Wednesday, July 27, 2011

3 New Abstracts!

Aren't abstracts fun! And, unlike how some other people create them, it takes me some time to paint one. First I figure out a color scheme, then a rough composition, then it's texture, texture, texturing. Add some simplification, then texture some more and... voila!

I was in a red mood for these past 3 weeks as I worked on these. I wanted some kind of series feel, so I kept to the same palette. I've been watching so many HGTV shows where the hosts repeat their mantra: "Keep your room neutral!" And then along the neutral walls and behind that neutral couch, they place wildly colorful paintings. This is how I envision these paintings.

"Genesis 24181." Why "Genesis?" Because I was seeing the birth of stars. This is 24"x18", acrylic, with a wrap-around 3/4" edge so you don't have to frame it if you don't want to. All materials are archival, and shipping is free. $540.00


Here's "Genesis 24182." Okay, so I'm not good with painting names. It also is 24x18", acrylic, 3/4" wrap, and all archival. $540, includes shipping.


And here's their sister, "Genesis 18241." It is 18x24", acrylic, 3/4" wrap, and all-archival. $540 with shipping included.

I hope there are homes out there who need a little frantic color and whimsy! Enjoy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

TV's Sexiest (non-dramatic) Men!

I don't watch a lot of series TV, certainly not network shows. But I do sit for hours in front of the more reality kind of shows, as long as they aren't the Big Brother or Are You Smarter Than types.

I love learning. But if there's a sexy man giving a demo, so much the better! Some of the sexiest guys on TV are trying to teach me something. Or sell me something. Other than the number-one slot, my list is in no particular order:

1. Mike Rowe. Pardon me while I fan myself. Mike, of Dirty Jobs and Ford commercials fame, is not only heavenly to look at, but he has a terrific sense of humor, can talk to anyone and make them feel respected and liked, sings opera gloriously, is curious, and will take on any task he has to do, even if he's not keen to do it. This man is the very definition of testosterone focused in a positive direction!

2. Isaiah Mustafa of the Old Spice commercials. I have no idea what else he might do, but he's sheer, unadulterated eye candy, with a voice like melting chocolate.

3. Ben Bailey of Cash Cab (NYC) fame. I've seen his act on Comedy Central as well. He's funny. Who can resist a funny guy who's not only intelligent, but doesn't resort to a stream of shock-value profanity? Classy.

4. Mike Holmes of various HGTV shows. A bit more mature, but this is a man who can handle any construction problem. He knows when to ask for help and whom to call. He seems to care about people. Face it: a man who knows how to get his (ahem) job done better than the others who came before him? Priceless!

5. Dean Winters, Allstate's "Mr. Mayhem." No, I've not followed his dramatic series career but I pay attention to his commercials! Everyone loves a classic Bad Boy. Woof!

6. Jon Stewart, the Most Trusted Man in America and one of our too-few media voices of reason. Sure, he's a little short, but he's handsome, savvy, witty, conversant, brave, and daring. He not only knows how to hire a great writing staff, but is proficient in Star Wars and major superheroes. Now if only he could cut down on the profanity...

7. Ahmed Hassan of Yard Crashers. A gorgeous, friendly man who can get things done! You may be entirely too young, but oh, Ahmed, come to my house!!!

So what about you? Whose program or commercials do you watch even if you don't care what they're presenting?

Getting life in focus

Yep, it's time to take a deep breath, center, get down, and get serious about things.

Starting with this post I'm going to keep track of some of my goals through the blog. Y'see, by next year I want to have achieved some pretty great stuff. Get the house clean and organized. Get the yard in shape. Pay off most of my bills so I can breathe and save. Get my home businesses actually selling product in decent quantities. Get some head hair (not face! not face!!!!) back. And lose weight. Lots of it.

