17045 N.W. 11th Avenue, 305-620-0367. It must have been the very first address I memorized because I still remember it. We moved in that house when I was in second grade, and though I remember Tyrone Ellis, the cute little blonde-headed boy from first grade, I really don’t remember much before then. Flashbacks come from pictures. But 10745 N.W. 11th Avenue. I remember that house.
I remember watching TV one day while my dad was in the shower and my mom was still at work. I was seven. Some strange man came in the front door and said, “Hey, Kel Belle. Where’s your dad?” “Um…in the shower….who are you?” “Oh, okay, well just tell him Bill came by.” And he took the Sears catalog from my mother’s house and left. I told my dad when he got out of the shower. He will forever be known to me as “The Robber.” My dad’s best friend.
I remember that turtle. Timmy and I found him in the vacant lot at the end of the street. Big old box turtle. We carried him home, and I immediately brought him in the house. Mom said I couldn’t possibly keep him in the house. But I did. She let me. For a little while anyway. I guess she knew I’d grow tired of hearing him scratch around in his box all night long. And I did. Timmy and I took him back to the vacant lot and left him right where we found him. Outside my mother’s house. That started the bringing-home-stray-animals habit I still have today.
I remember falling off that bus. Mortifying. Roger, my fourth grade sweetheart, was still on the bus. I was wearing my Brownie uniform and was carrying a big box of Girl Scout cookies. I stumbled right down the school bus stairs and landed in my driveway in front of my mother’s house, face first. Cookies scattered everywhere. My face flushed with embarrassment. I wonder where Roger is now.
I remember leaving my mother’s house at 17045 N.W. 11th Avenue. I was in fifth grade and we moved to St. Petersburg. Funny how that address doesn’t stick with me. The memories are there, but they’re clouded. Shadowed. Playing in the clay caves and stream at the end of the street with Vicky, stopping with Dad to get Icees at the corner 7-Eleven on the way home. Though they change here. And I don’t remember my mother’s house.
But I remember the fighting. It wasn’t often but it was loud. I remember Dad moving out, then a few months later moving back in. I burned my hand on the light bulb trying to take it out and put butter on it to soothe it. More fighting. Then I remember Mom picking me up from school in the middle of the school day. I was 12. There were suitcases in the car. My baby sister Kim was strapped in the back seat. We left. I never got to say goodbye to my friends.
1909 Wells Road, Apt. 212. I remember that address. That’s where we moved after we stayed at Nana’s house for a little while. My mother’s house. Without my father. It was small and cramped but the complex had a very big playground with lots of other kids. John Riccardi lived next door. We were in the same grade and would graduate high school and even go to college together. But he wasn’t my boyfriend. Just my first kiss. Mom met another John R. and married him.
347 Dillon Drive. My mother’s house. The house that Mom and John bought together. Ninth grade. Happier times. I remember Mom standing in my bedroom doorway listening to me sing along with Michael Jackson blaring in my headphones. I was dancing. I didn’t see her until she started laughing. We both laughed. I remember her laughter. Beautiful laughter.
My house, away from my mother’s house. I’m away at college when John calls me. Mom’s left him. They need me to come home. I’m angry at her. Nana’s angry at her. John’s crying. Who’s this other man? Granddaddy dies. Mom marries that other man. Very bad timing. I miss John.
Scattered memories. Coming faster now. Reliving.
My mother’s house is no longer mine now. She’s creating a new life with this new man. I’m still in her life, but I no longer live there. We have holidays there. I come to visit but I rarely stay the night. They’re married for seven years.
My house now. Mom calls me. He’s left her for someone else. I go to my mother’s house to sit with her and try to dry her tears. And listen. And try not to say I told you so. But Nana does. Nana says what comes around goes around. And I pray it doesn’t. I pray it doesn’t.
My house. A nurse calls me. Mom’s in the hospital. She’s tried to kill herself. I go. She’s in the psych ward. She’s lethargic, but I think she realizes she did a very stupid thing. My husband comes. Like he always does, he tries to make her laugh, asking her why she did such a stupid thing. She knows she did a stupid thing. She’ll get better now, right?
My mother’s house. 11 months later in a rental. It’s Christmas. She’s decorated to the nines. She’s getting better. She’s moving on with her life. She’s making plans to build a new life. She tells us about the house she’s thinking about building as we talk over Christmas dinner. She’s going to have a special room just for the babies I’m carrying in my womb.
