art / Travel

I’ve Been Framed!

Family Portrait




When I moved to Costa Rica several years ago, I adopted the “less is more” philosophy and divested myself of most of my worldly possessions. There is something liberating about not being bogged down by stuff. Even now, living back in California, I have strict rules about stuff. It has to be either useful and used often, or it has to make me happy. The family portrait of me and my two kids on a Santa Cruz beach, while they were still teenagers, makes me happy. 

I schlepped it to Costa Rica by dismantling the frame and carrying it in my suitcase. It’s a simple photograph on canvas in a simple white-washed wooden frame—no glass. In Atenas, a small community outside of San José, I lived in a gated community on a hill where a constant breeze flowed through the house, keeping the air fresh and flowing. After moving to the beach outside of Jacó, the ocean air was moist and still, allowing salt to settle on everything within the four walls of the house. The painted concrete walls were slick with a slimy coat of salt making it difficult to hang anything at all without having it slide down the wall and come crashing to the floor. Driving nails into the concrete was not only difficult but left gaping holes in the wall—not ideal in a rental if you want to get your deposit back. 

When it came time to move, my friends, Reid and Jan happened to be visiting Costa Rica. They generously offered to help me move out of the beach house and back to Atenas in the middle of a heavy rainstorm. After we had loaded the SUV with my meager belongings, and we were ready to make the two-hour journey, the portrait caught my eye as it hung askew on the bedroom wall. I snatched it and ran to the back door where Reid was adjusting the load for stability. He looked up to see me holding an umbrella over the picture and said, “Oh yeah, we can’t leave that behind!” He slid it onto the top of the load after wrapping it in the bath towel I had draped over my arm. It wasn’t until we unloaded at the other end that I noticed the pockmarks that pebbled the piece—polka dots of white where the salty sea air had eaten away parts of the picture.

After repatriating to the good ole USA, the piece survived the journey to Green Valley Lake, California where it leaned against the wall of the storage shed at Lynn and Lucas’ cabin, frameless and dotted with divets. I was ready to toss it but Lynn protested, “Oh, no! You can’t put the family portrait in the dumpster. All you need is a new frame, and it’ll be good as new.” 

Simple, right? Except when you’re on a shoestring budget. Paying a professional to mat and frame can get expensive fast. So I went to the annual rummage sale of my favorite church in Santa Cruz, Inner Light, and there it was—the perfect frame! Except when I got home I saw that it was complicated. What appeared to be a separate mat was actually attached to the landscape scene in the frame. It was not a simple matter of sliding it out and replacing it with my own piece. Someone with a steady hand would have to cut the two apart. That would not be me—too fidgety!

Reid to the rescue! Not only is Reid Winfrey a spectacular artist, he knows how to frame! Professionally. He takes his time assessing the job, and patiently takes the steps in the proper order to have a balanced finished product worthy of hanging. 

When I got the text. Your piece is ready, come on over to pick up, it was a couple of weeks later and I had forgotten about it—out of sight, out of mind! 

Piece? I thought. What piece? Ohhhh, the forgotten family portrait! The one with the pock-marks that looked wretched that I would have tossed in the trash had it not been for my friends’ urging me to keep it. 

As soon as I walked into the room, it was as though beams of light came from all directions and trumpets blared. I felt as though I had floated out of my body and hovered in the air when I saw the portrait. Reid stood off to the side with his arms loosely wrapped around his body, a quiet smile upon his face as he watched my reaction. He never said a word about it, but on close examination, I could see that there were no pockmarks behind the glass. I knew he had taken tiny brushes, matched the colors perfectly and restored the piece to perfection. It brings tears to my eyes and fills my heart with love. 

Jan, Reid’s wife, helped me hang it in my bedroom where it is the first thing I see every morning when I open my eyes. I am grateful and humbled.


Reid Winfrey

View his art at:

Not only did he save the family portrait he rescued several more precious pieces that I botched trying to DIY my art. The only catch is now I owe him meatballs for life. It’s the least I can do. And it’s a labor of love for a generous, loving, and talented friend.


16 thoughts on “I’ve Been Framed!

  1. Reid Winfrey has an eye for form, to say the least. There appears a micro sharded texture to his work. It adds realism where sharper and consistent lines fail. Good stuff!


  2. I can’t post for some reason, but this is a lovely, teary piece, brings back those memories of the trip and the rain!! xxxx



  3. What a wonderful, heartwarming episode you’ve shared with us. These tiny little things in our lives that we can control make all the difference. Good for you for always knowing how to see the best of everything.


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