Sunday, July 5, 2015

Winds of Change

You got your life planned carefully
But you left out one detail
The hidden hand deals just one round
And the winds of change prevail

Walk softly through the desert sand
Old dreams lead the way
Nothing new in the sands of time
Just changes every day

                                                                             - Jefferson Starship, 1982

Six months ago I told everyone that I was done with this blog because I had run out of things to say here. It is still true that I have been devoting my writing time to sketching, and I really do love that, but it seems that I haven't run out of things to say here after all...

One of the great things about being retired is that life offers us so many possibilities, especially for the baby boomer generation. They really are endless. Some of us want to spend as much time as possible with our grandchildren. Others decide to devote themselves to becoming the artist that has always been hiding inside of them. One person's dream may be to throw off as many responsibilities as possible and spend all of their time fishing. Some enjoy working so much that they never want to retire. The only limitations I can think of would be money and health. I hope all my readers are doing whatever is possible in these areas.

I know that some people hate change. They want their lives to continue exactly as they have been. But I agree with Helen Keller: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." I think change is what keeps life exciting, and I always try to stay alert for the next possible adventure. I'm feeling some changes coming on, so be sure to come back to see what I decide to do next.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out with the Old and In with the New

As you can see, another six months have passed without a post to this blog. I really have tried to stay inspired, but I think I just ran out of things to say here. I'm ready to move on to new things.

And so... I've started another blog! The introductory post came online this morning. It is completely different than what I've been focusing on here. I hope you will join me here for 2015: A Year in Sketches.

I'm excited about using Urban Sketching to improve my drawing skills as I share scenes that I see around me every day. Since my retirement is an adventure in Mexico, most of my sketches will be of local scenes. But if I travel, I'll take you with me.

PS - For more information about Urban Sketching, check out

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lessons in Organic Gardening

One of the first new plants I added to my garden after deciding to try this organic garden experiment was a single dill plant that I saw for sale at the local market. I stuck it in the ground with some fresh new soil and watched proudly as it quickly grew to a couple of feet in height.
Then one morning I noticed lots of bright yellow aphids covering the stems. I might have been tempted before to grab the bug spray and put a stop to them, but I've never sprayed any of my herbs. I instead tried to wipe off (and squish in the wiping) as many of the little rascals as I could.
Each time it seemed that I might be winning the battle, I would suddenly find lots more aphids. Then one morning when I went out for my usual routine, I noticed three ladybugs and a small praying mantis on the dill. I finally had reinforcements!
For the next little while, the good guys seemed to be advancing on the bad guys, so I left them to do their job. Then one day I noticed a bunch of strange-looking black and orange critters all over the dill. No more ladybugs and no more praying mantises and only a few aphids, but what what going on now?
I carefully went over the plant and picked off each of the 10-12 critters along with the piece of branch he was sitting on, placing them in a small box that was handy. I set the box in the patio intending to 'deal with' them before I went inside, but I forgot all about them.
The next morning when I went back outside, most of them had climbed out of the box but were still nearby. I began to gather them up to get rid off (squish) them, when I realized that something was nagging at the back of my brain. Could these critters be baby ladybugs?
I went back inside to consult the internet and, sure enough, they looked just like the baby ladybugs in the pictures. Relieved that I hadn't killed my babies, I went back out and sprinkled them back onto the dill plant. I wanted all the ladybugs I could get!
After a few rainy days that kept me inside, I again went out to check on my babies. These things definitely weren't changing into ladybugs; they were now twice the size they had been and looked very much like caterpillars and were eating the plant, not the aphids.
Once again, I picked all the caterpillars off my dill by cutting the bit of branch they were on. I stuck them into a bottle in preparation for anihilation, but, once again, I got curious.
Back on the internet, I searched for photos of caterpillars that like to eat dill. My very own critters came up in one of the first photos. It seems that I had captured a bunch of developing swallowtail-butterflies-to-be!
I was hoping to use the dill for some pickles, but I also was excited by the idea of growing a crop of swallowtail butterflies to pollinate the rest of the stuff I had growing. Of course, one plant isn't enough for all the pickles I hope to make, and the squirrel that showed up a few days earlier had eaten the tops off all the cucumber plants anyway, so I carefuly removed each caterpillar from the bottle and returned it to the dill plant.
The caterpillars and caterpillars-to-be are all doing fine. The dill plant is still trying to grow faster than they eat. I don't see any more aphids, so I guess that battle is won for now.
I hope I'm right and they will become swallowtail butterflies, and I hope they stick around and enjoy my garden. I'm sure this has been only the first of many such experiences as I learn to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Next time I will do my internet research before removing the critters in question. And may the good guys continue to win!

