Monthly Archives: July 2021



My father is a retired surgeon. He ran a mission hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, which has since become an ebola center. This is where I grew up, on a palm lined west African beach. As a child, I helped out in the pediatric ward, and sometimes watched my dad perform surgery. From this experience, I learned that I am not squeamish, and the seed was planted for my future in nursing, though it would be a long time before it became a reality. After graduating from the American Embassy school in Liberia, I returned to the States and attended Bible School and Art School in Michigan.


I moved to a remote town on the north shore of Lake Superior, where I discovered my artistic voice. I performed destination weddings, and worked many varied jobs, trying to make ends meet. We had no college in the area, so returning to school never crossed my mind. Remember, I grew up in a world with no cell phones, and no personal computers. Eventually, online learning became a reality, and I went to the Higher Education office in town to inquire. I started Nursing School at age 50. This was a dream I had kept on the back of my mind, having considered becoming a nurse 30 years earlier. I wanted to create a better life for myself and my daughter. Living in a tiny town in northern Minnesota, I had to do much of my schooling online, and also made many trips to the campus, which was a three hour drive each way. I was afraid the whole time that I would not succeed. I was the oldest student in my class, and wondered if I would be able to keep up with the other students. There were certainly challenges, but I was determined. I not only wanted to achieve my personal educational goals, but I wanted to set an example for my daughter, who was struggling in high school. While attending nursing school, I worked as a nursing assistant. I owe a debt of gratitude to the staff at Cook County Higher Education. They held my hand and guided me through the process. They also proctored tests, and even coached me in math. I graduated with honors, and was the commencement speaker for the entire class of 2012.


Following graduation, I worked for 8 years in long term geriatric care. My daughter grew up and moved away, as children do. I did not want to be an empty nester. My heart and my home were open, and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. This was true in my professional life as well as in my personal life.


Just as in school, I thought I was too old to adopt. My daughter encouraged me to go for it, and cheered me on. I just kept telling my caseworker to put the next hoop in front of me, and I would jump through it. I adopted a sibling group of special needs teenagers out of foster care. This meant I could no longer work nights, so I became the school nurse for our local Independent School District. This way, I had the same schedule as my kids. My story is unique, as everyone’s is. My hope is that other people will hear my story, and follow their dreams in spite of the obstacles present in every life. I have spoken with students at career fairs on behalf of nursing, and I often tell them this: There has never been anyone just like you in the whole history of the universe. Your strengths and your weaknesses are gifts that no one else possesses. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how young you are. You are incredibly special whether you realize it or not. If I can do this, you can, too. I discovered as a valuable tool for completing my CEUs not only for nursing, but for ongoing foster care.


I had an unexpected, wonderful phone conversation about my book (Rear View Mirror, 2021) today. It was so validating, and just what I needed to hear. It is amazing to think that like my paintings, my books are my ambassadors, out there telling my story without me being there in person. And they will carry on without me, maybe connecting with someone at times and in places I could never have imagined, even after I am gone.


Today marks one year since my mother’s death. I still get the urge to call her almost every day.  I miss talking to her.  There are so many things I still want to share with her. “She can still hear you,” my son says. He suggested I write down everything I want to tell her on a piece of paper, and then put it into the fire. “It will go up to her.”  He is so certain of it. So matter of fact. It reminds me of my parents’ faith. Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.  Hebrews 11:1. I don’t have that kind of faith, but maybe I can borrow theirs when I need it. 

Slow motion

Lately, I’ve been making a lot of short, slow motion videos, mostly of moving water. Some are drips at the side of a waterfall, most are of that infinite fractal where water meets the shore. You can see many of these videos on my Instagram account at

I paint small mixed media abstracts on paper. I try not to have an image or theme in mind when I pick up a pencil, paintbrush or charcoal stick to make marks. I just dive in and see what’s down there.

I didn’t plan to revisit the theme of the videos in another medium, but it was apparent later when I looked at the paintings. The things I’ve seen trickle out again, or tumble gently at that space where my subconscious meets the shore of paper or canvas.

Slow motion
Slo mo


I’ve written lately about my recent abstract paintings, and have said they come from my subconscious. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll recall that I think about what it would be like for me to attend art school now, or to have had my present perspective back then. It would be a completely different experience.

This is from December of 1983 when I was attending art school in Detroit.

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. She saved all of my letters, and I got them in a package from my dad this week. It is so interesting to read the words written by a previous version of myself. It sounds like a different person. I don’t think or write the way I used to. Back then, I thought things were really neat. I still think so, but I don’t use that word. I had forgotten so many details of my life, so I am happy to have these letters as a reminder.

I’m still the same person. I don’t believe people change. They don’t change quickly, anyway. I see a transformation over time. Years and decades later, I feel that I’m unrecognizable as the person I was, but I’m not.

I had admirable traits back then. My judgement wasn’t great. My prefrontal cortex was not fully developed. I was insecure and begging for validation. Maybe I still am.

My parents see this experience at art school as the time I went astray, and that I am still not on the straight and narrow path. Not all who wander are lost.

I took a different path. I still carry all of these life experiences in my backpack, and now my own children are choosing their own paths. They don’t go they way I think they should. I worry about them, as my parents worried about me.

Note to self

Don’t waste your time and energy trying to help someone who doesn’t want your help.  You will stress yourself out and become exhausted.  At the same time, you will annoy the person you wanted to assist.  Sometimes, love means backing off.  Stay out of situations you can’t change.  Maybe recite the serenity prayer while you hike a river or watch a bonfire.  You can’t fix everything.  Everyone doesn’t share your agenda or your ideals.  People have their own lessons to learn!  You can’t learn for them.  They won’t learn from your experience.  The learning is hard, but necessary, and so is your own comfort and peace.  Learn to let go.  Take a deep breath, and then when you exhale, dispel the worry and fear with it.  You’re not a superhero.  You can’t save the world.  You have gifts.  Among them are love and limitations.  Sometimes you have to love from a distance.  With an open heart, step back.  You have your own life to manage.