Today I’m participating in Seth Apter’s 2011 Buried Treasure project. The project calls for picking one of your favorite posts (buried treasure) and reposting it today. When I saw the call on Seth’s blog, I emailed him to see if the post had to specifically be an “art” post because the post that immediately came to mind for me was an essay (I was a writer before I was an artist!). And Seth aptly reminded me that writing is also an art form. True! This is not necessarily a happy post, at least not the first half, and it’s a very personal one, but it truly is one of my favorite posts. This was the most cathartic piece of writing I’ve ever written, flowing out of me effortlessly, from a Studio Mothers creativity prompt titled “my mother’s house.” Now, reading it again, I realize that this pivotal point in my life shaped who I am today, the second half of the essay truly embodying my philosophy that happiness is a choice. Visit Seth's blog to see other Buried Treasure.
My Mother’s House
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; DH 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.
Still slowly working through my Sketchbook Project Fun Journal… I may not be timely, but I’m persistent! This is page 17, and I think this may be my new favorite. On this one I used a little bit of everything…paint, stencils, masks, oil pastels, spray inks, pad inks, used deli papers, and a black Sharpie. As you can see, this one is dated May 29 and I haven’t worked in it since, so I need to get back to it.
Two things coming up tomorrow. First, I’m heading up to the Big Apple with my students for the annual Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities Advisors Summit and Student Leadership Institute. This is always a wonderful trip. I’m starting to feel like a New York veteran at this point, but it’s always so cool to see the big city through the eyes of my students who are seeing it for the first time. This year, since the trip falls on my girls’ birthday, my family is also coming, so they’ll have a bit more play time while I’m in sessions. Luckily, though, the conference schedule allows for time to explore the city; that, in itself, is a very educational lesson for my students! We’ll be taking the girls to FAO Schwartz Friday afternoon for their birthday. Say a prayer for me! I’ve given them a dollar limit and a size limit!
Also tomorrow, I’ll be participating in Seth Apter’s annual Buried Treasure project. Tomorrow all participating artists will be reposting one of their favorite posts, so mine, and why I chose it as my favorite, will pop up here tomorrow morning. Be sure to hop over to Seth’s blog tomorrow as well to see all the other Buried Treasure.
I’ve learned to listen to that little voice in my head. As I was walking out the door to pick up pizza for Friday night’s dinner, that little voice told me to grab my Nikon, which was sitting on the kitchen table next to my purse. It was a pretty stormy afternoon, and the clouds were still rolling in and out from various directions. After I picked up the pizza and was headed home, I looked to the west and saw the most beautiful cloud formations…with little stripes of pink and green peeking out from above. I’ve seen this phenomenon several times, caused by some sort of refraction of the sun’s light bouncing around above and behind the clouds, and each time, I’ve always tried to capture it on film. In this shot, the colors still don’t quite match what I saw in person, but they are pretty close. I think a camera simply cannot capture the full beauty of what’s happening up there. I've titled it "Listen," and you can find it in my shop here. This would be incredibly beautiful very large! I'm thinking of doing a large canvas print for my office.
Speaking of listening, I’m also reminded daily that my girls are little sponges, listening and soaking up information when I may not even realize it. After I put the girls to bed Friday night, I piddled around the house a bit and then went to feed Tink and Savannah before hitting the sack. As I bent over to put the food in their bowls, out of nowhere a sobbing Olivia grabbed the back of my legs. When I turned around to ask her what was wrong, all she could get out was “I….don’t…want….to….move….” between sobs. I took me a while to figure out what she was saying, but when I finally did, I couldn’t figure out what triggered these tears. Because she was crying so hard, I had a really hard time understanding her, but it kept coming back to not wanting to move because she’d miss her friends. When I kept asking her what made her think we were going to move, she said the movie. They had watched Toy Story that night, and if I recall correctly, the little boy and his family move in the end, almost leaving behind one of his favorite toys. My sweet Livvie is so tender-hearted.
I convinced her that we weren’t planning on moving any time soon and even if we did move, we’d probably stay in the same area, and she’d still see her friends. Though I think the movie triggered the whole episode, it reminded me how much these little ones are always listening, even when you think they aren’t. Benny and I do talk about putting the house up for sale and moving every now and then, but it’s mostly centered around what we’ll do when the girls hit high school. The high school we are zoned for is definitely on the lower end of the scale in terms of performance. This is the only home the girls have ever known, and I guess I didn't realize that their overhearing casual talk about moving one day might really hit them hard. Now I know. I’d love for them to still be able to call this home once they’ve gone away to college and started lives of their own, but I’m not sure that’s realistic. Heck, we’ll probably have to sell the house to put them through college! But I guess only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll keep listening to my inner voice and try to remember that little ears are always listening as well.