A month later. I’m in my mother’s house. Mom’s not there. It’s very quiet. My husband’s with me but he’s fallen asleep. I’m thumbing through paperwork, my old elementary school report cards, with boxes piled around me. “Kelly’s very bright, but she’s a very social girl. She needs to learn to pay attention better.” Old baby teeth in my mother’s jewelry box. Cards and letters I sent her from college. Kim’s high school Raiderette pictures. All scattered on the floor. The babies are no longer in my womb. I lost them four days after Christmas.
Back now. Two days after Christmas. My house. I’m in the bathroom when I hear a knock on the door and hushed voices. I come out to see my husband standing stone faced with a police officer and a chaplain. My mother has done it. She’s taken her own life. It’s December 27, 1999.
My mother’s daughter’s house, my house, December 27, 2002. The nurse calls me. I’m nervous. I’m scared. Kelly. Things look good. You’re pregnant again. Looks like twins again. On your day, Mom. Thank you. Thank you for giving me a good memory in your daughter’s house, in my house, on that day. A gift. I hope you finally have peace now in God’s house, watching my daughters, your granddaughters, grow up in their mother’s house.
Ten years ago today, my mother committed suicide. It’s very hard to explain what that does to a child, especially a daughter losing a mother, no matter the age. I was 34; my sister was 24. I was angry with my mother for a while; I felt very abandoned and suffered a major loss of self worth. The fact that Mom thought she had nothing to live for when, in fact, she had two daughters, one with grandchildren on the way, hit hard, and I went through a couple years of serious soul searching. But after a while, I realized there was nothing I didn’t do, nothing I could have done, that could have helped her. My sister reached that point as well, and we are much closer now than we’ve ever been, coming out of that darkness together.
Over these past ten years, I’ve learned so many valuable lessons that have stemmed from that loss. I now know that I will never make everyone happy, so I don’t try. I know that I am the one and only person responsible for my own happiness. I know that in order for me to be a happy, healthy person who can take care of her family, I must take care of me first, and then take care of my family. And I know that involves being a tad selfish at times. I know that there are angels. And I know that like my grandmother had a vision of my girls just days before she died, I know my girls have seen their own grandmother. I’ve seen it in their little faces, especially when they were babies and they’d smile and giggle at something over my shoulder, yet every time I’d turned to look, there’d be nothing there. I see it in them now as they find their faith and ask me questions about her. I’ve felt her presence around me when I’ve needed it most. I’ve felt her encouragement when I’ve been afraid to take a step. I’ve heard her laughter when I’ve needed joy. And I’ve learned that she remains, in me, in my children, in the angel on top of my Christmas tree, in this life that I have created with this family. She’s here.
My friend Debbie gave me a Christmas gift that touched me deeply. It was just a picture frame really, nothing special, except for the message it contained. Before I opened it, Deb said, “I saw this and immediately thought of you.” Engraved on the frame was the phrase “Blessed are the Happiness Makers.” Deb and I met just weeks after Mom died; Benny and I were at Ted’s one night when Debbie and her husband walked in, saw that there were no open tables, looked at me, pulled up a chair and said, “You’re cute, and I want to meet you. Can we sit with you?” A much needed new friend sent by an angel above. Blessed are the Happiness Makers. Through all this, from this loss, I have made happiness…better than a banana eating a bowl of cereal on top of a school bus happiness. Thank you, Mom, for that most important of lessons.
Update, January 30, 2013: I wrote a follow-up to this post, telling my girls the full truth about my mother's death, here.
Growing up, my family always spent Christmas Eve at my Nana’s. It was always a fairly big gathering, with cousins and friends, and best of all, Nana’s oyster stew. Supposedly the recipe was incredibly easy, just oysters, milk, butter and Velvetta cheese, but no matter how many times Mom or my DH tried, neither could ever get the taste just like Nana’s. Nana died of complications from Alzheimer’s just three weeks after the girls were born. When my Aunt Livy went to visit her shortly after they were born, she said, “I know! I saw them! They have the most beautiful red head!” Somehow, God gave her a glimpse from her hospital bed. That was a blessing.
So the gifts are wrapped, and the menu for tomorrow is planned: a Southern waterfront Christmas dinner with DH’s version of Nana’s oyster stew—his own oyster chowder—grilled shrimp, fried flounder caught off the dock, and a big side of grits. All that’s left to do today is bake some cookies for Santa, visit our friends, put out the reindeer food, and read the girls The Polar Express before tucking them in to bed. Then it’s time for Santa to get to work! We’ve got a Barbie Glamour Camper to assemble! Enjoy the holiday with your families.
