Your Dad died today. Or maybe not.

This is a strange blog, so I decided to start with a little levity.  This is our family portrait from Christmas 2017.  Happy New Year.

Now, back to business.

Friday morning a voice woke me up.
The voice annunciated, “Your dad died today.”

And, yes, the voice was inside my head.

I am familiar with the voice inside my head that is me.  The one that I argue with.  The one that encourages me some days and disparages me on other days.  I know the voice that is myself and this was not my voice.

The last time I heard this voice concerning my father, I also thought he had died.  He had only had a heart attack.

The first time I heard this voice I was in college.  David and I were studying for finals when I burst into tears.  I told him I thought my middle Sunday School was dead.  David told me to call home and find out.  (Calling home was long distant back in the 80s.)  No, I told him it was finals week and since I could not get out of finals to attend a friend’s funeral I would wait.

After my last test, I stopped by a friend’s apartment.  It was a procrastination move to avoid finding out what I already knew.  I told her the story and she asked my Sunday School teacher’s name.  Claudia.  Yes, she told me, she had died and the funeral was that day.  Erika knew because she was in a bible study with a student from my hometown church.  The funeral was that afternoon.

Another time it was my Grammie Hannan.  I missed it that time.  She did not die for another 12 hours.  But I got to call her on the phone and we had a lovely visit.

I missed it with my Grandaddy Simpson, too.  I was seven months pregnant with Roy when I woke up in the wee hours of the morning crying because Grammie was dead.  I got up and prayed.  Then I cleaned the house. and prayed some more.  When David woke up for work around 6:30 in the morning I told him my fear.  Since he had been with me twice prior he called into work and by 7:00 we had loaded Ruth, Forrest, and Josiah into the van and were headed to Goldthwaite, a two and a half, three-hour drive.

We arrived to find an ambulance in their front yard.  Grammie was fine, but Grandaddy had broken a hip.  If we had stopped to call before we left or even halfway, we would have found them both fine.

The paramedics were wheeling Grandaddy out of the house on the gurney and  as they lifted him into the ambulance he told me, “Gwen, you have the worst timing.”

I knew better.  I had been praying since 3 that morning.  What we learned after they took Grandaddy away (there was no hospital in Goldthwaite so they took him to Brownwood) was that  Grandaddy had been covering for Grammie.  She was further into Alzheimer’s than any of us realized.  She could not hold in her mind what had happened.  We were able to spend the day with Grammie so she was not alone.  I wrote down what happened and where Grandaddy was and we kept it on a pad in her apron pocket.  When she could not remember, she would pull out the pad and read it.  She stayed calm and safe with us until Aunt Jimmie arrived from Midland, Texas.

I beat myself up for years for being “wrong”.

Another time I woke up very early crying over Brenda’s newborn baby, my niece, Chloe.  I was crying because she died.   I tried calling Brenda, but I did not know which hospital they were in.  I knew Austin, but there are a lot of hospitals in Austin.  I started calling them.  I found her in the fourth hospital.  The nurse told me Brenda was awake and asked if I wanted to talk to her.

It was a strange pre-dawn phone call, “Hi, how you doing?  I just was thinking about you so I decided to call (at 4:30 a.m.!)”  We had a nice, slightly awkward chat and hung up.  Brenda turned to her husband, Dave, and said, “Get to the nursery, you know how weird Gwen is.”

David arrived at the nursery and they had just revived Chloe who had stopped breathing.  Brenda kept her in her arms the rest of the hospital stay and now Chloe is a beautiful, VIBRANT teenager oozing with talent and personality.

There is a pattern.  A pattern that does not fit my Southern Baptist tradition.   I don’t know if it fits an Episcopalian tradition we now embrace.  But it fits me.  When I hear this insistent voice I start praying.  Then I clean house to avoid what I know hoping that maybe it will go away.

Sometimes I cut my bangs.  That SELDOM goes well.

