Living in an upside-down world

A white breasted nuthatch often travels upside down on a tree trunk. This bird has very strong feet, one for gripping  and the other to stabilize.  This enables the downward movement, allowing it to see and catch the “big bugs” not seen by most birds.  The nuthatch I painted came from photos taken in Concord MA while visiting a treasured friend.  The desire to paint the nuthatch came from the wish to hold on to a joyful memory.

Nuthatch - Watercolor painting by Barbara Bromley. Copyright 2017 Barbara Bromley.

It also fit with my feeling that the world has turned “upside down”.  Not so long ago I was reading books like the following: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey;  Live and Learn, and Pass it On by H. Jackson Brown Jr., and  Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.

Where have all of these positive forward-looking books and beliefs gone?  Covey’s book promotes “The Character Ethic”  which includes the following habits:

  1. Valuing and respecting  people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.
  2. Using empathic listening to genuinely understand a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you.
  3. Combining the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals that no one could have done alone.

Maybe rereading these books is a way for me to turn my personal world right side up again.  After all, unlike the nuthatch, I don’t need to catch the big bugs.

Thanks for listening!

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‘Tis the Season

Watercolor painting, used as the front of my 2016 Christmas card

The front of our 2016 Christmas Card

December marks a special time where kindness to others is focused on more than usual. In that spirit I wish only good things for you. Seasons Greetings! My artwork for 2017 will be filled with children doing the joyous, magic things that give us hope. That is how I plan to keep a positive outlook.

Our granddog Gilly, playing with a Christmas bell

Grand-dog Gilly playing with a Christmas bell

2016 has been a long year! 2017 could prove even more difficult when facing a Trump presidency built on bullying. As a former school teacher, I have spent countless hours educating students to demonstrate positive behaviors. Many after school hours were spent practicing self control skills with children who hadn’t mastered them. I have been thanked by former students who said social skill instruction proved crucial to their success serving America in the military. As an instructor, my biggest challenge was helping bullies lose bad habits and demonstrate positive behavior. Now America has elected a bully ( definition: a blustering, browbeating person; especially: one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.) I will not debate any of the reasons Mr. Trump was elected, but even those who voted for him know he shows patterns of bully behavior learned when he was young. He stands as a role model for our children who represent all of our hope for the future. Most Americans are wonderful role models for our youth. We must be even more proactive and vocal especially now when the message passed on from the top is that it’s acceptable to bully those who don’t look and think like you, or disagree with you.

To all I wish you joy and promise to treat you as I want to be treated. You don’t have to agree with me to get my respect. Your behavior earns it.

Thanks for listening!

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Whatever the Problem, Birding is the Answer

After months of bad news including biopsies, surgeries, recovery, setbacks, etc., a birding adventure seemed in order to help force the healing process.

In search of bluebirds, hummingbirds, and jays, Steve and I set out for northern California and the small coastal town of Mendicino.  Some of you may remember Mendicino as representing the fictional Cabot Cove in the TV series “Murder She Wrote”.  We stayed at the Hill House Inn, a quaint hotel also featured in the TV show.  This friendly hotel has the most beautiful, hummingbird-friendly gardens I have ever seen.  (Thank you Ms. Toni, the gardener)

No bluebirds in sight, but as for hummingbirds, Stellar’s Jays, and and barn swallows, we saw and photographed hundreds!  It was awesome.

I observed, sketched, photographed, and painted both Allen’s and Anna’s hummingbirds.  They posed on lovely plants and fed from a broad variety of flowers.  For five idyllic days I wandered the gardens feeling the magic flow through me.  Mental healing began.  As this post is titled:  Whatever the problem, birding is the answer!  As I write this blog post I’m back in the real world, well on the road to full recovery.

I had already planned a July demo – “Watercolor bluebird painting”.   This painting portrays a bluebird originally photographed some years ago by my husband. Watercolor painting of a bluebird perched on a china pitcher In remembrance of my father Albert, who’s birthday was July 14th, I perched the bird on a small china pitcher.  I chose this pitcher because the backstamp represents several emotional connections with my father:  “ROYAL ALBERT” ties to his name, “ENGLAND” is a place beloved by both my parents, and “FORGET-ME-NOT” because anyone who knew him, never will forget him.Backstamp from china pitcher used for watercolor painting

Thanks for listening!

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Basal Cell Carcinoma – The Most Common Form of Skin Cancer

Hear the word “cancer” from your doctor and you feel instant terror.  Visiting the internet to do research can turn the toughest person into a terrified child.  Especially when you look at the pictures.

Not a scary cancer picture

Not a scary cancer picture

15 years ago my Dad told me he had cancer, and my terrified inner child surfaced.  Two and a half years ago when my 29 year-old daughter called to share that she had melanoma, my inner protective mom rose up, mixed with that terrified inner child.  Thankfully my daughter is now cancer free.

