Imperfectly Perfect

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A young man meets his newborn, not expected to live.

I am often asked why I am so drawn to watercolors, especially when there are so many different creative mediums from which to choose.  Truthfully, there are so many things I love about watercolors; the way they move on paper, the unintentional and intentional fluidity that happens, the melding of colors, and the transparency of so many of the colors on paper.  However, there is one aspect of watercolors that I love, or at least how it relates to my abstract style, and that is the “imperfect perfections”.  One thing that is certain about my paintings is they are not perfect.  They have many flaws.  I “color outside the lines” so to speak. I don’t worry about keeping the color within my sketched design.  I want my colors to creep outside the lines, sometimes meshing with other colors that are right outside the lines.  I don’t want perfectly contained shades of colors that look like a photograph.  I love to see sporadic blurred lines, so that you don’t always know where one thing ends and another begins.  Some details are more defined than others.   I’m okay with having a hand that looks more like a lobster claw than a hand.  My intention isn’t to draw a perfect hand, or face.  My intention is to bring about emotion.  This style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but to me, it reminds me of real life.

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A young girl walks with her “Boppy” (grandpa) after one of his final chemotherapy treatments. 

Peruse through a few of your friends’ Facebook page or Instagram account.  I can guarantee that the majority of photos are those of people smiling, looking beautiful, happy, secure and hopeful.  You generally won’t see a photo of the new mother who is crying because she has only had a handful of hours of sleep since bringing her newborn home.  You won’t see pictures of a fighting couple, near the brink of separation of divorce.  You won’t see the photos  of anguish, hopelessness, or despair.  You generally won’t see the “messy” part of each of our lives…the laundry piling up on the bedroom floor, the tax papers spread out all over the kitchen table in a rush to meet the deadline, the overwhelming burden of taking care of aging parents, or photos that are reflective of our worst times, such as grief, depression, or other form of utter despair. I get it, these are often our private emotions and we certainly don’t want them displayed out there for the world to see, not even our closest family and friends (at least I don’t).  But, to be frank, this is part of life.  It’s messy and it’s real.  The sad thing is, so often we feel that other people are happier or healthier than we are, or more financially secure.  People don’t generally post pictures demonstrating their worries, anxiety, or physical or emotional pain.  They don’t show the struggles with one of the many possible addictions, or fears of stigma that often go with them.  We may feel that they have perfect children, perfect relationships, perfect, well everything.  The bottom line is, that’s just not true….no matter who you are.  It is my belief that some of this false perspective comes from social media, as we always want to show our best.  I can guarantee you won’t see me posting pictures of me when I first wake up, or even without makeup, I don’t like the idea of that perspective living permanently on the world-wide-web, (and you all should be thanking me for this).  You may wonder where I am heading here, but ultimately, it is this: we are all imperfectly perfect.  We are as we were designed to be.  We don’t always have perfect hair, makeup, clothes, or life for that matter, but the imperfections are what makes us who we are.  Every ebb and flow makes us wiser, stronger, and sculpts us into the individuals that we are meant to be.

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A beautiful, young woman loses her life in a tragic accident. 

As each of us faces challenges, and perhaps feels like we are facing our struggles alone, while others are living blissful lives, I believe it is important to remember that we all have blurred lines.  We often only see the pictures that others want us to see.  If there is no other lesson here, it is to be kind, even when you don’t feel like it.  Make no assumptions, as we are often not seeing the whole picture.  Most people are struggling with “something”, although we may not or never know what that is.  Love the skin that you’re in and love others for who they are, not what you hope that can be.  Love yourself and others, despite imperfections and flaws, as they are what makes each of us, us.

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A big sister gently kisses the forehead of her newborn brother, born with serious health issues. 

In today’s post, I am sharing some of my most intimate paintings.  Paintings that remain most dear to my heart, because of the sentiment behind them. I am not sharing the full stories behind each one, as they are not my stories to tell.  Each one is a rendering of emotion of heartache, despair, and sadness, as well as hope, love and miracles.  Just a simple demonstration that we all live imperfectly perfect lives and to remember love each other just a little bit more.

