Photo by Kate Inglis, taken on the beach at Serendipity
Today is my birthday. Hello, 48. I certainly don’t feel 48, and I don’t think I look 48, but the calendar tells me otherwise. I see the years pass very quickly through my girls; I can’t believe they are 10 years old and in fifth grade. That simply doesn’t seem possible. But other than a few more gray hairs, I’m not feeling my age just yet. I guess I live that old Jimmy Buffet song: “I’m growing older, but not up.” As I look over this past year and reflect upon what I’ve done and what I’ve learned, I’m happy that I’m still managing to play as much as possible.
Wish ribbons on the back deck of the main house at Serendipity
Today I wanted to reflect back on what I’ve been learning through my artful adventures over the last year. I think the main thing I’ve been learning about myself is that I remain simply me, and I think that perhaps I process life’s triumphs and tragedies a little differently than many in my art circles do. I think I’m a pretty simple girl. While I am a creative thinker and feel like I can finally call myself an “artist,” I’m also a grounded, practical realist. I’ve never been a deep-thinking, analytical type of girl. And to me, art is play; it’s neither an emotional release nor an exploration of my deepest thoughts or feelings. At least not on a conscious level anyway. And after thinking about my experience at Serendipity in late October, I’ve decided that I’m okay with that.
There were beautiful aqua mason jars filled with flowers everywhere
I’ve held back writing more in-depth about Serendipity because I simply didn’t know what to think about the whole experience. I certainly enjoyed the retreat. My instructors, Melody Ross and Kate Inglis, were very inspirational, and the hosts and all the women I met were completely lovely, and I’d love to have more time with all of them. But still something was missing for me. I think I’ve finally realized it was intense emotion. I’ve read some of the blogs other Serendipities have written and marveled at the depth of emotions that they felt there and have felt since. I’ve struggled with that a bit, as I just didn’t feel those things. I had a nice getaway with a good friend, met some wonderful new people, ate lots of incredible food, and made some art; I did not experience deep emotions. But does that mean I didn’t get out of it what I was supposed to? I don’t think so.
A welcome ribbon on the beach steps
During Melody’s class, we talked early on about the different types of hurts every one of us experiences. Melody broke them down into three major types that made complete sense to me: things others do directly to us, things others do that hurt us but aren’t necessary done to us, and things we do to others. I hope I’m remembering that correctly. I was easily able to think of something for each of those, so they are definitely relatable, and I was fascinated and moved by some of the raw emotion I saw in the room. After a bit more talk, we started on our books, which were to be reminders of all the things that make us feel better when we are having a difficult time with any of those hurts. Later in the afternoon, Melody circled us around for another chat, this time to talk about any shifts in thinking we’d experienced as we’d worked through the day. I didn’t really have any shifts, but I did have a bit of an “a ha!” moment, in that the three things I thought of for those three types of hurts were centered around my parents and my relationships with them. But I also shared that though I’ve been through some crap in my life (haven’t we all?), I feel like I’ve dealt with it pretty well and have moved on. I don’t dwell. I write about things, but then I try to move on…even when others try to keep me from moving on.
Me with the super sweet, super amazing Melody Ross
I shared with my classmates that my parents had five marriages between them, and I had lost my mom to suicide nearly 14 years ago while she was going through her third divorce. But still, even with that, I shared that I’ve been happy with my life; I believe that I have a gift for being able to find the positives in things. Was it hard to find the positives in my parents’ multiple divorces and my mother’s suicide? Heck yeah, it was. There were definitely some very dark times there. But now, ultimately, I think my father is happy, my mother is walking on golden streets, and I have a loving husband, two incredible children, and a happy little roof over our heads. We all make our own choices, and I’ve chosen to be happy. My life is good. I think I wrapped it all up pretty well here.
A little tendril of focus
I know you’re probably scratching your head wondering how the heck I got to this point in this post when I started talking about what my creative endeavors have taught me this year. I’m not sure myself! I think my revelation is I’ve accepted that though I may come across many women who bare their deepest souls and emotions through experiencing art-making, I just don’t. And that’s okay. Both for them and for me. For me, at 48, playing with art is an escape, it’s an antidote to a stressful week at work, it’s something fun to do with my girls. I like getting my fingers messy with paint. But I process the difficult things through putting my feet to the pavement or taking long bubble baths with a good book. That is simply me, at 48, at 28, and hopefully at 88!
I'm participating in iHanna's annual postcard swap again this year. I'm behind as usual, but I finally got these out in the mail this week, off to swappers all over the globe! I've already received a few myself from as far away as Sweden. Once mine all arrive, I'll scan them all and share with you here.
