I'm in the final days of packing my apartment. We leave for Oregon this Saturday. Our new home is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Pendleton, OR. So today, I'm sharing some photos of Pendleton Woolen Mills' classic designs. Their Yakima blankets are my favorite, but I also love their iconic National Park blankets.
When most families are pulling their Christmas boxes out of storage and decking their halls, we are packing it up. My family moves to Oregon in one week and I have begun packing in earnest. Most people don't move at Christmas. In fact, many have asked why would you want to move during the holidays? We didn't pick this time of year. It just happened that way. But now that we are, I've found it to be a great time of year to move!
I like moving during the holidays because I get a "free pass". No one expects me to participate in every little holiday moment. They know that I'm busy packing. I don't have to stock up on feast foods, or replace any broken or missing holiday decor, which means that I am saving money and time. Most movers are not working right now, and so they're readily available and the rental truck is markedly less expensive.
But I do miss having a tree. So to compensate for that, here are some inspiring photos of holiday decor to delight my eye.
Every year I create a holiday gift guide. Its usually filled with handmade goodies from small businesses and all my favorite little doo-dahs. But this year I'm having a hard time justifying the purchase of Christmas gifts. Don't get me wrong - I love Christmas. I love cooking, listening to carols, relaxing with family, and enjoying a cocktail or two. Its the Christmas shopping that really gets me down. So much waste! But if in some alternate universe I had a little green to spend on gifts, it might look something like this:
1. The Full Focus Planner is my the best thing since sliced bread. If you love to plan and journal and track your successes and challenges, than this is the journal for you. My husband started using it this fall and has never felt more at ease with his schedule or more aware of his personal progress.
2. A set of Blackwing Pencils are always a classy non-gendered gift.
3. You can never go wrong with a pair of hand-made leather shoes from Aurora Shoe Co. They are hands-down my favorite shoes. I think my next pair will be from their Middle English collection.
4. "VanGogh and Nature" by Richard Kendall is a beautiful hard bound coffee table book, perfect for any lover of art or nature.
5. The "Movie Star Coat" from the J. Peterman Catalog is a blend of wool and cashmere. If you've got $450 bucks to blow on something completely divine, this is a good way to go.
6. Portland Bee Balm Chapstick is a staple in my life and the perfect size stocking stuffer.
7. These seed collections from the Seed Savers Exchange are a great way to share your love of gardening, sustainability, and food. The perfect small gift or stocking stuffer.
My family is moving from Texas to Oregon this month. Many people have asked if we're moving to seek better care for my son, Charlie. The short answer is 'yes'. I've been trying for weeks to write this post. Its not that I don't know what to say. Its that I don't know how to say it or how much of our story to include. But yesterday my son was denied Medicaid by the state of Texas for 2018. And now I'm ready to write.
CHARLIE NEEDS STUFF
You can read all about Charlie's birth story HERE. But all you really need to know for the purposes of this post is that my kid has many special needs - Craniosynostosis, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy chief among them. This means that we need wheelchairs, gait trainers, AFO leg braces, and monthly prescriptions. There are also costs associated with his incontinence, restrictive diet, and inability to feed himself. Blah, blah, blah...
After sitting for six years on what Texas calls a Medicaid "interest list", Charlie was finally awarded Medicaid to help us cover the astronomical costs of his medical care. This is a good time to tell you that our family has insurance through my husband's university job. Medicaid was (and is) our secondary insurance.
THE REALITY OF MEDICAID
I was thrilled when Charlie began to receive Medicaid because I thought it meant we would not have to spend over half of our take-home pay for Charlie's many therapies. We spent our first year on the program figuring out how the system worked. Texas Medicaid was bending under the heavy weight of a 600 million dollar cut from 2015. Health professionals across the board were telling us that services were shrinking and that many of Charlie's needs would not be met. Our second year on the program, Texas state senators voted to cut the budget again - this time by 2.4 billion dollars.
