Thursday, February 3, 2011

A lengthy beginning...

I painted yesterday... it felt good and the time passes so very quickly. I painted over so many things... my canvas is monotone. I have to liven this girl up and decide what should go in that void. It's pretty true-to-life- whatever will I end up filling the voids with?

Inspiring words that have been hastily scribbled into my journal in the past few weeks-

Find, cherish, nurture that pearl within
Be still... savor these moments
Seeking the Self I have always wanted to be~
May love fall upon you as golden showers...

 She's being swept away by whatever is coming, being nourished by golden showers of love and a hopeful destiny, and cherishing the most precious parts of herself to build strength from and carry her through.

It's somewhat intimidating... I want to give her lower shape more definition. She needs a face... something more suggestive of one, at the very least. Her arms need to be built up to be more soft and natural. I cut plaid ribbon I'd bought for an apron, cut it in half, lengthwise, and swished over it with an iridescent gold. I used, as I did as a child, things from around the house- white pipe cleaners from the craft supplies I keep for our children and a faux pearl from a broken costume-jewelry necklace that they broke last week. It all looks so clumsy to me now. I want this woman to appear as though she's ready to come right off the canvas and fulfill the destiny that's meant for *her.* And that space to the right seems SO LARGE. It's not a terribly big canvas... 16x20... but I've only half filled it.

Last night, I was wishing that I'd started on a smaller canvas... but at the moment, I'm a big believer in Things Happening For a Reason. Something special is meant to go there- I just haven't discovered it yet. I'm *meant* to discover it.

I did discover that my drawing skills need work. A lot of work... I need to be more economizing in strokes and not contrive the lines I THINK should be there but let the shading spread on its own, to form the shapes and shadows. I went to Barnes and Noble to get the book I'd heard so much about from an old friend... The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I also happened upon a book about sketching- talk about economy of lines. Sensational learning tool- I'll be referring to it often, I'm sure. Our 6 year-old daughter, who loves to draw, is also in love with it. I think her princesses will soon be presented with shading. lol

While sketching in bed last night, with my husband catching up on all the college games yesterday (Go Orangemen!!), I realized that letting my eyes go out of focus and glaze over produced the best results. It was accidental, at first... I wake up between 5 and 6am everyday and it was midnight, I'd gone to the bookstore for a few hours, then a friend's comedy show. I was tired and could hardly keep my eyes open enough to sketch but the excitement of wanting to try my hand at drawing again was enough to keep me conscious. ;)

Those eyes became her face, which turned on me once I added the too-strong lines of my glasses. Our daughter instantly recognized this woman as me and asked where my glasses were. I need to work on that... or maybe spectacles just weren't meant to capture the soul of one's being? I want this woman to be in paint- the woman who is safe in her every day life, as a mother and wife, but wants to find ways to open her depths and run for her dreams... this is me. She needs to wander from the safety of her fence, gladly recognizes her dreams but doesn't yet have the courage to RUN towards them, but is at least waiting for that courage to come... to leap and be overwhelmed.

Sketchings of a few figures before I decide to paint them. Yes- my women have a heavy bosom, like me. They have a solid, cushioning body, like me. They have broad shoulders and muscular but feminine arms, like me. The more I draw them, the more free I feel... recognizing what I have perceived as my physical flaws and embracing them for the strength they've given me.

I call yesterday... successful!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's time to let loose!

As a child, I was really drawn to crafty things... I devoured them year 'round, as a self-occupying only child of a hard-working (three jobs at a time, sometimes! Days at the county finance department and picking up any waitressing shifts she could at local places) single mom. I'd make little doves made of paper and spring-loaded clothespins to hang in the windows, potholders, string translucent beads on shoelaces and random embroidery floss that my great-grandmother had left in an inherited desk drawer, break apart ruined audio tapes>yank out the tape>paint them like suncatchers, freeze movies to sketch people's eyes... I really loved (LOVE) drawing eyes. Anything that wasnted wanted, I would make something from... I was a hoarder of all things that no one else wanted.

