Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Magic

Once upon a time, a long time ago….a little girl I once knew, easily believed in the magic of Christmas. She knew September meant school and October was for costumes, followed by November for a grand feast with relatives she rarely saw but loved quite dearly. Then some time later, in December, Christmas began to happen all around her. Lights went up on the block, the whole family piled in the big brown van in search of a fresh tree, perfect tissue art ornaments were made in school, and grand church events were attended. The magic of the season continued without effort at all! Favorite Christmas music was played in the home, caramel corn tempted little fingers, and even handmade cards complete with children’s handprints were finished and sent out on time! Best of all was Dad dressing as Santa and all of us secretly delivering gifts to a family in need. Oh how she loved this time of year more than anything. All that good Christmas spirit filled her with excitement and anticipation.
But then the years passed on and she grew up. She never grew tired of loving Christmas, but there is no doubt the sparkle began to fade. She got married and had children and her love and joy grew and grew. But quite at the same time, the magic she once knew was harder and harder to find.
Now don’t get me wrong, she anticipated the season with great gusto and big plans. She would say to herself in October (and sometimes July,) “It will all get done, I swear! The lights and the cookies and every last handmade gift! I will fill the stockings with just the right thing…you’ll see!” And then the great holiday kick-off feast (also known as Thanksgiving) would come and go and the reality would simply sink into the little girl-at-heart. For all the making and baking in the world would not recapture the magic as she once knew. It’s not that she didn’t try. She tried it different every year as a matter of fact! Some years too much, some years scaled back, some years giving and some just a bit reserved. But that simple magic, well, it was just a tad bit out of her reach.
But then one year (one quite recent in fact!) a light went on as she was trimming the tree. Harry for the Holidays and baked apple pie candle warmed up her home. Her beautiful, wonderful, happy new home and she looked and she saw three boys eyes lit up with the Magic of Christmas! “But of course!” she thought to herself and silently thanked her mom and dad for the years they put in to making Christmas seem effortless and allowing their little ones to feel the MAGIC without a to-do list worry or care in the world!
And THAT is the story of how I came to understand the reason why I look forward to this time of year so much and yet inevitably find myself overwhelmed anyway. I will always be searching for that simple Christmas magic and in the process, hopefully be creating it for the ones who matter to me most. Merry Christmas boys! (and thank-you so much Mom and Dad for the very best memories of Christmas!)
Christmas 2009

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Both Feet First

So, are you wondering if I've gotten to this artist thing yet or just pushed it to the side in lofty aspirations?  Did I make any declarations I would sooner regret? Have I already jumped both feet first into something before I was really ready? Do I have what it takes? Do my children still need to be fed? The answer is YES (to all of the above)!

I am excited to venture back into this world of art and painting. Reality is staring me in the face and I am NOT backing down! I have a million ideas and not nearly enough time in this world! But I am taking a minute to share my thoughts on the situation as follows:

1. I love it, but it's scary and hard picking up the brush again.
2. Starting over is not as easy as riding a bike, this is going to take much longer to re-learn.
3. There is a reason why my art class is filled with retired women, not young mothers.
4. There are still mouths to be fed and clothes to be washed, and even if you think about art every day, the reality is that it is at the bottom of the to-do list.
5. I have no interest in giving up my day job anyway!
6. Slow and steady wins the race; I know I won't be a master by next year, maybe not until next lifetime...
7. If I wanted to relax I would still be scrapbooking!

I've been taking a pastel painting class for the last few weeks. I am practicing, but not nearly enough. I keep a journal full of the ideas that strike me, so maybe one day I will fulfill a few of those creative dreams on canvas. In the mean time I am nervously posting these two pictures I did last month. Both are pastels. The strawberries were fresh and set up in my studio and the landscape was from a photo of Belgium. I hope you are pleased with my update!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

(no) Regrets

I wish I could say that life in Europe was the best I ever had. That I lived it to the fullest and loved every minute. I wish I could say it was all I hoped it would be. But it's no secret that my time away was one of my greatest challenges. It's hard to disappoint the ones I love and say that I didn't make the most of my time; that I rather didn't care for it much at all. I know I sound ungrateful, but it's the honest truth: living in Belgium was not my finest hour. And if I had to do it all over again, well, I would.

Yeah, I know it's a hard one to swallow, but I know who I am today would not be without all I was yesterday. Right now I love life and feel more joy for the simple suburban lifestyle I live than I ever once did. Besides I saw Paris. And the Alps and the Mediterranean and drank Italian wine, lived in a Grand Chateau, made lasting friendships and had another wonderful redheaded viking boy. And who could deny those memories? But alas, I stray. All those things never compensated for the days I felt isolated and the times I worried about my children's health, the language and culture barrier or the challenge of winter with a husband deployed. I never got over being a stranger in a strange land.