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Note to My Readers

I know, I know... I haven't been keeping up with my blog for a long time. I'm sorry, but I guess my priorities have just changed.

I began work in November for a quilt competition in Mexico City. It was probably the most time-consuming quilt I've ever made. At the same time, I was working on hand-piecing and hand-quilting a quilt for a very special (to me) baby in Japan. The good news here is that the quilt made it from Mexico to Japan, and I won the "Judge's Choice" award and a new sewing machine. (No photo today but I will write about the quilt and contest soon.)

As soon as I'd finished the quilt - and before the competition - I began digging out and throwing out or moving almost all the plants in my garden. I loved the Jungle look I had going, but so did the bugs. As they say here in Mexico, I had a "plague" of scale insects. All the healthy "Jungle" plants are now in my various patios, but I had scale on just about everything else and nothing seemed to help. We trimmed tree-like bushes back to 2-3' bare branches with no leaves for the scale to hide on, and everythig else is down to  bare ground. I'm bringing in new top soil and planning to replant with herbs - both the culinary types and the smell-good types. I'm also planning to expand my beds to make room for a few Heirloom vegetables in between the other stuff. Growing season is pretty much year around here. We have just entered the hot, dry season. In mid-June, the rains will come and will bring cooler weather. That seems like the best time to plant.

And that will be good timing, too, because am I leaving in two weeks for what has become an annual long vacation. I had thought I'd stay closer to home this year, but a good friend invited me to join her trip to London, Greece, and Turkey. An offer I couldn't refuse! Adding a week of shopping time in California, I will be gone for 6 weeks. We have rented an apartment in Athens and she has arranged a couple of home exchanges in Tinos, Greece, and Ortakent, Turkey, so we will be in hotels only in London and Istanbul.

Finally, I want to explain that I have had to start approving comments before posting them. Unfortunately, I am being inundated with comments that are not much more than outright commercials or links to other sites. I am sorry if you are one of the people who has commented this way. I do not have the time to check out all of these links, so I will automatically mark any linked comment as spam.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Heathcare Mess, Part 1

I've been thinking a lot about this health care mess we have gotten ourselves into. I had huge hopes for universal healthcare, but it all just looks worse and worse as time passes. Many people in the US are quick to blame President Obama, but he didn't cause the problem. It has developed over many years, and it is going to take some serious changes from everyone to fix it. Maybe the Obamacare problems will be the kick in the butt that the US needs to straighten it all out.

I have some ideas that might help; you may have some of your own. No one is going to get anything done unless a real conversation gets going and we all accept that we have to make some changes in the way we live our lives. Everyone is to blame: insurance companies, hospitals, drug companies, doctors, and the rest of us who use their services.

The first thing we have to do is to recognize and accept some unavoidable truths:
  1. We are all going to die sooner or later.
  2. We have a lot of control over our health.
  3. We make a choice every single time we put a bite of food in our mouths, lift a drink to our lips, and plop down on our butts in front of the TV or computer.
Death is an inevitable part of life. We are all going to die whether we like it or not. There is no way out of this one.

A few days ago I read an article about the number of people who expect doctors to do everything possible to delay the end, even though that "everything" is outrageously expensive. Even though it often does no good. Even though it drags out the miserable painful illness of a person who is beyond being able to make that decision. That is crazy! Who wants to live longer if that time is spent in pain or without consciousness? And who is going to pay for that expensive treatment?

We all have a lot of control over our health. Very few of us can use the excuse that we don't have the knowledge required to stay healthy. There a thousands of books and internet sites with all the information anyone needs. There are libraries for those who can't afford books or the internet. Who can say they don't have the time or the interest to find out what they need to know? What can possibly be more important than maintaining good health? How many times do we need to be told that the majority of our health problems are brought on by our lifestyle choices?

We make choices every day that affect our health. Food is the fuel that powers our bodies. Some fuel is good, high octane stuff that is good for us; some fuel tastes good but offers almost nothing to nourish our bodies. What do you choose to eat? Is it healthy fuel or is it junk food? And what are you doing to keep your body strong? Are you getting enough exercise? Or are you sitting around in front of the TV or computer every chance you get? Little by little, we have slipped into such an unhealthy lifestyle. We don't get outside and move enough. We don't know anymore what to eat or when to stop eating.

