Last year, I declared 2018 to be the Year of the Iguana. This year, because I have the power, because I have the will, because I have an Artsy Update, I declare 2019 the year of the Guppy!
I can do that. I can declare it, I really can!
The holidays are coming to a close, and I suppose folks will start straggling back into work next week to get a respite from their travels, parties, and vowing what they will do differently next year. I would prefer not to promise myself things I know I have no intention of doing.
The new year comes at an arbitrary time on the calendar.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it means Head of The Year.
The Chinese calendar kicks off the New Year at the first new moon and floats between January 21 and February 20th. The 2018 new year, The year of the dog started on February 16th.
The Romans celebrated New Year in March. Some remnants of the old calendar remain Sept = 7 not 9, Octo = 8 not 10, Novo = 9 not 11, Dec = 10 not 12. So there you have it.
The new year has gone shifted over time. But, in 1582 Gregorian Calendar reforms restored January 1st as the first day of the year. So now we celebrate January 1st.
It's evident that humans can agree on almost nothing, religion, politics, or even when to start the new year. I can't agree with myself most days.
Civil Defense Hint Of The Day: If I were some hostile government, I'd probably plan an attack on January 1st. You'd find three people on duty and most of the others with a hangover.
Celebrating is fun though. I like a wee dram of whiskey as much or more than most.
I love remembering the good times and looking forward to more good times. I enjoy getting all Auld Lang Syne (Times Gone By) and kissy-face and I like congratulate myself for making another year. I suppose everyone does.
We all make plans to be better versions of ourselves at this time of year, and I do believe we mean it at the time, but it's easy to lose focus as time passes between your resolution and reality.
How will I maintain focus this year?
I'll keep my goals in front of my face.
Whatever it is, I wish you the best of luck and the conviction to make your heart's desire a reality.
Until next week, Happy New Year, and I wish you peace.
I've been thinking about Christmas lately, specifically, how my Christmas Spirit overwhelms that part of me that governs common sense.
I do love Christmas, but sometimes I do it up a bit too much.
Here are some of the overindulgences I hope to curb this year.
Lots of times, I end up walking away from Christmas dinner needing a massive dose of antacid, a three-notch belt extension, and a wheelbarrow. Okay - maybe a forklift.
It's the middle of the night. Visions of sugarplums are dancing in my head. The refrigerator's calling my name. I try to quiet the beast in my head, but the darn thing keeps shouting, "There's turkey down here, there are potatoes too, stuffing anyone!? You know you want it. Come and get it!"
I can feel the last hit of Zantac starting to kick in. Do I give in? Do I say, "Ah heck, it's Christmastime nobody cares? It's the middle of the night, nobody will know."
No overeating for me this year. I've been working on injecting some common sense into the concrete between my ears. I'll only eat what I am comfortable eating. I can always save some until tomorrow. I love food.
I'm sure, if you know me, you know I've often been guilty of this. Though, recently I've been able to scale back. I've avoided most of the ill effects by pacing myself.
Do any of us know how many hangovers we have left?
Imagine if you only get a certain number of hangovers in your life. After that, you join the queue at the Pearly Gates. Old St Pete takes a glance and sends you to rehab purgatory before you can breach those sublime everlasting gates.
I want to put that whole Pearly Gate thing off as long as possible. Like the song says,
"Everybody wants to go to heaven
Get their wings and fly around
Everybody wants to go to heaven
But nobody wants to go now."
That, and nobody wants to be the guy that does that embarrassing thing people will remember forever. No lampshades or togas for me. No Sir.
I now realize there are camera phones. If you've never watched yourself doing a drunken rant, I'd recommend it.
It sobers you up quickly.
The reason I end up oversleeping is that I'm up until all hours overdrinking and overeating. I don't know when to call it quits.
It's like some demonic Energizer Bunny gets hold of me. I keep going and going and going.
I've found if I avoid the first to OVERS (drinking and eating), sleep comes a bit more naturally. I'm not tossing and turning all night, then staying in bed too late.
I used to have a hardier constitution. I used to be able to go to bed late and get up early. I can't now, and it's disappointing.
I have to try to manage it I suppose. I do have Tylenol PM and Melatonin. They work wonders for me.
