Friday, December 31, 2010

The 12 Months of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me.....that 's one of my favorite Christmas songs, and even though our country's integrity has gone to hell-in-a-hand basket, for most of us, everyday is still Christmas. We pretty much get whatever we want throughout the year, so many freedoms, we're basically healthy and well fed, and each day is filled with gifts and blessings.

If you read my blog, you may think my life began the day I met Jim, but I had blessings before Jim. I gave birth to my son David, who is dearer to me than anything else on earth. I started college at age 30 and became a teacher/counselor, and some of my students tell me I touched their lives in a good way; I know they did mine. And there were other stories, other loves, some were my ports in the storm, some brought the storms with them, but all are a part of me now, of who I am.

I thought I'd look back and recount a few of the Gifts my True Love and my Family, my Friends and my God gave to me this year, not month by month (I'm not that orderly) but in my usual fashion of random musings.......

In February, for my birthday, I got a Shih Tzu; it was a life-changing event. I never considered myself hard-hearted before Marley, and I'm still not exactly sure how it happened, but this slightly psychotic, happy, shaggy little snip-of-a-dog has taught me to love more deeply, to be more patient, and to feel more connected ........hard to 'splain, but back in the day, when someone would say if the house caught on fire, they'd get their dog out first, I'd roll my's only a dog. Ten months with Marley, and I get it, I totally get it.

Sometime during the year, on no particular day, my mother and I began to talk, I mean really talk again. There's a lot of water under the bridge, and we've had more than our share of issues, but there seemed to be a softening on both our parts, and I want to spend more time with her. At a Christmas party, a girl whom I've seen at other Christmas parties, came to me, saying she'd just figured out who I was, and revealed that she is the sister of my high school BFF, some 40 years departed....... I'm still speechless over it. I connected with quite a few old friends on Facebook and even had a visit from Bobby, Belinda and the girls. And I played a small part in reconnecting Jim with his son at Christmas.

I kept learning......If one day you read my blog, and I say there's nothing left for me to learn, someone please come throw me in a box and start shoveling dirt onto me, 'cause it'll all be over but the benediction. As of now, there are hardly enough hours in the day to explore all the new, fun stuff that finds its way into my life. During the summer, my friend Lu and I went to a Hypertufa workshop, and I plan to do a lot more with that in 2011; I took a few scrapbooking classes, played with some giant stencils, painted furniture, mosaics, painted fabrics, paper sculpture, collage, and mono-printing. Two friends whom I've known from the digital art forums, became closer friends, and we began painting together, though we live in 3 different states. I want to sign up for pottery classes in the spring. And I want to write more this year, maybe children's stories, and work more on my art journal. All art connects us with the Spirit, with one another, with ourselves.

Oh gosh! And here's a Blessing that was a long time coming.......In October, my cousin Linda and I finally got 'round to staging the first ever Goodman Cousin Reunion! Everyone who attended was slightly giddy with joy! So much love, so much history that deserves to be treasured. I get tears in my eyes as I type.

And Jim was by my side every step of the way; sometimes I push the limits as a temperamental artist; he has a short memory for the bad times, the patience of Job, and an uncomplicated outlook on life that keeps both of us on an even keel.He buys the sweetest Christmas gifts, and this year he did the thing where he wrapped notes with directions to the real gifts, but the notes are little poems. I've never thrown away one of his notes, and there have been hundreds over the years. Maybe I'll gather them up someday and make a little journal.

How would you sum up your 2010 in one word? Mine would be connections. Each Gift, each Blessing was about Connections. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Paintin' Away!

Okay, here's a quickie post. Colleen, Annette and I each bought a DVD called Painted Papers by Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson so the 3 of us could paint together, though I live in Arkansas, Colleen is in Colorado, and Annette is in Texas. It has proven to be a fun technique, and we're all planning on doing more. I've always loved to work in mixed media, collage, and paper sculpture, and this technique showed me how to take it a step further by beginning on a birch board.

I bought a board @ Home Depot, and Jim cut it into 3 pieces, each 16X24 inches, even sanded them down for me, and I covered the front of one with clear gesso, loosely drew on my image of blueberries, then painted on watery acrylics, enjoying the oozing and runny effects. I had a stack of rice papers and mulberry paper, along with some printed sheets that I'd painted with more watery acrylics in shades of purple, green, blue, yellow, and near-black all ready for tearing and gluing.

The collaging process can either be tedious or relaxing, depending on your current state of mind. I tend to enjoy involved techniques and loved tearing tiny scraps of paper, aiming for shapes that reflected their destination, curves and circles for the berries and graceful strips for the leaves. When you're tearing, the shapes are never perfect, and that's a part of the artsy charm of this type of collage. You can opt either to cover all the under painting or leave parts of it showing. I wasn't giving up those pretty drips and runs, so I left quite a bit of mine showing.

