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Category Archives: random tangents


Though the original case was heard back in 2009, it is now in the headlines because of a civil suit filed by the victims’ mother, and the details have a lot of people understandably and rightfully outraged.

Robert H. Richards IV, a DuPont heir, was convicted in a plea agreement for the rape of his 3-year-old daughter, and he received only probation with a suspended prison term.  No jail time unless he violates his probation.

The sentence was given by Judge Jan Jurden, and was recently said to be based on recommendations by the prosecuting attorney.  In a recent article, Richard D. Kirk, the Chair of the Delaware State Bar said, “Looking at this matter solely from the 2009 perspective, before the private damages lawsuit was filed, virtually everyone would have considered this an appropriate sentence. It was not an unusual sentence under the circumstances presented and would have been available to comparably situated defendants sentenced by this judge and other judges of the Superior Court. Mischaracterizing the 2009 court record as the article did to portray the sentence as somehow inappropriate was unfair to Judge Jurden and the Superior Court.”  (Emphasis is mine.)

I do not know what kind of court system they are running in Delaware, but nobody I have ever known would consider this an appropriate sentence.  And, if we take a look at the tens of thousands of signatures from all over the world on just one of the several petitions to remove Judge Jurden from the bench, I feel confident in saying to Mr. Kirk… “NO, MOST OF US WOULD NOT CONSIDER THE SENTENCE APPROPRIATE!!  And furthermore… What the hell is wrong with you??”

I find it disturbing that this decision is being defended at such high levels.  It makes me (and many others) wonder how deep the corruption/dysfunction goes in Delaware’s legal system.

As a survivor of similar abuse, I know firsthand how devastating and long term the impact can be, not just to the survivors, but to the people around them too.  These children will carry the scars for a lifetime, and my heart breaks for them and for their mother, because they have all been forced to carry this unfair burden, imposed on them by someone unfit to be called “father”, who might never see the inside of a prison cell for his actions.  Their father did not protect them, and neither did the legal system.  Who will these children be able to trust when they are older?

However, there are thousands upon thousands of us who have been standing up for those kids.  Someday, these children will be old enough to find all this information online.  I hope what they see is that there are so many of us, even from so far away, who know they deserve better.  I also hope they ignore the comments people make about how this has “ruined their lives” or “killed their souls”.  While the scars and baggage of this will create very different lives than they might have otherwise had, and while the burden might seem exceeding heavy at times, their souls are still alive and are still theirs.  Though it is true they will never be the same, they will survive, like so many of us do, with no thanks to the monsters in our lives who would try to destroy us.  I hope those kids see that, in spite of all the wrong lessons they learned at such an early age, the world isn’t all bad and there are a lot of kind, caring people.  And, I hope they quickly unlearn all those wrong lessons their “father” taught them.

While Richards may have escaped prison, he can now bear the stigma of the “pedophile” label for the rest of his life.  But it isn’t enough.  I hope his ex-wife wins big in the civil suit.  While the money will not return what was taken from those children, it will at least be some acknowledgement that they were terribly wronged by this animal.  Ideally, they will get everything he owns and he will have to get off his ass and work for a living– and good luck finding a job, now that he’s on the sex offenders’ registry.

As for the judge, if it is true that she was only going on the recommendation of the prosecuting attorney, then they should both be fired.  They obviously have no concept of the lifelong struggle of surviving early childhood abuse, and do not take the protection of the most helpless in society seriously enough.  And, the individual who called this sentence “appropriate” should probably be ousted, too.

When our public servants are no longer protecting us as they should, it is time to get new public servants.

 

 

 


As someone who has struggled with depression for most of my life, I decided to write some articles in the hope of building understanding and dispelling a few misconceptions about depression.  If you missed the first 2 parts, you can find them here and here.

This time, I’ve decided to address some of those “positive thinking” clichés which might help some people, but since most depressed people will overthink them and they will probably not stand up to scrutiny, they’re not so helpful to us, and make a lot of us wonder if a lot of people are boneheads.

Positive thinking has it’s place, and it feels better than doom and gloom, but perhaps what would benefit more people is realistic thinking.  The glass isn’t half full or half empty.  It’s 4 ounces of whatever was put in there.

One of the clichés making the internet rounds recently is “If you think positive, positive things will happen”. Sure they will.  Also, negative things will happen.  And, if you think negative, negative things will happen.  Also, positive things will happen.  Because, to counter one cliché with another, “the rain falls on the good and wicked alike”.

One of the reasons these things bother me is that many of the clichés are a bit condescending and imply that people are depressed or have unpleasant things happening because they are doing something wrong.  Some of these clichés incorrectly imply that we have total control of our situations, whatever they may be.

Most people do have some control over their circumstances.  Some have more control than others, for a variety of reasons.  If someone was born and raised in poverty in an inner city ghetto, and subsequently became mired in all the problems that go with it, and you tell them “If you don’t like where you are, move! You’re not a tree”, without offering any real, viable solutions or giving them any of the resources they need to move.. you might only piss them off, because what you have just unwittingly told them is “I don’t really fully understand your circumstances, and am blaming you for sticking around, so am not really going to help you. So, I’ll just stand here looking smug and wagging my finger at you.”

When my mother was ill, some of the so-called positive thinkers I knew actually suggested abandoning her, in order to protect my own interests.  Naturally, I did not.  I dropped out of college, which also meant giving up my position as a student employee at the university.  I gave up a lot of other things, too.  It was depressing, to say the least.  And, I would do it again in a heartbeat.  What happened to all those positive thinkers?  They mostly moved on to “happier” things, because my very real circumstances didn’t make them feel good enough. Thanks, positive thinkers.

It’s another issue with all these positive thinking clichés.  In our culture of instant gratification, some of these clichés encourage even more magical thinking and the idea that if we are unhappy, we should immediately abandon ship.  It causes people to fail each other, and that’s pretty darned depressing.

Here is one more: “Grateful people are happy people.”  While I cannot speak for all depressed people everywhere, I can tell you that my issue is not a lack of gratitude, and it’s not the issue of any depressed person I have encountered.  In fact, the depressed people I have encountered have often been some of the most grateful, because we have to be.

If we didn’t count our blessings regularly, we’d lose our fricking minds.  In fact, I think I will go count mine again right now.

 


Since someone pointed out in a private note that I neglected to mention at least one other misconception about depression, and since I also neglected to mention a few other things that help, I’ve decided to do a “part 2”, and maybe even a “part 3” later.

“They’re just lazy, and they don’t care.”  While there probably is such a thing as laziness, it’s not the same thing as depression.   Due to the physical symptoms of depression, such as the sleep disruptions, pain, and fatigue, it’s not uncommon to find a depressed person napping at odd hours.  Sometimes they might even seem to enjoy it, because.. well.. what else should they do?  If I have lemons and make lemonade, don’t judge me for it;  all I’ve done is make the best of something sour.  Some people might say “I have those problems too, get over it!”.  If it’s true, good for them!  I commend them for setting a good example, but I also wonder how they have managed to measure the other person’s suffering in order to compare it with their own.  If it is some technique they can patent, emergency rooms all over the world will pay them big bucks for that time saver.

Most of the tools and techniques on which I have focused are centered on how a depressed person can help themselves.  This is because that is where the change has to be.  I realized some time ago that my own depression is not caused entirely by external things.  *This does not mean that it is never caused or triggered by external things.*  But what I noticed was that even when things were relatively good, I would be depressed and sometimes without even being sure why.  Nobody’s life is perfect, but in spite of even the worst of my traumas, I am probably one of the luckiest people in the world.  And, it is frustrating to have so much distress without being able to pinpoint a cause or cure for so many years.

The biggest difference between grief and depression is that grief typically has a specific cause, then subsides.  Depression lingers.  Among things regularly listed as causes of depression are loss, trauma, and even head injuries.  Mine could have started in early childhood with any of those things, and was probably compounded by various other things over the years.  Luckily, I have known some strong, stubborn people who refuse to give up, and they set some pretty good examples.