My sister’s snowed in. I told her that’s what she gets for leaving Florida and settling in the Washington DC area. :-) I know, I know….there are those of you that love the snow. I’m just not one of them. In the brief periods I’ve been in it for a couple ski trips, I didn’t care for it one bit. That, of course, may be because I’ve lived my entire life in Florida, grew up on water skis, and even with my natural athletic ability (she says as she trips down the stairs), I simply couldn’t make the switch from water to snow. Each time I’ve gone, I’ve spent more time on the ground than actually gracefully swooshing down the slopes, so I guess it’s just not for me. And YES, I took lessons! No good. Oh well, I’ll stick to the beach.
So here’s my contribution to the snowy days of late some of you have been experiencing. I took this shot on our weekend walk through the 100 Acre Wood this morning. My Florida flurries. I love the way the script I layered behind the photo gives it a little ethereal quality. Should I list it in my Etsy shop? It has the same feel to it as the one I shared with you here. Whatever your weather, I hope you are enjoying the season.
Sarah: “Mama, did you know that when you die, God has a fishing pole and he casts it down to hook your shirt and reel you up to Heaven?”
Mama: “Wow, a fishing pole, huh? I didn't know that.”
This is our sky, just waiting for a fishing pole to pop out. We may have a view of a power plant to the west, but we get some awesome sunsets. That’s God’s magic right there. Here’s another of my girls’ “things they say about God.” In all the hustle and bustle of the season, I wish you the joy of remembering why the season’s here at all. Take a look at this video.
So, see that booth? Yeah, that one up there, and down there? (You can click on the photos to enlarge them.) Holy cow, I must have been out of practice and out of sorts and out of something because it took me nearly FIVE HOURS to set up my Market Days booth…by myself! Now I will say, Market Days is a difficult set up to begin with because you have to dolly from your vehicle outside the building to your booth spot inside the building, and I had the good luck to be right smack dab in the middle of Building 4. Then once you get your booth set, you have to figure out how to rig your lights. But once I was set up, Building 4 and Building 2 were the two best spots to be because those two buildings are insulated! It was cold last weekend (for North Florida anyway!) and the buildings have no heat! But once you added lots of bodies to the insulated interiors of Buildings 2 and 4, the temperature was just right.
Overall it was a good show. My sales weren’t quite as high as they were last year, but given the economy, that was to be expected. Market Days does a phenomenal advertising job and has a great early bird program Saturday morning (gates opened for those with early bird tickets at 8am), so things were really hopping on Saturday all the way up to about 3pm…when everyone went home to watch the Florida/Alabama game. This is the South, after all. You could have heard a pin drop in there by that 4pm kickoff. Sunday was a bit slower, but still fairly steady.
The guys behind me, Mickey and Jeff, were a lot of fun…two good old Southern boys from Thomasville, Georgia, selling pecan and peanut brittle made from Mickey’s grandmother’s recipe. Good Lord, that stuff was good! Mickey’s family just recently sold the company to a production company in Minnesota, so there you had two good old Southern boys selling brittle made from Grandmother’s recipe but produced in Minnesota! A little convoluted, but they just about sold out, and they had boxes upon boxes upon boxes of the stuff. I told them my father-in-law made chocolate covered peanut and pecan brittle that was absolutely to D-I-E for (DH and I call it crack because it’s so addicting), and their eyes lit up like they just might have to have that production company add a little chocolate to a few batches. We’ll see what they show up with next year!
Market Days wraps up my shows for the year. Next stop will actually be back in Tallahassee in late March for Springtime Tallahassee. In the meantime, I’ll get caught up on my website and spend some good time just playing around and enjoying the creative process. After all, I still need to get ready for Artful Journey in February! And then for the first Purple Cottage retreat with Carmen in May! Yay!
Bad blogger, I’ve been lately! Things have just been a tad busy here in North Florida. Here’s a gorgeous treasury I was featured in late last week. My thanks to jrzygirlphotography for featuring this group of POE photographers. My Big Joe is bottom row right. I’ll have a Market Days report for you tomorrow! I hope you all are doing well!