The affect I had on my family IS my regret. My moods often, yet not always, set the tone for loving or loathing living in Belgium. But the need to bail out at high tide and come home, well, THAT I will never regret because I know the whole family has benefited from the great return. The biggest pay-off has been genuine happiness in our home and this sweet knowing that I am where I belong.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Significant Changes

How does one who has been devoted to scrapbooking for years make a very hard decision to quit? I have taught classes, been a major supporter (both verbally and financially) to Studio Calico, I have a room dedicated to it and have even been published - more than once! I know! I have loved it dearly for nearly 12 years now.  In all honesty, up until about two weeks ago, I hadn't really planned on giving it up so soon. But the idea had been rolling around in my mind for months, if not years. And one peaceful afternoon as I lay collecting my thoughts in the back yard while the kids jumped all around me I realized that as long as I had supplies arriving at my door step every month, there would never be a transition. That transition into painting that I have always seen myself do.... someday....but someday was never coming at the pace I've been taking to do it.

So, I am quitting scrapbooking.

Ok, not completely, totally, and immediately. I'm not running out the door, but rather backing out slowly. But here's the thing....As long as I spend my time scrapbooking like a maniac or reading the masses of scrapbooking news on the internet like an obsessed junkie, I will never be able to make the transition to other other side of me. I want to write, read, finish my art history degree, take as many hands-on fine art classes as possible and eventually sell my work in galleries. Yes, in galleries! Did you know my father is a successful artist selling in galleries in California? And long before I even had children it was something I imagined myself doing. Flash forward to life with husband and kids: now scrapbooking has taken place of my artistic needs for many years. And I DO love it or I wouldn't have put so much time and money into it! But...

Sometimes you know when the time has come to make significant changes. Those changes in the way you live your life that must be done in order to accomplish the dreams you've always had. Like going to bed early to wake a little sooner just to get a run in. Or selling your perfect little condo in the perfect little town so you can have the money to go back to school and get your Master's of Fine Art. Perhaps it may be moving away from all that has you tied down and in a rut. Or shifting away from a particular mindset or belief you thought you had to stick to your entire life, which limits you from accepting everyone or one one particular person for who they really are. Maybe you have to let go completely of the one you thought you loved in order to love yourself again. Or simply, you must get on that plane and fly...

Whatever it is that you have been meaning to do lately, maybe it's time to make a change. Make the sacrifice of one thing for the better of another. But however you do it, do it with gratitude in your heart because it's the only way to proceed at this turning point in your life.

At least that's where I stand today....

Hope you join me as I take the next step and document my journey, right here! Because part of the transition to the other side of me, is telling you how I get there: step-by-step, one brush stroke at a time, and writing little more often than I have been!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

All American

In all honesty it didn't take long to assimilate back into the good old American Lifestyle. I know Target as well as I know my own house. Which, by the way, is awesome! We "eased" the transition by staying in a hotel for three (long) months, but the wait was worth it. I guess it was only a few weeks ago that our household goods arrived and we began making this place ours. We've emptied most boxes, painted five rooms, hung curtains, a few pictures, and made good use of the kitchen. My studio is up and running, so is David's, and the boys each have designer bedrooms. We still have a pink basement to contend with and wallpaper to strip in the diningroom, a "bit" of decorating to do in the living room and some updating planned for the kitchen. My current project is painting and finishing up our library where we keep the big double chaise lounge chair that everyone deeply covets and more books than we will ever read.

It seems like Belgium was an eternity ago. I think of the friends I made and the house I lived in occasionally, but mostly I still feel relieved to be home. It feels right. Accepting suburbia has never been so easy. We bought a minivan, signed the boys up for soccer, make playdates, watch tv, and sometimes even shop after 6pm. With the traffic and the planes flying overhead, I know we are not alone. I'm sure one day I will be tempted to complain...eventually I always do, but for now I am enjoying fireworks going off in my backyard and the clerk at the store greeting me in English!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow...

I wish I could say that I have been good about keeping my life in Belgium updated and blogged. I wish I had told more stories. Waiting for inspiration to strike and the story to be told sometimes means no story at all. But in my heart I know this is not true. Everyday there is a story to tell; no trip to Paris or fancy French meal, or holiday to celebrate is necessary because it is in the small moments of life that we are really living.

Sure, we've traveled around Europe. Had big summer parties in our yard. Taken feild trips to see the Mona Lisa. Bought Dutch paintings at Flea Markets. Made several trips to local hospitals. Celebrated a Belgian Wedding until all hours of the night. Driven across the border of France just to buy cast iron cookware. Played "football" with kids of every nationality. Been carried up hundreds of steps to the Sacre Cour asleep in a stroller. Flown in an airplane, ridden on a train, cruised in a car, and even toured the city in a little boat. I can not forget that we have sprinkled our time in Europe with an adventure here and there.

But the best stories come from everyday life. I have raised my boys here and fallen in love all over again with my husband. We have learned how to be a family no matter where we are or what we are doing. Most days we are right here at home. Together. And the simple life we live is where we find the most joy. This is what I treasure most as we now say good-bye to life in Belgium and head home. This is what I hope to take home with us. There is no worldly adventure that can replace the relationships we build with our family and the best part of our time away is the bond we've built.

So, even though we didn't make it to Venice, London and Prague...we created the best story of all...a happy family. And now, it's time to go...