Thursday, March 16, 2017

He Will Haunt My Memory - 3rd and Final Part

For those of you who have been following along, this is the 3rd and Final Part of my jury duty story...at least I hope it will be the final part as I do tend to be a titch wordy!

Part One HERE and Part Two HERE, so go read and get caught up or refresh your memory of the details! Here we go...

I was surprised that Mr. Chriss intended to take the stand but had secretly hoped that he would do so. There is nothing better than hearing the story straight from the horses mouth right?

Mr. Chriss took the stand and his attorney had opportunity to question him first. He asked him the standard questions, name, age, where he resided and then he asked him if he thought that he had Schizophrenia. Mr. Chriss adamantly and loudly said he did not! At this point I was a little apprehensive because the court reporter was sitting right in front of him. If he had wanted to he could have reached right over the microphone in front of him and put her into a choke hold. I was not the only one that was wary of Mr. Chriss because the guard that was sent to accompany him, arose from his seat to stand beside and within reach of Mr. Chriss.

Attorney Kendall asked him only a few questions. He asked about his job. Mr. Chriss said that he was a janitor and that he was allowed to do his job at his convenience. He said that he only had a mop and a bucket and a few cleaning supplies but that it was enough for him to get his job done and most of the time he did it at night when everyone was asleep so he didn't have to deal with "those people". He was asked that he meant by "those people". He said the other patients were "low functioning people".

He was asked about his education and he said that he didn't have much of an education. When he was a kid it wasn't a law that you had to go to school and your parents wouldn't get in trouble if you didn't go, so most of the time he didn't, and his mother couldn't make him go. He said when he did go it was because he was bored and even then he had to go to the "retard class". My heart broke listening to him, imagining him as a child.

He said that when he was done with school, he got several jobs but he didn't much like working, so he bummed around and somehow found out that the government would give him money for free if he pretended to have a mental illness. So he applied for disability and that is where everything went wrong because they truly believed he did have a mental illness, but he was just pretending. This is where he turned to his right to face the jury and he put his hands out imploring us to understand. He said, "If you could get money for free from the government, wouldn't you do the same thing?"

He claimed that he never got any money but by then he was in the system and then he was sent to Coalinga, but that it was all a big mistake. His attorney asked him why he didn't attend the therapy sessions, he said it was because they were not court ordered and if the court felt he needed them, why wasn't he ordered to go? He was asked why he refused to take part in the social activities at Coalinga and he said that again they were not court ordered and he WAS NOT A CHILD! He did not need to take part in coloring with crayons and playing kids games, he was a grown man! Again, his demeanor when replying was very aggressive, making us all uncomfortable.

He was asked why he refused medical treatment and medications at Coalinga and he said he was not gay and he wasn't going to let some man put his fingers up his ass! When he was asked why he did not let dental treatment be done on him he said it was because "they are all against me and just want to yank out all my teeth"! He refused to follow the rules that required them to have their vitals checked daily. He said he didn't need to do that because it was again...not court ordered.

I must say that I was very surprised by the questioning of Attorney Kendall. It felt to me that he was making Attorney Caves job very easy as he was making us all feel that Mr. Chriss truly did have a mental disorder. Mr. Chriss was very aggressive and angry and you could see that following rules was against his nature. 

Then it was Attorney Caves turn to question him. He touched on many of the same questions that Mr. Chriss had already answered and it was obvious that Mr. Chriss felt that Attorney Caves was the enemy. He was abrupt in his responses and many times would roll his eyes to imply "I've already answered that question stupid!"

Caves asked him about his son and his statement that he had a son that could be two places at once. Mr. Chriss said that yes, his son could be two places at once. "Can you explain that?" said Caves. Mr. Chriss held up both arms at his side and then brought his right hand to his heart and said "my son will always be in my heart" and he raised his right hand to the sky and said "and my son will always be in Heaven". Again...my heart broke. 

Attorney Caves said, "I'm so sorry that you lost your son, how did he die?" Mr. Chriss yelled out "Who said that he died? My son is not dead!" "But you just told us that your son is in Heaven? How can he be in Heaven if he is not dead?" said Caves. Mr. Chriss yelled out loudly, "I don't know where my son is, I don't know if he's dead, he probably is because I haven't seen him in years so I think he's dead, but I don't want to talk about this anymore!"

