A Fond Farewell to All-Things-August . . . (specifically frozen confections).

So I was explaining to Russ recently that Labor Day is really more funeral than holiday . . .

(a sentiment by which he was not really surprised, having endured 30 autumns with me) and as a reward for my snarky cynicism, mother nature threw us two days in a row of unseasonably cool, gray weather.

this ad is proof positive that truth-in-advertising has been a problem since at least 1940

That prompted me to pull out my jeans and -- I was going to say put them on, BUT -- we'll say attempt to put them on.  Good grief.

If you're already having a bit of an ice-cream-problem type of summer, I would not recommend vacation followed by surgery after which you cease all physical activity for several weeks while indulging in an abundance of self-pity donuts.  Your jeans will scold.

So there's a little work to be done here, along with the necessary arm rehab.  I'll have to see if I can make some headway before the conditioned Minnesotan response to "pack on 15 before the snow flies" kicks in.  (I'm expecting that next week.)

F Minus -- Tony Carrillo

This is a fact I have long suspected.  Because it is unlikely that I would ever be addicted to something that is actually good for me.

I think I'm going to put some photos on my 
studio bulletin board for inspiration.  
First will be this one:

I don't know whether you can tell what this photo is, but it is of two dead fish (one half-stuffed into the other).  It accompanied a newspaper article about fish who die while attempting to eat things as big as they are.  This means that I should probably discontinue the practice of eating things the size of my head.  Therefore, several of my favorites will have to be dropped from the list of approved foods, beginning with the Green Chile Mac-n-Cheese at The Range in Bernallilo, NM  (as well as anything from The Cheesecake Factory).

That photo reminded me of this sorta opposite image, 
which recently came to my attention courtesy of Junk Culture:

World's Smallest Sushi, part of an art project by Singapore-based artists 
Dave Seah, Hwee Chong Chan, and Jody Yeoh.  
Yeah, it's a single grain of rice.  Yeah, it's real.

As with most things, the answer is probably 
somewhere in the middle. 

And portion control comes very naturally
to me in any situation involving fish.....

So maybe adding some sickening seafood recipes to my bulletin board collage would be a good idea:


 Shrimp Jello?!!





I also think I will put some inspirational quotes on the refrigerator door to give me a boost if I am tempted to cheat:

The second day of a diet 
is always easier than the first. 
By the second day you're off it.

-- Jackie Gleason

Vegetables are a must on a diet.  
I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, 
and pumpkin pie.

-- Jim Davis

What some call health, 
if purchased by perpetual 
anxiety about diet, 
isn't much better than tedious disease. 
 -- Alexander Pope

I haven't had fries since lunchtime, 
so I'm off to a good start! 

It's all about positive reinforcement.

(If anyone hears of a really good sale on jeans this weekend, please shoot me a note.  Because I could really use some new ones anyway, and Labor Day might provide the perfect opportunity for giving my old ones a funeral...I mean, since we're already mourning. Funeral, holiday -- does it matter which?  Both observances call for food...)


Something to crow about.

Cooper has a running feud going with every crow in the greater Apple Valley metropolitan area.  From the moment he steps outside, he's on the lookout.

And the feeling seems to be mutual.  They begin scolding loudly as soon as he enters their neighborhood, and continue taunting long after he has chased them to the nearest rooftop.  A tree is not high enough -- he will chase them from tree to tree until they put themselves so far out of reach that he is eventually distracted by something else, like the need to mark everywhere he's been so they remember he owns it.

He is a talented hunter and seems to like birds of all kinds, except crows.  If one offered to jump in his mouth and let him retrieve it, I think he'd just spit at it.  I have no idea why.

I, on the other hand, love them. 

My love affair with crows began years ago when I heard an interview on NPR with the then-world's-foremost crow expert.  He explained about their complex family structure -- there are Aunt Lillies in crow-world, for instance -- and about their language.  He told how they are one of the few members of the animal kingdom who are smart enough to accomplish their survival tasks early in the day, and therefore have plenty of time for play, so they develop games to amuse themselves.  (I believe Cooper is probably an unwitting pawn in this entertainment scheme.)

Sure, crows have grating voices and eat dead stuff. . .
But we all have our less-desirable traits.  Aunt Lillie, for instance, loved Limberger cheese (which smells like a dead thing).  I shudder.  But her admirable qualities far outweighed her questionable dietary choices.

That's why I was so very delighted 
to receive my latest Etsy acquisition:

Murder Two, 5x7, watercolor, Eileen Black, 2011

Leenie, over at Side Trips has started offering beautiful original watercolors in her new Etsy shop,  Watercolors by Leenie.  

Luckily for the rest of the world, Leenie is painting for love rather than money, and I plan to support her hobby and reward her generosity as often as I can!  If you haven't stopped by her blog and shop, please do so and treat yourself.  She is definitely one of the more talented (delightful!) people I've discovered in my travels through blogland.

And now I'm on the lookout for the perfect
Murder Two frame . . . 
which sounds like something I might have
in common with Perry Mason 

(and is an assignment I don't mind in the least!) 


[read: Happy Monday!]



Magpie Fri.



for whatever reason --
luck, loneliness, laziness, love,
little stuff she said
simplicity, sex, sameness, secrets
shared time
toughness, ties, togetherness, trying
twin hearts
happiness, home, humor, hopefulness
having family
fear, fun, frailty, friends
faults overlooked
obstacles, orneriness, only one, others
or all of the above --

they were still together

-- smh

This poem is a Magpie Tale.  Head over now for more Friday fun from this vintage photo prompt!  (And while you're there, feel free to leave a little of yourself...)

Happy Weekend!




Welcome Wednesday.

As you can imagine, 
there's been a lot of celebrating 
going on around here for the past 24 hours.


But as glad as I am to have been released from cast-hell, 
I am not entirely ungrateful for some aspects of the experience.

I'm referring to definitions two and three, of course -- we've already established that I don't draw well enough to have any grasp of definition one.  (And sadly, having a cast did not really help with that.)

It seems that sometimes getting a 
sudden magnification 
of one small aspect of life . . .

can help bring the rest into focus a little better.

Today I am genuinely happy because:

I have on pants with both a zipper and a button. 

I was able to push the garage door opener while simultaneously holding a case of diet coke.

I took a shower, including (but not limited to) washing my hair with both hands.

Short list, but it's enough.  
Not most days, mind you, but today.  

Which represents 
a welcome and 
appropriate adjustment 
to my perspective.



What I Did On My Summer Vacation

or.....I CAN DO THAT 


Today being the last day I can complain about this to anyone, I decided to take the opportunity to examine some of the lessons I've learned and things I've accomplished in the last ten days (I know -- you're thinking, "Has it only been 10?  Seems like she's been complaining forever!"  You are right, and I apologize, but will proceed anyway.)

First, for a little perspective, 
here's the size of the handicap I've been working with:

It looks, and feels, like a drumstick from an enormous chicken-gone-wrong, after he already tried to cross the road and was hit by a truck but lived to tell the tale.  For the record, both the chicken and I are wondering why we did it to begin with...

The weight of the darn thing requires me to keep it in a sling, which I must also sleep in.  (I plan to have a sling-burning party as soon as I can, and all are invited!  Bring marshmallows.)

Anyway, my first big victory was:

Learning to put on my own bra. 

This was dance-inducing, actually.  It was the last straw the day I had to interrupt my husband's important business call so he could help me, and I decided to declare independence. I have never looked back.

Besides not being able to do annoyingly simple tasks for myself, my second biggest frustration has been BOREDOM.  Although some days it is wonderful to have nothing to do, when that condition is thrust upon you it becomes more burden than reward rather quickly.  Not being able to vacuum has been a plight I can endure, but not being able to make anything has been harder.

When a man does not write his poetry, 
it escapes by other vents through him.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

When my hands became idled,  the word faucet came on almost immediately, and I have spent a good deal of time hunt-and-pecking my way through poetry, as well as one short essay.  After I finished the essay (and was dismayed to notice that the only reason it looked like a full page was because I had it on 16 font), I wondered what else I could do...so I took an extra pain pill for courage and fired it off to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  Then I immediately smacked myself in the head with my good hand and said, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING??  And I just endeavored to put the embarrassing lapse in judgment out of my mind.  Which I did.

Imagine my surprise  when I opened my email the next day to find a lovely letter from a man who had seen my piece in the paper (gasp!) and been moved by it enough to spend the morning tracking me down (gasp again!) Needless to say, at that point we brought in the paper....and since I hadn't mentioned my temporary insanity of the day before to anyone, it was a pleasant surprise all around.

click image to enlarge

Last but not least, Sunday brought this quest:

Could I use the bananas I had watched 
rotting all week to bake something?

