Poem – What gets you up?

What gets you up?
You have to have a reason
for getting up in the morning
and for making it
through the day.

Children? Work? Art?

What brings you joy? Do that.
What does the world need? Do that.

Can you get paid for it? Even better.

But even if you can’t,
do it anyway,
because it will feed your soul
and that kind of nourishment
can’t be bought
in a store.

There is no nutritional supplement
for a soul deficiency,
like there is for scurvy.

Rumi says: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

Buechner says: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Poem – This is not a Christmas present

not a present

This is not a Christmas present.
This is hatefulness.
This is the exact opposite
of a present at all,
much less one celebrating
the birth of Jesus.
This is pure aggressiveness.
There is nothing passive about it.
The label is superfluous.
It is quite obvious
what he thinks
about his sister
from how he has packaged
his “gift”.

If this were given to me,
I might set it on fire right in front of him.
I might take it outside first.
I might put it under a steamroller.
I might shoot it with my revolver.
I might tie lead weights to it
and throw it into Percy Priest Lake.

Under no circumstances would I open it.
It doesn’t matter what is inside.
Gold bars?
Enough money
to pay off my mortgage?
The key
to my dream art studio?
A contract
for a personal chef and gardener?

No gift is worth this.
Sure, it wouldn’t take long
to cut through these cable ties.
Maybe an hour.
Maybe a few pairs of scissors
would get destroyed
in the process.
That isn’t the point.

My friend,
I’m telling you
this truth:
don’t take any “gift”
that is given
with this much hostility.
It isn’t worth it.
Walk away from it,
and that person.

That is the best present
you can give

“Travel by Stamps” is now available!

cover image

So apparently I like making books.

“Travel by Stamps” is a picture book using stamps for the illustrations. I wrote and assembled the story in a tiny travel journal first. Then I scanned the stamps and typed up the words to the story, changing the layout to suit the new format of a printed work.

This was created for fun and as an homage to art journalists. I can’t sketch very well yet, but I’m learning quite a bit about layout and design for when I do.

This is available in print and e-book from Amazon. It is only 42 pages, but because it is full color it is more expensive than would be expected for a book that size.


Chanukah books for children

These are very good picture books for children that are about Chanukah. I will add to this list as I find more.

Simon and the bear: a Hanukkah story by Eric A Kimmel

The menorah story by Mark H. Podwal

Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel

The Count’s Hanukkah Countdown (from Shalom Sesame) by Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer

Christmas books for children

These are all very good picture books for children that are about Christmas. I will add to this list as I find more.

Babushka by Sandra Ann Horn
The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats
A song in Bethlehem by Marni McGee
Why Christmas trees aren’t perfect by Richard H. Schneider
Eloise at Christmastime by Kay Thompson

Specifically featuring the Magi –

The Stone: a Persian Legend of the Magi by Dianne Hofmeyr
The Fourth King: The story of the other wise man by Ted Sieger
The Fourth Wise Man (retold by Susan Summers, based on the story by Henry Van Dyke)
Small Camel Follows the Star by Rachel W.N. Brown

Bear books for children

These are all very good picture books for children that feature bears. I will add to this list as I find more.

Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough

A Library Book for Bear by Bonny Becker

The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud

Otto the Book Bear By Katie Cleminson

Don’t Worry Bear by Greg Foley

The Winter Visitors by Karel Hayes

Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat by Ayano Imai

Hugless Dougless by David Melling

Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

Monster books for children

These are all very good picture books for children that feature monsters. I will add to this list as I find more.

Love Monster by Rachel Bright

Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Kaplan

The Monster’s Monster by Patrick McDonnell

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott

Some Monsters are Different by David Milgrim

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex

Wanda’s Monster by Eileen Spinelli

Where is Joseph?

Where is Joseph?

He’s talked to, and about, but he never talks. And then later he is completely absent.

Early on in the story, an angel tells him in a dream to not divorce Mary. He acts, but says nothing.

“But after he had decided what he was going to do, an angel appeared to him in a dream saying ‘Joseph, son of David, don’t be concerned about taking Mary as your wife, because the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you shall name him Jesus (meaning ‘Yahweh saves’) because he will free people from their sins.’” (MT 1:20-21, in “The Nativity”)

Later, another angel speaks to him, and he is again silent.

“The Magi left, and an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel said ‘Get up! Flee to Egypt with the baby and his mother and stay there until I tell you it is safe to return. Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.’ That very night he got up, and taking Mary and the child, escaped to Egypt. They stayed there until King Herod died. This fulfilled the prophecy of Hosea who said: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (MT 2:13-15, “The flight into Egypt”)

Yet again, an angel tells him what to do and he acts, but does not say anything. In this story, he is warned in two different dreams.