Caves then asked him about the rest of his family and why he had said they would be better off if he was not released. He said he didn't know why he said that, but that he didn't have any family anymore anyway and he didn't know where any of them were but they probably would be better off if he never saw them again.

Caves asked him about his religion and his implying that he is God. Mr. Chriss said "How do you know I'm not God? How do I know I'm not God? How do I know you're not God? My religion is taken partly from the Bible and partly from things God tells me and it's not of this world and I doubt you or any of the people here would understand my religion, it is above your comprehension." 

Caves asked him about the chanting in his room and he yelled loudly "it is not chanting, don't call it that, I don't like that!" Caves said "If it's not chanting what is it?" "Praying, it is praying!", said Mr. Chriss. Caves asked him about his beating himself up and Mr. Chriss said that was part of his religion and he had to do those things and that yes, sometimes it left bruises on his body but he wasn't gay, he was a man and strong and it didn't hurt for long.

He was asked about a recent altercation with another patient. He said that patient went by his room and spit on his window and he simply came out to ask why he had done that and it turned into a fight and yes a nurse got hurt but it was not done intentionally. He had not meant for the nurse to get hurt. So Caves asked him if he meant for the other patient to get hurt and he said no but you can't spit on a man's window and not expect to get hurt, he was asking for it.

Attorney Caves finally said that he was finished and Attorney Kendall had a chance to again question Mr. Chriss and try to explain away some of the damage done by Attorney Caves questions. Unfortunately he didn't seem to try too hard. The only thing he touched on was Mr. Chriss' son and whether or not he loved his son and wanted to see him. He said yes, he loved his son and would like to see him. He touched on Mr. Chriss' job and how well he did it and did he think that when he got out of Coalinga he would be able to get a job somewhere as a janitor. Mr. Chriss said that he had done many jobs in his life and he was sure that he would be able to find something. He was asked if he had any friends or family that would be willing to help him if he was released, he said he had no one. It was almost as though his very own attorney was either not very good at his job or didn't believe that Mr. Chriss should be released.

Finally the case was given to the jurors and we were led to the back of the courtroom to a small room with a conference table, bathrooms and a coffee pot. We sat around the table, uncomfortable with each other and decided first we needed to choose a Jury Foreperson. So we did that and then we decided to just take an initial vote to see how much work we had to do. So the Foreperson read the first question:

1. Did the respondent have a Severe Mental Disorder? - This was unanimous. We all felt that he did indeed have a severe mental disorder, everyone raised their hand

2. Is the Mental Disorder in remission or able to be kept in remission with further treatment? - Every hand again went up in agreement that he did indeed need further treatment.

3. Is the individual a danger to the general public? - We expected it to be unanimous again, but this time there were two young men that did not put their hands up.

The Foreperson suggested that we go around the table and each person state why they felt the individual was a danger to the general public. We all had basically the same answer. The fact that he obviously did have a mental disorder and he refused to accept that and receive the help he needed. If he would not receive treatment then he was a danger, not only to the public but also to himself. 

In Coalinga he was strictly monitored and watched. He had a place to live, food to eat, and a job that provided him enough of a monthly salary that he could purchase the items he needed for his daily life. What would happen to him on the streets? Would he eventually get angry again and perhaps hurt someone that spit on him or yelled at him for chanting?

Finally it was the turn of the two young men to explain why they did not feel he was a danger to the general public. The first one said that after listening to the rest of us he realized that we were correct so he changed his vote.

The other young man said that he felt that Mr. Chriss was a danger to the general public, but he could not in his heart send him back to Coalinga, wasn't there someplace else? Couldn't we talk to the judge and perhaps have him sent to a better hospital or to a nursing home where he could still receive his treatments and medications? 

I wanted to hug this young man because he had such a good heart, but I had to tell him that unfortunately in a jury situation such as this the judge had instructed us to go based on the facts and testimony given and answer only those three questions. We could not go back with our own advice on what to do with Mr. Chriss. He said he understood this, but that he still thought we needed to do something.

