Officially, Let’s Make It Official

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I haven’t posted about my new website(s) on here other than by adding a link on my homepage which reads “To View And Purchase My Artwork,” so I thought I should probably make it a little more official.

I know I’ve quite a loyal group of readers on here who have been sorely disappointed I’ve not been writing as much as I had been; I’ve been otherwise engaged. So now you can delight in (1) a new post, and (2) the OFFICIAL announcement. Thank you all for your support in my writing and art endeavors, it’s truly my friends and family who keep me going.

I have opened an art website to sell originals, prints (framed and unframed), canvases, metal prints, greeting cards, iPhone and Galaxy covers, throw pillows, duvet covers, etc. I’ll be continuously adding to the site as I complete various works. On the site currently you can find my original paintings and prints, as well as photographs, so feel free to have a gander. Each gallery has several pages, so scroll to the bottom for the next page link.

I’ve just recently completed an oil on box canvas of The Highlands of Scotland, and a watercolor and acrylic on paper of Audrey Hepburn at her most glamorous. You can find my website at http://1-denise-railey.artistwebsites.com/index.html

In addition, you can access my works through http://fineartamerica.com/art/all/denise+railey/all — though for that site you’ll have to keep scrolling to the bottom to see all works.

Enjoy. And smile, life is a wonder.

Best,

~ D.

They Say Change is Good

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I’m currently sitting beside a rather large unfinished canvas; and no, I don’t mean my life. This canvas has been mocking me for months. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal? Either finish the painting or move on.” It’s the moving on part that has me in a bit of a funk.

The painting – like everything else I create or become involved in – must be perfect in my eyes before I’ll walk away. It must be the best I can do. I’ve walked away from relationships with that same thought, “It was the best I could do.” I haven’t reached the boiling point with this specific painting, so it sits here, greeting all who enter. “I see your mom still  hasn’t finished that painting” has been said many, many times in the last several months… Thanks, boys.

It isn’t the only painting I’ve started in that time, it’s just the only one that hasn’t been completed. I nitpick it incessantly, but it needs to be just so. Every new brushstroke gives me anxiety, so I take breaks. I’m afraid I’ll do something and change it, and the painting will warp into something indefinable and rubbish. “They” say “Change is good.” That’s a dodgy, unhelpful comment, isn’t it? Surely not all change is good?

At some point the painting – a portrait – will be finished. He’ll have a face and everything! But in the meantime, he sits with me, this silent, faceless companion watching this sea of changes come. I get the feeling I’m not the only one anxious about this.

Of Hats and Flasks and Hearts Tied Up with String

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I heard them before I saw them. A murmured, “Dad, there’s Denise.” It didn’t register. I continued to stare blankly at a rack of men’s crewneck sweatshirts. I was in Target, and my youngest son was shopping. He’d been trying on knitted hats in there for the better part of two decades, maybe three, I don’t know. I’d lost track of time. So. Many. Hats. I felt desolate, saw only darkness. Would’ve shot off a flare if I’d had one handy. It was a bleak and humorless existence. I had to pee, and my feet had swelled from standing so long. I was cursing myself for having never gotten into the habit of sporting a hip flask. Every hat looked the same; I could’ve sworn he was fucking with me. Just as I felt myself slip further into the maw of boredom, I heard them calling my name. Repeatedly. Pulling me back from the point of no return. Dazed, I looked up.

There they were, CAF’s family. It was a shock, and I gasped. Loudly. Embarrassingly. The kind of gasp you see a heroine in a shitty movie do. Oh, why don’t I carry a flask? CAF’s widower and her eldest child were smiling broadly at me. It felt like old times, kind of… Yet, what was this? There, hidden just slightly out of view, was her youngest. There was the boy who was too young to remember the catastrophic Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection in CAF – the event that began the end of her life. This had not been my first time seeing the family. At the end of August, CAF’s widower and her eldest son showed up at a memorial service for a family member of my husband’s. It was kind of them to come, but as I hadn’t expected them nor seen them in years, and as I was at a memorial service, it became too much. I burst into tears and ran outside. My sons were quickly behind me, making sure all was well. It wasn’t, and I felt fragile, like my heart, badly tied up with string, just had its knot come undone.

This time was different. It was friendlier, happier, and because her youngest boy was there. He didn’t remember me, and most likely no longer remembers his mother – but oh! how darling he was! His face, so like hers – only in miniature. I asked if I could hug him. His father said yes; the boy remained quiet but gave me a gentle squeeze back – more out of politeness than anything else. He was painfully shy, as anyone would be who’s lived through what he has. He didn’t look at me accusatorially, none of them did. I suppose it’s just me. All I felt was guilt; the self-whispers of “murderer” and “killer” going round in my head. Her children never denounced me – never pointed at me and asked, “WHY DID YOU KILL OUR MOTHER?! WHY?!”