Three children, a home and 8 years of my husband later, I'm finding myself looking for some way to express the ME that has been buried by busy-ness. Our first home has occupied me for nearly three years now... there's little left to do unless I suddenly come up with the kind of money that would allow me to rip off the roof above the kitchen and build a few new rooms that would seriously make this room Rock.Out.Loud. lol. Those DIY projects were GREAT for releasing my frustrations... with life, relationships, comfort, self... but I have a lot of leftover emotional chatter. There's only so much I can say to my ear-weary husband, who never stops me... he knows I just need to get it out while he stays silent. But it's not getting out... I'm repeating myself.

So I'm going to try my hand at painting. It may not be much but if I can form what I'm feeling, perhaps it will actually get out. And maybe the good things my soul is repeating to me can stay out and be preserved. I need it. I always want to be "productive"... to contribute... and all of this inner chatter is stopping me from doing so many things. They're an emotional block to the rest of me.

We'll see what happens...

Oh yes- the pinot noir IS handy!

 Ahhh- what to let out first? I stained the canvas, slightly, with a tea wash earlier...
 Not to be outdone - ever - Evie joined in for a little show...


Be still- be restful- explore your deepest self in these dark days of winter...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Taking a moment to savor...

Today, with the swirling clouds of snow and teeth-like icicles hanging across the windows, as if to protect us from the approaching blizzard, I'm inspired to take a moment.

I'm being forced  today, to really and truly SAVOR all the simple joys that already surround me:

~First off, blogging from a mountain of enveloping, warm, clean laundry.

~The little girl who fell asleep - here and now - with her sweet pink hand on my bosom, her favorite comfort. Even though it has been two and a half years since she weaned, she always comforts herself by sitting in my lap with a hand to my warm breast. Does she even remember the thousands of hours she spent there while I nourished her body and she nourished my soul? I think that, deep down, she still feels that deep connection to me. How blessed I am, to receive such affection!

~There are a pile of books waiting for me and the children, to be read from a cozy couch, while covered with a cozy quilt, in front of a warm fireplace with the soft light of winter glowing through the windows...

~Looking forward to watching Gwen learn at the kitchen table. Homeschooling her is an amazing gift- I'm able to actually see her mind excitedly burst with greater cognizance and growth.

~The tea time that will inevitably follow... my big girl sharing her ideas and imagination and sweet chatter with me. A quiet pocket of complete contentment in a sometimes hectic day. I can always rely on a moment of mindful rest with my eldest daughter. <3 If we're feeling up to it, we might even try our hands at making shortbread... these days, she's so excited to learn that she'll pull things out of the fridge and cupboard and ask me what we can make from it all. That girl is so very precious.

~Having a room of my own, as selfish at it sometimes seems to me. A room with a lock, even! Knowing that I can escape there, among colorful fabrics, ribbons, wide dishes of threads and beautiful brooches... to either sit back in my armchair with a quilt over me and REST or pick up a few things and decide to make something of them. I love knowing that choice is available to me... it's not a workshop/sewing room. It's a room for me, where I can just be still or create or work through frustrations.

(And there are nine more beautiful pieces, waiting to be pinned up and admired...)

~Knowing that a chicken curry will be waiting for us at dinnertime. Oh- Crockpot, how I love you. lol

~Spending a rare evening with my husband home from work at a "normal" time. He so often works until 9 or 10pm that having him home to eat dinner with us, ready the children for bed and sit to down to relax together before *I'm* in bed is a real treat.

~I know that even after I fall asleep, my sweet blondie-boy will sneak into bed with me and tuck his body against mine... and I will instinctually hold him close until morning. This crazy man-child becomes an angel when he sleeps. I sometimes wake up to him stroking my cheek with his pale, soft hands- *as* he sleeps. He's done this almost since birth... I'd wake up to his hands stretched out, on my face.

Even in the absence of all that I might sometimes consider the Worthwhile Things, these are actually the Most True... the Most Worthwhile... the very Tenderest Moments of my life. These kinds of days remind me to be still in them- to really savor all the goodness that already surrounds me. These simple, sweet,  real things that are the roux for whatever I do in the future or whatever comes my way.

Today is a precious day. I hope you're enjoying your own...

Monday, January 31, 2011

On being open...


