Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cap and Gown time!

   One of my students sent me our group photo from the Art Institutes International's graduation ceremony a couple weeks ago. This will be the last group of Graphic Design majors graduating from the Lenexa campus.
   Gotta brag about these ladies. Talented, dedicated, hardworking. Their final projects and portfolios blew me away—so proud of all they've accomplished already!
   If anyone is looking for fresh design talent, please message me, I'd love to connect you, and they're all looking for careers and freelance work. (I plan to work with them myself!)
   These 6 months of teaching have been such a great experience—I absolutely loved it. The students each inspired me and I hope I did the same for them. I've tried to live up to the high standards of the instructors I had in high school and college and impart some of the wisdom they instilled in me, as well as draw from my own experience. Hope to find another opportunity to teach... my work here is not done.
   Big thanks to my buddies Heather Ralls, Charlotte Belland, and David Delbianco for your help and encouragement!

Monday, June 26, 2017

A day of "rest"

   I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: the one thing I don't love about my line of work is how  sedentary it is. Long hours of creating art on the computer takes its toll on a body! I feel better when I can move regularly.
   So for me I prefer not to "relax" in my downtime… moving is relaxing and stress relieving. And I got 11 hours of stress relief in the yard today.
   I started in the front yard, trimming, weeding the flower beds and the patio and driveway, discovering the house finch nest being built in one of my hanging baskets. Then I swept and hosed the patio.
   Then I moved to the backyard, trimming shrubs and trees, and piling branches and leaves in the fire pit to burn. It was fortunate that it was a cooler day, because I had quite the raging fire going! Sorry, neighbors!
   The forsythia bush gets gargantuan every year and tries to take over the yard, and I fight back with my trimmers. There were "volunteer" maples and redbud trees everywhere. My air conditioning unit was surrounded by baby trees popping up, and groundcover from my neighbors yard coming under the fence. Tamed it all.
   After a quick lunch I treated myself to a "break": running to the nearby hardware store to check out their plant selection. All plants were 75% off, so I grabbed a few more perennials for the beds and pots on the deck, and a large, beautiful palm and ceramic pot to place in the living room. The palm was only five bucks, so I could hardly pass it up! Even if the cat eats it, I'm not out much.
   Then I came home and got all the new plants squared away. Finished trimming and burning. Put all the tools away just as the rain started. And came inside to shower, and get ready to grill some steak for dinner. (Which fortunately had not been ruined by the 3 blueberries, 1 cherry tomato, and handful of sorrel I harvested from my yard and ate.)
   The dogs and Kismet (on a harness and long leash for safety) hung out with me in the yard all day. We were all tired—the good kind of tired!
   It felt great to tackle everything at once, and I'm excited to invite some friends over for a barbecue and evening around the fire pit. It has been so rewarding to see how much my yard has evolved over the last 13+ years. Nature is truly amazing, and I am grateful for the chances to shape it. Some years I do a lot, so I'm just a little, depending on what else life is throwing at me. It all adds up to so much beauty!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Welcome home, finches!

   Early this morning, I started working in the yard. I was out front weeding and kitty was outside with me. Suddenly a pair of house finches landed on the hook holding the birdfeeder. Kitty and I became very still as they "talked" to each other and sang. It was so enchanting! Watched and listened for several minutes before they finally flew away.

Next I took down my hanging baskets to water them. Many times I just use the extension on the hose and water them while they're still hanging. Boy was I glad I didn't do that today! When I sat down one of the baskets, look what I found! Now I know what Mr. and Mrs. Finch were talking about. Hope there will be some eggs in this perfect little nest soon…

   Kismet has been joining me outside (on a harness and 50' leash for safety) and LOVES it. Look how tired she is from being out all morning. LOL!!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Shed Happens. A lot.

   Today was spa day for the three amigos. Brush, bath, more brushing... They're all shedding like fiends. How do you get a trash bag full of hair off two 25 pound dogs?! It's one of the great mysteries of science. And the only thing I would change about Shibas!
   The cat? Well, she's perfect.

   In addition to 3 baths and loads and loads of brushing, today entailed 2 walks, 4 loads of laundry (my bed, dog beds), meticulously vacuuming the whole house, scrubbing floors in 3 rooms, shampooing 2 rugs, a little gardening, a little work on the new/old car (hooking up the trickle charger), grocery shopping and grilling dinner. So much for Sunday being a day of rest—I'm tired!!!

Out with the Blogger

   I've used Blogger for years, and I guess you really do get what you pay for... it's free. Many of my older images have mysteriously disappeared; the iPhone app is no longer supported and was always a crash-fest even on a good day, and just try posting from a browser on a phone... absolute nightmare!
   I hate to abandon my blog after so many years, and need to see about transferring the content to a new platform. I only know enough to be dangerous with these things. If you're reading this and have advice, please comment with your suggestions—much appreciated! :)

Dog n Jog 2017 / Father's Day

   Happy Father's day to my Dad. He drove all the way out here from Columbus to attend Dog n Jog with me last weekend. Here's a photo of us, and a few photos captured by the KC Community Faces photographer. Fun to see that sea of orange shirts!
   We had a great crowd as usual! So much fun, and soooooo many pups! Always fun to see so many people sporting my t-shirt design, and as usual, saw a few shirts from past years. I love that people like the shirts enough that they keep them and wear them again and again—I see them around town too. 
   It has been such a fun privilege to design the branding for this event since 2005! Big thanks to Kate, Kathi, Gina, and all my friends at The Humane Society of Greater Kansas City! The Shiba Squad and I are already looking forward to next year.
 Gina Levra, volunteer manager for HSGKC
 Gary Lezak and Sunny the Weather Dog
 2014 & 2016 shirts
Me, trying to keep up with Mister T! 10 years old, and running strong for a very hot mile

Sunday, May 21, 2017


   I can't say that I put much stock in horoscopes, but I've always found reading them irresistible. And this morning, while online searching for a photo of an apple for a project I'm creating, I ran across this 2016 horoscope. And whether by accident or fate, there are many things in it that relate to my experiences last year. Wow. Thanks for the goosebumps, Dreamicus!!
      "One negative manifestation of the energies this year is the activation of your stubbornness; you can be your own worst enemy by digging in and remaining blind to the obvious. You are given a golden opportunity to change the things in your life that make you unhappy or unsatisfied, and yet you may want to avoid this at all costs to avoid uncertainty and to take a devil you know is best attitude. You should embrace some risk and accept the windows of opportunity that are there or else you risk stagnation. Do not sit back and think that opportunities will come knocking again – they may not, so act now.
Elimination is also a theme for 2016 – but it should never be for the sake of elimination, it needs to be carefully done. You should not cut your ties with people or groups without resolving the issues relating to those groups – you should not walk away, you should work on amicable partings where hatchets are buried and bygones become bygones. It is important in business to consolidate lending, simplify your tax matters and lessen your dependence on borrowing. Try to negotiate lending terms that offer you more flexibility and where you can feel more in control. You may also have to access which social networks or groups take up more of your time than is necessary, and which are vital to your promotional and business efforts. Look at all the cogs and the wheels of your professional life and see which are not contributing and work at eliminating them. Letting go can be a liberating experience as long as you do it in a way that resolves not exacerbates conflict; constructive negotiations, arbitration and dispute resolution processes can work well for you. Elimination should not mean avoidance; don't just bury your head in the sand and think a problem has gone away just because you are avoiding it – you must tackle things head-on.
Personal responsibility is a key element to your success; only you know your wants, needs, desires, weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and only you can ultimately make decisions that will create fulfilment in your life. Reduce your reliance on advice and support from others. Even in medical issues, do not leave it up to your doctor – you know your lifestyle better than your doctor can ever know it, and thus it is you who is in the ideal position to make changes, find health triggers (i.e. allergies) and take your health into your hands by making life-changing dietary or fitness changes. You are your own best psychologist – when we look for advice, we only listen to what we want to hear, even if in our heart we know what we should be doing.
Creatively, you can work in fits and starts, and it is a complex year for those who work in artistic fields, as while you are inspired and imaginative, at times self-doubt may paralyse you. It is important for all artists to have solid skills and techniques to fall back on – it may even be good to attend a refresher course, and if your skills are not strong enough, make sure they are. The insecurity you feel about your ability should propel you to shore up and enhance your set of skills. The surer you are of the basics, the more confident you will feel, so no matter how experienced you are, do not be afraid to learn, re-learn and eliminate anything rusty."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