Depression tends to make one into a fatalist, wondering “why bother?” and thinking “none of it matters, anyway”.  Frankly, a lot of it actually doesn’t really matter– which celebrity is sleeping with whom to further which career, for example.  Seriously.  Who cares?  Frankly, it is a little depressing that so many people give so much attention to shallow, superficial things when we could all be devoting that time and energy to more constructive things.  Of course, for me, the realization of how numerous and widespread are the world’s problems can often make everything seem more daunting.  The thinking can become “no matter what I do for me or even for others, there will always be so many more who are suffering”.  Of course, the reverse of that is also true, though you might never hear a depressed person utter the sentence, “No matter how I suffer, it will never prevent the suffering of everyone else.”

But no matter how hopeless or daunting things might seem, most people are not entirely helpless.  No matter how hopeless one’s own situation might seem, everyone can do something to help someone else.  And, believe it or not, doing something for others can help fight one’s own depression.  It is one of the reasons I use a portion of sales to help local nonprofit groups, even though a certain friend keeps trying to point out that I can’t really afford it.  So far, I have not starved, although I do without a lot of things.  Life has seen fit to put me in a position where my own resources are currently very limited, but it does not mean I can not do anything for anyone else.  Nor does it mean you can not do anything for anyone else, even if your own resources are limited.


I have this habit of not titling paintings, which (among other things) eventually led to using numbers for identification purposes. Most buyers are perfectly fine with that. But when one of my biggest supporters mentioned it being a bit of an issue, I had to give it some thought.

What’s in a name? After all, “a rose by any other name…”.  Many of the “master artists” left their work untitled. If you wander around any art gallery, you’ll find many works titled “Untitled”, or with titles given by collectors and curators so the work could be more readily identified in records.

But what else does a title do? It gives the viewer a clue when interpreting an image. It can be a hint or confirmation of the intended message. It can add impact.  After all, without its title, The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living would only be a dead shark, preserved in a fish tank– still visually interesting work from an interesting artist, perhaps, but the title makes it more thought provoking.  Plus, without a title, it would probably have been just a little less marketable.  Just imagine if he’d gone with a name like “Pickled Shark”… or “Someone Killed This Just So You Could Come Look at It”.

And, without its title, Onement 1 is just a stripe on a background.

Personally, a part of me still feels like the work should be able to stand on its own, whether it has a name or not.  I find myself wondering, how many things would we still buy if not for the poets who bestow names and flowery descriptions?  Part of me objects to titling, partly because it resembles a sales pitch.  However, it does give the artist an additional tool, and another way to influence viewers.  It’s another way for artists to express ourselves, or to clarify what we are expressing in the artwork.

I’m still undecided about the value of a title.  But, for the sake of everyone else, I think I will name my work more often from now on.  If nothing else, it will save collectors and gallery curators the trouble of inventing names when I am gone.


Having muddled through bouts of depression for so much of my life, I think I am qualified to talk about what has and has not helped me and others I have known, though I am *not* a medical professional.  This is an attempt to help myself and others to understand depression, and perhaps to help manage it.  The aim is mostly to build understanding, because there are so many misconceptions about depression and how to help someone who has it.  It is *not* an attempt to garner any kind of sympathy or pity.  It is also *not* intended to replace professional medical advice in any way.  It is a firsthand view of depression, from a long term survivor of it.

Contrary to what some believe, grief, “self-pity”, and depression are not the same things.  And, although I have at times referred to my own depression as “self-pity”, it’s not an accurate presentation, so I will try to avoid using the terms interchangeably.  I suppose referring to it as “self-pity” is a way of making it seem smaller and more easily managed.  But, it gives the wrong idea to those who already think depression is just that.  While it might include elements that seem like self-pity, depression is more complex and with a wider range of symptoms.  Being sad doesn’t automatically mean a person is depressed, and being able to crack a joke does not mean a person is *not* depressed.

Depression symptoms can range from mild to severe, and a percentage of sufferers can even have symptoms of psychosis, including hallucinations.  Thankfully, my symptoms are not as severe as that.  I do have the fatigue/exhaustion, sleep disruption, anxiety, and pain accompanying the bouts of depression.  So, it does go beyond simply “being blue”.  I used to hide or mask the symptoms better, but it is just too exhausting.  Plus, it doesn’t help anyone, including and especially me.

