Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Good Thing That Happened, Part the Third

Waaaaaaay back in June 2022, I visited the Western Avenue Studios in Lowell, MA. And then, I applied for one of the live/work spaces called The Lofts. It was quite a process with CVs, artist statement, portfolio, proof that I'm a working artist and showing my work - luckily I had a "museum show" at the time! 

It was at the same time that I put my name on the waiting list for the puppy! And guess what? I got accepted at the Studios on the same day that I learned I'd be getting my puppy!

I'm so excited.. but now I am on the waitlist for an actual Loft space... who knows how long that will be? I'm hoping it will be this year or next year. I'd really love to be in a place with over 300 artists!

The Studios building is the one at the far end of the parking lot and has 300 artists on 5 floors plus a brewery, and galleries, and a coffee shop. The closest building (in the photo) is The Lofts. There are 50 live/work spaces here plus gardens. The Pawtucket Canal runs right along the side. The windows are 22' wide and the ceiling are crazy high. Oh, and pets are allowed! 

If you are really curious, this VIDEO shows a tour inside the Lofts. If you are impatient, jump ahead to around 5 min. to see some empty Lofts or 7 minutes to see a gorgeous, lived in one. They are only open to the public during the Open Studioson the first Saturday of each month (this Saturday!!) The Studios are open whenever the artists are around, but Open Studios have so much going on, plus Food Trucks! And then, there's the rest of Lowell - so many Galleries and events!

Can you tell how badly I want to be a part of Western Avenue Studios?! 

Good Thing That Happened, Part Two

Oops, fell behind again. These Anxiety-Depression Attacks are kind of like a neurotypical person getting the flu. They knock me out and leave me so exhausted and then feeling like I have to run to catch up!

So I told you about the puppy I'll be getting in April, the second thing that happened was this great show I was a part of at Two Villages Art Society in Contoocook, NH!

I was very excited to be part of an exhibit with so many inspiring artists. The opening reception was very crowded and I'm so proud of myself for even entering the building never mind TALKING to people. My friend, Laurie Strysko, AKA my Paparazzi - got lots of great photos (evidence?) including me talking to live people! I got to chat with Kathleen and Dave Dustin, just days before she flew off to the other side of the World. She is the Queen of polymer clay and is working with women artisans in India - if you're on Facebook, check out her posts - so many adventures.

There's a shot of Ty Meier, behind the desk, he's the Secret Organizer of the Crimson Sparrows -and he has his own mind-blowing show on exhibit right now.

And both of my kids were here for the opening too - Alex came up from Boston just to see it... actually he came up to play D&D with his sister and her friend, but let me pretend... great shot of them (crammed) in my "Introvert's Gallery". It got crazy crowded when the music started and I got squeeeeeezed out and fled home. Yeah. I was social... then I needed a few days to recharge.

Now that the show is over, I have a big pile of matted prints and a long todo list of what I should do with them! I'm working on it...

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Geeky Girl is Getting a New Teddy Bear!

There has been SO much happening, I admit I have been really overwhelmed!

There's been some really bad stuff with medical and mental issues and words like "cancer testing", "inflammation", "... indicators", and "more extensive testing..." And the Depression and Anxiety have gotten so bad... well, there are a whole bunch of new Inner Demon characters in the works. (Yeah?)

Ok, got that out of the way, on to the GOOD STUFF! I'll break it up into separate posts. Puppies first.

If you've been following my Service Dog Saga, it's been a few years since Theo had to retire because he had osteochondrosis in his shoulder and developed intense anxiety from the pain. He was adopted by my friend Mark and is enjoying retirement on the seacoast.

I had started the process from scratch, with a different company, and made it through a few rounds before they decided it would take 3-5 years just to find me the right dog. So I researched until I found the right kind of dog and the breeder, here in New Hampshire - Monadnock Labradoodles. They only raise Australian Labradoodles - a mix of Labrador, Poodle, and Cocker Spaniel. They are allergy friendly with the temperament of a service dog.

I've been on the waiting list for a year and just got the news that I'd be getting one of Georgia's new litter (born on Feb 9th). 

 "Her wonderful laid-back temperament gets her noticed everywhere she goes!"

This is the dad, Moose - "Moose comes from therapy lines and it shows! He is friendly, calm, sweet, goofy and happy-go-lucky."

That's a great combo of personalities, and each parent is 25lbs - I am so excited to get my puppy! 

I won't know which one will be mine for another four weeks. They'll temperament test them to find the one best suited to being my service puppy. My puppy will have a week of puppy training at the breeders, then some more board and train with All Dogs Go To Helen. I am really grateful to have resources and support. I am very aware that I lack puppy skills... and will take full advantage of any help I can find!

