Living in Michigan

Ah yes, living in Michigan can be a challenge at times. You may try to stay off the news (politics, man’s inhumanity to man, COVID, etc.) except to catch the headlines. But life itself occasionally throws a blow that you just weren’t expecting.

Maxy-cat is 18.5 years old. He’s been deaf for awhile. He’s on thyroid medication. His vision has been deteriorating. And this weekend, the deterioration is complete. Maxy is blind. We’ve adjusted his living arrangement to the main floor for safety. We are taking him to the litterbox and to his food and water regularly, and he seems to be able to go from there back to his heated bed. We are hoping that over time, he is able to get around the house himself, and will be able to play with catnip toys and have a good quality of life. There are a few feline ophthalmologists in Michigan, but none are taking patients until January at the earliest and they won’t schedule that far out. He spends a good deal of time sleeping, and as long as he is asleep he doesn’t notice his lack of vision or hearing. I hope his little cat dreams are full of outdoor adventures, chasing squirrels and running. It’s taking all of my focus to not dissolve into hysteria, and that focus is giving me the headache of a lifetime for the third day in a row.

This autumn has been a fantastic time for mushrooms everywhere. There are so many different kinds in the woods behind our home and on the Bark Park trails. I’ve taken a few photos to share. Isn’t nature amazing?

These last two are a form of puffball known as the brain puffball, or Calvatia craniiformis. They are giant…take a look at the size of the leaves around them. We have not had a frost yet, and it has been a lovely mild autumn so far. I wish it could stay like this forever.

In other news, Bob attended in person and I attended virtually the SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival. It featured 13 short environmental films and was quite enjoyable. I love short films. You can still catch some showings by going to the website, linked above. I’m working on a crochet blanket for a dear friend who needs a hug, and I’m obsessed with tiny notebooks. I’m staying busy with journaling as well. Anything to keep the hysteria from becoming consuming. It won’t be long before I’m starting my next bullet journal for the new year. Hard to believe we are nearing the end of October.

Misc. Monday Moodiness

How’s your week starting out? Although Monday didn’t start out poorly, it quickly got there and proceeded to become more troublesome as the day went on. Yes, it’s Misc. Monday Moodiness today. I am very thankful for the small bits of kindness others shared with me, and I’m especially happy to be home with my family at the end of a long day.

The above painting is a quick watercolor study. Some parts of it are nice, but others didn’t work out quite well. Isn’t that often the way it goes? I’m always thankful to have a little time to paint, though. I’ve been busy with a large (5 foot x 5 foot) crochet blanket out of a bulky yarn to go in my hygge basket for the Whisker Mixer silent auction. The basket also includes a bottle of Bailey’s, a mug, a blank journal (a really nice one, too…I have way, way too many unused journals), fairy lights, bath soak and a lotion bar. I’ve also done a mani-pedi jar, a safety first home improvement basket, a cupcake basket, and a Christmas basket. I just hope they bring in some decent money for the shelter pets. This year’s fundraisers have been a struggle for me on several fronts. Virtual events are a ton more work than live events, with a much lower payout. Anyhow, here’s the blanket:

It’s Bernat blanket yarn, HDC with a giant wooden hook, and it’s really soft. I’ve gone back to crocheting my shawl, and I just finished watching the 1992 movie Candyman. I’m not a horror fan, but I really wanted to see the scenes shot in Cabrini Green. I’m trying to get my holiday shopping done well early this year, so I don’t have to worry about it. I need to get started on the holiday greeting cards.

Happy Visit

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
happy visit

We had a very happy visit this month, in that Kirsten came for a few days from Portland. Friday we went up to Lansing to clean up the graves. The lavender is still in bloom on the Thorne/Cleary plot in Mt. Hope, and we did some stone scrubbing. There wasn’t much left on the plots in Evergreen, probably because of the lack of rain through most of the summer. We did try the TikTok cleaning tips and got a bit of moss off the stones. We will do more in the spring.

happy visit

After we got back from Lansing, we spent some time with pastels before Bob joined us for dinner. It was fun to just have that quiet time talking and being creative. Mom and Kirsten worked with the oil pastels, while I used the soft pastels. How do you blend with your finger and not rub a hole in it?

happy visit - soft pastels

I used soft pastels for this spring iris image, photo reference from a picture I took in our garden. It was a very happy visit indeed, and I am looking forward to Kirsten returning. Mom is going to continue working on some oil pastel work. I’ve started up a quick water color and gouache, photo reference from a recent cover of Fine Gardening magazine.

It is nearly October. The weather has been lovely, thankfully. I hope it continues all of next month.

