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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Gone Solar

One month later...
here's a follow up to the last post about Going Solar.

My solar panels were installed in time for my Birthday (so I'm counting it as Birthday Present #1)! It took about a day and a half of noise and chaos, but they look fabulous. And they blend in really well with my metal roof. It probably wouldn't be so noisy and chaotic for Normal people to have solar panels installed - on your roof, while you're at work. But this barn is my studio, and I'm an introvert, so it was a wee bit distracting. But kind of amazing how fast they did this considering they were basically installing a power plant!

Nice, right?
Yes, I know the garden is a disaster. I've been busy. If you like gardening, especially weeding, come on over and help!

Last night, I got to go and see my Solar poster in person at the Flying Goose pub in New London!

I wonder how it is doing? Do folks in the waiting area see it and think, "Oooo, yes! I need solar panels!" I hope so. It's cool to see the poster, then walk into the dining room, where the back wall is all windows... and the view is pretty much the scene on the poster. Maybe, that's when the subliminal messages start to kick in?

Speaking of "kicking" - I was reading the RISD Alumni Magazine and feeling rather intimidated by all the amazing things that the Alumni have achieved. Reading the Brown Alumni Magazine was impressive too, but I don't compare myself to all the lawyers and brain surgeons... not my people. Anyway, I'm reading through and get to my class year - "1992" - and HEY! That's ME they're talking about!! Yeah ME!!

     Sandy Steen Bartholomew IL, who works out of her Beez Ink Studio in Warner, NH,
     had fun illustrating Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork Publishing, November 2018).
     The children's book by Melissa Stoller tells the story of a gorilla too bent on winning
     to play fair - until things change as the sweet story unfolds and he learns the value of
     friendship and teamwork.

I was pleased... until I saw what my former classmates were up to...

Seriously?! Brain tumors?! 
And Shep Fairey?! (He did the infamous Obama "HOPE" poster) 
- political unrest...

And I "had fun"? 
Well, the GOrilla story could be seen as a metaphor for politics... ugh. 
Sometimes, a Bully is just a Bully.

I have more to say about my Birthday - so I'll do that in a separate post.


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