Monday, November 17, 2014

You Are Right Here

I just wanted to take a minute to show you all what I have been working on this week.  It is a canvas that my niece wanted made for herself and her husband.  She wanted to be reminded that, "You Are Right Where You Should Be," and she wanted to be reminded of it in gray and yellow.
It started as an old map that hung on the bulletin board of his office.  I used gel medium to glue it down to a 2" deep gallery wrapped canvas and guess what, a ginormous spot in the middle didn't adhere...grrr.  So I removed that and put another piece of the map on and, as often happens, while I was smoothing it out, I found "Lake Preston" (my niece's husband is named Preston) and I knew that this was the map for them, which made me feel a little better about having to scrape off the first map. 
In order to save Lake Preston from being painted over, I had to alter my original design a bit but here is the background after several layers.

 I painted stacks of book text and sheet music to hand cut the letters from.
 I also hand cut the petals, stem, and leaf.  I added more layers of paint to the petals after I glued them down and used a script liner and white fluid acrylics to line it.
I added depth to everything with charcoal and a blending stump and when it was all said and done, I applied silver leaf randomly around the edges.  And after all of that I still managed to save Lake Preston.  If you look closely at the point of the leaf, you will find it.
Given my extreme dislike of cold and snow and the fact that I had to march out in it to take the final pictures, it was nice to be reminded that I am right where I should be, even if it is in the cold and snow.  So maybe I'll grumble less about the white stuff today and accept that I am where I'm supposed to be...but just today.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"...How Honest Do You Want To Live?"