It seemed unlikely, even for an accomplished one-handed-bra-hooker, but I carefully thought through each step of the process and then determined I'd try . . .

Sweet Success!

So I suppose the entire week wasn't wasted after all,  although my hand writing, eating prowess and tooth brushing coordination have not improved a bit.

If you'd like to test yourself, try flossing your teeth with one hand...I'd need another 10 days or so to master that, and I just don't think I want it on my resume badly enough.

Anyway, thanks for the company during 
my period of confinement.
 You're a true friend . . .

May I offer you a slice of my bread?

And Happy last-day-Monday!



Drawing is an act of observation, 
not coordination.

-- Lindsay Hinckley

 self-portrait drawn with left hand,  by Lindsay Hinckley

These wise words come from the girl who draws like this with her wrong (left) hand, while simultaneously being a gifted wearer of hats.  She is also highly coordinated, and is the master of anything on wheels.  This means at age 28 I still can't take her to the store, because she rides the shopping carts.  But you can forgive a lot in someone who can "observe" as well as she can.

What this quote says to me is that my right hand is obviously much less observant than my left (which must not be terribly observant either.)  

Anyway, that's the thing I've been trying hardest to practice in my drawing (with either hand):

The fine art of seeing.

I'm a trained noticer.

-- Barney Fife

One of my favorite lines by a TV character ever.  Because all visual or written art is really 9/10ths observation.  You must see the truth to be able to commit it to paper, and if there is no truth of some kind in the art, it will never resonate with those who read/look at/absorb it.

Lindsay only had to watch me draw for a moment to identify my first problem.  "You're drawing what your brain thinks it should look like instead of how it actually is.  Stop using your brain," she said, "and use your eyes. Really look at it."

Ouch.  Stinging words to someone who considers herself to be a professional noticer, but absolutely bang on.  Worth much more than I paid for the lesson. Because it's changing the way I see. Slowly, but I'm starting to feel it.

I guess in truth, my ears are trained noticers but my eyes are lazy ones. A real "aha", for which I can never thank my Lindsay enough.

It's almost as if I was afraid to 
actually try to see before, 
and she has somehow suddenly
given me permission to do so. 

Crazy, I know.


So if you've been waiting for someone to give you permission to become an all-seeing, all-hearing, Barney-level Practitioner of the Observation Arts, I hereby grant it. 

We'll see if my eyes catch up to my ears in one year or not.  My guess is, not a chance.  And I also have a hunch that I may be lacking a bit of necessary coordination (no matter how much I love her quote -- I'm not as gifted on roller blades as she is, either.  Just sayin'.)

Happy Weekend!


Writing Wednesday




quiet all my loud colors
their incessant shouting mix
their shifts and all
the problems they present
bumping and vying
trying to be heard
and seen and solved
calm them, cover them
with your words of white
their songs spill on
but muted, undiluted, a sulking
humming blister just beneath
this steady thin veneer
its quick skin spread, a swipe 
across my quaking ground


This poem is a Magpie Tale.
Click over and give yourself a treat by reading more . . .
or better yet, give me a treat and write your own!


Day 5 of my captivity . . .

And the non-fun continues!  Although I am pleased to report that I was able to put on socks in record time today, as well as wash my own hair.

Baby steps!  

We take whatever victory we can get at this point, folks, and we are glad to have a reason to celebrate.  The party will continue until I am released from this prison on August 23.  I think I'll just survive that long.

Someone told me that I should not feel frustrated by the things I need to be doing but can't (specifically eleven Christmas paintings) because I knew I wouldn't be able to work on them so no need to waste frustration on them . . . seems very zen and very non-Susan to me . . .


I have managed to keep up with my drawings, however, and am enjoying finally having an excuse for them!  I should have put my arm in a large cast 30 years ago and then taken myself to art school and just shrugged and held up my sling the day the teacher looked at my first drawing assignments and said, "I don't think this is for you...."

I was talking to Lindsay (my personal guru with the drawing degree) about why my right-handed drawings don't look quite as much worse than my regular drawings as I thought they might, and she explained to me that drawing doesn't change as much as writing does.  She said that it doesn't seem to come from the same part of the brain.  The only challenge is to train the muscles to hold the implement, and you can draw.  This made sense to me, particularly coming from the artist whose senior show was largely comprised of giant self-portraits in which she was drawing using various body parts: a picture of her drawing with the pencil in her mouth, which was drawn using her mouth, or one of her using her foot, which was drawn with her foot, and so on.  They were awesome!

