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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 44  |  June 2, 2020

Spotlight on Seniors

By Laguna Beach Seniors at The Susi Q

This is the second of a new bi-monthly column highlighting the achievements of the 55-year-plus residents of Laguna Beach as well as opportunities for enrichment, education, and resources. Please send your thoughts about people or topics you’d like to read about to Jo Ann Ekblad This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Kathleen Bowen’s inner artist emerged in her mid-sixties – and Gallery Q has helped her flourish

During her childhood growing up on a ranch in South Dakota, Kathleen Bowen had no idea that in her mid-sixties she’d discover a talent for art – or that painting would prove to be the balm she needed to soothe her aching soul following the devastation of a life-threatening illness.

“I’d been forced by my illness to retire from my career as an interior designer, and I felt lost, damaged,” Kathleen says. “Then, one day, walking in Orange, about four years ago, I saw a sign on a door that said ‘art classes.’ I hesitated.”

Then she remembered one of her mother’s favorite sayings: You have to have some gumption.

So Kathleen, exhausted though she was, found the gumption to walk in the door and sign up. 

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Kathleen with one of her landscapes

“The truth is I nearly gave up several times,” Kathleen admits. “I didn’t think I’d ever be good enough. Still, I continued trying to get better.”

The breakthrough came when Kathleen took classes with San Clemente artist Susan Winslow.

“Susan was so encouraging, and she was the first to say to me, ‘you’re pretty good!’ She told me to ‘paint what you see, not what you know.’ Another teacher said, ‘paint like you mean it.” Those two quotes have stayed with me and I think of them every time I start a painting.”

A member of LOCA, Kathleen was encouraged to submit one of her paintings for display at a joint exhibition held by LOCA and Gallery Q at The Susi Q. 

Not only was her painting of horses in motion, titled Together as One, selected to be part of the exhibition, she sold the piece, surprising herself – but not the Susi Q staff, who loved her work. Then a second painting exhibited at Gallery Q sold.

“I was stunned,” the humble artist says. “My neighbor had been the first to buy one of my paintings, but I’d convinced myself he was just trying to be nice. Selling through Gallery Q gave a huge boost to my confidence.”

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“Together as One” – exhibited and sold at Gallery Q

Kathleen adores The Susi Q, where Gallery Q is located. 

“The minute I walked in there, I felt so much at home. The staff and volunteers are so warm and welcoming. 

“Judy [Baker, Gallery Q Art Coordinator] and Martha [Hernandez, Director of Care Management] encouraged me to apply to the Art-A-Fair. So I did and I was thrilled to be accepted. 

“That led to being included in a show at the CAP Gallery also. Exhibiting at Gallery Q has really opened doors for me.” 

A watercolorist, Kathleen says the medium suits her beautifully. “Of course you have to be very careful with technique, but somehow the painting seems to create itself. 

“I paint what appeals to me emotionally and visually, then I ask myself how I would go about painting it with meaningful brush strokes of color and style.

“Also, watercolors don’t demand a lot of supplies, which is good for those of us with very limited space.”

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“Golden Roses,” exhibited at the Art-A-Fair

Kathleen says she’s still amazed at how her desire to paint manifested itself in the midst of a very difficult time for her. 

But perhaps innate talent, like character, has a way of emerging during distressing times, serving us well when we need it most.

Of course, Kathleen’s career working on interior design projects for national and international clients, and her skill in choosing the right colors, materials, and textures to enhance spaces, have served her well in her new profession as a watercolor artist.

And looking back, Kathleen believes that her talent probably has genetic roots too.

“I realize now how creative both my parents were,” says Kathleen. “My mother loved to stencil dishtowels, and my father was good with colors.

“Funny story – when my mother saw that I’d incorporated aqua, gold, and red into one of my design projects, she told me that my dad had proposed exactly those colors for their kitchen. She was horrified at first, but she said it turned out great!”

