Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Journal Prompt...Knowledge

I am teaching an upcoming Art Journaling class for Idyllworks of Maine and have been trying to get some new inspiration for my classes. I'm playing with the vision of words creating more than just a definition in our heads...they convey a picture. When I say "lemon," you see a lemon in your mind, right?

So what happens when I say "change?" What picture do you then see in your head? What other words come to mind? What feelings does it bring to your body? Where do you feel it?

This is what I came up with and how it came to be...
I began with a tissue pattern as my background. I played around acrylics using greens and blues and yellows until I had something that seemed good. I then made house and roof shapes out of paper and corrogated paper.  At this point, I was asking myself, "Change? really? What do houses have to do with you and change? You've lived in the same house for 20 years! What's up with the houses?" But I LOVE houses, I love their houses it became. I'm not sure why black clouds came into the scene, but I loved the paper and decided to go for it.
And then came words. I used sticker words and decided to hand letter as well. I am always looking for a foolproof (and smudge proof) method of shadowing and decided to try out pan pastels and a thin paint marking tool. Nope. I went back to charcoal.
I requested these AMAZING acrylic paint pens from Liquitex for Christmas and was the lucky one that Santa listened to! I used the white for lettering...I don't love it as much as brush lettering, but I wanted to try it out.
Next came a space to journal. I was suddenly thrust back to my scrapbooking days and realized that art journaling has become the new scrapbooking for me. My family suffers, however, because I'm not adding photos of them!
And that sums it up. I'd love to see what YOU come up with when you reach into the depths of your creative self and ponder the word "change..."

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


People ask me what it's like having a relationship with my daughter's birthmother. 
It's different, nothing like any other relationship I've ever had
It's hard, boundaries are not my strong suit
It's emotionally draining sometimes

but it's also
and one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given.

These photos are of the gifts that arrived in the mail for all three of my girls today. They are from my middle child's birthmother (she's the only one that we know/keep in touch with currently). 

Notice the details...
She sends gifts for ALL three girls, not just her biological daughter.
Each child's gift is wrapped in their "own" paper.
There are multiple gifts for each child.
Each child's "favorite things" are present...

And this is all from a woman who has struggled on many levels for most of her life. I won't divulge the details, that's her story. 

And, yet, she has the emotional amazingness to pull THIS off. She is one of the most thoughtful, generous and loving women I know. For almost 11 years she has sent packages to the girls for every holiday and their birthdays. She always sends something for each of them, asking me in advance what they are interested in and what sizes they are wearing. She has very limited discretionary income and no car, yet she manages to purchase, wrap, package and ship goodies to us multiple times each year.

Because of her, I am able to educate my children about what it's like to be human. What it's like to love unconditionally and to accept people into your heart.

During the month of December, my youngest child kept checking the mail each day, anxiously waiting for a package to arrive. I asked her one day, "what is it that you're waiting for?" 

I knew what she was waiting for. She was waiting for something that will never come and my heart ached for her.

"Are you waiting for a package from YOUR birthmother?"

"Yes," she answered quietly from across the table.

It was that moment that I became even more grateful for #2's birthmother. 

I explained to my youngest that we would most likely never get a package from her birthmother, that, as much as she may want to, she's very far away, does not have our address and does not have the resources to send us gifts. I explained that we have a very special situation, that most adopted children never receive gifts from their biological families, let alone know and communicate with them.

Tough stuff. Heart breaking stuff. But THIS is the stuff that makes us human. To feel, to grieve, to trust, to love...

and to be grateful.

and that I am.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Just a Phone Call...

It seems so harmless. Pick up the phone. Sure, you can talk to her...

but please don't promise her gifts.
Gifts from daddy.
Anything you want.
Daddy, daddy, daddy...

you can't give her what she needs
you never could
and now you've given her something that you can't take back.
you've given her hope
empty hope
empty promises

and I'm here to pick up the pieces of her broken heart
and again
and again.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

More On Labeling But In A New Flavor

Usually I begin blog posts apologizing for not writing in such a long time...I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to let you know that I'm attempting to start writing again. I'm hoping to get something out, mainly of my head, a few times a week. I contemplated just writing in a journal, which I, again, am attempting to do a few times a week, and realized that I had some things I'd love to share. Whether the audience I'm addressing reads this, who knows. But I feel like I've had an experience, and still am having it, that is different yet the same as many.

I think labels are hard.
Learning Disabled
...even the "good" labels make it hard for us to embrace this "human experience" we are all having.

I'm guilty of it. That's why I'm writing this blog! To let you know just HOW guilty I am! But also to recognize that we all label in one way or another.

Many times we label ourselves as
out of shape
...well, those are just a few of my personal favorites!

I'm not saying that labels are all bad. If my daughter didn't have a label that says "I have ADHD and developmental delays," she wouldn't have an IEP that does an amazing job in letting her teachers learn how to teach her. She wouldn't be eligible for medicine that regulates her brain chemistry so that she can "be" in the world instead of running around it at 100mph. She wouldn't have parents who have read and researched everything they can about ADHD.

Labels don't work well when we use them without a bounce board. You know, those things that bounce tennis balls back to you at the gym? I could convince myself that I am the way I am because I'm


or because I'm

a child of divorce

or because I

grew up in an alcoholic home

or because I

experienced infertility

or because I

have three adopted daughters

I have done a pretty good job of that in the past. Sure, those labels have helped me identify the areas of my life that may have been affected by these things and gives me a point to start from. But they have also lead me to believe that I am ruined because of them.

And I'm starting to realize that that's not true. I have tools, just like my step-dad did. He couldn't fix the snowmobiles and get them running without them. His problem? broken snowmobile. His solution: tools. My problem (and many others in the world): Trauma-filled Past. My solution? Tools.

I read a wide variety of self-help and health-related books. I go to therapy once a week for me, once a week for my marriage and at least a couple of times a month for my children. I have started taking better care of my body and putting my basic needs first. I am going to physical therapy and yoga each week to finally address back and shoulder pain that has been chronic for more than 12 years.

and you know what?

I feel better.

No longer do I feel the need to bitch about my shoulder pain and link it to my kids with attachment issues, adhd or anxiety. Sure, those things exist and they wear me out on a daily basis. But I'm taking care of myself. I'm pulling some of the energy cords back in.

And the result is a happier, calmer and more patient me.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. Please leave me a comment if you are so inclined, I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Labeling en Vogue for ADHD'ers!

Hello! I have decided to start writing again! Some of you found my writing inspiring, funny, helpful, maybe even entertaining at times...and that gives me the hope that you will, again, find some purpose for reading my writing. I'm excited to get back into a hobby that brought me so much joy in the past.

I do, however, pay attention to the number of "followers" I lets me know that someone looks forward to reading a post...thereby giving me the incentive I need to keep going. (Wasn't that a clever way to bribe you to read my blog more?)

Let's get right down to business...

I'm thinking of sending this photo to CHADD, an organization dedicated to educating and helping adults and children with ADD, in hopes that I win some multimillion dollar prize and pay off all of my debt! Wouldn't that be wonderful??

I know, it's not THAT good of a photo...but it is a glimpse into the life of a child with ADHD: when my 9 year old daughter, Jolee, remembers that there are baby birds living in our birdhouse she will NOT be able to resist the temptation to reach in and hold them...again.

We had friends over to celebrate Memorial Day in our traditional fashion...mellow afternoon, kids playing, adults socializing. Normal stuff.

All of a sudden I overhear a friend's daughter explain that she had just held a baby bird "so small that it didn't have any feathers and it's eyes weren't open!"

JOLEE! (said in the same tone Jerry Seinfeld used when he said "NEWMAN!"

I had purposely kept the birds secret. I had TRIED to keep it secret, anyway. But on that fateful Memorial Day I knew that my efforts had been thwarted. Jolee had discovered the birds all on her own and had been in there picking them up and putting them back in! I feared the tale was true, that the momma chickadee wouldn't come back to her babies once she smelled the scent of humans.

Luckily that legend does not pertain to THIS family of chickadees!

Momma AND Pappa were back in no time checking in on their babies.

Now, most people would say that I'm irresponsible leaving a nesting box within kid's reach. I was starting to believe that myself.

But then I remembered a piece of advice suggesting that labeling things makes it easier for children (and adults for that matter) to remember where things go and what activities to do. ie. I have all of my older daughter's drawers labeled to help her remember that things DO fit in the just need to put things in their places. The bonus is that she feels like she has more clothes because she can see everything clearly.

So I labeled the birdhouse. 

Now, hopefully, when Jolee is tempted to reach in and see how the chicks are doing (which she most likely will some moment very soon) she will see the "stop" sign and remember.

And this is a photo of some doodling I did based on what I decided to do with my afternoon...
that's right! Have fun.
and I hope you've had a least a little bit of fun reading this post! Thanks for taking the time to read my musings.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Expressions of Life

I have fallen in love.
Fallen in love with yoga.
It allows me to surrender, to feel, to love, to Be.
and it allows my body a certain stillness that cannot be achieved in day to day life.
I can push myself, feel my outer limits of strength and then curl into myself and honor who I am and what I have within myself...strength, peace, kindness and love.

A few weeks ago I had an amazingly moving experience while practicing yoga at Jai Yoga in Brunswick. My teacher, Jen, is 7 months pregnant. She exudes confidence, patience, calmness and is absolutely beautiful in her expression of her pregnancy.

I was positioned in a corner of the studio, looking out the large windows. The sky outside was a brilliant blue, a few puffy white clouds hung in the air. I gazed down to the crowded parking lot where my van was parked. My van holding my old, decrepit black lab, Gracy.

I was so struck by the dichotomy of my experience. To my right was the perfect expression of life. A beautiful, vivacious, living woman growing a perfect expression of life in her womb. Just outside the window lay my Gracy Lou who, at 14, is at the end of her life. Her hips are failing her, her body is not strong, her hearing is gone, her vision blurry. The perfect expression of  life ending in my van.

I had to hold back my tears. Not tears of sadness...mind you, but tears of experience. The joy of new life, the reflection of a life of happiness with my dog.

As you move through your life today, try to reflect on life...what around you is the perfect expression of life? Of death?

Spring is the perfect time for this reflection. Everything is beginnings...the plants burst forth and put forward their perfect expression of life, baby animals are being born, each of us feel enlivened and ready for our fresh start that is Spring.

And death...what is dying in you? What can you leave behind with the cold and darkness of winter? Don't just put it on a shelf for next year. See if you can release it in the eastern wind that blows the coldness and staleness away.

I dare you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Parting is Sweet Sorrow...

My oldest daughter and I are leaving on a much-needed vacation to California to visit with my biological mother and other relatives. I'm leaving my husband and two younger children behind and am having such mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I'm very excited to be embarking on this fabulous adventure with my 12-year old daughter. We used to be able to travel together a lot, but haven't since the other two have come into our lives. I  know that time with her loving and adoring me might be fleeting, so I want to soak up this experience with every fiber of my being.

Having children with attachment issues, however, makes it very hard to leave the other two behind. I never know what behaviors are creeping up because my impending departure and, undoubtedly, I will have some penance to pay when I get home...lots of "feelings" will come out about my desertion once I return.

To make the separation a little easier on the ones left behind, I prepared a "gift of the day" basket as well as "messages of the day" for each of them. There are messages for both of them, just short and sweet, but something to remind them that I AM coming home, that I haven't abandoned them. I will also give them each a shirt of mine to sleep with while I'm away, not washed so that it will keep the "smell of me" alive in them while they sleep. I'm hoping that this will help to relieve some of their anxiety.

What do you do when you are leaving your children for an extended period of time? We all have our own strategies. I'm interested to hear yours...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's on the Mind...

 This project started with a grand idea while laying on the couch nursing a sore neck. Some of my most brilliant work begins this way! I wanted to have a fun project ready for the girls when they got home from school and this proved to fit the bill.

