Friday, December 19, 2014

December Chase the Stars 5k!!!

I can't believe it! It's December! It's the end of 2014, and the end of our Chase the Stars 5k series! So, how many of you did them all?

Can you believe 2014 is drawing to a close so quickly? Amazing, isn't it? This month's prize is a 5x7 print of your choice from my etsy shops (which are on vacation right now because I'm supposed to be, but the winner of the drawing will get to pick after Christmas!)

Here is the official race bib:

If you're new and want in on the last one? Please join us!

Just sign up on the original post or by joining the Facebook group and letting me know by leaving a comment here or there, go do your 5k (run, walk, crawl...) and then post your results here (or there!)

The rules are simple:

  • You can run, walk, crawl, or any combination of those three, but those are your only options. 
  • You can do the 5k anytime in the 48 hours (but it needs to be in one go, not added up over the weekend or day.)
  • It MUST be done on either the Saturday or the Sunday, races done on Friday or Monday do not count for the 5k. 
  • You need to keep track of how long it took you, not because you are in competition with anyone, but because you WILL BE in later races with yourself. 
  • After you have completed your 5k and posted the results here (along with a link to any blog post you may have posted, but that's not necessary if you don't have one or don't want to) you are more than welcome to the "medal" that's below. You can display it on your website, or simply print it out to tack up on your wall, whatever you like!

When you are finished please leave me a comment about how well you did!

Here are the finisher's medals:

Prize winner will be randomly drawn from official comments on completion of the race both here and on the post in the facebook group!

I hope everyone has a great 5k! Let me know how it went!
Friday, December 12, 2014

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

Sometimes, as a parent, the questions our children ask us hurt our feelings. It's just the nature of the beast. Yet, usually those hurtful questions can shed some light for us as well as them.

Recently, my daughter (who is 16) has been asking some questions about the birds and the bees. More, she's been asking if the bees are as picky about the birds depending on certain things. Wait, are the bees the boys? I get so confused with all the metaphors, so let's just toss them (and what person decided that bees and birds were good ways to approach a reproductive conversation anyway?)

Specifically, my daughter asked if any man, much less my husband, would find me attractive at the weight I am now. What about heavier? Where was the point at which a man would decide that a woman wasn't worth it?

Now, I'm human. I have issues that are all my own and I try very hard to keep the wee beasties locked up when it comes to my kids. A parent's issues are a hundred times more scary to their children and make a huge impression. With that in mind, on the inside I was wailing "I'm a HUGE FAT FAILURE! My daughter thinks I've already exited the human race! I mean, I know I'm a sneeze away from 40, and that's ancient to her, but it's apparently far worse than that! And what if she's right? What if my life is over as a human being in a physical sense? Am I a horrible waste of space? A blight upon humanity??? Do I have to turn in my girl-card?" Yes, I have a little over-dramatic whiner inside me that seems to channel Miss Piggy on multiple levels.

But on the outside I was just simply "Why, my dear, whatever do you mean?"

I only asked that, because I needed a minute to think. Well, I needed a minute to taser, duct tape, and lock my inner-Miss-Piggy in the closet, and then I needed a minute to think about what my daughter was asking. What I was able to translate from teenage-ease was that she was asking (and this is with more background in the conversation that I'm not filling in) a couple things:

1) What if I'm (as in, my daughter) physically not good enough now to be intimate? I'm not a supermodel, and I feel bad about my body. I'm 16, I have a boyfriend, and all my friends are having sex and I'm thinking this whole thing through like any teenager would. (For the record, the mom in me is on life support at this point.)

2) What about when I get older?

3) What is the point at which men stop being interested in a woman physically? What are the rules? How does that work?

Once I got past the typical mom-response of contemplating sending my daughter to a convent, even though I'm over the whole Catholic-thing, I was able to break everything down and talk her through a lot of her questions and even hit upon some answers of my own.

My response to #1, and I'm sorry if this is crass, was that (pleasepleasepleasepleasedonthavesex) a boyfriend is pretty much thrilled to death that a naked woman is with them in real-life, and they give very little thought to a little extra here and there. You're fine, so just let that concern go. (pleasepleasepleasedonthavesexbutifyoudobesafebutdontdoitok?)

#2 was about the fact that you just grow attracted to different levels of maturity in men or women (not that I can't appreciate some younger eye-candy, but I have a whole new respect for men in their 40's and 50's that I would have been appalled by when I was 16.) As we grow, so does our brain when it comes to attraction. Well, for most of us anyway. (And I know you're a teenager and this is your job, but could you please stop treating me like I'm the Crypt Keeper?)