My daughter, a melanoma survivor.

My daughter, a melanoma survivor.

Now it’s my turn.   I have several instances of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), with surgeries scheduled next month.

As a teacher I feel the need to educate others on the disease. Basal cell carcinoma is the most curable cancer.  It grows slowly and doesn’t spread to the blood stream or lymph nodes.  It is not generally life threatening, unlike melanoma.  What is a bit scary in this “looks conscious” world:   BCC damages tissue as it grows, leaving scars.  Surgery can exacerbate the scarring resulting in disfigurement.

This April I saw a dermatologist because a rash-like spot on my side began to hurt. This spot had been present for more than a decade.  Years ago a GP physician in Texas told me it was nothing to worry about.  I should have gotten a second opinion from a dermatologist.  Chalk it up to human nature… we often hear what we want to hear, and avoid investigating further.

The silver lining for me is this:  I finally got a diagnosis, and good information from a dermatologist.  I have a BCC above my eye, on my side, and on my back.  Also several pre-cancers around and about.  I thought the spot above my eye was a pimple.  Who knew?

The following information is not to scare anyone.  It is presented to educate those who, like me had no idea what BCC looks like.  This information is excerpted from a pamphlet on BCC provided by the American Academy of Dermatology (www.aad.org). I strongly suggest that you consult a medical professional for additional information.


What BCC looks like

BCC appears on the skin in many shapes and sizes.  You may see a:

  • Dome-shaped growth with visible blood vessels
  • Shiny, pinkish patch
  • Sore that heals, and then returns and can repeatedly heal and return
  • Brown or black growth
  • White or yellow waxy growth that looks like a scar

If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, immediately make an appointment to see your dermatologist.  Tell the person who schedules the appointment why you want to see your dermatologist.


With skin cancer cases increasing every year, sunscreen and hats should be worn consistently as we enjoy the great outdoors.

I’m nervous for my upcoming surgeries.  I’m also confident that thanks to the support of my friends and family, and state-of-the-art Mohs surgery (see literature) I will ultimately be fine.

Thanks for listening!

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A friend living a healthy active life, taking precautions due to an incidence of Basal Cell Carcinoma

A friend living a healthy active life, taking precautions due to an incidence of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Music Begins Where Words End

I’ve always agreed with the sentiments expressed in Trisha Yearwoods’ hit The Song Remembers When.   For that reason, I’ve memorized hundreds of songs which bring up special memories and places.  Ironically I can’t sing in key at all!!  My mom and others have shared the notion that some people (meaning yours truly) should NOT sing out loud.  I agree.  Still, I have a very active mental music life and I do love to listen.
Sinatra-Cat-FORWEB-Nominal
Recently I watched a 4-hour HBO special “Sinatra: All or Nothing at All”.  My dad Al Russell was an avid fan of Sinatra and his incredible musical timing.  Dad saw Sinatra in Chicago at numerous matinees during the 1940’s.  Whenever I listen to a Sinatra song, I see my dad:  his blue eyes filled with delight, recalling all the moments spent enjoying the magic of the Windy City.  

I recently painted a blue-eyed black kitten simply because his owner had named him Sinatra.  My husband Steve shares my dad’s blue eyes, and his love of muisic.  Currently Steve is enjoying his new audio system and celebrating the new year with music.

In celebration of music, here is a little something from the past:

Happy 2016 to all!

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Happy Halloween

Halloween has always been a very special holiday for my daughter, Becky.  She’s decorated , thrown parties, dressed up, and made sure loved ones took care of important Halloween business.  She even dressed as a pumpkin and took her eldest son trick-or-treating two days before her youngest was born.

"Happy Halloween" message hand-lettered, with three cats among the letters.

Oh wait… she didn’t dress as a pumpkin that night; it was her pregnant stomach that made me  think pumpkin.  I digress.  Sadly Becky’s parents and older brother were less invested in Halloween.  We all just hid in our rooms while she threw elaborate parties during her teen years.  We’d sneak out occasionally to check on “things” that sometimes happen at teenage parties!

I believe I contributed to Becky’s interest in Halloween.  The following story will demonstrate my helping nature:Pencil drawing of 4 year old girl in a Halloween witch costume, holding a pumpkin.

When Becky was 4, I had her pose in a witch costume, holding tightly to a pumpkin in her lap.  I was amazed at what a perfect, witchy expression she had on her frace.  Fine acting I thought!

As it turns out the pumpkin was moldy and stunk to high heaven.  Still,  Becky sat there for her mommy to get the perfect reference photos for a pencil drawing which became a Halloween card!

All I can say is “Becky you’re welcome!”

Thanks for listening.

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