Sunday, January 30, 2011

The week ahead for a change - Emergency preparedness

It has been a good winter thus far - meaning not many storms and dumping very little snow. I have gotten to gloat over weather on the east coast. They seem so unprepared for it. But it hit me this morning as I was reading the Winter Storm Watch for the East Slope of the Sangre de Cristos this might just be serious


And am I prepared? Usually by this time of year buckling down for another storm is routine. Not so this year. The biggest snow this year has been 10 inches and no significant loss of power. For some reason this storm has bothered me since they began issuing advisories on a change in the weather. It is one of the reasons I changed my plans and ran to Taos yesterday to pick up fur kid food and art supplies.
This morning when NOAA weather service went from advisory to watch I decided I should get a bit more serious.
  • Firewood - check (need to move more into the house and on to the back porch)
  • Snowshoes - check (used to get to neighbors, wood shed or just play)
  • Containers of water - this needs done. Power goes out so does the well.
  • Batteries for emergency lights - check. 
  • Emergency lights - make note to locate all of them.
  • Book light and books to read - find and centrally locate
  • Art supplies to entertain me - Check
  • Fur kid food - check
  • People food - check ( plenty in pantry and freezer)
  • Coffee - check (okay maybe that isn't seemingly that important)
  • Dumb phone (all phones requiring a cell tower or an electrical outlet won't work with no power)
  • Snow shovel - Check (on porch where it won't get buried in snow)
  • Serious shovels - put on back porch
  • Gas tank of van full - check
  • Emergency road kit in van - check
  • Guns and ammo and cleaning kit - locate all
You might laugh at some of these but in the year of the 6 foot New Year's snow my firewood was buried under a snow drift my snow shovel could not budge, my snow shoes were sealed by another drift in the garden shed, and my renter had left the snow shovel sticking in a snow pile by the road where the snow plow buried it.

All passes in and out of my valley were closed for four days and we had a town full of tourists while the local market's shelves were devoid of food due to no supply trucks getting in because of closed roods. Some of the tourists hung out at the bars closest to the passes so they could make a quick escape drunk or not. To this day I don't understand why they gave up their hotel rooms and condos. If they could not get out the next person on the reservation list could not get in. And once passes were open there was no fuel for the cars until the tankers arrived. It was ugly out there.

It is always wise to remember that the one thing weather forecasters get wrong is mountain weather. This winter they have had it more wrong than right. But while they generally over estimate how bad it will be the 6 foot in 2 days New Year's snow was suppose to be 15 -20 inches total accumulation. Shit happens so be prepared.

Oh, and BTW On-Star is absolutely no help with roads closed.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I sometimes do not listen to myself. I have this group of friends that think I give good advise and whether it is a telephone call, cornering me in the coffee shop, windshield time, or on line chat I often do not listen to myself. It has been a down year for me in so many ways and that does not seem to have changed the number of people seeking advice or calling me a beacon of hope and positive attitude it seems but it has made me feel more like an actor on the stage, an evangelist in a tent, a multiple personality. And definitely more alone.

The problem with being an artist is that we are too often our only source of company. That goes triple for January when it seems sometimes even the muse does not visit enough, and the voices in my head seem to all be feeding the fires of impending doom. But I was making a comment on a friend's blog about homeopathic medicine and testing to see if it is real when I stopped to re-read my comment.

My self-talk of late seems to run counter to what I truly believe and know. In short I have been selling myself a bill of goods I don't want to buy. I am not going to take all the blame because I am truly a believer in the cosmic consciousness and at the moment that well of thought is not real healthy. It has been a bad year for lots of people. But as I wrote in my political blog this morning, Hope is a strategy. And it needs to be one I more consciously take in my personal life beginning now.

Thoughts that need dashed:
  1. I cannot lose weight
  2. Exercise isn't working for me, 
  3. In this economy why spend money on the business
  4. I am not a good artist
  5. I cannot be financially secure
  6. The contractor from hell will win
  7. Doom is lurking around the corner
We can change the energy if we just focus on more positive futures and outcomes for our ventures. And the World.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More of the Skating Party

Last week in response to the Magpie Tales prompt above I wrote a couple paragraphs as a lead into what may become a short story - maybe a novella. I do have difficulty writing short but that is my goal here. So in the coming weeks I will add to my beginning.