I didn't do too well on the bills department in the past three days. I've been charging things out the wazoo. Every now and then, after I think I'm doing so well, I'll hit a phase where I GOTTA buy things. But I really did have to get this stuff: hair done, makeup done, professional picture taken. Okay, maybe the Christmas tree was a luxury, but I said I'd buy one last year and didn't. When the both early and late sales were going, I couldn't find a tree that really interested me. Yesterday QVC had a very nice tree at a very nice price.

So all that means is that I've got to step up sales somehow. Hopefully by the end of this week I'll be in a gallery, and I'll have my Etsy shop really up and running. (Do people really sell things on Etsy?)

I'm not stepping out in the yard much this week, as we seem to be at highest temp levels for the year. I'll mow and water, but probably not much more than that.

Since Obi died I've cleaned out all the kitty stuff, and that has encouraged me to start to make headway through the rest. My goal for this week is to get the kitchen, dining room and living room cleared and maybe even cleaned as well.

I'm working on a number of paintings that will (cross fingers HARD!!!) be hanging somewhere public by the end of the week.

I'm working on my WW book but also starting a final edit of Applesauce and Moonbeams, with hopes of publishing that by the end of August or beginning of September. (September! Already???)

As for weight, I'm going to start with where I am now to track myself. Where I am now is 35 pounds lighter than where I was 3 years ago, my all-time highest weight. But I'm hitting the "zero out" button and putting me at zero now. Updates will show how far I've come from here, and not there.

So look for notations on the bottom of blog posts. If you just see a "-10" that'll mean ten pounds lost since today.

I'll be putting in extra exercise time this week in an attempt to jumpstart the system.

At 40 pounds down, I'll mosey over to Raleigh to check out what Dr. Bosley can do for my hair. I wonder if he needs new paintings for his offices?

Here goes. Geronimo!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Steppin' Out!

My vacation officially begins Monday. Fridays at work are short days. So I decided to make the most of my Friday afternoon and start the vacay off right.

It needed to, because my supervisor had dropped by to ask when it was (which he knew already) and if I'd be staying close in case he needed to call me. I reminded him that there was zero on my schedule for the next week. He keeps doing this, balking whenever I ask for vacation. I have ten weeks saved up. I have definite weeks when there is little or nothing to do. Why the fuss, then, of me taking vacation? I've asked around, and apparently he doesn't do this with others.

Anyway. I got out a credit card and started it smokin'. That's right, I signed up for my Art of the Carolinas classes. They'll be in November, but many classes, especially those on the weekend, sell out quickly. Surprisingly, I didn't sign up for the classes that had originally caught my eye. I got to thinking about things and by golly, chose a few alternates instead. I'll be learning two completely different approaches to still lifes—one in realistic oils and the other in crazy semi-abstract acrylics, going in for more abstract instruction from a very good instructor, and learning a bit of technical/marketing stuff concerning giclées.

And of course I'll need a hotel room for all that, even if it is just down the road in Raleigh. You wouldn't believe how exhausted you can get after frantically painting from 9 AM to 8 PM!

That done, I printed out a movie schedule for Harry Potter. For some reason I printed the times for all local theatres instead of just the one I was targeting. (Good thing!) Next it was off to the comic store to pick up a couple week's worth of comics. Still haven't read the special Wonder Woman issue, but according to just about everyone, it's a real stinker. Only saw 1 good comment about it. Oh boy. :^(

Plenty of time to head to Southpoint, the mammoth mall that I still think of as being new. I had a 3:40 appointment at Penneys for a portrait, so I moseyed around a bit, looking for some place to get makeup done. (I'd had my hair dyed two nights before. Don't want all that gray immortalized. The hair dresser went a little crazy with the red, which was only supposed to be on the very tips.) Because I was really early and didn't think there'd be time to eat before the movie, I got a snack and then visited the Bare Escentuals salon. (Penneys had a hair salon but no makeup.) There I agreed to buy a beginner's kit plus a couple other things. CA-CHING!!!! I told them about my 3:40 appointment; they said no problem.