Paper bags and ....SNACKS!
I gathered some paper bags and cut them to lay flat on my table. I had so much fun reminiscing about covering my text books in junior high and high school with these paper bags. I did, however, notice that Trader Joe's bags are much more artsy than the bags we used to get from Mister Market!
Paper bags were NEVER this beautiful in the 80's!
I then decided that I needed a tablecloth. I unearthed the sheet I had used as a tablecloth last Thanksgiving. It brought back lots of fantastic memories as I read the things our guests had been thankful for that day. 

The girls came home and got right to work. They were so excited to have free range with their paint colors and to be using sponges

 The end results were beautiful! I tried my hand at sewing them on my machine, but got a bit frustrated with how they were coming out.
So the next day, I went into the studio and took it up a notch and created this lovely string of hearts...Jolee had a day off from school, so she painted, I cut and sewed and she stuffed. Fun, fun FUN!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Art Journaling...Fear

I took an on-line parenting course a couple of years ago led by Heather Forbes. Her basic tenet is that there are only two underlying emotions: Fear and Love.

It took me a long time to wrap my brain around this concept...what about sadness and anger and happiness and all of the other emotions that I have? Well, what I discovered is that she's right...all of my "yucky" feelings are based in fear. All of my "good" feelings are based in love.

"This principle may be very difficult to grasp initially because we live in a fear-based society and anger is generally our immediate reaction to a threatening event. Seldon do we actually experience ourselves as being afraid. This emotion of fear, however, is the root of our anger. We avoid it because it feels safer to be in a place of anger (a protective feeling), while we feel exposed and vulnerable to be in a place of fear." states Heather Forbes in her book Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control.

Sharon Soneff has a bit on Fear in her book Art Journals & Creative Healing, "Phobias can be paralyzing, but even common fears can become obstacles to growth and achievement. Facing, on paper, that which we fear and dread is a wonderful stride toward facing those same things in our daily lives."

So what do we do with THAT? you might ask...

My challenge to you today is to open your journal and fill a page with fears. They can be irrational fears, real fears, silly fears...any fear that you might have. It's amazing what you find when you sit with fear for a few minutes. Take 15-20 minutes with this exercise and see where you get.

This is where I got:
For those of you who don't like to share your innermost thoughts and feelings for FEAR of someone else seeing them, fear not. We will be covering up this litany of fears in our next exercise....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sweet Art...

Corduroy pants repurposed into a fabric "locket"

with a personal message inside...

Coffee bag from Brazil, woven remnant from Guatemala...
Making class samples for Beattie Chicks usually benefits my home and family in more than one way. I get excited about making art (mommy's happiness directly impacts the happiness of the entire family) and my children and, sometimes, husband, receive lovely little works of art from me!

Since she was a baby, I have sung "You are my sunshine..." to Jolee. I have changed the words..of course, I always change lyrics to fit my needs...and she often says to me, "mommy, please sing the my sunshine song." This little fabric locket is hers to hold close to her heart and now, when she wants to "hear" the song, she will have it close by.

I'm hoping that one day Elvia can travel back to her native country and experience the beauty that is Guatemala. I fell in love with the culture there the minute I stepped off the plane. Sure, it's crazy busy, dirty and extremely poor, but the kindness behind the eyes spoke to my soul. The women in Guatemala share a deep connection to a culture rich in beauty and respect for mothering. I admire their strength so much.

In making this simple wall hanging for Elvia, I thought of those women who weave daily. The time it takes. The patience. The skill. I thought of Elvia's connection to those women and how I hope that, one day, she will grow to love and appreciate her native culture.

My next project is well will come soon. I will say that it has everything to do with where I came from and how I come to be where I am...

I'll leave it at that for now.
Happy Tuesday to you. I challenge you to appreciate and love something about YOU and your culture today. What is it about your family history that excites and invigorates you? The smell of your mom's favorite cookies baking? The aroma of the woodstove in the cool mornings? Let me know what it is...