Whimsday Bliss – Noriko

The highlight of my week was sharing art with my friend, Noriko. She arrived last week to meet her puppy, Kinta. The puppy is living with us while he waits for his health clearance to go home to Japan. (See Puppy Bliss)

You may recall from Puppies, Friends and Bliss, that Noriko is an artist. She has worked mostly in oils, and more recently in pencil and pastel.

Noriko at my desk, exploring watercolor. A beautiful friend and artist.

Noriko at my desk, exploring watercolor. A beautiful friend and artist.

She was curious about watercolor and we invited her to give it a try. We introduced her to the brushes and tools. In no time she was bringing life to a stunning image.

I think you’ll agree, sharing the art experience with friends is bliss.

Kinta by Noriko Akiyama

Her first watercolor. Isn’t it stunning? She captured Kinta perfectly. Kinta by Noriko Akiyama 2014 (c)

Picture Book Academy Bliss

I’ve been pretty busy the last six months pursuing bliss. Last year I signed up for an outstanding online course and critique group over at Make Your Splashes, Make Your Marks.  Through this awesome course with Mark Mitchell, I connected up with Picture Book Academy.

5600737_origFirst up was The Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Picture Books For Illustrators (and adventurous authors) with the wonderful Mira Reisberg.You can subscribe to the site to receive information about future offerings.

3209255Next was The Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books e-Courses. The next course will be starting in February 2014. Registration opens December 16th. – See more at: http://www.picturebookacademy.com/writing-childrens-picture-books.html

Hero's Art JourneyThen Hero’s Art Journey e-Course with the wonderful Mira Reisberg and fabulous Maya Gonzales. Next up is Get Your Grammar Groove with Miranda Paul of Rate Your Story.

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I guess we’ll all have to watch and see what fruit is borne from the seeds I’ve gathered. I do know that if you’re going to sneak a little bliss authoring or illustrating, Picture Book Academy is a great stop on the journey.

While you’re there be sure to check out the recent blog post by Maya Gonzales, Illustrating your Own Story! Becoming an AuthorArtist.

 

 

Pursuing Bliss

It’s been a pretty full summer as I have been pursuing bliss. Just over a year ago I signed up for an outstanding online course and critique group over at Make Your Splashes, Make Your Marks.  Through this awesome course with Mark Mitchell I connected up with Picture Book Academy.

 Growing in bliss is addicting!

One final plug about pursuing bliss, don’t miss Marsha and Mira’s Best Character-Driven Contest!!

Best of luck to you all!

The Blind Date – Her Side

Today, Tim and I celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary.

Tim and Mary Livingston Wedding

Our favorite wedding photo. A quiet moment, just us two.

I am not surprised we made 30 years. However, it does surprise me that we made it past the first date, and the second…this is my side of the story. If you want his side, he’ll tell you over on his blog today The Blind Date – His Side. Interesting how we each recall these events. 😉

This is what I looked like when we met.

This is what I looked like when we met.

This is what Tim looked like when we met.

This is what Tim looked like when we met.

September 1980
Kelly, a coworker came into the camera store and asked how I felt about blind dates.

“I don’t.” My response was simple. It was only a week after I started the job. I worked with this person for a total of thirteen hours. Not long enough to trust her judgment to set me up on a date.

“But, they’ll be here when we close in fifteen minutes,” Kelly protested my refusal.

They? What?

I didn’t really hear too much at that point, something about a guy named Greg and his friend, Tim. In fifteen minutes? Good grief!

Then they walked in. Early. Great. I was really annoyed and made my way over to the counter. I planned to politely apologize for my presumptuous coworker.

Tim was friendly, nice and funny. He was roped into this as well, something about Greg and begging. We laughed and decided to bail Greg out by being escorts for the date.

We saw a Charles Bronson movie, Borderline  – enough said. Not a stellar start, we said our goodbyes and that was that.

A few weeks later, Tim showed up at my work and invited me to an Air Supply concert. Somehow, Kelly managed to rope some poor soul into going along. I thought she was his friend, he thought she was my friend. So it was, the four of us, as well as about couple dozen or so of his other friends. Nice intimate evening.

Then he asked me out again, but I was busy that night, told him I was going out with someone else. He thought I meant “going out” as regular dating boyfriend, I didn’t correct him and left it at that.