Yes - We've already done it. The old calendar gets full during this time of year.
We make plans to do this thing and that. It's just such a great time of year. There are parties and meet-ups and well - parties. We want to do the carols, we want to do the parties, and we want to visit with friends.
It's so hard to hold back. Maybe next year we can scale back a bit.
I suppose you just have to plan downtime. I'm trying to get better. Really, I am.
Yeah - Right.
If you tend to do a few OVERS during this time of year, maybe this reminder will help you keep your eye on the ball.
It's like GI Joe says, "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle."
As for me, I'll be doing what I can. I'll enjoy a walk, a fire, and some good friends. That's something I can look forward. The rest is just gravy.
Hmmmm ... Guinness Gravy!
STOP IT SCOTT!
JUST FREAKING STOP IT!
For those of us waiting for the big guy to come down the chimney and leave a little piece of wonderment beneath the tree, You know, that special something you've always wanted, but never told anyone, I hope you get it this year.
If you have another tradition, I wish you many blessings as well.
No matter how you spend your time this holiday season,
Until next week, I wish you peace.
AND NOW - The rest of the story!
(Thanks, Paul Harvey)
'Twas The Party Before Christmas(the story behind the poem)
I love our annual Christmas Party.
We've had the Party here, in Stevenage, every year for the last six years. We invite people from around the neighborhood as well as some friends from outside the immediate area. They all stop in to have a few drinks and tell a few tales.
It's a fun time for all.
The Christmas Party holds a special place for me though.
Let me tell you a story about the first year of the party here at Olde Cottage.
We first met Marilyn and Peter the summer before our first party.
We hit it off immediately, especially Marilyn and Andrea.
We'd just come back from visiting Cornwall and talked about how much we love it there. We go back there almost every year for the beaches, the Southwest Coastal Path, and, yes, the chillin'. We left Marilyn and Peter that summer vowing to stay in touch.
Between the time we left England for the summer, and the time we got back for Christmas, Marilyn and Andrea decided it would be a bang-up idea to get folks from the neighborhood together to enjoy a few drinks at Christmas time.
I should tell you that Marilyn doesn't do Christmas by half. She doesn't do anything half-assed. She's all in, off the diving board in a frilly suit, and a full head of steam.
Peter, as it turns out, has a sacred mulled wine recipe that he pulls out of the Holy Grail stored in a secured vault under number 10 Downing Street. At Chrismas Peter dusts off the holy text with extreme reverence wearing anointed cotton gloves. He peels the parchment back with the care of a conservator then inspects the recipe to make sure it is, in fact, the same document stored with such care the previous year. You'd think the recipe was handed down from Charles Dickens himself. There are all kinds of exotic ingredients.
I don't know if I've said too much already. The mulled wine police (MWP) may be coming around the corner as I write. I think the real reason Ed Snowden had to flee to Russia is he leaked the recipe to Julian Assange. Nobody wants to be chased by the MWP.
Bottom line: It's exceptional, and everybody looks forward to Peter's brew.
The first year of the party, the decorations went up, and the stage set for the night. Marilyn on the oven, Peter on the mulled wine, Andrea at reception, and me on fire. Yeah, I get the dangerous job. I get to play with fire!
The party was starting. We had a bit of a toast between ourselves before the rest of the folks began arriving.
I guess the word had got around because before long the house was packed with people hobnobbing and rubbing elbows. The place was hopping.
Everyone was lovely. Drinks were drunk, hors-d'oeuvres consumed by the bucket load, lampshades worn, music blasted, and I think everybody was having a fabulous time. I know I was.
The last person togged up and left sometime in the wee hours of the morning. After we gasped our last and patted each other on the back, Marilyn and Peter trundled off on the short five-minute walk to their home around the corner.
Through our beer goggles and wine colored glasses, we started clearing up a bit. Getting enough dishes together to start the dishwasher and organizing food in the fridge so it wouldn't spoil out on the table all night.
I think we were brushing our teeth and getting into pajamas when we got a call from Marilyn. It appears, while we were enjoying ourselves at the party, there was a fire at their house.
Our friends have a lovely old Victorian house with high ceilings and lots of wood; bunches of wood. The exterior is brick, but the interior is almost all lime plaster and wood.
Before the fire, they'd been going through the house meticulously restoring one room at a time, picking out just the right this or that for here and there. They had just lovingly finished the sitting room with original materials and fixtures, and brand new furniture.
The work was painstaking and detailed.
The fire started in the room they'd just finished. Apparently, one of the candles on the wooden mantle over the fireplace had burned down and caught some decorations on fire.
It could have been so much worse. If the fire and not burned itself out and spread just a little it would have caught the Christmas Tree. The whole house would have been a goner. As it turned out, they got off easy. Instead of a conflagration the wood smoldered and created so much smoke it choked itself out.
I say they got off easy, but I don't mean that. The whole house got covered in toxic, black, thick, soot. The soot formed webs in all the corners, and the smell was horrible. It's not like a nice wood fire in the fireplace. It's not like the flames of a barbeque in the summer. It's an acrid disgusting smell that chokes you and sticks to everything you wear.
We walked over to their house the minute we got the call. Peter and Marilyn were devastated. It certainly looked like an "all is lost" moment.
We invited them to come back to our place and stay the night. I'm sure it was not a stellar night's sleep for either of them. The thought of everything in their house destroyed must have haunted them all night.
In the morning we suggested they stay with us until everything got sorted and we set up a room for them. This was only a couple of weeks before Christmas. As a result of the fire, we ended up becoming terrific friends spending the entire Christmas holiday with them.
We always look forward to coming back to England because they've become family.
Adversity can make for unusual situations. We are so lucky to have them in our lives. Our experience is much richer for it.
We go places together. We did a week's vacation with them in Cornwall. We go to the races at Newmarket every year.
We have the best times in such exciting places like the time we went to see Paloma Faith in Croatia. Paloma didn't show up. We had a great time just the same. They've also come to St Thomas to visit with us and soak up some of that island sunshine.
They are just a pleasure to be around, and we appreciate them very much.
The point of the story is that you never know what things will bring friends together. In this case, we formed very close bonds through adversity. One night's fire turned into what I hope will be a lifetime friendship.
That's what makes our Christmas party unique to me. Yes, it's great to meet up with people you love and don't often see during the year. I love that.
We absolutely love getting together with our friends and neighbors during the season.
As we head into this season and feverishly prep for the party, for me, I will always remember the lifelong friends we made one dark, cold, and devastating night before Christmas.
Until next week - I wish you peace on earth and good will towards everyone.
Especially the guy in the parking lot, he needs it.
Over the last several years, I've been a member of the Stevenage Arts Society. The Arts Society provides space, classes, and encouragement for artistic endeavors including painting, drawing, and pottery.
Twice a year the Society holds an exhibition to highlight member's art. It provides members with the opportunity to have their work presented in the Old Town.
This year, one artist, in particular, caught my eye. Her name is Pat Le Mar. Her preferred medium are pastels but she works in other media as well. She paints whatever draws her attention including portraits, cityscapes, and landscapes.
This painting is the Old Town in Stevenage. It is a brilliant representation of evening approaching on the High Street. The atmosphere is wonderful.
She has training in graphic design and has lived and worked in Stevenage for the last 40 years. I hope to run into her someday at Springfield House.
The reason I'm writing about Pat and the exhibition today is last week I went to the show and bought one of her landscape paintings.
I am thrilled with my purchase because:
This week, Pat Le Mar is my highlighted artist and I'm very happy to recommend her work.
You can find her here on her website.
I am putting these two drawings side by side. To the left is a digitally enhanced version of the painting on the right. The one on the left is a bit slicker. The lines are smoother. The colors are more vivid. I think the one on the right has a bit more. The roughness gives it more character though.
Let me tell you why I think it's hard to be human.
I know I like to act all zen and calm and portray that I live in patience and serenity with all of God's creatures. I want to think the slings and arrows of everyday life bounce off of me like bullets off Superman. Unfortunately, I am not quite the man I want to be - or maybe I am.
I want to confess that I almost ended my little artsy newsletter career because of my stupidity. I nearly ended my life today. Somehow my 30-year-old Marine mind inhabited my sixty-year-old pensioner's frame on Sunday in a grocery car park (parking lot to the rest of us). Uggg.