I’m sure it was later explained to the wee one that I was his mother’s closest friend. That I was the there the day she passed, the one who held her hand as she died. Hopefully it was not explained that I had to be the one to convince his father to pull life support…

Seeing CAF’s husband is getting easier, and I’m glad her eldest boy remembered me. I still haven’t seen her daughter, who supposedly looks and acts just like CAF. I don’t know whether she’d remember me. They are a beautiful family, and I’m glad to see them happy. I hope at some point to put this all behind me, but for now, it’s just pain and self-recrimination. Whether my part in this all was “merciful” or not, it left its mark – one I’ll never heal from.

Last night as I decorated the interior of my house for the holidays, I came across several Christmas pieces CAF had given me over the years. Strangely, 3 of them are angels. I cry every year…

Ho, ho, fucking ho.

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Ushering Ants

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The other day I came up the hall to find a line of ants marching at eye-level on the wall in the foyer. As there is neither food nor water in the foyer, I found this interesting. They came in under the front door, crawled up the closet, moseyed around the corner to some shelves, turned around and left. This went on for a day or two – with me cautioning my family to “Watch out for the ants! Don’t lean on the wall, you might squash one!” This was met with the usual “Uh huh.”

One night as I came up the hall, I stopped and watched their journey. Something about the procession was soothing – the way the ones coming greeted those who were leaving. My husband walked up behind me and muttered, “Would you like me to get you an ant farm? Then you can watch them all the time – and they won’t be loose – in our house.”

It didn’t bother me that the ants were loose, because I knew they’d do what ants always do – leave. There was no reason to be alarmed or kill them – and it was certainly not an infestation. It was only about 20 of the wee fellows – coming and going.

For those of you who know me, the fact I allowed the ants to come and go as they pleased will not surprise you. For those who don’t know me, I’ll explain. I’m vegetarian. I kill nothing. I’m kind and compassionate to everything — even people who hurt me and (as I’m told) “don’t deserve kindness or compassion… or your friendship – because they’re playing games with you, they’re cowardly, and they’re an asshole.” 

Today I woke to find 3 ants aimlessly wandering the kitchen tiles. These I had to usher out. Not for my sake, mind you, but theirs. That’s a dangerous place to wander – a lot more risk of being smashed than when they’re eye-level on a wall. I didn’t want that on my conscience. I put each of them outside to join a line of ants marching by my rose and wisteria bushes. There was much antennae-waving before they got in line and crawled up the branches with the rest of their cohorts. It made me smile, that welcoming back into the fold – like old friends reuniting.

I often find beauty and smiles in places others don’t. But lately I’ve not seen a lot of beauty or smiles. And lately I’m the ant wandering out in the open on the kitchen tiles – exposed, vulnerable – with people and forces coming along trying to smash me. The past few weeks have been especially hard. The day after my return from a glorious birthday trip to NYC, we unexpectedly lost a family member. It was devastating – and it fell to me to tell my children and husband. The grief overwhelmed. To add to this, the following week, I had to put our beloved dog down. She had been part of our family since 1997. This was all so much death – so much grief, in so short a time. I needed to unplug and get away from people – especially those who didn’t have my best interests at heart. I needed to talk to real friends – old friends – the ones who’d always be with me, no matter what. These friends hurt when I hurt – and I’m hurting now. They’ve been kind enough to get behind me, trying to usher me on, and when I rise slowly to the surface again, I know I’ll be greeted with much antennae-waving by them. I’m blessed.

Waiting.

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It was 7 years ago today that I took her life. In so many ways it seems like it was just yesterday. I can practically smell the sterilized hospital. Hear the click of shoes, the hum of voices. Feel the resignation in the room. I still have the lump in my throat and the heavy weight on my heart. The heart is such a weak little organ, after all.

I know exactly where I was at this moment that day. What I was doing. Can retrace my steps from the moment I woke up. It’s funny because usually I’m such a dumbass, I can’t remember what I had for dinner the night before, if I had anything. But that day, and my actions, and their effect are indelibly etched in my brain. The doctors buzzed about. The nurses swarmed. And I waited. Waited for the end to come. Waited for yet another thing to make me feel like a piece of shit.

I seem to wait for things a lot – I’ve realized that in the last 7 years. I have done a bit of growing. I know I spend far too much time dwelling on the past. But I also spend too much time waiting.

I wait for people – even ones not worth waiting for.

I wait for literary agents to respond to queries about my manuscript.

I wait for my sudden longings to put fingers to keyboard or brush to canvas and create. 

I wait for calls, texts, emails.

I wait at traffic lights.

I wait for the dermatologist to tell me I have skin cancer. Again.

I wait to catch a glimpse of my sweet boy on campus before he spots me and heads to my car.

I wait for my eldest to come home from college, so I can hold him close and see him tucked safely in bed at night.

But today I only wait for that fateful hour to start, where I can count down the 38 minutes it took for me to watch my friend die. How unlucky was she at the end – alone, but for me in the room? We waited together.

You Should TOTALLY Go Screw Yourself

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The other day there were some young women seated behind me in a restaurant. Occasionally bits of their conversation drifted my way. At one point, the two girls nearest me went into this long description of their plans for the following day. It seemed to revolve around going to tanning beds. As someone who’s covered in scars from head to thigh due to skin cancer, it was all I could do to keep from turning around and flashing them my body. I figured that would only get me looks of revulsion, and probably a criminal charge for exposure. You see, once, a very, very, very long time ago, that girl talking of tanning beds was me…

Yes, I was young once.

I know. Just follow along.

In my early 20’s, someone at my work had kindly pointed out my pale skin. When I say “kindly” it was more like, “Oh my God. GROSS! Why don’t you get yourself a tan? You’re so white!” My friend Ken was standing nearby and took up the gauntlet for me, saying, “She’s northern European. That’s just how they are. They don’t tan.” I’m not sure, actually, that was a defense, but let’s go with it. The woman responded with, “Everyone can get a tan if they go to a tanning salon. Denise, you should TOTALLY go to a tanning salon!”

And so I did…

Yes, you can TOTALLY get a tan. You know what else you can totally get? Skin cancer. All three kinds. I’ve only had two. I’m holding out hope I don’t get the third. Here is my story: About ten years ago, I had what I thought was a bug bite on my forehead. But after several months of it not going away, I figured it was just a weird pimple – because, sure, pimples can last for months… Then I started to ignore it, hoping it’d just fall off or something. I ignored it for a year, maybe two. Maybe more. I don’t know. When I decide to ignore something, I don’t mess around. Eventually I had to have it checked out because it started to sting when I applied cream or makeup. It was an angry little lump.

It turns out that slow-growing, angry little lump was Basal Cell Carcinoma. He was my first (I always refer to the growths as “he”…).  To remove that tricky bastard involved the Mohs Procedure. This particular dermatologist only performed it once a month, so the waiting room that day was full. Patients went in, one at a time. Got their numbing injections, had the slice-and-dice, and were sent back to the lobby holding gauze over their incisions to stanch the flow of blood. It was a funny gathering – everyone with gauze being pressed to different areas. There you sat while they checked your cells under a microscope to make sure your margins were clean. If they were not clean, you went back in to have more sliced and diced. Most people went in once or twice, were stitched up, and sent on their merry way.

Most people…

Most people who aren’t this ghastly white…

Most people who aren’t “Northern European,” apparently…

First came my numbing injection. I am not a fan of needles. Then came The Mini Melon-Baller. He basically began to melon-ball my forehead. Not two seconds later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him get sprayed with blood. It looked a bit like this…

He quickly shielded my view of the proceedings by throwing a towel over my eyes, not too carefully, and frantically called to the nurse who was faffing about on the other end of the room. I’m assuming my blood continued to spray him, because he sounded terribly flustered. Something like, “NURSE, just…if you could just… apply some pressure here!” Then he wiped himself a bit and barked at me, “Are you on blood thinners? No? Aspirin? NO?” 

No…

As they spent a great deal of time applying pressure, I began to hope that I wouldn’t bleed to death on their table. I also began to hope that this experience was over, and that I’d soon be joining the ranks of the gauze brigade in the other room. Um, no. The Mini Melon-Baller returned. The pressure of it as it dug into my forehead (and the ensuing sounds) still make me gag. Soon enough though I was bandaged, and gauzed. Then re-bandaged, and re-gauzed. And re-re-bandaged and re-re-gauzed. As I continued to bleed through all their supplies, and he lost what was left of his patience, he handed me a roll of gauze, said, “Keep your head back, keep this on it with pressure. Do NOT stand up” and plopped me in the waiting room. There the ranks began to dwindle while I propped my head against the wall. The lucky devils around me were one-by-one stitched up and sent away. I was called back in the room for another melon-balling. My margins weren’t clean… Naturally.

Then I was called back in again…

The waiting room was really emptying out now…

Yet again I was called in. Yet again came The Mini Melon-Baller. Yet again I bled like a stuck pig.

After many trips in, I was eventually pronounced “clean.” 8 stitches later and I was sent home.