I arrived late. Still, the photographer was buzzing around in her studio, so I thought it was okay. Even so, she complained about me being late. I asked why she hadn't answered my 2 emailed questions and she said she'd only gotten one. She didn't say why she hadn't answered that one. Anyway, I discovered that Penneys does not grant copyright to the sitter. I can use the shots anywhere but on my books—or to get a print done from Walmart, of course. Well, okay. Whatever. I'll be getting new shots done next year when I'm beautiful, right?

So I sat for the portrait. "Turn to your left, turntoyourrightturnleanforwardturnagainturnturnturnturnturndone!" Damn, what an impersonal sitting! I felt like a cog on an assembly line. No, there was no appointment before mine, nor one after. And it all happened so quickly I wasn't able to make the kind of expressions I had planned. You know, expressions that said, "Hi. I'm just like you. You'd probably like my books. Why don't you buy some right now?"

The photog wasn't pleased AT ALL that I'd brought a coupon with me. I chose the 3 poses that didn't make me puke outright (just wait until next year!) and ordered those. I hurried out, determined to make it to the next Harry P showing so I wouldn't have to wait over an hour. But I stopped to talk to a woman from that floor & carpeting place with the catchy jingle. By then I figured I'd missed the beginning of the movie. Then because it was so warm inside the mall I got a piña colada smoothie—yum! While sucking it down in the car I recalled that I had printouts of movie times for other theatres.

Hm. There were 2 on the way home. One had a new show starting in 20 minutes. If I could find my way back to I-40 quick enough... I did! I drove at a reasonable rate, too. Then we got a highway sign: "Traffic stopped 1/2 mile ahead. Prepare to slow down." Uh oh! But luckily the 15/501 exit was in sight. I took it to get to the Wynnsong 15. Of course the lady 3 people in front of me in the ticket line wanted to ask a million questions of the woman behind the glass. Everyone in line grumbled, but finally she moved on.

By the time I gave the ticket guy inside his stub, it was 4:59 for a 5:00 show. Whew! Took a right at the proper sign, went inside and...

Where was everyone? There were only 7 people there. Was I in the right theatre? Oh no, maybe this was Sarah Palin's Undefeated. Was it playing in this place?

I sat through a dozen commercials (some very old), and then another dozen previews. All the previews concerned white males having an adventure. Some of the males were boys and some were men, but they were all white. One preview seemed to have an auxiliary non-sexual-role girl in it, so I'll keep my eye out for that. (Hugo.)

Then, I'm happy to say, Harry Potter began. Wow! This is what they made the movies for! I was amazed by the tight yet poetical dialogue, and thought everyone gave a top-notch performance. The sets, costumes, makeup and effects were tremendous. The music was a little, well, John Williams-y in a saccharine way in tiny spots (he didn't do the original music for this film, but they were picking up on his theme), but it only detracted from things twice and only for moments each.

I'd brought a pile of Kleenex in because it was such a hot day and I was desperately trying to sweat my makeup off. HP7b turned out to be a three-Kleenex movie. At one point I was afraid I'd sob out loud—all too embarrassing!—but the lady behind me managed to do that first, which kept me in line. She was also the one who softly voiced for all of us, "Don't go," during the King's Cross white-out scene. (No spoilers here!)

Speaking of spoilers, someone on FB had mentioned they didn't understand the mirror shard from the last movie, and when Daniel Radcliffe appeared on The Daily Show last week, someone asked him why the mirror shard wasn't explained, when it was in the book.

All that made me look up just the mirror shard on Wiki and read about what I'd forgotten: Dumbledore's not-so-wise youth and his family problems. Thus I was able to keep up with things when this movie zipped through all that. Still, glad to see it included.

So HP7b gets a hearty recommendation from me! I can't imagine anyone not familiar with the series trying to see it, though. There was a kid in front of me, clearly a HP fan, who left to go to the bathroom and came back. "What happened, Mom?" he asked.

"The girl did something," she replied, after Hermione had dealt with the one horcrux.