We were coming around a corner, and I could hear somebody outside say in a snarky tone. say, "You're not driving a tank lady."
Well, Andrea turned to me and said, "Did you hear what he said?"
Of course, my first reaction was to roll down my window and say, "Who the F*#* are you?"
Now, Under normal circumstances that would be the end of it. We'd both go off fuming, feathers ruffled, hackles raised. Each of us going off saying, "God, that guy was an ass!" And that would be the end of it.
Instead, the schoolyard came out in both of us.
He said, "Get out of your car and say that."
He had, what had to be, a six-month-old child in his arms.
Oh God, what have I gotten myself into?
I said, "You gonna do this with a child in your arms? I'm getting back in the car."
He gave the child to his wife.
Of course, I remember this from other stupid childish fights I'd had in the past. Not going to end well.
Andrea comes flying around the car and gets between us. She said, "Hey, why don't you pick on somebody your own size!?" He was about 5' 4".
I tried to push Andrea aside and insisted she go and get back in the car.
WTF now I'm arguing with her.
I'm sorry, but I have to resort to emoji freaking webreviations!
This situation is most certainly not going to end well.
As I leaned over, we stood two inches from each other face, his eyes twitching like a junkie needing a fix, his hands were in his pockets. That meant one of two things.
1. There's a knife in the cretin's pocket - BAD!
2. He's not planning on hitting me - GOOD!
So, thoughts in my head:
1. If I believe the miscreant doesn't have a knife and I'm wrong - Stay and fight - Oh Shit!
2. If I believe the ass doesn't have a knife and I'm right - stay and fight - I gain nothing, maybe a couple of bruises.
3. If I believe the reprobate does have a knife and I'm wrong - back down - I lose nothing.
4. If I think the idiot does have a knife and I'm right - back down - I gain everything.
Secondly, if he wasn't going to hit me, what's the point? I wasn't going to attack him first. I could see all the cameras coming out. I'd be on the worst version of Cops getting stabbed and bleeding out in the parking lot. Or I could be handcuffed, in jail, looking like bad Santa on the holidays with my little white beard on the six o'clock evening news.
I'm not a clairvoyant. I'm not Carnac the Magnificent. I can't tell the future.
I did not pick the right time or place to make a stand. I made a mistake. I'll admit my error. Walk away.
I said, "Sorry - I'm getting back in my car then."
And, I really was sorry.
I was sorry I got out of the car.
I was sorry I was feeling so stupid standing in the middle of a parking lot play "who the hell are you" with an adolescent, testosterone driven moron.
I was sorry that Andrea got involved.
I was sorry I almost made it on to some police blotter. "Bad boys, Bad boys, Whatcha gonna do."
I was sorry deportation flashed across my mind.
Oh no, not so soon my friend.
Oh-Oh, it's not over.
Andrea said to him, "You should apologize to me."
He says, "For what?"
Oh, God! There's no getting out of this!
"Please, get in the car, Andrea!"
As my dad would have said, "Andrea has more balls than Dick Tracy!"
Somehow we both got back in the car and left him walk off.
Did I feel a bit stupid? Yes, a bit.
Was I glad I wasn't in the hospital? Yes, a lot.
Should I have handled it differently? Well, hell yes.
I wish I didn't get out of the car in the first place. It just wasn't worth it.
Next time, I probably won't get out of the car.
In the mean time I'll try to meditate on the meaningfulness of equanimity. Or, maybe I'll have a beer.
Either way, this was a day I almost earned my very own Darwin Award.
Until next week - I wish you peace.
Sarah Mckendry says she's a Canadian realist artist and the mother of two wild and incredible boys. She works out of her home in the wee hours of the morning after her children go to bed. She sometimes works until two, three, or four o'clock in the morning. Sarah loves the euphoric feeling of the blank canvas in front of her. It's magic.
She creates large-scale paintings of landscapes and all kinds of animals including people. I love the scale and the detail she puts into her work. It's so great that she makes the time to work on her art.
She is a self-taught artist who makes a full time living with her art. It is a laudable achievement indeed.
Please take some time to see what she does from her base at Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Canada. That's the far-north third of the province. It's almost the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska.
You should check out her videos and her artwork at the following locations on the internet.
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