Monday, August 17, 2015

More than diamonds

Thanks to the team at for inspiring me to do this post. Invaluable is an online auction marketplace that has art, collectibles, and jewelry for auction.

My mom loved bling. Big, bright, sparkly things — the bigger, the better.

But my story is not about expensive diamond engagement rings or priceless heirloom jewelry.  My story is about two 18k gold pinkie rings and the women who wore them.

My first piece of jewelry was an 18k gold pinkie ring with my name engraved on the front. My mom had one made for each of us when I was around nine years old, our script names engraved upon them. I wore mine on my ring finger for most of my middle school years, then on my pinkie finger during high school and college years.  Much later, when I outgrew it during pregnancy, it moved to my special jewelry box.

My mom recently passed away and, while going through her jewelry, I held her pinkie ring in my hand, worn down with years of constant wear, no engraved name to be seen. She wore that ring every day for the last 50 years. I held her hand so many times while she was sick and twirled that little ring around on her finger. So familiar, always there, it seems I have always seen my mom’s hand with a small gold ring on her pinkie finger.

I have a theory that the decorative, “hip-dresser” gene passes through alternate generations. My mom was always the presentable one, never a strand of hair out of place. She was always encouraging me to comb my hair and use a little “product.”  When I was leaving the house, she would plead with me to me to add a necklace —or two — and a few more rings. She was the “bling” of us and I am more the “moss on rock” person.

I have had many expensive rings. An eight-band, gold puzzle ring from Libya, gifts my mom and I both received from my stepfather. A big raw emerald and diamond ring that I bought with the money left to me by my grandmother. My grandmother’s beautiful gold, dome ring. 18K gold, Cartier tri-color, three-band rings. A very large amethyst ring in 18k gold that belonged to my mom.

Sadly, all of the above rings were stolen.

Mom and I both loved jewelry. She wore hers religiously and I just collected. After we lost a lot of our “real” jewelry, we turned to less-expensive, costume jewels — less stress and heartache when those pieces were lost or stolen. Much more fun, less commitment, less hassle and you can own so much more of it!

Buying my mom costume jewelry was such a thrill. I could never go shopping without seeing something very shiny that I new would make her very happy. Her opening a gift of rings and seeing her face light up was the best time ever. 

I have lots of stacking rings that happens to be my ring-soft-spot. I cannot tell you how many stacking rings I own, but it is many. But I don’t really wear mine. My mom wore her jewelry every day! I mean, every day. She would not leave the house without being completely dressed and decorated with all of her (costume) jewels.

So today, only a few months after her death, I see rings that I should buy. I think, “Mom would LOVE this” and then remember she is not here to open the box and shine with excitement. I really miss that!
Some rings I have bought over the years.

mom's necklace

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Baby steps

When I do one small thing, it feels huge. I keep thinking "take baby steps" and enjoy some results. D has been off for two weeks. He has whacked back the mock orange that took over before I knew it. Cut back the clematis that was had covered the window (right here at my computer) and was heading to the roof. I rather liked the coverage, I thought it kept the heat out of the family room ... but probably best it does not grow more. It is looking pretty stressed, but they always say clematis can take the hard prune.

Today, I transplanted a couple of plants I bought in pots AND in the garden. The reason this feels so monumental is because the last 5 times I brought potted plants home, I let them die on the porch. Completely put off with me, I quit buying plants, until the other day I had to have a couple of new mints. I also replanted a couple that were root bound in their pots, in particular, my favorite pasque flower (did not bloom this year). But the biggest accomplishment was cleaning out the bird bath. I have looked at that dirty bird bath for maybe a year (or more?), feeling pretty disgusted with myself. We no more filled it with water, than a couple of chickadees came to visit. Feels good. Trimmed a few more things and then gave up for the day and enjoyed my small accomplishments. D and I have decided we must cut down all the grapes that give a good privacy between neighbors. But the arbor has collapsed and morning glories have taken over.

Mason, Bri and Matt are presently in the backyard, enjoying a freshly de-pooped and mowed green yard. Kicking balls and repeating the word over and over. The baby pool that had become a mesquito breeding ground, empty and gone. I think it is not going to be warm enough, long enough to have many more "pool days".

The big American sweetgum, has taken over the corner of the yard. The shade is so delicious but it also caused a micro-climate and many of the plants that once thrived, now don't. Like my peonies. I think that if the continuing PNW heatwaves continues from year to year, we will be glad for that shade tree.

