Category Archives: Life: Challenges and Opportunities

Wide-spread themes in issues of life both positive and negative, big and small, serious and silly

Your Passion is Not an Island to Itself

I started drawing as soon as my dimpled little fist could grasp one of those big fat crayons. I’d been fascinated by the concept of art since I was two, when my mother explained, in simple terms, the idea of imagination and art looking like reality. I didn’t care how long it took…if someone else could do it, I wanted that magical power to create something from nothing and make people believe it. I wanted it more than anything–and it was not a passing fancy. Decades later, the fire hasn’t faded.

When my class hit second grade, we all had to take IQ tests. I scored within a couple points of genius and was placed in a “gifted” class the next year with other advanced students. We got extra projects to stimulate our nimble, hungry minds; we had an engaging teacher, and most of us were quite happy and productive. My artwork flourished, I had a diverse group of friends, and my life was very, very good.

Then my family had to move. My father’s job caused this occasionally, and it was always an upheaval. But in this particular timing, in the place we ended up, was to do nearly irreparable damage to my academic path. The new school district didn’t even have an accelerated program. I was placed in what would be my normal grade with no accommodation or interest in the level of study I had become accustomed to. My new teachers had no recourse provided them by the district; their classes were large, their syllabi were set and their hands proverbially tied. But I wasn’t privy to this fact.

I struggled in my new school, academically and socially. I was the “weird new kid”: hurting in the looks department, wearing outdated hand-me-downs and sporting a “funny accent” (Southern), and newly being forced into wearing thick brown ugly glasses. On top of that, I was presented with scholastic material I had mastered one to two years before. I found zero incentive to repeat studies with which I, by then, was bored. I made few friends, least of all my teacher, who (in my angry young eyes) bore almost as much blame for this torture as my parents. And my parents were absorbed with starting the new job, setting up the new household, getting acclimated to the town and its citizens, and dealing with my older siblings’ more rebellious growing pains to the disruption in their own lives as well. Lost in the shuffle, I felt like the invisible girl, and I naïvely began devising an outlandish plan to run away, convinced that no one would notice. Luckily, a sensible girl named Cheryl, in whom I had confided this boneheaded plan, talked me into waiting a while to see if things got better, pointing out that I had no money for a bus to California, and had no verified place to live if I could get there. She should have been in a “gifted” class! She had told me, that if I left…at least she’d notice. I had to admit, it was nice to hear this from somebody.

So, lacking any better plan, I stayed around, and went on strike and refused to do my homework. Rivers of notes were sent home from my fourth grade teacher, followed by visits to the principal’s office, parental lectures after PTA meetings, swats at school for repeated offenses with a thick oak board with holes drilled in it for better aerodynamics, and a fair number of swats at home with lesser tools of inspiration, yet none of this was provocative enough for me to mend my ways. All of this was for missing what I rightfully viewed as redundant homework assignments, mind you. Fifth grade came and my resentment festered, and my study habits grew more dismal; D’s and even occasional F’s became heavyweights on my report card, although I still got A’s in English and spelling because I actually liked them. At quarterly meetings, my fifth grade teacher spoke kindly of me to my parents, and he noted that I was still brilliant for my age, yet I wasn’t being challenged enough…. But he was simply fascinated by my early artistic prowess. He showed my folks the papers he had confiscated that I was doodling on, telling them how advanced I was, and he asked them on more than one occasion if he could keep some of the drawings to have as proof that he knew me “when” someday I would be a famous artist (so sorry to have disappointed him; he was a sweet old man). It’s very flattering, of course, but by this time my folks were not only tuned into the fact their littlest had a serious issue afoot, but they were also straining at any way to get through to me; I had shut them out along with everyone else and lived in a tormented fantasy world, trying to escape the ennui and frustration I felt toward the real one.

When you’re a kid you don’t necessarily understand that adults go where the work is and everything (and everyone) else kind of has to fall in line with that, no matter whether or not it’s ideal; meals have to come from somewhere. A kid just understands how he or she feels until something is explained, or better, demonstrated, to the end of changing that mindset with a convincing argument and fact. I still needed that presented to me in a way that I felt mattered. I held out stubbornly, and foolishly.

Changes at home continued and I still felt like a last priority. My social life was very limited by multiple factors beyond my control and I had a big chip on my shoulder. Moving had been hard on me, at (apparently) a key age. I had been very popular with many friends in my old town, where we had owned a nicer house in a neighborhood full of kids, where there were things to do and fun to be had, and I had enjoyed a bigger room, and now this still-new place I hated for more reasons than I could count. I liked my fifth grade teacher for his appreciation of what I appreciated, but it didn’t improve my grades much; I was still bitter and lacking any motivation, and frankly, my single-minded attitude stunk. I was beginning to fall behind, particularly in pre-algebra.

When I was in sixth grade, my father had an epiphany to appeal to me through the one thing he knew I cared about most: I loved to draw…compulsively, all the time, and on any paper product I could get my hands on. I had always wanted to be an artist, and by then I had told my folks plainly that I simply didn’t see any point in all these other classes that didn’t interest me, so I just wasn’t going to waste any more time or effort in them. This certainly did not sit well with them, yet no manner of wheedling, bribery, threatening, punishment, or gnashing of teeth was swaying my stubborn will.

Through his job, Dad had gotten acquainted with many of the area denizens, including the local art star, and he asked this man’s advice. The artist and muralist offered to talk to me for him. He even arranged to visit me at school, a visit I was very excited about – I felt like I was granted an appointment with a celebrity. It was a topic of curiosity for some of my classmates: “Why is he visiting you?” I just smiled.

When he sat me down to talk I was very nervous, and I wanted to learn all I could. I knew there was still so much more about art I needed to discover, and we were only to talk for about a half-hour…how could I squeeze the most out of this precious time? After introductions, I didn’t know what to say or how to start, so he took his turn first, to ease me in to asking questions later.

He worked around into relating to me how he would daydream in school, and admitted that at first he hadn’t found much interest in math, science, history, or even English (I still liked English class: a bit of a word geek, I actually enjoyed diagramming sentences). I listened intently. Then he said, “But after a while, I learned that I truly needed all those classes to make good art.” I was dumbfounded. How could all this stuff be relevant? All I wanted to do was draw; I didn’t need a slide rule or a dictionary for that. I started to smell a trick from my dad.

