Monday, March 29, 2010

Smile Campaign - Another Fun Sketch

Just for fun... :-)

Loving kindness

My sweetie's mother had a stroke and is in the hospital. Today the little boys and I put together a 'feel better' basket for Grandma Ru. We baked pumpkin spice muffins and ...

Tollhouse cookies...

A trio of glossy magazines and some bright yellow daff's to cheer and entertain her.
Liam, the nearly 3 yr. old , upon seeing the completed basket quipped, "Is dat gonna make Granma Ru feel better?"
"Of course," I replied.
"Good!" This emphatically.
They are never too young to start learning the art of loving kindness.

A snippet from my book - Ch. 3 'Poppy'


The divine fragrance of bright orange tea roses and sprigs of spicy scented Jasmine mingled in a plain mason jar on the window sill. Heavenly. The breeze through the open kitchen window dispersed the yummy scent throughout the kitchen better than the most expensive atomizer.

“I definitely prefer nature’s perfumes,” thought Poppy as she arranged the napkin and tea cup on the tray next to the fresh raspberry scone. “There,” she said out loud. “Nearly perfect…”

She broke off a small spray of Jasmine and one of the unopened rose buds from the arrangement on the windowsill, and placed them in a tiny bud vase. Settling it next to the bright orange teapot she smiled, satisfied. No matter that her mother would not appreciate the touch, or in fact any part of the beautiful arrangement. Poppy was long past caring about that sort of thing. It was years now since she came to the realization that living life on her mother’s dark and dreary terms was soul suicide. Having reached that conclusion, she had determinedly moved forward from that day on with an unstoppable sense of optimism and cheer. Perhaps in some small way to spite her mother, she also applied her natural artistic flair at every opportunity, and turned a deaf ear to her mother’s discontented muttering.

Turning her back on the tray, Poppy swished back to the counter next to the sink where the electric kettle lived. It was nearly boiling so she quickly switched it off and turned back to the tray to fill the teapot. Her mother liked her water ‘scalded, but not boiling’. Poppy had never discovered what the difference between these two were, so sometimes she let the water boil and sometimes she poured it just before it boiled. Her mother never seemed to notice any difference as long as Poppy assured her mother that yes, she had scalded it, so that was ok.

Squaring her shoulders, Poppy lifted the tray carefully and carried it through the sitting room into the solarium. Her mother was in her customary spot in the corner, with her back to the view, knitting as furiously as a 82 year old woman with fairly advanced arthritis could. No matter that it must really have caused her considerable pain, Katherine would just as soon be dead as without her knitting. Since her hearing was also diminished, she did not hear as Poppy stopped just inside the door and watched her mother. Katherine was small and frail, and for the millionth time, Poppy wondered how a tall, large-boned woman like herself had come from such a tiny woman.

Much later, after the tea things had been cleared, and her mother settled with a lap rug tucked tidily around her spindly legs, set to watch her favorite show, Poppy let herself quietly out the back door into the garden. An easterly wind was up and long silky tendrils of dark red hair pulled free of the knot at the nape of Poppy’s neck and danced wildly about her face. Her hair was truly beautiful and she was quite proud of the fact that, at 44, there was still no grey in it. Though she’d been told once by a boy in her class, on the eve of her 17th birthday, that she was the most beautiful girl in the world, Poppy had no illusions about her physical beauty. She knew she was considered plain by most of the folk in her hometown, and this bothered her not the least. In truth, while her features were not really remarkable in any way, time and experience had added a certain dignity to her face, and her naturally good nature added sparkle to her bright blue eyes and a spring to her step. She was among the precious few to be blessed with a sense of self so profound that she affected not the least bit of artifice. Of course, Poppy would have been amazed to hear such things about herself, for although she was quite the daydreamer, she was tremendously practical as well.

Poppy hummed as she futilely tucked the strands of hair behind her ears and surveyed the garden. Lots to do to get the garden in order. She was lucky to have Magnus Fahey, a still spry seventy something gardener and the local Jack of all trades, come every year to help with the cleanup in the fall and spring. The tying up of perennials, transplanting, and most of the weeding she could handle herself. Pruning the hedges and fruit trees was another matter. It wasn’t that she didn’t know how. But knowing how to do something and enjoying it were two different things. Poppy was more than content to pay Magnus twice a year to take care of this for her. In the fall, he pruned the fruit trees, often bringing his grandson Liam along, and Poppy always gave them a hand with barrowing the limbs and detritus off to the lower garden to be heaped for a late Spring bonfire. Come spring, the hedge trimmings were added to the already dry fall limbs and left to sit for a couple of weeks. Finally an appropriate afternoon, free of wind and rain, was settled upon and the bonfire started. This was perhaps the only perk of the entire process. A thermos of tea, jam sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, and she and Magnus could chat for hours, poking errant sticks back into the fire and gassing about the garden, local gossip, and the political suicide currently being contemplated by the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

This winter had been harsh, but short-lived. It was only March, but already the crocus and hyacinths were fully up and starting to show color. Daffs and tulips were clumped randomly throughout the borders, cheerfully heralding the news: ‘Spring is here!’ The trees were tightly budded and one or two were even beginning to leaf out.

While fall was Poppy’s favorite season, spring ran a close second. The promise of new life invigorated everything, like a freshly plucked bunch of orange lilies in a stark white room. Stepping into the garden for the first time each day felt, at least to Poppy, like a secret admirer had stolen into the garden in the night, and left little treasures for her to find. It was lovely.

