Colored pencil may be my new addiction so I hope you guys don't get tired of viewing them while I perfect my technique. This picture is of my new pug puppy, Amore, and a young girl from our church, Rhianna. I've been taking Amore to church since I got her last December. She is quiet and well behaved and loves being passed from person to person during the service. As she has gotten a bit older this is not as easy because she is growing so big so quickly, but both Amore and Rhianna still seem to love their cuddle time. Below is the picture I did this from as well as further examples of my process.
As some of you know, today my first email newsletter went out, keeping you apprised of latest news, classes, art shows etc. If you haven't already subscribed, you will notice there is now a place to do so on the home page of the blog. I hope this is one of many new changes over the course of the next year to make the web site more user friendly.
This newsletter was made possible by an artist development grant through the Vermont Arts Council. This past February a friend told me about the Breaking into Business Program, also sponsored by the Vermont Arts Council. My sister-in-law and I attended and the results, including the grant, have been fantastic. The program offered crucial information and advice on how to establish and further your art business as well as awesome networking opportunities. I am really excited about the newsletter, which I will publish monthly to start, that will give you further glimpses into what is going on with my writing, art, and teaching. And, of course, you'll get a fair share of pug news as well.
Which brings me to the latest update—a new litter of pug puppies at my friend Joan's home. Five blacks, all different in shape, size and personality. I'll be introducing them to you in the days ahead. They are three weeks old, have opened their eyes and are learning to stand. The biggest barely fits in two hands, while the little one can curl up in the palm of one. They are magical and I have been visiting them daily.
Unfortunately, I have to take a break as I am headed to Philadelphia to volunteer for an open air religious crusade in Nicetown. For those of you who come to the pages of this blog as writing students or art lovers, please don't be dismayed as I share these other details of my life. We are people of story, which is what art and writing and living and memory and memoir is all about. So just as I encourage you to share yours on the page, I am learning to share mine. I will be writing more soon and sharing lots of news, pics and some latest art projects, too. It has been a busy summer, which means there are many stories to tell.
Let me get you up to speed… Let’s say for the sake of argument that all of this blog from Day 1 through the middle of last year was Season 1 of our ongoing saga—the pugs, my art, my writing, my friend Joan, her life, and mine. Then let’s say we went on hiatus—a long one. We’ve done a lot in that time, but how do you capture it all on the blog? You can’t go backwards and who wants to inundate everyone with a year’s worth of material, right? But, how do we jump right back in? I’m going to do my best to bring the story forward.
We’ve had our share of romance…
No, not me unfortunately, but my pug Alfie. She turned five in January and it was a do or die moment—time to breed her or forgo the idea once and for all. Alfie is my show pug and the plan from the beginning was to breed her and pass on all her wonderful traits. Unfortunately, her heats were uncertain and it took awhile to figure her cycle out. I decided to take a big leap of faith and go for it this year, so toward the end of January, Alfie and I began daily pilgrimages to visit her “boyfriend” at Pugdom, my friend Joan’s house. Challenge no. 1, while Alfie and the Old Man hit it off, he just couldn’t seem to get the job done, so we had to bring in reinforcements—his son, Gryffindor. Gryff was nowhere near as refined in the courting department, but what he lacked in charm, he made up for in finesse and I was fairly certain after thee successful matings that Alfie was pregnant.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Alfie began vomiting and panting and not acting at all right. I ended up taking her to the Emergency Vet only to learn she had pyometrea, a dangerous uterine infection and had to be spayed. No puppies for us. It seemed unfair on a lot of levels, my idea was if I can’t have children of my own right now, at least I’m gonna have puppies, but that didn’t seem to materialize. Our new grand adventure was cut short, but Alfie is okay, in fact, she seems downright happy and the plan for the future is to find another show dog, since after her spaying, Alfie can no longer be shown.
We’ve had our share of religion…
I spent two weeks in Hawaii last July on the Missions Trip I go on ever year. It was the start of a life-giving time, a creative time, when I returned home I began taking courses to become a certified minister, became a full-fledged member of my church and recently even taught one of our weekly bible studies. I didn’t discover God—I’ve known him all along—I simply got excited about connecting with Him in a while new way and so much has changed.
We’ve had our share of work…
This fall the college where I worked for the past 12 years closed, so I’ve been finding new opportunities to teach at assisted living facilities, arts centers, writing centers etc. and expanding my repertoire. This summer I am supposed to teach at a teen art camp in Lebanon, N.H. I am presently teaching a course on the relationship between animals and memoir writing called “Pet Projects” at an assisted-living facility also in Lebanon. My sister-in-law Gretchin and I are also putting together a joint workshop called Journal Jam.