I love this quote by the remarkable Robin Williams and in light of his tragic death, I have been pondering a few things.  Scary things.  Things that I would prefer to never let out.  Things that are sensitive and raw to my soul.  Things that I feel are important for me to share, even though I desperately want to keep them hidden, but the question is, " honest do you want to live?"  Because I believe that when we live bravely and honestly, we help each other get through our tough spots.  I also believe that we are given tough spots in order to develop understanding and compassion, so that we can share with those in similar situations as our own.  So I'm going to be brave and share something that is difficult in the hopes that my perspective will give hope to those who are struggling and understanding to those who have different struggles than mine.
If you ask anyone who knows me well, you will learn that I am a non-fiction reader.  I will choose non-fiction over a novel any day.  I love true stories and learning how things work and my subject of choice is learning the power of the mind.  I love it and I believe in the power of positive thinking.  I have read them all.  I am surrounded by inspirational quotes and I use positive affirmations.  I was raised from a young age, being taught that the mind is where it's at when it comes to creating a satisfying life.  I am a walking encyclopedia of positive thinking. 
I am also a very blessed woman.  I have a loving, understanding, and supportive husband, who I know would move mountains for me.  I have two amazing kids and even though I recognize that I am biased because I am their mother, they really are AMAZING!!  They are both miracle babies and I'm grateful everyday for the opportunity to be their mother.  My parents are incredible, as are my siblings and their families.  There isn't a woman on the planet who has better friends than I do.  The people in my life are the best.  Really, truly, the BEST.
I am also a spiritual person.  My deeply held beliefs are a treasure to me and I know that I am loved by a Heavenly Father who wants the best for me and provides me experiences to learn and grow.  I pray.  I study.  I sit in a pew on Sundays.
If you simply look at my photo albums on Facebook or look at my artwork, you might think that you have a complete picture of my fabulous life.  You might even want to live my fabulous life instead of your own, but behind the smiling family pictures and bright colored paintings, I have a secret.  I am a master at keeping my secret.  There are people close to me who don't even know my secret and I've kept it a secret because there is a stigma attached to it.  I have cautiously let in a few people but they were frightened by my secret and couldn't understand and a distance was created.  I have heard comments, felt judged.  I reacted like I had been burned and backed away, keeping my secret.  Plus, I really like giving the impression that I have it all together.  I don't like having to admit that THIS is my secret.  But here goes..
...I suffer from depression.  Not just the loss of interest in fun things, Eeyore feeling, suppressed appetite, kind of depression, but we're talking deep, dark, suicidal depression.  Which, when it first reared it's ugly head, caught this positive thinking, bright colored, completely loved, art girl by surprise.  "How can this be?," I would think.  "I have it all."  "How did I end up here?"  "This is NOT who I know myself to be!"  And yet, according to my doctors, this is how my body chemicals and brain are wired.  Do my thoughts enter into the equation?  I believe that, yes, they certainly do, but I also know about the depths of despair and how your thoughts betray you there.
Now, I don't presume to know what thoughts have gone through Robin Williams' or any other's head as they travel through dark places.  I can only tell you what thoughts go through mine and I tell you this not because I am looking for sympathy but because it is my desire to promote understanding and help someone else who is in a similar struggle.
Since the beginning of April, I have found myself back in the dark place after struggling for months with depression.  So far into that space that it scared me.  After doing everything that I knew to do, I sought out help.  It was all I had left in me.  I was unable to eat, unable to even decide what to make for dinner.  I had the focus of a fruit fly, which made reading, rational thinking, decision making impossible.  My typically well run home was chaotic and I had no clue how to get myself out of this spiral.  And that's when I found myself in a place that I didn't want to be...the couch of a therapist.  I wanted to do this on my own.  If I just thought some more positive thoughts, set some goals, painted something, prayed harder, I could get myself out of this mess...why can't I get myself out of this mess?  I begrudgingly sought help and I was MAD about it!  I felt like I was taking money away from my family to pay for a therapist.  I felt awful for not being able to come up with a dinner plan or remember that I put laundry in the washer TWO DAYS AGO.  I hated that I felt so distant from my husband and kids and I worried that because I couldn't feel their love for me, that maybe they couldn't feel my love for them.  I began to feel like a burden to those I love most.  I began to have visions of myself in a boat rowing towards the island that was my life, and the harder I worked, the harder I rowed, I only became further away.  I was completely alone while being surrounded by people who love me and would do anything to help me.  I began feeling that the kindest, most loving thing that I could do for my friends and family would be to end my life.  I would do anything for them, including sacrifice my life, even my eternal happiness, in order to make their lives better.  This is, of course, a ridiculous thought, but rational thinking isn't exactly a trait of the severely depressed person.  So in a fleeting moment of clear thinking I called the therapist.  
My therapist is great, but there just aren't enough of them in the world, so they are incredibly busy and there can be long stretches in between visits until you can get into the regular rotation.  So in an effort to do whatever I could do to help my situation, I started walking.  I took my dog to a beautiful path in my city and we walked it.  In the beginning, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other because that was all I had, but there is one teensy little obstacle on my walk...actually two of them...and they are called bridges.  These two bridges I crossed every day go over the Snake River and each and every day that I crossed them, I pondered jumping into the current that I knew to be unsurvivable.  I would have to remind myself that I was not doing my family a favor by jumping, so I kept putting one foot in front of the other, following my dog...every day...Every. Single. Day.  My dog would drag me out of bed, I'd put on my shoes and we would walk.  He was my therapy dog.  We became well known on the path.  My dog is like Norm from Cheers...everyone says "Mick!!!"
I also have become a regular on the couch of my therapist and am very grateful for her.  She is a good fit for me.  I still don't like the stigma of having a therapist and I fight against it but my therapist told me a little something that has made seeking help easier for me.  She told me that when she was in grad school, in one of her classes, the professor asked them to create a blended family.  They had to decide what issues each of the imaginary family members came into the family with and they came up with quite the combination of obstacles for this group...drug addiction, divorce, alcoholic, trauma of all kinds, jail, the WORKS.  This was one catastrophe of an imaginary family.  If there was an issue, then this fake family had it.  Then the professor asked the class, "Who's the healthiest person in this family?"  The class was stumped.  This was an imaginary family.  They didn't have enough information.  There was no way they could come up with the "healthiest" person in this mess of a family.  Then the professor said, "The healthiest person in the family is the one with the phone in their hand."  The person reaching out for help is the healthiest.  "Huh," I said, "I would have thought that they were just the craziest."  My therapist insists that that is not true and I really don't think she says that just because I pay her.  It is a story that I find helpful when I am ticked that I have to have help.  So much so, that I had to include it in my journal and I share it with you in the hopes that you, too, can be "the healthiest person in the family" if you find yourself in the dark place.
Often when I leave my therapist's office, she asks, "Who's the healthiest person in the family?" To which I respond, sometimes through gritted teeth, "The one with the phone in their hand." 
A few weeks ago, after putting at least 250 miles on my walking shoes, I walked across the bridge and realized that, for the first time, I didn't ponder jumping.  It's getting easier to focus.  I was able to read a non fiction book for the first time in a long while.  The lies my head tell me are becoming less and less frequent and are being replaced with rational thought again.  Do I think that I won't go back to the dark places?  I wish I could say that I won't but the fact is, I just don't know.