For December, here’s my “Bliss” photo as a glass tile pendant. Why did I title this “Bliss,” you ask? These were my sister’s wedding flowers. :-) You can find this photo in my Etsy shop here. The pendant comes complete with a silver-tone ball chain cut to your desired length. To be eligible to win, simply leave a comment in the comment box (be sure you leave me a way to reach you and where you are from!) or email me with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from by midnight Thursday, December 31. Want two entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave a second comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via random.org Friday, January 1, 2010. Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders or subscribe in the reader of your choice in the right column over there. Be sure to join my Facebook Fan page over there in the right column as well for Fan specials!
At 15, I was in the 10th grade at Orange Park High School. A few of my closest friends then are still a few of my closest friends now, and I owe Facebook a thanks for reconnecting with a couple of them. At 15, I was fairly quiet and shy. My circle of friends consisted primarily of fellow band geeks (yes, I was a marching band geek; I was on the flag and rifle twirl team). My parents were both on their second marriages, but even given that, overall I remember being a pretty content kid. In the middle of 10th grade, I became very sick with an infection called Quinsy (upon a later visit to Mount Vernon, I learned that was what George Washington died from!), complicated with tonsillitis. I needed to have my tonsils removed but couldn’t until the infection was cleared up, so I ended up spending about two weeks in the hospital and lost more than 20 pounds. I remember that my room in the old Riverside Hospital faced Memorial Park, and I would sit there at the window for hours drawing the park. I wonder what happened to all those old drawings. Once everything cleared up, my grandfather sent me, 5’10” and 125 pounds following my illness, to modeling classes, and thus began my 10-year modeling stint. My confidence increased and my shyness started to fade away, but I don’t think I totally blossomed and really came into my own until I went away to college, discovering a whole new world of adventure and opportunity. Still, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (I started out as an Interior Design major and graduated as a Communications major and now work in Higher Education, go figure).
Today, at 44, I still feel like I’m 24 at times. The old body has more aches and pains than I used to have but I still “feel” very young. And I think maybe now I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. Take my blogging friend e.beck.artist as an example. THAT is what I want to be when I grow up. Elizabeth revels in her children and revels in her art and revels in the fact that she gets to make a life out of the two. No 9-to-5 commitment for her. She left that behind shortly after her own twins were born (see, there’s another reason I love her so much…that and the fact that she says “Rah!” a lot :-). I’ve always loved playing with art, but this little blog of mine has opened me up to a whole new world of creativity and creative friends who inspire me daily.
I took this picture above in New York City this summer. I’ve been to New York nearly a dozen times, but I never noticed this “gate” to Central Park until this year. And it’s not in the least bit hidden! It’s right there on 59th Street at the south end of the park near the Plaza Hotel. I think it must have caught my eye this year for the first time because maybe I finally am, at 44, coming into my own. I may never be a world famous artist, but the more I play with art, the happier I become. For the most part, I have a pretty happy, mellow spirit to begin with, but it seems to be enhanced when I have paint, glue, paper, a camera, gorgeous beads and silver wire, or whatever random art supply I pick up, all around me. So as I enter this next year, I’m going to continue walking through that gate. And play. And dream. And enjoy every precious moment with my family, playing and dreaming with me. Who knows what we’ll find down that path?
Last year's birthday post is still one of my favorites...
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share just one thing that I’m particularly grateful for this year. Yes, I’m most grateful for this incredible family I have been blessed with: two incredible little redheads who can make me laugh and make me cry all in the same moment…they are a true blessing; and my husband, who puts up with all my crazy ideas, no matter how hare-brained he make think they are…he has the patience of Job; and my sister, 10 years younger than I, we weren’t very close growing up, but now as adults, we grow closer by the day.
But aside from my blessings of family, dear friends and all of you treasures who take the time to read this little blog of mine, this year I’m also particularly grateful for the power of dreams, and for the courage to take a risk and follow them. And I’m grateful for Carmen, whose work you see here, for having the confidence in me to help us both work towards fulfilling a dream. My dream of a Purple Cottage and her dream of sharing her talents have merged into something we are both very excited about. The doors of The Purple Cottage are now open, and Art and Dreams Bound with Carmen Torbus is ready to go! Go take a look! I hope you’ll be able to join us!