I added some leaves that I cut from the painted paper and glued them loosely with the matte gel in order to give more dimension. As the piece neared completion (or where I considered the stopping place to be), I painted in touches of highlights on berries and leaves, some hand writing here and there, touches of gold leaf, and a few embossed stampings using a verdigris powder I've had for years and dread running out of it.

And now I still haven't decided on a design for my Christmas cards, so I'd best get going on that, but I'll be sharing more painted papers collages when there's time. Don't you just love this time of year??
Love, cat

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Playing Catch-up

Just a quick post to catch you up (sort of) on what I've been doing. Marley's post will be next, I promise. His birthday is November 21, so I'm guessing he'll have lots to tell you about his first year.

First I'll show you the little note book we did for one of our cousins who couldn't attend the reunion. All my cousins are special, but we especially missed Lisa because she has been in bed in a nursing home for years. She has a devoted mom and brothers who visit her everyday, but I know she would have liked to be with us for our Goodman Cousin Reunion. I took a notebook to the reunion and had them sign it and write messages to her, then brought it home and tore out the messages, along with about half the blank pages. When you add a lot of elements to an album like this, you'll need to remove an equal amount of blank pages in order not to have a puffy, fat book.

Then I glued the remaining pages together, 5 or 6 per section, making a dozen or so stiff, thick pages for decorating and embellishing. Okay, now for the fun part. I went through all my handmade papers, hand painted papers and cloth, mulberry paper, etc., and covered the pages, then began choosing embellishments.

I love putting envelopes in these albums, little secret places for notes, and I have tons of junk jewelry that I take apart for unique beading. I like buttons; somehow they lend a nostalgic note to albums. Well, you get the idea, everything but the kitchen sink, and your labor of love becomes a keepsake. It's wrapped and ready for mailing if the rain ever stops. Yes, I do tend to melt when rained on.

A while back, I made this quickie little dream pillow, which is about 15 inches long and 5 inches wide, and tucked inside is a pad made of batting where I can put drops of essential oils. I like having it beside me in bed, and I try various relaxing scents. It's amazing how breathing in those soft, sensual aromas can put you in a calmer state of mind and switch off the cares and demands of the day.

Part of my time is spent in dreaming up things for Jim to make. I mean, he can make or repair anything, and he's only happy when he's busy, so I try to help him with that. He said I can't talk about him in my blog, but I'm about as obedient as Marley, so here are a couple of the latest things he has made. I have lots of wide ribbon that I use for decorating, and the plastic bin I had them in was running over, so I sketched a ribbon holder, and he built it that day.

Then we needed a little step for Marley to get onto our bed. Done. With an "M" carved in the sides.

Next, Dave's wife, Deb said she would like to have a bat house. We didn't know what that was, but he looked them up on the internet and built one.

The latest necessity of life is one of my favorites. I recently got a little netbook and told him I would like some kind of stand for it to keep next to my recliner in the bedroom. He made it out of cedar and pine, didn't have a pattern, except for the one he drew, and it's a piece of art.

Occasionally, when I ask for something, he'll say, "Now, how am I gonna make that work?" I tell him my job is to think of stuff. His is to figure out how to do it. We make a great team.

Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 Goodman Cousin Reunion

I had rented a cute little house for 2 nights on Lake Cherokee, and Jim and Marley went with me; the weather was balmy and dry, the streets were strewn with color-splashed autumn leaves, and the Kia was packed with food and gold & burgundy decorations, pretty darn perfect so far, huh? Almost. I was taking Maxalt for the migraine that started on Thursday, and it's a toss-up which is worse, the pain or the meds because they make me so spaced I shouldn't operate heavy machinery, and I kept praying, just let it go away long enough for me to get through the reunion!

I woke up Saturday morning so sick, I thought about swinging by the Omaha Center, dropping off my decorations, registry, food, etc., and heading home but decided to make an appearance and leave early, very early...........but I got involved with setting up the long tables, 10 for dining and 5 for pot luck dishes, and sometime around noon I realized that I felt pretty good. I learned later that my sister Nan and my mom had held hands and prayed for the migraine to leave. I don't know how you feel about prayer, but I've always believed.

I have a big family. My grandparents had 9 children, most of whom had 3 children, but one child had 9 children, and one of those had 9 children. Add that to the fact that most of us cousins now have grandchildren and even great grandchildren, and you've got yourself a gathering! While our parents were all alive and healthy, they kept us connected, but we've dropped the connection, and we talked about how we should get together, but it hasn't happened until now. I get teary-eyed when I think about how my happy family poured into the room, smiles all 'round, hugs and laughter and picking up as if we'd never skipped a beat!