The Skating Party

Clarice Anna Hobbes found the photograph where it should not have been. Her mother, the family story went, had snapped the picture of that ill-fated skating party with her Kodak box camera when MaMa was but seven. The camera was a gift that Christmas day from her name sake in the center. By the end of the day her great Aunt Clarice would be dead, the camera and film confiscated by the police, and the skating party relegated to whispered memory at family reunions.

How did the sepia print, in an envelope with ten others, come to be taped under her late Uncle Jacob's dresser drawer?

The tape was yellowed and cracked, the wood under the envelope a totally different color ringed by the stain of the old Scotch tape. How long had it been there? Was the dresser always Jacob's? Clarice wondered. Jacob was nine years older than her mother. Sixteen the day of the skating party. A month later he turned seventeen and immediately joined the military. As far as, Clarice knew, he had not lived in this room since. Had not used this dresser until after his retirement. Not until after her grandparents and the other two women in the picture were dead.

In those days, her mother had told her, the film was enclosed in the camera and to be developed the camera had to be sent back to Kodak.

"You're lucky, Clarice," her mother said, showing her how to load the black and white roll of film into her 7th birthday present, a Brownie camera. "My first camera, at your age, had to be sent back to the factory so the film could be taken out and developed. They sent back the camera with new film and the developed pictures.

"They took it away that day. Only I never got my first pictures back."

"Why not?" She had asked, her attention more on staring through the view finder of her new gift.

"The police got them. Actually they got the camera too. Didn't get it returned to me until your Uncle Jacob's birthday. My second set of pictures was of his party and later in his uniform before he went away."

"I'm going to take pictures of my birthday party."

At newly seven she hadn't thought to ask why the police got her mother's first photos. Photos of Jacob's birthday party in the family album showed it to be a somber affair since it fell just a few weeks after Great Aunt Clarice Anna's funeral. Where is that album, Clarice the younger wondered, as she spread the ten photos from the envelope out on the floor around her. They were not what she would have thought.

To be continued

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lost Week??? Or just needed down time?

This is the blog where I usually recap the week that has just passed. And usually I can come up with some clever little title that sums it all up. But this has been a rather odd week which eludes a handle. There has been the problem of the downstairs loo, and the snippy people on the social networks, and of course the continuing involvement in the new desktop computer (does take a while to get them like you want), and another week of no significant snow.

January is typically that time for artists when we do a lot of looking ahead to shows and exhibits, and I have four paintings begun I was thinking of using as entry images but I cannot seem to finish them. Return of phantom sounds and smells, and wakening with a sense of impending doom has warned me I am overly stressed. I think that is all hang over from 2010 and its issues but this seemed like a good week to just not make myself do anything beyond the necessary.

I have been playing with my new Corel Paintshop Pro photo editing program as the opening picture indicates. And I am working on writing a short story I begun with a paragraph on Magpie Tales last week. And I have been getting serious about home exercise routine. But I have also wasted time just playing Bejeweled Twist, and watching streaming Netflix videos on my telly. I have eaten entirely too many chocolates and erred toward comfort foods too much. But I have decided to give myself permission to be in this mood for a bit longer.

I think I seriously need some downtime. Now if the universe will just cooperate and not break anything more. BTW while typing this Firefox decided to not respond. Been doing that rather a lot lately. Course I am sure it is the computer. I have to get over this fear of turning anything on.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Head for the Round House, Nellie

B&O Round House
They cannot corner you there, the saying goes. Dad was fond of this particular bit of Americana. I admit to not really understanding it much. In my youth, toward the end of the great age of rail, there were switching yards and two-headed diesel engines and so not much use for a turn table to reverse the direction of the engine. The steam engine with coal car went in one side, drove on to the turn table which rotated to put its load heading the right direction on the correct track or just back out the way it had come heading the other way. Confused?

It does, however, make a lot of sense that a round house, built for any purpose, would free you from being cornered so to speak. So figuratively if not literally I often head to the round house when I am feeling stalked. Life should have less corners and more round houses don't you think?

The contractor from hell tried to corner me this last three day weekend. While drinking in his favorite bar in Red River he began the rumor that he had won the lawsuit and my house was going to be sold out from under me. The news reached me through friends on the weekend of course when I could not call my legal representation or the court for verification. Too bad his building and accounting skills were not as good as his timing of rumors and stalking skills.

