Giving Back: The Toys Are Escaping!

As time becomes more precious, I find I’m less interested in doing regular volunteer work out of my house. So how to happily give back to a world that’s been good to me and where there’s plenty to be done?

The best volunteer work combines a passion with a need. Since I’ve discovered painting, I’ve wondered how I could combine art with giving. And so, I hope I’m onto something.

I  just finished a series of 16 paintings for the Orange County Historical Museum here in Hillsborough, North Carolina. The museum’s  executive director, Stephanie Pryor, invited me to do the paintings to coordinate with an antique toy exhibit. The exhibit opened April 26 and runs into October. Where’s the giving? I’m donating the paintings.

The paintings are for sale, and the proceeds will support children’s programming at the museum. Large paintings are $65 or two for $100. Small paintings are $40 or two for $70. I’m glad to ship the paintings for an additional $10.

I came up with the idea of toys escaping because maybe, just maybe, toys have dreams and visions too. And maybe, just maybe, they sometimes need a break from the kids who own them. (And I like to think the toys in my paintings come home again.)

Here they are:

Ms. Bear Moves into the Oval Office. 20 by 20.

Snuggle Bunny Escapes the Nursery

Snuggle Bunny Escapes the Nursery.  20 by 16.

Bathub Sailboat Dreams of the Great Lakes

Bathtub Sailboat Dreams of the Great Lakes. 11 by 14.

Paint Set Decorates the Sky on a Gray, Gloomy Day

Watercolor Set Decorates the Sky on a Gray, Gloomy Day. 20 by 16.

Play Dinosaur Morphs into a Real One and Visits the Museum

Play Dinosaur Morphs into a Real One and Visits the Museum. 20 by 20. Sold.

Bunny on Wheels Takes Off

Bunny on Wheels Takes Off. 16 by 20.


Plastic Unicorn Finds a Real Pot of Gold. 14 by 11.

Vintage Sheep and Yoyo Enjoy the Breeze

Vintage Sheep and Yo-yo Enjoy the Breeze. 16 by 20.

Rag Doll

Rag Doll on Her Way to Town for a Store-bought Dress. 12 by 12.


Kaleidoscope Studies Her Own Shapes in the Mirror. 16 by 20.

The Kittens Stand Guard but Where are the Dolls

The Kittens Stand Guard but Where Are the Dolls? 14 by 14.

Play Dough

Play Dough Flowers in a Play Dough Pot Decorate the Palace of a Real Queen. 12 by 12.

The Marbles Have a Field Day

The Marbles Have a Field Day. 20 by 16.


Rocket Ship Heads Straight to Mars. 12 by 24. Sold.

Toy Kitchen

Toy Kitchen Bakes a Cake. 14 by 14.


Xylophone Takes a Bow at Symphony Hall. 14 by 11.


You can see more of my work on my art website:

Flowers and Pot


Downsizing: What to Do with the Trophies?

Sixth grade. The only year I made straight A’s until my last semester in college.

The year I won two writing contests.

The year I beat everyone in my class, including all the boys, at cross country.

The year I was nominated for Student of the Year and given the trophy above.

My girls have no sentiment whatsoever toward the trophies they earned, some for significant athletic, academic, or musical accomplishments. “I don’t want them,” they each told me. “Please get rid of them.”

The millennials are tough. They don’t like a lot of stuff sitting around.

So what do you do with your children’s trophies if they refuse to take them?

What do you do with your own trophies?

The decision can be even more difficult if you’ve inherited trophies awarded to a parent, and that parent is now gone.

How can you put such mementos in the trash?

If you’re willing to pay for shipping, here are two companies that take trophies, and one that takes medals. Awards that aren’t personalized will be donated to organizations in need, and those that are personalized are broken apart and many of the parts used again.


Lamb Awards and Engraving

Awards Mall


Sports Medal Recycling

You can also check with your local awards shop to see if they have a recycling program.

Feeling crafty? Check out some of these ideas on Pinterest:

And look what they’re doing on Etsy. This old guy was re-purposed as a trophy for an Ugliest Christmas Sweater contest:

As for my Student of the Year trophy, I thought I was ready to give it up when I unpacked it a few weeks ago.

But then I set it on my desk bookcase for the blog photo, and it seems to fit. I think I’ll keep it a bit longer. The decision is easier for me since this is the only trophy I ever received. And even though I didn’t end up winning Student of the Year, six grade sure was a good year.


Patience: Letting the Paint Dry

I’ve always thought of myself as someone with a good amount of patience. I’d watch Cliff get upset when we hit a stoplight, and I’d think, Why does he care so much?

I’ve waited months for a child to get the hang of potty training. I’ve waited even more months for responses from agents and editors. All the while, I was calm and plugged on with life and its many projects and pleasures and obligations.

But lately? Now that I’m approaching those golden years, not so much.

I’ve noticed it most specifically since I started painting. Acrylics are forgiving, upbeat paints. You can straighten a crooked edge or put two brilliant colors next to each other or add layers to create texture.

But you’ve got to let the paint dry first. And it dries fast.

So why do I continue to mess up a section of a painting by not letting it dry? Is it that hard to turn to another chore or project for a while?

Sometimes, I think it’s my exuberance for the painting. I can’t wait any longer to see how two colors will look together or if I’ve successfully captured the expression on a seagull’s face.

But sometimes, I think it’s my age. I’ve read that women get less patient as the years add on.

Patience has boded me pretty well in life, so I don’t want to lose it now.

I’m getting stricter about letting the paint dry. “No,” I’ll say to myself. “Go do the dishes. Go upload some bathroom doors.”

Time will tell if I am successful.

How about you? Do you find yourself becoming more or less patient as you age? Any tips to share?

