Saturday, November 1, 2014

How to Get There From Here

Getting from "Here" to "There" isn't always easy.

First of all - you must establish what THERE is - then determine your PATH - then acquire the MEANS - then MOVE on it.  But wait a minute...before any of that can happen - you must discover what your HERE is.  Now...if you are planning a vacation or a trip to the market - this is not such a difficult task.

But if you are seeking a deeper movement, well, to do that you really have to focus inward.

Let the world fall away. Tune out the static and listen closely for the beat - the rhythm of your heart and your breath -  truly open yourself and tune in to the vibration of your own LIFE.
It is when we can do that  - that we are free to discover ourselves - identify our PASSIONS and begin to realize the THERE that we seek.
Then the work begins.  
Determining the PATH -acquiring the MEANS - MOVING ON IT!!

It is in these rare quiet times of reflection and introspection, often experienced when I am in the act of creating, on a solo bike ride or while in savasana, that I can clearly see how much my art really means to me. How it is the one consistent element that has brought JOY into my life from making cards and writing poems for my family to designing and creating unique pieces of art from styrofoam!
When asked, "So, what do you do?" - I must start responding with - "I AM AN ARTIST."
With this reply I set myself free to finally discover my true THERE.  

For many of the people I know, in the workplace, on committees and socially  - their passion is EDUCATION.  This is not something they fell into while seeking something else. Whether they are classroom teachers, artists, actors, students or yoga instructors- it is not only WHAT they DO but what they believe is the KEY to their own fulfillment and their hopes for human society that makes them EDUCATORS.

One such person recently commissioned me to create a piece that would not only identify her office and professional title, but would let others know what values she holds as a LIFE-LONG LEARNER and EDUCATOR.  We all have many titles - but when we find what truly DEFINES us.. it is then that we are truly FREE!!

Monday, September 22, 2014


    Only four members of the 6th grade "graduating" class of 1971 attended the Horsebrook Elementary School Reunion on Saturday the 6th of September - 2014 - but we brought EVERYONE along with us.

     They, the other kids we went to school with and the teachers we had throughout our years at Horsebrook, are always with us. They are part of us. We are all who we are now because of those experiences - that neighborhood - and that school that we all shared. Regardless of whether our memories of growing up may be good or bad, whether we remember the thrill of winning a class election or the heartbreak of being picked last for the dodgeball team, those experiences were the building blocks of our character.

    Those years, from 5 to 11 or 12, are when we learn about "Our World". When "expected behavior" becomes habit, when actions have immediate consequence and when the dance of interpersonal relationships is first awkwardly learned. From the lines we had to get into every morning out on the school's porch before the start of the school day to the dress code (which for girls - really meant "dress" code), the rules we followed - the respect we held for our parents, our school and our teachers made us a collective of individuals. Being human - we would find ways to compete and separate ourselves from one another - the kids from the north side of Grand River Avenue and those form the south, the "smart" kids and those who were challenged when asked to read aloud, the athletes from the non-athletic, and yes, even the "haves" and the "have nots" . But what some of us (if not all of us) didn't quite realize at the time was just how very fortunate we all were to live in the Horsebrook community...and with the Horsebrook family.

School - College - Marriage - Children - Work - Money

they all demand our attention and alter our focus.

We change our priorities - we discard what is not immediately needed or beneficial-   then....

we pause.

We reach the middle of our fifth decade  - when there is more behind us than ahead. When we get that opportunity to return to ourselves - when life's labels of student, spouse, parent, employee - are no longer what defines us. We are free to be that child again.  We look into the mirror and wonder when we became our parents - we ask ourselves if we led a good life - we seek answers that can only come from within. 
         We look back to that time in our lives when we were FREE. 
                                      When we were not DEFINED.
                                                         When the future was yet to BE.
A time when we were safe - when the grown ups would always be there to make sure we had enough to eat, a bed to sleep in, a roof over our heads, clothes to wear, toys and books and FUN.

"Time to get up. Eat all your cereal - finish the milk. Brush your teeth. Make your bed. Go outside and play.  Don't overstay your welcome. Come home when the street lights come on. Eat all of your vegetables.  There are starving kids in China. Clean your plate. Do the dishes. Don't talk when the News is on. Don't sit too close to the TV.  Get ready for bed.
Hit the sack!  It's a school night!!"

