Monday, June 9, 2008


I have been painting


I am headed to Scottsdale, Arizona for a week so we will see what that brings!

to benefit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

A Plug for the GULF COAST

I have to say,
the more I travel
and the more coastal sand I put my toes into,
the more I realize what a treasure we have here in the Panhandle of the
Gulf Coast.

Chad and I took the kids to Destin, Florida.
Nowhere, not the coasts of Italy, of the French Riviera, Costa Rica...
California (Newport Beach is where I was born), even MIAMI BEACH sand does not rival what we have here
NOWHERE...compares to the crystal blue ocean and powder white fluffy sand of Destin.

And a bit West is Gulf Shores, where I can walk the beach and not pass one person in the winter and might have a few dozen pass by my deck as I soak in the sun to the sound of the crashing waves, fly my kite, let a dog run freely.

Those are things you certainly can't do on those "other beaches".

As gas prices rise, we count our blessings, that we are only hours to the most beautiful shores in the world.

As the sun was setting, a couple said their vows in front of a few dozen close friends and family.


Ok...I have to say, I have been a fan of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo for YEARS...and served on the Board of Directors when we thought we would have to close the doors,
but this weekend...I got to do the all-time coolest thing!

I took my children "behind the scenes" to see a baby monkey and three tigers who are three weeks old.

It was the most amazing thing to hold something so WILD and so gentle.

This zoo will be featured in an upcoming article for the magazine, Southern Beauty, as I write about the lady who has held it all together, Patti Hall.

She and her crew were featured on "The Little Zoo That Could" on Animal Planet and will be moving the zoo they had to evacuate THREE times in two years soon to higher ground.

If you want to support an animal or visit the 400 or so they have there, including spending a few mintues with some wild babies, visit Gulf Shores, Alabama, right off 59 South and tell Patti I sent you. She also LOVES fan mail!

It will be a memory you will never forget!

Sunday, June 1, 2008


This year I wrote a story about a woman in Southern Beauty Magazine who has had over 100 children through her home as a foster parent.

I have always been fascinated with foster children, perhaps because I, at age one, was "adopted" by my "daddy" who raised me. (I never got to know my father...who was from the small town where my mom grew up...and they divorced when I was one...he remained in California where I was born (Newport Beach) and she moved back here where she married my "daddy")

My mother was adopted...from an orphanage within our state...and her mother AND sister were both adopted from Chicago, IL. So there has always been some fascination with adoption and foster care for me, although I can't say adopting more children of my own has been an urgent calling.

However, that interest and love has been fulfilled in my writing the inspirational tale of Beverly and her "children" and has become a quarterly activity I do with my children, to gather things for these children and to provide them with whatever we can, when we can.

God plants seeds in our hearts...there are some people who can't see a dog on tv without thinking about finding ways to save them all...I like animals and all, but that is NOT mine.....

We recently had an opportunity, through our church to open our home to two college students. These boys moved in with us in September and moved out in May. They were mentors for my three children. The week after they left at 4 am to leave for a mission's trip in China (they are still the midst of the earthquakes), my three year old daughter kept asking...
"where is Ron? Where is Chadwick?)
They had their own room where the girls playroom used to my son's end of the house. They had their own kitchen and "den area". Since they have been gone, we have redecorated...with disco circles and chalk paint in the playroom and 50's style kitchen so the girls can once again play "restaurant".

But for nearly a year, these boys taught us so much about God. They are training to be pastors. They were big brothers to my son, they played music together, we had a songwriting group that came here every Monday night. We created seven songs together that we are working on getting recorded, if only for ourselves.

We had family night on Tuesdays, we would eat around the table, Chad usually cooks...he loves to cook AND grocery did I do SOMETHING RIGHT...he surely has spoiled me...I love to cook but I despise the grocery store...

When I lived in Montgomery...I got delchamps delivery...and a cab driver would bring my groceries INTO MY KITCHEN AND PUT THEM ON THE WHERE is this service in Bham?

Anyway...back on track...