Then the Foreperson asked him if he would feel safe leaving this building tonight and running into Mr. Chriss in the parking lot. He said of course he would! He then asked him if he would feel safe if any of the other jurors, especially the women were to run into him in the parking lot. He again said he would. So he asked him if he would feel safe if the person in the parking lot running into Mr. Chriss was his mother? His sister? His girlfriend? He couldn't answer for a bit and then finally said, "No, I would not feel safe, I don't think he should be put out into society, I just feel sorry for him, but he is where he needs to be."

So we took the vote again on all three questions and this time the vote was unanimous. Mr. Chriss would not be leaving out the same door that we jurors were going to leave out of. He would be heading back to the bus with his guard, back to Lerdo Jail where they were holding him during the trial and then eventually back to Coalinga State Mental Hospital.

We walked back into the courtroom and the verdict was read by the court clerk. I watched Mr. Chriss to see how he would react and he didn't. He didn't flinch, he didn't cry, his eyes didn't flash with anger, he again just sat there, doing that sucking thing with his mouth, his head bowed down looking at the table. He didn't even look up when the judge dismissed the jury or while we quietly filed out.

That night when I went to bed I had a hard time falling asleep. Not because I felt guilty or because I felt I had made a mistake. No...the reason I had a hard time sleeping is because I imagined Mr. Chriss laying in a bunk at Lerdo Jail, not truly understanding what had happened or how he could have avoided it and it angered me. It angered me that human beings suffer with mental illnesses. It angered me that the best we can do is lock them up or medicate them. 

I know that Mr. Chriss is someone that I won't soon forget. I do wish the best for him. I hope that he realizes that he has a problem and that he seeks help for it. I hope that he's safe in Coalinga and that while it may not be the ideal place that any of us would want to be, I hope that he can find moments of happiness and peace. He will haunt my memory.

Alicia



Monday, March 13, 2017

Driver-less Cars? I'm ready for mine!

Driver-less cars can’t come soon enough for me!

Photo Credit - Vulcan Post

I came to this realization this weekend after taking a one day car trip from Bakersfield to Woodland Hills. Just a short little 2 hour trip that felt like a tour of duty as a Navy Seal. Not that I would know what that is like at all, but I imagine it’s just as harrowing as driving on the I-5 and the 405 Freeway!

And it wasn’t me…I love to drive, I don’t freak out in traffic, but this was just unbelievable, crazy traffic! And it was on a Sunday! Weren’t all these people supposed to be in church?

I get so irritated by all the “mergers”! The ones that have to move in and out of lanes so they can get somewhere a half a second sooner than they would have if they had just stayed in one lane. 

You have no idea how many people I saw merging into the same lane, one from the right lane and one from the left! It was just sheer dumb luck that they didn’t collide and have me run into them.

It amazes me…the stupidity of people when they get behind the wheel! People just dashing in and out and in front of 18-wheelers. Some of them didn’t even bother with using their signal lights. 

Then there were those that had to change lanes and they would just slow down to 15 miles per hour until someone let them merge, not caring that behind them people were slamming on their brakes. God forbid they miss their exit and have to get off at the next one. Oh no…much better to just leave a trail of debris and broken bodies than to miss getting to their precious little Wal-Mart shopping trip! Grrrr!

Once we all have driver-less cars then it won’t be left to the stupidity, vapidness and ignorance of the human being! I know a lot of you don’t like technology, don’t like computers, don’t like things being taken out of the hands of humans, but I think in a situation like driving it just makes common sense.

So yeah car companies, get to working harder on those driverless cars and make them at least as functional as seat warmers. I love seat warmers!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

He Will Haunt My Memory - Part Two

This is the 2nd Part of my Jury Duty story. Part one can be found HERE...

Then it was time for Caves to present his case and prove to us that Mr. Chriss had a severe mental disorder that was not in remission and could not be kept in remission without further treatment and why he posed a threat and a danger to the public.

He called to the stand his only witness, a Forensic Psychologist who analyzed the medical records of Mr. Chriss. A Forensic Psychologist will often study and analyze research or records from other professionals as well as conduct their own research and examinations. The doctor was a large imposing man who was well spoken and confident. He proceeded to tell us his expert opinion of Mr. Chriss and his mental disorder. The diagnosis for Mr. Chriss was Schizophrenia



First off it was made quite plain to us that the psychologist had not personally interviewed Mr. Chriss. The offer was made to meet, but Mr. Chriss refused. Score one for Attorney Caves. The psychologist said that normally individuals that are interested in being released are willing to meet with him to show that they have progressed and are now stable and  mentally healthier due to therapy and drugs. 

He then proceeded to tell us; being prompted by questions from Attorney Caves, that he had studied the notes of 10 or so doctors and multiple therapists and health personnel at the facility that had made notes of events and behaviors of Mr. Chriss. He said that the files that he studied easily measured a foot and half in height. 

He told us that Mr. Chriss refused to partake in any of the therapy classes that were available and offered to him. The only thing he did do at times would be to go to Bingo Night or Movie Night. Mainly Mr. Chriss would keep to himself in his room when he wasn't at his job as a janitor. While in his room it was noted several times that Mr. Chriss would talk loudly, yelling at times and screaming and chanting. He would beat himself up and he would become agitated by others on the unit. He had gotten physical with another patient and a nurse. 

He told us the Mr. Chriss refused medical treatment, he refused to have his vitals checked, he refused his medication, he refused to go to group meetings. He would yell obscenities at nurses, doctors and other patients. I watched Mr. Chriss closely while the doctor was testifying to gauge his reactions and it was like he wasn't even there. He didn't react, he didn't look at the doctor, he didn't try to engage any of the jurors. I thought how I would react if that were me and I would definitely be trying to talk to my attorney to get him to explain things. I would have glared at the doctor, I would have made eye contact with the jurors. He just looked down and shrugged his shoulders now and then and continued to do that sucking thing with his mouth.

The doctor also told us that it was disconcerting that Mr. Chriss had made several odd statements to the staff and other doctors, statements like "I have a son that can be in two places at one time" and "My family is better off if I'm not released". He also said that several times Mr. Chriss insinuated that he was God and that he followed a religion that was beyond what humans could understand.

Then it was Attorney Kendall's turn (Mr. Chriss' attorney) to ask his questions of the doctor. He didn't really question or try to explain all the refusals of treatment and/or meds, he basically just wanted the doctor to confirm that Mr. Chriss had a job as a janitor and that he did his job and that he obviously wasn't dangerous because he was given cleaning supplies and chemicals and mops and things that he could injure people with and he didn't. He also tried to make it clear that the chanting and yelling was Mr. Chriss practicing his religion. He also made one clear error that I saw in that he asked the doctor if he had physically ever met or examined Mr. Chriss personally or did he base all his thoughts and testimony simply on things written by multiple people through the years that could or could not have been true. This is where the psychologist plainly said, "No, I never personally examined or met Mr. Chriss but it was because of his refusal to do so." Strike Two!

Finally the doctor was done and he was allowed to leave. It was surprising to me that he just left, he didn't know how this was going to turn out and he had no personal stake in this, he was just doing his job. But he had testified that he did these examinations all the time, he wasn't paid extra if the person was found to still have a mental disorder, he was just being clinical and giving his expert opinion without prejudice. That resounded loudly with me. He wasn't lying, he wasn't interested in punishing Mr. Chriss...he was just doing his job. 

Then it was Attorney Kendall's turn to present his case and he said that he had not expected for Mr. Chriss to take the witness stand because it was not their job to prove anything and he felt that we should all realize after listening to the doctor that Mr. Chriss did not have a mental disorder, but that Mr. Chriss decided he did want to take the stand and state his side of the story...

Again, this is getting long, so I will end here and proceed with Part Three which I hope will be the last part. To be continued...


Monday, February 20, 2017

Georgia O'Keeffe Inspired Red Poppy

I'm thinking maybe flowers are my forte when it comes to painting them. I'm really having good luck with them!

I'm going to be keeping this post short and sweet, but I am just dying to share the Georgia O'Keeffe inspired Poppy painting that I did this weekend!

Here's the original painted in 1927 by the artist Georgia O'Keeffe.

Photo Credit - WikiArt

Stunning isn't it? I love the colors and the blending and shading.

I had help with this of course, because I am very much a beginner. Using a Youtube tutorial by Angela Anderson I was able to paint my own poppy.

Before I show you mine, let me show you the reference photo from Pixabay that Angela Anderson used for her tutorial.

Photo Credit - Pixabay

Compare this photo to the painting by Georgia O'Keeffe! Wow right? The realism in O'Keeffe's painting!

Well I don't want to brag but I'm going to because I'm so darned proud of what I was able to paint thanks to Angela Anderson and her wonderful teaching manner and great tutorials!

Here's my version.


Not bad right?

Can you see why I am over the moon happy about this? This was my second attempt. The first one I botched royally and was so upset with it that I shredded it in the paper shredder before the paint was even dry! I sure hope my shredder doesn't get all gummed up!

For the second attempt I just followed Angela faithfully and listened carefully to her tips and suggestions and watched every one of her brush strokes... and I did this folks! I'm thrilled beyond belief and hope that you love it as much as I do!






Friday, February 17, 2017

He Will Haunt My Memory - Part One

When I walked into the court room he was the last person I noticed. In fact, until the judge introduced him to us I didn’t even know he was there. He was a slender man seated at the table next to his attorney, his hair was cropped short and he wore a dingy white dress shirt, his skin almost the same color as his shirt. His eyes were sunken deeply into the eye sockets and he kept pursing his mouth into a pout, sort of like he was sucking on a piece of hard candy. He looked hard, like someone that had suffered in his life and instead of time and life having mellowed him, they had hardened him and his features.

You wouldn’t think that someone so nondescript would stay on your mind for so long. Maybe it wasn’t him, instead it was the reason for meeting him and his story. Regardless, his memory haunts me…this is the story of Mr. Chriss.

Last week I was called in for jury duty. The last time I went was in 2008, you can read about that trial here…it was a doozy! Once I finished with that trial and I wrote that post I was over and done with it and never gave it a second thought…this one won’t be so easy to forget.





This one was unique. Not a criminal trial, not a civil trail, instead this one was a civil commitment hearing for an individual who is considered a Mentally Disordered Offender or MDO. We 60 individals, had been called into the courtroom to go through the process of choosing a jury to decide three things:
1. Did the respondent have a Severe Mental Disorder?
2. Is the Mental Disorder in remission or able to be kept in remission with further treatment?
3. Is the individual a danger to the general public?

It was our job to make those decisions and they had to be unanimous, either all true or all false. We could not say numbers 1 and 2 were true but not number 3. All or nothing!

If you’ve never been to jury duty I strongly urge you to go next time you are called. It’s such a great learning experience. It’s not easy to know you hold the future of someone in your hands, but it’s such a privilege to know that no matter what you do, in our country you will have your day in court and you will be able to tell your side of the story.

I had hoped to not be chosen for the jury only because there was so much going on at work and I felt guilty dropping it into the lap of my coworker. But it’s not as easy to get out of being on a jury as it used to be. I had no real hardship. The company I worked for respects our duty to complete jury duty so they pay us our regular pay. 

After two days of voir dire (a preliminary examination of juror by judge and counsel) I was chosen as juror number 6. That was Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was the day the attorneys had a chance to give their opening statements, to call witnesses and to present their case.

Unlike a civil or criminal case where you have a plaintiff and a defendant, in this case you had the petitioner which was The People of The State of California, represented by Attorney Caves and the respondent, Mr. Chriss who was represented by his counsel, Attorney Kendall. The burden of proof was on the State of California, who had to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the three questions above were all true as regards Mr. Chriss.

Caves gave his opening statement first. A very handsome young man, very soft spoken. I would have been happier if he had looked us in the eye more and spoken with more authority. He also introduced Mr. Chriss to us and explained to us what the judge had already told us multiple times, that we had to base our decision only on the evidence and the evidence is only what was said by the person on the stand. He said he would provide a witness that would give us the medical facts that we would need to come to the agreement that all three of the questions that we were to deliberate would and could only be answered as true.

Then Kendall gave his opening statement in which he also told us what we had to base our decision on and he informed us that Mr. Chriss had no burden of proof, it was not up to him and Mr. Chriss to prove to us that any of the three questions were either true or false, that was the job of Mr. Caves. He proceeded to tell us a little bit about Mr. Chriss.

Mr. Chriss had been sent to prison for physical assault on an individual. It was never made clear to us if he did his time in prison and then was committed or if he was committed after a second physical assault on an individual, but for the past nine years he had lived quietly in his unit at the Coalinga State Mental Hospital. He had a job at the hospital as a janitor and lived his life quietly, causing no further problems.