I have since had Squamous Cell Carcinomas and more Basal Cell Carcinomas. I have had more stitches. In addition to that removal method, I’ve had Cryotherapy. That’s fun. The first time I had that, I ended up with a massive welt the size of a golf ball on the back of my upper thigh and couldn’t sit for nine hours. Nine bloody hours. And, I’ve used the Topical Chemotherapy several times. This burns the cancerous (and pre-cancerous) cells off your body over a course of weeks. That’s an unpleasant experience. For many weeks the growths crack, ooze, bleed, itch, and sting – and you walk around looking disgusting. I have recently been told that I am to continue to use the Topical Chemotherapy – as a preventative measure. I’m basically to rub it across areas of my body that have thus far been affected by skin cancer. Do this once or twice a week. Forever? Who knows. The only thing I do know is that the days of my youth that were spent with baby oil glistening on my body to lure in the sun(burn) were the cause of this, as were the days I spent in those damn tanning beds. I will always need to return for check-ups. The longest I can go is 6 months.

If I ever see the bitch who told me I should totally try tanning beds again, I’m totally going to flash her my hideously scarred body…

Wear sunscreen. Avoid going in the sun during peak hours. Get yourself to the dermatologist for regular check-ups. And for God’s sake, use self-tanning creams. They’re the healthier option. Be good to your skin, poppets, or you’ll end up looking like this.

The Cougher – Or – How to Annoy & Infect Other Diners

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It’s turned into an annual thing for me and my friends Annie and Martina to go to a 5-star restaurant for Restaurant Week. We look forward to this. Seldom would we choose to eat at a 5-star restaurant when we go out for our girlie meals unless it’s a special occasion. This year it was no different.

We chose the place we’d wanted to go last year but couldn’t get reservations. None of us had ever eaten there and we were quite excited as we prepared for the night out. This is an elegant and well-established place in San Diego. As such, it calls for proper attire. It also calls for a certain level of decorum. Now, I haven’t ranted on here for awhile but clearly some things need to be spelled out to the general public.

For instance, whether you go on their website or not, most people know dinner at a 5-star calls for proper attire. Proper attire means proper attire. One assumes the basic principles of dressing are understood. You wouldn’t, say, dress for dinner in something you’d wear to a ballgame, right? I wore a velvet skirt with a few sequins here and there, and I carried The Prada, which seldom makes an appearance because I’m afraid something will spill on it. This was quite an event, after all.

In addition, once in the establishment, rules of decorum at the table should also be followed. Presumably people surrounding you at a 5-star restaurant weren’t raised with cattle inside of a barn. They know how to behave, yes?

No.

We were quietly enjoying our meal (and the sensational views) when the table to the west of us was seated. I took immediate notice because they hadn’t dressed for dinner. They dressed for, say, a Padres game or a backyard barbecue. This annoyed me because this restaurant was the special occasion place my mom used to come on dates (for dinner and dancing!) in the ’70s. I’m old-fashioned. It grated on me to see them in their blue jeans and tennis shoes in a place with such a fine pedigree.

As the meal wore on, I tried to not pay much attention to them. Annie, however, was given no choice. Remember when I assumed they weren’t raised in a barn? Well, never assume… The woman at the table was seated with two men. Her back was to Annie’s right elbow. Yet for some reason she would whip around and hack and sputter on my dear friend every few minutes. Apparently she had a cough…

The Cougher found nothing amiss with her behavior. In fact, towards the end of our meal The Cougher’s hacks were becoming more frequent. Annie and Martina had discussed it across the table and I am certain The Cougher or her companions heard their dissatisfaction with her conduct. At one point, as I was already gaping, The Cougher whipped around, hacked into the side of Annie’s face and then grinned over at me, admiring her handiwork. Then she ogled our now tainted desserts.

The three of us began hissing like cats in a bag. The Cougher seemed to find this even more fascinating because she kicked up her coughs a notch. The Hillbilly directly in front of me could sense our irritation but did nothing to dissuade this creature from continuing to turn her head on our party to hack.

Had we not been settling the bill right then, I think one of us would have said something to our delightful server. I’m horrified to think that The Cougher couldn’t figure it out on her own – or she figured it out and decided to be a bitch. Either way, in polite society, one covers their mouth when coughing – regardless of the location. We could have been at a ballgame and I’d still be ranting. Cover your damn mouth!

My mom (hardcore German) would have been appalled. She’d likely have leaned over and said, “Oh, so you have a cough? I see you’ve a napkin on your lap. Why not make use of that, tilt your head down and cough into it?” That would have been the ladylike thing to do. It is what most people afflicted with a chest cold would do. Instead this tart found nothing wrong with craning about and coughing like a demented barn owl hacking up rat bones.

We didn’t let it spoil our mood. We rose above her tacky behavior and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening. So far none of us have gotten sick.

Point being, dear readers, when you’re out, please attempt to be polite to those around you. It’s what separates us from the monkeys at the zoo who throw their own feces…