Monday, December 31, 2007

A great year!

My year is summed up very nicely in the above picture. Maya Louise chewing happily on the custom bib my parents got for her! Four generations gathered for Christmas breakfast. From now on I will consider all such moments as miracles!

I was pretty sore and tired Christmas morning, but yesterday we all gathered again, with the addition of my neice, nephew, and sister-in-law, and I was much more comfortable.

Recovery seems a bit slower than I had hoped for, but also better in some ways than I had imagined. The post-op doctor visit was encouraging.... all the cancer is gone. (probably?) I have made friends with Depends - I will never joke about them again? ;-) So far I'm beating the doctor's predictions on the need for them! I may have some leftovers if any of you find yourself needing some in the future??????

I am beyond belief with the events of the past year, and teary with gratitude. Gratitude for my family and friends, and gratitude for the dozens of folks, known, vaguely known, and unknown, who got me through the last couple of months....... Dr. Sirotenko and staff, who always run PSA! .... the unknown blood lab folks who just run and report the numbers with no direct knowledge of the people whose samples flow through their machines ....... Dr. Guthinger and staff who helped with the diagnosis and decisions necessary ....... Dr. Valvo, who sat in that little room and helped with the decisions, and then sat in the corner with his head and hands in a really cool machine, and treated my body like it was as important as all the others ..... Dr. Valvo's staff who scheduled stuff, soothed me when I called with concerns, removed the staples and other stuff, and delivered the final version of the good news, and the staff of Rochester General Hospital, from the diagnostic imaging folks with their biopsies, cool scans and pictures, to the folks who introduced themselves moments before they strapped me down in that big room with the big machines, to the folks on the 4500 floor who took very good care of me after I woke up! Last but not least, Cheryl, who has been the world's best wife, nurse and friend to me since my return home, and for 23 years before that!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The wisdom of others!

What follows came through my many e-mail connections. I love it when life hands you just the right thing at the right moment. Given the events of my last 6 weeks, the following - written by G. K. Chesterton (No - I never heard of him before) - seemed the perfect Christmas message.

What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it.

It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good — far from it. And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me.

What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now, I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.
— G. K. Chesterton in The Tablet 2

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007


Christmas Eve --- I'm home, recovering nicely, very happy to be alive and theoretically prostate cancer free. 6 "relatively" small holes in my stomach.... the robot was much less scarry in person, though my last memory is of about 2 minutes in the room, the table pre-warmed for my comfort, both arms and my legs being strapped firmly down (we'll be standing you on your head for this), the robot under a big plastic bag off to the side, the control console off in the corner, about 6 or 7 people introducing themselves, --------------------------- fade to 5 hours later, rolling down a hall ------ by Cheryl, Casey, Deanna and Bert, and on to a room on the 4500 unit of Rochester General Hospital - feeling like I've been kicked in the stomach by a mule, but surrounded by a wide variety of angels who took very good care of me for about 24 hours, and on home with my personal angel - Cheryl. Periodic spells of tears when I am just so glad to be here! Some combination of luck, skill, technology, prayers, thoughts, and spells, has got me still here!

Again - get your PSA checked, your colonoscopy, your lumps checked, etc, and celebrate every moment of this short span we get to spend with friends and family!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No pictures for this one!

I'm running out of time to share this in advance of my surgery. Many of you already know, but I want to let you know that I'm having my prostate removed December 20th. They tell me I've got cancer, and removal gives the best long term prognosis. Prostate cancer is very slow growing, but they say that since I am young (yes 62 is young these days) and otherwise pretty healthy, I will probably live longer than the time it would take the cancer to get me if we leave it alone. Radiation is an option, but less reliable for the long term. The surgery will be done with some fancy new technology that will get me home the next day! The Da Vinci robot thing is the latest, and I've run into several guys who've had it --- especially younger guys! I guess I'm still in that category despite feeling a bit old on occasion! I'm going to see if I can slip the surgeon an extra $100 bucks to go on down to the left a bit and fix my arthritic hip while he is in there?

I've got to see my granddaughter grow up, and my neice and nephew become the wonderful adults I know they will be! We've also got a lot of stuff left to make!