Those Brave Girls…I tell ya, sometimes they really hit the nail on the head. Remember my Surrendering My Superpowers post? Where I told you I was applying for a full-time faculty position? I was a finalist for that faculty position, and I was really hopeful; I felt really good about my chances. Well, I had my final interview with our campus president on Tuesday. This morning, I learned that I was not her choice. Disappointed? Most certainly. Grateful that I still have a job I enjoy anyway? Definitely. When I got back to my office after meeting with the dean this morning, just trying to wrap my head around the fact that I would still be sitting at the same desk when Fall term starts, I tried to come out of the fog by absentmindedly checking my email. And here was my Daily Truth from the Brave Girls Club:
“Dear Fantastic Girl,
Just when you think you have things figured out, even in ONE part of your life....life throws you a curveball.
This is a place where you have a wonderful opportunity...many wonderful opportunities, actually. You get to decide right here, right now...what you will do next. You get to test those amazing skills you've been learning about concerning the power of your choice.
You have several choices ahead of you when unexpected things happen. You can sit and cry about it, and just sit there, IN IT. You can get up and stand there, and wonder what the heck just happened.....or WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? You can stand up, dust yourself off and move forward in anger.....or you can stand up, dust yourself off.....and say "HEY, LOOK HERE! ANOTHER ADVENTURE!!! I'm going to LEARN SOMETHING NEW, GET STRONGER and find ALL SORTS OF SURPRISES ALONG THE WAY! I surrender to this!!! I am going to go with it...there's nothing I can do to change it, so I am going to just make the most out of it! I am going to have a beautiful life anyway!"
Now, keep in mind, beautiful girl....that you can make any of those choices listed above....you can even make ALL of those choices in the very same day as you work through your unexpected bend in the road. Even if your first reaction or your first FEW reactions are reactions that you wish you could change....you still get to choose what your next reaction will be. You get to choose how you end up feeling at the end of the day....AND at the beginning of the day, no matter what is happening around you!
Just know that even if something big or small happened that feels like it's going to derail you....or if it DID derail you...or knocked the wind out of you.....that once you get your bearings, you get to move forward and choose to make the most of it. You can, you can, you can.....because you are such a brave brave girl!
C'mon, let's get on with your beautiful life!!! xoxo”
Wow. As you can imagine, that could not have been more perfectly timed. Now, I’ve always been a glass-is-half-full rather than half-empty kind of girl. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I fully believe that happiness is a choice, regardless of your circumstances, and I do my best to live by that. I have a good friend who was also a finalist for this position, and when I ran into her after my final interview, there was a big part of me that wanted to go right back in the campus president’s office and tell her to select my friend for the position. I have a full-time position with the college already; she doesn’t, and she really needs one. Of course, the other part of me was really looking forward to the chance to have more time with my family.
So now, as the Brave Girls so eloquently reminded me, it’s time to keep moving forward. I didn’t apply for the faculty position because I did not enjoy my current role; I do. I applied because I wanted more time at home, which the faculty position would have given me. I knew that if I got the position, there’d be so many things I’d miss from my current position, so now the positive is that I don’t have to miss them. I’m still here (as I have been for the past 17 years...)! And I’m taking four students and my family to New York City next week for a conference. That’s certainly a nice perk. So I guess, all in all, once again, God has reminded me I’m still right where I’m supposed to be right now, jammed packed schedule or not. We'll keep figuring it out.
p.s. I took this photo on my back deck last summer, playing around with my new macro lenses. I shared it with you then, but it was just too perfect not to share again in this post.
More playing with ink here! Day 16 from my Sketchbook Project Fun Journal. The left half of this spread contains a page from an old butterfly book I was using to play around with masks and ink. I have a stack of these pages sitting around amongst my messy workshop. The right side of the spread is mostly masks, stencils and spray ink. Intermixed on both sides are oil pastels smudged around with my fingers. I'm learning that just as I really like working with stencils, masks and inks, I also am very much a finger painter. Much more fun and less intimidating for me than a paintbrush! Hope you are having a great week!