A Mother’s Hug Lasts Long After She Lets Go

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A watercolor rendition of a photo of Joey Feek and her daughter Indiana

It’s post Mother’s Day, a day that is meant to honor. remember, and celebrate our mothers and our own motherhood.  It is often a day of joy and making memories, but for many, it is also a day that signifies loss.  It might be the loss of a mother.  I lost my own mother at the age of 44 due to breast cancer.  It might be the unimaginable loss of a child.  I lost my first daughter, Sierra RayLeen, who was a preemie that died the same day she was born.  Perhaps it’s the loss of hope to become a mother, or the feeling of loss for a mother that has given up a child for adoption, or has been a surrogate, granting another to experience the joys of being a mother.  For some, it may be a combination of these scenarios, or others not mentioned.  I feel so fortunate to have known my mother and have had her for as long as I did.  I know so many that lost their mothers at a much younger age than mine.  Sadly, some never even know their mother.

Joey Feek, country singer and composer, was on my mind on Mother’s Day.  She died recently of cervical cancer, leaving behind an amazing family, including a beautiful daughter, Indiana.  Her story captured my heart from the moment I heard it.  Perhaps it was because she was so young, as was my mother.  Perhaps it was because she died of cervical cancer (I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, the earliest stage remedied with a hysterectomy).  All I know is that I was drawn into the story of she and her family as she was deemed terminal and she went to her childhood home to spend her remaining days with her family.  Her husband, Rory had said she was not going home to die, but to “live”.  The love she had for her family was evident in every last photograph that was shared with the public. I did an abstract painting from a photograph of Joey and her daughter, Indiana, who had fallen asleep on her mother who was embracing her while laying on a hospital bed.  It was a beautiful photograph, and the moment I saw it, I knew I wanted to paint it.  I had found a quote that I thought was perfect for this photograph, “A mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go”.

On this Mother’s Day, I was elated to spend time with my two grown children, Talisa and Taylor.  I am so thankful that God blessed and entrusted me with these  two beautiful beings.  They are grown-up, but they will always be my babies.  I have outlived my mother’s age by nearly five years now, and I recognize how fortunate I have been to watch my kids grow up and to see my grandchildren.  Nothing is promised and we never know how much time we have here on earth.  I am truly grateful for every moment I have with my children, whether it’s spending time together, on the phone, or even the little messages we send back and forth (thanks to current technology).  As quoted by Hermann Hesse, “If I know what love is, it is because of you”.

Empty Arms, Losing a Child

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In Memory of Sierra RayLeen

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Sierra RayLeen, October 27, 1987

As we approach Mother’s Day, I thought I would share my story of losing a child.  I hear so many stories from other women and it breaks my heart every time.  It brings me back to nearly twenty-nine years ago when I lost my first child, a daughter, Sierra RayLeen.  She came nearly three months early, and only survived for approximately five hours.  It was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I was 20-years-old and was excited to be pregnant with our first child.  We wanted the gender to be a surprise, so we had no idea whether we were having a precious baby boy or girl.  I had been having a lot of problems throughout the pregnancy, especially with bleeding off and on.  I, myself had been born two months early, weighing in at 3 pounds 15 ounces, so it had been a concern throughout my own pregnancy; however after nearly six months of problems, and much of that time on bed-rest, it seemed that the pregnancy was finally going well, filling us with much excitement and anticipation.  I can still remember the first belly-flutters, the ultimate sign that that there is a little being growing inside.  It was amazing, and we couldn’t wait to meet him or her.  I knew early-on that I wanted to be a mother.  My own childhood had been pretty rough, and I couldn’t wait to have a child of my own to love and watch grow up.  It was a dream come true.