Poor Mom, stuck in such a textured movie and not knowing where she was!

But it was a lovely, lovely movie and a completely fabulous ending to the series and so much more interesting than the Lord of the Rings movies. With them it was just fight fight fight, fight some more, fight fight. Insert bits with Frodo and Samwise here and there to keep everyone awake.

With HP there was drama and endings and sweetness and struggle and decisions and "Not my daughter, you bitch!" Bloody marvelous!

Which reminds me: time for a singalong!!!!!!

Afterward I said what the heck and got two slices of pepperoni pizza to go, with no salad in sight.

A great way to begin a vacation. Hope most of my days off are as productive!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Bold New Direction!

So I've been cat-less now for over a week. It's strange. I look forward to coming home and seeing Obi again, and then remember he's not there. Every now and then I think, "I need to check on Obi," or "time to give the cats their dinner," and then remember.

Heck, I'm still thinking in terms of plural cats, and Bran passed away last Thanksgiving! Still, whenever I hear a noise in the back of the house I think, "It's just Bran," and then look around to see where Obi would be, which would probably be the front of the house.

I know both kitties are doing fine where they are and I'm not really that blue about my sitch. It's just the getting used to things and getting past the "they're just outside and will be back soon" phase.

Like I'm trying to learn a new habit of not putting my dishes on the floor so that the cats can have a chance to deal with any morsels that might remain. I keep forgetting to avoid the cat food aisle at Food Lion.

It's being helped by the fact that sometime around last Monday afternoon I got the impression that the universe had placed one of those huge Punctuation Marks on my life.

Picture your life as railroad being laid as you live it. Ka-WHAM, and another spike is struck, pinning a length of track in place. Last Monday ka-WHAM, and a spike was struck securing the final bits of the last length, but acting like a hinge for a new length.

It swings around. It can go in any direction I want it to. There are new vistas to be explored, new possibilities.

To put it in Wonder Woman terms, I am now able to take a Bold New Direction!

Lately the universe has been leaving me clues here and there about focusing my life. Really, the subject pops up every place I look.

As a proper Sagittarian I have lots of big interests. But I tend to flit, and adult attention deficiency whatever doesn't help the matter. I'll be checking on something in Room A to do in Room B, then say, "Oh yeah, that needs to go in Room C," and then in Room C I spot a project I'd forgotten and start working on it, completely neglecting Room B's project, and then afterwards I'll wonder what the heck I had started out to do, and then try to figure where the time went.

Focus, focus, focus.

I need to make sure always to have daily goals lists and combine them with weekly and monthly goals (with year goals too, natch). These can really keep one on track, especially if one lists the importance of each goal as to A, B or C. You do A goals first, no matter how juicy those C goals are.

The problem is to correctly assign your letters. Is this something that absolutely needs to be done because it's expected and this is what normal people do and really, you're not normal or right if you don't do it? Or does it need to be done because (ahem) THIS IS WHY YOU CHOSE THIS LIFE TO BEGIN WITH????

I'm trying to ask myself: What if I were on my death bed, looking back at my life? What would I have been so glad I did today? What just wasted my time or diverted my attention from the important things?

Also death bed question: What's the direction I regretted taking? What's the direction that was SUCH a great idea to take?

Why not take that direction NOW? Why waste my time on the unimportant? What part of my life should I be developing or attending to? What is my gift to the world? When will I work on that gift and giving it?

Now's the time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Obiwan Strickland: 1993-2011

It was 1993, and I'd just rescued a tiny kitten from the middle of a highway. I never put up "found" signs because I wanted to keep her so much (and there were never any "lost kitten" signs). Katie was A-OK, but she was faced with a house that had five older cats, none of whom were particularly pleased at her presence.

So I went down to the animal shelter and a kitten stood in his cage, trying to get my attention. He was cute as a little button! I filled out the paperwork, plunked down my money, and a couple days later was able to take him home.