6th grade graduation day!

   Today was the sixth grade graduation celebration at the elementary school in my neighborhood. I teach on Tuesday mornings, so I don't get to see the kids walking to school. But yesterday when I walked, Mary the crossing guard handed me a folded piece of paper from Kayla… An invitation to today's events!
   Have to say it felt a little strange going into the school, being a woman with no children. But if Kayla wanted me there, I'd be there. I greeted Mary, and she stopped traffic for me to cross the street for the first time!
   I checked in at the office and provided my drivers license in exchange for a visitor sticker, then had to ask for help to find the breakfast. A nice woman directed me there, and pointed out Kayla, who was sitting with her back towards me.
   I walked up behind her and sat down next to her, fully unprepared for her reaction. The look on her face when she turned and saw me was absolutely priceless. She exclaimed, "You came!" And for the next hour, I found myself barely able to fight back tears. Totally wasn't expecting the deluge of emotion!
   After breakfast, they showed a 30 minute video beginning with each kid's photos: a baby picture, and then a current picture, set to the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun". That nearly destroyed me. Made me realize how many of these kids I've met, and how quickly they're all growing up. Then there were pictures from kindergarten all the way up to the field day that was held yesterday. I had talked with a bunch of the kids as they were walking to school in their athletic clothes, all excited for the day's events—so it was fun to catch a glimpse.
   In case any Pawnee Elementary parents are reading this, let me just say: you have a great bunch of kids, and I've really grown to love them! It has been a fun and unexpected privilege to become a small part of your family. Congratulations on their graduation.
   Don't even get me started about how tomorrow is the last day I'm going to see these sixth graders. And the last day I will see Mary until school starts in the fall.
Ah geez, I seem to have something in my eye again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Good Neighbors

    It has been an emotional week. Mary had her husband's funeral on Friday. I didn't go, but was there in spirit. Today she brought me the program with his picture and a quote from the Bible he liked: " I shall pass through this world but wants, any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being – let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again."  Great rule to live by.  Mary was very lucky to have her Luther for nearly 66 years of marriage.  And I'm very lucky to count her among my friends.
    Along with the program, she handed me a folded sheet of paper, which she said that Kayla asked her to give to me. I didn't get to see Kayla and Michael yesterday since I teach on Tuesday mornings. It was an invitation to Kayla's six grade graduation. Nearly brought me to tears that she wants me to attend.  I've been walking nearly every morning since January 2016, and all the people I've met have really made an impression on me.  So many kids love seeing my dogs, and over time I've helped even those who are afraid to build the courage to interact with them. This helps my fearful Aki too.  I think she will always be afraid of new people, but these interactions have really helped her.
    A couple nights ago when I was walking, I was passing one of the most beautiful yards in the neighborhood – I appreciate it every time I walk by. There is lovely stonework framing the yard, and large flower beds full of shrubs and blooms.  For the first time, there was someone out front. He was friendly and immediately came over to say hi to me and the dogs, and introduce himself. Carlos said he has been in the neighborhood about 10 years! Shocked me, because I've been around for 13, and I've walked enough that I am surprised we have never met.  It was such a treat for me to be able to complement him on his landscape design, and to thank him because it benefits all of us in the neighborhood.
    I live in the library district, because we are located behind the counties main library. And our neighborhood association is appropriately called Good Neighbors. and I appreciate them now more than ever, since I have worked at home for over two years.  Proud to be part of such a wonderful community.