The artist continued. He pointed out that all the famous artists used mathematical principles (geometric and algebraic) as the basis for drawing things in linear perspective and in good proportion, so that things look right; he needed to understand fractions and decimals and figure circumferences, and plenty more. He even drew some things to demonstrate. He said science comes into play when mixing pigments and mediums, in chemistry glazes for ceramics, in studying biology and anatomy to draw beautiful birds and animals, and that ultimate Holy Grail for artists, the human form. Artists study, illustrate, and draw inspiration from literature. And artists throughout time recorded history either from their own pasts or actually as it unfolded; they worked jobs where they charted maps, relating to geography; they illuminated planets in astronomy books, and illustrated characters in yet more literature – they touched on every other subject in school.

It all was relevant! My mind shifted so suddenly that I nearly fell over.

He told me my drawings showed advance and promise; that he could tell by the complexity and focus of my few questions that I was a bright girl; he hated to think of me wasting my talent, potential, and obvious passion for my art. He was convinced I would be a brilliant artist if I applied myself. So he struck me a deal: if I brought my grades up in my other subjects, then he would give me a lesson on how to draw any category of thing I wanted to learn to draw…and then he asked me what that would be. I thought for only a few seconds before proclaiming, “Trees!”  I so very much wanted my trees to be not the stiff, tortured things I created, but more realistic and believable, like the botanical illustrations in my mother’s bird books; I loved nature. So he agreed to teach me to draw trees if my grades improved.

It worked. I strived hard all through sixth grade to get back on track in all my classes. I had some hiccups but I brought all my grades up at least one letter grade, and several two and one three. I started communicating more with my folks, and soon proudly showed my report card to my Dad, and asked him about my pending art lesson. He followed up with that artist, who, sadly, had become too busy to keep his promise to me, for which I was bitterly disappointed…but…that didn’t stop me from learning how to draw trees! Now armed with biology lessons from my science book and studies from encyclopedias and botany books from the library, I became a photorealistic tree-drawing powerhouse on my determined own. I don’t think it was to spite him, as he likely wouldn’t have noticed me either way, being in our separate bubbles of society. I think it was just I was that passionate about trees. (Apparently I still am!) And I learned about the inconstancy of human nature and that we all make mistakes and disappoint people – but I also learned that we could still choose to move on anyway, and take accountability for our own respective paths in life.

Years passed, and I evolved far beyond just trees, and eventually beyond mere realism. Even without the initial tree lesson, that artist gave me something priceless: the gift of learning with intention. I finally noticed that my mother also modeled a love of learning, and my father was a self-taught professional as well. As I matured, I came to appreciate being better rounded, both as a thinker and as a creative. I learned to adapt to my new environment, and made more friends…and I learned that a lot of the barrier to that gain had been my own attitude. I learned that many distinct, seemingly separate things actually could be integrally related and interdependent. I realized that the payoff to effort might not be immediately apparent or accessible, but that compiled knowledge accumulates and bands together to make powerful structures on which you can build bigger and better ideas. I learned that taking a studious approach could render me more self-sufficient. I learned that I can develop many different facets to myself, and that in doing so, I would never be bored again. Indeed – I never am.

In junior and senior high, I made honor roll more often than not, and only really struggled once getting to advanced Algebra and Chemistry…my mind wasn’t yet to the point of very abstract thought (and that still showed in my ultrarealistic artwork, which I started showing in a gallery at 16, since I had already begun selling portraits at 14). My folks pushed me on these classes in the college bound track in high school, but they finally recognized I was truly besieged by material a bit too advanced for me just yet. Our state was plagued with math teachers who may have known math really well but did not have the communication skills to teach it to students who struggled with it like me. My high school geometry teacher did pretty well, though, and it helped that it was a more concrete category of math because that was how my mind operated then.

I had to take algebra three times in college to pass it, and the third time, I got my first really good math teacher ever, and realized it wasn’t so much my fault as the system was failing me up to that point: my university at that time had the highest math failure rate in the state; however, with this specific professor’s patience and her devoted tutoring, I made 96% on the comprehensive final – including trigonometry and logarithms. At the university I still had some difficulty focusing on some studies due to my newfound freedom, but I grew exponentially in my depth and breadth of artistic skills. I took a myriad of classes including sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, various painting classes, and lots of art history; I learned new media and techniques; and I even made a tentative breakthrough to abstraction for the first time: something I struggled with for years.

My years at the art institute were even more intense, allowing me to apply my artistic abilities, problem solving prowess and creative imagination in new ways in the industrial design program. I learned to manipulate new media and utilize new materials and processes. Woodworking, welding, plastic production, sand casting and the design process and projects in all of those and more made me a much more well rounded artist, and everything involved math, science, history, literature, and/or more, as well as building on foundations I already had. It was exciting and my mind grew both hungrier and far more productive. I was designing things spontaneously in my sleep, and began keeping a sketch journal next to my bed to record lucid ideas to someday bring to fruition.

Nowadays I am a glutton for knowledge; I want to know what makes everything tick. I earned two college degrees. While getting my K-12 art teaching degree, I discovered that in children, artistic giftedness routinely walks hand in hand with academic giftedness, so if you’re a parent reading this and my story rings familiar in your own progeny, look into testing your own kid(s) and arrange for them to get the mental stimulation they need, even from a tutor or mentor if necessary.

I want to point out that a child needn’t have a high IQ to be a good student: passion is nearly everything. Zig Ziglar, an American author, salesman and motivational speaker of many inspirational quotes, rightly said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” I’m a living case study. So-called “natural” talent is worthless and fruitless without concentrated effort. The unmotivated will be outpaced by the motivated. Passion can overcome any lack of ability, and it drives gaining any nuts-and-bolts skills one requires in one’s quest.

Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” I say they both work in concert; he himself proved that. I continued studying on my own, outside of school, ever since my last graduation, and if I ever won the lottery I’d go to “school” the rest of my life – at least intermittently; I am at my creative and intellectual best while in the stimulation of some sort of an academic environment, even if self-created. I’ve taught myself foreign languages, web design, auto repair, musical instruments, tons of artistic techniques and mediums, and most importantly, I taught myself to always be learning and that there’s nothing I can’t study; if I don’t know something, I know how to find out. I can enrich my understanding of the world through diverse sources, and I can always find ways to improve myself: not just as an artist but also as a human being in society, and my passion can spread far, far beyond its own selfish little island.