Japanese anemones (one of the plants I let die was a white Japanese anemone ... shame on me),  hydrangeas, clematis and honeysuckle, create a sweet but crowded entry to our "secret garden". Hydrangeas are really feeling the heat. Grapes and honeysuckle has collided in mid-air but D took care of that. (I actually like it, when they create a natural arbor).

All in all, a good day! Baby steps!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mandala, naturally

Mandala (Sanskrit Maṇḍala, 'circle') is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Indian religions, representing the universe.[1] The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the general shape of a T.[2][3] Mandalas often exhibit radial balance.[4]

Matt W. Moore is a genius in so many ways of the arts. I love his Mandala series he created while at the SUMMIT in Utah in 2014.

"This series was created entirely with elements foraged on the mountain and in the valley : River pebbles and stones, shale, red rocks from the high elevations, dead branches from aspen trees, bark from evergreens, cattails from the lake’s edge, dried wild grasses from yesteryear, and cut dead branches exposing the rings of the tree’s life."

Kathy Klein is a devout lover of plants, animals, people and the divine presence within all.  She creates the danmalas by first centering herself in a meditative devotional space. 

Sunday, August 09, 2015

My favorite green

Illustration frustration!

My illustration abilities seem to be waning! Maybe I have done it too long and am done. Maybe I need a long vacation? Who knows, but I love looking out there and see such talented artist and imaginations.

David Ridgway, painter of serene houses. Website and instagram


Elizabeth Graeber draws adorable birds and pretty flowers. Website and instagram

Richard Faust patterns and lovely flowers

Friday, August 07, 2015

Thank you!

It is taking me some to get back on feet after the last couple of months. Thank you so very much for your sympathy, love and good wishes. It means to the world to me. Sometimes I feel it just happened to someone else and I was just looking on.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

My mom

Two weeks has not eased the pain. Hard to write these words. My mom passed away on June 18, here in her home surrounded by love. My mom loved Édith Piaf, Joy perfume, reading a newspaper from cover to cover, traveling, horse racing but especially she loved dressing fabulously from her Goodwill finds (in that one aspect, I was a great disappointment to her). She was a "Thrift Shop Fashionista" way before it was hip. If one charm on a necklace was good, then 10 was great. The bigger, the blingier, the better. The most fun I could have was buying her jewelry and seeing her face light up when she opened the gift. Her repeated message to me about my looks was "just comb your hair and use some product". 

More than anything she loved to feed and take care of everyone. She would coolly cook Thanksgiving dinner for 30 people dressed in her best and still look fabulous and unmussed when dinner was served. Mom wasn't just about glamorous dining though. She was just as comfortable cooking from a chuck wagon in her overalls. We will no longer get to savor her asparagus soup, Chiles Rellenos, grits (my comfort food), chili (the real Texas kind), red beans and cornbread. I was lucky to have eaten food from the best cook I have ever known. 

She loved taking care of us, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping with her coupons, laundry ... all of that and more. I could not have done most of the things I did the last 15 years without her help and support. I will always be grateful for that! 

Her life was not without trouble and some despair, but she was not one to dwell on bad times. She would much rather move forward with her "Pollyanna" outlook of cheer. 

Thank you, to all of my family and friends for remembering my mom in such wonderful ways. I would read remarks when I posted photos on the blog or Flickr or Facebook, and it always tickled and astounded her. She loved my blog. She will be so very missed. 

Beautiful Sunday  -- 08.06

Friday, May 01, 2015

Brain in black hole

All the segments of my brain have scrambled and flattened into one massive goal, survival. My brain has flat-lined ... and I am functioning on some memory of what normality use to be.

This morning I have taken off work and making phone calls to HMO's, Medicaid, Medicare (I am on hold as I type) ... trying to figure out what will happen to my mom once they have deemed she is able to leave her present acute care facility and go - heaven knows where? Home? My list is growing of how I can care for her here ... including hospital bed, oxygen, tanks, airvo2, commode chair, wheelchair, among others items.

They insist she will be leaving Kindred Acute care in two weeks and I am dubious. Then there is a home assisted care living which her insurance does not cover, or nursing home which Medicaid may or may not cover. I just finished that application.

So I am in this holding pattern of not really sure what the future holds for us, her, me ... She is understandably depressed. We watch TV, hold hands and clean her bed and organized her stuff beside her bed daily. She declines in health everyday and I am sure this is the Universes' way of accepting a merciful death with relief and gratitude.

I go to work and try to be creative while making desperate calls to Kindred to try and get the doctor to address the thrush in her mouth, or the respiratory to address her air needs, to nutrition to address the "mush" she is NOT eating that is her dysphagia diet. She is not eating and losing more weight. I take her Ensure and ice cream. If YOU have a loved one in a hospital or nursing facility, you have to be their advocate ... from one nursing shift to another, it seems no one knows what is going on, what her meds are, how to change the nasal cannula to a mask, etc. I always start off with, "I don't mean to be bossy, but I have been watching you guys do this for over two months ... "

Virginia Mason was desperate to move mom, two months, too long to be there. They were taking an X-ray a day ... I am sure there was no improvement, but they thought it was okay to move her. I have asked for those X-rays. Below, our home away from home at Virginia Mason ... I could hear the nurses say daily, "is she still here?"

When I bring laundry home the dogs go crazy, smelling and even diving into the basket, thinking maybe mom is hiding in there somewhere.

I am still trying to work. Just finished Premier Chefs Dinner invite and catalog ... a floral, vintage paper poster. I really love it. No matter how much I love these projects, it is so good to finally get it to the printer.

And then I had a Vaginal Microbiome illustration yesterday, yes, that is what I said. And a sinus illustration this week as well. The fact is, I love my job and what I do there! ;)

I want to clean the bathroom, or pull weeds or photograph flowers ... normal. But I will hang on to those wishes for now. As I make my way through the black hole of our long term care medical system.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Wall art

When you are bored late at night in a hospital room, you will do anything for entertainment.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Facing death

Since March 9, 2015, my mom has been in the hospital. Beginning with dehydration, easily fixed with lots of IV fluids. Which then became fluid on her lungs, so they tired to get that off, in a matter of days, she had a catastrophic lung event which has led us down this path of her not being able to breath on her own, at all.

No one really knows what is really going on. After many X-rays, scans, breathing treatments, many consulting doctors, from urgent care, to critical care, now respiratory unit. It has been a long two weeks of watching a vibrant women waste away. It is my honor to be with her every day and night to get us either through this or to the end of this.

This is my little work station in her room, where we sometimes watch movies, or catch up on her favorite tv shows. We listen to books of tape on the iPad, which I don't think she really likes, but it does make her fall fast to sleep. The hardest thing is to watch my beautiful, vibrant mom endure indignities. And have her apologize.

And lately I have been having dreams that my house is flooding. I looked it up, it can be about sadness and loss.

PS There is no sleeping or resting in hospitals.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hello, it's me!

Hello, my dearest blog. Remember me? I loved you and dedicated many hours to you for almost 10 years and lately I found it difficult to even post a hello to the world. 

Lately, I spend much of my time cleaning and mopping the house to keep clean for a toddler, focused on getting into everything.

Looking after and taking my mom to her Dr. appointments.

Coming up with new and exciting invitations for Fred Hutch that will wow and fit into my budget. Right now, working on a "poster" invitation that has a vintage botanical feel to it. I love it and I hope it turns out okay ;) I am really, really excited about my newest effort.

I don't  have much to say tonight, just that, I really miss you. And hope to see you more often very soon.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Crazy for Cactus

If I could tolerate heat, I would like to live in a dry, hot climate, for the cactus. I see one and I have to stop and look at the patterns, the shapes, the colors. David had a cactus collection when we married but it did not last very long in the dark days in Washington state.

 DIY: Nicole’s Wire Cacti Garden

Cable Tie Cacti by BrianJewett 


JooJoo’s fimo cactus are completely adorable and would have a change of surviving in my house.

Maybe a safer bet would be a painting on canvas, like this Giant Prickly Pear by Lara Nickel (her art Pinterest board here).

 How 'bout a succulent Christmas tree by Succulent Solutions?

  Or just enjoy a sticky hot air balloon ride?

Friday, January 02, 2015

Happy New Year

The first of my New Year's resolution to-do list is to make time to blog more. 

This post is for my brother, way off in Oklahoma. We love you! Stay warm.


And then a few of Mason. 


Pretty in pink!


"Yeah" for football


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Play with your Plastic

Is that the cutest think you have ever seen? Cactus collection made of PET bottles. Such a cool kindergarten project! Courtesy of


More ways to recycle plastic bottles

Make a beautiful art bowl from pet bottle by gulguvenc

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Repeating Patterns

I spend more time than ever thinking about repeating patterns in nature. Mainly for interesting backgrounds for projects at work. Something scientific and visually compelling. Fractals, patterns, I wish I had more time to learn how to generate these works of art!

frankBerg has some beautiful patterns


Algorithmic artwork by Samuel Monnier.  

Jonathan McCabe has some mind blowing images.


And his album of Turing Patterns, I can not look away! Turing cell patterns.

This is gorgeous by Karmafritz


Monday, September 22, 2014

Studio Soo

I can't believe the detail in these miniature rooms by Studio Soo. Reminded me of the incredible detail of Shelley's sets. Found on Life in minature on Pinterest. 


The Art of Business

Very inspiring and helpful. Found on the Analog Watch Co. Blog.


The experience in taking an artistic idea and turning it into a viable business has been much like a growing tree branch. There are constantly new limbs and new leaves sprouting in places you did not expect. Sometimes a leaf browns and you have to make decisions: do you add more water or do you trim the browning leaf?

Okay okay - so maybe it's the artist in me that felt compelled to create that beautiful metaphor to explain the complicated thing that is business. The fact is - it takes some time and effort to overcome the fear and hurtles of being an artist, but at the end of the day it is one of the most empowering things a creative individual can do. Creatives have an upper hand in so many ways. You can and should mix your artistic right brain thinking with newly learned left brain actions.

These aren't pieces of advice that I am suggesting will work for everyone-- rather these are the things that I've found helpful to keep in mind throughout the early life of starting a business. My hope is that others can find value in our experiences and relate them to their own work.

1. Be flexible, always. You have to be willing to learn a new skill even if you find it boring. I still dislike using excel, but once I got over that hump, I am now able to compile real information and data that in turn helps me understand where my business is, where it wants to go, and how much time and effort it may take to get to the next milestone.  If you think something will take you 2 weeks, and do the smart thing and buffer for 4 weeks, it will actually take you 6 weeks. Always be flexible.

2. Be kind and modest. I have had to rely on countless friends and mentors - not only for emotional support or just as ears willing to listen - but for actions that resulted in business growth. Remaining modest has made it easy for us to find friends or friends of friends who are interested in helping and supporting a vision. Wether it be a photographer to shoot some content, or a web designer to help tweak some code, or a connection to someone in city government. If you are genuine - others will see this, and the resources and people you need will slowly but surely make themselves visible.

3. Fake it till you make it.
My mother always told me this adage and for years folks used to laugh at me for simplifying the complex world of business into a one liner. If you want to be a company, talk as a company. Drop "I" and replace it for "We". You think your company is too small to be doing something? You are probably wrong and it's probably time for you to start doing that next level action.

4. Emulate those who you admire. If you want to present like Steve Jobs, you need to watch his videos, take notes, then imagine you are him at your next speech or presentation. Follow what works. Pay attention to what doesn't. You should know your market better than anyone else, which also means you are attuned to what is and is not working within your industry. Find what suits you, borrow from it, and make the changes that fit your business so you can make it your own.

5. Always be preparing for growth. 
One day we received an email asking for our line sheet and wholesale prices. While we had not created those documents or terms yet, I had saved a few I found online many months back that I was able to reference. This simple preparation allowed us to quickly put together an appropriate wholesale document. Our version 1 lost us some customers - so we asked around and learned from the mistakes. Now we have purchase terms that not only work well for us but that also engage retailers. 

6. Entrepreneurship is all about risk mitigation and management.  When starting a business you will find you are constantly in a position of making decisions. Do I order 50 or do I order 500? You need to ask your self what the safest, least risky method is for you. If you order 50 and sell out right away - will it set you back 2 months as you wait for more inventory? If you order 500 and it turns out the item is not popular - are you now sitting on a ton of wasted inventory? Do you need to create "tests" so you can measure if something is a worth while expenditure?  In our case - we used Kickstarter as a platform to test the market we wanted to enter.

7. Stretch your money.  Pay yourself enough to get by, only after you've put the money in the right places for your business. If you weigh the risks properly and keep on building your sweat equity - you'll have the cash you need to cover those unexpected costs.

8. Don't be intimidated.   It's easy to beat your self up when you realize maybe your math skills or business skills are rusty. You may compare yourself to other successful endeavors and find it hard to imagine you making it there yourself. Stop that now and re-read #4 and #5 above. You have a creative mind and just maybe that is what will set you apart from the rest.

9. Use YouTube to learn.  Seriously. The internet is a powerful tool and we ourselves use it constantly to learn. You can type almost any topic into youtube and find multiple individuals or organizations ready to share information and knowledge in an easy to watch and take in format.

Daydreamer with Tunnel Vision

"Elly MacKay has a daydreamer’s imagination, creating little worlds from paper and paint then setting them into a paper theatre and photographing them. Sweet and beautifully crafted. The artist sells prints of the mostly-childhood themes, and has recently authored and illustrated a book." Found via DailyArt Muse

Elly MacKay Flickr and her version of Anne of Green Gables (I must have). Isn't her work the loveliest?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My House, Head, Heart is full

I recently talked to one of my best friends and we were discussing the dichotomy of ours lives. Hers: quite and secluded, mine: loud and excessively messy.

