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They Made Me Unicorns!

Today was our much anticipated game day in my Politics of Western Democracies class! My students surprised me with a Skee Ball extravaganza they’d constructed out of cardboard and spray painted with unicorns! I was so touched that they indulged my unicorn obsession! But my favorite part of the game was without a doubt the way they ironically called their teams “Team Us” and “Team Them.” This makes me think people actually pay attention in my civil war lectures and such. So yes, it was a great day! I still can’t believe how thoughtful and fun the game was! The students always design it themselves and they constantly outdo one another.

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Today was finally the day! I got the keys to my brand new studio at 1907 Sabine Street! I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful this brand new building is! I guess y’all will just have to come and see it! I will be ready to receive visitors during this month’s open studios on Saturday 12-5. I’ll be in Studio 145. Come say hi! I am so very excited! A state-of-the-art studio all of my very own! This is the beginning of something new and exciting. This is pure magic, y’all!

And this wasn’t even the only wonderful thing to happen to me today: This evening AVM Hawkins, Paula Hawkins, and I got together for our very first Escapist painting party! We think we might make a habit out of this, because we really enjoy being around each other, and painting together, especially, is amazing!

The Painting I made tonight (pictured above) is called Spring in Bucharest. Acrylic on Canvas. 24×30 inches. $600

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So today was Greek Orthodox Easter, also known as the day I call my 95-year-old grandmother transatlantically in order to yell “Christ is Risen!” repeatedly into the phone.

“I can’t hear a thing,” she said. “Let me get my sister.” Then to her sister: “Pick up the phone and shut up!”

The sister couldn’t hear me either. But she had plenty to say. She had been outside to pick hyacinths from her garden. The Japanese cherry tree was in bloom. She suspected there were things wrong with her ears, and was I selling a lot of art, and were there any interesting men courting me.

In the background grandma kept yelling: “When is she coming home?”

“May!” I screamed. “End of May!”

My old lizard made her usual request for safety pins. I don’t know what she does with so many safety pins, nor do I know in what ways European safety pins have fallen short of her expectations, but I’ll be glad to bring her some. She also instructed me not to lift heavy things and to try, in general, to be healthy. The topic of Christ rising remained unaddressed. Yet the conversation seemed mutually satisfying.

Later I went to the Chrysalis and painted cows. Nancy and Bobby watched from a blanket while John showed me how to stretch canvases. Then I went home, walked the dog, and made lasagna. And since I did absolutely nothing traditional for Easter, here’s a passage from my first novel, Dogs with Bagels, in which people actually dye eggs and all that good stuff.

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Greyhounds in Jackets

So the bad news is that it got terribly cold out of a sudden. I mean scarf and winter coat cold! Our crazy Houston weather is throwing us for a loop once again. The good news, however, is that AVM Hawkins, Paula Hawkins, and I had a great time at the First Saturday Arts Market despite the awful weather. (Note: It was windy too. Our tent, with its metal hanging racks, shook and jingled like it was playing jazz).

Our mentors, John Palmer and Ryan Lindsay came by to help and support us. They brought us hot breakfast, two warm blankets, hanging supplies, and much needed duct tape to secure our paintings in the wind. It was amazing to have such support! It was also amazing to do this as a team. It’s a difficult endeavor under the best of circumstances, but with the cold and wind, it was even more so. Still, we made each other laugh and the atmosphere in our tent was warm and happy. We also each found ways to be helpful to one another, and that was important. I think what mattered most in this bonding experience was that we all enjoy being there for one another and offering whatever we can to help. So yes, I feel very lucky to be part of such a wonderful team!

There weren’t many customers at market on a cold day like today, but we did talk to a whole bunch of people and we did make new contacts. Also, we saw Greyhounds in jackets, and that was pretty awesome!

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Mannequins and Mopping

The day was mostly dedicated to getting ready for First Saturday Arts Market tomorrow where AVM Hawkins, Paula Hawkins, and I will share an Escapist booth! But even though market preparations are generally intense and a bit stressful for me, there was plenty opportunity to have fun today. This tends to be true whenever I get to spend time with my mentor, John Ross Palmer. He makes everything fun. Even mopping!

Come see us at 540 West 19th Street in the Heights tomorrow! We’ll be in our Escapist booth from 11-6 and we’ll have lots of colorful art for you to look at!

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L’Homme Nu

Yesterday I took on the challenge of painting a naked man. Little did I know, an image search for such a figure yields some bizarre results because prude little gremlins have snuck into Google and censored all the penises. An image search in French, however, did not disappoint. Everybody knows French gremlins are too busy drinking wine and enjoying life to censor the internet. And so I stumbled, among other things, across a Matisse drawing called “L’Homme Nu.” I decided my painting would be a tribute to his.

