Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thank you notes

I’ve become a bigger fan of Jimmy Fallon due to nighttime viewing—especially his thank-you notes segment. I wrote a few of my own about my daily artistic existence.
  • Thank you paint –for being colorful and giving my skin different tones every day.
  • Thank you hands- for making my arms have perfect brush-like extensions at the ends.
  • Thank you studio- for housing me and holding up to extreme mood swings and loud music
  • Thank you canvas- for being resilient to the constant pounding of my hands pretending to be brushes
  • Thank you ceiling lights – for not being too bright and keeping my eyes in shape by squinting
  • Thank you 3pm snack – for giving me another reason to check Facebook
  • Thank you Facebook – for letting me have thousands of real friends

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rebirth, restore, resurrect, revival, rebuild, renew, refresh…

I’ve missed writing about stuff and posting photos of what I’m working on in the studio. I’ve written as many “re” words as I can and you get the idea. I’ve been painting my ass off and working on a series called “Womanlike”. This series honors the female complexity. This is not the first painting but it seems appropriate since it’s also a work in progress.

The Beginning

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Journal Pages

I was finally able to sit down with my journal. Here are a few pages that I worked on this weekend with Steely Dan in the background ...


Monday, April 1, 2013

Real Ivory Keys

Peoria, IL. My mother fractionally siphoned off weekly grocery money for the big purchase. In the days of yore it took a long time to pay off a Baldwin Acrosonic spinet—a quality piano with ivory keys. At my wee age of six, I was clueless that 1958 was the last year Baldwin used the same guts as they did for a baby grand. My new French provincial piano with real ivory keys now lived proudly in the family living room.

Mom chauffeured me to a weekly piano lesson at Bradley University where I learned the key of middle C first, followed by the others. Right-hand plunking preceded both hands in unison— the musical baby-step equivalent of reading about Dick and Jane. Mom listened proudly on the worn mahogany bench outside the door, expecting the next piano virtuoso to appear at the end of my half hour.

Later I humbly performed my awkward plunking for Dad who sat beaming at his “little pigeon” and hearing Beethoven. I was proud of my accomplishment of stroking the white and black keys into a short primitive song. My lessons continued.

Over the years and numerous piano teachers, my lessons remained a staple. We moved from Peoria when I was 10, and like “carnies” for every two years thereafter. Finding a new teacher was high on mom’s to-do list. Some were good, some not. A favorite of mine was a cool guy in Columbus, OH who started to teach me jazz. I related to him unlike my other “old lady versions” of teachers. The new sheet music inspired me, and adored this new genre more than any other. He taught me improvisation.  Then we moved. Again. Piano in tow. I was saddled with another old lady. However, with Mrs. Glenn my solos were more accomplished, I mastered classics such as The Toreador Song (Carmen), preformed in recitals, and enjoyed my new skills.

From house to house, move after move, my piano was like another appendage and I couldn’t imagine life without it. In Wheeling WV, I was 16 and my teacher Marlene was not much older. She was fun, but she couldn’t reach me. At that age, I had more interest in hanging with my friends—and boys. I stopped practicing and was merely drove  myself to the weekly drudgery. I decided to stop the lessons despite my mother’s disapproval—the end of my piano education. The piano lived silently in the house until I married and moved out.

I got sole custody. When my daughter was born, I vowed to teach her the keyboard, but life and time won out. Until piano teacher Jim came to the house weekly. However, the lessons were short-lived. Cassie learned the keyboard and to read music but the lessons got lost as we both succumbed to adolescent growing pains. Again, the piano silently lived with us passing it daily without a remorseful glance.

Pittsburgh 1981. The piano was back on the van for another long distance move. I played occasionally on a whim, but most of the time it sat silent and taken for granted. The move in 2003 relocated it to our new home’s lower level where it stayed for nine years.

Early 2013 and moved again. Amazingly, the old girl is still in good condition and every key still plays, but she now lives cramped in my art studio and desperately needs to be tuned. I haven’t played in years but I’m sad at the thought of selling her. She is part of my life history.  And she is worth much more than anyone is willing to pay for a 1958 Baldwin Acrosonic piano with real ivory keys. I could donate her, but the possibility of her living alone, dusty and rotting in a basement is unbearable. I visualize her with a family—in a loving home with a child—eager to learn and to hear music coming from their own small hands plunking out notes. A child dazzling their daddy, who is imagining Beethoven. So until then she will live with me in my studio where at least there is music—even if it’s not coming from those real ivory keys.


Thursday, March 28, 2013


After months of packing, moving, unpacking, organizing, and muddling through new account changes, I'm finally able to get into my blog! Whew! I was sweating bullets for a couple weeks, but I figured out a "work-around" with no help from the techies at Google, or anyone else on those forums! Oh sure, a couple of pseudo-techies thought they had the answer but NOOOOOO! Yours truly figured it out and here I am. And they thought they could keep me out. Ha! Just watch me now!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Maggie Moo Head

September 16 is the start of the Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It’s the start of the Jewish New Year. Part of the preparation is to ask for forgiveness from anyone you may have wronged during the previous year. To whatever extent possible, we want to begin the year with a clean slate – and without anyone harboring a grudge against us. One should also be quick to forgive those who have wronged them. Judaism has common sense principals. Why not forgive those who have wronged us? Why not begin every year with a clean slate? However, I have been recalling something that was a long time ago (very long) to someone who I mistreated. Her name was Margaret.

I was in the fourth grade. (I said it was very long!)  Margaret lived on the other street around the corner from my house and went to the Catholic School. I didn’t know her personally—only through my other friends. She was overweight, and kinda nerdy, not as “hip” as we were, and definitely not as cool. They called her Maggie Moo Head. So we cruelly taunted and teased her as kids can do. I chimed along. “Maggie Moo Head” we would shout when she appeared outside. And we would laugh—at her expense. She stuck out her tongue at us, and that was even funnier. But her feelings had to be hurt. Today it would be classified as bullying. And I knew what it felt like to be the other end of teasing youngsters. Berger was my maiden name which was continually transformed into “cheeseburger” and even worse. It didn’t feel good. But that didn’t stop me as a tormentor. Part of the growing up process, I suppose. To be part of a gang and especially as an only child, friends and acceptance were important to me. Even at the expense of Margaret.

So, here we are now adults. I moved away from Peoria and that neighborhood long ago. I don’t know what happened to those kids way back then. I don’t know what happened to Margaret. I hope she was able to get past the teasing and move on, too. I hope she found love and acceptance. I wish I could apologize for those days of yelling Maggie Moo Head. This happened many years ago yet I am still regretful. I can’t take it back, but I can reflect and learn. I grew up and got to know what it really means to be hurt by others—even those who you love the most—it’s not fun.

Judaism teaches “Be loving to your neighbor as you would yourself.” “Do unto others…” is the Golden Rule. One doesn’t need to practice a religion or even believe in anything to practice being kind. Why wait until the end of a year to ask forgiveness or to forgive? Why wait until we have a slate that needs to be cleaned? If we live by the Golden Rule daily, then it’s just common sense.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Instant Artist!

I had to share this. My new favorite photo app is PhotoArtista Oil. This iPhone app makes you an instant artist!  And it’s easy to master in a few minutes. You can load your photos from your album, or take new ones. It’s not a free app, it cost me a whopping $2.99. And there’s an add-on called Sketch that of course, I had to have. Another $2.99. That's a bargain, right?  Take a look at the photos that I altered in just a few minutes.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Hello, my name is Sydney and I am a lifetime student. This also makes me a lifetime bibliophile.  My library is expansive. In fact, Amazon owes me a thank you letter! IMHO. When the first Kindle came on the market, I was first in line. Ditto with the Kindle Fire. And of course, I still buy hard copies of used books, art, and writing books. How can you not? However, that’s not my true focus here. I want to share how I read a book; or, more accurately, how I “decorate” the pages.

When I am reading I have a highlighter and a pen in hand (or finger on the Kindle screen); I am in “discussion” with the author inside the margins. The pages become adorned with my underlining, asterisks, and highlights to create a kind of personal topography.  The term for this is marginalia. Writing notes in the white space on the page. It helps me to digest and interpret the text and to remember certain words, phrases, and ideas.  It is my form of study and reference. Nerdy, huh? On my Kindle I can highlight and type notes for later printing. The Kindle developers included this function because of me and countless others who also mark up their books. But, it’s nothing new.

