Unconditional, a Father’s Love

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“Daddy’s Girl” Original Watercolor

This year marks the seventh year that I have been without my dad.  It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, and yet, it seems an eternity.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, or miss him.  I long to hear his voice, hear him call me and my kids by pet names like “tweetie” and “kiddo”.  He truly left a void in our lives that will never be filled.  My “dad” was actually my adoptive father.  My mother and father had married young and separated when I was a newborn.  My mother struggled with being such a young mother (having my oldest sister when she was only 17-years-old).  There is a lot of chapters in my story, but this blog is dedicated to my dad. My adopted dad,  who ultimately became known as “Papa”, became an integral part of my family when I was only a few months old.  He and his wife, my adoptive mother, were good friends of my paternal grandparents.  They soon became my Godparents and eventually my adoptive parents. I don’t like the term “adoptive father”, as the term itself suggests that he was not my real father, and let me assure you, he was a very real father to me.  He truly loved me from the time he first held me.  He was kind, loving, protective, and he was there for me and my kids from day one.  He was a retired Marine that was so eager to serve his country, that he lied about his age, entering the service at age seventeen. This created a few problems later, when his actual birth certificate didn’t match what the Marine Corp had on file for him.  After he passed away, I had several conversations about this story, as to clear-up the discrepancy (not an easy task when it comes to the federal government).  I can remember him laughing about his rushing into the Corp.  He was born and raised in Texas. He was a Marine through and through.  Even after he retired, he continued the habits that had been formed through his training in the military.  I can remember him putting his work boots on each morning.  He would always start with the left foot, proceeding to roll up his pants first, then put on his white calf-high socks, (not much lighter than his pale, white legs) followed by his boots.  He would lace them up, twisting around the metal clasps and then wrapping around the boots once or twice, since the laces were always way too long.  I once asked him why he didn’t get shorter laces so he didn’t have to wrap them around his boots, and he replied, “That’s how I learned how to do it, and that’s how I’ve always done it”.  He was a man of structure and consistency.  He was predictable.  He was the constant in my life.

There are a lot of “Papa-isms” that my kids and I enjoy remembering about him.  His name was Arthur Paul (much like southerners might name a child “Billy Bob”), but you NEVER called him “Arthur” (bless the poor souls that made that mistake). He liked to fix things.  Technically, he seemed to break things, or make things “more broken” in his efforts to fix them. God bless him, he would do anything for anyone, and would make an attempt to be “Mr. Fixit” for just about anything.  If he was in the process of fixing something, and someone (referring to his methodology) told him “That won’t work”, he would reply, “I’ll make it work”.  That was usually a statement made just prior to him making things worse.  He was working on my washing machine one time and had parts (big and small) scattered all over the floor.  He was cursing and grunting while trying to get a part to fit somewhere.  It wasn’t fitting, and he began to “make it fit”.  It wasn’t long before more parts went flying and we ended up having to call a specialized washing machine repairman.  It was something always done as a last-ditch effort to fix something after he had spent countless hours working on whatever it was that needed fixing.  I came home one day, for lunch with a friend of mine, only to find his truck parked at my house.  Knowing we had a leaky toilet, I shared with my friend that he must be there trying to fix it…I then proceeded to confide that he was known as much for breaking, as he was for fixing.  As expected, he was wrangling with the stubborn toilet.  I introduced him to my friend while he was leaned over with a wrench, and about that time, he busted a pipe, creating a fountain of water all over the three of us.  He cursed and continued wrestling with the commode, while us girls giggled at the confirmation of his legendary “fixit” skills .

Papa used to be extremely hard-of-hearing.  He was ultimately my babysitter for years, and I used to wonder why my sweet, little, angelic, cherubic children were so loud all of the time.  I was always having to remind them that we were indoors and needed to use our inside voice (to no avail).  One day, I realized, as one of them was having a conversation with Papa that their high volume was to ensure that he could hear.  They had become conditioned to it, and it became habit.  It became endearing because we knew it was because they spent so much time with him, as he was helping us out (free of charge, I might add).  Because he was hard of hearing, I believe he often would nod and agree to something, even though he really hadn’t heard a word that was said.  Or, he would commonly say “do what?” as an automatic response to something someone said, only to process and respond while someone was repeating what was said.  Because of this, we had a papa-pause.  We often paused after he said “do what?”, allowing him adequate time to process what was just said and then respond. He always cupped his ear when saying this, as it helped him hear what was being said.  This used to crack me up, although it’s becoming less funny as I find myself sometimes doing the same thing these days. He would have found this funny, and I’m sure he smiles from above when he sees me following in his footsteps

There are the special phrases Papa used to say, such as “I’m gonna make me a sammitch”, in reference to his bologne or ham sandwich (often layered with pungent onions)  To this day, my kids and I will often use the same phrases in loving reference to him.  We laugh about the many silly phrases and words he used.