From talking with others with depression, it seems the first instinct of a lot of doctors is to medicate.  This was my experience, as well.  I tried several different antidepressants over the years, some worked briefly, but none worked long term, and all had side effects that were as detrimental as the original ailment.  Another problem with medicating is that, with several of those medications, the patient is not supposed to suddenly stop taking it.  So, any lengthy interruption in health care results in withdrawal.  Yes, withdrawal.  “It’s non habit forming and non addictive, but if you stop taking it suddenly, there’s a slim chance you’ll drop dead…”  That’s not word for word, but…. Read the fine print.

It’s not that I’m against medications.  I’m not against them.  I’ve known many people who say medication worked for them, and with minimal side effects.  Antidepressants just did not work for me, which is probably for the best since I am currently one of the x thousands of uninsured, and would probably only have to suddenly stop taking them (again).

Alcohol also does not work.  Sure, it seems like fun at the time–at least, more fun than moping–but it actually worsens symptoms over time.  (Plus, it might wreck your liver, and then you’d be doubly depressed!)

Platitudes and clichés also do not help. “Get over it,” “Snap out of it”, “Count your blessings”, etc.. all sound like “Blah blah blah” to someone who is depressed.  Depressed people don’t want to be depressed.  It’s not a fun place.  Also, we already know there are other people somewhere with even worse problems than our own.  Reminding depressed people that there are even more depressed people out there.. is not especially helpful. Nor is it helpful to remind us that there are people who are managing even worse problems way more effectively than we are.  It’s not really just about the immediate problem itself, you see.

The emotional part of it would be enough, but depression comes with physical symptoms, too.  Headaches, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, sleep disorders, chest pain, digestive problems… and that’s just a partial list!  It can be utterly debilitating and interfere with every aspect of a person’s life. I think I can safely say that most who live with it would do almost anything to find relief.  Some resort to suicide.

“Suicide is not an option” is one of the platitudes often given by well-meaning friends of the depressed.  And, it’s not entirely true for anyone with the physical ability.  It’s just a really *bad* option, and is the one choice that removes all chance of ever making any other choice.  So, it’s not a viable option, and maybe it’s time to replace that cliché with something like… “I hope you’re not considering that. There are always better alternatives.” And, this one is true! There really are always better options, even if they’re not always clearly visible across a bleak horizon.

Of the things I have found to relieve the symptoms, nothing works 100%.  However, every little bit adds up.  The main trouble is that in the midst of depression, many of these things can seem impossible.  Also, it is undeniable that the source of depression for many is some life circumstance, which can be entirely beyond the person’s control.

Having a support system helps.  On the darkest days, perhaps it seems I only remember the disappointments.  However, I’ve been lucky enough to have friends and family members who understand (or at least try to), and love me even on the days I mistakenly think I could hate the whole world.  And maybe I could hate it some days.  Sometimes when I look at the news, the world isn’t making a very strong case for itself.  But it doesn’t really have to.

The world isn’t bad.  Some people and situations are toxic, though.  More than once, I traced the trigger of an episode back to specific people or situations in my life.  Once I got away from the person/situation, the symptoms improved.  Of course, it’s not always possible to remove a trigger.  For these situations, I work to change my view of it.  Like advertising, sometimes it’s all about the spin.  Some things can’t be twisted into a positive, no matter how one tries.  Try not to dwell on it.  Push it to the side, say a prayer for it if you like, move on to the next problem, and come back to it later if you must.

Diet makes a difference.  Meat and potatoes might be yummy, but get off those for a while, and try something more colorful.  No, not the orange sherbet, nor the rainbow sprinkles.  Fruits and veggies.  *Real* fruits and veggies.  Not from a can, and not just for a day.  Long term.  I’m not entirely sure why this seems to help so much.  It could be the vitamins and so on, or a subconscious reaction to all the bright pretty colors, or both.  It’s probably both.  Of course, it could also be the time of year, and all the warm weather and sun I associate with fruits and veggies.  But if you are what you eat, and you’re always eating some sad critter….  Just sayin’.

Exercise helps too.  But all of these remedies can be much harder to apply than they might seem to someone who isn’t depressed.  Nobody is eager to go to an aerobics class when exhausted and everything aches.  Frankly, the idea of going to a gym and sharing equipment a bunch of other people were sweating all over… just freaks me out.  I’m sorry.  I’m sure everyone there is healthy and free of “cooties”, and I don’t have any kind of princess syndrome.  But there just aren’t enough of those sanitizing cloths in the world.  Oh, plus there are all those people.  It’s a strange thing.  I used to like socializing more.  Now, I tend to avoid crowds.  I’m not sure if that is part of the depression, or if it is from the PTSD.  Maybe both.  The point is.. when I exercise, I exercise at home.

Some swear by meditation and yoga, so much that when I say meditation did not work, they insist I must be doing it wrong.  Perhaps I will give it another try one day.

I found some of Daniel Amen’s teachings helpful, in particular the method of challenging “automatic negative thoughts”, based on cognitive therapy.  Basically, since “all thoughts are automatic”, and “not everything you think is true” (no kidding!), there are some automatic negative thoughts.  Depressed people tend to have more of these.  By challenging those thoughts, it is possible to re-train one’s brain to have fewer of those, and have more positive automatic thoughts.  This takes a bit of practice.  I could be working on it for a long while.

Another exercise is to list daily 5 things for which you are grateful.  I admit, the first couple of tries, I was not sure I quite had the hang of it…. “I am grateful for not being that person.. or that person.. or that person.. or…”.  I know, I know.  I went entirely the wrong direction with that exercise.  I’m only human.  And, depression doesn’t mean I’ve entirely lost my edge.  Plus, being grateful for being me and not someone else is a good thing, right?

If you’re curious about Daniel Amen, he has books, “webinars” on youtube, and his “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” video is below.  Although I am not sure all of the suggestions he gives are practical for everyone (there is no one size cure), there is a lot of helpful info:


Of all the vices I’ve ever had, tobacco was probably the hardest to give up.  Even using the electronic cigarettes, I still sometimes just want a real cigarette.. and I have had a few of them over the past year.  But, a pack of cigarettes spread over a year is a substantial improvement over smoking a pack a day.  And, oh my goodness!, at the money I’ve saved.  The e-cigarettes cost roughly $20-30 per month, rather than the cost of real cigarettes, which was closer to $30-40 per week.

I still debate whether or not quitting smoking fully counts, while using the e-cigs.  They are even labeled as *not* being an approved method of quitting smoking.  Most of my friends and family members say “Of course it counts!”, but I still have my doubts.  I still get to go through the motions of smoking a cigarette, and there is still nicotine in the product.  In fact, at first I was ordering the highest nicotine level, which was actually stronger than the cigarettes I had been smoking.  I started joking that the real cigarettes were so weak by comparison, I might never want a real cigarette again.  Of course, I do still want a real cigarette sometimes.  But it’s becoming more and more rare, and normally I can resist the urge.  I even started ordering a lower nicotine content.

There is still a lot of argument over whether or not electronic cigarettes are really safe.  I would guess that anything unnatural has the potential to be harmful in some way, as do many natural things.  (Nothing in this life can be guaranteed as safe; even water can kill.)  And, ecigs haven’t really been on the market long enough to fully know the long term consequences.  However, we do know the long term effects of tobacco use.  So, any move away from smoking is probably an improvement.

And, because I still get to have the illusion of smoking, including the nicotine, I haven’t had as many negative side effects of quitting as some smokers experience from quitting “cold turkey”.  (I even tried the patches once, but they wouldn’t stay lit!)  I haven’t had the weight gain so many experience.  I’ve even lost a few pounds, to the dismay of friends who thought I was already thin enough.  And, I haven’t had any mood swings beyond the usual.

No more smoker’s cough or icky ashtray smell, either.  My e-cigs have been described as smelling like cotton candy.  Yum.

So, as tempting as it is to celebrate a year of (mostly) not smoking by going out and buying a pack of cigarettes, I probably won’t.   If you or someone you know might be interested in trying electronic cigarettes, you can find them here in a wide range of flavors.


It was pointed out to me that some might misinterpret some of my tangents as my having an unfavorable view of those in the upper income brackets.  This interpretation is totally incorrect.  While the wealthy can probably afford to hire their own advocates should they ever need them, I feel I should clear up any misconceptions regarding my own personal views (especially since some of my dear friends and favorite people fall into this category).