That is a priceless lesson, and one that has a huge return on investment.

It’s important for artists to constantly be gaining knowledge in many areas, devouring books, news of new things in science, understanding, human psychology, staying up to date in politics, knowing milestone literary works, being informed on historical foundations, learning new techniques and media, and being in touch with pop culture. Professional artists may be some of the smartest people you will meet; they are natural tinkerers who want to know how everything works and what makes people tick. Good art has a message and competent artists strive to know what they’re talking about, to extend the conversation to society at large.

No matter who said it or exactly word-for-word how, (and there are some debates and misunderstandings), but there is truth to the quote that says, “Beware of artists; they mix with all levels of society and are therefore most dangerous.” People in power are often intimidated by anyone who is well informed; they hold those in power accountable and expose corruption, as well as those who help to whistle blow or educate others to do the same. It’s important work.

This post is the introduction and inspiration for my new blog series, “the well rounded artist”. Look for more entries in the future that tie art to other subjects in school, and in life.

All content on this site © 2013-2019/present L. Eilee S. George; all rights reserved.

How to Make a Legible Garage Sale Sign

Ah, it’s spring…time to clean out that house so you can bring more stuff into it…time for people to trade each other’s junk via garage sales. It’s time to drive around squinting and nearly killing everyone on the road while trying to read the tiny, light, thin scrawling on a sad poster board that’s flapping in the wind….

Oh, honey. You don’t have to die this way.

So time for the public service announcement: if you’re throwing a yard sale, be kind and use your mind. People driving by are supposed to keep their eyes on the road as much as possible. Your job is to make that sign as succinct and legible as possible, so that a glance or maybe two – not scrutiny – is all it takes to get folks to turn that wheel – safely.

I understand there are store-bought garage sale signs but you still have to fill out the day/time and the address on those – and a lot of folks rush it and it’s awful. Still, many choose to make their own, because the pre-made signs are small, but not cheap.

There are several factors that go into a winning yard sale sign:

  • Substrate (the sign itself) size
  • Substrate strength
  • Contrast between lettering and background
  • Lettering/type/font height
  • Type thickness
  • Type clarity
  • Content pertinence/relevance

I’ve seen little flaps off cardboard boxes with ballpoint pen scrawled on them, taped to a signpost before. I don’t know what they said, because I wasn’t willing to park my car, walk over to it, and use my Dick Tracy decoder ring to figure out what was written. I can’t be alone in that.

It’s best to consult your local ordinances before planning your signs!

Some cities have ordinances that you cannot affix signs to telephone poles or street sign poles (mostly because people are lazy and forget to remove them when the event is over – don’t be that guy). In that case, you may have to prop your signs up on something, and you’ll have to be prepared for that before the time comes for your sale. You could go to the office supply or hardware store and get one of those wire-frame sign holders like realtors use, but you can achieve the result cheaper with a simple cardboard box with some bricks or stones inside so it stays put – roll some duct tape backward over itself in a loop and firmly attach the back of the sign’s corners to the outside of the box – and this is great for two- or even four-sided signs as well. Ideally, you’re posting at or near one or more intersections, so you want people to know about your sale no matter what direction they’re traveling. Also know that cities may require that your sign be back from the intersection a given distance, which could increase the number of signs necessary. Some municipalities even limit the number of sales you can have a year without having to obtain a permit or even a business license, so make this sale count! Some cities are even more restrictive, and some less. Do your homework and avoid pesky charges for breaking ordinances.

I’ll describe how to make the signs (and why to do it that way) first, but if you need a visual while you’re reading, scroll down a little bit and you’ll see that I provided you some examples to illustrate what I mean. Pay attention to the following CONSIDERATIONS:

AUDIENCE: Keep in mind that drivers are already busy going somewhere, and you need to make it as easy as possible for them to spontaneously come to you. Also remember that many people have impaired vision – some of them don’t even know it. They still have money, though, and they just might want to buy your stuff – if they can see your sign.

SIZE: Even on a two-lane road, your sign needs to be at least 22”x28”, in order to allow enough room for letters large enough to be legible while driving from any direction. This is a standard size for both neon poster board and for foam core, which you will want to glue your neon poster board to for strength, if you’re not already going to stick it firmly to a box. Unless you can find neon foam core, you’ll have to combine them this way. On windy days, flimsy poster board alone will flap and fold, and possibly even blow away. That won’t help you (or those trying to find you) at all. If there’s going to be precipitation, you ought to re-schedule your sale, because even if you protect your signs (and your merchandise), your possible customers will likely not want to get out and shop in the rain, no matter how good your deals are. If inclement weather forces a reschedule, update any of your online/newspaper ads if at all possible.

COLORS: Neon poster boards are not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that some colors lend more visibility than others. Your hot pinks, reds, and neon oranges and blues are in the middle of the value scale (to read about value, check out this post and scroll almost half way down to the heading “Value and Intensity – In Theory“). Reds, blues and purples are the worst for this. Don’t even think about black with white lettering – it’s a black hole no one will see. Also do not do happy little colors on a white or colored background; there’s not enough contrast. If the background is in the middle value range – not really light and not really dark – there’s nothing that you can write on it with that will really stand out in contrast. Electric yellow is the lightest, most visible and highest-contrast background you can get, with bold black ink writing on it. White is technically lighter, but it’s more common and people may overlook it because it looks like other elements in the landscape (e.g., street signs, trash, etc.), whereas fluorescent yellow is not that normal, and draws the eye. Get neon yellow, or if the neon orange you find is as light as the yellow (rare), you can get that if you prefer.