He even had a certain way of doing things that would make us laugh.  When joining in listening to music with one of us, he would start snapping his fingers (in efforts to be cool, of course)….they didn’t really “snap”, they would make more of a dry thud sound, all while having the biggest grin on his face.  I can still see that grin, it literally went from ear-to-ear.  We would be cracking up because there was literally no noise with his snaps.  He knew I hate onions, and yet, he would eat an onion “sammitch” and then get real close and say “Hhhhhhhhiiiiiiiii”….to ensure his malodorous breath reached across the room, causing us to scold him while we giggled and yelled “Ewwwwwwwww!!!!!”  He loved to see us smile and laugh and he would do just about anything to make that happen.

I don’t want to take anything away from my biological father, who is alive and well.  I was blessed to have two dads in my life. I had them both walk me down the aisle when I was first married.  I have always known my father, and have a close relationship with him.  As a child, I had a difficult time understanding why I didn’t live with my mom and/or dad, but over the years, I came to understand how fortunate I was to have not one, but two dads.  One father was the “see-once-a-year” fun dad that would take me to cool places like the beach, and art galleries.  Having lived in Southern California, he introduced me to fine dining and upscale living. I loved spending time in the summer with my dad; however Papa was my stability; my rock.  We lived simply.  We always had a nice home; not a mansion, but certainly comfortable.  He always made sure I had what I needed.  I didn’t want for anything.  He was there for me through every important event in my life.  He was at every band concert, every dance recital, and every award ceremony or other school activity.   He was at every one of my kids’ ball games and track events. He was the first to offer to help watch the kids, even when they were sick.  He was there during the good times, and during the not-so-good times. He was there for me when I was on, what seemed like, perpetual bed-rest during my three pregnancies, and when I lost my newborn child.  He was there for me when my mom died of cancer (at age 44) and when my Godmother passed away suddenly from a stroke.  He was truly there during the darkest of times. He was there.

He was very firm in his beliefs and we didn’t always agree.  I am chuckling as I write this, as we even had several heated discussions over the years about politics and beliefs.  He came from a different era and much of what he believed was a result of how, and when he was raised.  We had to occasionally agree to walk away from a discussion, although he really enjoyed “getting my goat”, so to speak.  I just typically tried to steer clear of discussions on which topics we had strong (and clashing) views.  It really was rare to have an argument with him.  He was just so kind, loving, generous and supportive.  He was truly a character, in the best sense of the word. Just writing about him  makes me pause and reflect on how lucky my kids and I were to have him in our life, and what a devastating void his passing has left.

The picture at the top of this blog post above is a commissioned painting I did of a father and daughter.  I love this painting and what it clearly represents; unconditional love. There is a beautiful story behind this picture, but it is not my story to tell, so I will just share my own.  I miss my dad every single day.  My children miss their Papa.  We are appreciative of the many beautiful memories that we were blessed to have with this very special man. We cherish every moment spent with him.

A Buddist quote states, “The trouble is, you think you have time”.  There is such truth in this statement. What I wouldn’t give to spend another moment with him, letting him know how much he is loved and appreciated. I only wish we had more time.

 

 