#3 is the hard one. Here is where I balanced honesty and truth with the mom-response, and found a whole new answer that was both something I knew all along, and yet had somehow forgotten along the way.

The truth is that there IS a weight, a physical place, where your mate doesn't find you attractive anymore. I know, because I have been there. I remember it vividly when my husband said he wasn't attracted to me anymore. I had only been married about a year, and I had gained all that weight and ventured into obesity. I remember thinking we were newlyweds, so how could our marriage be broken already? He hurt me, deeply, and it still hurts to this day, 19 years later.

Yet, while I was talking about this with my daughter I realized something else: my husband sucks at communication. He told me he found my body unattractive, but that wasn't it. I mean, I'm sure he did, but that wasn't the root of the matter. What he really found unattractive was how miserable I was. And I really was miserable. I was miserable to the depths of my soul. I couldn't find one thing about my life that was any good, and that last blow, to hear my husband say that he didn't want me, well that was simply the last nail in the coffin.

I have known men and women both who were obese and attractive, without a doubt. The reason is because being attractive isn't just about having the right measurements. Being attractive is also about taking care of your self. It's about looking to your future, investing in yourself, being confident and excited about life and open to possibility. It's about being smart, and listening to others, caring and sharing with those around you. That vivacious and open person is attractive, whether you're a size 6 or 26.

Yeah, my weight sure didn't help things, but that was not the real issue. The real issue was that I was a thoroughly unattractive person because I was sad and hopeless. I was depressed, and lonely, and frustrated, and a part of me even wanted to die. No matter how the movies or television might romanticize the angst-ridden heroine, the truth is that no one wants to be bogged down with someone so mired in their own muck. People are attracted to the bright and sparkly flower, not the puddle of mud. I had lost my way, and looking back I realize I wasn't attracted to my husband either for the same reason. We were really off our path, and too young to have the maturity to realize it and fix it.

A person can say that a stranger they don't know at a certain weight is unattractive, but a partner has a different standard to reach in order to say the same thing. It's important to realize this because we can all too often make our world about our weight instead of about our lives. Our life is not about our jean size and whether or not we ate that slice of cheesecake today, rather it is about what we pulled on those jeans to go and do, and who we were with and what we were talking about when the cheesecake was an option.

More, for me I have found that if I am improving my life, my weight reflects that. The truth behind that is that it becomes easier to make the right choices when I'm improving who I am and excited about my future. It is NOT possible to improve who I am by making the right food choices. I am more than food, and it's a mistake to decide that my life's accomplishments somehow tie into my caloric totals for the day. It's a lie, something to moan over when things are going wrong and everything feels bad from the inside out.

So my answer to my daughter is that the secret to being attractive is to invest in your life and take care of yourself. To have a plan, a future, and to make strides toward it. Be excited, be engaging, and be a part of the world. DO take care of your body, be active, and feed it right - but never forget that physical perfection is not what makes a person attractive. Anyone who says it is has lost their way entirely.

"Pretty is, as pretty does." Simple, true, and worth holding onto.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Snow is coming! That's what they say! 6-10 inches! I'm all atwitter, I tell you, atwitter! It's just the right kind of weather for me right now.

2x2 inch acrylic on canvas - this one will be headed off to Iceland, isn't that cool?
I'm sorry I haven't been posting more, but I have to tell you that I'm working flat-out 16-18 hour days right now to fill orders of prints, bigger paintings, and to get little mini-holiday paintings done (some are sold, some are not, but this is one of my busy seasons!) My giant new art printer arrived yesterday, and I have to admit that I don't like being intimidated by technology. I used to be so good at it, so on top of things!

Now, the world has simply sped up and I'm left sitting around looking at everything and constantly feeling baffled. I feel like I only have so many braincells, and that even if I wanted to, I don't have enough to understand all that technology has to offer. But once, ONCE upon a time, I knew it all. I had total understanding of what was out, what was coming, and I could even do a little programming. Now, I struggle to find the calculator on my iPhone. It's embarrassing, really. (Swipe up, I know... I discovered it by accident the other day. All this time, and I only just figured it out. Ugh!)

On the other hand, I notice I can still type about 130 words per minute, and while my daughter can probably text words faster than that, when she sits down to type a paper at the computer she is practically hunting and pecking. What a different world we live in from when I was her age, and I learned to type on an actual typewriter! (I literally took the class during the switch-over. One segment was on typewriters, the next was on the new computers the school got!)

This little Polar Bear cub is still available, 3x3 inches, acrylic on stretched canvas
My good news is that I have been able to exercise successfully again. Lifting, biking, and I even ran a few minutes on Sunday and plan to again today. I'm totally back to square one with the running because I have lost everything with so much time off between that sprained ankle and then the PF in the same foot. I suppose it's probably a good thing I literally cannot go knock out a 5-miler, as that would probably be bad for recovering and getting rid of my PF entirely.