Since I was pressed for time, here's how I did mine. I started out with a large sheet of watercolor paper and brushed water all over it. Then I sprayed it with spray inks in coordinating colors, picked it up and dripped it around a bit, and then layed another sheet of watercolor paper on top. I then pulled up the top sheet, leaving color on both sheets. Then I sprinkled kosher salt all over each sheet and let them dry. Then those sheets stayed like that, laying out on my work bench to dry, for, oh, about a week. No, it doesn't take a week to dry. It just took me that long to get back to them!
I cut them down to 4"x6", and then when I was at Michael's with the girls this weekend, I spotted these cool tree stickers and got an idea. I found the cloud stickers, added some washi tape and some scribbles, and viola, done.
We've officially started playgroups at the shelter! When I went in for portraits Friday morning, I wasn't able to get nearly as much done as I usually do because I was too distracted by the playgroups. They are so much fun to watch! Imagine 20-25 dogs all out romping around together...especially shelter dogs, who are stuck in a four foot by eight foot cage most of the time. Their excitement and joy to be able to be out in the sunshine enjoying each others' company was screaming out from their happy faces and wagging tails. I just couldn't resist this foursome watching me through the fence. They are straight out of the Little Rascals, and they also demonstrate the variety of dogs that can be found at your local animal shelter! Think about adding a new furry friend to your family this holiday season, and rescue a shelter dog or cat!
Meet Tulip! She's a Treeing Walker Hound. Isn't she gorgeous? And she has a sweet, loving temperment. We've seen quite a few hounds in the shelter the past few months. It's unfortunate that some hunters will train hounds to use during hunting season and then dump them when hunting season is over. Tulip here is a prime example that your local shelter has a variety of wonderful breeds waiting for good homes.
We also have a new program at the shelter that dogs like Tulip and many others are now participating in. It's called Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills. Through a partnership with First Coast No More Homeless Pets (FCNMHP), Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services (JACPS), Jacksonville Humane Society, and the state of Florida correctional system, shelter dogs are placed in correctional facilities to be trained and socialized so they have a better chance of finding a new permanent home through the TAILS program.
FCNMHP transports them to one of three rural minimum security facilities in Northeast Florida: the Lawtey Correctional Institution, the Union Correctional Institution, and the Baker Correctional Institution.
Each dog is assigned to three prisoners so the dog won’t bond to just one person and will learn to respond to a variety of voices and personalities. Once matched with a dog, the inmates are fully responsible for the dog’s care: feeding, grooming, housebreaking, and obedience training. FCNMHP provides a trainer who instructs the inmates and correction staff how to work with and train a dog. The dog is with at least one inmate 24 hours a day. One of our staff members goes to each facility weekly to observe and troubleshoot any problems.
The dogs will stay at the prison for nine to ten weeks.
At the end of the program, the dogs will be crate trained, know basic commands, such as “sit” and “stay,” walk on a leash and generally be well-mannered. Upon their graduation, a new set of canine students will arrive to be trained.
The TAILS program benefits both the dogs and their trainers. The dogs going through this program will be much more adoptable, and the inmates will have developed skills in animal training and behavior.
TAILS has one additional benefit: for each dog in the program, two canine lives are saved. Placing a dog in the prison means that space opens up in the shelter for another dog that might have been euthanized for lack of space! Such an outstanding program!
Is this not the cutest little monster you've ever seen? Olivia made this in art class and brought it home to me yesterday. Love this little guy! She was so proud of it. She's always seen Sarah as more "artsy," but I think she finally felt like with this piece, she found her place. I'm looking forward to a whole family of monster art!
Time for November Free Bling Friday! Random.org picked comment number 11 for October, so congratulations to Anna from southern Louisiana for winning my October Free Bling.
Can you believe it's November already? That means December and Christmas are just around the corner! So for November, here's a sweet little pendant I created with a vintage image of good ole St. Nick. The pendant is one inch square and will come complete with a silver ball chain. To enter, visit either of my Etsy sites (here for jewelry and here for photography) and leave a link to your favorite item in the comments along with your location and a way to reach you by midnight Thursday, December 5. Want more entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave another comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via random.org Friday, December 6, just in time to wear for the Christmas holidays. Giveaway open to United States and Canada residents only.
Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email updates or subscribe in the reader of your choice over there in the right column. And be sure to like my Facebook page or sign up for my monthly newsletter on my website here for specials. Thanks for stopping in!
Welcome to the Happy Shack! I'm a full-time working wife and mom of twin 10-year-old girls who are the light of my life. I work with college students by day (and okay, sometimes nights and weekends in this line of work...) and in my "spare time," I create jewelry, photography, art and music. So about that kooky profile pic...the girls did such a fabulous job on my hair I had to share.
Feel free to email me! happyshackdesigns[at]yahoo[dot]com