If every wealthy individual on the planet gave up all worldly possessions, it would not eliminate poverty, nor would it make the world more fair.  It needs to be pointed out, also, that many (perhaps even most) of those with incomes of 7 digits and higher actually use their influence to do very positive things.  Many of our charities and nonprofit organizations would not exist without these folks, not to mention the jobs they create.

What I do find bothersome are things like exploitation, corruption, greed, and abuse of power.  These issues are certainly not exclusive to the wealthy; they just happen to have more and bigger opportunities to fall into these traps.  Luckily, most resist the temptation, and some even fight on behalf of the rest of us.

Many thanks to those who do.


When I saw the news of the attack on Senator Creigh Deeds by his son, I thought ‘If the Senator’s kid couldn’t get help, what the hell hope is there for the average citizen?’

The answer is…. virtually none.  If you have watched the news, seen the school shootings, mall shootings, random shootings and so on over the past several years.. and you still do not understand how desperate our mental health care situation is.. then perhaps you need mental health care, too.

It is virtually impossible for the uninsured to find adequate health care in Virginia, and the difficulty increases when the ailment is not considered “physical”, such as depression.  Sure, the emergency room is required by law to stabilize anyone who shows up.  This basically means, “We won’t let you bleed to death in the lobby”.   But, if an individual needs long term or follow-up care, it just isn’t there.

I do not understand how our representatives can claim any kind of morality when they allow so many to suffer in silence, and I am still angry at a system of legislators that do not care until something directly effects them.

However, now that a legislator has been directly impacted, and is willing to talk about it and work for change, he deserves our support.  He should also be commended for putting the blame where it should be– on our system of “care”– and not on the weapons used.

Speaking from my own experience, and my own fruitless pursuit of treatment for depression, I can guess how much it costs in lost productivity.  I, like “Gus”, was enrolled in college… when the depression I’ve struggled with for so many years returned.  When it became too intense, I had no choice but to withdraw from classes, just a few credits short of finishing my degree.  I still do as much as I can to be productive, but depression is debilitating at times.  In fact, it would probably be fairly easy for anyone to look at my history and see exactly at which points my depression was at its worst.  Productivity goes out the window.  And I know there are thousands just like me.

I was relatively lucky.  I entered a profession in which I am expected to be a little odd.  But, for many, lack of treatment leads to worse results, such as substance abuse and even violence.  This costs the state a fortune (more than enough to cover all my student loans, I’m sure).  Yet, the Virginia Sheriff’s Association is objecting to the lengthier holding time for the mentally ill, claiming it will overburden rural law enforcement resources.  I wonder if they have considered that by treating the mentally ill instead of ignoring them, there might be fewer crimes, thereby relieving some of the burden rather than increasing it.  Or, perhaps the Sheriff’s Association needs mental health care, too.

When there was talk of expanding our state’s Medicaid program, I was hopeful.  However, that hope soon disintegrated when the state chose not to expand Medicaid.  Currently, a person only qualifies if they are elderly, or if they have children they can’t afford to feed.  If you do not have kids you can’t feed,  you are on your own.  No help for you.  Now my friends joke, “Let’s make some babies!”.  I could go on a tangent about how this policy actually amounts to our state forcing low income people into having children, just to qualify for help, but that’s a subject for another day.  Back to mental health….

As research for mental illness continues, it is being discovered that the cause is often a chemical imbalance, which is physical.  So, perhaps it is time to stop calling them mental or physical illnesses, and just call them both “illnesses”.

The new legislation Sen. Deeds is proposing has a good chance of passing, in some form.  However, it will be nearly useless for low income individuals who will not be able to find follow-up care after they are released from the hospital.  If our legislators really want to help, they should expand Medicaid to cover the people who are currently falling through the cracks of the system… without making us all have babies first.  In the end, it might even save money for the state.

Seriously.  We can’t afford *not* to reform the current system.


Some readers have noticed it has been quite some time since my last post, and since the website was last updated.  While I’d like to say I was away on some exotic photo shoot or relaxing at an art retreat, the truth is I have been struggling with a severe bout of depression.