    We all walked to Horsebrook every school day.  We tied the laces of our gym shoes together and hung them over the back of our seats. We brought milk money from home and thrilled at receiving the Scholastic Book Club items we may have ben fortunate enough to order. We played "Seven-Up" and whatever that game was that involved walking around with an eraser on your head. We had visiting gym teachers and music teachers. At mid-day we all left. Some had only to walk through their backyard, some went to the homes of others, but most of us went HOME for lunch. We couldn't wait to be a "big kid" so we could serve on the Safety Patrol. We cleaned litter from the grounds - decorated bulletin boards - learned how to square dance and felt like the whole world was looking at us each year when we marched along Grand River Avenue for the Halloween Parade.

    No matter the season - recess at Horsebrook was AWESOME. Whether it was playing foursquare on the blacktop, kickball on the baseball diamond, making a "jampile" on a piece of cardboard so you could soar down the snow-covered hill, or exploring near the crick (the forbidden zone!)- it always ended with a collective groan when we would catch a glimpse of our teacher - up on the hill - raising her hand in the air to signal the time to line up to come back inside.

Lansing was booming. 
    The population growing to over 100,000 in the early 60's and reaching its peak of over 131,000 in 1970. Oldsmobile had three shifts and over 15,000 employees. There were 36 elementary schools in Lansing. Most mothers still didn't work outside of the home and many served as "room mothers", scout leaders, day care providers and volunteers. The fathers worked at both blue collar and white collar jobs - at the car plant, or the Lansing State Journal, or the Board of Water and Light or they were carpenters or plumbers.  And they would all be there for the Christmas Concert, or the Pancake Supper, or the Pinewood Derby. How very special if felt to return to Horsebrook at night. To go to our classrooms to prepare while our families were gathering in the gym.  They knew each other.  They were neighbors. They lived next door or down the street. They bought their meat from Gorman's and got their prescriptions filled at Martin's.  They cared for their family, their community - their school.

So you's not such a bad thing to once in a while "Live in the Past" IF you were fortunate enough to go to Horsebrook Elementary School.  It was a pretty fantastic "past" and because everything is temporary and all things change - having a "past" that makes you feel good about yourself and the world is a pretty wonderful thing.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Life is School and You Gotta Show Up!"

This is my shout out to all of the wonderful people I have had the privilege of working with over the past two decades - who choose TEACHING as their profession.  Not just TEACHING, but teaching at the high school level where it can be a struggle to stay ahead of change and a daily battle must be waged to stay positive, energetic and engaged.  Over the past week they have returned to their other "home" - back from their summer break - back from time spent with family and friends - time spent at educational conferences with peers - time spent rejuvenating their spirit. They come with posters and videos and a whole lot of HOPE!  

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” ― Jacques Barzun

My sister and my husband were teachers - really excellent teachers who knew what they wanted to do from a very early age and loved being a part of the future.  And even though I have spent my years in the school system on the support side of things - I have always considered myself to be an EDUCATOR.  

Opportunities to TEACH are everywhere.  
                                      Teach through example.  Be kind
                                                                      Teach through petition.  Expect kindness.

My teachers (Yes, I often refer to them in that manner not just because I can be, in some regard, their "teacher", but because I consider them to be family!) have supported my artistic endeavors for many years and I take great pride in knowing that my artwork hangs above so many classroom doors - adding a bit of whimsy - showing a side of a teacher's personality that students may not know exists - or, at the very least, reminding them what their teacher's name is!!

So as we embark upon yet another journey of renewed HOPE a.k.a. a new school year in public education- here is a little gallery of FOAMFRIENDS for TEACHERS!!

Have a wonderful school year filled with exploration, creativity, learning, and (hopefully) a new FOAMFRIEND creation for your classroom!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Foamfriends Branches Out

The commission was for a hand-painted mural on a dining room wall. Pam wanted a tree with bright green leaves that would serve as a Family Tree where she would display family photographs from its branches. But designing and painting the mural over the course of several weeks became much more than a simple commission. 
It became a wonderful opportunity.

An opportunity to create for and while in the company of a dear friend. A confidant, an ally, a mentor, a playmate, a supporter. A soul sister whom I have known for almost as long as I have been on this Earth (but rarely make the time in my life to visit.) Someone who can make me laugh at LIFE and at myself. Someone who can bring out my inner 8 year-old while at the same time making me feel talented and wise. A beautiful woman who never judges - who always accepts her many friends just as they are and is always there when you need her most.
Pam and Nita (with 2 of Pam's brothers)

You see, Pam, is still my best friend, my only real close friend besides my Mother, Sister and Husband, and was my kitty-corner neighbor for 21 years when I lived in the big brown and white house at the end of the gravel dead end road named Stockman Court. So painting this tree, which was a first for me, was really a gift.  A gift from Pam.  Her gift of a blank 8' x 12' wall where I was set free to create and explore. A gift that brought such JOY into my heart. Talking with her while I painted - visiting and sharing a meal or a snack with her after I was done for the day - whining to her about my little aches and pains - helping her work on her card projects - brought such PEACE to my soul as I rediscovered the value of our friendship, our shared history and our power as women.