~And I would be remiss in not admitting I’m grateful for chocolate, and for the chance to sneak a few licks of the brownie and cake batter bowls after I’ve poured the batter into the cake and brownie pans. There’s a very good reason I don’t make a huge effort to get all the batter out of the bowls.~
Saturday afternoon, Tink disappeared. Weekends with nice weather, we usually leave the doors open downstairs so both the kids and the dog can go in and out with ease. Apparently Tink snuck out while we weren’t looking (usually Isabelle does a fabulous job keeping her in check). We looked for her the rest of the day Saturday, Saturday night and all day Sunday with no luck. Then as I was cleaning up the dinner dishes last night, I heard her crying and found her on the front porch, also looking frazzled and hungry. She's not quite back to her oldself as she doesn't appear to have come out of the bedroom all day today, not even for dinner. My adventure cats need to learn to stay in the house where they live in the lap of luxury.
I spent some time at the jewelry bench last night too! I have one of my biggest shows of the year coming up the first weekend in December, Market Days in Tallahassee, and this will be the first time I’ve combined both my jewelry and my photography at that show. My Harvey Collection series was shot just down the road from Tallahassee, so I’m hoping they will attract some interest! Now I just need to get a few more new jewelry designs completed (oh, and I need to matt dozens of square format photos I haven’t gotten around to matting yet…yes, I am the world’s most proficient procrastinator!), and we’ll be good to go. Luckily, I’ll have five days off with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up. I can’t imagine how crazy things would be if I ever decided to include mixed media pieces in my shows!
I also had a great talk with Carmen last night and we are just about ready to release all the info for our retreat! Yippee! We are both so excited. It’s called Art and Dreams Bound with Carmen Torbus, and Carmen has some fantastic things in store for you. Hope some of you can come! This has been such a wonderful experience for me…being able to use my everyday skill set of retreat and conference planning and turning it into an artful experience. Not much difference between art and leadership when it comes down to planning a retreat! We’ve had to move the date to May 21-23 instead of the earlier April date, but everything is coming together wonderfully. I’ll have the info posted shortly!
On the heels on Carmen’s Spill It! online workshop, I’ve started taking Susan Tuttle’s Visual Poetry workshop, in which I’m learning tips and tricks in Photoshop for altering my photographs. I’m about a week behind (as usual, aren’t I always behind?…though this time it’s been because I’m still having too much fun playing with Carmen’s workshop). Thankfully, the first week covered techniques I’m already pretty familiar with. Now I just know how to do on purpose the things I’ve stumbled across on accident! I took this photo about a month ago while on my trip to check out my dream property, diffused the light levels a little bit and added another layer. Click on the photo to really see all the pretty script. Pretty dreamy, huh?
Speaking of dreamy, remember those baby steps I told you about here? We are picking up steam! I’m working Carmen, my fellow dreamer for this first round, to create our first art retreat! Yippee! Carmen will handle the teaching while I handle the logistics. I plan and facilitate leadership retreats and conferences in my day job, so what better way to take what I can already do with my eyes closed and make it artful. Carmen and I are both so excited! I hope to have the website for the program up soon…the first official trip to the Purple Cottage…and Carmen’s program will be Art and Dreams with Carmen Torbus. For now, mark your calendars to take a fun little trip to North Florida April 9-11, 2009. Details to come! Yeah!
Update: We've had to move the date to May 21-23, but we are almost ready to release all the details! Yippee!
For November, how about a little bling for your home? November’s entry is my “Watching Melrose” photo mounted on a 6” x 6” wood block. You can find this photo in my Etsy shop here. These look great sitting in a window sill or on a shelf. To be eligible to win, simply leave a comment in the comment box (be sure you leave me a way to reach you and where you are from!) or email me with the subject line FREE BLING and include where you're from by midnight Thursday, December 3. Want two entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave a second comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via random.org Friday, December 4. Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email reminders or subscribe in the reader of your choice in the right column over there. Be sure to join my Facebook Fan page over there in the right column as well for Fan specials!
I was catching up with some Facebook friends last week and my blogging and art friend Carmen shared, “Having an article and blog feature in this issue of Artful Blogging is a dream come true! What's on your list of dreams?” I shared with you one of my dreams in my Purple Cottage post. Then I told you I’d be checking out a piece of property I’ve been watching for quite a while in this post. I’ve admitted here before that I haven’t totally bought into the whole “universe bringing you what you desire” concept just yet, but some little things here and there have been leading me more towards believing that, and my little visit to check out this property was a big knock on the head! I’ve known the property since college; it’s been unoccupied for at least 15 years. In that 15 years, it’s also never been for sale. So, guess what? The first time I go over to seriously take a look at it? Yep, big For Sale sign right up front. Here are a few pictures.Walking around the property, I was able to really think through my dream, standing right there…right where it could actually happen. There are 10 small cottages and two small-house type structures on about 3.5 acres with 700’ waterfront footage and two docks with 16 boat slips, and then another 4 acres of undeveloped land across the street. All the structures, as well as the docks, are in good solid shape; they just need some TLC and cosmetic enhancements. So what would I do with it? The cottages would remain just as they were initially meant to be used, for lodging. They are all about efficiency size, though I’d put double queens in each for bedding to allow for more flexibility. I’d renovate one of the larger buildings into a classroom/workshop space and the other into a café/gallery space with “front office” facilities. I’d use the facility as a whole for all-inclusive art retreats, wellness retreats, and corporate team-building retreats. While the cottages are not being used for retreats, the facility would essentially be a B & B, targeting couples/families and/or corporate big wigs looking for a unique, peaceful getaway. We’d have charter fishing services available for both the retreat attendees (thinking bored husbands/boyfriends here) and B & B guests. We’d subdivide the property across the street so it remains deeded separately from the “business” property since that’s where we’d build our houses.
I have a close friend I’ve been thinking this through with. Kath has been a high level exec with Coca-Cola since we graduated from college and is ready to escape from the corporate world. We are the perfect team for this. I have the retreat planning, leadership, team-building, and art background, and she has the wellness, business and corporate contacts background. Our husbands would handle the excursions, dining and general maintenance aspects. She also has twin boys who would grow up having the hots for my twin redheads. :-)So back to Madame Universe and her connection to the property and my current employment. As I was driving over to see the property, I got the call to schedule my final interview for my position of choice. Then, boom. The next morning, there’s this big For Sale sign staring me in the face. My dream, right there ready to happen. That was a Friday; my interview was scheduled for first thing Monday morning. Interesting timing, don’t you think? When I didn’t get the offer for my first choice, that For Sale sign popped back into my head. Maybe that was part of my message that a new job was not the right thing for me right now. I’ve always been one to follow my gut, and once my top choice was off the table, I knew I needed to stay where I was.
So what’s next? What’s next is to just keep the dream alive while we work through the possibilities. The property is currently listed for $1.6 million, but given the economy, the amount of time it’s been sitting there, the fact the most others interested in it would probably be knocking down what’s there and starting from scratch, and what I’ve learned from others who have property in the area, I think we could get them down under $1 million. So we’ll see what happens. Initially I hesitated sharing my thoughts with you here, because once you put it out there, it’s out there for anyone to snag, right? But then I realized that if you don’t share your dreams with others, how can they help you get there? This particular piece of property may work out, and it may not, but it’s made me realize that I can do this...if not with this property, then with another. For now, though, baby steps. Still working out the details on my first baby steps, but I’ll share those with you soon! In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on my initial plan.
I truly do enjoy my job (College-wide Coordinator of Student Life and Leadership Development for those of you wondering). Sure, there are the occasional rough spots, as all jobs have, but I know that I have a positive impact on the students that I work with, and I know that when they take the time to really listen, I’m teaching them very important life skills, while oftentimes having a darn good time in the process. More importantly, I have a heck of a lot of freedom and flexibility in my current role. That freedom and flexibility gives me the opportunity to do what’s most important when necessary: spend time with my girls. I can go on field trips with them, visit them at school for special programs, take a day off with them when needed without the world coming to an end. Moments after I met with my Campus President to tell her my decision, I felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. That’s when you know you’ve done the right thing.
All that said, I received another little knock from the universe here recently that also helped steer my path. Stay tuned. I’ll tell you what that was a little later this week. So, give it some thought. Maybe you are right where you need to be at this moment too.
So what would I have done differently? First, I wouldn’t have tackled such a large canvas (11 x 14) for my first efforts. Smaller probably would have been better in this case. Second, I wouldn’t have had my friend Melissa, who owns a print shop, print the photo copies for me. I neglected to tell her what I was doing so she printed them out on nice, high quality glossy paper, assuming I was going to use them as they were…as photographs! When I asked Carmen about this, she agreed that the higher quality paper probably did make the rubbing off more difficult. Overall though, I learned a ton and Carmen is incredibly encouraging. I learned that I love making backgrounds the way Carmen demonstrated (here) and that I’m not crazy about image transfers. Still working through the basic collage and drip writing lessons so I’ll share those with you soon.
While the girls were helping my students and I put the ribbons and flyers up, as six-year-olds will, they asked a lot of questions about the little girl on the flyers and why we were putting up the ribbons. I told them more about Somer and how important it was to remember her and celebrate her life. Each night when we put the girls to bed, I ask them what their favorite part of their day was. When I started our nightly ritual last night and asked Sarah about her favorite part of the day, she said, “Mama, first I want to tell you about the saddest part of the day.” “Okay,” I said, guessing where this was going, “what was the saddest part of the day?” She continued, “I’m really sad that that little girl was killed. I know her Mama must be really, really, really sad. Can we make her a card?” The sweetness of children… I told her that certainly we could, and then asked her what her favorite part of the day was. She replied, “Smoothing out the ribbons on the columns.” “Wow,” I said, “even more than the pumpkin patch!?” “Oh! I forgot about the pumpkin patch! Okay, that was a tie.”
In my line of work, we talk about “teachable moments,” experiences my students go through that provide valuable teaching lessons. Those teachable moments work for little ones, too. It’s sad to teach the lesson of Somer Thompson, but the opportunity to bring recognition to one child’s life to protect another’s is the most valuable lesson of all.
“If there's any message to my work, it is ultimately that it's okay to be different, that it's good to be different, that we should question ourselves before we pass judgment on someone who looks different, behaves different, talks different, is a different color.”~Johnny DeppWords to live by, don't you think? Sometimes it’s fun to play around in Photoshop and see what pops up. I took this photo in Port St. Joe a couple weeks ago.
For the last three days, I, like probably everyone else in the Jacksonville metro area, have been overcome with the story of Somer Thompson. The story made the national news, but for those of you out of the area who’ve not heard about it, seven-year-old Somer disappeared on her way home from school Monday afternoon. She was walking home with her twin brother and 10-year-old sister when the trio got in a little squabble and Somer ran ahead of her siblings, disappearing into the cool fall afternoon. It was about 3pm. Her body was found in a dump in Folkston, Georgia, late yesterday afternoon.
Sadly, we hear more and more stories like these every day. I just learned this morning that another little girl, nine-year-old Elizabeth Olton, has been missing in Missouri since yesterday afternoon. All these cases are tragic, yet Somer’s story hit me incredibly close to home. I grew up in Orange Park, a suburb of Jacksonville, and lived less than two miles from where Somer’s family now lives. All my friends lived in that neighborhood, and we went to those neighborhood schools. One of my best friends lived on the same street as Somer’s family, and I rode my bike there several times a week. It’s unfathomable to think that a child was taken on a street that I played on many days of my young life.
The past couple of days I’ve been talking with my girls more about stranger danger, a very important yet very difficult conversation to have with two six-year-old little girls. It’s finding that thin balance between wanting them to remain safe and make good choices while not scaring them so much that they want to turn inward and never experience the joys of childhood that all children deserve. It’s amazing how much the world has changed in the 30-35 years since I was a kid in that neighborhood. So many of us who rode the streets for hours on our bikes, staying out until dark or until Mom yelled for us to come eat dinner, now are faced with a world in which we are often afraid to let our own children do the same.
I can only imagine the devastation Somer’s family is feeling right now, particularly her mother. I’ve been on the verge of tears for her for three days, many times letting them just spill over. To bring the story even closer to home, yesterday I learned that Somer’s mother is a student right here on my campus. My students and I are working on a memorial for Somer that will take place on Monday, and I’m working with our Foundation to establish a scholarship in Somer’s name. My hope would be that the first scholarship would be awarded to Somer’s mother, and then in subsequent years, to other single mothers struggling to make ends meet while trying to make a better life for their families. If you’d like to make a donation to this scholarship once it’s established, just email me and I’ll send you the information as soon as it’s available.
So today, no, not my usual upbeat post. Today, I’m asking you to hug your babies, no matter how old they are. And think about our world, think about your neighborhood, think about little Somer and all the other kids out there who are missing or lost. And think about their families. Pray for them. Hope for them. And think about what little things you can do to maybe make this world a better place.