In case you like him and want to take him home, he’s 20×30 inches, acrylic on wood panel, and costs $600.

I also made these tiny paintings of Barcelona (11×14 inches, acrylic on canvas, $100 each). I really like how they turned out. But most importantly I got to see John work on some really large pieces and that was absolutely fabulous!

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Choosing Myself

Several magical things happened today: I painted this painting of a girl reading with coffee (Books and Coffee, acrylic on wood panel, 10”x10”x1.5” $100) and doing so reminded me of who I am and why it’s important that in the end I chose myself. I chose the freedom to be myself and the peace to read and write and paint over a relationship that meant the world to me. Mercury Retrograde had me questioning that choice, feeling sad and regretful, feeling even that my life despite its business and its ambition is kinda empty. Today I was able to remember that it’s not. I made this painting thinking of one my favorite readers, who is also a close friend, someone who’s stood by me through my transformation but also someone who values being herself and devoting herself to the things she loves, things like art and reading. She’s definitely the girl who reads in the painting, but then again so am I. And I want to enjoy being me, doing the things I love, and seeing where this journey takes me. I do want other things in my life too. I definitely want love. But not at the expense of losing myself.

The other magical thing that happened: You won’t believe it, but finally after 13 years in Texas, my dream came true! I saw live armadillos! Not somewhere out in the country but right here in the heart of Houston, in the lush greenery of Memorial Park, during an evening walk with a friend. There were two of them! One for me, one for my friend! They were round and bouncy, full of energy, like Holly. They were lovely armadillos! I guess experiencing this little miracle here in Houston was a sign that I’m on the right track. Also, you know what the symbolism of armadillos is? Defense and boundaries, so yes, it’s the Universe telling me that protecting myself and my creativity is the right thing to do.

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Balancing Act

It’s been a bit of a complicated day, but I’ve made it through. I can even say I’ve accomplished a few things. Sometimes when I’m tired old sadnesses come back to haunt me. People I miss. Even worse, people I miss yet know I can’t be around, lest the avalanche of emotions drowns me.

Please tell me that by now you’re used to me being a little dramatic! It’s what I do best. And anyway, you don’t know the story. Suffice it to say that today’s been a fine balancing act, and that I’ve made it through. As to the sadness, it will pass, just like the flu. It just requires sleep and water and steering my mind away from certain topics. It is for the best.

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Stories We Tell Ourselves

Long day. Lots of start of the month things. Bills, schedules, planning, public liability insurance for my new Studio at Sabine Street (purchasing that felt both very daunting and very exciting), feeling overwhelmed, and in between it all still finding time to visit with two of my closest friends, one by one, the way I like it, and talk in-depth about all sorts of things including cats (one must always talk about cats), art (one must also always talk about art), and in a late night conversation that threatened the few hours of sleep I can look forward to before my trip to Beaumont tomorrow, the stories we tell ourselves about the things that happened, which are sometimes hard to pry apart from what we know for a fact to be true. Our interpretations merge with reality. We infuse memories with the emotional baggage we subconsciously choose to weigh them down with. What someone said gets distorted into what we imagined them to mean. A simple gesture acquires mythical proportions. It takes a very patient friend to sit down and try to detangle hurtful memories from the even more hurtful inner discourse projected onto them. Luckily I have such a friend. And no, I have not figured anything out I didn’t quite know before. Neither have I slain all my inner monsters. I’m just more aware, maybe, of the fears I tend to project onto certain experiences, of the negative ways in which I sometimes see myself. I’m obviously not sharing it all here because it would be oversharing. I just drew this sad horse as a symbol of the distorted gloomy alternate reality we all can sink into at times, the self-sabotaging stories we can tell ourselves.

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Betty’s Got Trouble

And finally I wrote the scene I’d been thinking about, the scene I’d been plotting all day yesterday while in Galveston. Betty’s got some serious trouble because she’s having an affair with Cornelius. Mrs. Guidry, the cook, knows about it and doesn’t approve, but she covers for them anyway out of loyalty and also because she doesn’t want anything terrible to happen. It’s 1961, and even on the Island, with its sweet breezes and easygoing people, a young black man sleeping with a white woman could come to a bad end. But Cornelius doesn’t care. He’s brave and daring and full of anger. He’s also got a plan.

I won’t give away any more than this. Suffice it to say, I’ve reached an enjoyable stage in the writing, one where it just flows. I only wish I had more time. Still. Slowly but surely it will happen.