Another opportunity occurred when I needed a boost of confidence and some painting tips so I called in my Foamgineer (see 11/19/13), Jeff.  It was just a few days before we were set to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary
so I asked Pam about the possibility of us posing for a photo in the sideyard of the old Galligan homestead on Stockman Court where our wedding ceremony took place in 1984 under the canopy of several gaily-colored tents filled with family and friends (and food, music and booze!). Pam told us that the house was vacant. There would be no one to ask for permission from - we could just go over there.

I was hesitant to return to the house that I hadn't been to since my parents moved out over 16 years ago.  I was glad to have Pam's son, Craig, and Jeff with me as I walked through the gate behind Pam's house and looked again upon my childhood home. Proud and lonely - 2828 stands empty and neglected - but not forgotten. Gone are the lilac bushes at the edge of the drive, the rhubarb patch behind the back porch, the majestic white pine in the side yard, the hedge between the houses, and where there was once a flagstone-edged garden on the south side where Pam and I would play "pool party" with our headless Barbies (their hair would get weird if it got wet!) while using my mother's roasting pan as an above-ground pool - all that remains are scattered stones, random trash and thick dense weeds.

Memories flooded over me with every step I took. The front porch, the backdoor, the basement window, the yard....all triggered numerous and powerful memories spanning the decades. The celebrations, the barbecues, the illnesses, the parties, the friends, the fights, the car-washing, the frisbie and jart games, the many beloved pets, the Mother's Days and Father's Days...on and on and on. But it wasn't until I actually touched the house to peer through a dirty window into the living room that I felt overwhelmed. That beautiful glazed white brick fireplace with the huge mirror over it was still there. This was where our Easter baskets were filled, where our stockings were hung, where I posed with my Peter Max puzzle on my 8th birthday, where Dad displayed his panther statue and where Mom decorated each Christmas with the same Santa doll and flocked red and green reindeer.

Do you remember me, 2828? My heart beat within you for so many years. You were with me when I cried alone in my room as a teenager, when I laughed and played with my friends as a tween, when I disappointed my parents and when I made them proud, when I sat on the stairs as a child -gazing into the mirror on the landing- pretending to be a movie star acting out a dramatic scene. 

You know my secrets. You knew all of my cats. You had real plastered walls, archways and ceilings. Heavy wooden doors with glass knobs. A cubby for an old-fashioned phone. A built-in milk box and swinging doors. From Roxi's flowered room with the canopy bed where we would talk for hours and cry over "Born Free" to the laundry room in the far corner of the basement where I was always afraid to go alone...I loved you.  You not only provided my parents with many ways to spend their hard-earned money, you also gave them a great place to raise their family and spend their precious leisure time.

As I clutched a souvenir flagstone in my arms  - we headed back over to the house of my life-long friend where I would soon put the finishing touches on her Family Tree by adding a couple of little red birds to the heart-shaped trunk.  So it is here - in the middle of our 5th decade that we are both looking to the past and to who we were and are. Rejoicing in the value that our lives have had. Reflecting upon the people and even the places that have made us who we are. Being comfortable with our years. Embracing the past, reveling in the present and accepting the future.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Eight Days in ParadOZ!

Eight Days In ParadOZ

Riding to the airport
On ice-covered roads
Where the trees and snow
Look like UPC codes
In a white metal tube
I took to the sky
And dreamt of a rainbow
Where bluebirds could fly
What I found was amazing
A land of Oz to the south
A Paradise of sunshine
That put a smile in my mouth
Peaceful Artist!!
For the first time in 12 years - I took more than three vacation days in a row from both my day and evening jobs - and escaped to Florida to spend a week with my sister, Roxi, who now lives there with her husband, David. Arriving at the airport on March 2nd, I felt as if I were Dorothy, slowly opening the door of her transported home to find she was in a strange sensory-overload world!
The palette, the fragrance, the overall Vitamin D-rich attitude of the place was so alien from the Polar Vortex world I had left behind. Florida escaped the horrible winter that relentlessly stalked most of the United States - so everything was ripe and verdant.   I unplugged myself from snow, work and stress for 8 days and returned home feeling refreshed with a demeanor scrubbed clean by sunshine and total relaxation.
While there, my sister, who is also an artist, and I created a special piece that we donated to the local Humane Society (The Humane Society of Manatee County)
 to be used as a tropical-themed backdrop for photos of animals seeking adoption to loving homes. Here I am posed in front of it
(No, I am not up for adoption!!) 
 and here is GIZMO!!