They do it with a rather cool, but somewhat scary looking robotic system, kind of like a fancy CNC milling machine with about 7 heads - 5 or 6 quite small holes in me, and I go home the next day, with a week or so of no driving, etc. Christmas with a catheter - whoopee! The surgeon operates the thing from the other side of the room with a 10X 3-D view of my innards and video game like controllers! A lot more reliable and easy to recover from than a 10" incision, and the traditional 1X view. Also the side effects are drastically minimized from what they used to be.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'm a bit freaked out, but it sure beats the alternative! As soon as I can get back on the computer, I'll let you know how it went. In the meantime, make sure all your male friends over 50 get their PSA checked, and your female friends check for lumps! Mine was caught early with routine PSA checks, and the biopsy was pretty simple ----a bit weird, but not painful!

Any positive thoughts, prayers, or spells will be greatly appreciated!

Don Olney

Monday, December 17, 2007

Definitely hydroponics weather

With the season's first really definitely winter snowstorm raging outside the window, Dad's tomato plants are doing quite nicely thank you! And after our annual fondue dinner with Bert and Beth - what can be better than dipping otherwise healthy bits of food in a vat of hot cheese? - Phyllis presented this beautiful platter of dessert bits --- sans cheese!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another wonderful day with Maya

Cheryl does Wednesday mornings. I joined her for a while this week. That little person is just plain wonderful! Grandma Cheryl tries the "Bark, Bark" thing below....... hope this works?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Art at home

A while back we created a door with one of our figures on it for one of our customers ..... a bigger version of our of our wall pieces! Looks great doesn't it!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Almost Free?

It was a cold, cloudy, beginning of freezing rain sort of day, but Wyatt and I got fairly close, and got this shot. The generator is up there, but the blades are not yet. I think these folks are against wind power, but there are some great shots of the process of building the wind farm in the Cohocton, NY area at this site. I wonder what Great great great grandfather Henry would think of these..... on the hill over his route to the doctor's office. He never had electricity, and now they are going to soon be making it on the next hill over from his. There will be pretty much a zero carbon footprint for this electricity. Yes we had to build and erect these beauties, and some maintainence, but no nuclear waste, no greenhouse gases, no smog, and some pretty awesome wind turbines gracing some of our central NY hills. The math looks pretty good from where I sit. And what better to spend those kilowatts on than decorating the back yard for the season!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We make awards too!

Not the best picture in the world, but we make really nice awards for a wide variety of uses. Definitely a step above the usual brass plaque or bowling trophy...... this one features the Detroit skyline, and "Champ" - the logo of Communities in Schools.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Another Winter Foliage

A really good investment.... this one cost me $2. At the time it was in a 1.5" little plastic pot, but it has grown and prospered in my kitchen window! When I went to transplant it for about the 3rd time, I noticed the buds, and will wait till it is done. These are just the first 2 of many developing buds!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Wax fruit

Wax fruit conjures up an image of a bowl of wax apples and pears to adorn the dining room table, but at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, wax replicas of dozens of varieties of fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, etc. were created to be used as teaching tools back in the day before computers, and even quality color photography. There are even samples showing the diseases and bug damage that can effect the various food varieties that are part of our local diet. Except for the fact that the cherries above have been in a cardboard box for about 80 years, they look like you could pop them in your mouth for a burst of flavor, and then spit the pit at your kid brother!

Today you can just Google "Napoleon Cherries" if you wonder what that variety looks like. Back in the early 1900's you would go to a drawer or box and find the wax sample! These grand old samples are deteriorating - age, poor storage conditions, etc. have waged war on these meticulously hand made pieces. (note the broken leaf) The other day I got to be part of a little group brainstorming how to repair, restore, preserve, and catalog them. What fun it is to go off into a realm you didn't even know existed a week ago!

If you know anything about wax fruit restoration, let me know!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Update on Lilac Bud post from October 29th

Picture below was taken a few days ago. Not much of a lilac if it was May, but this is November!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pumpkin Soup

Not sure I every knowlingly ate something from Hungary? Paprika - Kathryn tells us she got it at a market stall that sold nothing but paprika! And I thought it was just that orange powder stuff in the McCormick tin can! If you don't recognize it, those bright red threads are paprika. And the soup the threads are floating on was delicious!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving - Bark, Bark, Bark

Just in case you actually read the title above, "Bark, Bark, Bark" is Maya Louise's latest favorite noise. You haven't lived until you've seen a PHD Child Psychologist sticking out her tongue, and going "bark, bark, bark, bark -------". Thanksgiving was wonderful, and if you leave me out of the equation, there wasn't even a weird old uncle to deal with! One of those put the camera on the radiator and run like crazy to beat the timer pics is below, and in case you thought Powdermilk buscuits were a figment of the imaginagion, I've added a picture of the real thing! And they really are tasty! They are actually rolls, etc, but I couldn't resist the picture!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Marlboro Mushroom

