Healing

 

I am happy to say that I have found a solution to my mug problem. I now have new mug from which to drink my coffee and reminisce in the mornings.

As the weather grew warmer and spring was definitely arriving, the Christmas mug—despite the sentiments it held for me—was starting to feel a bit wrong. There was snow and a Christmas wreath on the mug, but outside, the weather was reflecting an altogether different season. So on my last, rather timely trip to visit Mom, I acquired a new old mug.

This mug was Dad’s and is one that I made back when my children were little. That Christmas, I made several similar but unique mugs to give as gifts. I painted faces (which barely resembled) my three children, and I included names of the grandparents. This mug—the Grampa mug—is now mine.

I thought it would be the perfect replacement for my Christmas mug. My sister questioned whether I would actually use a mug that says “Grampa” on it, and admittedly, it might seem a bit odd. Here I am, a woman of a medium age, using a mug made for a Grampa.

Do I care? Not at all. I use it every day! I think it might just help in my healing process.

 

Creative direction

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Creativity comes in many forms in my household. I have the creative writer who develops fictional worlds, populates them with characters of his making, places those characters in impossible situations, and then writes them out of (or deeper into) those situations.

I have the visual artist who recently used her artistic talents to explore mental illness through drawing and painting. She used both color and black and white images and some 3 dimensional work, as well. The resulting pieces will be added to the portfolio she will use as she applies to colleges in the fall.

And I have the science-minded engineering type who uses computers, 3D printers, electronic components, and the tools of engineering to create and develop the ideas that populate his brain on a daily basis.

None of these forms of creativity is any better or worse than the other. My children have discovered the tools and materials that intrigue and inspire them; they started from the same general place—creativity—but they have gone off in completely different directions. And I must say, it is fascinating to watch them develop their skills day by day.

For Christmas, I gave Himalayan salt lamps to two of my children. For my birthday, my son created a small lamp for me. Using the salt lamps as inspiration, he designed the “crystal” and created it and the base on his 3D printer, completed the wiring, and assembled the whole thing. I had no idea that he was doing this until I opened it.

Creativity… it’s an interesting concept that manifests differently in everyone. If we really look, we can recognize it as a trait every individual possesses. Personally, I like the way creativity shows up in my house.

 

The Cactus

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Tonight at dinner, my daughter went running up to her room and came back to the table with something in her hand. “Here,” she said, thrusting it into my hand. “Do you like my cactus?”

Over the past year or so, she has developed a love of succulents. I’m not exactly sure when this happened or why, but slowly, the plants began to disappear from the windowsill in the kitchen and reappear on the windowsill in her room. I noticed that some smaller pots were materializing, and shoots had been taken from the plants of mine that hadn’t yet made the trek up the stairs. [I am really hoping she doesn’t decide she needs some of my Christmas cactus in the next few days because it has just started to poke out some teeny tiny bud-lings….]

I examined the ceramic cactus in my hand. It was “growing” in a pot that almost looked like a wicker basket. The plant had understated spikes that gave the green ball a distinct cactus look. And the cactus bloomed with two dusty pink flowers.

“It’s beautiful!” I told her when I had finished my inspection.

“I made it,” she told me.

“No you didn’t,” I responded, only partially convinced by her words.

“Yes I did. It came out of the kiln yesterday.” And then she turned it upside down, so I could see the bottom. “My initials,” she pointed out.

Indeed, the bottom indicated that the piece was handmade. And it was beautiful! She just started taking a pottery class at school, this year. I can’t wait to see what else she brings home!

Summer Jobs

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Since there has been some talk of teenage jobs in my house of late, I got to thinking about some of the jobs I held in my early working life, jobs that were increasingly interesting and varied. I had some not so good jobs and some really great jobs. Being open to the experiences that come along is always a good way to approach life.