CONTENT: Now, you have a limited amount of space to work on, and you need to make that space count. This means telling only what is necessary – but all that is necessary. Think of making the sign the way reporters used to be trained to get the whole story, by using the W’s to consider what questions your readers may ask to get enough about the story to follow it. Who isn’t really important to tell them, (yes, you’re awesome, and they’ll learn that when they get to you), but Where, What and When are essential to bring them in. How comes into play when you’re trying to lure your quarry back into one of those rat mazes that builders call subdivisions, and to do so may require subsequent directional signs. But your initial invitation, out on a well-traveled road, must have all your W’s: What – SALE…When (both day and time) – FRIDAY-SUNDAY 9AM-2:30PM…Where1790 THISISA ROAD. If you put nothing else down, put down these vital bits of information, or no one will come, or they’ll come at the wrong time and get mad. Below these things you might write a word or two about the main content of the sale, which is more What: BABY STUFF or FURNITURE. This will pique the interest of those looking for just that, and if that’s all you’re selling, it may weed out those who aren’t interested in your wares. However, if you, like most people, have an even variety of items, then I do not recommend highlighting one thing for just that reason – people will assume you have nothing except what you mentioned – so in that case just leave it off – and then you’ll have plenty of room for 3 lines of text announcing the vital info above (the sale, day/time, address). You have to decide if your sale is the “yard” type or the “garage” sale (and “moving sale” excites buyers who will think your desperation will mean better deals), but I’ve always hated the term “rummage”; it sounds like people ransacking your undesirable castoffs and making a general mell-of-a-hess. It’s just not the image either party wants.

PREPARATION: Lay out on some scrap paper, roughly to scale, how you’re arranging the letters and spaces and count how many there are. Spaces between words should be a full space that a real letter would have taken up. I know it seems like more work to do a mock-up, but it saves you driving to buy more materials because of poor planning. Once you’ve worked out your mock-up on scrap paper, it’s time to lay it out on your neon board.

LAYOUT: So if you have 3 lines of text to draw on something 22” tall, you can use approximately 6” tall letters with enough breathing room between the lines and around the edges (it’ll be about an inch between lines, and between lines and edges). If they’re touching from line to line, it hurts legibility – space is important. If you’re caught without a ruler, you can use a dollar bill for a guide as letter height, since it’s 6” long – and a quarter is about an inch wide – everyone has these available. Measure out along edges where lines should be for top and bottom of letters, and then find something to use as a straight edge (even another piece of poster board) and lightly pencil in some lines on which (and between which) to letter.

Yard sale sign layoutTIPS: Note that this is based on a standard 22″ height. If your material is a different size than this, try to apply the same spacing principles as best you can. In the next step, you will need to find the center between left and right. If you don’t have a yardstick or tape measure, but merely a straightedge, you can locate center by finding the intersection of lines connecting opposite corners of your board in an “X” – you don’t have to draw the entire line, just make a little hint of each toward the middle. That’s how you find the center of any four-sided shape.

CENTERING AND LETTERING: Count your letters and spaces to figure out where center would be on each line of text, and lay out your letters one by one, on each side of it accordingly, from the middle outward. When you sketch out each letter, use clear all caps…and lightly pencil where they fit in, either by making evenly-sized boxes for them to fit into first (don’t forget a little space between), or if you’re more confident, by directly (but still lightly) drawing the actual letters to trace over with a marker – but remember you’re going to use a fat marker, so loops on letters like “P” and “D” should not be wimpy, or they’ll look filled-in, or like fat lines instead (and don’t over-exaggerate the loops either, or letters start looking like different letters). Also remember to allow for ample spaces between words and enough between letters; having either run into each other also makes it very hard to read.

Is everything spaced nicely and visually centered? Now you’re ready to ink it in. Use the fattest black marker you can find.

INKING: Draw your letters carefully, smoothly and clearly. Don’t get overly frilly: it’s not an art object; it’s a form of communication that only works if it has clarity. Use letters that are like the ones on charts from which you first learned to print – very clear, with no serifs (those funny little lines clinging to the ends of some kinds of letters). If your marker tip/surface is longer one direction than another, angle it so that your “down” strokes are thicker – and hold it consistently. If there are “skips”, you can fill them in using a small edge of the tip later. Don’t rush this. If your hand printing is abysmal, ask someone with decent writing to help you, or get some stencils (make sure they’re the right size). Follow all the above instructions for each main-road sign you need to make (perhaps you even have two main roads nearby, lucky). You know your area.

ADDITIONAL SIGNS: Unless you live right on the main road, you’re going to need secondary signs to direct traffic to your house. Map out your neighborhood and all the ways that the most people are likely to come in to your address. Take note of how many left turns and right turns there are for each, and make arrow signs accordingly, to place along each route. You could use ½ sheets of the board instead of the full 22×28, say 14×22 (a little bigger than necessary), or even make 4 to a sheet of 14x11s if your arrows are nice and crisp. You might put the address below the arrow, as many people will forget it, but they already know now that it’s a sale today, so you really don’t need anything more. You could even just print out or (since ink is “spendy”), draw and color in arrows on coordinating neon sheets of printer paper if you’re just doing arrows (if you’ve placed arrows well, you won’t need the address with arrows, and once they see your set-up they’ll know they found the sale). Any of these you can affix to smaller boxes with their respective bricks, and once they’re all out, you’re in business – so put the main road one out there last, right before you open for commerce, or you’ll be inundated with early birds low-balling your already reasonable prices before the rush. For this reason also, if you’re posting your sale in advance on your local page or in the local paper, do NOT put your actual address, but instead just put what-hundred block of your street the sale is to be on, and they can find the address when they drive there – when you’re ready. Otherwise, you may get precocious or even creepy strangers ringing your bell in the wee hours of the morning or the night before, looking for a bargain (or casing the joint). Such inconsiderate vultures are not to be borne; do not enable them.

COMPETITION: It may so happen that yours is not the only garage sale in the neighborhood that weekend. If your competitors happen to use the same colors as you, it could confuse folks, but don’t fret! You can differentiate your sign by putting something of a little unofficial logo in the same corner of every directional sign that you put on the main signs. It could be a trio of stars or some scrollwork or a square with a monogram letter in it. Whatever it is, it should be simple, and consistently used on every sign between the beginning of each route in to the house itself, and always in the same corner (top right figures well, if your type isn’t crowding it). Or you could do a shallow border, of a line or dotted line, or zigzags or scallops, or just do something little on the corners if the border is too shallow and you’re crowding letters. Or you could affix something unique to the whole assembly, like a blue balloon or a large hot pink feather, or anything else, as long as it’s consistent through all of your signs.