Everyone thanked Linda and me for finally making this happen and most asked that we make it a yearly event. I love the stories everyone has, memories of yesterday and would love to gather them and put them in a little book. I collect pretty picture frames, and I put old family photos in them and arranged them among the centerpieces. Some brought family scrapbooks, a recipe book, and a couple of digital frames with slide shows. There was a table for photos of the cousins we've lost. Danny provided live music.

We pushed folks outdoors for a group photo, which was about like herding earthworms; I'm supposed to PhotoShop myself into the group, but I haven't found one with me in it yet. I count about 50 in this group photo, but our headcount was closer to 100, so that leaves lots of Goodman descendants milling about in the woods. I've only posted a few pics here. You can go nuts trying not to leave out anyone, so if someone's not here, I've got you somewhere in my computer.

My son came to the Reunion! I hadn't expected him; if nobody else had come, it would have been a fun day, just him and me chatting. Sorry, but you moms know exactly what I mean. I snapped pics here and there with my little pocket camera and realized afterwards that I should have taken the Canon Rebel out of the car and handed it to my Dave, who's a very good photographer. Oh well. A few folks who could have come, didn't; you know who you are, and you also know we still love you. It was one of the happiest days of my life, and I felt good, just hope I didn't call you Judy if your name is Fred or connect you with the wrong siblings. Hey, I'm 62, and I was on drugs.

Tres has expressed interest in planning the 2011 reunion, along with cousin Debbie. If they do, ours will be like their open act. Knowing those two, I fully expect to have high wire acts, a full sized carousel, and Amy Grant as entertainment..........P.S. Several cousins mentioned that it was high time Marley did a blog post. Coming soon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Growing Pains

(Click on the paintings to enlarge them)

Gee, thanks Mom, for finally letting me post. I mean, I'm almost grown, and I've posted like 3 or 4 times, hello? I'll be one year old on Sunday, not much chance of getting a birthday cake, though. We never get good stuff like chips or cookies; I've never even tasted a Twinkie! Maybe she'll give me a pork chop with a candle stuck in it, woohoo.

I'm sure Mom told you about my getting "fixed" (she has no sense of privacy).........well, nothing actually got fixed, just a scary day at the vet's, some missing parts, and a few days of feeling really, really bad and having to wear a stupid onesy, embarrassing! But I bounced back, and I don't get fussed at anymore for forgetting where to tinkle.

I still play, hunt and potty in the backyard several times a day..............I can't bark in the house, without someone saying "Hush, Marley", but I get to bark out there...........between 9 am and 9 pm..........can you believe she has a barking schedule? Seriously..... Mom and Dad's communication skills are coming along. I'm supposed to ring the bell they hung on the backdoor when I want to go out, but it scares me, so I just sit there and look cute till somebody notices me. And when I want something to eat or a toy I can't find, all I have to do is sit and look up at mom and make a little growling, moaning sound in my throat, and she'll get up and get it for me every time.

Dad has been gone to camp since Wednesday, and he's coming home today! Mom plays with me, but she doesn't let me bite, so what's the point? Dad scuffles and rolls on the floor with me, and things get pretty wild. I miss him so much! Moms are better for loving than Dads, and I scramble up and bend my head back so that my neck is hugging hers. I also hug Aunt Tres, and she gets to laughing so hard she can barely breathe. She's a really good dog person.

Ashley is coming on Saturday to train me to do something.......I already know just about everything, so I'm not sure what they want me to do now, maybe play the banjo or something. Peoples never seem to be happy with the way a guy is. I'll let you know how that goes. Poor Ashley, she's probably bringin' doggie treats. Mom is always bringing home healthy treats for me to try. Sometimes I like 'em once, but then I'm through. She takes the stuff I won't eat to the animal shelter. I guess there are some guys there who are hungrier than I am. Bet they'd rather have Twinkies. Hey, thanks for stopping by; I'll see you soon!

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Love My Computer Because My Friends Live in It!

Fifteen years ago, when I got my first computer, a bare bones clunker that Jim had a geeky friend build for me, I figured I might play an occasional game of Solitaire and send a few emails to family members, but oh, the things I've done and the places my 'puter and I have traveled! In time, I went from yelling "Jim!" whenever Windows flashed the blue screen of death to being his computer tech. Because of an email greeting card a new online friend created and sent to me, I became so obsessively immersed with learning digital art that for a few years there, my online life was more immediate and more interesting than my real life. It was a rush, a rush of challenges and kudos and finding how far I could push myself creatively. I eventually felt the need to choose, and I chose real life and took a step back from all that; these days, I'm pretty well balanced (well, as balanced as I'll ever be) I play, paint, surf, and research on my PC, but it's not everything......not even close.