There will be ongoing puppy training, then service dog training, socialization, and introduction to different situations and experiences, as well as desensitization. Honestly, much of the training is the same for the dog as for me! I think the puppy, even without training, has better social skills than I do... so much to hope for.

I've been redoing my website and working on setting up an online store. I was encouraged to include a "Buy Me a Coffee" button. If you aren't familiar with that, it's just a way that people who read your blog, or want to encourage your artistic endeavors, can contribute a few bucks easily. 

I took it a step farther, with a "Buy My Dog a Bone" Button! So anyone can contribute towards Teddy Bear's training. You can click on the links to see - they're both really cute! Don't worry, you can look without actually being charged. And if you have time, go click around the new website: and be sure to let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

It's Been a Minute... or a Few Years...

 I'm working on doing a new overhaul - of everything... website, online store, my life - it's all in there. I'd put this blog on hold while I was in school, then again a few years ago while trying out Patreon. I'm not sure that's my place, so I'm returning here, to the Belfry. 

It's really dusty in here, and I need to do what I do - moving everything around a few times, reorganize all the drawers, and pull out some old projects to resurrect. And of course, I need to find all of You again, my Tribe, and a way to share info with you all. I feel really Hopeful though - I have hired two ladies to do a "deep clean" of my business and my brand and help get me moving again.

I could say that the past few years have been tough and all the other stuff everyone is saying about the Covid Years, but, honestly, all years are tough for me, plus - there were a lot of surprise benefits that came from the World experiencing Anxiety and enforced Introversion. Technology that has made groups, conferences, classes, and doctor visits accessible from home has been, literally, a lifesaver. The business I'd worked so hard to build - was no longer possible - and maybe I didn't really want to be doing that anyway.

Going forward - I do not want to teach live or online. I do not want to be in situations involving crowds. I do not want to do freelance illustration. I do not want to mask just so that other people don't feel uncomfortable around me.

I DO want to create more art, paintings and comics. I DO want to learn how to be myself and find friends and customers who like me with my quirks and glitches. I DO want to produce more card packs and comics about mental health, being Neurodivergent, medical issues, and the Inner Demons. I have so many cool project ideas! I DO want to be helpful and share my experiences and knowledge. And I DO want to learn to take better care of myself, be kinder, calmer, and focused on what matters to me. So this is the direction I am heading starting this year:

Unmask, be myself, do things differently, embrace my Inner Demons, draw and paint a lot.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

GOrillas! on the Move!

Today I had the perfect kind of social interaction day!
Sue Matott, the children's librarian at the Pillsbury Free Library - (our local library here in Warner, NH) - chose my book, Ready, Set, GOrilla! for Storytime!

      [Book Info: "Ready, Set, GOrilla!" - written by Melissa Stoller, 
                         and illustrated by Sandy Steen Bartholomew
                         Spork (Clear Fork) Publishing
                         Released - November 13, 2018]

And she didn't make me read - I got to do the craft project with the kids (the fun part). I had tattoos and coloring pages for them to take home and, in the library, I let them be illustrators and make really cool buttons with their art.

Because this was a group of two to four year olds, I drew simplified characters from the book, in circular frames and pre-punched the circles. Part of the image gets folded around the metal button, so I wanted to make sure none of the important image was lost. I chose the characters with larger areas to color (ie: panda and penguin... B&W - not so interesting).

 Once they'd finished coloring (and their grown-ups were finished with their art pieces too) -

- each kid brought their art over to the button machine and pressed their own pin. Even the shy kids got really into it and helped me pull the heavy lever.

Everyone was really excited by the finished pieces!

Even the scribblier attempts looked like masterpieces once they were mounted and pressed. I loved watching the kids' awed expressions after they loaded up the press, pulled the lever, and then saw the shiny button emerge! SO much FUN!!

And to make it even BETTER! - "Ready, Set, GOrilla!" is the featured book on the StoryWalk this month! So if you are in the area, start at the lower level of the library and then follow the RiverWalk (RailTrail) path to read the whole book. It's a beautiful walk - and a really fun book - but bundle up because it's crazy cold out there!

If you'd like to get your own copy of the book, you can order it from my Etsy shop, Bumblebat or from Amazon. There are really good reviews on Amazon - it's a great book to talk with little kids about bullying and playing fair - and wonderful illustrations! (of course!)

Here are easy links:

Ready, Set, GOrilla! Book on AMAZON (price varies, used copies available too)

Ready, Set, GOrilla! Book on Etsy ( - ($25) - comes with an original sketch in the book, lots of tattoos, and I'll send you a file of the coloring sheets you can print out - remind me! Oh, I also will send some cute little pins I made.