The art projects are going well. I’ve been in several shows, sold more work than ever, and introduced new techniques such as encaustic to my collages. I joined an artists’ collective in Burlington that not only carries my work in their gift shop, but networks with area businesses to showcase the work of their members. The xposure has been great. In November, I had a solo show of my digital collages called Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood at Radio Bean in Burlington.
I’m currently in another juried show at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center called “Healing with Arts.” The idea behind the show is to hang works of art in the cancer treatment center with the belief that art contributes to and reinforces the healing process for patients with caner. It is an important show for me to be apart of as more and more close friends face the disease.
Also, this fall, a friend made financially possible for me to attend a wonderful and productive writers workshop, Dartbrook Writers Retreat, in the Adirondacks. I worked on pulling some of my blog posts together and creating new writing for a memoir of some of my experiences with my friend Joan. I’m starting to see the themes that underlie the work and why getting to be a part of her life and that of her pugs has been so important to me. The plan is to work more on that over the next year and get that book actually written.
So here we are…now that you’re caught up let’s call this Season 2. Stay tune for our next adventure.
Last week I had one of those days filled with metaphor and meaning, stolen joys and confirmed fears. It is not a day you can sum up in a quick blog post. It is a day that needs to be digested, pondered, explored. It started with a lost dog, TarBaby, my friend Joan’s grand diva of a Pug. Tar Baby began her life at Pugdom, Joan’s home, by getting lost wandering in the woods for 11 days and returning to our amazement as a scrawny, scratched up pup. That was many years ago and TarBaby has transformed from that wee little scamp to an old lady with secrets to share. Weeks ago she suffered a severe injury in a dogfight and Joan has been nursing her back to health. She decided TarBaby needed some time in the sun and while we snacked on Jane’s brown rice breakfast pudding and watched our brood of pugs explore, TarBaby snuck off perhaps desiring one last adventure in her old age. We searched and we searched and could not find her. Hours passed and still no TarBaby. I finally had to leave with the hope that TarBaby’s homing nature would resurface and she would return to the driveway as she had in her youth. No sooner had I hit the road than I received the call that she indeed had found her way home!
Another mile down the road and there was another old dog wandering in the street. Cars stopped on both sides as we tried to corral a wobbling German pointer. She looked dazed and limp and when we finally got ahold of her she climbed happily in one of the cars while I set off to guide them to the local vets. Problem? I had no idea where the local vet lived. I tried to call Joan and finally got through. Googled the vet’s number and entered her address in my GPS, called the veterinarian on the dog’s tags. It was Saturday, no one was in. Joan met me at the vets, who also was not home and we loaded the sweet old lady of a dog in her car with the promise to tell the lady who had been escorting her that we would later text the dog’s fate. We rode up to the ski area where the annual beer festival was taking place to see if anyone had reported a missing dog. Just then, a call from my Mom. She wasn’t feeling well. She was at the pharmacist’s office and thought she might be having a reaction to her new blood pressure medicine. She was ready to drive home, but I couldn’t let her. I called my nephew’s mom, Chesne and asked her to pick her up, then called my Mom back to learn that she was having trouble breathing. I told her to have Chesne bring her to the ER, mere minutes away, and called my brother to have him meet her. Then the phone rang. It was the emergency vet on the other line. Had I found the owner yet? Another ring. The local vet. She was at a memorial service. Could I leave my friend’s number with her answering service in case the owner called? My friend Jane came to the car to share that no one has reported a missing dog. I call my father to tell him about my Mother, call my brother to make sure he is en route to the hospital. Hit the road and call my Mom again to see if she is okay. She is at the ER, her breathing still a challenge.
My Mom is my rock and my best friend and suddenly I was in charge of making sure she was okay. Those who know me know that I pretty much juggle my family’s responsibilities on a daily basis. Twelve years older than my youngest sibling, I’ve pretty much helped raise them and taken care of their kids, arranging family plans, making sure everyone knows what is going on. I’ve crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s for the family, assuming the role of oldest child. Single and childless, to me my mom remains the earth around which my moon evolves. She alone seems to know that while my shoulders are broad they are capable of bending under the weight, that sometimes it is all too much. I dread the day when she is no longer here. No one wants to lose a parent, but my Mom is more than that. I looked at the medicine cabinet in our bathroom today. Three separate compartments, combined into one large mirror. My parents’ recent choice when renovating the bathroom. There is a place for Dad, and Mom, and me. My compartment sandwiched in between the two of theirs. It has been that way since the beginning, me born one year into their marriage. The three of us. They tried to choose a set up that would give us each a space. It is not the setup I would have chosen. The three cabinets break up the mirror and I cannot see myself. And, yet there I am, my space between theirs. I love my parents. I am thankful that they share their home with me. It’s just hard sometimes seeing myself as separate. If Mom were to go, would I just disappear?
