My Husband’s Mother

Six boys in under seven years. The fact that she still has her sanity is proof she has been sneaking bliss.

Everywhere I look, I see evidence of naysayers being cast aside.
Little expressions of what brings her joy are on display in this corner or that.
Mementos from family trips.
Her family wall of portraits, young and old.
A shelf full of children’s books.
Her garden is a masterpiece transformed to greatness by her culinary prowess. Yes, she is that good.
Perhaps the greatest evidence of bliss is a beautiful trillium painting, her painting, hanging in the den.

The most recent picture of us. She graciously tagged along while I was shooting research pictures at San Francisco Zoo. Tim snapped a few shots with his phone.

I treasure her presence in my life. Not only because she is the mother of the man who holds my heart, but the woman to woman wisdom she brings to our relationship is immeasurable. I have benefited greatly from her experience.

It is only fitting that every so often her birthday occurs on Thanksgiving.

Happy Birthday Mom,

“Trillium” by Norma Livingston

Meet Percy

I’d like to introduce you to Percy. He’s a love. The poor little penguin is hatched to a pair of gulls. Don’t worry, Percy has heart, lots of heart.

Growing Percy

Percy is hatched to a gull family. Character development for Percy Learns to Fly. ABTA Products and Publications. Schetter/Livingston 2013

I met Percy through author/educator Patricia Schetter. Patty is an all around awesome gal who has followed her bliss. She is a Behavior Analyst and Autism Specialist and she teaches fellow educators. You can find out more about Patty here.

Percy Learns to fly was the first book I illustrated.  Lucky me! To study for Percy, I went to the San Francisco Zoo and observed the penguins. You see, we don’t have penguins in the wilds of Northern California, so the zoo was pretty much my best option for a hands on look at the movements and behaviors of a penguin.

In Percy Learns to Fly, Percy faces danger.

In Percy Learns to Fly, Percy faces danger.

As I poured over the story and got to know Percy, I fell in love with his personality and strong heart. Percy teaches a lot about persistence and how in the right environment, we too can soar.

So how about you? What’s your environment for bliss?

I’ll have more to post on Percy in the coming days…yes, that’s a tease, so stay tuned!

Mrs. Hatcher comforts Percy after a long day. Percy Learns to Fly

Mrs. Hatcher comforts Percy after a long day. Percy Learns to Fly

Just One More Thing

In 1997, the pastor of our parish asked if I would assist a fellow parishioner named Walt to purchase a computer and learn how to use it.

When I greeted Walt, I recognized him immediately. The previous summer I took a portrait of him with his wife, Ruth. Ruth had Alzheimer’s and wasn’t too keen on me positioning her for the photo. Walt began speaking to her softly, “Now, Ruthy, it’s okay, she is going to take our picture.” She caught his eyes and was immediately calmed. Her eyes danced in the photo. It was obvious to me, there was something special about this man.

With this we began our journey.

Walt had a dairy ranch, much of his computer lessons involved teaching him to enter data on his heard, run reports, etc. Walt is bright and eager to learn new things, so he caught on quickly.

A 30 minute session took 4 hours.

The tech stuff was accomplished in the first and last 15 minutes. The rest, well Walt told stories and if he noticed me looking at the clock, he said, “Just one more thing.”

And so our routine was born. I started planning for the longer visits. In time, he needed no assistance with his computer, but we went through the motions anyway.

We all need story tellers and Walt is a master.

Little by little I learned of his youth. I learned of his days in WWII. Which roses in the yard he liked the most and about stray voltage in the barn.

Sgt. MatthewsPhoto from the Walter Matthews collection

Sgt. Matthews
Photo from the Walter Matthews collection

I laughed and cried when he shared stories of his daughter, Pat. She was the light of his life and brought much joy to Walt and Ruth. Pat died at 37 from primary biliary cirrhosis.

Not long after that Ruth was stricken with Alzheimer’s. For many years, Walt cared for her every need. The kind of care not born of obligation, but born of love.

A few years after Ruth passed, Walt was blessed with another chance for a love in his life and Bee came into his heart and ours.

Bee and Walt, just after Valentine's Day 2008.

Bee and Walt, just after Valentine’s Day 2008.                               Photo by MaryALivingston

Every once in a while, we still sneak a morning together and a cup of tea. We make no pretenses of caring for the computer, the time is ours to enjoy the stories and share a little bliss.

If you ever have the occasion, ask Walt to brew a cup of tea and tell you a story.

Your life will be richer for it.

I love you Walt,

Happy Birthday

The two of us. Photo by Bernice Bennett (Bee)

The two of us. Photo by Bernice Bennett (Bee)

PiBoIdMo 2012 – I did it!

Picture Book Idea Month 2012 – 30 picture book ideas in 30 days – whew! It was a lot of fun. I almost didn’t do it. Time is short and the “one more thing” gloomy bug started to creep in. Shooed that little naysayer away and signed up. I am so glad I did.
It never fails, ideas come popping in like unannounced company. Backs of envelopes, trimmed paper, post its, receipts and the like were commandeered to stand in until I made it to wherever the notebook was hiding.
I just kept entering without keeping track. I counted the last week to see if I made it. Thirty-six, really? Recount, yep, thirty-six! Funny thing, those little scraps keep appearing.
Perhaps next year, they’ll go straight to the notebook. Nah, probably not! I think my ideas like to free range a bit.



Liebster Blog Award – Thank You!!!!

A “Thank You” shout out to Francesca at Flora’s Table for nominating my blog, The Backdoor Artist, for the Liebster Blog AwardFlora’s Table is a delightful cooking blog focusing on both authentic Italian cuisine dishes and traditional American dishes, suggesting appropriate wine pairings for each of them.Take  moment to stop by, you’ll be glad you did.