Part two to follow...(this was just getting too long)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Confessions From My Inner Artist

So I've continued to Art.

A few things have not turned out as I hoped, but I learned something from them anyway.

Some things have turned out so tremendously well that I honestly can't believe that I painted that.

Take my new header above. This was my first venture into using palette knives!



I have to confess that I was scared to try this. I don't know why, it's not like the Art Police are going to come to my house and claim my first born if I paint something that is crappy right? 

It's not like the canvas I am painting on has cost me thousands of dollars and is stretched on the frame using the unblemished skin of a billion butterfly wings...it's just canvas from Michaels, bought with a 40% off coupon. Hardly breaking the bank right?

Is is the fear of failing? Of not being good enough? 

Now that I type that I realize that's probably more the reason I get scared than anything else. It's failing that scares me. 

I haven't failed that many times in my life and I'm not used to it. But maybe the reason I haven't failed very often is that I haven't pushed myself to try things that I can fail at.

It's easy to never fail if you never try!

So I'll keep going and trying, painting some things that I love and learning from the things I totally mess up!


In the meantime I am having the time of my life painting. I wish that I had found this years and years ago. But then again maybe it was my time to find Art.


Or maybe Art found me...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

We Will Not Go Off Alone

Photo Credit - angela-davies.com
Today I spoke with a friend whose Grandma had passed away last week. He’s heading out of state tomorrow to the funeral with his wife and children. Grandma had lived with them for the past 7 years. She was a young grandma, only 76 years old, so they weren’t expecting her death.

Grandma had started passing hints to them that her time was coming. They didn’t really notice until she actually died and they compared notes. Grandma had a premonition that her time was close. I find that amazing…but wait…there’s more.

The evening of her passing Grandma asked her granddaughter to fry her some eggs, she was too weak to stand at the stove and fry them herself. Grandma was very self-reliant and never asked for help (she reminds me so much of my mom). The granddaughter thought it was odd and called the grandson to remark to him that Grandma had asked for help and she NEVER does that, but she made her the eggs and didn’t think about it again.

The grandson called Grandma’s son and asked him to just stop by and check on his mother as she wasn’t feeling well. The grandson finished up some work at the office and when he got home Grandma’s son was there so the grandson went to go lay down for a bit as he had a headache.

He got up a bit later and went down to grab a bite to eat and came back to lay down and as he was laying there the dogs started making a racket and barking like crazy. He shot up and ran out of the room and saw his niece and asked her what was going on? Was someone at the door? And the niece said no, it was just the dogs barking at Grandma who had gotten up to go to the bathroom. 

He thought that was weird as they had never barked at Grandma before but he went back to go lay down. Not much time had gone by and the dogs went crazy barking again and again he got up to see what was happening and ran into his son who remarked that the dogs were barking at Grandma who was heading back to her room. They both said that was weird, but things settled down and they both went back to what they were doing.

The niece happened to walk by the bathroom a bit later and saw that Grandma had left the light on and that there was a light under Grandma’s bedroom door so she peeked in thinking Grandma probably fell asleep with the light on as she often did.

Grandma was sitting in her chair, with her eyes open and was unresponsive. The niece screamed that something was wrong with Grandma and they all ran upstairs. The grandson and his son picked Grandma up out of the chair and laid her on the floor so that the granddaughter could begin CPR. They called 911.

Police arrived first, and then the EMT’s and they also began life saving measures on Grandma. Eventually they EMT’s told the family that they were sorry, but there was nothing else they could do. Grandma was gone.

The grandson remarked that it was weird that they had not noticed how much weight Grandma had lost. When he and his son picked her up to lay her on the floor they almost dropped her as they expected so much more weight than what she really was. How did they not notice? That troubled him.

He remarked that he was also troubled about her dying in the house, in that room. I told him, “You know what I think? I am comforted by two things, one that she died at home and not in a hospital or on her way in an ambulance. She had a delicious meal cooked by her precious granddaughter, she saw her son and she knew all the people she loved best were at home and safe. 