What I do know is that when a person ponders suicide, they are not necessarily looking for "the easy way out" or "being selfish," or any of those other catch phrases that you hear people say when the subject comes up.  They may actually even WANT to live but their thoughts betray them.  They may just believe that they are helping those they love.  They may think that they are doing the courageous thing by sacrificing themselves for their families.  The fact is when a person ponders suicide, rational thought has already left the building.  Someone else cannot begin to know how they convinced themselves that suicide was the best option...even someone who has been there.  All that we can know for sure is that a person with a clear mind would never even begin to ponder the things that pass through the brain of a suicidal person.
My hope in sharing this in such a public way, is to remind us all to just be kind to each other.  Try not to see another's situation through eyes that cannot possibly begin to understand.  Try not to judge.  Just love each other.  But really my greatest hope is that if you are reading this,  and you find yourself somewhere that you don't want to be, that you will do the courageous thing and reach out and just keep reaching out until you can begin to find the best way for you to heal.  No two people have the same path but I know there is always hope, even when your mind is not convinced.  And remember, "Who's the healthiest person in the family?"  "The one with the phone in their hand."  Be the one with the phone in your hand because you are so loved and worthy of the help you need.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hunting Again

Lately I've been doing some sketching.  I'm almost done with my large Moleskine sketchbook, so I am focusing on filling it up and putting it on the shelf.  I absolutely, positively, LOVE the feel of a Moleskine sketchbook in my hands.  I love everything about Moleskine sketchbooks except for one teensy litttle thing...I absolutely, positively do not love the paper in the Moleskine sketchbooks for painting with watercolors and that's a problem, because watercolors are my first choice for on the go sketching.  I'm also not crazy about the Moleskine watercolor sketchbooks.  I'm not a fan of the perforated pages and they are only available in a landscape layout.  So, once again, I find myself hunting for the perfect sketchbook.  I know that I am not alone.  As I read about the processes of many sketchbook artists, I have learned that we are all searching for the perfect sketchbook.  So my hunt will continue but until then, I will just keep filling up the last few pages of my Molly with sketches like this.
We had some visitors at our apple tree last week.  There were dozens of Cedar Waxwings eating the blossoms.  For two days they stayed and passed blossoms between each other and then they moved on.  Our family enjoyed watching them but they are fast little things, so I painted the apple blossoms while I was standing under the tree but I had to paint the bird from a photo reference.  They were just too speedy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Life is Like That Sometimes

Sorry for the long absence but you know how life sometimes just pulls the rug out from under you?  Well, I was traveling along just fine, when not only was the rug pulled out from under me, but life then rolled it up and bashed me over the head with it!  I hate it when that happens!  We have been living life moment to moment around here and I have been missing in action since October.  Haven't worked in a journal, haven't posted to Facebook, haven't twisted open a single tube of paint!  In fact, as I logged into the computer I noticed that I have 357 waiting e-mails.  357!!!  What am I going to do with 357 e-mails?  It's a bit overwhelming.
The last few days, I have finally had the oportunity to paint in my journal and it has been like coming home!  I have missed it.  Here are a couple of my more recent journal pages.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Looking In Awe"

It's been a crazy couple of weeks around here.  Hopefully things will start to fall into a routine and ease up a bit.
So, a few weeks ago, back when I actually seemed to find my way into the outdoors, I was feeling a bit discouraged.  I went outside to sit on my porch, for a few minutes, to catch my breath, and as I sat there a hummingbird flew up to the day lily next to me.  He stayed there long enough for me to get a good look at him and then he left.
I have a friend who, when she sees a sand dollar, sees it as gift from God...a reminder, just for her, of His love.  Well, that's how I feel when I come across a hummingbird.  It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, I stop and pay attention to the gift that is just for me, at that very moment.  Time freezes and I just sink into the feeling of gratitude and love.  Of course, I had to make a page in my journal to mark the occasion.
The background is mostly just palette cleanings.  I drew the hummingbird with a Stabilo pencil, on a gesso covered book page, and then painted it with fluid acrylics.  Then I stuck it on the background with gel medium and washi tape.  Lettering and details were added with some foam letter stamps that I've had around for a long time, pens, and charcoal.
Well, I'm off to clean my fridge before it is listed as a bio hazard.  There are some containers in there that have gone from "past due" to just plain "lab experiment".  Ah, the life.  It's times like these where the memory of that hummingbird will help to see me through the challenges...even if it's just a fridge.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Big Changes & Priorities

Tomorrow begins a new chapter in my life.  22 years after graduating high school, I am heading off to college.  I am excited, nervous, and already unsure of how I will get everything done, so I'm certain that my art time will be drastically reduced.  I'm sure I will still find time to play with my paints, but my priorities lie with school and family.  So my already irregular blog will likely become even more irregular, but not totally forgotten.
I have been playing with my markers a bit and doodled one of my favorite quotes.
Well, I'm off on my new adventure!  Wish me luck and I hope that happiness finds you today!