Today I started writing.   Tomorrow a friend of 30 years will be buried.  I don’t have time to pretend that the voice is not there.   If it is too much for you, that is okay.

Before I got out of the van in front of Grammie Simpson’s house, David said, “If you ever have a dream about me, don’t tell me.”

If this is too much for you, it is okay.  We can follow my family tradition and pretend it did not happen.

But for me, today, now I wait.
I wait and wonder.  Dead or alive.

Last I heard from my dad  December 2015.  My nephew, Kade, moved in with us in January 2016, just for a season.  My father did not approve of the season so he cut us off.  He did not say we were cut off.  He just ended communication and did not respond to mine.  Me.  David.  Grandkids.  Nothing.  This month marks two years.  My dad has always been that kind of person.  Vengeful.   But he is still my dad and I love him.

I have wondered how I would feel when he died.  I wondered if anyone would tell me when he died.

These two years of not speaking to me are not new.  He did not talk to me for two years after David and I were married.  He was mad about my wedding dress!  He did not talk to me for four years after Peter was born.  He stopped talking to me for various chunks of time my entire adult life.

It is amazing what one grows accustomed to.  I would not be shocked if he called tomorrow and pretended that nothing had transpired.  That is how my birth family rolls.  I always go along with the pretense thinking something is better than nothing,  Something is better than nothing but the yo-yo does tend to numb one’s emotions.  Compartmentalization comes in handy.

I wondered if I had any feelings left.  I wondered if I would receive the news of his death with a shrug of the shoulders, he is quite elderly after all.   I wondered if I would be sad or just relieved that the game was over.

I know now.

My first reaction was,  “Huh.  Interesting.  I have not heard that voice in a while.”

I did pray for my dad and I prayed for those who he still loves/loved.   I sent a relative a note asking to let me know if she heard anything.

My sister told her son that he was not to tell me if she died.   I am fairly certain she will not tell me when either of our parents died.

I will keep googling obituaries.

Roy, one of my sons, was in the kitchen making breakfast.  He greeted me and asked me how I was doing.  I told him about the voice and in the telling my voice became shaky with emotion I was unaware of.

Thirty minutes later, driving to Salon District for Laura Valles to cut and color my hair purple and blue, the tears started flowing and I cried.   I cried and sang an old gospel song,  “Because He Lives.”

The “He” in the title refers to Jesus and it goes on to say that because (Jesus) lives, “I can face tomorrow.  Because he lives, all fear is gone.”  It is a song about the confidence the Christian faith tradition offers in an eternal future.  A future free of sorrow, pain, and fear.  A future, regardless of life’s circumstances, has a beautiful ending.

That faith tradition of hope is foundational in my life and my art.  I endeavor to make beautiful art that honors and acknowledges the harsh reality of the journey.  Beautiful paintings that do not dismiss the hurt, the loss, the pain.

It is a lot to ask of substrate and pigment.  It is a lot to ask of the viewer.  It is a lot to ask of myself, but I ask it.

I wrestle with the paintings until the beauty of hope makes itself present.  (Wrestling is also part of the tradition.)


My father might or might not be alive.
Eventually, I will find out.
Eventually, he will die.
Eventually, I will process emotions that have handily been tucked away.
And eventually, the ending roll the unnecessary pain of the journey into the big picture and beauty will win.

Peace out.  Gwen


Parties and Faulty Computers

I have a new HP computer.  A RED laptop with a large screen.  (Color was the same prices as regular silver! )  IT IS BEAUTIFUL!  Things are in different places than I am accustomed to seeing them.  I did not realize how well trained I am to a particular screen size.  My neck swivels with this screen!

I have used my new computer for three weeks.  Last night the plugin for the power cord stopped working!  It works- IF I jiggle the cord.  It is too soon to be jiggling things to get them to work.

So instead of writing the pithy and clever email tI intended, I am spent just shy of an hour online with support. (It was SO HARD not to put support inside of quotes- unironically of course.)  Palash helped me.  I do not know if Palash is a woman or a man.  I think I will google it.  Hang on a minute.  I will be right back.