My parents were appalled that I would bring the herd back up to 7 cats, but it felt right. I debated whether to give my latest a unique name or a fannish name. I played with a combination of the two: Opie + Obiwan = Opiewan. But in the end I decided on "Obiwan." It's a grand old name!

Katie and Obi played together as kittens and young cats, but it became clear that Katie had a mind of her own and liked a more solo life. When the herd number dipped after a couple years, I got two more kittens: Molly and Bran-Bran. Both absolutely adored Obi and attached themselves to him, though Molly didn't like Bran much. (He'd bullied her when she was very young.)

Molly's eyes would shine whenever she was able to get Obi to herself. He abided her. But his best and inseparable buddy was Bran. Obi would take the easy road in life (perhaps in part due to him being on the heavy side, though maybe the sitch was vice-versa), and Bran would buzz around him until they both got tired and napped nose to nose.

Someone once told me about ragdoll cats, the felines who adore being held and petted above all else. While not that breed, that was what Obi was. He loved being petted. He spent much of his later years curled up on my left side whenever I sat down, happily getting his ears or chin or belly rubbed.

He also loved finding sunny spots, then shady spots, and supervising the yard and me. He was very frightened of strangers, which made finding a cat sitter almost impossible. He often needed meds twice a day, but if a sitter showed up, he'd take off for the deep woods and wouldn't come back until I was home and Stranger was gone. So I had to board him at the vets.

He loved to climb. I have a double-mirror door in my bedroom with a ledge above it. Often I'd find him and Molly up there, surveying the bedroom. The ledge required a good 5-foot jump for one section of the climb. Even when Obi had been diagnosed with severe arthritis, I'd often come home to find him on top of the kitchen cabinets, from where he could watch a good bit of the house.

Both Katie and Obi loved toys, but Obi loved them most of all the cats. Here you see him with Mr. Lion, a favorite. Obi would choose the middle of the night for his fiercest hunts, and come into the bedroom hoooling that he was the Mighty Hunter and had returned with prey. Then he'd jump or climb the cat steps to the bed and sleep with the toy tucked close. Often he'd drop the toy halfway up the steps and then crawl into bed. Unfortunately for Mr. Lion (or so I believe), Obi dropped the toy into the trash can beside the steps, and Mr. Lion went to the dump.

He knew what "Do you wanna go out?" meant. He'd be dozing in bed and I'd ask him, and his ears would perk up. Once after asking him with him apparently deciding to stay on the bed, I started to make a side trip before going out myself. I had to turn around because Obi was galloping hell-bent through the studio. He skidded to a stop next to the back door. (Refusing of course to use the kitty door next to it, because I would be going out and thus he'd be using the hooman door, the door of choice.) He looked at me accusingly. "You SAID you were going out!" I ditched the side trip and we both went out for a stroll.

One New Year's Eve Obi and Bran went outside for a before-bed stroll. After a while I heard dog barking and discovered the neighbor's dog had treed both right off my front porch. After the dog was called back home, Bran came down, but Obi stayed up that tree until daybreak.

Maybe five years ago the doctors discovered that Obi had a heart condition. He went on meds and I steeled myself to lose him early. But he hung in there. On occasion he had to go in for enemas, as he also had an intestinal condition. He had pretty bad arthritis from his hips down, but it never seemed to bother him. He was always jumping here and climbing there. Three years ago I took him in for his annual tooth cleaning and, after viewing his bloodwork, the vet said nope. Again I steeled myself. Gum disease easily leads to heart attacks. On top of all this, he was diagnosed with kidney disease.

Obi also had amazing sneezing fits. Think of the hugest sneeze you ever had, and then do it about 15 times in succession. Wait a minute, then repeat. Repeat once more. That was him. I told the vet I thought it had to be allergies, but she said allergies didn't appear as sneezing in cats. (Though lots and LOTS of Internet sites say she's wrong.) Last spring during the height of pollen season I wondered if Obi would die of sneezing. One time he did it in front of the vet and she swore in surprise! She said we could take X-rays of his nose and cited a cat who'd had a piece of grass stuck in his nose for years. Then she remembered that Obi was under a "no anesthesia" rule and said that cat's nasal passages were so tiny we'd probably not be able to see anything anyway.

