Friday, July 19, 2013

Things I've Learned From My Cat

My husband's cat is named Kiko.  She wasn't very happy when he brought me into the picture.  And I am not a cat person.

So, Kiko and I have, at best, a love/hate relationship.  At worst, a volatile relationship.  When I first fell in love with my husband, I wrote a horror story about a young couple with a cat.  The story is called "Kiko."  It's creepy and awesome.  And it definitely shows where I thought my relationship with Kiko was going.

That's not to say I don't admire Kiko.  I have learned things from her.  Plus, she's gorgeous.  I mean, look at this face.

And thus I come to my first point.

I'm Beautiful

Kiko doesn't pretend to care what anyone thinks.  She's gorgeous and she knows it.  She doesn't walk, she glides.  She's elegant, she's svelte, she's mesmerizing.  I find myself watching her silhouette on the window seat.  Wesley Bates once said, "There's no need for a piece of sculpture in a home that has a cat."  And I agree.  Kiko doesn't wait for me or anyone to approve of her, to tell her she's lovely and worthwhile.  She just is.  She is a cat and she doesn't need anyone's permission to be who she is.

Take A Nap

Kiko is a creature of the night.  As such, she will nap when it suits her.  Wherever she wants.  She listens to her body.  She doesn't say, "I need to do this one more thing before I rest."  When she's tired, she sleeps.  When she's hungry, she eats.  She doesn't ignore her needs.  Also, Kiko is quite an independent creature, but when she wants affection, she asks for it.  Directly.  In your face, walking on your keyboard, standing on your forehead direct.  Snuggles are important and when she wants them, she doesn't wait.

Defend Yourself
Pick Your Battles

Kiko is domesticated, she is gentle, she is quiet and calm.  But when something threatens her, she has no problem telling whatever it is to GET LOST.  She doesn't cower in a corner and try to hide.  She pulls out those claws and gets to work defending herself.  BUT, Kiko is no dummy.  She knows when she's outmatched.  Instead of staying in a dangerous situation she can't handle, she'll find someplace safe to regroup and decide what her next move is.  She isn't bogged down with anxiety or fear.  Kiko is a cat of action.

Know When To Let Things Go

Kiko was not happy with us or with Toby when he first joined the family.  It took several months for her to get used to the idea that he wasn't going anywhere.  It also took a long time for her to trust Toby.  But eventually, she gave up her grudge.  She now snuggles with Toby when it suits her and has forgiven us for the infraction.  She is an extremely adaptable being.

Study The World

Cats have large predator eyes, and Kiko's are no different.  She studies things in their seeming minutiae.  It's almost as if she spends most of her time just figuring out the way things work.  She doesn't butt into conversations, doesn't interrupt people when they're speaking, doesn't dominate the room with her incessant self-absorbed chatter.  She just watches, listens, learns.  When she decides to act, it seems as if there is no question in her mind about what she's going to do and what she expects to happen.  People pay attention.  And then she can be completely spontaneous, reacting to unexpected situations with complete confidence.

Find The Best Spot

Whatever the season, Kiko finds the best spot and claims it.  During the holidays, it's under the Christmas tree.  During the summer, it's in the middle of the cool, dry kitchen tiles.  Whatever her goal is, Kiko finds the best spot to accomplish that goal.  She doesn't compromise.  They say you get what you think you deserve.  Evidently, Kiko believes she deserves the best, because that's the spot she gets.  Every time.


Seriously.  I think she does this.  Also yoga.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Things I've Learned From My Dog

A couple summers ago, my husband Tyler decided it was time to get a dog.  Toby is a great dog and a wonderful companion.  I had never had a pet dog in the house, so I didn't really know what to expect.  Now two years later, here are a few things I have learned from Toby:

Live in the present

Toby came to us from the shelter.  He had traumatic experiences, but he didn't live in the past.  He didn't say, "People are no good; I think I'll give up on them."  He said, "That was hard, but I am open to the idea that there are good people in this world and I can move on."

Never give up

When Toby first joined our family, Kiko (our cat rescue) was incensed.  She was seriously mad.  At everyone.  For a long time.  But Toby wanted her as a fried.  He was determined.  He had decided they would be friends, so he started working at it.  

You could almost see him telling her, "How's it going? I'm Toby.  Nice to meet you.  Nah, I'm cool.  It's all good.  I'll just sit here quietly and let you make the next move."  He just got a little closer every day, always respectfully tenacious.  Little by little, he chipped away at his goal.