Secondly, the fact that the dogs were barking leads me to believe that they weren’t barking at Grandma, they knew her, they never barked at her; they were barking at someone that came to take Grandma and show her the way.”
He was quiet for a moment and then he said “That kind of bothers me to know there was an entity in the house.” I told him that to me it was a comfort, because it means someone gets sent to show us the way. The dogs saw this person and that’s why they were barking because they didn’t know the person, but animals see things sometimes that we don’t. Grandma was not scared, she may or may not have known this person was there, but she wasn’t scared. 

He again sat there quietly and said, “It was her momma, her momma came to get her, and you know what Alicia? I didn’t tell you this but last night Grandma’s brother died. Grandma and her momma went to go get him.”

Before he left he told me that he found great comfort in knowing that Grandma didn’t go off alone to some new place, someone that loved her was sent to guide her to the right place and when it’s our time, someone will come to guide us…maybe Grandma will come for him. He left comforted and I feel comforted too because I know that when it was my dad’s time someone, probably his beloved sister Olivia came for him and someday someone will come for me as well. We will not go off alone.



Monday, January 9, 2017

Christmas Made Easy with my New Hobby - Painting!

I've been getting so many great comments on my blog and on Facebook about the artwork we displayed at the Art Reception in December. In case you missed it you can read about it HERE. Thank you all so much!

One of the best things about my new hobby is that I can share it on my blog and it also made Christmas gift giving a bit easier. 

If you're a regular reader you know that my sister and I have a good friend named Lupe. The three of us get together at Christmas time and we go out to a nice dinner and we exchange gifts. Lupe gave me a beautiful set of Wine Glasses which I desperately needed and Lisa gave me a beautiful Scarf, which I desperately wanted! 

To Lupe I gifted this Christmas decoration/wall hanging that I painted. 




I tried to make it in colors that if she wanted to she could leave it up all year and not have it look like a left-over Christmas decoration but yet if she only hung it at Christmas it fit in. I was very happy with the way it turned out!

I also wanted to do something special for my co-worker Angelica as she and I always make it a point to have a nice lunch somewhere special and exchange gifts as well. She gifted me something spectacular that I had been wanting forever! 

Not the Calendar, although I really needed a new one for 2017 an who doesn't want a whole year of Las Vegas???

No, I mean the Wax Warmer with the Butterfly on it. You plug this baby in and add a little block of scented wax and all day long you have a delightful scent wafting through the air. I thought it would be perfect to put in my bedroom but so far I've been enjoying it so much at the office that I've decided to leave it there. Thank you Angelica!



I wanted to do something special for her and she knew that I was going to paint something for her. She had actually hinted that she would like something Parisienne but it was too late because I had already painted this for her.



The photo doesn't really do it justice since the background was a much more vibrant yellow. Here's a photo she posted on Facebook that's much better than the one I took. 



Since it was so much fun to do that one for her I decided I would do a family Christmas painting for each of my brothers and my sister Lisa.

Here's the one I did for my brother Fred and his family. I loved painting the white dots around the picture and doing those ribbons on each ornament and using glitter! 



This is the one I did for my brother Jaime and his family. I loved this one because Jaime's wife Connie was the one that came up with the color theme for my mom's surprise 80th birthday party of black, red and gold, so I painted this one in those colors just for her!



The one for my sister of course was my favorite one to do because I wanted to do a camping theme for her and her husband since they love to go camping and have really nice trailer that we get to use when she and Lupe and I go camping for our girls weekend. 

So I found a sort of retro camper and came up with this design which is done in a photo program called PicMonkey.



This was the end result. I ended up not adding as much Christmas decor in case they wanted to hang it up in their trailer they could leave it up all year.



I wish that I had thought to take pictures of them when they were all framed nice and pretty. Lisa's looked especially nice because I was able to find a white frame for hers. These are all painted on 11 x 14 picture boards which makes them easier to frame. I meant to take pictures of them as they opened them but you know the chaos that is Christmas and the whole family was there so these will have to do.

I'm still painting and practicing and thinking I am getting better with each new piece. If nothing else I am enjoying myself and de-stressing. I hope to be sharing new stuff in the near future. I know that I have promised Baby Jae that I would paint an Elsa for her so I need to find a simple yet pretty one for her. Wish me luck!