3 samples: bad, better, good


Now, which one of these three examples above is easier for you to read from across the room? Which one impresses you more? On the left, the red doesn’t allow for much contrast to help reading from a distance. The border is hurriedly applied and would best be left off. The smiley face is too dominant and looks a little creepy. Most importantly, all the words are too small, thin, and poorly written to read except right up against the sign. There’s no prioritization through sizing of text to differentiate vital information from extra unnecessary details thrown in as an afterthought. This one is a fail. The one in the middle is a sad off-white; it looks a tad dirty. Is that what you want people to think of the things you’re selling – or of you? Your advertisement reflects you and your product. Make it look good. It’s barely legible but not impressive at all. The one on the right looks crisp, clear, it pops, it says all it has to and it has a unique mark on it to distinguish it from others.

ARROWS: Now for your auxiliary signs to direct traffic through the ‘hood. We’ve decided the color and marker, and you’ve decided your size and picked boxes or stands, but how are you doing your arrows?

Arrow Signs…Do I really have to ask? I’m certain you already know the answer. There is a reason ONE WAY signs use arrows in that proportion: optimal visibility, because lives very well may depend on heeding those. The same reasoning applies here, believe it or not. Make it easy for them.


Now that you know how to make signs to get people there, get to polishing up and pricing those items, and setting up a tidy atmosphere; turn on some tunes, pour some lemonade, lock your doors, put on a fanny pack for your cash/change reserves/payments (it ain’t a fashion show) – and make some road-trip stash/gift fund/pocket change. Remember to be safe: have some backup watching folks who come in groups and try to distract you, and never let strangers in your home – know where you can tell them the nearest public restroom is – there are common scams out there and that’s just a couple of many. As soon as your sale is finished (each day of a multi-day sale if your take is good), take the cash straight to the bank; houses have been broken into after sales. Be sure and thank your neighbors for putting up with the increased cars, and be understanding with them when they have their sales. Better yet, do a neighborhood sale and market it well to get more traffic (again check your city’s rules).

I hope that with these tips and your (undoubtedly groovy) merchandise, that your event is a booming success! Happy sales!


– Eilee





All content on this site © 2013-2018/present L. Eilee S. George; all rights reserved.

Failure Redefined



It’s not a happy word. But it’s got some serious weight; I’ll give it that. Still, it’s illusory. Hollow. An outright lie. And I’ll tell you why.


Ah, now…that’s better.

Wow, that’s something to wake up with. When I conjure them, I nearly always have blog posts in my head right upon awakening. I guess I just feel a need to school people on failure – after all, I’ve had a LOT of experience, making me an expert!

Failure is a label oft’ misused in place of more accurate phrases such as: life lessons, temporary setbacks, process of elimination, narrowing one’s focus, character building, and general progress.

“What? That’s almost the antithesis of the word failure,” you may blurt. Oh, now come on; we all know the saying that the opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference (however much we may disagree with that axiom when there is genuine hate; I’m certainly not indifferent to nor enamored of, say, terrorists or child molesters or people who prey on others’ livelihoods). The point is, you have to take the concept of failure and turn it inside out, examine it for what it is, and take away the mystery.

I won’t take the word away from you and tell you to replace it with some watered down substitute. I just want you to take that seemingly sinister word and change what it means to you: to change it into something far less foreboding and intimidating, to figuratively whip its butt and tell it who’s boss.

  • Failure is proof positive that you tried something. People who don’t make mistakes aren’t very busy.
  • Failure teaches you what you don’t want – and that’s just as important as knowing what you do want.
  • Failure leads you to analyze and research what went wrong and what to do differently next time.
  • Failure toughens you up and smartens you up, each and every time you survive it.
  • In short, failure is just another step toward success. It’s progress. It’s opportunity.

Another thing that makes people think they’ve failed is having expectations that are unrealistically lofty to begin with. We sometimes expect too much of ourselves (or others expect too much from us and/or those around them). Not everyone is destined to be a celebrity in his or her field of endeavor, or to make a sweeping change to better the world. Most of those who do only did so with the help of countless (often unacknowledged) helpers in the wings, without whose help nothing would have been accomplished. Each person’s contribution, no matter how thankless, is a vital cog in the machine, and ultimately, it isn’t getting credit that is important – it’s achieving the goal, however big or small.

And how small is too small to matter? Everything matters. You may not think that weak smile and sincere “thank you” that you mustered to the nurse is worth anything, but I dare you to say that to her – she might have felt at that moment, for other reasons, that all her hours and her education were not paying off, and then she saw that someone noticed. No, she’s not doing it for the recognition, but instead to know that she can help others – still, now and again we all need a little encouragement when under the yoke. That kind word at the right time can make an epic difference to someone; you don’t know how they might be suffering behind that brave façade. And you could make their day…or week. You could help them make a major decision. And you may never know it – but you’re not doing it for credit.

Little things we do can make a big impact. There are successes you’ve had without even realizing it.

Trust that this is true. Spread spontaneous kudos. Share pearls of wisdom. Do it – because you can – not because collateral benefits may include winning allies. It’s easy, it’s free, and it doesn’t hurt a bit.

Although: “No man is a failure who has friends.” – Mark Twain….But sorry, social-media-only contacts and drinking-buddy bums don’t really count. He’s talking deep, committed relationships, and that can include family or anyone else you have a meaningful influence on and from.

Finally, you must analyze by whose judgment you have “failed” – in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? Does their opinion really matter? Who is the they that you succumb to?

It matters not if you submit your activities to the masses. Only you know your true intent, compared to them. If you are God-fearing, then you know that God also knows your intent better than even you do, as we often are in denial and fool ourselves in weakness to one fear or another desire or some other motivating or limiting factor. Our baser instincts can distract us and sway us from reality. Are you submitting to the fickle opinions of the world? I don’t mean the ones that keep society functional, like laws and ethics – those obviously you must observe and follow unless they are proven to be unjust. What I mean is: are you a slave to little traditions and trends, like not wearing white after Labor Day or having to blow your money on every new gadget to look cool? Just who makes these rules, what’s their agenda, and why do these kinds of rules matter? People used to think having a record player was advanced when those first came out; now many shun them, yet those who appreciate a warmer tone treasure them. Who’s right/wrong? Both. Everyone has been telling me for a decade I should get on social media, but although I could see some advantage to doing so in the near future, I haven’t suffered one bit from lack of participation thus far – it’s just not that important to me. There are some who, I’m sure, would look at me like I had three heads for feeling that way, because they can’t imagine being disconnected from their virtual world for five minutes; I, on the other hand, feel positively liberated; even creatively empowered in my isolation. The key is to find what makes you happy, not what makes “them” happy. Why bend to peer pressure mentality, and why would you give that power to others regarding such insignificant facets of life? They won’t curate your life to your satisfaction – only you can do that.

