The New Normal

During my childhood, our days had a rhythm. There were cast-in-stone days for every single one of our activities. My father worked Monday to Friday from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm. Before driving home, he would call to see if Mom needed anything from the store and if she did, he would pick it up on his way.

Regular shopping could be done Monday to Friday, between 10 am and 6 pm. Special shopping (for items that required trying-on) happened during the one day a week when extended-hours were in place … closing happened at 9:00 pm on Fridays… and if we needed Dad to come along, we went on Saturday, open 10am – 2 pm.

We eight kids went to school from 9 am – 3 pm; all extra-curricular activities and most doctor appointments and the like, happened during the 2 hours after school got out. We were always home by 5 and devoured our dinner at 6pm. Saturday mornings were for chores and we all trooped to Confession after lunch. Saturday nights we watched TV or played games. Sunday… Mass at 8:30 am, of course, a bacon & eggs breakfast prepared by Dad afterwards, and a BIG dinner in the evening. The hours in between were for whatever we wanted to do. Sundays we had our downtime

Such a prescribed, structured way of life seems unthinkable now. We are used to doing what we need or want to do during many different time periods… day or night. But COVID 19 has changed all that hasn’t it?

Finding a “new normal” is what we are challenged to do. As much as I felt hemmed in during my girlhood, I believe a structured and staggered timetable (that would allow the community to take care of all their needs in a socially distanced way) is one viable alternative. What do I mean by this?

For starters, most of those who have been working from home are in no hurry to return full time to the office. The online method is working well; so why can’t it continue? Of course most employers and clients need some real time interaction with the worker bees. This could be scheduled but it does not all need to happen during the same time as everyone else’s appointments. If we could set up our meetings during hours when there are lulls in traffic and public transportation, there would be less vehicle congestion, people making lines and so on. Social distancing would be easier and infection would go down. The same could be done with school; families could have the option of partial school attendance. Some courses are totally adaptable to online delivery. Day care could go back into the hands of family or trusted friends.

Without an inflexible work or school schedule, shopping and other errands or appointments could happen during non-peak periods. People could book store times, and stores could stay open less hours a day. We would gain service-oriented interaction and get rid of the impulse, market-driven shopping culture that is currently in place. And why not go back to having Sunday as “a day of rest”?

Sure, all this would require re-thinking the rhythm of our days. But I think most of us understand by now that the world as we knew it will not come back. There are alternatives and actually once we get ourselves organized, they won’t be hard to take.

Something that will surely go go by the wayside are most huge gatherings, concerts and events. But would it be a bad thing to attend fewer but more intimate get-togethers, shows and congresses? When I think about it, large parties are not my preference anymore. Many sporting events could be pay-per-view. I think players would welcome a saner number of games per season.

For the occasions when we MUST expose ourselves to crowds, we could have a “suit” I plan to purchase two disposable painters’ coveralls that I will wear on my flights from Mexico to Canada. When I leave each airport I will take off my used mask and coveralls and put on fresh ones. I hope by doing this, I won’t be hauling any Coronavirus from one country to another.

*Note to enterprising designers: Why don’t you make up some attractive, more comfortable “sanitary safety suits”? I think they’d sell well…

Every scary circumstance that challenges us now can be resolved if we open up to the idea of doing so.

I have been pouring all my energy into keeping COVID 19 far away, and believe me, I don’t want o get sick. But the pandemic is our reality right now and for the next year or so… at least. The future depends on our inventiveness and willingness to change.

Tell me what you think…

The 10 Day Painting Challenge

During the three months that Jorge and I have been voluntarily isolated, I’ve done a good bit of drawing and painting. It has been my salvation some days, as it has been for many of my friends who paint.

Valerie Pickles is one of them; she is the owner / operator of “The Pickled Onion” in Santa Elena, and like almost all accommodation is Mexico, her place has been closed since early March. She sits down with her paint box and heavy paper every day and has become an accomplished water colourist. She was nominated to participate in a facebook painters’ challenge.

Those who accept the challenge must post a photo of an original piece of their own art, every day for 10 days. They should then nominate another artist to carry on with the challenge… for this Valerie chose me. At first I felt daunted by such an idea, but I did accept and I found the experience to be wonderful. Some of this blog’s followers are not facebook users and a few have asked me to post my 10 facebook art posts on the blog. I am happy to do this and also have printed the intro I wrote for each painting.

Day 1 of 10: I am starting facebook’s 10 day long painters’ challenge by posting a favourite of mine. I used vellum paper placed over a textured board and watercolour paint. The raised pattern on the board showed up in my work, but I quite like the effect. The painting now belongs to my niece.

