A Short Story About How I Got Here -- Part 2

In Part 1 of "How I Got Here," we covered how my childhood obsession with art had been resurrected decades later and I had made a stained glass mosaic horse. I didn't stop with the horse mosaic.  I saw other things in the pieces of glass.


I was hooked.

Yessss, that was a pun, because a lot of my stained glass artwork are fish.  But I also made abstracts and other things. 



Keep in mind that every piece of glass in my artwork is scrap glass.  I don't cut anything.  

If something looks cut, it's because someone threw a piece of glass that didn't suit their needs into the scrap bucket at the stained glass store. With the help of a dear friend (check out her work at martapelrinebacon.com), I started selling at art fairs and at Genuine Joe’s Coffee House. And it was going really well.

Allow me to SQUEEEEEE a bit here: my dream of being an artist was happening!

This next part might seem irrelevant, but I promise it's related to being a full-time artist. Very.

Here was what was happening in my head: My impossible dream career is actually happening, so maybe, just maybe, my other impossible dream, to own a horse, could happen, too.

I’d been obsessed with and ridden horses all my life, but I’d never owned one.  Now that I was an adult, there was nothing standing between me and my Life-long Dream.  

Well, except money.

But I had some of that. 


There was just one more thing that I thought I should do before buying a horse:



Get back in shape. 





See, horseback riding isn’t just sitting on a horse and bumping along.  It’s surprising to me how many people think that’s the case. 

It’s quite the opposite, y’all.  It requires really powerful legs (really—think All-Star-Wrestling “scissor-leg-lock” strong). To be clear, I’m talking about the legs of the rider, not the horse.  Well, yes, it’s good for the horse to have powerful legs, too. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

ANYWAY... Let me show you what I mean.

<-- See how pretty the horsie looks?  The rider is getting that fancy stepping action out of the horse by repeatedly signaling


with his hands and at the same time signaling


by squeezing with his legs and keister (yes, you can signal a horse with your butt all the way through the saddle) so hard that it would have a person in the same grip turning blue.

Anyway, a rider needs strong legs to stay on the horse and give it directions (called "cues").  A strong core is essential to good balance.  And strong arms and hands are a must because grooming is a Jane Fonda-worthy upper body workout.  There are also all those muscles you need to wrestle yourself into a sports bra, but that might be TMI.  In any case,…



I wanted to get in shape and then I would get My Very Own Horse.





I started horseback riding lessons and was getting stronger. Everything was going fine until (cue tremolo) the instructor put me on a horse that she shouldn’t have. Long story short, the horse dumped me on my noggin.

Oh, you want the deets?  Okay.

Long story medium, it was pretty epic.  The horse was a mare and she was in heat.  Her mind was on one thing.  She was not listening to me from the moment I got her from her paddock.  Her head was on a swivel to keep a lusty eye on a particular palomino gelding (Yeah, no one had the heart to break it to her that he wasn’t fully “equipped”). 

Anyway, the instructor had me on this horse who was in her own world that didn’t involve me.  I asked her to canter (the horse, not the instructor) and used people-to-horse cues to ask her to giddyap.  She refused--like, Bratty Princess Refused.  Repeatedly.  Not cool.  So, I used a crop (not as bad as it sounds, non-horsie people) to let her know I was Very Serious.

If that mare had spoken, she'd have said, “O-NO-U-DINT” and—from a brisk trot—

dropped her head down,

splayed her front feet




This was, in fact, the opposite of what I’d asked her to do.

                               And I found myself on the ground in a jagged heap. 

I had on all the proper safety equipment, including a helmet, heavy-duty protective vest (seriously, it’s a thing for people who ride hunter-jumper), gloves, and boots. But the blow shattered the distal end of my right clavicle and jarred my cranium, causing damage throughout my brain.  In the subsequent months, I discovered that the brain injury muted many of my strengths and competencies and impacted my ability to talk, walk, and balance.  

One of my assignments at Neurorestorative was to create an art therapy lesson for the other patients.  I drew a "paint-by-number" brain on 14 canvases which were completed by a dozen or so patients and then assembled to make this giant work. This project was an absolute joy to do!

It's more than three years since the accident and I’ve come a long way, thanks to the amazing people at Neurorestorative (which I affectionately refer to as "Brain School"), where I have had months of physical, occupational, speech, and psychological therapy to rewire my brain and retrain nerves and muscles. I've made a lot of progress, but I’ll never really get back to “normal.” I'm beginning to make my peace with that.


For a number of reasons, the accident required that I rethink my life's path. I can't do any of the jobs I used to do for various reasons having to do with my new brain.  And so, I have been able to embrace art and thinking creatively as essential parts of who I am. My creativity has exploded. My hunger for it has become ravenous. At this time in my life, my drive to create is irrepressible. I am compelled to make art—I really have no choice in the matter.  Art is my life.


I wouldn’t say I’m grateful for the accident; I’d take my old brain back in a heartbeat. But I am grateful that my circumstances have allowed me to pursue this dream career with every fiber of what I've got.



It's been a long time since I've been in academia, but you can still see the influence of science in my art.  My understanding of science has amplified my wonder at the beauty in living things and this, in turn, informs my art. Every work I have made as an artist has been propagated from something gathered from the natural world.

My fervent hope is that my art will delight you and change the way you look at living things. 

Thank you for joining me on this journey. 


P.S. And even though I should be mad at horses forever, I still get all squishy inside when I think about them and my love for them can, as always, be seen in my art.