I would like to see everyone able to afford the healthcare they need. However, I believe that we have to take some very harsh actions to make people take responsibility for their own healthcare. I hear people complaining that they don't like the changes that are coming about with their insurance. As hard as it may be to accept, the only fair way to do it is to make people pay according to their lifestyle choices:
  1. If you smoke, you should pay more for insurance.
  2. If you drink or use drugs, you should pay more for insurance.
  3. If you are overweight, you should pay more for your insurance, based on your weight.
  4. If you expect doctors to do everything possible to extend your life, you should pay for it.
  5. If you choose to have children, you should pay for maternity coverage.
Does this seem unfair? Look at it this way: Why should non-smokers pay extra to cover smokers? Why should people who eat right, exercise, and do whatever possible to stay healthy pay for those who don't? Why should everyone have to pay when someone chooses to have a baby?

Insurance should cover us for the things over which we have no control. Even those who try very hard to stay healthy will still get sick now and then, and some of us will have major medical problems, but why not do what we can to stay healthy and save the doctors for when we really need them?

So what do you think? Do you have anything constructive to add? Any ideas that might help? I'd love to get a real conversation going here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kindred Quilters Fabric Arts Group Exhibition

I have been very busy this week getting ready for and then participating in my art quilt group's show and sale yesterday. We held it in the beautiful garden of one of our members.

Although the small group has been together for about 2 1/2 years, I just joined this summer. We share ideas, try out new techniques together, and generally inspire each other at our weekly meetings.

The eight of us have very different interests, ideas, styles, and methods, but we enjoy getting together, throwing many possibilities into the mix, and seeing what we come up with.

Although there had been rumors about the existence of our group, this was our "coming out" party to let the expat community know who we are and what we do. We had a great turnout and a very positive response from those who came to see our work.

They will be hearing much more from us!

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Artist Inside All of Us

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."                                  - Pablo Picasso

Throughout my childhood and into my teen years, I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to paint and draw, to take photographs, to work in clay, to play a guitar and to dance ballet. In my spare time, I wanted to try just about every crafty fad that came along. A high school counselor suggested that I focus on something reasonable like teacher, nurse, or mommy.

Teaching and nursing didn't appeal to me much, and then my parents told me there was no money to send me to college. I got married, had three kids, stayed home and took care of them and the house, and in my spare time I dabbled in just about every crafty fad that came along.

Many years later, I was 40, divorced, the kids were all in school and beyond, and I paid my own way to college. Staying home and taking care of the house and kids didn't pay very well, so I figured I'd better get serious and prepare myself for a career.

I loved every class I took, but I didn't allow myself to take a single art class; I had to be reasonable and serious. Fortunately, just as I was about to graduate, I came up with the idea of opening a quilt shop. I finally found a job that let me make a living in an art-related job.

I loved it! My customers and I became a quilting community. We shared ideas. I taught classes, but they taught me things, too. We all inspired each other to take on greater challenges all the time. When the problems of running a business took away the joy of the art, I sold out and moved away.

Near my new home in Washington, I joined a co-operative art gallery. Although I was the only quilter of the group, we all shared ideas and inspiration. The painters and the photographer and the stained glass guy and I were really all doing the same thing; we just used different materials to do it. That was when I realized the value of belonging to an artist community.

Of course, there are artists' communities all over the world. They offer creative environments that support the work of artists. Some are informal groups, some are organizations that provide short term residencies in small communities, and others are whole towns, like Sante Fe or Taos, New Mexico, that are full of galleries and art museums.

My uncle once took me to see some apartments in Long Beach, California, that had been built specifically for artists. Each apartment was a studio with a generous work space as the focus, but also included a kitchen, a bathroom, and a sleeping area. I would have loved that, and I was seriously tempted, but I was literally on my way to my retirement in Mexico when this happened.

I hadn't done any quilting for a few years, but I recently became involved with a fiber arts group. All of a sudden, it is as if I have come alive again after a few years of drifting along. Most days, I am in my studio for five or six hours. Inspiration is coming to me much faster than I can complete projects. I can't figure out what I was doing with my time before this.

Actually, this whole Lake Chapala area is one big artist community. It seems like almost everyone finds the artist inside of them once they retire here. We have theater groups, musical groups, writers, painters, potters, photographers, weavers, jewelry-makers, quilters (of course) and people creating all over the place. It turns out that once we retire, that artist inside of us has another opportunity to come out and express itself. Maybe this is what they mean by second childhood.

PS - It has been almost 20 years since I graduated from college and barely a day goes by that I do not regret that I didn't allow myself to major in art or at least take some art classes.