He was also somewhat deaf these past three years or so. He could hear certain frequencies. Loud TV bothered him a bit, but if someone whistled or blew a horn, he was all, "What's that? Where'd that come from?" But when I sang to him he seemed to hear me, and when I spoke he watched me. Maybe he was reading lips? I'd always thought his eyesight wasn't the best—thus his shyness around strangers, as if he couldn't figure out what that blob was—but often he'd gaze out the window, keenly watching something in the distance (or up close) that was interesting. Next life, Obi: learn English! Communicate more clearly!

The rest of the herd thinned until it was just Bran and Obi, the inseparable. I constantly worried about how the younger Bran would take it when Obi died. Obi was Bran's hero and buddy. But Bran suddenly died and Obi was left alone.

The shock was somewhat lessened when Kitteh (Dexter) came to stay for a few weeks and recover from surgery while I found him a home. Obi hated Kitteh! Eventually he got to the point where he didn't go into a hissing fit, but man, was he happy when Kitteh went away! I caught him smirking several times.

Then Obi seemed to notice that he was the only cat left. By now his kidney condition had gotten him to normal weight, but he continued to lose pounds. He hit his 18th birthday and grew more and more sedentary—if that were possible.

Last night he was restless. His back legs, which had become more cumbersome over the past month, were seriously lacking in strength. He threw up a couple times and finally made four "I'm not feeling good" noises. He didn't have to suffer long. The vets were efficient and kind.

Now, after Bran died, he came back to me to tell me that he'd sent Kitteh to me because they knew I'd fix him up and find him the home he was supposed to have. But Bran also told me that he was sticking around because it wouldn't be long before Obi passed, and oh boy, then they were going to have some fun!

So when I tried to peek at the ether last night I expected to see Bran and Obi frolicking. Instead I saw a large group of very happy kitty angels, jumping around in flight and having one sweet time being together again.

Obi, my Pookie Boo-Boo buddy, I'm so proud and glad that you chose me to be your mama in this lifetime! May you and all your kitty friends have splendid lives to come!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lifestyles of the Middle Class but Still Fabulous

Where did the years go? I thought that once I'd reached 10 years in my current home, things would be perfect. I'd have everything done that I wanted, and maybe it might be time to move on to a new project.

But a few months ago I realized that I'd moved here in 1999. It was only last year that I'd begun making any big changes, and those were in the yard.

Well, the yard's getting there. The big-ticket item that remains is to re-do the pond and while I'm doing that, give it a waterfall.

But the inside of the house...

My previous (and first) home was custom-built by a supposedly award-winning guy who had some time on his hands. My loan was with Farmer's Home Admin. (no, I'm not a farmer), and they had fairly stringent requirements. So no, I couldn't get that dome home I'd wanted. But yes, they did give me an additional mini-loan when they discovered how Award Guy had finished my floors. He'd left them plywood. With the lettering still on it. FmHA allowed me to get carpet and vinyl to cover it up.

Still, the home wasn't the greatest layout. It was difficult to place anything in it since there were load-bearing columns in the middle of the open plan. I reworked it a bit, replaced the cheap but huge windows (it was passive solar) that fogged up almost upon arrival, never got the floors fixed, which had definite dips in them. (Award Guy swore to FmHA that snow had never been allowed to sit on the floors, though I had lots of pictures that showed week-old snowpiles there.)

But I put in some marvelous ponds, a fountain and a large waterfall. The front entry was covered by a huge, magnificent trellis that I did all by myself, complemented by a multi-level, small deck (also done by moi). The cats adored it and it looked great with the climbing roses. My bed had a skylight right over it where I could watch the moon and stars. And before the Jerk Neighbors moved in upstream and put in their lake, a lovely, magical stream burbled through the property.