HAULING MY COOKIES TO THE STATE CAPITAL
Fearful of what these cuts might mean for my son, I attended a budget hearing at the state capitol in February 2017 to tell them about Charlie and to beg that they stop cutting funding for these much needed programs. After listening to over ten hours of testimony and offering my own, I understood that my senators didn't give a rat's ass about my kid. They also weren't interested in paying for therapies that could greatly improve my son's quality of life. And while they were at it, they would also cut funding for CPS and our foster care system. I can't quite explain the special kind of pain I felt that day. The wealthy state of Texas was saving dollars on the backs of its most vulnerable citizens - medically fragile children and wards of the state. I was disgusted.
1 in 3 Texas children rely on Medicaid. ONE in THREE. Deep cuts to the state budget for Medicaid caused hospital closings, and the closure of many therapy clinics. With fewer places to choose from, and fewer places even taking Medicaid, thousands of kids were left without much needed therapies. Charlie was one of those kids. We were back to paying out of pocket for his therapy.
Yesterday, just two days before Thanksgiving, we were notified that Charlie has been denied Medicaid for 2018. The reason? He hasn't had a major medical event this year. And why is that? Its because we finally have the resources to meet most of his needs. Medicaid, for all its faults, is working. Charlie has been stable. Its completely infuriating.
Once again, I'm in a situation that requires I spend hours and hours on the phone with the state, hours filling out requests for letters of medical necessity from doctors, and slogging through yet another appeals process. This kind of work is a second job - one that doesn't pay. I lose money and time.
When the state of Texas denies a Medicaid renewal application for a medically fragile child, they are making a bet. The bet is that the family doesn't have the resources to appeal - that they don't have the hours to spend, or the ability to navigate the system, or a vehicle to pick up copies of medical records, or access to a fax machine to send letters from doctors and appeal application materials. They are betting that the families are tired and otherwise engaged with the work of caring for a child with special needs. And guess what? That's a good bet. Most of the families who have medically fragile children on Medicaid cannot jump all of these hoops. The state wins. Parents stop fighting. The state doesn't have to pay. And that was their plan from the beginning because they just cut billions of dollars from the budget.
So while there are many reasons we're headed to Oregon, one of them is that I'm tired of fighting the state of Texas. Texas lawmakers have made their position clear to me. Don't be female. Don't be disabled. Don't be an immigrant. Don't be a person of color. Don't be gay. Don't be gender-queer. And don't be the mother of any of the above. Just be a good little wage-slave consumer and shut up.
Even with this Medicaid saga, I have to say that we've met great people here in the lone star state. And my husband has loved his university job. But after 7 years of fighting, advocating, begging, and scraping for Charlie, its time to move. We have no family here in Texas, which means that for me, every moment spent outside the walls of my home is a 'pay-to-play' situation.
I'm tired. And I need help. So I'm headed home. Sure - Oregon is just another state system, but at least its one that recognizes my son as a citizen. Oregon is also a Medicaid expansion state. And regardless of the level of support we get from the state, we'll have our family at our side.
It is the honor of my life to be Charlie's mother. I will never stop fighting for him. But my hope is that this move will allow me to spend more time being his mother and less time being his appeals processor.
After seeing these Romani-style wagons (commonly called Vardos), I want to paint intricate designs on anything that will stand still. Aren't they incredible?
Most of the time I create commissions for private clients who are looking for something to hang in their home or give as a gift. But sometimes, I work with corporations. Today, I'm sharing a video about my collaboration with the Choice Hotels Corporation.
I'm not into beauty fads and I almost never wear makeup. But there are some tried and true products that I love. Some I have used for decades and some are new to me this year. And just for reference, I'm a 39 year old white lady with oily skin and British Isles ancestry. While I don't fret about my appearance, I do like to feel clean, fresh, cavity free, and generally well cared for. So here are the items you'll find in my bathroom cupboard and in my grocery cart.
(And full disclosure, I am NOT being paid or asked to recommend these products. I just dig 'em.)
Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner $7.49 Just this paste year, my skin became kind of tired and oily. So I grabbed this toner at Target one day and never looked back. It does wonders for my skin. It feels great - non-drying, brightens my complexion, and smells like heaven.
OPI Matte Nail Envy Strengthener $17.00 I have used this nail strengthening polish for the last 14 years. I absolutely love it. The best part? It doesn't look like I'm wearing anything on my nails.