Here is what I found.  Flowery Tree.  So I think female.  Nope.
Palash means Green or blossom of the tree Butea Frondosa (Sanskrit: किंशुक, Hindi: पलाश). It is a species of Butea native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The flowers are used to prepare traditional Holi color. It is said that the tree is a form of Agnidev, God of Fire.   Names are awesome.  I should have googled it while I was waiting to see if Palash knew how google interpreted his name.  Next time. (OH! I HOPE THERE IS NO NEXT TIME!)

  Back to my first world tale of woe.

I live in Benbrook, which is a suburb of Fort Worth, which when lumped together with Dallas and Arlington and a few other close neighbors is the FOURTH LARGEST metropolitan in the United States.  HP is charging $25 for one way shipping because they do not have any other options “in my area.”  MY AREA!  That time the quotes indicated my snarky verbalization of “in my area.”  There, I did it again.

So I type into the chat that I am not happy about paying the $25 since it is a brand new machine and the machine is faulty.  Eventually, Palash offers a $15 option that takes longer to get to me.  Well, I NEED my computer this week to get ready for the reception on Saturday so waiting two more days for the box allows me to work and jiggling is not that difficult.

January 27, 2018, 6 – 9 Gallery 414
414 Tempelton, FW, TX. 

So I take the lesser option and ask for a way to complain about no pickup options in the fourth largest metropolitan area in the entire United States of America.  What Palash offers is a discounted extended warranty that will include shipping for this time.  This reduces the price and we take the two years extended warranty.  David did point out that the laptop only cost $400.  Well, now it cost $475.  The last laptop lasted 7 or 8 years.  Jubilee is using it for her school.  If this one lasts five years that averages out to $95 a year.  That prorates to $7.95 a month for the computer.  I get $8 of use out of it each month.  Cost less than Netflix or Hulu.

A longtime friend died last Tuesday.  She had a rare bile duct cancer and lived only eight months after diagnosis.  She was a good woman.  Her daughters, 28 and 26 are good women.  Her husband is a good man.  My computer requires that I jiggle the power cord to get it to work.
Perspective is sobering.
Sherry’s funeral starts four and a half hours before I need to be at Gallery 414 to set up for the reception.

Sometimes we fuss over jiggling cords to take a break from real life.

When I stop jiggling the cord and I stop jiggling with Palash who was so kind on HP tech support the other emotions roll in.  Sherry was miserable and in a great deal of pain.  It was hard to tell which was worse, cancer or complications from treatments.  She fought the good fight and now she is at rest and at peace.  I cry for all that Sherry will miss as her daughters come into their full humanity.  Maybe there will be spouses, possibly children, certainly adventures.  I cry for the young women who will be there for each other but will desperately miss their mother.  I cry for Mitch who will be fine- eventually.  Normal will never be again.  Only a new normal.  A normal forever with a piece missing.

The emotions come with clarity.  Clarity that death brings concerning the illusion of control.   Control is all mirrors and vapers.

So, I gripe about my computer which I will put in a box that the Fed Ex person will collect from me while standing on my front porch.  Seven to nine days later the box will magically reappear on my front porch and my computer will be fixed.  By that time the reception will be over and I will have gotten a great deal of painting done because I can’t work without my computer.

First world problems and parties.

If you can not make it to the reception, I sincerely hope you will take a few extra moments to see something beautiful.
Maybe in a museum.
Maybe tea in a beautiful cup.
Maybe in an independent gallery or alternative creative space.
Wherever you are and whatever beauty you are beholding, remember me.  Just a nod.
Remember control is an illusion and embrace the moment, open your heart, and receive the beauty offered.
In sharing my art, I am also sharing my heart.  When you receive beauty, in that moment your heart is open to more.
May, this week, your heart be touched ever so gently.
May you receive and exude beauty.

peace out, Gwen


Cookies and Art! Win/win

Saturday, January 27th from 6 to 8 Gallery 414 Artist Reception for Centering Abstraction.  A four-person exhibition curated by Barbara Koerble. 