 What a handsome kitty!  My sister volunteers at the HSMC as a "cat cuddler" and the folks there were so very appreciative of our little gift.  I sure hope it helps these fantastic animals find great homes.
So, Foamfriends is back home and READY for SPRING!
Soon it will be time to take down those unique FOAMFRIENDS window panels  - made to fit right inside your window frames and painted to look from the outside as if the blinds were pulled half way down and a kitty is perched on the sill to gaze out into the world while keeping your house cozy and heating bills low. 
What?  You don't know about these??!!
Time to email Nita at and find out MORE!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014


I just delivered a very special commissioned piece that is both a tribute to the legacy of R.E. Olds in Lansing and to the renowned Michigan artist, Tony Hendrick.
I first met Mr. Hendrick at his very successful 2010 gallery showing at Art Alley in Reo Town but, unbeknownst to me at the time, I had already been introduced to his art through the huge REO  mural on Washington Avenue that was commissioned as part of the R.E. Olds Centennial Celebration and was unveiled in November of 2003. (See excerpt below from CITY PULSE: 01-14-04)

“Among the proudest achievements of the centennial organizers…, is the commissioning of an enormous public mural depicting the old Reo factory, unveiled last November. In keeping with the open-eyed historicism of Reo Town, the mural makes a dramatic, surprisingly ambiguous statement as it stretches across the old Diamond Reo showroom on South Washington (now the Quality Dairy dispatch building).

At first glance, the mural vibrates colorfully like a confetti-and-lacquer Chamber of Commerce idyll. Dominating the frame, in bright colors and forced perspective, is the Reo factory’s elegant administration building, decked out in crisp red-and-white awnings. Two figures, representing the “square-deal” bargain between management and labor for which the factory was famous, stand folksily at eye level.

Upon closer inspection, however, layers of deeper meaning ooze from the surface. Just behind the cheery facade, in a murky perspective of brown and grey, the “Reo” logo looms in an ominous reverse image. To the left, an enormous plume of industrial effluent blossoms over the scene like a mushroom cloud. Given such surroundings, the shaky bond between the two men — the only figures in the mural — takes on great weight and poignancy. All in all, the mural captures both the rosy nostalgia and gritty reality of life in the shadow of the factory gates.”

Unfortunately, the canvas mural was vandalized and eventually had to be taken down, but after some loving restoration and a new coat of varnish, it was recently put on display inside  Lansing’s REO Museum.

Luckily, Mr. James Neal, Historian for the REO Club of America, had the presence of mind to salvage the pieces of the mural canvas that were safe-guarded from the weather, vandalism and fading by being under the frame and commissioned me to create a piece of FOAM art that would incorporate the fragments of Mr. Hendrick’s piece. Wanting to pay tribute to both the history of REO in Lansing and to the talents of fellow Michigan artist, Mr. Hendrick, I created “REO Mosaic.”

Thank you Mr. Neal and Mr. Hendrick for allowing me this privilege.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

"Akron is NOT in the NORTH!"

Here at the start of 2014 I have come to the realization that I have raised a climatically-conditional snob!  Believing, as Calvin's father does, that cold weather, does indeed, build character...
my son has taken issue with the recent car commercial featuring a Santaesque salesman who, when asked about where he goes up north, kindly and matter-of-factly replies, "Akron". To that my son vehemently responds to the television, "Akron is NOT in the NORTH.  Michigan is The North!"
To honor his dedication to The North and the State of Michigan and to present my mother with a keepsake gift this Christmas, I took inspiration from an old map I found up at the cottage of Houghton Lake and translated it through Foam.

 The finished piece is 12"x12" and fits nicely into a collectible t-shirt frame.  I can't wait to present it to my mom, who still lives in the cottage on the East Bay of Houghton Lake (the REAL NORTH!) that her father and mother built by hand in the 1940's, but the weather and distance have kept us apart this Holiday Season. 
To you and yours...a very HAPPY and SAFE NEW YEAR!!