Mushroom growing under tree on the walk from our hotel to the show this weekend - detail below. --- click to enlarge.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The joy of being a toymaker

One of the joys of being a toymaker is watching kids play with them! These boy's grandmother was my freshman year Psych 101 professor, and still a friend! Their grandfather is one of my two best friends! A great many years ago I made a toy car for their dad! He immediately drew all the details of the under side of a car on the bottom - muffler, shocks, springs, axles, everything! A while later he apologized for messing up the gift I had given him. I hope I adequately made him understand how very special it made me feel that he wanted to participate in the creation I had begun, but he finished! I'm not sure I succeeded because as I remember he carefully erased it all? I wasn't at all surprised that these two - third generation - immediately began spinning their tops upside-down! Grown-ups tend to hang our artwork on the wall - usually from the proper hanger we provide - pretty much aways right side up! Kids just try to figure out what else they can do with our work! If that includes upside-down, two tops battling with each other, or moments later dancing with each other, that is just the normal course of childhood! The electronic games our kids get these days seem to only work in one way, and to direct the kids down a narrow defined path to the a very specific goal. Give me the creativity of trying it upside-down every time! The camera stopped the action, but those tops really are spinning!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More Engineering - Less Work

In an image from our show in Charlotte, NC a week or so ago, a fellow artist stands by as an electric winch in the front of the van pulls the entire contents of the booth up a couple of ramps into the van! Talk about engineering! As the leading top edge entered the door, it "flicked" the spring loaded latch. One inch less - wasted space - one quarter inch more - torn out van roof! Off to another show tomorrow, so not sure when the next post will be. Check out our new Etsy store - only a few items for sale so far, but it's a start! Any feedback will be appreciated.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I'm not sure babysitting is exactly the right term when you are taking care of your own family? There was not a lot of sitting involved - she likes to move around. Maya is a baby, but even that is changing. She is definitely becoming a person - actively looking around at her world, smiling when happy, scowling with lower lip stuck out when not, and bursting into loud protest when her family doesn't act correctly and with great haste! Cheryl and I loved it, and Casey and Deanna got their first "date nite" since Maya arrived!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Spinning Top Show

One of my favorite things in the whole world is showing kids some of my spinning top collection! Today I got to do that twice for two wonderful groups of kindergarten kids! They love to see the tops spin, wonder at all the marvelous things they do, and just generally have fun. I sneak in a little bit of learning too, but they hardly notice! Click here to learn more.

That's me spinning a Japanese top balanced on top of a stick, and below, guiding a spinning top through one of the mazes we make.
A big thank you to all teachers! They do the second most important job in the world. Only being a parent ranks above those who teach the young!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dirty Ernie's

When the sign on the highway says "Dirty Ernie's Ribs and Gifts", you pretty much are required to stop at the next exit and see what's up! Unfortunately closed for the season. My first ever handicapped picnic table.... the phrase "half a bench short of a picnic table" comes to mind, but actually a pretty good idea..... I wonder if there is a fine for using it without the proper tag hanging from your mirror?
Homer Simpson cast in iron.
And in a day where technology makes pretty recent stuff seem like an antique, I think this might be a record for the total bill to fill my tank. I've paid more per gallon, but today I was pretty much down to fumes when I found this pump....... there wasn't even a slot for the credit card, and those little white numbers spun around like crazy! Nothing digital here!
Nice to be back home!

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Next to our hotel is a brand new school. It is located on the site of an old all black school. Times have changed, but they have celebrated history with tiles made by the kids decorating the outside wall of the school, and with tiles that include pictures of the old neighborhood, and even a picture of the old Second Ward School high school band --- no indication of what year?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tamarack, West Virginia

If only New York State promoted our products in the way West Virginia does! Right on Interstate 77 a place called Tamarack - The best of West Virginia --- sells nothing but products made right there in the state of West Virginia..... CDs of West Virginia musicians, products made by West Virginia artists, food grown in West Virginia, you get the idea. New York State rest stops sell "I heart NY" mugs made in China! At Tamarack there is not a "MADE IN CHINA" label in the place ---- do you know how rare that is these days?

Monday, October 29, 2007

First Frost

We had our first frost last nite, but not a "killer" frost. Most of the stuff in the yard is fine. I did bring in a couple of plants that have been summering outdoors though. A couple of days ago, Cheryl pointed out that there seems to be a lot of large buds on the lilac bush, so I went out and got this picture. This really doesn't make sense since the first buds in the spring are leaf buds - green - and the emerging flowers don't look anything like this, and it is late fall, etc??? A very pretty sight though!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mandatory Halloween

We're going to be on the road for Halloween this year, so unless somebody shows up at the hotel room door, this is it! Rochester hosts a wonderful event - Balloon Manor - to raise funds for cancer victims, and it is truly unique. Cheryl and I, along with Anne, Maeve, and Wyatt, took in the spooktacular sites. Totally wonderful balloon sculptures, spiced with more puns than the brain can keep up with...... they even entertain you while waiting in line. If you are reading this on October 28th before 6 pm, there is still time to see it! If not, put it on your Halloween list for 2008!
In the graveyard, a mirror was the best joke of all ---- that's me in the hat with camera ----- last shot I got as my battery ran out?????

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A good day!

Spent a whole hour sitting on the front porch with Maya sleeping on my shoulder today. Does life get any better than that? And outside our window this morning the sun caught the fall trees on the next block, but hadn't made it to our street yet.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Painting the town!

Most every intersection has a traffic control box - usually a big metal box, sometimes covered in posters, garage sale notices, etc. but some of them in Rochester are being converted to works of art! Cathryn was working on this one as I rode by on my bike tonight! Thank you Cathryn, and all the other folks involved in improving our city!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nature in the studio

Just a quick shot of one of the many succulent plants I grow in the wonderful big sunny windows of our studio!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Maya, Susan, and Frederick

Maya Louise was baptized yesterday. Her friends and family gathered at the same place where her father and mother were married almost 5 years ago and we celebrated her birth, and welcomed her to the community of faith. Afterward, we took a side trip to a small park in Rochester, where Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas sit and discuss the twin problems of slavery, and women's sufferage. Thanks to them, and to many others, Maya Louise will have a much different life than might have been. Maya's family is Italian, Black, Native American, and probably lots of other heritages, and she is a woman. But, she will be able to vote, able to live where she pleases, become who she wants to be, and will be loved by a vast variety of really warm, loving, fun, and supportive people who make up her family! Thank you to Maya, and to all the people who helped get her here, and give her a good life!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thoughts from the tall blue plastic box.

Doesn't that leave you pretty much where you started? Other than helping the germs evolve - kill off the weak ones - this doesn't make a lot of sense?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Business card collectors and bow ties

When selling our work, customers have several methods of exiting our booth. Asking for a card is the most common method of trying to make us feel like they are genuine in their interest, while making them comfortable with not buying anything. We smile and give them 15 cents, knowing from past experience that the colorful cards we create to try and increase the number of future contacts will be lost, put in a drawer, thrown out, etc. Our "favorite" card collectors are the ones who just breeze by, ask for a card after only the briefest glance at our work, and are on their way. Another type are the ones who sneak a hand in behind our "desk" to take a card without even saying hello. Never just put out a pile of cards! Hundreds will disappear in the blink of an eye! And never ever be clever like I was a while back. I created several cards with different images of our work on them, and discovered people taking one of each! The folks who stop and chat a while, and ask for a card as they leave, are always welcome!

The thoughts that go through our heads as folks take cards are usually best left inside. The jokes about "be backs" are legion, but this weekend a perfect moment happend. A fellow artist was visiting our booth when a woman asked for a card with the comment.... "I'm not buying today, but may want to later". My friend's better judgement abandoned him for a moment, and he said something like "Oh..... like you will be buying later"? My instant hope that she hadn't heard him was not to be, and she informed us haughtily that ours was the only booth all day that she had asked for a card from! ;~)

And just for laughs, here is a picture of me, about 6 hours post haircut, and in a bow tie!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Out of computer range for a few days

Just to update on granddaughter Maya Louise before we leave! And for those who wonder at my fascination with snails, and aren't quite as excited about them, here is an alternative view. Looks a lot less friendly than the cans of beer I used to put out?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Snail's Eye View

Caught this snail out and about early in the day after a fresh rain - 4 feet up in the air, and looking for something? And in a thistle?