I don’t think it’s unusual for a child of any age to question her identity in light of a parent’s mortality and fortunately my Mom is fine. She indeed had a reaction to her meds and is now home trying out a new one. She will be okay. It is the future I do not like to ponder.
At midnight on Saturday, a car pulled up Joan’s driveway and took the German Pointer’s leash in hand. The dog’s name is Belle, 12 years old. She wandered off lost when they opened her crate. She was not far from home when we found her. There is probably a metaphor here: flying the coop, feeling lost, dependence, independence, mortality, the mother-and-child bond. Just because things are obvious doesn’t mean they are easy to see. Sometimes we lose ourselves in love.
I had my third encaustic painting class tonight. We started with photo transfers on to a wax surface. You basically apply a xerox print to the wax, which you burnish and then use water to theoretically remove the paper and keep the xeroxed image. I say theoretically because it can be a tricky process and my tiger lost it's head and a lot of it's limbs in the process. You can see some of its stripes.
I prepared another board by pasting one of my digital collages to it. We will be working with that next week. I also gessoed a second board to create a smooth polished surface also to use next week and concluded the class by playing with wax on paper.
I think this wax on paper image will make a great collage background. Here are some more scenes from the class:
A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I came across the ad for this shirt. Those of you who follow the blog know just how apropos it is given the fact that I've been known to not only kiss a pug a time or two, but I've also won a contest doing so. In homage to Katy Perry, I think it's only fitting to pair my new tee with my new blue-tinted hair. Somehow both seem to shed a little light on who I am.
Mostly Waffles and Alfie look at the world from the window by our front door or the passenger seat of my car. Sometimes they get to see the towns around them when we take a walk. Although they never get out and about on their own, there is a context to their story, a place where we live. Today, the pugs took their perch in the hat-and-glove basket near the door where they can peek out the window and watch me drive away. I was headed to the neighboring town of Randolph, Vermont where my office is located, but I stopped on my way to get gas. The gas station is across from the community theater, recently saved from oblivion by a campaign to raise funds for the required digital equipment. Next to the Playhouse is Village Pizza, one of two pizza places in the downtown (the second sits across the street), where I ate dinner tonight after putting in a day of writing at the office. I have four articles due in the next week.
After dinner, I planned to return home, but I caught the sign on The Playhouse, Citizen Kane, a classic. Since putting in the new digital projector, The Playhouse now occasionally plays a classic or two on a Wednesday evening. Although the forecast predicted a winter storm, I decided to forgo work for the evening and give Citizen Kane a try. It was as good as I remember it, even better getting to see it on the big screen. I came out to a snow-covered car, however, and the trip home was perilous. As I pulled into the driveway and waited for color to return to my white knuckles, I caught a glimpse of Waffles and Alfie waiting for me at their same window perch. It was as if they had never left. They greeted me with sniffs and snorts, reading me like a diary of the days events. They may not have let the house, but they knew the scenery. They could tell where I'd been and they knew w hen I came home. One of the things I love about dogs is they same to live wherever we are.
Writing Prompt: Where do you live?
So the day did not get off to a good start as my last blog post suggests. I decided to make the best of it by going to my office and finishing up an article on Rutland Magazine, promising myself the reward of stopping in town to look around at craft supplies in Belmain's for my St. Paddy's Day Poster (which I already spoiled by inadvertently writing St. Patty's instead of St. Paddy's, though I hope to fix it) and the local clothing store. I was lucky at both locations. At Belmain's I walked down the Easter candy aisle and found Pug & Kisses chocolates. Not only do they have a pair of pugs on the box but each heart-shaped chocolate is wrapped in pug-themed tin foil. At my next stop, Blue Moon Boutique, I found a pair of black socks, decorated with fawn pugs. I had to scold Jan, the owner, however, for not calling me as soon as she found them. She did admit she thought of me, however, when she saw them.
As I've mentioned before Waffles loves her toys. Actually, she loves anybody's toys and somehow she is able to sniff them out no matter where you hide them. She and my niece actually seem to have a hide n' seek game going with each other's toys. So, tonight when I saw a big, round pink piggy toy in TJ Maxx I decided to buy it for her, knowing how much she loves Ellie's big fluffy toys. When I took it home I decided to place it out of reach and see how long it would take for Waffles to find it. I didn't have to wait long. I let Waffles out of her x-pen and like a missile zeroing in on its target, she went immediately to the chair where pink piggy sat, stood on her tip toes and began pawing at the toy trying to get it to drop to the floor. Soon, Alfie was there helping her. It's hard to imagine what drew Waffles so quickly to the toy. I don't think pugs have the best of vision, so it must have been her sense of smell, but it's not like she even stopped to sniff. She just shot like a bullet out of her pen. Whatever led her there the result was pure bliss.