Day 2 of 10: Today I am posting another portrait. I like to think that much of my painting is inspired by my writing. This piece started out as an attempt to portray the protagonist of my novel, “The Woman Who Wanted the Moon”. And when I finished, I realised that the “inspiration” actually had a very real source. Without meaning to, I had painted my sister-in-law.

Painting number 3 of 10: Today’s painting is a Frida… but with a Modigliani influence… I usually paint in acrylic but this is a water colour… I gave it to my great friend and fellow painter, J.B … who is also an unabashed Frida fan.

Painting number 4 of 10: A lot of of you will be familiar with this Frida. In 2015, I wanted to make a portrait of her but something different… I did not want to paint her full face, but if not, how could I include the emblematic eyebrows? I decided that a tatoo would work… I gifed this painting to my son Carlos.

Painting Number 5 of 10: My teacher, Manuel Ontiveros Chan is an accomplished painter in many mediums. He always stresses the importance of capturing light and reflection. I spent more than 2 months painting this green bottle in front of a stained glass window… When I felt I’d done my best, he asked me to repeat the exercise, but I just couldn’t… I never wanted to see that bottle again. But I should have done what he asked. If I ever do, I wonder if it will take me so long?

Painting number 6 0f 10… “A picture paints a thousand words” , and I use my paintings as well as my writing to tell stories … Whimsical “portraits” of my friends and family members’ much-loved homes are a gift I enjoy giving. I did this one for my brother-in-law on Fathers Day 2018. See? I included the family dog and two cats in the foreground as well as the “big green egg” (Craig’s barbeque) that’s sitting on the porch, waiting to get fired up.

My granddaughter Emma when she was just 2 months old
“The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer

Painting Number 7 of 10. Inspiration for a painting can come from many sources. When my granddaughter was just 2 months old, her dad sent me a photograph he took. Right away I was struck by how her expression mirrored that of the subject in one of my favourite paintings, “The Girl with a Pearl Earring”, by Johannes Vermeer.



IMG_4612 (1)
My portrait of Emma as the “Baby with No Pearl Earring”.

And so I painted Emma as “The Baby with NO Pearl Earring”. I used pastel on cardboard, and so I may redo the painting in acrylic on a proper canvas… one of these days…

Painting Number 8 of 10. Another of my favourite artists is Marc Chagall. His surrealist style in both stained glass and oil painting constantly evolved through his nearly 100 years of life. The piece I am featuring today is my own design but it was inspired by Chagall. As I worked, I realised that the composition of a surrealistic painting is extremely challenging. And in fact, since finishing this one, I have not attempted another. I will though…

Painting Number 9 of 10: Of the many skills needed in painting, capturing light is the most important. My teacher Manuel Ontiveros Chan agrees and he says that reproducing a painting by one of the great masters of art helps to better understand the process. I chose “Palacio Mula”from Claude Monet’s Venice collection. The exercise did help me learn how to build light colour over dark to acheive depth. I donated this piece to an auction at MEL and my good friend, Nancy W. now has it in her house …

Painting Number 10 of 10. Today’s featured painting is one I’ll use on the cover of a children’s book I’m writing. It is the story of a young girl who knows she must be brave to achieve her potential… but she worries she’ll get hurt. Most creative people feel this way about allowing their work to be seen. On one hand we want to share, but we fear that “our babies are not good enough” and we keep them “locked up” for a long time before letting go.

The pandemic causes this same insecurity. The changes being forced upon us are terrifying because we don’t know if we can measure up to what’s being asked of us now… and what we’ll be asked to do in the coming months is anyone’s guess. We have no assurance that the “post-COVID world” will be a good place. Being courageous takes practise… but the more we venture forth, the easier it gets.

I thank all of you who liked my posts and especially those who made comments. Be well, be kind and be creative … this is the only way I know to keep sane in times such as these. I thank Valerie Pickles for nominating me to take the ten day painting challenge, and I in turn nominate my friend and fellow painter, Becky Gebser to carry on for the next ten days.

This morning, I could not stop myself…


This morning, I could not stop myslf…  I read an excellent (make that, THE BEST) description of the Orange Windbag who is the President of the United States of America.  Donald Trump even has the nerve to call himself, “a wartime president”. Churchill must be steaming from his grave!

My utter distaste and distain for this orange menace knows no bounds. If you disagree with me… I regret offending you and I am frightfully sorry for the fact that you have been sucked-in by this parasite who makes Corona virus look benign.

The brilliant author is Nate White, and this is the link to the site where I read the article:

And it begins…

“Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?”

A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul. And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat. He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead. There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.
• You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss. After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid. He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish: ‘My God… what… have… I… created?’ If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.