A few months passed and Terry, another coworker, was continually inviting me to join him and his friends on Saturday nights. I kept making excuses. I really didn’t have time for it, and I am not a crowd or party person.

Then one afternoon, I relented and accepted Terry’s invitation. He told me the party started at 9 pm on South Cow Creek Rd. I arrived on time. The road was more of a dirt path with large cobbles and potholes. I carefully wound my way in, swearing under my breath the whole way. My 1965 Triumph Spitfire had all of 4” of clearance and this road needed a 4×4. To top it off, some guy was right behind me with lights shining in my mirrors.

I arrived at the house and Terry was not there. Nobody knew me. All the gals looked at me like I was some kind of party crasher – cliquey things. Then someone said, “Hi, Mary.” It was the blind date guy, Tim and his brother, Pete. I didn’t know anyone else, so Tim and I talked while I waited for Terry to show up. The cliquey girls didn’t like us talking so much and they really hated it when we danced.

About the time the guys cleared the furniture and were wrestling in the living room. Terry finally showed up. Well over two hours late. Terry thought he would be cute and challenge me to “wrestle.”

Bad plan. I was peeved. He had no clue. He was flirting. I was not. His ‘plan’ was to let me win. Bad plan, in no time he had to fight back, I made sure of it. Then I mopped the floor with him. I wasn’t playing. He got the message.

Then the harassing began, even without the beer the guys would have teased him to no end about being beat by a girl. They were merciless. “You wrestle her,” Terry answered back.

“No way,” they said. Then one voice broke through the crowd, “I will.”

It was Tim, the blind date guy. I did not know he was a competitive wrestler. Crap, I was just a scrappy girl with no training who stood a fair chance to kick the butt of the average guy out of sheer determination an orneriness. With Tim, I was clearly in over my head. I gave it a good go. He did not embarrass me too badly, but he easily kicked my butt.

He showed up on time, was fun to talk to, great smile, quite the flirt, he could and would hold his own with a strong woman. Now this was someone I wanted to know better.

This was a few months after the infamous wrestling match...we were still smiling.

This was a few months after the scandalous wrestling match…we were still smiling.

We became best friends. Two years and nine months after the blind date, we married. Thirty years of wedded bliss.

Not a day passes when I don’t count my blessings.

Tim is at the top of the list. I can’t even begin to express the wonder of being married to my best friend. He holds my heart.

Happy Anniversary Tim, I love you – Mary

Rematch?

Spying on the Vulture Nest

I am uncertain as to how well this will work. Today Tim and I set up a camera to watch the turkey vulture nest. Since they have already returned to the nest, we set it up at a distance. Hopefully, we can catch them coming and going at the entrance.

The nesting spot is located deep in the cavity of a hollow tree. We measured last summer and it is 14 feet down. We have no way to set up a camera inside of the nest cavity short of drilling a hole in the tree trunk.

After some time, I may mount a camera on a pole and raise it to the top of the nest to attempt to sneak a few shots of the inside; but for now, we will keep it at a non-disturbing distance. So far, no images to share from the nest cam itself…I will keep you posted.

Tim and I head out to set up the vulture cam.

Tim and I head out to set up the vulture cam.

We figured we were close enough.

We figured we were close enough. Photos by my niece, Paige Donahue.

Just a few tweaks to the camera angle.

Just a few tweaks to the camera angle. Photos by my niece, Paige Donahue

A few final tweaks to secure the camera.

A few final tweaks to secure the camera. Thanks Paige for taking the pictures!

 

A Little More of that Back Door Bliss

Today is All Saint’s Day. I once had a wonderful golden retriever with today as her birthday, we named her All Hallow’s Tessa. A well bred, well trained, loveable girl. But this is not about how well she hunted or the number of spirits she lifted when visiting nursing homes and the sick.

This is about how she changed the course of a little boy’s life.

When placing puppies from a litter we scrutinize each possible owner with an application and references. Since our dogs are high energy bird dogs, almost all owners are hunters or families that include dogs in activities.

Such was one new owner, a young boy soon to be 11 years old. He had waited for a puppy and proved to his mom that he was ready. Of course. she knew she would have to provide a safety net. The application was in and approved before the pups were born.