Needless to say I didn't sleep all that well, overate, and submerged myself in the fantasy of Netflix streaming videos. I don't paint well when bothered but I do sketch good so I did that, and read, and exercised. My version of the virtual roundhouse. Tuesday my attorney verified that he lies! But once again I have let this hateful excuse for a human being ruffle my feathers.

But it also occurred to me, while I was catching my breathe from running in circles, is that a lot of his behavior is stalking so the next time he drives his big truck down my dead end county road I am taking his license number and reporting him to the state police. The one thing to remember about round houses, in addition to you cannot be cornered, is that the person chasing you has no place to hide from the shot gun blast!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

TW3 - Left Brain Mood

I have been in a rather left brain mood this last week. That's good for everything that had to be done on the new computer. I had to wait and make sure it was going to work but I could not wait the 90 days that is the general fail period for electronics. And I had to wait for that left brain mood to strike. Only in my left brain can I sit in front of two computers and transfer files and not lose my place.

My goal was to take major photo files off my laptop and move them to the 1 terabyte desktop where I would organize them so they could be readily accessed. I still have to do this with some of my document files too but I did get poetry copied from my blogs up through August 2009. But I digress (clearly back in that right brain today). After moving over the major photo files I went through the lessor ones (in my haphazard scheme of things those are the ones still bearing the computer assigned file names) and moved over the photos of note to other folders I had created - best photos, contest possibles, website, etc. then deleted the home files. This process took me from 30% available hard drive space to 60% on the laptop.

I think it made not one wit of measurable difference on the terabyte hard drive. BTW I now have a cloud backup program for both computers. And a friend has told me their are companies whose sole purpose is to rescue data from "downed" hard drives. I need to do a major google search and come up with one to ship my downed external hard drive too and see if they can extract some of the last 3 years of my life off of it.

Other left brain tasks I completed: A new art vita, a new artist's statement, assessment and purchase of Corel Paintshop Photo Pro X3 Ultimate, dinner out with a couple friends (the right brain me is not very social). The list is longer that needs to be accomplished - taxes loom but I feel that I have gotten a good chunk begun. Now back to the studio and nurturing my abandoned right brain.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Different Sort of Winter

Ravens flying over Lake Coyote
Last winter about this time I was blogging about Lake Coyote - the huge ice damn downstream had backed up the Little Coyote stream creating a huge ice lake in my back yard. This winter the Little Coyote is still within its banks and covered with a relatively thin coat of ice.

Snow has actually been rare. So rare I got my camera out to record this 6 inch blanket in the last week. Yesterday the temperature was about 43F at my house and so much of this is gone like the 10 inch one we got in December. Today is going to be in the 40's again. In fact no significant weather for the next 10 days. It has thrown a spanner into my winter aerobics program of snow shoveling the driveway! And locals have already shifted from talking about the weather to worrying about the summer fire season in the forest.

My sister and I are even contemplating taking a few days off and taking to the road to visit Chaco or Canyon de Chelle or the Grand Canyon or Monument Valley - trips we usually consign to late spring. But the weather and the open roads seem just too nice to waste. And a dusting of snow on ancient Chaco ruins would be such a nice photographic opportunity. Pilots might term this a sucker hole. Lure you out with the promise of blue sky and then sock you in with the blizzard of the century. Or not.

Boxing Day 2010

It is just so difficult to settle into the ordinary winter activities when it looks so wonderful outside.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Time to Stop Spending!!!!

First let me say the above picture has no relationship to the subject of this blog. It is in my Blogspot image library for Sidetracked Charley. I was scrolling through looking for an apt image and it dawned on me that all those blog images stored nicely before lost on my doomed computer are probably stored for me on the net!

So is my poetry. I began the process of going back through poetic posts on Creative Journey today (through July 2010) and copying them to Wordperfect files. Yesterday I began downloading from my 2007 backup CD's other writing files. And I rebuilt my art vita and artist's statement from paper copies I found.

And what, pray tell, I can here my reader's ask, does this have to do with the title of this post? Okay, most of you do not use the phrase pray tell. Blame it on my classics education. But again I digress. I have this tendency to award myself for doing onerous tasks. I blame it on my father who took me to the toy store (or for an ice cream - another blog no doubt) when I had to go to the doctor. In my youth this turned to forms of medicating my discomfort. I don't abuse beverages any more - well, except for coffee - oh, and those 5 hour Energy drinks from time to time.

And I like to think I have over spending and over eating moderated - all things in moderation, including moderation. But spurred by the necessary expenditures (car repairs, computer replacement, baseboard heaters, chimney sweep, camera tripod, cloud backup, software that was Windows 7 friendly) I have branched into a few unnecessary ones - computer monitor, new swimsuit for the spa (old one was getting thread bare), books from Borders (I am boycotting the local library), etc. Okay, not excessive by any means but the way things are going I need to save some money for the necessities that seem to spring up. Frankly the computer monitor was in the with-a-new-computer-do-I-want-to-risk-the-old-monitor-failing category of necessity.

I still have $100 of bonus and gift card to spend at the art store. Well, I have most of that set aside for the drafting chair. And I have my stash for emergencies rebuilding slowly. Still there is not much more I really require right now and art fair entry fees loom ahead. Time to rein in the spending and build back my prudent reserve the new computer tapped into. So my plan is to do those dreaded tasks (rebuilding and restoring computer files, taxes, and fair applications) a bit at a time. And award myself with a piece of Dove Dark Chocolate! One only! Did I mention my tendency to overeat my problems?

BTW - reason for photograph of La Sal mountains in Moab. It makes me remember one of the very happy moments of 2010.

Monday, January 10, 2011

TW3 - Streaming Video!

In the muddle over computer issues I have not said much about my Vizio HDTV.  Maybe that is because the moment I took my saved up money to purchase it the computer failed and I began to regret the money spent. I do not use credit cards so I save for what I want. I had wanted the flat screen TV for more than a year as I put away cash for the eventual purchase. Everything had gotten in the way - like car repairs.

With at last money in hand, product research completed, and friend along to keep me from going bonkers over the unconsidered options I got the flat screen of my dreams. Okay, due to prices I went 5" bigger (glad I did) and when my friend mentioned the HTML cable I also jumped in an got a new Samsung Blu Ray/DVD player capable of streaming Netflix video. That was a couple hundred I had not planned to spend. But it seemed to make sense until the computer failed.

The failure of the computer had far reaching ramifications - beyond budget. The whole fight with HP over the first faulty computer they shipped me consumed all my left brain so set up of the HDTV and player never went beyond being able to play DVD's. The budget crunch of robbing Peter to pay Paul and get a new computer made me regret the TV and also hedge on upgrading my Netflix account to Blu Ray. It definitely made me hate manuals, tech support centers, and fear that all electronics when touched would fail. Bottom line was I wanted my new entertainment center to hook itself up to the ethernet. I was tharned.

Saturday I finally got to a level of frustration with myself that I was going to do it or die trying. I had already proven to myself that the directions made no sense. They were originally written in Chinese no doubt and translated to English by a non-English techno nerd. I used to translate computer techno nerd speak to engineer and accountant language in my real world life. But they all spoke English. Well, there was some question about the engineers. I tossed the manual aside after connecting the ethernet cable. Schematics seldom need translation. Then I decided to work upstream as opposed to downstream (electrical troubleshooting technique). TV first, then player, at lastly computer.

Success! I will not go into the details but you definitely have to begin with the TV AND the TV remote even if the TV can be controlled by the player remote! I was at last able to watch Netflix streaming video on my new HDTV! This has far reaching ramifications (favorite word of the week). I can exercise while watching as opposed to being stuck in a computer chair. I don't panic when I have forgotten to mail back the last Netflix DVDs in a timely manner to get replacements before the weekend (I only get mail delivery 3 days a week in my rural area). And I am not regretting my 3 year ago decision to disconnect satellite TV.

Saturday evening I sat in my easy chair and watched streaming video on my HDTV and just kept saying spontaneously to the fur kids, "I love this TV."

Saturday, January 8, 2011


For much of my college career my fitness workout was swimming on the B squad of the swim team. I remember it as the days before heated pools and women coaches. I also remember being so exhausted and cold I could only lean against the shower wall and throw up. Not exactly warm fuzzy images but I was in awesome shape. Needless to say it did not leave me with a overpowering desire to swim laps.

Point of fact for years my swimming became really informal: Swimming to shore after the canoe tipped over, challenging my sister once a summer to across the lake and back, seeing how long I could back float without moving a muscle, and a scuba course. I also played around with other ways of staying fit: aerobics, bicycling, jogging, skiing and dance classes. All of which seem to be bad for the knees, back or feet. After my ski accident my physical therapist steered me back to the pool. Damn if I was going to swim laps! However, aqua fit was just getting rather seriously taken so I took it. It reminded me of just how much I love water. Especially now that pools are heated.

And just recently I have gotten back to those laps, but no male coach on the edge of the pool with a megaphone. Swimming laps is now considered an excellent form of cardio workout. And laps with fins give you really nice legs and butt. And I love the Zen space swimming laps transports me to.

Yesterday when the workout got abbreviated due to the mechanical problems with my friend's car I almost went into withdrawal. I ditched weight machines at the spa and headed straight for the pool where I feverishly proceeded to try and get as many laps in as I would have gotten with more time. I did save time for 15 minutes of aqua exercises divided into warm up and cool down but it was the laps that were clearly the most important in my mind. Doing my 25 to 30 laps makes me high.

This morning, needing a new spa suit, I opted not for the one that will look best at the edge of the Jacuzzi but one rather close to the old Speedos of my youth that never drag you down or slip off your shoulders. I don't exactly have my old Speedo shape. Too much time in the studio and not enough in the pool. But I am working on it. And having fun doing it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

TW3 - Messages from Never Never Land.

I have always rather disliked the week between Christmas and New Years. It is such an abyss generally. Especially in the corporate world; everyone is on vacation or out. And socially all the Christmas parties have been given and attended and nobody wants to waste social chits on a pre-New Year's Eve bash. Besides the weather is generally dismal this time of year.

But this year my sister arrived on Christmas Eve morning and stayed through the following Monday. Weather was in the 40's daytime and we 4-wheeled almost daily. She no sooner left than the good weather crashed and we got plunged into snow and sub-zero nights; Never Never Land. Huddled under lap robes in front of my new computer I sought escape from reality. Not easy when the indoor/outdoor weather gauge sits on the corner of the computer desk and reports the temperature. Burrr. Just as an aside the temperature outside as I type this predawn missive is already higher than many of the day time highs of the last week -- 22 F.

Bore an artist for long enough and good things can happen provided you keep explosives out of their reach (well, I guess depending upon your mindset that could be a good thing too). For the last few days of Never Never Land I have been looking through photographs I have taken, coffee table books of the Colorado Plateau, and websites of other painters. Then I began to sketch - free sketch. No pulling out from the morgue the old sketch books and tracings. No, just resizing an earlier "study." Sketch. Creatively sketch.

And if I like the sketch, if it sings to some inner muse, not doing it as a study first, avoiding the risk of a large painting I might not sell, but moving right on to enlarging the sketch to do it justice! And not a single church. Though in my favorite sketch book I found a few church sketches I have yet to paint! I also found a small sketch I had yet to develop seriously because it didn't fit my body of work. I have ended up with four new works to begin on this week after picking up the requisite stretcher bars for the canvases. Three point in a very new direction for me -  my dark side. I am excited.

I have friends whose goal is to live in a constantly temperate climate with no foul weather and no snow. Artists are lazy and don't want to shovel. But there is nothing wrong with getting frozen in as I see it. If I could walk on a beach everyday when would I paint? Would I paint? Being shut in with just your muse for entertainment has its benefits.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


The title of this blog and the original concept was to post about the misadventures and serendipity events of my life and lessons learned from diversions from my path. This year has been almost all diversions! Many not pleasant. And occurring so much I wonder if I even had time to comprehend the lessons.  It has been a rather Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole type of year.

 Richard Bach in his book Illusions writes:

"Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.

"The current of the river swept silently over them all - young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

"Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.

"But one creature said at last, 'I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will."

I was putting up my 2010 desk calendar and getting out the 2011 replacement when I saw Illusions in the book shelf beside my computer. I had bookmarked the above passage because I often used it decades ago to begin or end motivational speeches I gave. Obviously Spirit figured I needed to re-read it this morning. So while I am transferring dates over to the new calendar I am reminded that the todo's there are but suggestions and the bulk of the calendar days are blank and likely beyond my control. Like in the picture of the switching yard above some one else controls the track I take.

Still, I am a believer in the power of commitment and intention. And this time every year would be working on a set of intentions for the new year. I have posted some "business plans" on my fan page but they are, as they say in Pirates of the Caribbean, "More like guidelines." I am going to free-float this year. I am going to be Sidetracked Charley.

It could be a bumpy ride. Hold on -- or not.