Arbonne Lemon Essential Oil $20.00 My friend Yusef Seevers is a District Manager for Arbonne and he gave me Arbonne's new Lemon Essential Oil last month. I have used it everyday since in multiple ways. My favorite ways to use it? I add it to my laundry soap to freshen my clothes and I put it on my pulse points during the 4pm lull.
Floss (any kind) $1.29 - $3.00 Floss. Duh.
Dry Skin Body Brush $9.00 Dry skin brushing is a beautiful exfoliation habit. It also stimulates the lymphatic system and gives your epidermis a healthy, happy glow. Plus it feels great!
Marvis Whitening Mint Toothpaste $13.50 I know, I know. 13 bucks for toothpaste? Just hear me out. I was visiting a dear friend in NYC and she had a tube of Marvis Whitening Toothpaste sitting on her sink. I forgot to bring my toothpaste, so I asked to use it. My friend spends a LOT of time on camera and her teeth look like shiny sheets of white paper. Now, its the only toothpaste I use.
Portland Bee Balm Chapstick $2.99 This chapstick was given to me as a gift from a friend of mine in Portland. I love it. Its my most favorite chapstick ever.
Now Solutions Almond Oil $5.95 for 4 oz. - $17.99 for two 32 oz. bottles I am a massage therapist and I like to rub down my sore muscles. I also like to rub down my kiddos and my husband. This is a great moisturizing oil that is absorbed quickly by the skin and leaves everyone feeling loved.
John Frieda Dream Curls Spritz $5.39 I have super curly hair and it gets frizzy if I just shampoo, condition, and go. So to avoid the finger-in-a-light-socket look, I spritz this on my wet hair post-shower, drag a comb through it and air dry. Bam.
This week, I painted my own portrait. All of my favorite painters have at one time or another, painted their own portrait. Why do artists do this? Many do it because models are expensive, but the artist is always present. Also, the artist can simply practice their craft without inconveniencing another person. I've also heard artists say, "If you can't capture your own likeness, how can you do it for another?" Plus painting yourself is difficult and challenges the artist in many ways.
I used a photograph, rather than a mirror, to paint myself. I'm leaving my Dallas studio soon for Eastern Oregon. I wanted to capture my last moments in this space with a self portrait. It seems fitting. This space has made me supremely happy. Is the photo an exact likeness? Of course not. That's not really my thing. But it does capture the care-free way in which I make art and inhabit my studio.
My family is moving from Dallas to the wilds of Eastern Oregon in 35 days. The home that we're moving to has a classic little Craftsman style living room. And while the photos below are a lot grander than anything I'll be able to accomplish in our space, they certainly have me thinking about ways in which I can decorate.
And here is a photo of my empty living room - a lovely blank canvas!
I love painting house portraits. What began as a favor for a real estate agent a few years ago, has turned into a major portion of my commissions. I consider my house portraits to be little painted love letters. These homes shelter the hopes and dreams of their inhabitants and my goal in rendering them is to honor those dreams.
My most recent house portrait is for one of my dearest friends. She chose the lot for this home because of its beautiful Magnolia tree in the front yard. It reminded her of her home in Louisiana. The style of the house also reflects her Louisiana roots - a wide porch, white columns, French doors, dormer windows, a symmetrical sweeping roofline. But more than aesthetics, this house is home to her large blended family and her business. It was such a pleasure to paint this piece and to capture the cheery, bright vibe that reverberates off this lovely home.
I think its important to reach back and check in with my old self every once in a while. This video is now 4 years old. So much has changed in the past 4 years. And so much hasn't. My art has shifted and changed in so many ways. And I think its better, too. But my vision and purpose for creating has stayed the same. I guess I'm a woman who knows what she wants!
I am a huge fan of textiles and wallpapers designed and inspired by William Morris. Actually, any Arts & Crafts era decor makes me really happy. But what I love even more is the Mad Cap Cottage way of mixing those patterns together. Here's a little eye candy to start your day off right.
When I am painting, I get really close to my canvas. After a while, I have to step away and see it from a distance. This allows me to take in the whole image and really see the composition. Once I know my next move, I telescope back into the painting and get really close again. Painter Flora Bowley calls this "spiraling in and out". Its an instinctual thing I do when I'm working that helps me to better understand my painting.