These boys put their heart and soul into GIVING their lives to God.
They left at 6...I might hear them in the kitchen grabbing a pop tart or packing a lunch...and then they wouldn't come home til 9...
except on family night...and sometimes on Mondays which was supposed to be "free day" but they always seemed to have something to do.

we played cards..went bowling...played games....swam...cooked out....went to their pool parties that families or the church would throw...we saw them at church on Wed. and Sundays...but most of the time they were fully involved in their training.

They took a trip to Mexico in the Spring. We got to see the skits they do for the children in an orphanage there. In their one year of life here they must have affected the lives of hundreds of people.

Ron...everyone in our church knows RON...out naively on fire for God...with the child-like spirit God talks about...eagar to learn and do...he's also a handy fix it person...when he is around...a talker...a talker...a talker...

And Chadwick...the polar opposite...easy going, quiet, with such a gentle spirit..steady wins the race...when he speaks...he means it...otherwise, he is sizing everything up. He is 19...straight out of high school and the 24/7 director laughed when he said he was "putting those two together".
They were so opposite...but became incredible friends...

These kids climbed mountains, biked, hiked, survived on bugs and ate more pizza in a year than I did at Bama Bino's in College (did I spell that right?)

Right now they are leading 122 student missionaries with our church (12,000) members this summer in China. They were the first 21 to go to get ready for the 60 youth that are leaving this week, age 14-25.

Read about it at
Greg Garrison wrote a story about it on May 31. (link)

I have been called to court by my ex husband and his wife (who happen to be my ex husband and my husband's ex wife...yeah, think about that for a moment) twice over our choice to follow our hearts and to open our home, as God asks us to do...
and we have had NOTHING BUT BLESSINGS for doing so. One judge in Baldwin County got furious and threw it out...the other is pending in June....where they are using ad lidem because according to their filings..two "teenage boys" live here which has NOTHING to do with this situation as it is used typically for "abuse" (which they stated in depositions Friday that they never alledged ABUSE)...not to mention that the boys have moved out. My children were actually going to go to court to stand up for these boys against their father and step mother at their own choice...they never had to.

My children are on fire for God...they are some of the most incredible people I know...and I am so proud of their dedication to do and be MORE than the "world".

We don't plan to have another student this year..unless God gives us a hint that we need to...but perhaps when we can build a guest house...we will not hesitate...

When I moved into this home as a single mom...before I knew what it would become (and it's not big...just full of love) I promised God that it was HIS...that whatever I received, I would give back more..because frankly, with the support I had from my ex..there was no way I should have ever been able to live here. And then I married and we have a daughter...and he has the same values and beliefs...that what we have we are to give...and so we do..
Mondays the sixth grade bible study is here and at night Christian songwriters gather with my son and I to write songs we plan to record, if just for all of us....and Tuesday, my husband and I lead in freedom incredible lesson that tells us that we are NOT perfect...and that we can live freely knowing that God is leading us each and every day..and Wednesdays, artist come to paint because they know there is more to their gift than making pretty paintings...and Wednesday we go to church as a family..the kids have SWITCH...which is INCREDIBLE! WWW.CHURCHOFTHEHIGHLANDS.COM and on Thursdays, the children dash early to school to their Bible study small groups (or maybe that is Tuesday...I am not really a morning person :) ) Thursday night...(for me and my husband to keep LOVE alive !) And we offer our home for Prayer Force those who pray for our church and our leaders can meet..and teach other how to pray for our city and our nation...(that will go on during the summer with ONE...where our entire church of 12000 will be doing outreach into Birmingham together all at the same time. And on Friday, my son and three other boys lead a bible study before school on their own. (Most of mine are during school hours)
But I have found that even my writing can be a voice that is bigger than my own...

And even as summer rolls around, and our "children" are away..whether at the beach visiting their father for 6 weeks in the summer or the "adopted ones" are in China...
this home has a purpose...

We will miss our "children"...and can't wait to see what they do with their lives...I know their will be HUGE! God is planting some HUGE SEEDS!

