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Me: Part 2

Us and boysAfter a couple of years in the country, we relocated back to Nashville where I went through two years of high school before another move to Murfreesboro, an hour south of Nashville. During my high school, I got involved in school programs, ranging from sports – basketball, track and swimming – to acting (yes, acting!) and church (I was secretary of our CYO group) and even earned a 100 hour badge as a candystriper volunteering at the local V.A. hospital.

Despite all these activities, the transition to Murfreesboro was tough since I’d left some close, wonderful friends behind during a crucial time in my teenage years to try to gain acceptance in a school where most everyone had grown up together. I processed my feelings in writing and escaped into books even more. In fact, I often got in trouble for reading off-topic in class — even honors English class.

I absolutely loved writing and felt comfortable doing so. So much so, that in college, I frequently wrote other student’s term papers along with my own.  I left school to earn a paycheck, married young and soon had a couple of children and life as a stay at home mom bringing in a little side money as a sportswriter for a local weekly paper and then working as a stringer for another local newspaper.

My tumultuous six-year-marriage ended so I entered the ranks of the 9-5 employed in customer service. A few years later I remarried a wonderful man — my best friend — and continued to work, too busy to write. I returned to school and received a B.A. (cum laude, I might add) in Mass Comm from Middle Tennessee State University. While there, I was writing for the school newspaper and as a stringer with the Tennessean, covering some random stories from a major pollution issue to the cotton crop’s prospects to tragedies such as a young boy dying from diabetes.

After graduating, I moved into a fulltime reporters role with a suburban Nashville daily paper and wrote for a few years longer before deciding a corporate communications job would be more lucrative. I simultaneously joined forces with a friend of my brothers and co-wrote a screenplay and, with my partner’s approval, wrote the subsequent novel based on the story. It gathered dust on a shelf as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raged on but I’m glad to say became my first published novel, Empty Sky, which was finally published in 2014.

The art came into play this way: My two sons joined different branches of the military and served in Iraq. They both served in the infantry and both were embroiled in some of the worst fighting during our years there. My eldest, a Marine, was in Nasariyah in the beginning of the war which was described as “a Turkey Shoot, with our Marines as the targets.”  My younger son was in the mechanized infantry in Anbar Province where half-ton IEDs were the widow-makers and son-stealers.

I’ll be honest. It unbalanced me for a few years. Not that I became a raging alcoholic or ended up in an institution. Rather, I let anger and outrage over what I perceived as an egregiously ill-advised course of action eat away at me. I was bitter and intense and outspoken and not a pleasant person to be around.

Then I found art.

My sons were stateside and safe and I was able to let down my guard. With a makeshift studio beckoning, I taught myself some basics and took classes and workshops and found a community of fellow artists to paint with.  It was the release I needed and at once my soul felt so much lighter!

Technological advances sent my consulting business the way of travel agencies, and forced me to find steady employment. I did, and have since moved to Florida with my husband. Thankfully, we have a great home with a great studio and separate office where I can paint or write as is my inclination. I decided after finally publishing Empty Sky last year to take a stab at completing the sketch of another story I’d started years ago. Over this past several months I finished it. It is my sweet second novel The Gray Lady of Long Branch and it’s being released August 25.  I hope you’ll consider reading it!


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One good turn…

Kathrine Piper's "Queen of Diamonds" The 2015 Twitter Art Exhibit was held in Orlando and opened on a Thursday night during the First Thursdays Art Event in downtown Orlando and I made the trek solo from work in Lakeland.  No big deal since it is only a hour or so each way.  While there, I allowed fate to step in and made the acquaintance of a lovely visitor from New Hampshire – Kathrine Piper – and her young middle-school-aged daughter.  When I discovered they were going to get a cab back to their hotel, naturally I offered them a lift.  It was, after all on my way back to Hillsborough County and that first part of the ride would be toughest to navigate.

Kathrine’s lovely, incredibly talented and a dear, sweet, generous soul.  And I coveted her submission to the 2015 TAE.  I offered to pay for it in advance and have her send it directly to me, but of course, that goes against the spirit of the exhibit and event.  So… she offered to paint me one herself.  And it came today!  Yipee! Isn’t it gorgeous?

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Plant City is abuzz!

It’s all about the Plant City Strawberry Festival these days!  The festival starts next week, but art submissions are due in today.  So… naturally, I submitted.  I am bummed because I was in such a rush I was unable to get good photos of one of them before they were framed, and to me, it’s the most special of all.