Barbara was inspired when she noticed connections between the ways the artists incorporated traditional drawing techniques in untraditional ways in their paintings.  Each artist found a unique way to blur the line (maybe I intended that pun)  between painting and drawing. All four artists use color to reflect their hopeful spirits.   I am thrilled to be part of this collaboration.

PLEASE COME TO THE RECEPTION which begins at 6 and runs to 9 Saturday evening January 27th, 2018.  happy new year!
Gallery 414 414 Templeton Dr, Fort Worth, TX 76107
There will be cookies.
Cookies and art.  A huge Win/Win!

Here are a few details from  Silver and Horsemint, one of my paintings that is in the show.  I hope to see you there.
If you can not be there, please invite friends in Fort Worth and the Metroplex.   This is my first gallery show in the Metroplex and the more the merrier!

Yee Haw! 

Thank you, Gwen

Meet My Fellow Centering Abstraction Artists

Greetings and Happy New Year.

I am participating in an exhibition with three other artists beginning January 27th.  Barbara Koerble saw a similar thread running through our work and brought us together by curating the show at Gallery 414.

Gallery 414 is a non-profit gallery made possible by the generosity of Razz Fiesler.  It is located at, this will shock you, 414 Templeton, Fort Worth, Texas in the museum district.    It is open weekends from 12 to 5 and by appointment. To make an appointment email and we will try to accommodate your viewing pleasure.

No automatic alt text available.Lael.  She gave birth Christmas Eve so she will not be making it to the opening reception, but we are tentatively planning a closing reception on February 25.  Much of Lael’s work for this show was accomplished during her pregnancy.  This is a huge accomplishment as growing a baby takes a great deal of strength and creativity.  I am so proud of Lael Burns.  Here is Lael’s Instagram

Image may contain: swimmingSophia Ceballos and I are sometimes in the same spaces but we have yet to meet.  I do know that at one opening she had MARVELOUS blue hair.  Her work is intimate and intriguing.  I love the way she uses watercolor and drawing to weave together magical places.  Here is Sophia’s Facebook.  


Adam and Lael will also have sculptures in the exhibition.  Adam’s Instagram.

Have fun following the links.  And while you are there, follow my artist collaborators, too.




Art Delivered. Party On the Horizon!

 Yesterday David (husband) and I delivered nine (maybe ten) 

paintings to Gallery 414.  

Curator Barbara Koerble  and  Gallery Director John Hartley will winnow the art from four artists down to present spectacularness.   CENTERING ABSTRACTION exhibition runs January 27th through February 24 and includes Adam Palmer, Lael Burns, and Sophia Ceballos and myself.   

The opening reception is between 6 and 9 on Saturday, January 27th.   The show theme is hope.  This is represented through artists color selection and the incorporation of nontraditional uses of traditional drawing techniques in the paintings.

I sincerely hope to see you there.
Bring a friend or a passel of friends. 
(I always wanted to use the word passel, but it just never came up before. )  Let the passels celebrate the New Year and art and hope and artists who have poured heart and soul into their work.

If celebrating with us is not doable, please invite your friends who live closer to join us.  We are a friendly group of artists and the more the merrier.  Tell them I would love to know how we are connected.

THERE WILL BE COOKIES thanks to up and coming bonus baby chef, Jubilee Lael.

(Trivia:  Lael is an unusual name and yet daughter and fellow artist share the same name.  Lael had a baby Christmas Eve so she might not be there, but we will take lots of photos for her.)

See you and/or your art supporting friends soon!  Love, Gwen

PS  Centering Abstraction runs through February 24th.  Gallery 414 is open weekends between 12 and 5.  If you are coming call me and I will meet you there for a private tour.  If you just drop in, one of the artists will be there to greet you and show you around.

a few little details to entice you.