Misc. Blatherings

Wednesday, August 25, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
misc. blatherings postcards

Time for some misc. blatherings. Can you believe we’re nearing the end of August? I did finish a sewing project, an altar cloth, for Mom. It has some decorative stitching on it. Work is a bit stressful now. I’m trying to chill out, but you know how that goes. Most of the time, I wish I was home painting.

I have been doing a little bit of painting. I’m not counting these, above, in my official paintings, so they don’t have numbers. They are small, postcard sized, trying out some new paper and new techniques. Again, I figure it is fair to show the things that aren’t working out so well and not just the good ones. Cousin Marlene sent me a pack of vintage postcards, including this one of cacti. The piece one on the left is in watercolor on watercolor postcard stock. The one on the right was my first attempt with soft pastels on sanded paper. It’s obviously not good. But, I think maybe I like pastels? Last night I started a bigger one, of the boat on the water images I did with watercolor and ink in the previous post. I don’t quite have all of the right colors but I think it’s coming together anyway. I’ll post it when it is done. It seems you need a bigger size piece for pastels, especially the Terry Ludwig variety as they are chunky.

I belong to a large number of facebook art groups. So many in fact, they are taking up all of my feed and with a lot of crap. So I have taken to hiding a lot of the artists from the groups as if it isn’t inspiring or I just don’t like that kind of art, why look at it? And horse paintings? Automatic hide. I would guess horse paintings are the number one subject for people just starting out in art. Why? I don’t care how good it is, when you’re done with it, it’s still a freaking horse.

Such sweetness of a sleeping beast. I had last Thursday and Friday off work to join an online MSU gardening conference and Maxy sure enjoyed having company on the couch. He really misses Bob during the day.

We’re going through another round of 90 degree days, so summer hasn’t quite given up yet. It’s been humid, too. I’ve had two migraines in the past week, and headaches every other day. At least we did get rain last night so the garden was saved from certain death by dehydration.

Painting #47

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
painting #47

Painting #47 is the final of a trio of cats, painted in gouache. This one was the final painting required for the HSSCM Pet Portrait FUNdraiser. Sage is actually a shelter cat. I think the fur on the back turned out pretty good, and her eyes are good but not quite how they really are in person. Sage has gorgeous eyes. I feel ok with this painting. At a bit of a loss on what to paint now, but whatever it will be will take place in watercolor. I barely had a chance to play around with watercolor before I started the cat trio.

Do you ever get so tired you feel physically ill? Yesterday I lived life in dog years, and today I am suffering. I have yet another headache, but the tiredness is making me sick to my stomach. I feel like I could sleep for days and not catch up.

It’s been hot and humid again. Some of the leaves are changing early. We had a few Cherokee tomatoes out of the garden, and some cherry tomatoes as well. The cucumbers are just starting to come in, and I planted another round of arugula and radishes over the weekend. The flowers are looking pretty good.

Next week I am taking an online three-day course with MSU on gardening. A little bit of continuing education is good for everyone. Normally this would be an in-person thing and I wouldn’t consider going. I really prefer Zoom meetings, and COVID has been good for that. Calhoun County is up to a “substantial” level of COVID again thanks to the Delta variant. I never stopped masking so it’s not a big deal for me, though masks aren’t mandated here in Michigan anyway. Between COVID, the state of climate change and the environment, and political views, the best thing you can do for your mental health is observe and work to protect yourself. It is a scary time for humanity, though.

Painting #46

Tuesday, July 27, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
Painting #46

Painting #46, a gift for a friend. It was one thing, doing the painting for the work event. The people who paid and submitted their pet photos were told it wasn’t likely to be a professional-quality painting in return. It was all for fun, and to raise funds for the shelter pets. But when you’re doing something seriously, it’s hard to know if it’s good enough. This is the 46th painting I’d done. It’s in gouache. Is it good enough to be a gift? And a gift that has meaning for the recipient? In some situations, maybe it really is just the thought that counts. I think if you look at it, you can see that I am developing a style. Certainly not photo-realism. Not loose abstraction. Something in the middle. I am full of self-doubt. And self-doubt is the kind of thing that really rolls once it gets started.

After finishing the painting, and trying to fall asleep that night, the questions started. What am I really good at? It seems everything is just stages of passable to mediocre. Even at work, I normally have some successes, but after 13 years I still have trouble with the same interpersonal relations and problems getting suitable responses and participation from some people. How can I allow the same problems to come back with regularity? I wasn’t good enough in music to make it a career. I can crochet blankets, but not follow a pattern. I have an interest in sewing, but nothing ever comes out just so. Physically, I can’t do anything without looking awkward or injuring myself. Diet, can’t lose weight. Sleep, but have nightmares and wind up more tired than before. I am always just on the edge of quitting my hobbies because they aren’t good enough. And I often feel like I’m just on the edge of losing my job, because I’m not able to control some of these interpersonal relationship issues. Thank goodness the one personal relationship I am successful with is the one that matters the most in my life. If you’re going to be successful, your life-partner is the one to be successful with.

I will continue to paint, though. With the exception of the crushing self-doubt, which is made worse in a situation like a gift, I really enjoy the process of painting. I like how I feel when I paint (when it’s just for me). I like who I am when I paint. Painting takes me into another place in my mind. It’s an exploration of something more to existence, almost like what Q was explaining to Picard. My goodness, why would you want to stop that? And maybe that’s the key. Are the things I do for myself, or for others? I know the old saying about not being able to please everyone. And honestly, the people I’m not pleasing…they aren’t pleasing me, either! Anyhow, painting #46 is done, and on to painting #47 which is another cat for another person left over from the work fundraiser. At the end of all of this, maybe I’ll find that my life is painting cats.

Misc. Summer Updates

misc. summer updates - garden tour lily

Garden Tour

Ah, time again for some misc. summer updates. It is a busy time of the year, no? And I actually left the house and did something outside of work! Mom and I went to the Leila Arboretum Society‘s summer garden tour this year. We hadn’t been before. This year’s gardens were on the north side of town, and many were in very small lots. It is amazing to see what can be done in such a small space. If you’re interested in seeing some of the photos, swing over to My Michigan Garden. It was a really fun time, and I’m glad we went. I think, give it another year, Mom’s garden could easily be on the tour. It’s that good.

misc. summer updates - tim madigan's the burning

Summer Reads

I finished Tim Madigan’s The Burning last night. You know how a non-fiction book can be a horrific tale, but it is written so well and is so enlightening you’d call it a really good book? This is that book. I think anyone who reads it would be horrified over the events in Tulsa and how the story was essentially buried for so many years. I think you’d be hard put to read it and not think reparations are due, not just for slavery but for how black people in America have been treated every day since slavery supposedly ended.

Next book up is Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. I told you I was no longer shopping at amazon, so I got the book from New Story Community Books in Marshall. They happened to have a signed copy in stock, but they can order whatever else you need. It is a fantastic store, and I highly recommend locals shop there! A friend recommended the book and I read a sample online, and I can’t wait to start reading it. I think it’s going to be really good. If I finish that and still have time on my summer reads, Tom Cooper’s Florida Man will be the book after that. Originally I only set three books and was concerned I wouldn’t have time to get through them, but all three books so far were very engaging and pretty fast reads. Don’t you think summer reading just hits differently? I love it.

misc. summer updates - gouache cat painting

Painting

We finished the HSSCM Pet Portrait fundraiser (here is the catalog). There is one painting that hasn’t come in, and I will need to paint it myself if it doesn’t make it by the end of the month. Currently, I’m doing a special cat portrait in gouache for a dear friend who lost her handsome panther just recently. You can see I have the colors blocked in, but that’s it. I figure it will take another three hours or so to finish it. I’d like to say it will be done this weekend, but I’m not confident in my time. After I finish this one, and the one that didn’t make it to the HSSCM event, I’ll hopefully get back to watercolor. I find the days are very long and hard, and by the time evening rolls around I’m too mentally tired to paint.

Can you believe we are nearing the end of July? The cicadas are singing on the hot afternoons, and smoke from the wildfires out west are creating hazy sunlight skies. Bob is quite busy at work, and will be attending some events coming up for his job. I’ll be attending the MSU Master Gardener conference virtually in August. My thoughts are already turning to Halloween. With no event, there will be no costume this year. But maybe I can entertain myself with some historybounding? Who knows. There are so many things I’d like to do to entertain myself, and so little time outside of work. And some of the hours (many of the hours) outside of work are still dealing with work issues.

Anyhow, hope your summer is going great.

No More Amazon

I’m done with Amazon. Their refusal to pay corporate taxes, the way they treat their staff members, and the horror that is Amazon Prime delivery services has finally ended it for me. So for me, it’s no more amazon. I’ll be paying more to place orders at independent stores and will be supporting hopefully the USPS (even UPS and FedEx are better than Amazon Prime deliveries). Today I ordered a book from The Book Beat in Oak Park, Michigan. Last week I ordered two from Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately we don’t have any great independent art supply stores around here, so I usually order from Blick. My favorite peanut butter is cheaper on Amazon, but I ordered directly from the company. And don’t even get me started on Etsy:

Favorite Soap: Pie Town
Watercolor Paint: Ruby Mountain Paint Co.
Washi Tape: my friend Michele at Goat Girl

Anyhow, in July please consider shopping local or supporting independent sellers online. It can really make a difference in their lives! Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite local or online independent retailer.

It’s been raining a crap ton (over four inches in the past week). Everything is wet, inside and outside the house. Ants have moved into my office. But at least we haven’t had to water? Consumer’s Energy gouged electric rates daily from 2:00 – 7:00pm. That’s not an exaggeration. It was literally a 50 percent increase. When it rains forever, it’s pretty humid. And the only way to beat it back is using air conditioning. Which is now much more expensive. At least it’s not as hot as it is in the west right now.

No More Amazon. The rest of my summer reads will be purchased through independent retailers!

I did start the summer reads with Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time. It’s pretty good so far. Lots going on this week, and at this point I’m not sure how everything is going to shake out. In the meanwhile, try to breathe deep and appreciate the little things.

Summer Painting

summer painting #42 - gouache pet portrait

The painting of Star for the Pet Portrait FUNdraiser for the Humane Society is done. Or, at least as done as it’s going to get. It’s framed, too, which should help. I hope the owner is pleased with it. This is painting #42 in gouache, and the first summer painting completed. I enjoyed working on it. As I’ve been doing donation letters at work, I’ve had YouTube painting videos on in the background. For whatever reason, I decided maybe I should try watercolor as well.

summer painting #43 watercolor landscape

So here’s painting #43, my first attempt at watercolor. The sky is good, I think. The rest still needs work. It’s an interesting medium and feels a bit more loose than either gouache or acrylic. I think maybe it also is more of a celebration of color over line?

We had more rain and storms last weekend, but fortunately no power loss or damage. We’re due in for rain every day this week, which will give me back time spent watering. I hate to think of the weeds once the sun comes out again! In Portland temperatures are nearing 110 degrees. Once again, the west is so dry. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the wildfires start. Our arugula is pretty much shot. No green beans or tomatoes yet. The flowers look pretty good though.

News is starting to really come up about the danger of the COVID Delta variant. Michigan is now completely open and I doubt very much if it will close again, no matter the numbers or deaths. Right now we are planning in-person events for the shelter in the fall. Hard to know what that will actually look like. I’ve been working on a variant of the Whole 30 diet plan to get rid of inflammation. It might be starting to work? Giving up sugar is a killer, though. Worse than bread, pasta, salt, or alcohol.

Misc. Updates

misc. updates Van Pennen's Flowers

Time for another misc. updates post. How quickly June passes! Since the last post, I did finish my final baby blanket, but forgot to take a picture. Hopefully no more baby blankets for some time. I have a personal crochet project I’m kicking around in my mind, but in the meanwhile I’ll probably just crochet a few cat blankets for the shelter. Last week was super hot and humid, but this week is cooler.

misc. updates family

Last weekend Aunt Suzie, Gail, and Sydney came to visit. We went up to Lansing to water the graves, and the lavender was in bloom on the Thorne/Cleary plot. Drove past Hudda’s house, stopped for lunch. It was a lovely few days, and it’s a reminder of how lucky I am to have family I not only love, but I really like and enjoy spending time with!

misc. updates cemetery flowers

In my last post, I mentioned the pet portrait FUNdraiser for the Humane Society. In the end, we had 26 people request a portrait, for $520 in total revenue which is really disappointing to me. Some of the completed works have already come in, and they are fantastic. I’ve been slowly working on the one I assigned myself, otherwise known as painting #42 in my collection.

I’ll have to take some photos and a video of the gardens. I’ve had to water a lot as it’s been so hot and we haven’t gotten much rain at all. In fact, Calhoun County is now in a “moderate drought”. The flower beds look good, though we have yet to have a single monarch butterfly or caterpillar. I would guess our group didn’t survive the winter in Mexico. The honey bees and bumble bees are enjoying the flower garden, and we’ve had some moths as well.

Michigan is pretty well open from the pandemic closures, and what isn’t open by state regulation will be released completely July 1st. The shelter is still open by appointment only, mostly for the stress benefit to the animals and staff members. Not sure when that will change. The Field of Flight balloon championship will go on as usual this year, with 20,000 guests expected and only 42% of Calhoun County folks vaccinated.

I’ve started pulling together my list of Summer Reads. With so much going on (gardening, painting, work, worrying) I’m not sure how much time I have to read. I’ve got three books set for sure, then some potentials if I get time. Here’s the list

Will Absolutely Read:
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
How to Stop Time: A Novel by Matt Haig
The Burning [Tulsa Race Riot] by Tim Madigan

Might Read:
Again Again by E Lockhart
Florida Man: A Novel by Tom Cooper
Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

What are you reading this summer?