Some people blame their failures on others. True, once in a while there are those whose purpose is to foil your plans, to steal your thunder: to take credit for your success or blame you for their own duds. I have known at least one of these types of people at every job I’ve ever worked. (Note that I’m a freelancer now). These people are a fact of life – but don’t be one. Look at your life and what you blame on others. Perhaps someone, a boss or a parent, held you back from some opportunity – and you have a right to regret and even grieve that – but that has an expiration date. Your life didn’t end at that moment. Take accountability for yourself – you could have done something else about it afterward. You are an autonomous adult making your own decisions, are you not? You could have better used your time, gone to that school, tried for that better job somehow – if you had the gumption. Motivated people do accomplish an awful lot. Some call it stubbornness, but flip to the good side of that coin and it’s called things like determination and perseverance. It’s a bitter pill to swallow: that you might have to take responsibility for your own subsequent life choices – but is it any more bitter than festering in your resentment over that one thing you blame on someone else, while denying your own culpability on all else? It’s your life and you have to fight for it. It’s nobody else’s job to fight for your best interests. Grow up and make it right – or else quit whining, blaming, and taking it out on everyone around you.

Failure is a state of mind, and it’s often an illusion; if anything, it’s temporary – because with every failure (and barring any dogged devotion to things that clearly haven’t worked), the odds improve that next time will be a success. And every failure takes you closer. Then you’ll have success – and then maybe fall down again – don’t let it daunt you. This track called life is one that lurches forward, so stop looking back – except to gain wisdom – and then apply it now, and ahead.

People make the mistake of thinking that someone is a failure when they only have failures. And those who are judging have failed as well; anyone who claims otherwise is lying. Some may even look at themselves as failures, instead of merely having had failures. And anyone who is successful will tell you that they failed a lot to get where they are! This is the process of finding your way: you try something, fall on your face, get up, try something different, rinse and repeat once or a few dozen times, and then through the process of elimination or a brilliant idea sparked by the knowledge you earned through other tries, you come upon the right solution. You can’t achieve anything without also risking failure. Distinct shadows exist only in the context of light.

As a growing artist, I shun stagnation; therefore I must experiment, and there have been plenty of failed experiments before I found new techniques that worked. You must be willing to risk failure in order to gain. That’s worth repeating: YOU MUST BE WILLING TO RISK FAILURE IN ORDER TO GAIN. In any investment there is a possibility of loss, because all of the factors are not always up to you. Fail? Just try anew. This is like life. This same concept can be applied in all scales, great and small: from the task of potty-training your toddler to overhauling your career, from working in a new media to starting a movement, from changing a tire for the first time to mastering a language; all activities of mankind are endeavors that involve trial and error to some degree – and none of us is realistically expected to be perfect. Keep trying – try again, try harder, try smarter or better, try something different as the results lead you – but keep trying. Embrace your beautifully flawed and unique humanness, and be the best that you can be within that shifting, progressing paradigm.

As a Christian, I read in the Bible that we were never expected to have the capacity to become perfect, because only the triune God of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit is perfect. We strive to become Christ-like, and that is an ongoing journey, yet never the destination, because we never get there and we’re never “done” trying. As many times as we fail, He will forgive us. As long as we keep trying, He sees that. And it doesn’t matter a whit what others see, because they don’t know our heart, but He knows it better than we ourselves do. Our results may not be in alignment with our motivation, but He sees our longing and our intent, and it counts. It matters. And if it doesn’t matter to anyone else; if no one else sees or acknowledges our efforts, it’s irrelevant because He sees them, and knows the sincerity behind it all. This yields the ultimate freedom to continue trying earnestly.

If you’re not a Christian, but you want to understand our motivation and beliefs more accurately, I encourage you to read the book of John in the Bible (or any of the parallel gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke); it’s very true to the comprehensive message of Christ, and a good starting point. Another good one to start appreciating the Word is Proverbs. If you feel lost and ineffective and useless, you can find the answers to these questions of life all around in the Word of the Bible, when the world only leads you astray. Don’t just listen to what others say about the Bible; get a good study Bible and read it and the cross-reference notes for yourself, and then ask questions of respected pastors when you get stuck. The Bible is complex, and some of the historical “begat’s” are tedious (don’t get bogged down; just go to John) and there are many misconceptions out there that are wrongly presented as factual. The Bible is one of the most misquoted tomes in the world, often with passages being taken out of context and twisted to an aberration opposite their true meaning. Take the initiative to see for yourself, and know that it’s not just all out there on the surface; you have to invest a lot of time, and dig. You’ll find it frustrating, fascinating, and increasingly compelling. For instance, before I was saved, I thought that the Old Testament and New Testament had a lot of inconsistencies and contradicted each other. I did not think that because I had read it, though, because frankly, I hadn’t. I thought that because I had taken, at face value, the statement that they contradicted from someone else – someone whose credentials I didn’t even question! Even if they had read those portions about which they complained, they didn’t study it enough to understand why it seems that way or the reason behind it. They never told me about dispensations or what they mean. They didn’t know. Of course the rules are different in the dispensation of Grace because Christ has already come to save mankind, and man can now have salvation through accepting Him as his personal Savior. They didn’t have that option in the Old Testament in previous dispensations such as Law or Human Government or Innocence or the others, because He hadn’t yet manifested Himself on Earth to walk alongside us and die for us and rise again to absolve us of our sins if we accept His offer – by His doing this He changed everything! Other earlier dispensations progressed as man progressed; changes were allowed in different times because of man’s capacity (or incapacity) to understand them. The Bible shows that the relationship between God and man changes, because man Himself evolves in mind and spirit – and God accommodates that. Oh, well, funny these detractors from the Word didn’t mention that…because they didn’t know it! So don’t just accept what they tell you. They aren’t acting or speaking in your best interests. I finally took it upon myself to learn more, and I learned far differently than I had been told before by those who were uninformed – or worse, had a dubious agenda. Seek knowledge where it resides. Any good pastor will gladly make an appointment to address any questions you have without judgment. If you happen upon one whom you feel doesn’t have that attitude, that’s only a cue to try a different church; they’re not perfect and some are better than others – just like is true of individual people. Good grounded pastors know that we are all seekers, that some folks are ahead or in back of us on the track, but we who seek Him get there in God’s time, and no one has the right to say, “Why are you so far behind?” because each of us is behind someone else still – if that makes sense. I sure took my sweet time, so I am aware that I need to be patient with others who aren’t where I am yet, knowing that I have, figuratively speaking, light years to catch up to even more folks of my acquaintance (and I’m honored to have them as mentors).