That dream came to a screeching halt on October 27, 1987 when I was 6-months pregnant.  I was finally to a point where I wasn’t having issues, and no longer required bed-rest (after nearly three months on bed-rest).  Because of the issues I had experienced, I hadn’t bought anything for the nursery; however on October 26th, I finally went shopping with a friend, and bought several baby “things”.  It felt good to finally start getting ready for his or her arrival.  That night, I woke up around 2:00 am with severe cramping and hemorrhaging.  I called my husband and he immediately rushed home and we made our way to the emergency room.  It was there that it was determined that the “cramping” was actually full-blown labor.  An ultrasound was performed and they were able to determine that I was 7cm dilated, and that the baby’s lungs were not fully developed.  It was not likely that he/she would survive, and certainly not without intervention.  My doctor shared that he could send me to Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) where they were performing a procedure where they would put the mother on a bed that actually tipped upside-down, using gravity as a means to hopefully keep the cervix from further dilating and prevent the baby from being born.  We were told that it was our only hope in the baby surviving, because the lungs weren’t developed.  We mentally prepared ourselves for the ambulance ride up to OHSU in efforts to save our baby; however nearly fifteen minutes later, our doctor came back with news we didn’t want to hear; OHSU was no longer performing this procedure because the survival rate was so low.  We were devastated.   We no longer had an option, so began the wait for the arrival of our sweet baby.

The nurses later came in with a steel tub and towels, placing these items at our bedside.  I was not sure what the purpose of these items were, and in the back of my mind, I feared that the staff would put my baby in this tub and whisk him/her away.  I was young and it was my first pregnancy.  I did not know what to expect and was utterly terrified.  I couldn’t even bring myself to question the nurses as to what the purpose of these items were.  I thought perhaps they would take the baby away (I had no idea what the baby would look like or if he/she would even look like a normal baby).  With each contraction, I grew increasingly worried about the steel tub and its purpose.  I tried to relax as much as possible and focus on getting through each contraction….and, so we waited…

A few hours later, our baby girl, Sierra RayLeen, entered this world.  She was just over 15 ounces and just under 12 inches long.  She was tiny, but she was otherwise perfect!!  Ten fingers, ten toes, perfect little hands and feet.  She was breathing, although labored because her tiny lungs were not mature.  They immediately cleaned her, wrapped her in a blanket, and handed her to us to hold and admire.  I quickly forgot about the steel tub.  I only focused on this beautiful little baby girl and how perfect she was.  The doctor let us have a few minutes with her and then came back in to visit with us.  He reiterated that she was not going to survive; however if we wished, we could have her immediately taken to the nearest neonatal center (several miles away); however because of my blood loss (and my body had gone into shock just prior to delivery), I could not go with her.  He assured me that she would be poked and prodded with needles and tubes, and that none of those things could save her.  We would lose all time with her. It was, to this day, one of the most agonizing decisions I have ever had to make in my life, and something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  We ultimately decided that we wanted to spend time with our precious baby girl.  We didn’t want to waste one minute away from her.

For over five hours, we held her, cuddled her, and kissed her.  She wrapped her tiny hand around our fingers and would occasionally take a deep sigh.  She never opened her eyes.  We were told this was because I had been sedated while in labor (when my body went into shock); therefore she was also sedated.  We had the most amazing doctor and nurses.  We didn’t know what to expect, but the nurses were so attentive to our little one.  They wrapped her up in blankets and kept her warm.  They took Polaroid pictures of her (this was in 1987, long before digital cameras and since we had no idea we would be having a baby that night, we didn’t come prepared with a camera), and provided us with a “Special Babies” baby book, along with her foot and hand prints.  They are the only physical mementos we have of her, and we are so very thankful that they provided these things to us during that very difficult time.  We reveled in each breath that she took and each squeeze of her hand on our fingers.  Even after she took her last breath, we continued to hold her, knowing how precious this time was.  Letting her go was more difficult than I can express in words.  When do you finally let go of your tiny daughter, knowing that these are the last moments that you will ever have with her?  When we did carefully hand her to the nurses, they treated her like any other baby.  They held onto her like the most precious of cargo.  I don’t think the nurses will ever know how much this meant to us, and I don’t think I could ever truly put it in words.