Travel in our Own Backyard

Every year since my husband and I married four years ago, we have taken a trip abroad. With four children between us, we plan that "us" time as much as our children plan and dream about Christmas morning.

It was my birthday once again…42. I had spent one of those in Italy and the big 4-0 beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Costa Rica was another of these ventures, although not exactly on our birthdays that fall only a few weeks apart when we were 41, so I was interested to see what my husband had come up with this year, although a massage at home would have been sufficient (but don't tell HIM that).

This year, gas prices, airline costs to areas outside of the U.S. and a three year old that we didn't want to leave for long had us focus on a quick trip to "somewhere different". My husband found a quick flight to Miami on Southwest (and why have I flown ANY other airline?) that didn't cost an arm and a leg. We had no delays and carried-on our luggage, sat where we wanted to, making it an easy trip all the way around.

We stayed at a posh art deco boutique hotel on South Beach. Anyone who wants to feel like the jet set should practice here. Even the taxi drivers have a suave’ skip in their walk. There is glitz and glamour from sun up to sun down. There is also plenty to do for the family which we chalked up in our memories for when we plan our family vacation.

We were amazed that we were in America, as all around us families were shouting for joy on the white sandy beaches in French, in Spanish. With the American dollar sinking lower than that in Europe, it appears that European's vacations have taken an "inexpensive turn" to the west.

Walking down South Beach, the front drives of hotels sport Mazzaratti, Ferraris and Bentley. I added up enough big ticket automobiles to feed a third world country. The art deco district is being revitalized block by block. There is no hint of recession with this group.

We made the pool circuit, from the Ritz Carleton (where we spotted Carlton- not of hotel but of Fresh Prince fame), to our hotel's hidden roof-top pool where a few wore less cloth than I had lining my handbag. The art deco hotel scene was of pure elegance, with a place to duck into for every mood or whim. You could entertain in a posh restaurant, lounge in a flowing white transparent lobby at the Delano that appears to move as the winds enter with the beautiful people that are here to simply look “marvelous”. Private pool cabanas and grassy knolls filled with pillows and lounges are there for an afternoon siesta. There is even a hot tub and hidden pool just off the beach path and beyond a gallery bar lined with sofas that divides the two spaces if you don’t want to be lined on the beach with hundreds of other sunbathers. (Makes me appreciate the fact that in Gulf Shores I can walk the beach in front of my house without passing more than one or two people in an afternoon).

Our favorite area was Little Havana which reminded us of the tucked away streets of Italy, where we first fell in love. Vendors lined the streets along with high ticket boutiques that made shopping lots of fun. We ended up buying two Indian outfits, mine a clever scarf/shirt I could tie up ten ways, but being in Miami, I decided to “step out a bit” and wore it as a dress to dinner. So how appropriate that we dined in an Indian restaurant. (I’ve always wanted to dress like those waitresses!)

On my birthday we found a neighborhood restaurant and requested a table in the courtyard. Bamboo formed the walls of this incredible hideaway and the food was so incredible I wish I could have met the artist/chef as well as the surfer who found the largest lobster I have ever seen in my entire life. Each entrée had a theme, and my cake came out with sparklers, just as I would have expected.

We were not able to stay up late enough, and believe me we tried, to try out the club scene. As we were going to bed, everyone was slipping out into the night to release alter egos. Being forty, I don’t feel we missed much. We had our own parties to attend to at our front table with a glass of wine and a little romance overlooking the street and café below.

We had planned to rent a Harley and make a trip over to Key West but the island vibe here had us content, and we decided to plan that one for another time.

This trip has opened our eyes to the riches that lie between the waters that surround this incredible country that we live in. We don’t have to have the passport our exes refuse to comply to for our children, we can introduce them to the world right here in our own backyard.

The weekend I returned I hit Lowe's and transformed the back yard into a paradise (although I haven't found the bamboo to enclose the pool yet...) but we added curtains beneath the deck, and got a great umbrella and dined on the back deck, overlooking the pool as the lights change from red, to pink to green to blue...
who says you have to go ANYWHERE to enjoy life?


I recently spoke at CAREER DAY at my daughter's school- as an ARTIST.