The Liebster Blog award helps spread the word about younger blogs, with fewer than 200 followers. I know, I know, takes time to respond to these things, but it is a great way to share some blogs with readers they might not otherwise find.

Are there new, young blogs, I hope others find? Yes. I can certainly think of more than a few. So…because I appreciate the efforts of inspiration out in the blogosphere, I will play and pass it along.

The adapted award rules for this one are the following: those who get nominated must answer 5 questions asked by the person who nominated them and tell 5 random facts about themselves.  Then, each of them is supposed to pass on the award by nominating 5 blogs with under 200 followers and ask them 5 questions. Note: It was 11, but I am joining previous nominees by limiting it to 5.
Considering the often overindulgence of this season, restraint is a good thing.

5 Random facts about myself:

I like bridges.
I was born on a reservation.
I treasure my faith.
I believe being a parent is the most important full time job anywhere.
I love my husband more each day.

My answers to the questions asked from Francesca

Q1.  What’s your favorite book?
A1.  It varies, usually the book I am working on. Right now, it is one about a young bird named Percy. More on him later.

Q2.  If you could live in the past, which historical period would you pick?
A2.  I have no desire to live in any other time than the present.

Q3. What’s your favorite drink?
A3.  Cold water with a squeeze of fresh picked lemon.

Q4.  What’s your addiction?
A4.  Fixing things.

Q5.  If you were a piece of clothing or an accessory, you would be…
A5.  Wedding ring.

My questions for the nominees are the following:

  1. If you could forever fund one single charity, which one would it be?
  2. What is your favorite volunteer activity?
  3. What surprises you?
  4. What is your silliest pet peeve?
  5. If you were a science fiction character, who would you be?

And the nominees are…

Making Rainbows

Shelley Wilson Art

Where’s Puppy

Divad’s Blog

Married and Catholic

By Candlelight

Power outage at our place. Happens every now and then, just a fact of life when living in a rural area. So out with the candles and lanterns. I just loved power outages as a kid, board games and ghost stories were sure to follow. But today, when the outage occurred I was painting a cover for a children’s picture book. The candles and lanterns did not cast enough light to paint, not a book cover anyway.

I decided to start a piece that’s been on my mind for a while. It was moving along nicely in the glow of the candlelight. Then it was time for fresh water. No water. We are on a well. No electricity = no water. I began plotting for water. Would it be decadent to paint with bottled water? Would the water in the pond be too muddy from the rains? Perhaps some water out of a downspout?

In the midst of plotting for a water source, Tim arrived and we discussed setting up the generator. He did get a little one out of our RV up for lights. Then voila…the power company had the main electricity back on. Isn’t that how it goes?

Work in progress being painted by candlelight.

Here is the ‘by candlelight’ work in progress. I may have to finish it by candlelight. For now, back to the book cover.

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.

Beautiful Blogger Award

Humble thanks to The Forester Artist for nominating my blog for the Beautiful Blogger Award.  I am blessed with his continued support and friendship He has a wonderful blog about “Creating art on the big canvas and the small ones too.”
It took me a few days to accept the nomination. You see, Tim is family. More on that upcoming in my Nov. 4 post, so stay tuned.


1. Thank the person who nominated you

Thank you, Tim.

2. Post the award image to your page (see above)

3. Tell 7 facts about yourself

I met my husband (my best friend) on a blind date 32 years ago.

We have 2 wonderful sons, one of whom, along with his beautiful wife, have blessed us with 3 precious grandchildren.

I am a retired professional photographer.

I love dogs.

I enjoy creating.

I like my eggs fresh, store eggs need not apply. (Same goes for tomatoes.)

I pray.

4. Nominate 15 other bloggers, and let them know about the nomination

I chose the following bloggers because of how they inspire me in their recognition of beauty in the world. They may hesitate to accept publicly…believe me, I understand.  Whether they accept or not, I want you to meet them, these people who live their gift and thereby bless the world with beauty.

Artistic Expression by Felicia Lilley

Illustration Junky

Laura Miller

Tanith Larking

Bright Spirit Studio


Susan Clement-Beveridge

Painting with Pencils

Pam Tanzey


Violet Gallery

Mike’s Look at Life

Anna Cull

Drawing and Painting Hobe Sound

Thistle Dew Mercantile

Congratulations and thank you for your contribution to the blogging community.

Catching Bliss

Have you ever noticed that children left to their own devices will gravitate toward an activity to capture bliss?
No one has to tell them to use a crayon to draw upon the walls or that when paper tears it makes a cool sound. They are fully capable of finding these pleasures all on their own.

Curiosity and discoveries fill their hearts and open the world.

Our youngest was the most prolific scribbler of walls. He loved to draw on paper, but what he relished most was a simple wall canvas.
What must have gone through his mind when I grumbled while cleaning the walls before selling the house?

I hope he knows we saved his paper art. He must, because in his home, his children have an art table at the ready for spontaneous creations.

So today, as we celebrate his birthday, we can only speculate what wonders of bliss his children will reveal to their dad and mom.

Happy Birthday Stephen
With love,

– By Stephen Livingston (age 5 years)


Our Littlest Heroes

I would like to introduce you to Horses for Heroes. This organization does wonderful work for those who serve; be they firefighters, police officers, military or other public service personnel putting their lives on the line for us.

The littlest heroes, the children of these men and women, also benefit from the healing and therapeutic power of horses.

© 2012 Mary Livingston
Photo reference provided by Lightly Spiced Photography by A. Adams