Going home was unbearable.  Empty arms that only had the chance to cradle that precious “little” for a few moments in time, would never rock her to sleep, or calm her cries in the middle of the night.  It’s a time that I’ll never forget, as it was such a time of darkness and despair.  But, we hold onto those beautiful brief moments with our daughter.  We had a gorgeous baby girl less than a year later, and a beautiful son almost two years after that.  We truly recognize how blessed we were, as many that lose a child, never have the opportunity with another.

My mother, who passed away just a few years later, wrote the following poem for our precious little one:  “Sierra RayLeen, child of my child, you only stayed a little while.  Bands of love wrap around my heart, knowing we would have to part.  Time stands still, there’s no tomorrow, wishing mine, was yours to borrow.  Time goes on, and hearts will heal, but the love of Sierra, we’ll always feel.”  -Grandma Lois

Sierra’s headstone where she lies was perfect in our eyes and we knew it the moment we found it: “She gave so much to be so little, but angels always do”.   Our beautiful angel is gone, but never forgotten.

 

 

 

April Giveaway!!

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April Giveaway!!!

 

Sign up to follow my blog and be entered into a drawing on April 30th for a FREE 8×10″ matted and framed custom watercolor portrait!!  Drawing will be held on April 30th at 8pm and winner will be announced thereafter.  This is a $120 value.  Go to my Facebook page (Watercolor Creations Gallery) and share my page for an additional chance to win.  Good luck!

Wrapped in Love

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Wrapped in Love

 

By now, many of you have noticed that I paint a lot of pictures about mothers and children, primarily babies.  I don’t think there is anything more beautiful, amazing, precious, delicious-smelling, soft, and snuggly than a little baby.  I will expand that to say that I also love baby animals; kittens, puppies, ferrets, you name it, I love it, especially in baby-form.  Baby toes are like little sausages…you just want to eat them up!!!  Not literally of course, but seriously, I want to kiss those little precious nuglets of goodness.  You can’t really do this once babies start crawling/walking, as then they no longer remain clean, and, well being a germaphobe, it just ain’t happening.  For some reason, this brings me back to when my kids were very little, probably 4 & 5 years-old.  It was Father’s Day and they had brought my husband and I breakfast in bed.  It was simply a bowl of cereal for each of us (I love cereal…hello!!!…who doesn’t love a good bowl of Cap’n Crunch?!), they brought up two bowls of cereal and two spoons…it was a precious moment.  The look on their precious, cherubic little faces was priceless.  They were so proud that they had done this all on their own…yes they did.  I’m not going to lie…being a germaphobe, I am always concerned about whether someone has washed their hands before handling something that I am eating, or after shaking hands, etc.  I wanted to enjoy my bowl of cereal that my precious littles had prepared for us…but I let my husband take the first bite, since it was Father’s Day.  He did so, and of course, raved about how delicious it was, and how he especially loved it because it came from them.  I went to take my first bite, when I saw that my husband had a puzzled look on his face and hear him utter, “where did you get these bowls?”….I slowly put my spoon back in the bowl, as they answered “the dishwasher”…which, of course we were both realizing contained dirty dishes, hence the film of grit that he had scraped upon while gathering a spoonful of cereal.  There was also remnants of something on the spoons, the likes of which, I didn’t want to even guess what it could be.  We laughed and “ate” our cereal (and when I say “ate our cereal”, I mean, we pretended to eat our cereal and then dumped it out when the kids weren’t looking).  It is one of those funny moments that you laugh about with your kids when they are older and can find the humor in it all.  It was such a precious moment.  It wasn’t about the cereal, or dirty bowls & spoons…it was about the love that was demonstrated when our precious babies thought  about us on that special day.  There are many other precious days like this, but this is one is one of my favorites, as it was when we were still a strong family unit.  There is nothing more precious than that.  While my husband and I divorced, we each still experienced many other loving moments with our kids.  I watch my son with his kids and see the love that he has for them.  I know he will have many memories of dirty cereal bowls filled with love, and that makes my heart full and realize the many blessings I have in my life.

Hip Mom

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“Hip Mom”

Any mother will recognize this stance.  It seems to be the primary stance from the time your children are old enough to hold up their head, to the time they are too heavy to hold (for any length of time, anyways).  It’s almost a global symbolism for motherhood, as it is a stance used in most, if not all cultures.  Many carry their child this way while they are doing daily chores, shopping, or just snuggling with their child.  It feels to be a method to keep your child close, allowing them to feel safe, and comfortable next to mum; they can see the world around them, but within the safe confines of mother’s arms.  And as the hip pain sets in (due to poor posture and weight distribution), we switch our children to the other side.  For me, since I am right-handed, this often meant struggling to do daily activities with my left hand, not an easy feat for someone that is definitely dominantly right-pawed.

When my children were little, I had a difficult time “letting go”.  It was hard for me to allow them to be independent.  I was afraid of them getting hurt.  I even fretted about them getting dirty, which was ridiculous, because a.) they were children and b.) we lived in the country, where it is simply impossible NOT to get dirty.  My children loved to wander, explore, and yes, get dirty…really dirty.  A few unforgettable moments were when we found our children playing in the cow’s watering trough, sitting in it like a Jacuzzi tub.  As you can imagine, these tubs were not pristine, so I was a little freaked out.  Another time, my children decided to see what the cows’ salt lick tasted like.  As a germaphobic mother, this caused me a lot of anxiety.  Of course, I laugh about it now…as do my adult children.  I did ease-up over time, allowing my children to get filthy (oh so filthy), as they did take nightly baths, so my anxiety-riddled self would feel better knowing they were going to bed clean, free of the day’s filth, well, most of it anyhow.

I believe that part of the reason it was difficult for me to allow them independence early-on, was that it was simply hard for me to let go of them as children; as it meant they were growing up.  I wanted to preserve those sweet babies as they were so precious.  What I learned is that each stage of childhood was a treasure.  It was sad to see them transition from the “Littles” stage, but I also enjoyed watching them grow up into amazing, beautiful, thoughtful, loving adults. As they grew, I grew as well.  I tried to be a better mom each day.  I wasn’t perfect (I’m sure my children will quickly attest to this), but I have always loved them with all my heart and I have always tried to be the best mama I could be.  I believe my children know and understand this as well.  And while I’m no long able to hold my children on my hip, I will always hold them in a special place in my heart.

Days of Lavender

 

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“Days of Lavender”

I am loving the beautiful Spring weather we have been experiencing here in the Pacific Northwest.  The warm sunshine, new blossoms, and sounds of lawnmowers cutting blades of grass now reaching for the sky.  My favorite season has always been Spring, probably because I have been fortunate to live in an area that is picture-perfect when in bloom.  One of my favorite flowers is lavender.  Aside from the gorgeous color, the fragrance is heavenly.  I’m not big on floral scents, but I do love lavender, fresh or dried.  I even love lavender-scented products (ie: laundry detergent, hand soap, lotions).  I love smelling fresh clean, lavender-scented towels!!  Something about white linen and lavender just puts me in a good mood. In fact, my bedroom is white and lavender, which just feels so fresh and clean to me.  For some reason, lavender emotes feelings of a fresh new start, or starting over.  It’s a time to renew goals, forgive yourself for mistakes made, make positive changes, and start fresh.  It’s also a time for gratitude; gratitude for the opportunity to start anew, and for the many blessings in our life.  I am grateful for my family, the many friends in my life, my faith and the gift to express myself through watercolor. I am thankful for my days of lavender.