With most afternoon spent outside, winter’s pallor, the result of too many cold months inside, quickly disappeared. Outside now more often than not, her fair skin freckled endearingly, smattering a light dusting over the bridge of her nose and forehead.

Her mother, never much of a gardener, had historically left the gardening to Poppy, and in Poppy’s opinion, that was just as well. Occasionally, Catherine could be found watching critically through the conservatory windows as Poppy cleared out beds, pulled weeds, and spread rich dark mulch from the compost pile over all of the beds, but for the most part she just left Poppy to it.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Sketches

Working on a few sketches for my Smile Campaign...I am thinking of having this printed on some cards and handing it out when I see someone that could use a smile... What do you think?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


My daughter Brittany is brilliant.

Yes, I know, every mother says that, but she really is.

Brittany is my first baby - I had her when I was 19, really still a baby myself. As she has matured, our relationship has changed ~ Of course she still has things come up where she needs a little advice or coaching, but for the most part, I have been able to step back into the role of cheerleader, watching in awe as she takes on one thing after another with her delightfully sarcastic sense of humor and 'can-do' attitude.

At 21, she has already published her first childrens book (it's called "The Litch" by Clementine Pistaccio (great pen name huh?) - you can find it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble). She works full time and is taking a full load of classes at college. She volunteers through her work regularly for all sorts of good causes, Breast cancer awareness, MS, Prostate cancer, etc. And she is an amazing photographer!

Rock star right? This girl, she inspires me!

So my darling Brittany, should you read Mama's silly blog, I want to say thank you for:

Agatha Christie and working out together, vampire movies, and Pride and Prejudice, One Man's Wilderness, and anything Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean, old movies...I used to introduce you to 'new' ones, now you are the expert, and being 'big sister Brittee' to these four little brothers of yours! You are my sweet pea frevs!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sunday Sketch 'Eamonn and the pumpkins'

I'm posting my Sunday sketch a little early as I won't be able to do it this Sunday. Hope that's ok... Love this one of my 1 year old in the pumpkins last fall.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Daffodil Dreams

For oft when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude

And then my heart with pleasure fills

And dances with the daffodils

~ Wordsworth

It's almost time for the annual Tulip Festival here in the Skagit Valley - People come from all over the world to enjoy the riot of colors, losing themselves in acres of tulips and daffodils of every variety and color. As I drive through the farmland, the tall, sprightly stalks of the daffodils just cracking color wave fancifully at me. My heart fills with the lightness of a promise fulfilled... Spring is here! And life is good!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

SMILE campaign

I have a lot of people randomly ask me for advice. People I don't know confide in me about what is going on in their life and ask what I think they should do. This has happened so many times in the last couple of years, I have really started to wonder what it is about me that invites these spontaneous intimacies with, well basically, a stranger. So I started asking people.

And I got the same answer phrased a variety of ways:

"You really listen."

"I can tell you really care."

"You have such a caring spirit."

I wonder...

Why do so many people feel more comfortable talking with a stranger about the intimate details of their lives, than with their friends or family?

What is it we are doing as families and parents that separates us from each other and makes us feel this way?

What is it we are doing as a society, that makes us feel it is safer to seek out the unknown for advice instead of the familiar?

I have some ideas but I definitely don't have all the answers to these questions. Still, if I really reduce it down to it's finest point, I think the point is this:

There are a lot of lonely people out there, for whatever reason.

Which realization led me to the following question:

"What small thing can I do to make each person I meet feel a little more connected, even loved?"

After a lot of thought, I decided to start a SMILE campaign.

It works like this:


Yep that's it.

When you're driving, when you're in the market, when you're taking a walk, when you're at a restaurant, doctor's office, wherever...SMILE.

I tried it out. And I was amazed at how this simple act, something that cost me literally nothing, affected people. Because most people I smile at...well...they smile back. Whatever expression may have been on their faces, sadness, anger, pain, indifference, is nearly always replaced immediately with a beautiful smile.

But wait.

There is a side benefit.

I actually started to feel more connected myself. People I met were no longer complete strangers, because we had at least one thing in common - our


If you often feel like the majority of the people you meet are strangers and you feel alone, start your own SMILE campaign. And let me know how it works for you, because I think we could be onto something big here . . .


Take my "Smile Campaign" Survey at the top of the page on the right:-)

Thursday, March 11, 2010


We spent the weekend with my two year old Liam in the hospital. He suffers from infrequent but serious bouts of asthma. This is our third time in the hospital with him, and the strain of watching our beautiful child struggle to do something as basic as breathe is incredible.

We are home now, and I can't stop scooping him up for a listen, my ear pressed gently against his chest, alert for any slight wheezing.

I wake in the middle of the night and tiptoe into his room, hovering over his fire engine bed, just to listen to him breath normally. It has become my symphony, Liam's normal breathing.

For a little while we will be consumed with his medicines and getting him dosed on time. Craig gets the nebulizer ready for regular breathing treatments. We both try to convince this two year old, with little success, that he should sit and watch his videos for the day instead of running around like the toddler that he is.

I think about how much worse it could be and I am so thankful that he is home and on the mend. So for anyone that has to go through a serious illness with a child, I am sending my healing thoughts your way.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Barefoot Spiritualist

A stranger once told me that his religion was standing barefoot every morning in his patch of earth out his back door. I love that!

I am a barefoot earth patch spiritualist too! Having my feet in the dirt, grass, EARTH, is Heaven.