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hold your heart in all tenderness. Something healing this way comes.

Those were words I held close yesterday. I needed them badly. I planned to wait, patiently and quietly, until something came my way. My most recent friendship was rushed into too quickly, too strongly, too completely... and I devoted more of myself than I probably should have. We had both been ravenous for friendship and I think that we ended up wholly consuming each other's energy. lol - it's quite the imagery, if you think about it.

My husband planned for us to go to the Y together this morning and was meeting a new co-worker there to shoot hoops with... I needed a cleansing round of exercise that would burn through whatever turbulent emotions I've had lately. I started the day as I always do, at 5:30am... coffee, walking the dog, watching the news and catching up on my online happenings. I got the kids their breakfast early, got everyone dressed so we'd be ready to go- but then my ipod wouldn't upload my new list. I could feel myself growing ANGRY about it. WTH. Why, despite my best efforts, do things not work out for me?!
Still, we took off and signed the children in... but there was an unexpected surprise. This new co-worker brought his wife and young son as well. At first, I was a little annoyed that I might have to talk to someone when all I really WANTED to do was keep myself closed off, put in my earbuds and run until my heart couldn't take anymore. But something else was meant for me... for some reason, I didn't take off as soon as the children were signed in. Something told me to wait for this other woman with the calming-yet-vibrant disposition and kind eyes.

We exercised together and chatted breathlessly... it came so naturally that I mentally pinched myself. And- I can NEVER bring myself to talk while exercising, not even enough to whisper... what's up with that? This new ability to comfortably talk while near breathlessness? Awesome. The time whipped by. It's so soon to find such a friend- these kinds of wonderful happenings never come to me this comfortably.

But I believe it is. Thank God for that... my heart is craving the balm of a solid, happy friendship. This morning was the first of many lessons I still have to experience in this life. Just today, I've learned that the timing I set in my head as appropriate may not be the best timing... it may happen sooner or later. I've learned that I should try opening my soul's arms more often, when I want to close down and protect myself. Goodness won't come if I don't accept it... if I'm not even *there* to accept it.

. As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily.  The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.  ~Terri Guillemets

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Fuel of Love


As silly as referring to a zodiac for insight may seem, especially as a Catholic, it holds truth for me. There IS order and meaning, I believe, in the so-very-visible night lights among our heavens. There are seasons and patterns that undoubtedly either affect or cause great effects in our lives. I don't believe it's a coincidence. There is reason in everything that has been touched by the Hand of God.

The Zodiacal Sign of Cancer commences on June 21st, but for days it does not come into full power until on or about June 28th. From this date onwards it is In full strength until July 20th, and is then for seven days gradually losing its strength on account of becoming overlapped by the "cusp" of the incoming sign Leo.

Such people are easily hurt by the slights of others. These are very complex people, sometimes appearing extremely strong and at other times to be as vulnerable as a child.

These people are remarkably good at accumulating things; indeed, they can be unwilling to throw anything out, even relationships that have passed thei
r use-by date. They are generally over-anxious in financial matters, and make great efforts to gather in money; as a rule, they have unusual ups and downs in their early life and so they are compelled to work to keep ahead, but once they get on their feet they keep there. If channeled in the right direction, their enormous sensitivity can become a great source of strength. Once they overcome their touchiness and master their turbulent emotions, their intellect and imagination enable them to become a success in almost anything they undertake.

The main problem for them is to remember not to let the powerful, turbulent emotions of the moment crowd out their normally rational judgment. Their intuitions are reliable and should be trusted.

They are generally gifted with strong imaginations, and it is very easy for them to become excellent artists, writers, composers, or musicians. At heart they are romantic and of a very loving and affectionate disposition.

On the other hand these people are perhaps the most sensitive natures from any other class of people and if aren’t recognized they quickly give up or get depressed and melancholy. Above all, they require encouragement and appreciation. Their deep sensitivity presents them with valuable and illuminating intuitions, especially regarding those they care for.

They often make excellent psy
chics, and usually have a yearning after the mysterious.

They should never marry young, for their nature seems to change at different stages of life.