For centuries, authors such as Emerson, Keats, Melville, Twain, Poe and Kerouac practiced marginalia. In the 1944 Democratic Review, Edgar Allen Poe said “In getting my books, I have been always solicitous of an ample margin; this not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general.”

The margins of written pages speak to me like a blank canvas. Marginalia changes the meaning of the text is into something even more meaningful. A well-read book is essentially transformed into a whole new art form.

"A child her wayward pencil drew
On margins of her book;
Garlands of flower dancing elves,
Bud, butterfly, and brook,
Lessons undone, and plum forgot,
...Seeking with hand and heart
The teacher whom she learned to love
Before she knew t'was Art. " ~Louisa May Alcott

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Hate Mother's Day

I have hated Mother’s Day for decades. My mother was tough. She wasn’t appreciative. Other mother’s would gush at the mere thought of a child’s gift or card. They would state things like “Don’t buy anything for me!” or, upon opening a gift, “You didn’t have to buy me anything!” Not my mother. She was difficult at best. And I always acknowledged Mother’s Day with a gift, a card, flowers, and then out to dinner we would go. But not before the criticism. Nothing was ever good enough. “Oh, that’s what you bought me, what will I do with that?” or “What kind of a card is that?” were typical responses to me, her only child. I would be crushed and my ego damaged every year on Mother’s Day.

So, I grew to loathe Mother’s Day. I would dread it and then look for a generic card that didn’t gush of love and caring. I didn’t feel it. Not until the later years, when she was well into her eighties. Mom moved away to be with “her family” in Wisconsin. I sent her flowers, cookie bouquets, and cards. But then, I didn’t get the same reaction as in the past. She may have thought it but she did thank me on the obligatory phone call. Then of course told me how she gave the cookies away and that hurt my feelings, too.

At age 91 mom fell and she spent the last years of her life in and out of continuous care facilities and rehab centers. She finally gave up healing and died at 5:32 a.m., Oct. 12, 2011. Two days before her 93rd birthday. My last words to her were “I love you”. And she replied back “I love you”.

This is the first year without my mother on Mother’s Day. That gives me another reason to hate Mother’s Day; because I miss her terribly. I do. I really do.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Mini Rant

Yes. I am working. This was the answer that I gave to my friend last Friday when she asked me what I was doing on Saturday. “I’m working.” “What do you mean, you’re working?” She asked. I told her that I would be at the studio as usual. “Well, she said, “That’s not really working.” “You won’t be going to your (day) job”. I was appalled at her answer and attitude. She continued “You’re making your art, that’s not working, because you’re doing what you want to be doing”. Huh? Yes, that is what I want to do. Yes, it is my passion. Yes, I do happen to make money with my art, but even if I didn’t, I am still working. It’s work that I love. Art is my life’s work and what I was meant to do.

My friend works at a Monday through Friday, 9-5 salaried job. So do I. My weekend “job” is creating art. Gleefully. Since when can’t people love their job? Since when does one have to make money at their job? This country would fall flat without people who volunteer for non-monitorial jobs. Those workers gain genuine benefits—way beyond a paid salary.

Since when is it only a “real” job if you don’t like what you’re doing? Balls. When I was a stay-at-home mom—that was working. When I did all the cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, nursing, clothes washing, ironing, …ing, …ing…ing, with no salary—that was working! And I’m sure my friend would agree with me because back in the day, she did that gig, too.

So, dear friends, please reframe your thinking. When I’m in the studio, I am working. I am not available to talk for hours about nonsense. I am not available to go shopping. Or to meet you for lunch. Comments to me such as “oh you can do that later” or, “that’s not really working” are disrespectful. It makes me think that maybe I’m not living my life like you think I should. I would not even think to suggest that when you are at your 9-5 salaried job you are not working. I would not call you at a whim at all hours during your workday and expect you to drop everything to talk endlessly about who is going to be kicked off “Dancing with the Stars”, or about your adorable and brilliant grandchildren. When I’m at my weekend “job” creating art, please believe me when I tell you that I’m working—passionately.