Click here for a great Wiki How article link on how to be more patient.

The two paintings in this post were done for an antique toy exhibit that opens April 26 at the Orange Country Historical Museum. Below you’ll see Snuggle Bunny Escapes the Nursery and Watercolor Set Decorates the Sky on a Gray, Gloomy Day.


Dreams: A Post in Which I Share a Realization


I’m finally willing to admit it:


Other people’s dreams, that is.

I’m a big dreamer. Over the years, Cliff has been tolerant and listened to my dreams. I suppose he feels it’s his husbandly duty.

But a few mornings ago, I said in an exuberant voice, “Can I tell you about my dream?”

“Yes,” he answered before taking a sip of coffee. After the sip, he added, “Just don’t make it real long.”

And you know what?

His reply didn’t bother me. I didn’t even think about getting mad or hurt. Not at all. I have finally realized that dreams are usually boring to the listener.

I hate dreams in books. I hate them in plays and movies too, the worst being the visit of the grandmother in Fiddler on the Roof.


And I DO NOT want to be tricked into finding out something was all a dream. The exception of course is the Wizard of Oz. You are not a good steward of the world if you hate The Wizard of Oz.

Every now and then someone will tell me they dreamed of me.

I wait.

Will I be the star of the dream? Will I rescue the world? Sing a magnificent aria? Turn into a runway model?

Nah. I often make an inane comment or float through the dream without any real significance.

So even hearing those dreams can be a disappointment.

Therefore, in my continual project to shape myself up before I die, my new goal is not to bore others with my dreams.

Travel stories. Yes.

Childhood stories. Yes.

Medical stories. Yes.

But I have sworn off sharing my dreams.

What about you? Do you like hearing about other people’s dreams? Do you like dreams in books and movies and plays?

DISCLAIMER: I want to  go on record as saying I love to hear of daydreams or dreams for your life or pipe dreams. To Dream the Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha is one of my favorite songs.

But that’s another post.



Drinking as Life Sails On

Cliff and I returned last week from a Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette. We sprang for a room with a veranda.Talk about heaven on Earth water.

I was delighted when our cabin steward delivered a bottle of champagne. How festive and romantic! One afternoon, we popped the cork and settled into our veranda lounge chairs.

I adore champagne. It’s delicious and celebratory, and I love watching the bubbles dance in the glass. And boy, did this champagne have bubbles. Lots and lot of tiny, adorable bubbles.

I’ve noticed in the last year or so that if I drink champagne, I’m awake in the middle of the night. I can feel the bubbles in my veins shouting (not whispering as bubbles should),”We’re gonna get you now. We’re not as cute as you thought we were.”

But somehow, on that veranda overlooking the blue, blue Caribbean, I forgot. It slipped my vacation mind that champagne and I aren’t the buddies we once were.

I drank one glass. Then another.

In my youth, two glasses wouldn’t have been much champagne.

But no matter how bouncy a cruise makes you feel, I’m not a young duck.

That night, hours later, I woke up with a start at 4 AM, dehydrated and physically agitated. We’d booked our first shore excursion the next day. The alarm was set for seven. Bring on the mental agitation. I never did get back to sleep. Ugh.

In general, I can’t drink as much as I used to. That’s good, in a way, since women aren’t supposed to have more than one drink a day. It sure is frustrating though on special occasions.

What about you champagne lovers out there? Anyone else discovered that your bubbly days are over? Any other types of alcohol you can’t tolerate that you once enjoyed?

Here are several articles on alcohol and aging:

FACTS ABOUT ALCOHOL AND AGING–The National Institute on Aging

ALCOHOL AND THE AGING BRAIN–National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


Turns out, Cliff and I were booked Concierge Class. One of the perks was more bottles of free champagne. I said no to all of them. So sad, but at least it made room for more of the ship’s fabulous bread.



The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Forty-nine

Becky found this appropriate and festive door above at Penn Skate, a skating rink in State College, Pennsylvania.

And this one at Nana Taco in Durham, North Carolina.

Here’s the bathroom sign at the Virginia Discovery Museum on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Virginia. We visit there with grandson Maze.

Maze especially loves the pretend store at the museum.

I found this sign at Bar Louie in Durham, North Carolina.

I like the elegance of the bar’ s actual ladies room door.

I hit it big at the Mebane Steakhouse in Mebane, North Carolina. Here’s the ladies room sign.

And inside I found the coolest sink ever. A strip of light at the back of the sink changes color.


This is the unisex door at Gocciolina in Durham. Sadly, I can’t remember who sent this to me.

James send these funky doors from the Dinghy Dock restaurant in Culebra, Puerto Rico.


My friend Alicia’s friend sent these. Talk about a clever use of circles!

And it’s a wrap.

Number Fifty in our series coming up soon! Hard to believe…


No More Letters: How Sad Are We?

For 34 years, our mail was delivered on our back porch. Talk about convenient. Small town living at its best. The garden club ladies filled the basket with greenery in December for the HIllsborough Candlelight Tour. A fitting farewell to a faithful mailbox.

At the new house, we have to walk half a block to get our mail. More exercise for us, but it certainly feels odd not to open the door and chance upon a letter or two.

Wait a minute. A letter or two? Who gets letters anymore?

I receive lovely thank you notes, but I haven’t gotten a real letter in years. What about you?

I’m constantly communicating with people in writing. I just don’t have to use my big, fat, sloppy handwriting anymore. In fact, I write so little using a pen that composing a longer note now feels physically laborious.

Sure, I think it’s sad we don’t get letters anymore. In fact, I hadn’t realized it completely until I wrote this post. But a really fun email can brighten my day.

What about you? Are you in mourning over the loss of letters in your mailbox?


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