People born in this part of the year often reach very high exalted positions. In their home lives, however, they usually go through a great deal of trouble, and are seldom surrounded by happiness, no matter how success
ful they may appear in the eye of the world.

Such people have deep love for what they call "their
own people," for family customs and for tradition.

This is all so very true of me.

My life has always been in the extreme- either joyous or depressed... by the year, season, month, week, hour, minute... moment. I do crave love. I don't expect much but I do require some degree of love. And I can tell if it's genuine or not... this is why I don't have many close friends. Being close to me means that I will shower you with all the love within me. I cannot love partially or slowly. I cannot go along on a facade of romance, friendship or devotion within family. I can tell when I'm not appreciated or, at the least, respected. I can tell when someone no longer wants that love and devotion I give them- no manner of seemingly sincere reassurances will convince me otherwise. My intuitions are usually right, although that is rarely, if ever, realized for some time. Still- it is painful when that has ended... when I'm no longer needed. I need to be needed. Wanted... appreciated, even. That is all I require of giving loyal, all-encompassing devotion to someone. I don't want gifts... just love. Appreciation. Respect for that devotion. When I love, it IS all-encompassing. I feel the need to protect that person from outsiders but also, even from themselves... even when I know it could end that relationship. I love the good part of them that *they* might not even know is there... the good part that is being ignored and should be cultivated instead. I know it's the part of them that needs attention. Pointing that out is sometimes not appreciated- I understand that. It's hard enough for me to even do this *because* I don't want to hurt them... but it needs to be done. I see it as protecting that person from him/herself, as they haven't/aren't seeing it on their own.

But when it ends a close relationship, I find myself wounded into the depths of my soul. It sounds dramatic, yes- but nothing could be closer to the reality of it. I give all- and all is broken. To accept me is to accept all the love I have to offer. In an attempt to avoid further torment in their rejection, I have to swiftly and abruptly declare my last accolade. When it isn't returned in Sincere Kindness, at the very least, I shut down to them. I MUST. It's my cancer personality, I suppose. It is the only way I have to protect myself.

Past boyfriends have accused me, at the ends, of loving them too much. They can't handle it. Fortunately, my husband can... he welcomes it, always accepts every devotion, lets my love wash over him and always returns that love in his own ways. I am so blessed to have found such a man, a partner who can stand up to this degree of devotion and still love me during the ebb and flow of my frequently changing moods. Because when I love, it's complete and true... and sometimes smothering if you don't want it ALL... if you don't let it wash over you. There's nothing I can do to prevent it. There's no other way for me to love. And I cannot exist in that relationship if it's not returned in even the smallest degree.

When any relationship is over - and they're ALL deep, ALL meaningful - my soul feels crowded. It literally feels like my soul is filling up with so much ungiven love that I will surely burst. I *can't* hold it back or control its flow... so I shut down. As I said, it's my only protection. I can function on a basic, outward level... only my mind and already-established stabilities to keep me going... until I find something or someone else to spill it onto. Giving Love fulfills me.

My family is a beautiful outlet for this but I have even more than that... a well of love that never runs dry... a well that is always overflowing at the brim. At the moment, my husband and children are within my well. They're loved more than any other wife and mother could love this husband and these children. Still, I'm feeling capped at the moment.

A continuous, free flowing fountain of love is my fuel. Giving love fills me up with it. As I grow older, I feel more and more like I was ushered into this world to give- to shower others with enough love to inspire confidence in themselves and their work. But yes- I am selfish enough that I need some small degree of reciprocation... a kind, genuine word is enough.

I hope to find that outlet for all of this love soon... an opportunity to let my love flow again, freely and purely, and feel safe while doing so.

In the meantime, I'll be throwing myself into Life. Loving my family fiercely but tenderly, investing all the care I can give to my young business and keeping my heart open to whatever Loveliness is meant for me. God created me with the rule that Love was to be my fuel- for me to express it and receive it in return.

This week will be one of refocus, self-nourishment, accepting all the love that comes my way and trying to let that cap burst forth from my heart... to let my love flow as it has always been meant to.