Still, it makes a girl pout a bit to know that one minute of running is about all she can do without running out of breath (although part of that may be because I still seem to have something lingering in my chest, just a touch. Or maybe it's a touch of something new. Hopefully not!)

I'm having a great time working so much, and it's exciting every time I have to take a basket full of shipments to the post office because I feel a little like one of Santa's elves....

This little 2x2 inch elf is also still available

But I'm also looking forward to December 17th. On that day I send out the last of my shipments, and my husband comes back home until January!

My mistletoe bunnies are off to their new home already!
I plan on making him help me wrap and do things for the holiday, like bake gingerbread houses. He doesn't know that yet or he might try to put off his trip, I suspect. I'll ply him with egg-nog, or something. Speaking of which, have you seen all the flavors out there? I like eggnog, but I can't drink it. It makes me a little bit ill. But I love the smell of it, and I used to love putting a little into my eggnog coffee... back when I drank coffee. I guess it's just hot chocolate for me, now!

This little 2x2 inch cardinal should have landed at its new home, too.

Well, anyway... I'm off to the post office again to send out another huge stack of shipments, and then painting and printing on my fancy-shmancy new fine art printer (I did get it to work last night, and I'm ever so pleased!) I'll probably be up until midnight once again, painting away and listening to holiday tunes! And enjoying the snow blowing around the house! We can't forget the snow!

Is everyone else all ready for the holiday?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Hi there! Guess what? I'm finally mostly not sick anymore! I thought I'd better check in, as it's been a while.

I've been enjoying time with my family during Thanksgiving, avoiding shopping anywhere in person (and really not accomplishing anything online either. We don't spend a lot, but it doesn't matter if you can't figure out what to get your spouse in the first place. Nothing looks like a good deal, if I don't know what I'm looking for!) Now it's back to work, and that's less fun.

I did, however, get a Thanksgiving snow storm! The first real snow of the year, and it was lovely to be all snuggled down with the family and able to enjoy it. There was a snowball fight after dinner and everything. I am going to miss snow.

Speaking of which, we had a showing yesterday. I got some sort of vague "it went well, they're interested" and then nothing. I feel like a desperate teenager waiting for a boy to call! Interested? How interested? What does interested mean, exactly? As a joke, I texted my realtor back "Would begging help?" but I think my sense of humor doesn't translate well over text. (*ahem* I won't be doing that again.)  So, I'm not sure whether to be all hopeful and optimistic that I might actually be living in the same state with my husband eventually, or not. Interested does not an offer make! Not yet, anyway.

I have been working, and I thought I'd share some of them, because it makes my post more colorful rather than just filled with boring text:

I'm channeling the holidays because it makes me happy. The most holidayish one I just finished is this, which I actually sketched out last year and then totally slacked off. Luckily I finished it finally:

"Stocking Stuffers" 8x10 acrylic on canvas. Original sold, but prints and greeting cards available

Then I managed to finish a couple of holiday minis:
"Gracie" 3x3 inch acrylic on canvas, available here

"Candy King" 2x4 inch acrylic on canvas, available here

And now I'm trying to finish as many little holiday minis as I can. I'm thinking a dragon with mistletoe, and more mice and bunnies... any other fluffy animals you can think of that would work on a tiny canvas with a holiday flair?

I've come to realize I probably should have gone to the doctor as she told me to the last time I saw her if a cold ever went longer than a week (something about people with asthma having cold-issues that often need help, or some such thing...) Anyway, I'm at about 90% now, and I'm back to exercising! This helps my attitude out a lot, even if I'm not running yet. My foot issues are still there, if somewhat improved from the shot in my foot. I was really hoping I'd be testing out the running waters at this point, but I'm not there yet, so still biking.

I have gained weight over the past few weeks (particularly after my husband came back for a visit.) I'm not happy about it, but working on changing my patterns back to bettering my physical self rather than making it worse. My husband has been gaining weight too. He came back with a bit of a pot-belly. This is not a good thing, considering we also got a call over the holiday about his father's increasing heart issues.

The truth is that we're middle aged. (OMG I'm middle aged! ACK!) and we must take care of ourselves. It's no longer "should" it's "HAVE TO", and it cannot be put off. People we know our age are having heart attacks and such. More, I look at my parents - who are utter health disasters - and I realize I don't want to be like that in 20 years, and I wonder what they were like 20 years ago. I mean, I remember, but from a child's perspective (even if I was 19, they're still my parents so my vision is skewed where they're concerned.) I remember health issues even then, bad food choices, and so on... but the picture is fuzzy.

I'm going to be 40 at the end of February, and I have body aches and a weight problem. I have a little control over the aches (exercise helps) and a lot over the weight. I'm well aware of that. It's just about making it happen now. Lifestyle tiptoeing as I go along, rather than expecting big changes. In other words patience.

That's what my year has been about - learning to have patience, whether I have any control or not. I'm really having trouble with this lesson, I think.
Friday, November 21, 2014

November Chase the Stars 5k!

Can you believe it's that time again? We're almost done with the whole series! After this race, there is only one left in December and then that brings this whole race series to a close! Sorry I'm running behind with the posts, but I've been under the weather and planning for a birthday party tomorrow for my son who is turning 14! So, without further ado, here we go!

This is the official bib for those who would like one! Just click on it so it's full size and save or print it!

Still want to join in today? You can! Just sign up on the original post or by joining the Facebook group and letting me know by leaving a comment here or there, go do your 5k (run, walk, crawl...) and then post your results here (or there!)

The rules are simple:

  • You can run, walk, crawl, or any combination of those three, but those are your only options. 
  • You can do the 5k anytime in the 48 hours (but it needs to be in one go, not added up over the weekend or day.)
  • It MUST be done on either the Saturday or the Sunday, races done on Friday or Monday do not count for the 5k. 
  • You need to keep track of how long it took you, not because you are in competition with anyone, but because you WILL BE in later races with yourself. 
  • After you have completed your 5k and posted the results here (along with a link to any blog post you may have posted, but that's not necessary if you don't have one or don't want to) you are more than welcome to the "medal" that's below. You can display it on your website, or simply print it out to tack up on your wall, whatever you like!

When you are finished please leave me a comment about how well you did!

Here are the finisher's medals:

Large medal

Medium medal

Small Medal

There are no prizes this month. Everything is just crazy with the holidays, and no sponsors. Next month there will be!

I hope everyone has a great 5k! Let me know how it went!
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tea For One

I have officially given up on chamomile tea. I wanted to like it. I've tried for many years to like it. I loved reading about various characters in all sorts of books snuggling up with a cup of chamomile tea, and it seemed so elegant and comforting... but I can't get past the fact that it smells and tastes like mold to me.

I just can't do it. I have failed in tea-land.

It turns out I am one of those shallow tea types. Instead of appreciating a strong cup of black tea, or chamomile... I like the fruity, spicy, probably doesn't even qualify as real tea - tea. I like chai, blueberry, and apple spice (which apparently has a small amount of chamomile, but has enough cinnamon in it to choke a horse, so it's ok.) Half the teas I drink don't even have actual tea in them. In fact, if they have a strong tea flavor I tend not to like them at all. Although, I do like a glass of iced tea in the summer (unsweetened, no lemon.)

I used to try and drink green tea for the health benefits, and then I ended up with a severe stomach flu and I haven't been able to drink it since. Actually, another flu ended my love affair with curry, and yet another with blue cheese dressing (although I suspect that last one to actually be food poisoning.) Isn't it funny how getting sick once can put you off something permanently? Although, I have to wonder if I just wasn't that attached to those things to begin with. I can't imagine what kind of flu would ever put me off chocolate, for example.

Why am I obsessed with tea today? Because I'm sick, and have been for a week now. It's a cold. Or the flu (upper respiratory) or something. Whatever it is, I'm totally fatigued, my house is a mess, I find it hard to even go take a shower, and getting out for an hour on Monday just about did me in. I haven't exercised. I'm just exhausted. And whiny, apparently. Very whiny.

So, I went out and felt like a criminal purchasing a box of Sudafed (the good stuff, where they have to register your ID and you have to sign for it and everything.) Which doesn't really help. Nothing does. So I thought about how all my characters in various books when they're sick or sad have a cup of chamomile tea and it makes everything better, and I decided to try it once more.

Nope. Nopenopenope. That stuff is just nasty. The only thing I can figure is that it must make them feel like their life is better than they thought because it tastes so bad that it's a relief to stop drinking it!

I went through the rest of my cupboard and even found a tea for colds (echinacea tea?) and I thought that was a great idea! Right up until I had brewed a cup and was about to take a sip when I flipped over the box and saw it expired in 2000. I have a 14 year old box of tea (actually, if it expired in 2000, I probably bought it much earlier than that!) Now, I don't know what happens to herbs and stuff over 14 years, but I'm thinking that with my luck it would have all turned to arsenic or anthrax or something. So, I dumped it and just went to bed.