I had a hard time sticking to the "JUST ARTIST" those who know me may have imagined....

I took tons of props (as you can see in the photo)
starting with my projects from interior design school...
I used to LOVE to do renderings...and perspectives...

I shared that as an artist I can work for designers, creating boards and renderings,
finish schedules, floor plans.... (actually I AM a licensed and registered interior designer but didn't want to get off the subject of artist because there was already an interior designer pointed out by my daughter)

I shared a wallcovering collection I helped create at a company in Jackson, a coloration/design consultant, selecting colorways...working in the actual factory where the wallcoverings are produced....
We would take inspiration from all over the place...
I learned about color...and how color is dictated by a "Color Expert Committee" that selects the color for the year eight years before we ever see it...
but a hint is that we can see it first in fashion about three or four years before it hits the home furnishings market.

I shared with them that when my daughter, now 12, was two, I had the urge to publish two I formed a publishing company, The Oaks Publishing Company, and I wrote, illustrated one...hired an artist to do the other....because of her incredible talent with pastels....and went into the publishing business.

This was way before Print on would I have loved to have known about THAT...writing and publishing a book is about like birthing a child!
Once it is out there...there are about...depending on your "discount frame of mind" and mine was 5000 copies of get that price for EACH down...ha
(publishers are chuckling as they read that knowing EXACTLY what I mean) and not realizing I had to WAREHOUSE, take orders, ship, and do accounting for these babies!

I did this right as the big publishers were emerging and were squashing the small publishers...1997...and as I watched CSPAN's publisher debate, their great idea was to "tap into the gift market audience"....well I was a designer...I was already going to the largest gift market in the Atlanta...
so I got a temporary booth...set up with a friend who painted glasses, vases and pie platters...and took orders in Dec. of 1997 and with the help of market began filling orders for over 1000 of the books and prints that I also sold with the books.
I signed every book, shipped them, and still had about 3000 books by the time I moved to the gulf with my "then husband" after being in Montgomery for 8 years.

At that point, you don't just "move" a publishing company...there is registration with R.R. Bowker, for ISBN...with Barnes and Noble, books a million...all of the address the books resided with me in my families beach house...until about three years ago.... I didn't know what to do with them...they still had my "previous name" what the hurricane didn't destroy, we threw them away...

so Print on an option...I can re-edit the books...and have them available if I want to promote them again. With this option...they are filed in a computer...and as a person orders them, they are shipped and I am paid for the order AFTER they are shipped and printed "on demand". Pretty inventory...although the glossy cover has to be shopped or you end up with a cookie cutter looking product...

Book publishing...even the book publishers are not too sure about how to make a go of it!

I also wrote (this year) Birmingham Sketchbook...someone elses book, their idea, their baby...and I was hired to write the history "for hire" and submitted one painting...even though it is a large publishing house's book...
that book is currently being promoted by ME... at least in Birmingham...
the person who was carrying the ball...jumped ship...
so sometimes...something you love, whether a foster child or your own...
still becomes a BIG endeavor that you have to sink your heart and thought into!

Either way, self published or find a connection that can't be explained...

See it at the link to Birmingham Sketchbook.

Then I talked about how my being an artist, led me to the writing of the the promoter was looking for "artists" I ended up interviewing to be the WRITER.

That book led me to a freelance job writing for Southern Beauty Magazine, which I am currently doing and am working with them on the SOUL Section of the magazine where I write about inspiring women who dig more into their life purpose.

I have interviewed some incredible people, including Marty Dunn (a brain tumor survivor with young children), Beverly Gardner (she and her husband have had over 100 foster care children in their home and have 14 children they have adopted or had),LeAnn Rimes, Emily Proctor and most recently Debbie Reynolds.

This job has been the most rewarding of any I have ever had, as it is fulfilling something inside me that helps bring together all of my core interests and so far with EACH and every interview, there is something that is directly reflective in my life at that time.