Hold your heart in all tenderness. Something healing this way comes.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Getting IT together

We have three children. And a puppy. Thankfully, the dog is the least of my concerns... Bella is a sweet girl who always waits to do her business outside, keeps my kitchen and dining room floors immaculate, loves playing around and shimmies herself under our bed when she's done with the kids' natural rough-housing. When she emerges from her hiding place, she leaps onto my husband's or my lap, puts her front paws around our necks and nuzzles us all over. With William, she actually tries to sneak in gnawing on his goatee. It's cute. Like I said, she doesn't make any more work for me, a stark contrast to my first expectations.

But the children? Ohhhhhh- those children. It's a good thing they're adorable. I know how to do all kinds of things because of their mischief- namely, Grayson's mischief. You know how our parents always told us, as children, that they hope we have children just like us? Grayson is that child. x6! He has a rather impressive list of misdeeds... fortunately, the nearly 3-year phase of flushing miscellaneous items down the toilet has ended. This Mama has had her fair share of removing the toilet from its base and snaking, hooking or just plain STABBING things out of the sharp curve at the top.

The very first time, I was horrified. I will never forget the first "haul" of goods from the toilet... a mini Disney princess Barbie, 2 child-sized toothbrushes, a skeleton key, a wad of cotton balls and a Thomas train engine. I am very much a DIY-er and knew that this would probably be an ongoing issue. Thank goodness for Youtube tutorials! I learned how to shut off the water supply line, flush/plunge/soak up all the water I could out of the tank and bowl, disconnect the water supply line, remove the flange bolts and lift the entire toilet *straight up* and gently set it into the tub, how to remove all the disgusting wax ring gunk from the base and bottom of the toilet, dig out all the items and reset and connect it all back together. I've done this dozens of times... so much so that I could probably win a Nascar-style toilet removal/replacement race. I have no hesitation anymore.

Grayson just has peculiar (ie boy-like) ideas. His sisters love to knock over his block towers. What did he do to resolve this issue?

Yes- that IS a block tower with peanut butter adhesive. <sigh> What can I say? The boy loves his peanut butter...

 My hands weren't full- they were overflowing!

Fortunately, he's past all of that now. Mostly. Our youngest child, a girl, soaked up a lot of "inspiration" from Grayson. But they still get into things and make messes. I can never seem to keep more than one floor tidy at a time anymore. As much as I want to sew and dabble in whatever my ideas are at that moment, I'm always sucked into an endless whirl of cleaning. And let's not get into the laundry issue... I stopped folding years ago. With as much as they pull their things out and put them back in, there's no point. I divide the clean laundry into a stack for each person, then divide those into socks/underwear, jammies, tops and bottoms and hope they all fit when I shove them in! lol

But I really need a way to get IT together. IT being, of course, that even balance of providing a clean home, wholesome meals and clean clothes while making time to read to the children, bake with them, teach them to be responsible for their home and belongings - did I mention that I also watch a 2.5 year-old boy during the school year as well? - take trips out and about and still... make time for what I need. Alone.

So I've made a schedule and postage-taped it, with every edge sealed down, on the front of the fridge so I can't tear it off in frustration. ;)

It's hilarious, isn't it? But it's my goal... and even if I substitute activities, ignore them all together or can't keep up, I can look - at any given time - and know what needs to be done. I can catch up or call the day a wash and do better tomorrow. I know what I need to do to keep the house, meals, children and husband TOGETHER enough to give me the freedom to do what I need for me.

I did fail, however, in making time to water my plants. This is how to dry herbs, Mariel-style.
No matter how much I try, I can't keep any plants alive in this house. Well, except for the plant that hangs over our kitchen sink... that sucker's been alive for a year and a half, shockingly, and I've periodically checked to remind myself that it isn't actually silk. lol

(It's the one hanging behind my head, on the day that I accidentally killed the lobsters before cooking them.)

 Thank God that He takes care of my outside garden and makes it fruitful, despite my [admittedly rare] interference.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On pride...

I'm a proud girl. Pride is a family trait- sometimes an ugly one and sometimes the fuel we need to survive. As much as I dislike it sometimes, pride is a large part of who I am. It has saved me from bad situations, bad relationships and has fueled me to be the best self I can muster.