Our house is full. People and noises: laughing, talking; baby crying, cooing, ear-piercing squealing; dogs and dogs barking; phones ringing; door bell buzzing; three TVs with three different channels playing in three rooms - all trying to be the loudest.

The house now exist in piles, piles of stuff everywhere I look. It is our stuff and their stuff, many lives colliding in one small house. Piles of the kids shoes and their clothes; baby toys; letter and bills; dog toys; dirty dishes; car keys so we can move the cars in the driveway out of the way of your car when you need to get where your are going; piles of paper grocery bags (more of that later); piles of trash bags on the back porch waiting to be carried to the trash can; piles of clothes to ironed, clothes to be washed and clothes to put away. The piles go on. Lots of spider webs hanging from the ceilings. Lots of dog hair piled up in corners.

My phone is full of list. Mainly list of what needs to be picked up at the grocery store on the way home from work. Since mom does not drive anymore, we all pitch in for the shopping. The list is almost always the same, eggs, milk, paper towels, toilet paper, dog food, and the question of the night, "what are we having for dinner?" Mom also does not cook anymore, which scares me nightly, about what everyone is making, or what they are buying for carry-out. Also phone full of photos and videos of Mason. Where to store them, still trying to figure that out.

The front and back yards are full of weeds (some fire weed 8 ft. tall), morning glories running amuck, grapes that need to be trimmed, dog poop that needs to be scooped, bushes dying to be pruned.

My brain is full. Of ideas for work; full of video lessons I have been watching for work; full of invitation ideas, illustration, magazine cover illustration ideas; full of phone calls I need to make to printers to ask a crucial question. It is still full of worry about my career future and making money and trying to get past the 3+ years of keeping my ego intact while job hunting. Full of my fun ideas that I still try to pursue on my weekends, without much luck. My skulls, my Brantlers, my rings. Full of concern about my mom, making sure she is taken care of while I am at work, safe and has everything here that she needs since she is no longer able to leave the house and drive.

My car is full of stuff from 4 years ago that needs to be put away.

My heart is full of love and pride for Matt and Bri, with Mason. They drive me a little nuts, but I love watching them both being great parents.

My life is NOT full of as many friends. The last year, something had to drop out of my life and unfortunately, it came down to friends, make-up and blogging. I understand that blogging kept me sane for so many years, but there is really only so much one can think upon without going nuts, so I let the blog go silent for awhile. I mean, with Pinterest and so many other fantastic blogs, the world is not going to miss my little spot on the internet. I post on Instagram more now than ever, mainly mom or the baby and art around our campus.

I still peruse many blogs, very quickly. Many have such glamorous lives, referring us to the perfect makeup they recently found or an instagram they discovered with glorious food or vacation images. I am inspired and envious all at the same time. My life is so different from 6 years ago. I went from having a clean, nicely decorated place, to a house where the carpets is disgusting (from Pica being sick for three years) and the blinds are broken. My head is also filled with list, list of stuff that needs to be fixed, replaced, mended. I hate that winter is coming and I still have not been able to replace our failing roof. ;0 But life goes on.

I am not interested in the perfect eyeshadow. I quit wearing makeup months ago. I feel like if I get to work in clothes other than my pajamas, I have really accomplished something BIG. My work week is really full, usually by Wednesday, I would swear it was Friday. Or I look up and it is all ready 5pm when I thought it was probably noon.

But I really love my new job. It has been such a challenge, to learn so many things in the first year. That said, I have not learned everything I need to know to do a really good job. I spend many hours with printers talking over paper choices and prices. Fred Hutch is on Pinterest and I keep that up religiously. We are going through rebranding, which means lots of meetings about redesign and brainstorming ideas. We have a quarterly magazine, Quest, we all work on to make deadline. Still get to do some illustrations and still freelance a little illustrations out. I work with the most talented and extraordinary people. Talented people from my past have joined the team. Some people not so welcomed from my previous job have applied for jobs, thankfully, they were not hired.

Our team is going to ONA in Chicago next week, and we spent two weeks making directories of our scientist and science writers, designing pieces for the booth, signage, table tents, business cards (I opted for the new and cool square moo cards for them this trip since we didn't have our official business cards designed yet.) These are very fun projects. But still have my everyday work to complete on top of that.

So that is what is going on with me and mine. ;) And where I have been hiding out for the last year.

Pixel just wants some quiet time!