The other day, I saw Kiko lick Toby's forehead.  Yes, it took two years (that's a lot of dog time) and a lot of patience, but Toby made his goal a reality.


Toby has a great smile.  I mean look at this.  And he smiles a lot.  Even after something disappointing happens.  He just shakes it off and starts smiling.  Smiles are infectious, and they can make you feel better.

Be eternally hopeful

I start cooking and here is Toby.  It doesn't matter how long the cooking takes, or what's cooking, he will sit like this.  Waiting.  For the possibility of a morsel.  For the suggestion of an idea of a possibility. 

Whether or not he got any last time I cooked, he will sit here waiting.  For any amount of time.  I can be there an hour later, and he will still be there.

Always hoping.  Sure in the belief that good things will eventually come.

Be adventurous

Toby is always ready for an adventure.  He is always ready to explore.  He doesn't care that it's unfamiliar or strange.  He is confident that something awesome is out there waiting, if he'll only take the initiative to find it.

Take a break

It's okay to check out sometimes.  Toby knows what he needs.  Sometimes the world is just too much and he needs a break from everything.  I mean everything.  So he sticks his head under the couch/bed/chair and ignores everything.  Sometimes you need to ignore everything and take a breath.  Toby knows he suffers from hyper-vigilance, so he hides his face and doesn't distract himself from his much needed rest.

Be supremely patient

For some reason, we find it highly amusing to put things on Toby's head.  And he is always patient with us.  Here is his patient face:

He never starts yelling or telling us we're jerks.  He just sighs and waits for us to finish.  Because he loves us.  He puts up with these brief annoyances because he knows the pay off will be worth it.  More snuggle time with his favorite people.

Put your head out the window

Smell everything.  See everything.  Taste everything.  Life is short.  Don't waste your time.

Family is most important

 More important than work, more important than money, more important than belongings.  Kinda goes without saying, huh?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

First Big Arizona Adventure

We haven't been in Arizona very long.  we moved the rest of our stuff down here last month and mostly it's been uneventful.  Besides my purse getting stolen, which technically happened in Utah, there hasn't been much exciting to report.  I have been painting, shipping out prints and paintings, looking for work, suffering from insomnia and missing people in Utah.  Which leaves me feeling like this most of the time:

The 4th of July was our first big adventure in Arizona.  And I categorize big adventures as something out of the ordinary.  We spent the day with my brother's family out in San Tan Valley (forty minutes from Tempe, where we are currently living).  Family which, for the moment, consists of his wife, Rachel, their baby, and Rachel's mother visiting from Conneticut.  We played games, we ate food, we had a nice relaxing day.  Which is why I didn't expect to feel like this the next day:

And here's why.  Rachel suggested we go to a fireworks show she found online, at a golf course about twenty minutes away.  There was a charge (Rachel offered to treat us), which seemed reasonable, considering the event online offered pie and ice cream, unlimited popcorn for kids, cold beverages and glow sticks while we watch the show.  So after dinner, off we go in two separate cars to the show.  We arrive at the golf course, thinking we will just go into the club house, pay the fee and find a place on the grass.  Oh no.  Not that simple.  The Show (which I will now capitalize), was purportedly at the 15th hole.  Now ask me: Do I golf?

No.  I do not golf.  And neither does anyone in that group.  So we set out to walk to the 15th hole to see The Show.  The amazing fireworks show for which all of this would be worth it.  It was 8pm, 104 degrees, and we were all carrying backpacks, blankets, water, etc.  One mile of very hilly golf course later, we're still looking for the 15th hole.  It's almost dark, we're hiking through the desert (there were golfing greens, but mostly we were surrounded by sagebrush, creosote, cactus and sand).

We were hot.  We were thirsty.  People were getting blisters from their sandals.  Finally, my brother consulted Google Maps, and we tried to gauge how far it would be.  We estimated from the satellite picture where we thought the 15th hole would be and decided to cut across a wash instead up hiking up and around the next mountain.  So we start across the wash.  Tyler is ahead of me.  Suddenly he stumbles sideways, beginning an epithet and cutting it short (the kids were with us).

Tyler: Oh SH--!

I thought he was falling and breaking his ankle.  Apparently everyone else thought so too.  But his next exclamation, "SNAKE!" told us otherwise.

We had been crossing the rocks single file, but in the next five seconds, the hiss of a rattle had us scattered forty feet apart.  Cyndal told me later she saw the snake "jump" (that's 14 year-old lingo for "strike") at Tyler's ankle.  Yes.  We walked through a RATTLESNAKE HABITAT.  No really.  Officially.  It was actually labeled.  Rachel told me she saw a sign a while back that said "Stay on trail: Rattlesnake habitat", but she didn't think it applied to this wash.