We had one of those everyday-life-can-be-blissful weekends. Our biggest plans for the weekend were the girls getting their ears pierced. Amazing what peer pressure can do! I’ve been asking them for a couple years now if they wanted to get their ears pierced, but they weren’t ready yet. All that changed when one of their best buddies got her ears pierced earlier this summer. Olivia started asking me if she could get hers pierced about two weeks ago, and then when we set the date to get them done this past Saturday, Sarah jumped on board. I got the usual, “Is it going to hurt?” questions, but they did amazingly well! “Just a pinch,” I kept telling them, and they were amazed that it barely hurt at all! Of course, now they are all about the earrings…hating the fact they have to wait six weeks before they can change out their starter pairs.
Sunday, we built a picnic table. Yep, built a picnic table, and an 8’ one at that! Benny, of course, did most of the building, while I just had to hold stuff. All we have left to do is sand and paint, and paint colors are currently under heated discussion. For once, I’m the one who’s wanting to be a little more reserved, happy to settle for one paint color (given that I know many art projects are going to take place on this table, why spend a lot of time painting it?!), while Benny and the girls want to go 60’s psychedelic. We’ll give it a couple weeks to rest before we tackle that part. For now, we just need to sand it to get it ready for the girls’ birthday party this weekend. I hope you had a blissful weekend, too!
This summer I've been trying to be a little more proactive in preparing for my Fall arts festivals. I'm the world's worst procrastinator, so my typical M.O. is to put things off until the last possible minute, which causes me to be up very late creating new work for the two weeks prior to a big show. I'm happy to say I've done pretty well with my consistency this summer! This bracelet is another of my new pieces, and this past week, I've created eight pairs of pretty detailed earrings. Now I just need to get them photographed! I've also updated both my Etsy store and my website with all the new pieces I've had a chance to photograph. Hoping to get some additional pieces shot this weekend, but it looks like the weather may not cooperate. That'll give me time to experiment with something else! I've been itching to create more books, and my giant gallon jug of heavy gesso has been calling my name.
Being a born and bred Florida girl, the summer heat doesn't bother me as much as it does those who may have come to Florida from cooler climates. I love Summer. The pace is slower, things on campus are very quiet, and the days are nice and long. My redheads love summer camp, since their schedule is chock full of fun activities. Today, they have three large water slides at camp. Three! I want to go to summer camp! They are also making some sort of lighthouse out of a flashlight. Interested to see how that turns out. How's your summer going?
Thanks so much to Michele at HCKCrafts for including me in this happy orange treasury! Isn't this fun? My Coming Up Daisies photo pendant is bottom row, second spot. View the treasury with all it's yummy clickable links here, and go take a peek at Michele's cute shop here!
I created page 15 in my fun journal back on May 27, my 16th wedding anniversary. It was actually a pretty quick page! I started it before we went out to dinner and then put the finishing touches on it after we got home. The left side of the page started with a old book page on which I had played around with stencils and spray ink. I added some extra paint with paint daubers and highlighted with a black Sharpie. The right side was done with paint daubers, my fingers, and a Sharpie for the writing and scribbles.
When I did the hearts on the right side of this spread, a memory flashed into my head. Before we were married, way back in 1992, Benny and I went up to visit his cousin in Fredricksburg, Virginia. While in the area, we also went up to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. You see, Benjamin is a Civil War buff, and that trip was my introduction to all the roadside and park monument plaques in my future. We visited every Civil War battlefield within driving distance on that trip, and near the site of Pickett's Charge, on the corner of a bench up at the top of a hillside forest, are two little hearts with the initials KN and BW carved into them. Spare me the defacing public property speech, and just enjoy the memory with me. :-)
Time for my monthly Free Bling Friday giveaway! Random.org picked comment number 48 as the winner of my June Free Bling, so congratulations to Giovanna from Ireland! Being an Irish girl, I've always wanted to visit Ireland. Maybe one day...
For July, how about some lovely little Irish pretties for your ears. Here I've wirewrapped gorgeous green glass briolettes with sterling silver wire, and hung them on sterling French wires. To be eligible to win, simply visit either of my Etsy shops (here for jewelry and here for photography) and leave a comment in the comment box below with the link to your favorite piece along with a way to reach you and where you’re from by midnight Thursday, August 4. 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, August 5. 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 join my Facebook Fan page for Fan specials. Thanks for stopping in!