Kathleen adores Laguna Beach. 

“People here are not pretentious, they are so kind and welcoming. It’s a wonderful town, and blessed to have a treasure like The Susi Q,” she adds. “Gallery Q was truly a godsend for me. Exhibiting there literally changed my life.”

Gallery Q, located in The Susi Q Senior Center, 380 Third St, is dedicated to showcasing and celebrating the talent of emerging, semi-professional, and professional artists of all ages in Orange County. 

For now, Gallery Q at The Susi Q is going virtual, providing a way for artists to share their work with the public. Submission guidelines for the show can be found at, or call (949) 715-8106 for more information.

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The Susi Q building is closed, but “The Susi Q Without Walls” continues to offer classes, clubs, and support for the over-55 crowd

How to cope when your loved one has memory problems

Last year, Lagunan Claire Dinesen* contacted The Susi Q’s Feeling the Blues program, emotionally and physically exhausted after waiting hand and foot on her husband following his serious back surgery. 

But it wasn’t the caretaking that finally sent her over the edge. It was her husband’s tendency to repeat himself again and again, asking questions to which she’d already replied several times.

“I knew it wasn’t his fault, because it was – and is – probably the result of a stroke he had several years ago along with the forgetfulness that comes with aging, plus he’s a bit hard of hearing, but still, it’s so hard to stay patient,” Claire says. “You start feeling like a shrew after saying ‘you just said that’ so many times. 

“It’s difficult to remain patient and not blurt out ‘Don’t you remember I told you that five minutes ago?’

“I called The Susi Q’s Feeling the Blues program, and they set me up with a wonderful therapist, who was so understanding about the situation. Sharing my emotions made such a difference to my mental well-being.”

Staying patient can be a challenge

While each situation is unique, Claire mentions a few recommendations that were helpful to her in dealing with her husband’s repetitive questioning, a challenge that continues to this day.

“The therapist suggested that I stop and take a minute before blurting out, ‘I just told you that,’ and instead try to put myself in his position, imagine how I’d want to be treated with respect.

“Secondly, I should answer the question again, but keep it short and without any accusations or sarcasm.

“And thirdly, that I should always make sure that he heard me the first (or second time) – to stand right in front of him and answer the question.”

Life is much calmer in the Dinesen household now.

“Although it takes a lot of energy and patience to keep answering the same question, I try to remember he’s not doing it intentionally to annoy me,” Claire adds. “That helps.”

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Kathleen “Kay” Wenger, LMFT, LPCC, is LBS’s Behavioral Health Supervisor and provides counseling through Feeling the Blues

Laguna Beach Seniors’ Behavioral Health Supervisor Kay Wenger notes that constant repetition is common among loved ones struggling with memory problems.

“Just because someone is forgetful, it does not mean that they have Alzheimer’s or dementia,” Kay explains. “We all forget things from time to time, and many people with ADHD, on medication and under stress, may have periods of forgetting.”

Kay offers these suggestions if your loved one does have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia:

--Reassure them with a calm approach and simply answer their question, understanding that this is a disease of the brain, and they are not trying to be difficult or forgetful on purpose.

--You might also try repeating the question back to them to see if they are able to recall the information that they are seeking.

--Redirect your loved one to something else that they can focus on.

--Change the subject when the subject matter is stressful, such as divorce, death, or other difficult questions.

--Don’t remind them that they just asked the same question.

--Put up reminder notes for frequently asked questions, for example, dinner will be at 6:30 p.m.

“Best of all, call us at Laguna Beach Seniors at the Susi Q or email us to set up an appointment,” Kay adds. “Feeling the Blues is funded by donations and grants, so finances shouldn’t be an issue.”

Call Martha Hernandez, LCSW, at (949) 715-8104 to learn more about the program and to be connected to a therapist. 

Laguna Beach Seniors is based at the Susi Q Senior and Community Center. Click on for more information.

*Not her real name.


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Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

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