"We must be the change we wish to see in the world."~Mahatma Ghandi
On another note, DH is having a bit surgery today for his hand (carpal tunnel), so say a little prayer for him. He’s never had any type of surgery before, so he’s being a bit of a wuss. :-) I keep asking him if he wants to see the eight inch scar in my belly again or any of the myriad other smaller scars I have from my other female-related surgeries, and he keeps saying no thank you. This reminds me that God definitely knew what he was doing when he deemed women the bearer of the children.
“I keep messing it all up, Mama!” Livvie is a bit of a perfectionist. The one thing she was doing differently than me was that she was using a paintbrush, not her fingers, because she didn’t want to get paint all over her fingers (which surprised me because the child has no issue getting completely covered with mud in the back yard). But I guess—maybe because of her art resource period at school?—she thought that painting with a paint brush was the “correct” way to paint. I quickly took her over to my laptop and showed her some of the canvases our class had posted in our ning group…to show her that, like mine, none of them were “perfect.” (No offense to my Spill It! friends!) After that, I asked her to consider putting her paintbrush down, and I helped her smush some paint around with her fingers. Then I showed her how we could take the opposite end of her paintbrush and draw smiley faces in the wet paint. That got her. :-) From there, she tried a little of the bubble wrap method and then dipped the heart shaped cookie cutter I had given her into her pink paint and added the heart you see in the middle. After the addition of the stickers, she declared it done with a quiet smile on her face, remnants of tears still on her cheeks.
I’ve been thinking about that all week, particularly in regards to the expectations we put upon our children and our selves. I didn’t have any expectations for Livvie’s painting; I just wanted her to have fun. But because of her own expectations, she wasn’t having any fun at all at first. She’s been struggling a little at school, and we’ve had to meet with her teacher. Boy, did that break my heart. I was heartbroken for her because she was struggling, and I know that she notices that Sarah hardly ever struggles with her schoolwork, and I was heartbroken for me because she wasn’t meeting the “standards.” Terrible of me, huh. What standards? My standards? No, I guess they weren’t my standards, they were the school’s standards, but I realized my standards when it comes to academics are probably pretty high too. She's in first grade, for Pete's sake! I have to admit, I never struggled in school. Not even through grad school. School just always came easy to me. But I see that it doesn’t come easy to Livvie just yet. She’ll get there; we’re committed to helping her at her pace, in whatever way she needs, providing mountains of encouragement and positive reinforcement along the way. We’re spending more one-on-one time with the two of them while they are doing their homework so Livvie doesn’t have that in-your-face opportunity to compare herself with her sister.
Back to my expectations of myself… I guess because I was always good in school, I expected that I’d be able to help my girls be good in school. I’m finding that that’s going to be a big learning process for me. And then I think about my expectations in regards to all this art stuff. I’ve always played with art. But when I started playing with mixed media, I realized I was definitely going to have to lower my expectations for myself. The first mixed media piece I created with Wyanne taught me a big lesson. Like Livvie, I too, was a perfectionist! Wy sweetly told me that I was just going to have to let that “crap” go, just play, and not worry so much about the end result. Maybe that’s a really good life lesson too. Let the crap go…just play…and maybe everything will fall into place as it’s meant to be. That’s definitely a good lesson for me right now.
I’m taking an online workshop with my blog friend Carmen Torbus and am actually keeping up so far! I must admit, I’ve signed up for a few other online workshops that looked really fun and never had the time to get to them. I still have all the info for them and will get to them eventually, but I’m actually trying to keep up with this one as we go along! I’ll be traveling next weekend so that won’t be as easy, but we’ll give it a shot. These are my first two canvases for the workshop.This week, we are just doing the background…though I’m realizing I have a hard time knowing when to stop. I didn’t use a paintbrush at all for either of these…just my fingers, bubble wrap, a credit card, tops to various jars, and in the top one a $1 foam stamp. The bottom one is actually a total redo. I wasn’t happy with the first version of it, so I gessoed over it and started over in another color scheme. Kinda cool though how some of the deep red/purple from the first version peeks through to the second. That was one of those “happy accidents.” Ready for the next step, Carmen!
Conversation with Sarah while I was brushing her hair before school yesterday morning (picture taken on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway)...
Sarah: Mama, is tomorrow a school day?
Mama: Nope, tomorrow's Saturday. Weekend's here!
Sarah: Livvie! Tomorrow's Saturday! We have two days off school!
Livvie: I wish the weekend was three days.
Mama: Me too.
Sarah: Me three. No! I wish the weekend was FOUR days. I wish "wish spray" worked on that.