(Not a good image at all, but the only one I could find 
of Linds working with a pencil between her teeth... )

and  here's part of one done using her right foot.  
The caption said, "drawing is exercise."

So in my shoes (or sling) she'd probably be whipping out those paintings by sticking paint brushes in her ears or something, and they would look phenomenal.

Even more impressive than Chelsea's one-girl band sounded the summer she decided to learn to play the piano with her feet so she could accompany herself on the flute . . .

But I feel like rather an old dog for such fancy new tricks, so I think I'll just continue to try to train my right hand to hold a toothbrush and eat cheeseburgers and work the remote.  

And by my calculations, those skills should take about a week to perfect . . .


It's alive . . .

When I started to regain consciousness after my surgery, my first thought was of people I love. My second thought was whether I could move the fingers on my left hand . . . success! By the time the nurses made that request, I had already been sleepily (but joyfully!) practicing the stunt for several minutes.

And I was pleased to find that they still work this morning.  I can tell the whole arm feels a bit betrayed, however. Sort of like Cooper when we leave him at the kennel, even though we have kindly explained the separation to him in advance and promised to return. Dogs and arms don't actually speak English.

It reminded me that it doesn't take much to get our attention, really, and focus it on the little things. Like joy at being able to wiggle your fingers, or even wake up.  Or being able to do anything that requires two hands, which today seems to be everything . . .

So I guess it's good -- even vital -- to have these little bumps every now and then, if only to call our attention to the million or so blessings we daily take for granted.  Thanks, Universe. And Dr. Lewis.

(And an excuse to get waited on and take naps? 
Chinese food delivered to my bed . . . 
with a diet coke? Yes, please. I think I'll survive.)



Greetings from I-70!

Or make that, "Neverending I-70" . . . because the drive home seemed to keep getting longer as we went, taking us about 31 hours instead of the scheduled 25.

And 25 would have been long enough.

But I got to see some of my favorite things:

My lovely childhood home, which appears to be aging more slowly than I am 
(unfortunately, I did not manage to get any ice from the ice maker)

 My beloved Utah desert -- okay, the drive wasn't that bad . . .

. . . and also a whole lot of my favorite people.

It was actually an amazing 
and wonderful trip. 

It may interest you to know that:


1)  I stayed in a hotel by myself for the first time.  Ever. (true, and perhaps sad . . . but FUN!)

2) You can eat french toast with whipped cream AND bread pudding AND pasta in the same day and chase it with a sugar cookie (or 2) with no ill effects.  Provided you brought the right pants.

3) If you get to the art gallery 4 hours after they close, you aren't getting in.  Even if you are the artist whose name is on the wall. So avoid 85-mile-long traffic jams.

4) Rollerblading in Manti, Utah, is ill-advised and should not be attempted without soft grass nearby.

Just a few helpful tips for next time, or for any of you that are lucky enough to still be anticipating your summer vacation.

Also, my cactus-head lady appears to have 
perhaps been adopted!  She'll be missed.
I just hope her new family understands her . . .

I was pleased (shocked!)  that I was able to keep up with my drawings, even in the car.  More amazing is the fact that without glasses I draw exactly as well as with them.  Or maybe that was depressing.  I get amazing and depressing confused sometimes.

Anyway, it's wonderful to be back now that the laundry is done, and only one pot of flowers has died, which makes it doubly wonderful.  The fact that I can smell fall in the air explains the need for an enormous order of fajitas for lunch, because one should not be forced to confront autumn and return to a post-vacation diet in the same day.  I think we can all agree on that?

Now that vacation is over, next up is . . . 

  . . . surgery 

That's right, kids!  Friday fun, fun, fun!  I'm going to have a little construction done on my left -- LEFT!! -- arm (which is quite useful to me and with which I hope they will be careful!)

For you, this mainly means that my drawings will be done with my right hand for a few days, AND IF YOU CANNOT TELL ANY DIFFERENCE, PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE A COMMENT TO THAT EFFECT. 

I expressed some concern at my pre-op physical about allowing an orthopaedic guy to cut around the nerves in my precious left hand, and my physician merely said that I should be glad an orthopaedic guy was not going to be cutting around the nerves in my neck.  Which offered some perspective, I guess.  So I feel better about things.

Small Works will return just as soon as I wake up and can type again . . . which will be before you know it.  Because I'm about to get VERY GOOD at doing things with my right hand.  We'll hardly notice any difference at all . . . just you wait and see.

See you soon!  


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