But lately, I found that my pride was taking me somewhere I should never be... keeping up with those around me. We live in a fairly affluent suburb and, especially with our eldest child in school, I felt an increasing need to appear as "one of them." It was for our children, I thought to myself. I have to do this to make life easier for them... why let our children be slowly ostracized because we don't look or act like everyone else? The Quirkiness runs strong in me... I shouldn't be so open with our lives and feelings, not laugh so freely and loudly, not share my ways to be frugal, not talk about how doing without is a freeing way to live. As this past fall went on, I felt less and less like my content self. I mean, how could I with that as a goal? It is never enough. It is never satisfying... my natural pride was being henpecked to death, by not letting it out in my own way. I wasn't proud of being like everyone else... being like everyone else was draining my psyche of all the joy it once had.

A friend brought up the issue of homeschooling. That thought had been simmering under the surface but I hadn't really yanked it out until she brought it up. It FELT like the right thing to do but DAMN- it was quite a leap to take. Our daughter is very like me- proud. She naturally takes offense *at herself* for doing something incorrectly. She'd come home from school terribly upset that she'd made a mistake. Yes- we have to work on that... but in the meantime, she felt separated from her classmates because they didn't care if they made mistakes. They, and her teacher, didn't know why she was so upset - to the point of her eyes filling up with tears - because she didn't understand something. I felt the same way in school... and no teacher had the ability (probably not even the inclination) to soothe the worries out of my mind. I knew that she'd go on, just as I had, and cry right through high school. It wasn't until I was homeschooled, starting in the 7th grade, that I had the TIME to deal with my feelings. I *could* be allowed to cry, sob even, that I just couldn't understand what was being taught. Yet. There's no time to deal with that in school but at home? I had all the time in the world. It wasn't until I stopped BEING TAUGHT and started reading the lesson plans for myself, that I came to really handle the fact it was okay to not get it right at first. That I had time to learn without being left behind... the only person I had to keep up with was me. That it wasn't about school... but about LEARNING. It took me nearly two years to finish 7th grade but I had so adjusted that I was able to do all of 8th grade in 2.5 months and start high school - and the daunting challenge of instituting and maintaining an excellent GPA - on schedule.

Because of all those memories flooding back, I decided that homeschooling our daughter (and subsequently, our other children) would be best for her.

As the weeks go on, I find myself releasing all the silly expectations that had been building since school first started. Other people's expectations of what a mother and children and family should be have a weakening hold on me. No one has the ability to ostracize my children in school, for their own behavior or the choices we have made as a family, because they aren't there. They can gleefully walk into any setting and just be their joyful, open selves without the feeling of judgement coming back onto them... the younger two don't even know what that feeling is like. Our eldest is starting to forget the judgement she felt in not having/doing the IT things. I like it that way. They're free to be themselves. They can freely enjoy the adventure of new experiences for what they are, instead of what others may perceive them to be.

And I can do the same- again. I feel more like myself than I have in months. I am focusing on my health, our family, our home and our goals again. I no longer worry what other people think of my big, jiggly backside and belly when I run at the gym- I'm hauling ass and it feels good to ME. I don't have to find/muster up trendy things to wear while out and about- I can wear my paint-splattered jeans to the store, if I've been doing a project. I can take pride in doing dirty projects myself again. I can ram through the snow in the driveway instead of shoveling it down to the asphalt and salting the bejeezus out of it... because I didn't do that out of needing to but because I wanted to avoid wisecracks at the school bus stop.

This feeling is freeing... having my pride be MY OWN again, and not distorting it to fulfill others' expectations of me and my family. I was much happier, my husband was much happer, our children were much happier and our home was much brighter and warmer when I was free to be me. To allow my family to be themselves. To allow our home to be what it is. To let the joy fly, wildly and proudly, in all the moments in which it was inspired. And there were many.

Every day, I see more of that joy flooding back in- I know I made the right choice. Even if I stumble, the freedom of this pride in our family and home will pull me back in. Those joys have always been irresistable... and now that I've given us permission to freely live in it again, I can't wait to see where it takes us. I look forward to feeling like a proud woman instead.

I'm a little late but... here's to a happy, healthy, bright and wondrous 2011- Joy will not get away from me this year!