We assist our owners in pup selection. We spend weeks with the pups and know their personalities. Truth be told, the puppies choose. Milo would pick up his puppy last.

I often post photos of pups online so the new owners can watch them grow. Everyone liked the little boy with the blue ribbon, his photos were most commented on.

The day came for pups to go home. One by one the new owner’s came. Each time little blue boy sniffed the air, walked about ten feet from the other pups and just laid down. He was waiting, these were not his people.

Finally Milo came. His mother got out of the car. I will never forget her words, “We have a problem.”

She went on to explain. Milo informed her at breakfast that the little blue boy would be his pup. God told him in a dream.

I smiled. I told her it all worked out, little blue boy waited for Milo.

She grew pale and said, “But we don’t do God.”

I smiled again, “Apparently, Milo does.”

While we spoke, Milo slipped from the car and his puppy met him in the grass.

Milo told us he looked up Tessa’s name and read about All Saint’s Day. So when in his dream, God told him the little blue boy was his puppy, he believed God. His mom was visibly shaken as she took care of the paperwork. Nothing like an awakening to rattle an atheist to the core. Been there. A door had opened, Milo boldly walked through. His mom cautiously followed.

God slipping a little bliss through the back door.

Tessa all ready for a visit. She was an active participant in Rx Pets. She often carried a basket of fun while cheering people.

This  photo was taken a few weeks before she died, spring 2012. Today is the first birthday without her. Many lives were touched by this wonderful girl.

Odd Duck

I was different.

One of the boys grabbed the snake from her cage, she bit him. He dropped her and she quickly hid behind textbook boxes. The kids all stepped back. When I reached into the six-foot boa’s hiding place, she calmly slid into my hand. We became friends. It was the first week of school, I turned 11 that week. I liked drawing pictures, racing bikes, climbing trees, snakes, and math. I was an odd duck.

In all fairness, I understand her perspective. The program instructor from Seed Planted 4. When the program instructor told me that I was not good at art, that I should focus on math and science. I was crushed. She did not do this to be mean, she was trying to help me. The circumstances were such:
I lived in a poor community.
I was from a poor family.
I did not have a good home life.
I had a high math and science aptitude.

The instructor viewed math and science as my way out of cultural poverty. This was back in the days, those unenlightened days, of girls don’t like math. I was an odd duck. I liked math and was good at it. The numbers just made sense. So when she announced that I had a class where I could learn anything, I said, “I want to learn to draw,” my request did not sit well with her plan for my future.

Truth be told, I don’t think she relayed the message from the expert who looked at my art. I did not receive direct feedback. It came from the instructor, not the source, and the instructor had an agenda.

The saving grace for growing up. My favorite teacher. My grandparents.

Art finds a way in, no matter the path we take.
When the front doors are closed, we may just find a back door left ajar and have a chance to sneak bliss on the naysayer’s watch.

Kids – the original backdoor artists

Many parents have stories of various hidden locations where their child’s art had to be removed when preparing to move from one home to another. I believe this was the sole inspiration for the product Mr.Clean® Magic Eraser®.

Children seem to sneak creating art wherever they can.
On the wall.
In the closet.
Under the bed.
The backsides of doors.
On the inside of clothing drawers.
On toys like wooden blocks and trains.
And my personal favorite… on their siblings.

To a child, any surface is a canvas. Kids are naturally backdoor artists, sneaking a little bliss even when they know it’s a “no, no.” I ponder this thought, because today is my eldest son’s birthday. Framed, on my office wall are creations from when he and his brother were little.

Hot Air Balloon

by Chris Livingston (age 5 years, 11 months)

He continues his creative aspirations, sneaking in art while programming games and apps. http://www.korphane.com/

Happy Birthday Chris.
With love,
Mom

A back door opening

I put my drawing supplies away from view. I still sketched in secret, but it grew less and less.
I focused on math and science.
My next grade change in our three room school included a new teacher. For a science lesson, we made pin hole cameras. A section of our class was converted into a makeshift darkroom. My spirits energized as I watched the image come to life. This was our science class, but I saw art as the light painted image in the emulsion emerged.

I started saving my babysitting money and the pay I received for my after school job to buy a camera. It was clear to me that the science of photography could feed my creative passion.
The back door was left open and I slipped in.