christmas chocolates. They made sure to carefully unwrap the Christmas paper and foil wraps on each chocolate. Perhaps this was to ensure proper digestion, or good manners in the spirit of the holiday season.

Tired Child, Smiling Maddie

In 2005 along came Aiden. Neither Brad or I were sure how Maddie would react.  She was always the centre of our lives, and now she would have to share the spotlight.  Well, she was pissed off.  She didn’t like the situation one bit.   At about 4 months when Aiden started sleeping through the night, Maddie stopped sleeping through the night.  She wandered the hallway crying and restless.  I don’t think she knew her place anymore.  She was clearly unhappy.  A dear friend on a farm with two other dogs, whom Maddie loved visiting, offered to take her for a ‘rehab’.  We picked her up about a week later, an entirely well-adjusted, contented dog.  In that time to clear her head, I think she realized that Aiden wasn’t going anywhere. Perhaps she had discovered Aiden would be an excellent new source of food!  Aiden and Maddie grew a beautiful bond.   She was his protector, sleeping with him every night, guarding from monsters in the closet and things that might lurk under the bed in the wee hours of the night.  There is incredible beauty in watching a child develop a love for a pet.  I hope Aiden is old enough to remember all the times he had with her into his adulthood.

Camping at the French River, 2010

She also wore the badge of  official vegetable garden protector.  Some of you might know,  I have a passion for growing vegetables.  Maddie helped to ensure no cat or squirrel dare dig in my precious beds.  Being a dog that loved to protect came with its downsides of course. Like the time she got skunked and promptly  rolled on John’s Persian rugs to help herself alleviate the stench.

Her Spot, just outside my Studio

Maddie aged graciously.  She came back from the vet’s office on three occasions over four years with a prognosis of months to live. She showed us (and the vet) time and time again, she was not ready to accept this sentence.  I made all of her dog food and looked after her senior supplements religiously.  I feel great pride to know I have been a good dog mom.  In the final days, Maddie still wore her smile, but she walked with a horrible limp.  The day before we were to leave for a family vacation without her, her leg was becoming painful to palpate and not load bearing.  A certain look had changed in her eyes.  It was then we knew.

She lived a long, full life.  She was a member of our family for 12 years of her 14 and possibly 15 years of life.  I am grateful to have had such an incredible rescue dog in our lives.  Thank you for letting me share my story about Maddie.  I feel better already now that more people in the world know how great she was.

Thank you Maddie – the Best Dog Ever!

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