One amazing and wonderful element of being online that remains constant, though, is that over the years, I've reconnected with some old friends and met some dear new friends, friends with whom I hope to share our lives for the rest of our lives, friends who share my interests and view of the world more than most of the folks I've met outside the sleek black box that sits purring softly on my over-sized computer desk. Some of these friends I will never meet in person, but they are very real to me, and I watch them virtually, going about their daily lives, ache when they ache and laugh when they're happy.

A recent example of the friendships I've developed online is Linda Ocon Santi, whom I met in a Facebook game (that became a mini-obsession for a few months) and who sent me a message last week saying she had looked at my art on PBase and loved it and would like for me to see her mother's website. Eileen Ocon passed away last year, but her website remains as tribute to her beautiful artwork. I had a great time browsing her mixed media, watercolor, line & wash, calligraphy, and fractal art; when I told Linda that I had saved the link to my Inspirations folder, she asked for my mailing address........... today a brown envelope filled with Eileen's beautiful note cards arrived in my mail box! Isn't that a lovely, generous thing, to share your mom's art with someone else who loves art? I'm speechless (almost), and the cards are here beside me saying, "Hey Cat, could this be the next step in your handmade cards?"

I LOVE my online friends because they are real friends who are there for me in emails and on Facebook and because they keep me inspired. Thank you, Linda, and thank you to all my friends for being there for me, inside my computer.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Taoists believe that in order to be near God we must seek him in simple tasks like chopping wood and carrying water. This I believe. And I also believe that God is in creating things. At least that's where I feel closest to God. My art will never hang in an art museum, but doing it on a constant basis is, quite literally, necessary to my well being and my sense of oneness, whether anyone else ever sees it or not.

I've been working on a large painting for our new Sunday School classroom. If it turns out okay, I'll show you. Otherwise, I played one day with some really low tech media, including Crayola crayons, a travel iron and cheap shaving cream.

Encaustic wax painting is an ancient art technique; I've never been able to convince myself that I would like it well enough (or be good enough at it) to spend the money on real wax color cubes and tools, so the crayons and travel iron are a fun substitute. My canvas is a sheet of freezer paper. With a little practice, (or no practice at all) you can create landscapes, seascapes, and abstracts worthy of matting and framing. It's just a happy little exercise that gets your juices flowing.

You may have made marbled paper in elementary school art class. I like to make stacks of marbled card stock for later use in collages and note cards. Just pump the shaving cream onto a flat pan, drip watercolors, acrylics, or even food coloring onto it and pull a comb or other tools through it to make swirls. Lay your sheet of paper on top and press firmly enough to push it into the paint. Raise carefully, wipe away excess and let dry. It takes a lot of shaving cream, so don't forget to buy your husband another can.

........and then we decided 10 month old Marley needed to be neutered. Our perfectly house trained Shih Tzu was having testosterone surges and marking hither and yon throughout the house. He was also becoming more prone to run from us outdoors and even to growl at us if we picked him up when he didn't want to be picked up. All the signs said that our puppy needed his hormones reined in. Those of you who know me know it was a hard decision for me, but the deed was done on Monday, an interminably long day, and I brought him home about 4 PM and dressed him in a onesy to keep him from chewing at his stitches.

Long story short, we've had a rough rest of the week. He had more pain and got sicker than I expected, and I got a killer migraine. Along with the hellish, blinding pain, migraines (and the meds) take away my hope and my connection with God; I'm always sure that this one is never going away. When it's time for me to die, I hope I have a migraine, and I won't mind going as much.

The reverse side of the coin is that once a migraine is gone, I'm sure that's the last one I'll ever have. I woke up this morning with no pain but still drugged from the Maxalt, still worried about Marley and needed to make a quick run to Wal-Mart. On the way there, I got behind a white SUV with license plate "200 MMN". Maybe I was looking for something to pull me out of my pain induced drug haze, but I began to hum.....Ommmmm-m-m-m......... and to meditate as I drove through the morning school traffic.

Meditating is listening to God. I figure God gets tired of being told what to do. Be still and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10) More than keeping my body still, it means to still my mind and my tongue and open myself up to the mind-altering majesty that is God, who has had some pretty spectacular ideas all on his own. By the time I got home, I felt the connection returning. Marley is slowly getting better, and I'm working on a couple more painting projects. Life is good. Ommmmm-m-m-m