When my grandfather passed away a little over 2 years ago, I was able to repress the grief for some time, but then finally the realization came– he is gone.

As a small child, I sat on his lap during church services, drawing on the church bulletin.  He is one of the biggest reasons I eventually chose to study and create art, because those early memories are among the best I have.  Since his passing, most attempts to paint or draw have only reminded me of how much I miss him.  I was on the brink of throwing in the towel, tossing out the art supplies, burning whatever paintings remain, and closing the website, not because I do not want to continue this line of work, but simply because at times it just felt like too much to take on in the midst of depression.

However, my supporters, friends, and clients have been determined to drag me out of my mental muck, and for that I am thankful.  From the friend who reminded me that the portrait of his dog still means so much to him even after more than a decade, to the stranger who ordered some of my ornaments on Zazzle knowing her loved ones will have and cherish them even after she is gone (hopefully many, many years from now), to the customers who ordered lucky clovers to give a boost to their own friends– all of you have helped me to realize… it is not really about me.  It is about leaving the world in better condition than it was in when I arrived, and how my work makes others think and feel.  In other words…  It is about all of you!

So for now, I am putting away my self-pity to make room for more new art & photography, more new additions to the Zazzle store, more auction listings, more 4 leaf clovers, and eventually more “Nonprofit of the Month” posts.  And, the main website should be updated soon, so be sure to check out http://soulbearing.com for the latest art & photography releases and lucky clovers, and for links to order prints of my work from Zazzle.

And, because all of you allow and encourage me to keep doing what I do, you have my eternal gratitude.

Thank You.


No, it isn’t part of any New Year’s resolution; it only happens to coincide with the start of the new year. I’ve smoked for entirely too many years, and have known for a long time that it is an unhealthy, expensive habit that I would eventually need to break.

I’ve always been a little worried that quitting smoking would make me overly irritable.  I’m one of those temperamental creative types anyway; no need to rock the boat and give myself another excuse to be moody.  But, I finally had enough of the “extras” tobacco companies put into cigarettes, and I’m not crazy about the idea of giving more money to the tobacco execs who made so much money by lying to the general public about the health risks of smoking for so many years.  Plus, there are so many things about smoking which go against so many of my personal beliefs.  Plus, there is the mess that cigarette “butts”, tar, and ashes make.

Oh yeah, and there are those pesky health risks.

So, one Sunday and on an impulse, I bought one of those “e cigarettes”.  It was a cheap one and the only brand available locally, without ordering online and waiting several days for delivery.  It isn’t so terrible, but it tastes a lot like one of those fog machines used at concerts, and the battery doesn’t last very long.

Fortunately, I also ordered another brand online later the same day, which arrived just a couple of days later.  It was a “freebie”– a REAL freebie, not one of those “free but then we enroll you in an expensive club that you can never get out of” freebies.  I only had to pay the $1.95 shipping, and there is no club membership required.  This one tastes much better, with a longer battery life.  In fact, I liked the newer brand so much more that I just ordered more, and now I am not sure why I didn’t try it sooner.

No smelly smoke, no ashes, no butts, no burns, no tobacco stains.  I haven’t had a “real” cigarette in days now, and I haven’t snarled at anyone!  (No more than usual, anyway!)

Are they any healthier than “real” cigarettes?  I really have no idea.  The e-cigarettes contain propylene glycol, which is found in many products from food to cosmetics to industrial lubricants.  The risks of this chemical seem to vary depending on which website one visits for information.  Also, they contain nicotine (unless you order the “no nicotine” package), so they must be kept away from children and pets. But, it can’t be any worse than the additives in traditional cigarettes, which are widely known to be harmful.

What I do know is that it is less expensive for me, and less unpleasant for the nonsmokers around me.  And, they take the edge off of giving up the traditional cigarettes.  Another added benefit: no more disposable lighters!

I also know my non-smoking customers will appreciate being able to order original art paintings, without concern that it might arrive smelling of tobacco smoke.  But I will wait just a little longer before removing the warning from my website.  I’ve been smoking in this studio for a long time, so it will be some time getting the smoke smell out of everything.

Now the question is…

Who else out there is ready to give up cigarettes?

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