GOrilla! and Friends Removable Tattoos on Etsy ($10) - 2 each of five designs. They can also be used on paper.

Ready, Set, GOrilla! Coloring Sheets on Etsy ($3) - a PDF with 5 different pages that you can print out as many times as you like.

Nudge, nudge... this makes a great Holiday Gift!!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

My Birthday Week

If you haven't read my late-night, pre-Birthday rant, please take a look - it would mean SO much to me!

I did have a party and it was a lot of fun. It was interesting to note that none of the people that would consider themselves to be my closest or oldest friends, made it to the party. As for Family, my Mom and my daughter were there. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised and heartened by the folks who DID attend! Good food, chocolate, whiskey, and lots of laughter! Thanks everyone!
If you'd like to see photos, follow me on Facebook.

Although, seriously, if you want to see photos, you should follow my MOM on Facebook. Sheesh...

After an exhausting week - which included RE-doing my application for the McDowell Colony Residency, planning the party, packing for my vacation, lawyer emails, etc., and then WAY TOO MUCH DRIVING and chaos - I am, at this very moment... trying to relax and BE on vacation. Well... maybe after I write this blog post. THEN...

So... One week later...

I want to tell you about my Birthday Presents!

If you want to send me a present, or a card, or just insist that I don't look 50... I celebrate all month!
Send it/them here: PO Box 359, Warner, NH 03278.

Seriously, these are the Birthday Presents I gave myself in honor of (surviving) 50 years.
(Gold star stickers only go so far).

OK, here's what I wanted (in CAPS) and what I got...

1. FIND A TRIBE -- Midlife Redefine
I did a promo piece for Emily Clement a while back and I've worked with Emily as a Life Coach - she is so much fun and so inspiring! I was whining about how I wished I could continue working with her (private coaching is out of my budget right now), when she told me about a membership group she is starting later this month.

Yes! Life coaching AND instant friends!!! Dream come true!
If you are curious, look here:
And this is a video Emily made that gives you an excellent idea of what it's like to work with her, and some great ideas to get you started now:

2. MAKE A CHANGE -- Solar Panels
Yes! My very own power station was installed just before my Birthday. Still a lot of things I'd like to do to my house to make it energy efficient, but this is a start.

I got my panels from Granite State Solar through the Solarize Kearsarge program. There was funding available through VSECU (a VT credit union) and 2019 is the last year to take advantage of the awesome solar tax credit!

3. PLAY! -- Lego Ninjago City
I know what you're thinking!!
But, yes, I'm pretty sure this city will fit above my kitchen cabinets with the rest of my city.

There are still three other buildings that I don't have - Assembly Square, the Corner Garage, and the brand-new Treehouse! But I had been getting really nervous that this one would be discontinued soon - and I really need a "Chinatown" for my city! (Or Japantown). I don't care about "Ninjago" anything but OMG! - there's a COMIC BOOK STORE and a SUSHI BAR!!!! Yes, yes, YES!!

This one will take a LONG time to build, but I can't wait to start on it when I get home from Birthday present #4...

4. RUN AWAY! -- Ogunquit, Maine
I have been almost desperate for an escape!

And this is my Place. Although it got off to a rocky start, I am so grateful to be here.

My mom and daughter were here with me for a few days and my sister came down for a brunch party on my actual Birthday (Sept. 15th).

Now I have the whole treehouse to myself for a few days. And there is a huge table where I have all my comics laid out (no, I haven't done a dang thing yet!)

I've never been here when it's so crowded, but at night, the beach is quiet and beautiful.

And there are so many things to distract me and remind me that I really want to start doing watercolor paintings again (of Dragon Trees!)

If you want to see more pics of Maine, be sure to follow me on Facebook.

5. INDULGE -- Super soft cozy sweater

Well... it was 50% off! And it's SOOOOOO soft and fluffy!! Mmm!

6. CULTURE -- Ticket to "Kinky Boots"

In the 15 years I've been coming here, I've never seen a play at the Ogunquit Playhouse! Probably because it's usually closed (I come here off-season).
But Kinky Boots just opened yesterday- "score by Cyndi Lauper"!! - so I searched every performance on the days I'm here and found ONE single seat available on Sunday! Live theatre is expensive. But I am proud that I could find the last cheap ticket.

OK, that's enough presents for now. I'm hoping to get some sleep. Draw some comics. Talk to the ocean some more. Listen to its advice. Drink at least one more Chocolate-Caramel Martini by the fire pit - hopefully with someone cute to gaze at over the flames- otherwise I'll have to keep drinking until they ARE cute, and get some more definitive images in my mind of where I want to steer my Life next. I'm running everything through the "Hell-Yes!" and "Hell-No!" filters.
Stay tuned!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Happy Birthday! Happy Survivor Day?

"I'm not DEAD YET!" to quote Monty Python...

This Sunday is my 50th Birthday and I'm making a really big deal about it. A few people have thought it was weird in general that I even still celebrate birthdays. Or that it's strange to celebrate a birthday since we don't actually DO anything to deserve them - our Moms' should have parties, since they did all the work. Fair enough.

I've always thought of it as a celebration of having survived another year. Just as many folks party to welcome in the New Year - fresh and clean - I think of Birthdays as a way to mark the year like, "PHEW! That was close! But I made it!"

I feel the need to explain further.

Here's a comic I drew a few weeks ago (for a graphic novel I'm working on about mental health):

When I was about 11, doctors discovered I had an extremely rare tumor that they didn't know how to treat. It wasn't quite cancer, and yet, it was growing. (I learned many years later, that the growing mass had smashed all the bones in my orbital floor). I had a bunch of biopsies and tons of CT scans - but then I had to decide between two unlikely methods of treatment (see the comic above). I chose the experimental radiation. It was very new at this time and had way more CONS than PROS. But an Expiration Date of age 25 was still more than twice my age.

Despite being very sick during and after treatment, losing a lot of my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes (a nightmare in middle school), lots of vomiting and nosebleeds, and missing more than 30 days of school in one year... I still somehow managed to set some very high level expectations for myself. I didn't sit around waiting to die when I turned 25, but I also didn't ever imagine anything that might come after. I didn't imagine getting older. I was told I wouldn't be able to have kids - so I didn't imagine having a family. And in between bouts of depression, every illness that was sneezed at me (I'd lost my immune system), all kinds of weirdness in my body, and a constant fear of letting people down --- By the time I turned 25 --- I had traveled all over the world including Egypt (twice), Japan, England, Italy, Mexico..., I had had my photographs exhibited in galleries, attended Philadelphia College of Art, Brown University, the School of Visual Arts, and Rhode Island School of Design. I'd worked as a cartoonist and an exhibit designer at the Children's Museum of RI, and I was working towards getting my kids' books published. I was also married and had my own home.

And then, I turned 25 and... nothing happened.

Well, that's not true, there were always crazy things happening. But I didn't die. Instead, my beloved cat, Gustas Silvertip, who I'd had since I was 8... HE got the same tumor that I'd had! In a very similar location. The vet was able to remove some of it and he lived a few more years. In fact, he died just a few months before my son was born - Gusty was more than 20 years old!

A watercolor I painted of Gusty, sometime in the late 1980's.
What happens when you survive?
Yes, I was happy to be alive! And I had a really cool (weird) kid! But I was walking through completely blank pages. I'd never imagined being 30! Then 35!? Then I decided I had one more kid to bring into the world, to defy the doctors... who no longer cared about my miraculousness. (Or perhaps, they were dead? They'd seemed pretty old when I was a kid).

So I just kept on pushing myself as I always had. Maybe even harder because I had no idea this time how long I would have. I started and sold a rubber stamp company, painted furniture, learned stained glass, PMC, got certified in a strange new drawing method called Zentangle, got books published, started a store, traveled to Germany, France, the Middle East..., got divorced, started over, went back to school for my Masters, started over, again...

And all this time, I was being diagnosed with new tumors in different locations. More surgeries. More healing. And each time, I wondered, "Is this the real deadline? It can't be, I'm not finished with all the new projects." And I pushed myself harder.

This past winter was one of the worst of the tumors. It was really unexpected and I'd been working so hard on getting in shape and finding a new relationship. It just seemed so incredibly unfair. Everything is worse when you think it's unfair! The surgery was awful and painful and the recovery took months and was awful and painful. And everything was unfair.

But... I didn't die. I'm still here. And the oldest of my kids-that-I-never imagined graduated from college this spring and is now a teacher. My youngest is in 7th grade and she sings and draws and writes. These two are probably my greatest achievements. And yes, I'm taking credit!! I created two amazing people who were not "supposed" to exist. And I was not "supposed" to still exist.

Now I am 25 years past my Expiration Date. I have used every damned extra year I've been given and every superpower I have (from the radiation?) to try and justify my continued existence. I have dealt with every insane medical, legal, and financial nightmare that's been thrown at me. And I have started over and over and over.

I'm so exhausted.

And I want a party.
I deserve a party.

So now you know.

And yes, I want chocolate, and whiskey, and Legos, and a couple of calm weeks in Ogunquit, but what I want the MOST for my 50th Birthday gift, is another 25 years.


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