My very first job was stocking shelves in my father’s hardware store. But beyond my family circle, the early jobs I held were fairly typical high school jobs. I worked in fast food and motel housekeeping. The fast food job hung on for two years while I simultaneously worked other jobs. The motel where I worked (only for one summer) was owned by a man who felt the tips left by guests were his to fuel the bets he made on the horse races. When we arrived for our day’s work, he could often be seen making the rounds of all of the rooms before the maids went in to clean them. The only time we ever got tips was when the guests would hand them to us directly, which wasn’t very often.

My first summer home from college, I took a job in a gift shop. I worked long days, and the work was not the most interesting. However, it was better than flipping burgers. I didn’t go home smelling like food and feeling greasy, and the people I worked with were ridiculously mischievous. There was always a prank… or ten… in the works, and one never knew what would happen on a given work day. I fit in quite nicely. You said prank? I’m in!

That same summer, I created newspaper advertisements for my father’s business. I caught the attention of the ad salesman who also happened to be the salesman for the gift shop. He would often stop by to chat, and at his recommendation, I took an internship working in the art department of the newspaper during the January term of my sophomore year. That internship grew into a summer job that filled the summers before my junior and senior years of college.

The second summer at the newspaper, they allowed me to take three weeks off so I could go back to my college campus to work as a teaching assistant in a program for gifted upper elementary and middle school students. One of my professors was the site coordinator for the program, and he had offered me that position. The funny thing about that TA job is that one of my present jobs is for the same organization in their online program.

My all time favorite summer job—and one that was truly one of those opportunities that most people never have—was working in the photo lab of an art museum. I spent six to eight hours of every day during the summer in a darkroom. I cataloged the art work that was in the vaults, and I made prints from stacks of negatives. To this day, I am not sure why I did that….

But the most exciting part of the job was dealing with actual works of art. If my boss was working on a particular project in the studio, he would talk to me about it and explain what he was doing. He would tell me about painting and light and the best angle to capture damage or decay in a painting. He would explain how infrared reflectography would create an image that could  “see” the various layers of paint used by an artist. For example, this technique would show the various leg placements Degas used for his ballerinas before he got it right.

One day, as my boss was photographing some paintings from the vault, he called me out of the darkroom. He told me what he was doing, explaining his chosen angle and what it would show about the pieces in question. And then he handed me a seldom seen Monet painting that spent much of its time in the vault–for lack of wall space. Upstairs in the museum, these paintings were connected to alarm systems in rooms with guards. If a visitor accidentally leaned on a painting or touched it, an alarm would sound and the guards would come running. And here I was holding it in my hands!!

Yes, I held (in my hands) the very same canvas that was painted and held by Monet, himself. It was one of the amazing perks of that summer job. Because summer jobs are like that. You never know what might come up. The job might lead to a position that you will hold for many years, or it might just lead to an opportunity of a lifetime!

Art supplies

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This evening, I had to stop by one of our local craft superstores because I had a question for one of the more experienced individuals in the framing department. I waited for a while before the sales associate walked right by me as I stood at the counter. Before she walked by me the second time, I stopped her. “Is there anyone in the framing department to answer a question?”

“I’m sorry!” she exclaimed. “I thought you were being helped. And here I am walking right by you…. Hold on. I’ll find someone for you.” And off she went.

Meanwhile, my daughter perused the aisles, captivated by the appealing art supplies. Pens. Markers. Sketch pads. Ink. Paint and brushes. Canvas. I watched as she picked up various items, studied them, then put them back in their places.

The woman returned, apologizing that there didn’t seem to be anyone available to help me. In the end, she was able to offer a passable answer to my question.

As my daughter and I exited the store, she was clearly thinking about all the items she had just seen.

“Why do art supplies have to be so expensive?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “You could get a job to help you buy some.”

“Yeah, but where am I going to get a job?”

“Hmm…” I thought for a minute. “You could work here. Then you would get an employee discount!”

There was a brief pause while this piece of information registered in her mind. “That is a great idea!” she finally said. “Why haven’t I thought of that before?”

Indeed, I thought it was pretty brilliant, myself. Maybe I could get a job there….