But I wanted a one-story place for my knee, somewhere that had a better flow inside. I started looking around and soon it became apparent that the only acceptable house I'd be able to afford would be a double-wide. At long last I found one with a nice layout.

Okay, so I had them install it backwards. It didn't make sense to me to have visitors arrive in the more private area of the home. Nor was it wise to have the master bedroom/bath overlooking the neighbor's driveway, rather than looking out to the vacant wooded lot next door. The place was put in at an angle, so I could sit on the front porch and admire that lot, as well as my own front yard/forest.

I had a new front door installed in a blank wall (it's pencilled in on the plan above) and a porch built outside it. The "Sweet Dreams" bedroom eventually became my comic book library/guest room (murphy bed)/cat lookout station/Brad Pitt shrine/art business storage center. Getting rid of the bed has helped.

"Dream Land" bedroom is now my writing office, though it also holds an art flat file. The closet is now bursting with finished paintings.

The Living Room is my studio, with a library wall, a shelf for plants that have to be brought in over the winter (anyone want a free amaryllis?), and minor garden stuff.

The guest bath has a shelving unit with emergency supplies, since it's the only inner room I have. That unit sits in the bathtub. The rest of the space is kitty litter space, of which there's barely enough room to keep the boxes. There's just enough square footage left over that I can stick a foot inside and use the sink to clean my brushes.

But despite knowing that many Japanese people have to cram their entire family into a 400-square-foot apartment, I found that this single person (even with 7 cats) (maximum number) felt cramped with 1600.

Okay, I'm a bit of a hoarder. I'm a victim of CHAOS. It didn't help that every time I got the urge to organize and throw out, the cats would see the organized stacks of material and jump in, scattering things everywhere.

But I'm down to my last cat and the vet confirms that Obi probably won't live to see August. When he takes off to gambol through Heaven (Bran-Bran says he's waiting for him so they can really have fun) it'll be time for some serious restructuring of the Mess.

And also of other things. I desperately need good windows, since NC law allows manufactured homes to get away with double storm windows instead of real ones. I want windows that look nice and that you can open from the top, so as to get fresh air even when it rains.

How I need new floors! Seven cats, twelve years, and old carpets do not make for good current conditions. Plus, the vinyl floor I installed in the studio—though done to package directions—didn't work and needs to be replaced. (Though it looks REAL good in places.)

Why did Oakwood put the hot water heater in the middle of a wall? It's had to be replaced once already. I want one of those instant heaters that can be installed somewhere people can get to it for repair. And next to it I need a whole-house water filtration system. The water here, unlike my sparkling, tasty water at the old place, is reddish brown. Who knows what it's been rotting out?

I need a larger studio. I need a home gym so the treadmill won't take up a quarter of the family room. I need the fireplace replaced so it actually works. I need that hole in the wall where the old analog TV had been built in, repaired and de-angled. I need a porch overhang so that when it pours down rain I don't have to stand in the drench coming off the roof to get the front door open. I want a place where UPS can leave packages so they'll be dry. I want a proper library, though I promise I will seriously cull my books! And I need lots and lots of storage for the art business.

I want, I want, I want. I figure it'll only cost about, oh, $70 thousand max. One winning NC lottery ticket should do it. Just one.

In the meantime I shall begin with small steps. First that hole in the wall is going to be fixed, and the wall expansion joints in the front of the house will be disappeared. New floors for that section.

Oh, and did I mention that my La-Z-Boy—the only chair in the family room—broke the other day? And that the dining table needs replacement?

How much are those lottery tickets anyway?

Do others have these kind of home renovation plans? How long have you been in your house? Do you want to do some major reno, or is it perfect the way it is? If you rent, how do you stand not customizing your home? (I can't imagine not doing so. The first thing I've done with both houses is to cut a cat-sized hole in a wall the first day I was there so as to install a kitty door. I doubt a landlord would look kindly upon such.)