Well, I didn’t mean that to be so wordy, but some things are inherently complex if you try to explain them to an audience, a part of whom likely hasn’t met that information yet. I’d say a picture is worth a thousand words, but on that topic, I’m just not that good of an artist…yet. 🙂

I went into the faith aspect of life because it’s extremely pertinent to mankind’s perception of failure. God gives me the strength to keep going. People might think I’m exaggerating to say that, but they don’t know what I’ve been through. Those that saw me lose half my family to cancer and two jobs and my health within 14 months some time back, knew what I’d been through, and a couple actually said, “If I’d been through that I would have killed myself already” (an utterance I highly discourage since it’s likely being addressed to someone who is contemplating that very action, as I had been) – but nothing short of God’s helping Hand could have held me safely back from that fate. I am very self-analytical and know where my abilities exist and end, and where my limitations are negated and surpassed by God’s power. Testify.

I have come back from many failures and tragedies. I have had blinding pain and agonizing grief and crushing blows to my fragile ego – and through growing faith, stubborn will, and nothing truly better to do, I bounced back. I’ve even had some successes here and there. Imagine that.

You can, too.

So, just to recap….


Keep the faith.


– Eilee





All content on this site © 2013-2018/present L. Eilee S. George; all rights reserved.

Independence Day

Last night was First Friday Art Walk in, among other areas, the Santa Fe Arts District in Denver, where I am every month, connecting with the people who come to the gallery where I have shown my work for some five years. I meet a lot of really nice and fascinating folks every First Friday, and I strike up conversations pretty readily anymore. I find that strangers and I inevitably find some interesting connection – geographic history, life experience – something – as I explain inspiration behind my paintings when they inquire. Yesterday also happened to be what would have been my father’s 85th birthday, and he was heavy on my mind. Here in a couple weeks, it’ll be four years since he died in our arms from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Daddy was with me last night; he crept into my conversation with a veteran, mentioned in a context of my father embracing regulation and integrity in his business dealings as well as order in his home life, because Dad had been a Green Beret. He appeared as a brave fighter in another conversation I had with a nurse over his cancer when she was asking about a painting I’d done that hinted that I too am a survivor. And Dad popped up again when I was talking to a nice man named Howard, telling him how full of verve and autonomous my octogenarian mother is, and how stubborn I am, and how Daddy used to call each of us “in-de-damn-pendent”. Howard, a writer, really liked that word; so did Dad. It suited Mom and myself in Dad’s eyes, because he always wanted to help us, and we were so confoundedly self-sufficient it frustrated him to no end. It was a term always laced with underlying respect. He may have been extra protective of me since they had me so late in life, but regardless, I think any loving man with a driven wife or a headstrong child could relate to Pop’s proud, conflicted exasperation.

Dad grew up during the Great Depression in a family that was already floundering financially. Into the beginning of and through World War II, he worked sometimes as many as three jobs as a kid, to help contribute to the family’s survival: bicycle repair tech, newspaper deliverer, and soda jerk. He worked like this often to the detriment of his studies. I think it was early on that he vowed that his children wouldn’t struggle that way, and when that season of life came to pass, like many well-meaning parents are known to do, sometimes he overcompensated.

Of course, in my more naive days, I was willing to take assistance as he gave it, without much thought to it…but I started working in my teens and did realize what effort money entailed. I also had a close friend who lost her father in her mid-teens…and I became acutely aware that my own parents wouldn’t be there forever, and perhaps I should figure out how to stand on my own two feet – and I knew I wouldn’t get good at it overnight.

I had worked for almost a year as a proofreader and typesetter for multiple publications at my local newspaper during my senior year of high school. With that, I funded most of the purchase of a little used 1980 Honda Accord LX hatchback that became my first car. Dad insisted on helping me with the scant rest of the balance – the whole price was a whopping total of $2800. Looking back, I can’t remember how many times someone had to tow that vehicle. Sea-foam green with squeaky brakes, I named it “Cricket” (because we always name our cars in our family). It got me around Springfield when I went to college, despite what seemed like everything on it getting fixed twice: the brakes, the air, the heat, the radiator…but it was my first taste of freedom, and I was terribly sentimental about the thing.

One weekend I came home to visit from college, and saw a brand-new Camaro IROC-Z in the front lawn. For some years I had become accustomed to strange vehicles appearing there and vanishing, ghostlike, as Dad had to repossess cars from time to time for the bank. Parking downtown was limited, so sometimes he would store repos at our place till they sold, or payments were brought back current by their owners; he tried to work with them. Considering how the road we lived on was regularly utilized as a drag strip by local youths, it wasn’t a bad marketing move. Now, a Camaro in the late 80’s lacked the seductive, edgy lines it had in the 70’s – but it was still a coveted car in some circles. It was white and sleek and just plain looked fast, even just sitting there on the gravel next to the garage. I could hear it growling, revving and purring at me, “Come on; let’s scrrream across the countryside together, my darrrling.” Ooh, an American car with a strangely European accent. Well, it was a truly exotic machine in my sphere at any rate. I peered inside – score! It was an automatic – which was all I could drive. I admired its shiny newness, and my little Cricket seemed to deflate a little, whining and waxing melancholy as my eyes caressed the gleaming interloper.

Being in the habit as he was to watch for me whenever I came home, Dad met me on the driveway. He lit a cigarette, returned his lighter to his pocket, and motioned to the Chevy, tendrils of smoke following his hand. “What do you think?” He almost sounded like an announcer on a game show presenting the grand prize.