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Christmastime in South Florida

Florida in December

The holiday season — December and New Year’s — in South Florida is a time to behold!  Dry, cool and pleasant.  And by chance I discovered that it stays lighter far longer in the evenings than it does up north!

So, we had some friends over and celebrated with some great food, wine and company on the lanai. Lovely!  We hope your holidays were pleasant too!

wine on the lanai

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Oh the Animals!

Who doesn’t love visiting animals in natural-ish settings?  We sure do and trekked over to Busch Gardens Tampa today!  We’re exhausted, but get a load of some of the photos we captured.  By we, I mean the Hubs and I.  And for the record, yes, I did go on a couple of the wilder rides.  He held our stuff and stayed at ground level.

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We’ve found our new beach!

Anna Maria Island Beach
Anna Maria Island Beach

It was a momentous occasion today and it’s taken us two years, but I think we’ve finally found our beach here in Southwest Florida!  If you’ve followed my journey, you’ll know that in the past, I lived in Tennessee but vacationed with my husband in Florida.  We loved our time here so much that we helped destiny along by finding jobs here and moved to our lovely home along the I-4 Corridor between Tampa and Orlando last year.  It’s been quite a transition, but all the pieces came together, more or less.

  • Good, stable jobs: Check
  • Friends: Check
  • Home that we love: Check
  • Community we’re happy to be part of: Check
  • Neighbors we adore: Check

The one component missing was our beach.   It wasn’t that evident until today. When we drove over to Anna Maria Island.   I had driven through on my way home from Long Boat Key one time before David came down and found it charming.  We returned one day to check it out but the timing was poor and the weather bad.  David’s kids, who live in Somerset County, England, are coming back over for a visit this Sept. so we decided to rent a beach house there, trusting our luck.  Today we figured we’d drive over and check it out.

I wasn’t prepared for the crystal-clear turquoise water! Or the powdery soft sand! Or the pine trees gently shading beach entryways and providing some gorgeous scenery of their own!  The house we’re renting is located at the north end of the island and I’m so excited! I can envision great family beach times, yes, definitely. But I can also envision some times after they leave when Dave and I can jet over for a shorter trip. When he can chill and I can paint. And we can both feel our souls soar in the beautiful island breeze.



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Plant City’s Strawberry Festival!

We moved into our lovely home in Plant City  a year ago this week and missed last year’s “world famous” Strawberry Festival that Plant City is known for!  So this year, not only did we make it to go, but I even scrambled and submitted three paintings.  They’re shown below.  Sadly, non made it into ribbon contention, but it was a pleasure to participate all the same.


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Busy times

It’s been hectic the past few weeks and I expect it to get more hectic still moving into the Christmas season. I’ve had little time to paint but did manage to get a few more small flamingos painted.

Here are a few of the ones I did recently:

You can view my entire Flamingo (and other creatures)  gallery here:

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So, yeah, about those flamingos

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was about to go on a Flamingo – painting binge.  You know, those gorgeous, brilliant salmon , pink , red , white colors of the fun iconic Florida bird.  The idea came to me because the guest bedroom in our new (old but new to us) home is painted a bright, beachy aqua, so what better to set off the wall color than these fun birds?

Here, I present you a few finished products.  I hope our guests enjoy them and I hope you do to.  I sure had fun painting them!  They’re acrylic paintings, glazed to preserve a luminous glow.

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In need of kitchen art, so what do I do?

As the title suggests, we’re in our new home and oh wow! We needed art for the walls! So what do I do? Of course, I paint!

In all honesty, I did the Market Basket trio of paintings themed around the family farm, featuring an ear of corn, watermelon, and a ripe juicy tomato, a couple of weeks ago, inspired by a ride out in the country. They’re on masonite panels rather than canvas. The Rooster and Hot Salsa were strategically planned to grace a couple of prominent blank kitchen walls in our expansive new home. We’re pretty jazzed at how they came out — the paintings and the walls, that is.

SHAMELESS PLUG MOMENT: If you have some kitchen or walls that need gracing, or are in search of a housewarming gift for a friend with a homey, folksy, country style decor, you can always visit my fun Home at the Farm gallery to buy prints or canvases at Fine Art America. There, if you find an image you like, you can order it in several formats, from a single greeting card to your own canvas print. A few originals are even listed there, too.