So, do you like tea? What kind? And how do you take your tea? I was brought up drinking it straight, but then my parents moved to England and I was introduced to the whole cream and sugar phenomenon and haven't looked back since (and with the added calories, this is probably why I have given it up for the most part!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Tear-Down

Do you feel that people criticize one another more than they used to?

I have to preface this with the undeniable fact that I am overly sensitive and I have a wickedly sharp memory. So, not only do I take rude comments more harshly than most would (apparently), I also remember everything. That can lead to a false perception of censure and cruelty where perhaps none (or not as much) had been intended, not to mention not letting anything "expire" as is normal. That's my disclaimer.

Still, this is who I am and I haven't changed since I was very young. I paid attention back when I was a teenager too, maybe even more than I do now because I was that scared teenage girl. I simply don't recall people being this awful and critical about others as they are now.

I attended my daughter's school play by myself, and I was squashed into a row near the back between two separate groups. I knew no one there. So, I kept my mouth zipped, gave up smiling at people after a few fruitless and uncomfortable minutes (I've mentioned before that people act like you're threatening to rob them if you smile at them and they don't know you well here) and retreated to my phone. However, as someone who pays attention no matter what I'm messing with on my phone, my ears stayed open and what I heard just saddens me.

I overheard many comments about people I didn't know.  NONE of the comments were positive. Some mentioned a girl's weight and how she had "gotten so huge since we last saw her." Another commented on someone else's dress. Another mentioned something personal about someone else and then proceeded to rip that person to shreds.

Now, a couple things stand out about all of this: these were adults talking, and that they didn't care who heard. If I had been five rows away I would have heard what they had to say. I know, because the people five rows away were engaging in similar conversation. Nothing was off limits. Someone's weight, what they were wearing, what someone had heard about someone else, family tragedies, financial issues someone had heard about... everything was a target and these people were shooting away without a care for who overheard them. This was more than good old fashioned gossip. This was a sort of hate-ranting activity, and it was a free-for-all.

I would say about 90% of the comments I heard were voiced by women towards another female (teen or adult, it varied.) 100% of the comments were negative, and often cruel. Not one person spoke up, defended, or tried to offer a counter perspective.

Now, we've all seen this sort of behavior online. The internet allows people to don their masks, detach from any thoughts about a real person being on the other end of the keyboard, and to vomit vitriol towards anyone they want without repercussion. I think those of us who grew up without the internet and then watched it take over can vouch for being completely astonished at that particular turn of events (even if we probably should have seen it coming.) I suppose that answers the old psychology question of "If you were in a room with the person you hated the most and you could beat them up and be assured of never being caught or suffering any repercussions, would you?" It used to be a theoretical discussion on what level consequence plays into our actions compared with personal moral code.

Anyway, in my opinion people do seem more cruel and apt to criticize than they used to 10, 20, 30 years ago. Maybe they always thought these things, but I think they were mostly only spoken or expressed behind closed doors with a trustworthy ear to listen. One could argue that if people have always felt this way, then keeping it "politely" to ourselves was actually an act of dishonesty.  And yet... ignorance is bliss, isn't it? Dancing along through the tulips while everyone secretly thinks you are awful is preferable to knowing they hate you and hiding out at home, or having to go out and feel bad about things while trying to enjoy the tulips anyway.

I can't decide if it's the age of the internet and everyone suddenly having their own soapbox from which to express their opinions evolving into actual social situations in real life... or if people just got meaner. But when exactly did we all start trying to tear everyone down all the time?

A friend of mine proclaimed all this tearing down of people all over (she lives in another state, so I know it's not just here) as the age of brutal honesty. She actually thinks it's great because you don't have to wonder what someone thinks of you, and if they felt like tearing you down they were going to do it one way or another, and at least you could hear it and be aware of it instead of blindsided. She feels that my desire to live in ignorance is burying my head in the sand, but the alternative for me is feeling like everyone hates me all the time. I want people to be honest with me, but I think there is a difference between a kind and honest conversation that involves bringing up a problem, rather than trying to rip someone apart and make them feel bad. She says the difference is just window dressing, but the soul of the sentiment is the same. I suppose the greater problem in my mind is that these criticisms are often ones that the complainer doesn't want addressed; they simply want the target to feel bad about them. The end goal isn't correction, it's pain. That, to me, isn't honesty... it's cruelty.

So, where do you stand? Do you feel people are more critical than they used to be? Or perhaps just more verbal, and they were always this critical? Do you feel that voicing these criticisms is a good step towards living honestly and openly, or that it's harmful? Does presentation matter when it comes to voicing something that can hurt someone else? What do you think?