I was mocked recently by my ex-husband's lawyer ...because I "don't make enough money" at what I am doing... (mainly because it affects the 380 odd dollars my ex contributes to each of his children each month and am asking him to contribute more)
I tell them and I explained to the children "you are living in a community where there is 100% parental participation...fathers and in this community because the schools are incredible...that is the most important thing you can do in your life..offer your children a great education and be there for them as they grow up."

I know it is not always easy...when my oldest two were young...I was climbing some "ladder that was against the wrong tree". As I have grown older, and start again with a three year old...I know how awesome, growing up in a small town myself,it is to walk through that door at three and just go play in my room, or jump on the trampoline or play in the creek. Those are memories you don't get in daycare or after school programs.

Being home for my children at 3:00 when they walk in the door, or call on their cell to see if someone can come over, is the biggest gift that I can give them.

I don't have a full time job, I don't drive a fancy car like my fact I select my car by the number of passengers it can hold (but I have NOT been able to do the MINI VAN...I know they have all the tables and cool doors...but I haven't personally been able to go THERE...ha)
but where I am now is my priority...and I want my children to understand that.

I don't know where this path will take me, but I have worn many hats, but they all come back to the artist...

I showed them paintings, and talked about the ways you can sell artwork...
but I also talked about other ways you can use your artistic gifts.
I painted the cover for the Symphony Orchestra Picnic fundraiser invitation, I have designed the last three years of t-shirts for the Hughes-Brinkley Memorial Fun Run at the Emmet O'Neal Library, I painted the mural for both of my children's school plays.
I did not do any of these for "hire", I did them because I CAN and want to.

At the end of each session (and I repeated my speech 6 times) I took the group up to the music room where they each grabbed a paint brush. I showed them how the mural was sketched and with each group, the mural came alive. They all wrote me thank you notes, and the highlight of their day was to put their prints on that mural for the sixth grade play.

Sometimes being an artist is just all about helping others find the artist within themselves.....and that couldn't have paid me ANYTHING to miss THAT.

(mural shown in the basketball photo above)


I haven't written in a while...
Wow the end of another school year has FLOWN!

We wound down with as many "gal parties" for my 12 year old as we could pack in...
a spend the night party....a pool party with "all of the girls", a bible school extra-va-ganZA....three nights with two or three girls from the neighborhood....

And my son....he spent it...playing some guitar...playing video games and watching movies, spending the night out with a buddy....being HAPPY AS A PEACH, A CLAM with time to do just whatever he liked.

What is it about girls that makes them want to "run in packs".
Moms are no different.....

We had our usual "gals birthday dinner" at Highland's here in the Big City of Birmingham in May. (yep...Taurus!)

Some of my friends from Montgomery and my sister had a night at Ginsea (chef from in Birmingham, ALABAMA), full of laughter...the kind that makes your stomach hurt.

I heard Oprah tell an audience once that you extend 7 years to your life by laughing with your girlfriends on a regular basis...when hens get together...there is something that is actually excreted in the brain (endorphin) that extends your life...lowers stress...

I love my girlfriends...and have a few on the coast that I don't see as often as I wish to.

But when I go down to the beach, I give them a call...and we catch up just where we left off...

My girlfriends from Tri Delta at the University of Alabama just spent the reunion at the beach...four full days of laughter....I had another commitment but had a huge chuckle reading the summary my good friend Donne sent out to everyone. It will be etched in stone next year....

Friendship is something we all cherish.

I have the honor with the magazine I write for to interview celebrities and I have found that so many of them go back HOME to be with their friends. They may have one or two where they are, but they all reflect on friends and family that have been with them through thick and thin and these happen to be their "old friends".

I am blessed with old friends, new friends, and so many friends that pray with me and for me each and every day. I have found that the depth of a friendship is not measured in countless hours of "being with each other" but by "countless seconds it takes them to be there when you are in need". They are the ones you drop everything for just to chat about a day that seems too big for them to manage. The ones you know, really know...laugh with, cry with...and at the end of it matter still love each other like family.

Thank goodness those moments of need have been SHORT and FEW in my life, but I sleep well at night knowing that I am blessed with an army of incredible friendships.