But spiraling in and spiraling out is not just reserved for making art. I also do it with my life. I haven't posted for over a month here on the blog. Instead of posting, I've been spiraling in. I've been planning our family move to Oregon. I've been overseeing the outdoor learning program at my son's school garden. I've attended two weddings, one of which I officiated on the California coast. I've finished a new series of 8 paintings. And I just completed my last open studio event in Dallas. Its been a big month.
Now that my open open studio weekend is over, I'm spiraling out. Now is the time to get the big picture view. Now is the time to look, listen, and assess. Write in my journal. Post on the blog. Write thank you letters. Ship paintings. Breathe. Here are some photos from the past 30 days in no particular order. Thank you, dear readers, for this hiatus. Its so reassuring to spiral out, away from the intimacy and proximity of the painting, and return to this happy online space. More to come!
The client who commissioned this piece says that no matter what is happening in their home, there is always music playing. His children play instruments (violin and cello) and music is a huge part of who they are and how they inhabit their home. This piece is called "Where the Cool Grass Grows" and measures 36 x 36 inches.
Here are some detail shots:
The title "Where the Cool Grass Grows", pays homage to Ferdinand the Bull, who wanted to sit in the cool grass, just quietly, and smell the flowers. Munro Leaf's book Ferdinand the Bull is special to my clients, so I laced some text from the book into the upper right and left hand corners of the painting. Isn't it fun to hide something special in the background?
Interested in your own commission?
Click HERE for details.
You are cordially invited to the Fall 2017 Open Studios at the Continental Gin Building in Deep Ellum, Dallas. Our building has 50+ artists across 61,000 square feet of studio space. We're opening our doors Friday, October 20th from 6-10pm and Saturday, October 21st from 2-8pm for a relaxed open studio event that will include music, wine, refreshments, and more. Please visit me on the third floor in Studio 3W3. Can't wait to see you!
This past weekend, I delivered a piece of art to San Antonio. My clients treated me and my husband to a beautiful evening that included a visit to The Hotel Emma. I was so moved by the architecture and interior design that I thought I'd share here!
The hotel was originally Pearl's Brewhouse, built in 1894. It's been a San Antonio Landmark ever since. After many decades the building fell into disrepair. Then in 2002, a developer undertook the massive project of revitalizing the Pearl, which included the creation of Hotel Emma. Architects Roman & Williams have done a phenomenal job with the renovation. Here's a look at this completely unique space.
After over a decade in Dallas, my family and I are returning home to the west. There are lots of reasons that this is the right move at the right time. But mostly we need to be with family. It's that simple. This summer while visiting my Mama's home in Eastern Oregon, my husband and I finally began entertaining the idea of moving. As it happened a beautiful 1925 Craftsman house in Halfway, OR came on the market. We moved quickly and have now made it ours.
What does this mean? It means that I will continue my work as an artist and writer in the wilds of Eastern Oregon. It means my boys will better know their grandmother/s and visit extended family with more frequency. It means our children will be raised in a small tight-knit community. It means that we will be living a much simpler life. It means that seasonal rhythms will dictate our activities more than ever before. It means that we'll have to make do with less. Its means we have to get creative. It means that we're putting the "free" back in freelance.
We won't be moving until December. We'll need that time to transition. Texas has been good to us and we've made some wonderful friends. But I'm very excited about this new chapter.
Above is a photo I took this June in Pine Valley, very near our new home in Halfway, OR. And below is a photo of Main Street, taken in the fall.
And what about my art? What about my studio? Don't worry, dear readers. The work continues. Our new home has an unfinished basement that will work beautifully as an art studio. Its has natural light from six large windows and lots of open square footage. I have a feeling that this move will be a shot of inspiration for my art!
Again, we don't move until December, but in the meantime here are some photos of our new home. Of course, we'll be making some small changes over the next year to make it ours, but its already in beautiful condition.
The heron is a kind of totem for my husband and I - a spirit animal for our relationship. They are a symbol of grace, security, purpose, and independence. It started before we married. We were sitting quietly in the Japanese Garden at the Seattle Arboretum, when heron flew down to the pond and hung out with us for a very long time before it seized a fish and gulped it down. Carpe Piscis! Seize the Fish! Since then, herons have followed us everywhere.
Today, I'm crushing on these beautiful crane and heron patterned wall papers. Its hard to pick a favorite!