“Herod died, and an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph while he was in Egypt, saying ‘Get up! Take the child and his mother and return to Israel, because those who wanted to kill the child are dead.’ Joseph immediately traveled to Israel with Jesus and Mary. While on the way he learned that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was king over Judea, so he was afraid to travel there. He was warned in a dream as well, so he went to Galilee instead and settled in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled the words of the prophets who said “He will be called a Nazarene.” (MT 2:19-23, “The return to Nazareth”)

He’s very attentive to God’s message – he protects Jesus three different times after being told what to do in a dream. He doesn’t waver or question. The Gospel says that he acts immediately, without question.

But then it is as if he disappears after the early years.

He’s mentioned indirectly when Jesus stays behind at the Temple, but is present.

“His parents were astonished when they saw him. Mary said ‘Son! Why have you treated us this way? Your father and I have been worried sick looking for you.’” (Luke 2:48, in “In his Father’s house”)

Later on, Joseph is mentioned, but not present, when Jesus goes to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in Galilee. Where is he? Only his sisters are in the synagogue – none of the rest of the family are present.

“They were amazed and said ‘How did he get to be so wise, and how is he able to perform miracles? Isn’t this Joseph the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother Mary, and isn’t he the brother of James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters sitting here with us? Where does he get these ideas?’ They were offended by what he said.” (MT 13:54b-57a, MK 6:2b-3, LK 4:22, “Rejected in his hometown”)

Later, only Jesus’ mother and siblings come to see him while he’s talking with a crowd.

“His mother and siblings came to him while he was speaking with a large crowd, but they couldn’t reach him. They sent word that they wanted to speak with him. Someone in the crowd told him ‘Look, your mother and siblings are standing outside waiting to speak with you.’ Instead of going out, he replied ‘Who is my family?’ Indicating his followers who were seated in a circle around him, he said ‘Here they are! Whoever hears and does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother and brother and sister.’” (MT 12:46-50, MK 3:31-35, LK 8:19-21, “True Relationships”)

At Jesus’ death, Mary is present, and Jesus makes arrangements for her to be taken care of by his disciple John. Presumably he would not have done this if Joseph were still alive.

“Jesus’ mother, along with Mary Magdalene and his aunt Mary (who was the wife of Clopas), were standing by his cross. When Jesus noticed his mother standing with the disciple he loved, he said ‘Woman, here is your son.’ To the disciple he said, “Here is your mother.” From that point on the disciple made her a part of his family. (JN 19:25-27, “Jesus’ provision for his mother”)

So where is Joseph? We can assume that he died, rather than divorcing Mary. So why is this not mentioned? Quite often the deaths of important people are mentioned in great detail in the scriptures. Why was he left out? And why are there no recorded words from him? Is Joseph an afterthought, a bit player?

Perhaps the image of him isn’t filled in completely so that we can see ourselves in his role. We all are to follow his example and respond immediately to God’s message. We are to protect Jesus at all cost. We are to support him and those who bring him into the world.

(all Gospel readings are from “The Condensed Gospel”)

Everything starts in darkness – a Christmas observation

Here’s Mary. She’s been told that she is going to bring forth the Messiah, the Savior, the King. This has been promised to her by an angel.

But things aren’t looking so good.

Her fiancé almost left her when he found out she was pregnant. Perhaps her family and friends actually did leave her – we hear nothing about them, and she and Joseph were alone when it came time to give birth. Far away from home, with no support system, no help. Stuck in a barn – no place for anybody to be, much less a place to give birth. Much less a place to give birth to a King.

How must that all have seemed to Mary? She had to start doubting everything. Maybe it was all a dream? Maybe she was going crazy?

Maybe she started talking to God, maybe a little less reverently than you’d expect. “Yeah, right, God! Sure, you promised that this special thing was going to happen, but what about this? What about right now? It doesn’t look so good, God. In fact, it looks pretty bad.”

But here’s something interesting to consider. In Judaism, everything starts in darkness. The day starts the night before – it runs from sunset to sunset – not sunrise to sunset. The month starts at the new moon – when it is darkest. When you can’t see anything.

This is God’s way.

Anything good starts when it seems like things are at their worst. The lowest point is the beginning.

Remember “It is always darkest before the dawn”, and “It can only get better”? That. A thousand times that.

When things seem to be at their darkest, that is when God is working the hardest, bringing forth the Light.

Quotes about making art

“Artists paint apples because they have the urge to paint apples. And if people like the art, that’s a bonus.” – Jeanne-Claude (partner of Christo)

“You should paint pictures because you want to paint them, not because everyone wants you to paint them.”

“It’s your picture, and all that is important is developing your own vision. It only needs to please you semicolon pleasing everyone is impossible, anyway.”

From “Urban Watercolor Sketching” by Felix Scheinberger


“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” – Andy Warhol

“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed…because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events…by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.” -Leonard Bernstein

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘You cannot paint’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh