Summer ramblings…

Welcome to summer and to the blinding blasting hair dryer heat of Arizona.  It’s that time of year many of us talk about living elsewhere and wondering, as we do, as to what we are actually doing here and why.   My cats seemingly dream through it from June to September.  In my case it’s been 17 summers – all which involved this thought for extended periods of time – but we do have the blessing of the monsoon season which is about to start, and then October rolls around and we celebrate the most perfect fall/winters while others dig their way out of the snow.  When I look at the heat wave that is surrounding  the country now,  we can claim “but it’s a dry heat”, so 109 degrees feels just like that (except when we climb into our cars) – hot enough to fry an egg on something within reach as well as turn our brains to mush.   This is the winter of our discontent here in the Sonoran desert.   Time to hide out in a cool air conditioned space and do a good cat impression…just come out at night to gather and hunt.

I’m all healed up after my experience this past Spring – completely out of that rabbit hole now.  In fact, I feel the best I’ve felt in years and ironically it seems far behind me.  No more back pain ( a first in many years) and it’s encouraged me to eat right, exercise  and lose weight.  17lbs so far (with the help of – some more to go but I’m over the major hurdles and down the right path to healthier me.

I must mention however, that within an hour of my last meeting with my surgeon, who gave me a thumbs up to go live life, my husband, known for his risk taking adventures, fell of his bike while running our 90lb almost blind Landseer Newfoundland dog  and broke is leg.   In all honesty, I believe my own spring time experience was only to set me up for this, to give me the compassion to a) purchase him an ugly chair – one of those puffy recliners while he recovers – something I have fought off for years and b) understand the process for pain and recovery (this will be his 4th leg break and the doctor says he’s not allowed anymore).   He’s doing better already and back to taking some risk taking on his crutches.  No more running the blind dog on the bike though.  Now I’m  up at 6:30 every morning walking the dog at least 2 miles which is great for my health!

I am re-energized and back at the studio, and I’ve been working on some fun projects this past month while I got caught up.

The main focus has been  the website of Modern Works Music Publishing: – finally here and still getting through the tweaks, but it’s starting to look like it should and how exciting to really understand the roster that this jewel music publishing company carries.   From Thelonius Monk to Brad Mehldau, Andy Summers and Pieta Brown, as well as   Alison and Viktor Krauss, Julie Gold, S.D. Souther and Eric Bazilian and Harvey Brooks and so many more – the company is a treasure trove of amazing talent and music, and an ever growing roster.     I was fortunate to meet Dan Coleman, who owns and runs the company, last year through our work with Howe Gelb and I came on board a few months ago to help him work on the creative elements of the company.  We’ll be soft launching the early version of the site and getting it out to supervisors and editors worldwide for licensing quickly and I have many projects to focus on with this.

In June it was a busy month with the delivery of the recycled billboard bags for the Mayors conference in Orlando Florida.  An event in which all the mayors from around the United States were invited to attend and we were honored to be asked to provide the bags for the event.

I’m still working on a coffee table book at the same time as my other projects.  I’m hoping for a September delivery (self publishing it through but I’ll tell you more about this as it unfolds.  It is the least predictable of the projects because it is a self funded effort, and as any entrepreneur can attest, those projects tend to get shoved to the back of the line.

More projects are blooming and I’ll fill you in,  but this week is July 4th, so I’m being a little laid back and will enjoy sipping on a cup of Earl Grey tea, waving my british flag while we celebrate independence of each other (US & UK).  I’m British still at heart, I have a sense that I must retain some decorum in celebrating independence day my way.   A first generation immigrant always keeps her foot in her traditions (tea always at 4pm)!   I’ll be spending countless hours watching the Olympics this summer as well as the finals of Wimbledon.  I loved the Jubilee and the Queens birthday – it’s wonderful to see a happy revival in Britain and a nation uplifted (even by pomp and circumstance), and I’ll continue that in Tucson even in the scorching burning bright light of summer will fade my Union Jack.   Thank goodness for airconditioning, Direct TV, the neighbors pool and the ability to fast forward through commercials!  Its time to hunker down and hide in the cracks of my beautiful rammed earth office (see Compound Management to check out the building).

Back to the drawing board, but check in again soon!


Rabbit holes and pot holes

Forgive me for the long absence.   I’ve been down a rabbit hole for all of April, rather an appropriate place to spend the Spring,  after hitting a large pot hole as I drove to return my little Ford Fiesta rental car at LAX.  I thought I was being economical renting this little car.  But perhaps economical is not always smart.   Hitting the pot hole  was a moment in time that was a cross between shocking and jarring, and eye crossing or star seeing (but not of the celebrity type).   It only takes a few seconds for lives to turn in another direction to the one we thought we were heading.   This turn was to the road less traveled.  After three days of work and meetings, I was driving to deliver the car back to its rightful place and catch my plane home, mulling over of all the things I had to do that coming week and how I was enjoying this new project I’d just taken on as Creative Director, and I was looking forward to getting home to hug my  10 year old that evening and catch up with my husband.  Then the slow motion button got pushed and I veered left onto a road I had not intended to be on.

As wide as the streets are in LA, and as bad as the driving is, there is never a good time for a random car to pull across the road passing in front of me with inches to spare.  The brakes of my economical bucket squealed like finger nails on a blackboard as I floored the pedal, and the bottom of economy hit the unseen  pot hole with such force that it gave me shuddering goosebumps.  In a slow motion blur I saw the passenger of the car look at me with her mouth open, and then they were gone as fast as they came. I swore out loud and shook my fist, but didn’t really understand the extent of what had just happened.    It was two days later when I awoke to get my son ready for school, I realized that I couldn’t bend my body, and getting out of bed was an incredible struggle.  My right side had locked and I couldn’t swing my leg or push myself up from my mattress.   You know its bad when you cry putting your knickers on, that you’ve hit an all time low when your partner finds you sobbing over your underwear and you are unable to bend your legs to reach down to pull up.  That moment of complete helplessness doesn’t come easy for anyone, and for me it was the moment I realized I was in real trouble.

Ten weeks earlier I had gone to my doctor to ask about the back pain I was having, and to tell her I thought I had a bulging disc in my lower back, but after being given a token prescription of vicodin and a referral for an xray, in which nothing apparently showed, and taking half a vicoden pill  I found myself nauseas and laying down on my office sofa for an afternoon,  I was back to square one.    When I hobbled into her office for a visit after my pot hole run in, she hummed and murmured “oh dear” and then prescribed steroids, ibuprofen and the process of getting an MRI began.   It took two weeks to get the approval by my insurance company.   I suppose it was just in case I wasn’t ready, because by the time I got the stamp of approval, I was in blind agony.   I could walk only on my left leg, dragging my right behind me inches at a time, my foot was completely numb and with the assistance of the two walking canes we had purchased when Mike had twisted his ankle earlier this year in Mexico I moved forward at the pace of a snail.    At  least my pesos were well spent.

Once you lose the ability to get up, you never want to lie down and it was taking me an hour to get out of bed each morning.  I would position myself and hoist, fall down, writhe around in pain again and again and continue this until I could position myself on the edge of the mattress, then slowly shift my bottom down until I reach the end of the bed, where, with the help of the bed frame and the walking sticks I could rise (and fall) until I was standing.   I was like a fish out of water.  Literally gasping between flaps, flailing without limbs.     I learned how to pee standing up  because sitting became no longer an option unless I sloped into a half lay, and I cried out as I hurled my body to the upward position   By this point I had stopped driving and had become reliant on friends and family  to drive me to only necessary places.   The week before I had driven my son to a friends house and spent the entire drive breathing heavily – remincent of birthing.  My son reassured me that this was only temporary, and I would mend.  He was handling it better than me, which was strangely reassuring. And he was now serving me food and tending to my needs instead of the other way around.   That was, in my mind, the time it was to admit the rabbit hole had closed around me and I was truly in the dark.

During all this,  I sadly missed attending my step sons wedding, and a number of other family moments I thought were probably important, but avoided inclusion.  One evening  my step children and their partners  came over for dinner, the four girls all cooking in the kitchen, two of which are pregnant with our future grandchildren, the three boys all sitting around the table talking of the upcoming wedding.  I sat alone in the living room, watching on, with my walking sticks by my side, propped up in a position that I could tolerate for a few hours.  The girls glowed healthy, a vision that always strikes clearer when you yourself are unwell.   Periodically checking on me, topping up my vodka to numb this mess of a woman, and a look of pity in their eyes as I winced at every move I made.   I saw for a moment the future as they all sat around the table, animated and happy as I half lay with my wobbly TV table and my food cut up for me.    The old biddy that needed feeding and caring for had suddenly found her way into my house and she  was me.   That was a stunning turning point when I silently made a pact with myself to heal quickly and focus on being strong and healthy so that I don’t become what I saw before the right time.     Heck, I have two new babies coming to grandmother, and my 10 year old needs me!  Perhaps those moments are the most important, when the light bulb clicked on, and I vowed I was not going to own this disability and remembered Eden’s words spoken earlier  in the car about this being temporary.  My lovely 10 year old wise son.

A day passed after my MRI came back and it was faxed to a neurosurgeon, who called me immediately and told me to come the next day.   And  there in print lay the root ofthis problem, shouting from the black and white facsimile the doctor had sent to him, was the culprit, the lower S1 disc ruptured, pushing its leaked contents against my sciatic nerve, rendering me useless and in agony.    He calmly told me he would be drilling into my back with a dremel  like tool and pulling the disc ooze off my nerve which he described as a tuna like substance and scheduled me for surgery 3 days later.  As a virgin to the surgery alter, I was eager to participate because the only other option was to wait it out to heal, which I was told could take as long as 2 years and unknown costs for alternative healing, of course not covered by any insurer.

Its funny how the human spirit takes over during times of chaos and illness.  The surgery seemed inconsequential comparative to the radiating pain, particularly the leg spasms that now invaded me like a bad joke.  I would feel like I was periodically being hit with a bat across my backside and my leg would swing up and over my left leg, trying to run away from these blinding uncontrolled motions.  These would come more and more frequently as the surgery date loomed.    Finally, waiting on a bed  in the pre-op room at the hosptial, the charming surgeon came to my side and smiled, and my leg threw itself in the air as I arched my back in pain.  I was exhausted by my bodies own mechanisms, by the sheer lack of control I know had.   His hand patted my arm, the classic doctor motion to instill some hope, and reassured me that it would be over soon.  Vulnerable and tearful,  I lay back and watched the lights above me as I was wheeled into the operating room.  I was now in a movie,  there was no turning back.

I awoke to the sound of a nurse telling me to breathe, that I needed to bring my heart rate back up, and I struggled to regain my ground, and awaken from the 2 hours I had spent out while they mined for leaking goop  and drilled away at the base of my spine.    Immediately my leg lurched into the air, a spasm of magnitude dying its last breath, the nurse gasped and told me I scared her, and that was that.   I’ve not had one since.   They wheeled me back to the recovery room and I lay anticapating the radiating nausea, but none came.    After a few minutes I asked to go to the bathroom and found I could sit up, stand up and now walk to the bathroom without the help of the Mexican crutches I had become so dependent on.  I could sit without screaming and the permanent crinkle of agony evaporated.    Just like that – it was over!

I’m in bed now, its 9  days since the surgery, and I’m doing just fine.   Not allowed to sit for more than 20 minutes, three times a day for the first week, and slowly start to regain my strength again.  At the beginning I would walk to the bathroom and after a few minutes of standing, there was the pounding of a steel hammer beating on my tail bone, and the feeling of what I imagine a gun shot wound would feel like in the back of my leg, but now it is less and less, more a dull ache, and I can stand for 20 minutes before I have to lay down.

I try to understand what the cause of this was, overall and not just the pot hole which was the straw that finally broke this camels back.   All illness, injury or disability stems from the root which seems important to discover so we can steer around pot holes and not fall directly into one.    The shamans believe that lower back issues relate to lack of financial support,  which in itself makes complete sense.   With the recession behind me, and a new and exciting job in front, it strikes me as odd timing for the collapse of my financial back bone.  Is it possible that holding onto all that stress for the past few years finally caused my affliction?   My son in law, an excellent chiropractor in Whitefish, Montana tells me that he saw more cases of herniated and ruptured discs during the six months following the kickoff to the most recent and disabling recession for small business owners than at any other time in his career.   So I ponder all this while I lay in my insurance issued home hospital bed and recover.

This week the days have  turned from the pain into a delight and I’ve climbed back out of the hole.  Friends and family keep stopping by to bring food, love and word of the outside world.  I feel as though I was picked up and removed from my life and allowed the chance to stop and look at it all in wonder.   To have been granted a chance to look through a window in silence at a moment in time, and to take with it lessons and changes that I need to make.   It has become a valuable window, that has allowed me some space and forced me to be still and breathe.  A rare gem of a moment to step out of the fast track lifestyle we all lead.   I’m zeroing in on those things I need to eliminate, projects that are no longer necessary, some relationships that are more toxic than nurturing.  I wanted to write this down,  in case you have a time when your back is broken, or your  stuck at home pulled from your routine.  Make the most of it.  Don’t squander away the gift of healing – it’s a chance to come up for air.   The rabbit hole is dark and it can be frightening, but the return to the light is worth it all.

It’s May now and I plan to be down for another week or two while I slowly start to walk and then stride.  I’ll let you know what I work out and how I heal.   Meanwhile,  a word of advise….stay healthy, exercise and eat right.  Love your family and your friends and truly appreciate the simple task of getting your undies on- and not in a twist!  Remember – it takes just one pot hole to change direction, a valuable and expensive pot hole, full of challenges and wonder.  And finally – don’t be cheap for the sake of comfort –  alway rent the better car!


I think I’m in love with wallpaper.  Years of growing up in England – where the wallpaper adorns millions of homes and can be beautifully frightful in combination with unmatched patterned carpet.  For years I painted any wallpaper I came into contact with – covering what seemed such a dated mode of decorating.   I’ve been converted over the last few years, and this month – even bordering on obsessive.   The choices available are spectacular and with the help of the internet shopping experience – a game changer to even the most boring box like room – such as our bedroom, which, despite the rest of our creative renovation to our modest 1940’s ranch house, remains simply a white box  in which we sleep with electrical cords coming from the ceiling and fabric remnants hanging over the curtain rods.  (This being the official unveiling of my bedroom secrets).

As an environment where love should bloom and we should rest and in which we spend a good 8 hours a day – this is the one room in my life that desperately needs help.  We recently purchased a Tempurpedic king size bed (which does take up much of the room) – so we are sleeping well – but alas – I lay in the most comfortable bed I’ve ever owned (really – it is) and look around me and sigh with despair at the great lack of love our bedroom reflects.  This does not show the love that goes in our household – in fact its an out and out misrepresentation and something urgently needs to be done about it.

And so it is, I start dreaming about colour – yes dreaming in my sleep about colour – not day dreaming as you might think.   The other night it was blue, gold and purple (wallpaper included) and then last night it was what my family lovingly refer to as “Nicky Green” – a colour I love and use often in our numerous abodes- its really more the colour of young baby poop – an acid green bordering on jaundice.  Its an absolute favorite in my palette – who knew baby colored poop could be so delightful on the walls.

Dreaming is usually where I find the answers for many of my creative meanderings, concepts and designs and the colors are so vivid that I have come to rely on my dreams for many of my inspirations.   It is also a place where I travel the world, play great guitar on stage with famous musicians (Jerry Garcia and I have played some fantastic music together), designed many of the products I’ve produced as well as conceptualize fabrics,  so isn’t it only right that our bedroom should be a reflection of such inspiration.

After a burglary at our house last year, we spent our hard earned home owners insurance funds last summer giving my 10 year old son a bedroom makeover – his too is the same size box as ours and it was sad and unloved, painted a hasty fiery red when we first bought the house, but never really finished (I even felt sorry for Mr. Placostymus, our pet 10” fish that lives in his room with an oversized goldfish who looks more koi like each month).   We used old pine shelving from our favourite salvage yard – Gersons – for the floor, painted the walls “Alien Green” – a rather neon happy color with white trim, and drove 90 miles to our nearest Ikea for shelving and window treatments which we squeezed into the back of the Element with only inches left to sit – and we lovingly gave him the rug my father shipped me from Marrakesh a few summers ago. His room is hip and beautiful now – but he still chooses to climb into our bed every night to sleep.   His reasoning – the Tempurpedic bed.  It’s certainly not the décor, but it is the family together time ( add the two cats and the 90 pound dog that he insists join us).    It is an island of love in a bland sea of nothingness.  My husband and I secretly talk of moving out of our boring white box and into our sons redone room, leaving him behind in the California king size tempurpedic  bed to enjoy with the cats and dog.   But perhaps just perhaps – floral wallpaper might just do the trick!

here’s one wallpaper company worth checking out:


Resolutions for 2012, all the usual suspects and the effort to update this blog more than once a month!

Intentions are good, let’s just stick at that for now.    Warming up after another holiday – It seems 2011 offered me gentle moments of time down while billboards were recycled, bags were produced (all in the USA this past year), and the reissue series for Howe Gelb and Giant Sand was born (from our dear friends at Fire Records in the UK).

Finishing up coordinating the reissue series of over 30+ records has been a satisfying process.   Seeing a great series of music and CD’s be reborn has been an incredible experience and rumors of a new Giant Sand album coming forth in 2012 are becoming more substantiated.    So while the musicians get creative, and Jim Blackwood, the Giant Sand archivist savant is busy with the final masters, I start work on the 25th Anniversary book layout of photographs Patti Keating and I spent the last year digitizing, recapping some magical moments during Giant Sand’s ever changing lifespan, all of which I’ve been fortunate to witness since Howe and I met back in late 1980’s when we worked together on “Bill & Ted” where I hired him as a music teacher to show Keanu Reeves how to look as close to a real musician as he was back then.    If my memory serves me well, those were fun times.  But that’s another blog for another time.

I’m excited by this book project, it’s a collection of all our snapshots, some professional, mostly not, many contributions from his friends around the world and its quite an undertaking and learning experience.  It’s taken a year to just scan and digitize and understand, and it will probably be a few months to get this layout complete.   I hope to have it ready to go to press later this year for independent release through his website.

With this project, as with all projects, and in true entrepreneurial spirit, I have also been cleaning up my resume for new ventures, dusting down my vision for the next year and what it is I want to accomplish.  Its still a little fuzzy but I’ll get back to you on that.  I had some real help this year from a dear friend – Marion Chubon –  life/business coach – who remains invaluable to helping me overcome my own walls and keep climbing the hill.      This economy has been hard on all of us in one way or another, and I have grown from it greatly, feeling that 2012 brings the change and beginning of a new chapter for those of us who live by the element of risk, and take us on a enlightened journey to better living –whatever that may be.  The journey of all entrepreneurs is rocky at the best of times, highs and lows, circles and roundabouts –  unlike that of what I love to refer to as a “real job”.   I’ve enjoyed the process of understanding more and sharing with Marion – one of the many gifts I received in 2011 was her insights and help.    So ends a year in gratitude for all the great projects I was privileged to work on  and begins a new year in awe of the possibilities it holds.

It was wonderful.  Did I already tell you…San Jose del Cabo is the perfect place for Thanksgiving.  You give thanks youre there and you can eat anything but turkey (and if you are a hardcore turkey eater the resorts offer it anyway).   We ate fresh sea food, swam with dolphins and watched the waves crash on golden sand beaches with miles of empty vistas holding our endless margaritas.  Everyone needs a holiday and the tan makes you feel for a moment, healthy – that is until it fades quickly back into winter cracked skin.   A week of rest and relaxation and I arrived back at the studio in 1st gear, struggling to get into 2nd!

But I’m back, and have been busy finishing off the details for bags that are heading to A&E as well as preparing for a solar bag project I’ve been discussing with a friend for the past year.  Looks like 2012 may be the year of living lit up – walking around with bags that charge your gadgets, ipads, netbooks and smartphones.  Secretly I’ll unplug mine when we go to San Jose del Cabo next time – but I guarantee my sister will be thrilled that she can lay on the beach and be plugged in all at the same time.


With only a few days before we head down to Mexico to enjoy thanksgiving without a turkey (otherwise known as our annual family pilgrimage to save a turkey) I am dusting down swimsuits and suitcases and getting ready to hit the sizzling white sand beaches along the Sea of Cortez.  With my new Canon T3i loaded – I’m excited to try this new camera out and get some well needed r&r in. Planning to spend much time in front of a book (yet to be chosen), a beach and enjoying those margaritas that somehow give you the most undeniable pleasure.  Keep posted for a swath of pictures over December.

Meanwhile, we are readying for the arrival of some sweet recycled  messenger bags for Susan G Komen’s Southern Arizona office as giveaways for the Ride For the Cure efforts they do at the annual Tour de Tucson – an amazing bike race that brings worldwide competition and fills every corner of this valley.   I’ll post pictures on their arrival.    These bags are a great way to recycle their banners and turn them into products that they can use in premium events.   Check out the bags under the billboard bags header here to see what we do and how we do it.


– Nicola