“It’s nice,” I acquiesced. “Another repo?”

He nodded. “Another fellow over-bought and couldn’t keep up on the payments. It was for his son. The kid doesn’t even have a job.” He puffed on his ciggie; I loitered and toed the ground, wondering if I should go in and say hi to Mom. We exchanged the how’s-school-it’s-fine ritual. He studied me a spell, and then proceeded to do the unthinkable: he offered me the car on a silver platter. Keep in mind that I was eighteen, in school with a part-time, minimum-wage job in the University music department, riding my bike more often than not to save on gas money, subsisting on ramen and Vienna sausages, and he was presenting me a no-strings, free, brand-new muscle car that was basically sex on wheels to anyone with eyes, ears and nerves.

“You’re kidding. That’s not funny,” I said, my face absolutely serious, fists clenched at my sides.

“No – I mean it. I could buy it easy as anyone else,” he stated plainly, shrugging.

“But I couldn’t.”

You don’t have to,” he smiled matter-of-factly.

“Not the issue,” I countered, and pointed to the Honda, on which I had paid off the balance to him by then. “That,” I added with pride of ownership, “is mine.” Cricket straightened her posture, trying in vain to look shiny after a speedy, hot, and dusty ride down I-44, highway 96, and 71 Alternate.

Dad was atypically pulsing with excited nervous energy, and clearly he was growing impatient and eager. I found it mildly disorienting – but more than that, amusing. “Listen,” he said, “I don’t get one of these every day. It’s a good deal. It’ll sell fast – he doesn’t want it back – the kid won’t work for it.” Some birds quarreled in the nearby Bradford pear; smoke eddied around Dad’s head in the still air. I was still secretly breathless from my impetuously swift race home. “Do you want it or not?” he asked bluntly.

One of my thin arms cradled the other’s elbow, which led up to a hand holding and worrying my chin; my face pinched in pensive consideration. I was hard pressed to think of any of my peers with a finer piece of car, or such a generous offer. I knew it would be somewhat more reliable than my little roller skate. I knew it would have a certain allure, a je ne sais quoi if you will, I mused of the flirtatiously foreign-posing domestic. I knew a lot more than that, having grown up with a savvy financier like my father. I suspected a test, but Dad wasn’t that manipulative. He wanted to please me, but I looked at the bigger picture, knowing there was more to this situation than merely that, which bore sober reflection. To myself I dialogued: does he really want me in something that fast? I can’t handle that much car…I’ll wrap myself around a tree…ugh and the upkeep…the cost…and I just plain don’t need it…. He squirmed on his hook; I let him off it.

In a staccato breath, I answered, “Nope. No thanks. Not for me.” I meant it. He knew I meant it.

Still, his jaw dropped. He threw his cigarette down to the ground, John-Wayne-style, and ground it into the gravel with a twist of his sole, rather than dropping it into the old tin peanut can into which he typically deposited expired butts. It wasn’t common for my old man to be speechless. He fidgeted briefly and then pierced my eyes with his as he found his voice. “Do you at least want to give it a test drive?” he tempted.

“Why torment myself?” I answered him. I was starting to think that he wanted me to be a foolish teen! Vicarious? Perhaps. But he already had my brother’s automotive genius in theory and practice, who offered all kinds of wonderful fodder for the wish-I-had-wheels-like-that-at-that-age fantasy. My brother was legendary in the local clandestine drag race circuit. I even suggested that Dad offer the same deal to him. He mumbled something about him having enough cars already that work better than mine. I shrugged; mine was working right then, I observed.

It seemed we were at an impasse. Dad pivoted forth and back, and rubbed his head with a perplexed grin, tousling his salt-and-pepper hair. “Can you tell me one thing…why?” he finally asked, his blue-gray eyes sparkling with curiosity.

“Well,” I answered thoughtfully, and started ticking points off on my fingers as I looked up at the sky where, apparently, my mind had written a list, “It’s a gas guzzler for sure – my monthly costs would go up on that alone. Two, the insurance has to be astronomical. And, it will likely be a target for vandalism and theft by some kids who might be jealous of it – I’d never have that problem with the Honda! Plus the cops would probably target and pull me over in a car like this, whether I sped or not…I don’t need extra tickets either – I already have a lead foot!” I finished with a firm voice, but visually I was likely a contradiction, with round eyes and a forgetfully open mouth – I do recall having surprised myself. “Lastly, it projects an attitude of…I don’t know…aggressiveness, that isn’t in line with my personality and with which I don’t want to be associated.”

I think Cricket was hyperventilating behind me.

Dad’s jaw was slack from awe once more. He took a breath, and slapped his hand firmly on my shoulder; I was a tad anxious. “I sure got a good turn on you,” he proclaimed, his voice breaking a little. “What a sensible listing of reasons – right off the top of your head like that…wow, kid. I didn’t think you listened to me all these years, but clearly you did. I can’t wait to tell the guys at the bank how my teen-aged daughter turned down a new sports car!” He shook his head, beaming at me. “Come here,” he said, grabbing me with a beefy arm and hugging me. I was surprised and teary, and could barely breathe from him squeezing me so. We wobbled apart, and he patted me on the back like a faithful apprentice, and said, “Come inside and say hello to your mother; she’s cooking dinner.” And in we went. Cricket slyly stuck her tongue out at the haughty-yet-wounded Camaro, who – at least in our brief possession – never got a name.

InHiSchl1I fed on that look of pride in my dad’s eyes that day for years; it was worth more than any car he could have offered me, even a McLaren – not that I could drive one (what would be the point of making that with an automatic tranny?) There were times I still let him help me, as I could see it physically hurt him when I refused his assistance. I knew that was part of why he had worked so hard to become successful: to provide for his family and help others – and that this was fused with his very purpose in life. But I picked and chose the circumstances, and didn’t take abusive advantage of him or allow myself to become codependent.

These many years later, I look back, and wonder if Dad ever knew that the Camaro episode was the principle event behind all those intermittent times I subsequently turned down his help and money – because I was “in-de-damn-pendent”, as he called me. I came by it honestly…after all, so was he.

Happy Birthday, Dad.





All content on this site © 2013-2018/present L. Eilee S. George; all rights reserved.