A while later (I was getting sore) we climbed up the mountain ANYWAY and finally arrived at the fifteenth hole.  We sat on the trail at the top of the hill and watched The Show, which consisted of fountains seen from 400 meters away.  Like this:

But smaller.  Rachel took the three youngest kids down to The Show to see if they could score some of the ice cream, glow sticks and cold beverages.  Nope.

By now our group looked like this:

My brother and I went back to the clubhouse to get the cars (luckily it was mostly downhill at that point) and we drove to a convenience store where Rachel treated us to snacks and cold beverages (she felt bad) and we drove home in everybody-drives-home-after-a-fireworks-show traffic.

The three positive things that made our evening not a COMPLETE bust.

1.  We could see the entire East Valley from our golf course mountain and the fifty or so fireworks shows that were happening all over the city.  Like this:

But smaller.

2. We caught a massive fireworks show on the way home and stopped in a church parking lot to see the finale.  Like this:

Seriously.  Short, but awesome.

3.  We have a great story to tell.  Rattlesnakes, pitch dark 104 degree hikes and .... well, that's most of the story.

Cyndal said she had fun.  She is able to find the silver lining.  Something I hope she got from me?

But this morning, I'm feeling like this:

And agreeing with Tyler, that next year, while he stays in and plays piano, Cyndal and I will hand out sparklers to the kids and take extended exposure photos in our drive way before we eat popsicles.

The End

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July! and also: Remember When I Used to Blog?

It was never a really consistent thing, but it used to happen sometimes.  Here's what's been going on:

Planning and organizing my final show (Lost and Found) in Utah for 1.5 years.
Moved in October.
The holidays.
Last semester of college in a very competitive art program.
(UTAH VALLEY UNIVERSITY'S ILLUSTRATION DEPARTMENT IS AMAZING.  I love Will Terry, Richard Hull, Perry Stewart, and last but certainly not least, Don Seegmiller.  Seriously.)
Hanging and doing the Puppy Love show in February.
Painting like mad to finish Lost and Found.
Hanging and doing the Sora show in March.
Painting like mad.
Hanging and doing the Lost And Found show in April.
Guess what? We're moving again, this time out of state.
Moving in April.
Looking for accommodations/work/galleries in Tempe, AZ.
Going back to Utah to get the rest of our stuff in June.
My purse was stolen during the OUT OF STATE move.
Behind on everything because of the purse and everything I had in it, including of course, money.

And now we are up to speed.  I will start posting here again.  I do like blogging.  It satisfies, if only a little, my need to WRITE.  Here is a painting I did about a billion years ago.  Actually, it was eleven years ago, but that's about a billion, right?  See how awful it is?  Art school was good to me.  Actually I'll post another painting I did this year, so you can see them side by side.

So you see what eleven years of painting and five years of art school (three of them intense illustration study) can do for your art?  I've made hundreds of DawgArt paintings.  And some of them sucked.  I mean, really awful.  Lots of them were mediocre.  I was learning as I went.  But now, I can look at some pieces I've done in the last couple of years and I can say, "Okay, these are good."  

They make people smile, laugh, engage with the artwork and with each other.  The paintings make people think and share and learn something, about themselves, about animals, about how they relate to animals. I mean look at these photos of the Lost And Found show:

These photos make me feel good, because they show me how people interact with the artwork and then with each other because of the feelings engendered by the paintings.

I don't know how this went from "I've been busy" to "I'm pretty awesome," but I guess it can't hurt.  With all the frustrations and stress over the past six months, it's nice to find some positivity inside me still.  Especially when I can't sleep at 3:43 am.

The Lost And Found show raised thousands of dollars so far for rescue, and the unsold paintings will yet raise more.  I feel good about that.

I'm still looking for gallery representation here in AZ, for venues to have shows, for a solid situation for me and my family, for the good karma I've hopefully been building to come back around and make my fortune, so I can send my kids to college.  But I won't give up.  I can't.  Not when there's millions of animals euthanized every year.  Not when there's a gallery SOMEWHERE out there in MetroPhoenix that will want DawgArt.  Not when my eight-year old just lost both his front teeth, and thanks to his dad's genes will have a trainwreck in his mouth soon that will need braces.  Not when there are still people out there who don't know about DawgArt!