Enough

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Some days (many lately), I am overcome by the pressures of life and the expectations put on me by so many people. I struggle with the need to be all things to all people. I think some people are more prone to this fight than others in our way too high-pressure, you-must-do-it-all society. I believe single parents have an extra tough challenge as they not only have to be all things to their children, they sometimes succumb to a need to make up for what is lacking in their children’s lives.

I am no stranger to the pressure to measure up and fit in with outside expectations. I grew up in a small town—the type of place that most people would see as idyllic. But if you have experience with small town life, you know that there is just as much drama in a small town as there is in a large one. There are just fewer people to carry the weight.

Growing up, I fell victim to the playground girl-drama. Nothing about me was ever quite right, and after awhile, I knew I was never going to be enough. My clothes were wrong. I was not pretty enough. My hair never fell flat and straight and perfect. I was not tall enough or talented enough. I was not athletic (…at all, never mind enough). I was not social enough. And despite graduating near the top of my class, I never seemed to be smart enough. There were always people around who were willing to make me feel inadequate because somehow, they were more than enough. Looking back, I thank God I did not grow up in the days of social media.

In an attempt to run away, to escape from the drama, I threw myself into solitary activities in which I could be myself without the pressure from others. I took up the clarinet and later added the flute, the oboe, the piano, and the guitar. From my earliest days, I spent hours lost in the worlds hidden in the pages of the books that lined the shelves of the local library and bookstore. I would become so lost that when I had to stop reading for dinner… or homework… or because the book ended, I would be slightly disoriented as the real world of my home came rushing back into my consciousness. Hadn’t I just been on a grand adventure with Laura or Pippi or Pollyanna? Certainly, here—in the pages of a book—was a place where I never felt the pressure to measure up.

As I grew older, I delved into art and writing. I began to run—initially because I was preparing to coach a high school cross-country team. But the more I ran, the more meaning I found in the rhythm of my steps and the wanderings of my mind. I was soothed and inspired as my muse would often come to play while I was pounding out the miles on the road. It seemed my interests were beginning to blend in ways I hadn’t known they might. And so, the solitary pursuits continued.

Through losing myself in solitude, I found myself in truth. My state of mind began to shift to encompass and accept my enoughness. I became an artist, a writer, a runner. I discovered that even though I might not live up to other people’s standards, I was enough. I had always been enough. The best of me, the me I put out in the world every day, would always be enough. And being enough is a powerful place to be.

But when life gets busy and hectic, I sometimes slip into old patterns of thought. When things aren’t coming together and I can’t please everyone and the people around me are letting me know I am not meeting their needs, my enoughness begins to fade. With a lot of work, a little struggle, and a push to refocus on my needs, I can usually return to enough.

And being enough is important. For all of us. We are all enough.

Smiley faces

I have smiley faces all over my house. I know where they are, but they are invisible to the untrained eye….

This weekend, my daughter and I decided to make a bold change in our living room. Since we moved in, the walls in the room have been a very pale yellow, the color of butter. The choice was made in part because the room is small and north-facing. It gets minimal daylight through the French doors, so I was looking for a light, sunny color to compensate.

This weekend, we made a long overdue change. Together, we decided on a forest-y green with one darker accent wall. For whatever reason, we started with the accent wall, making the most dramatic change first.

Here’s what I love about painting with my daughter. Before she begins to paint, she takes the edge of her paint-laden roller to the wall, using the blank space as her personal canvas. In the midst of the old color, there appears a smiling face of the new color, and she continues her walk to the corner to begin covering the entire wall.

The image sticks with me. Now, every time I look at a finished wall—this one or several others in my house—I can see the face, smiling out at me. The number of walls in my house with smiley faces is growing. The number of rooms with hidden smiles… it’s growing, too!

It’s nice to know I have smiley faces watching over me throughout my house. It gives each room a positive vibe. Perhaps if you come to visit, you might even be able to figure out where the faces are hiding!

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[Image is a very poor quality snapshot of the wall we painted–before it was completely covered.]