Monday, January 2, 2017

Acrylic Art Class - Art Reception

Back in September I posted that I was beginning a Monday night Art Class for Acrylic Painting. December 12, 2016 was our Art Reception and the last night. It was bittersweet and we hated to see this class come to an end. But never fear, during the reception the head of the program came to attend the reception and to tell us that the Art Class has been funded again! Yay! We still don't know what kind of class but I don't care if it's painting with our feet using mud and glitter cause I am so there!!! I love ART! 

I want to share some of the artwork we completed and displayed but first I want to show you the piano that we painted for this class. I'm hoping this becomes a regular thing and that we get to paint and donate a piano each time. 

When I took my Beginning Drawing and Sketching class we painted this one. The theme for this one was Almond Blossoms and Bees.



For the most recent Beginning Acrylic Painting Class we painted this one and the theme was a Hispanic Culture theme. Our Art Instructor Alex, chose a popular game called Loteria. I would say this game is a Mexican Bingo and I remember playing it often as a child.

Here I am with some of my fellow classmates. From the left is Samantha, then me and then my sister Lisa and our friend Lupe. You can see some of our artwork that was displayed in the background.


The front has the obligatory roses. The City of Wasco, where the classes are held is the Rose Capital of the World! Our instructor Alex painted the amazing American Flag.

Here's a side view showing the Loteria portion of the piano. It was so much fun to do this and I hope in the next class someone donates another piano to us!


If I were to share all the artwork we displayed you would be here forever, so let me just share some of the artwork that I think was the favorite of each artist.

First, this was my favorite that I painted. It's a fireplace that I learned to paint by using an online tutorial from the most amazing teacher and Artist, Cinnamon Cooney aka The Art Sherpa!


Here's how I displayed it at Christmas for the Holiday. Isn't it lovely?


I think this was probably the favorite one that my sister Lisa did. She did such an excellent job and I love the eyes, they are just mesmerizing. Lisa has a natural gift and talent for art. It seems effortless when she paints!


I think this one would probably be the favorite one that Lupe did, at least I know it's my favorite that she did! So cheerful and love the big yellow umbrella!


This is my favorite of the ones that Samantha did. Samantha is a college student and the youngest of us all and she had a real "outside the box" way of doing her art which was refreshing and I was always amazed to see the way her mind worked!


We also had to each do a social experiment piece. Something socially relevant to us. Our instructor came up with the idea of doing this because of a this painting that he did.


Here is my social statement. Can you see my concept that we now see the world through the "eyes" of social media?


I loved Lisa's, seeing the world through rose colored glasses!


Lupe choose a statement as old as time, the Madonna and Child, it was just beautiful!


Here's our instructor Alex with a painting he brought to display. Thank you Alex for being such a great teacher, for your patience and guidance and for always being there on time with a smile and a word of encouragement for us each! You have an amazing gift as an artist and as a teacher!



Sunday, January 1, 2017

Books Read in 2016

It's that time of the year again...my annual "Books I Read This Year" wrap up. I've been keeping track using the Goodreads website since 2009, you can click each year to see the complete list.

2009 - 24 books
2010 - 24 books
2011 - 29 books
2012 - 26 books - Goal set was 30
2013 - 18 books - Goal set was 30
2014 - 33 books - Goal set was 20
2015 - 19 books - Goal set was 35

In 2016 I once again set a grand goal for myself, one that I again didn't reach! My goal was 35 books and I only read 19. 


I'm not even going to make excuses because considering what a busy year this was and my new hobby of painting I'm happy I read that many! But I am make a resolution to turn the TV off more often and just read for an hour or so before I go to bed each night. Let's hope that in the new year I do better. 

So here's the cute little set-up that Goodreads does each year to keep track of statistics and the actual books themselves.


They keep track of the longest and shortest books I read and the average length. 

The most popular book and the least and also the average rating out of 5 stars that I gave to each book. And also the book that I read that had the highest rating on Goodreads. It was once again a Jodi Picoult book. I think she's always my favorite, love her books!

And here's the complete list of my books. The Hummingbirds Daughter was pretty good.








So here's my pledge for 2017, I'm going to try to read one more book than I did this year. That shouldn't be too difficult right?
 2017 Book Challenge

How about you? Happy reading in 2017!