Blessings of Blossoms and Friendship

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I LOVE this time of year!  The weather begins to warm-up, flowers blossom, gardens start to grow, and the vitamin D from the sunshine seems to have a positive effect on us and those around us.  It’s like an instant facelift for the mood.  I have always loved the warmer weather, although I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we do experience a lot of rain in the fall and winter.  That may very well be why I appreciate the spring so much.  It often feels like we have been living in a cave for months and finally get to experience sunlight.  Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live; the mountains, trees, and amazing landscapes are truly amazing, it’s just that spring is so welcome after months of grey.  I love color, which is why I enjoy watercolor painting so much.  Each color hits the paper and something amazing happens…the paint washes through the paper fibers, sometimes mixing and melding with other colors, creating a unique look and feel to each painting.  I love that no two watercolor paintings are alike.  Even if I tried to recreate a painting to the exact brushstroke, it would not be the same.  The paper may be less or more dry, or more coarse.  The amount of color or water on the brush impacts the way it flows across the paper.  Adding new color is often like an experiment, I can’t wait to see the color take off, creating my painting right before my very eyes.  I probably sound a little crazy to someone who doesn’t paint, or hasn’t experienced the marrying of one paint color to another, either on purpose or by chance.  While there are painting methods that are somewhat predictable, I have found that watercolors truly do their own thing, creating a unique mesh of colors and flow that are often not what I expect at all, hence the segue to my topic today, “blossoms of friendship”.  I have many friendships with many different type of people.  Each friendship is unique and dear to me.  I have friends from high school that I may not see every day, or even every year, but each time we talk or get together, it’s like no time has passed.  I have friends on Facebook that I have never met in person, but enjoy friendly banter back and forth.  I have friends that became a friend while working together.  I have some friends that I can’t even recall how we became friends (forgive my aging brain)…Whatever the case, I appreciate each and every friendship in my life, for what each one brings.

I am not always a good friend.  I try to be there for those that need me during the dark times, as well as the good times and truly appreciate those that are there for me during those times as well.  I have lost parents, grandparents, and a newborn child.  I have suffered serious, and non-serious illnesses.  I have been I have been through the darkness of divorce and other unpleasant life events.  Through each of these experiences I have been fortunate to have friends by my side (literally and figuratively), and I hope that I am (or can be) that friend to others…it’s not always easy, and I may not always be able to be there in person, but the sentiment is certainly there.

I met up with friends from high school recently.  It was as day filled with trips down memory lane; so many wonderful memories, many I had forgotten (and many I had not).  There was the time that my friend, Kristi, knowing that I was highly-allergic to poison oak, took a short-cut through a section of field that was filled with poison oak.  She figured we were just quickly roaming through, so it wouldn’t be a big deal.  The next day, my swollen-shut eyes and puffy face said otherwise.  I still react this way when exposed to poison oak, and I always think of Kristi when I blister up (nothing but love for you my friend).   Sure, I could have died (okay, perhaps that is a bit dramatic), but it made for great entertainment back then (and still today, when we laugh about it).

I had a unique, and somewhat challenging childhood that many aren’t aware of, aside from my closest friends.  I was raised by a couple that were named my Godparents and had legal guardianship of me.  My Godmother was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, making life greatly challenging at times.  She liked everything in its place and was aware of even the slightest change.  I was not allowed to cook, even through my teen years (other than boil water), as she didn’t like the kitchen to get dirty.  One time, when my Godparents were out of town, Kristi and I took advantage of the situation and made oatmeal on the stove top, prompting a significant panic when it boiled over onto the burners (Kristi still has anxiety over this to this day).  We also used the blender to make milkshakes.  We were pretty proud that we got the kitchen sparkling clean, leaving absolutely no trace of our betrayal (each appliance used had its vinyl cover back on as not to give us away).  That is….until my Godmother did her “walk-through” in the kitchen and promptly asked me if I had used the blender.  I panicked; looking around to see what might have given it away, and before I could respond, she said, “you didn’t put the plugs back in the correct outlet”.  I was given a verbal lashing and promised not to use the appliances again, without permission.   While this event induced anxiety at the time, it is one of our favorite memories of our childhood together, and we laugh about it now, (God rest my paranoid Godmother’s sweet soul).

Kristi remains one of my best friends and we reminisce about the good times we had together, as well as the struggles we got each other through.  Today, we experience different challenges of motherhood, working, aging, parents with declining health to mention a few.  Another good friend, Janet, just went through a serious health scare; a brain tumor thought to be malignant.  Nothing brings you back to reality and treasure a friendship like the possibility of losing that person.  Fortunately, after two surgeries, and nearly two weeks of waiting for pathology, it has been confirmed there is no cancer, and she has no sign of a tumor (as in it wasn’t a tumor at all, but appears to have been inflamed brain tissue).  We are grateful for answered prayers, and for the rekindled friendship that often gets lost in daily “life”.  Sometimes you don’t know or appreciate what you have until it’s gone.  So very thankful that I still have this friendship, and it’s stronger than ever.  I don’t know how I would have survived my childhood without my friends, like Kristi and Janet, and so thankful for each and every true friend that I have been blessed with. While we all may not see each other with any kind of frequency, the love and friendship never fades.

So, what does any of this have to do with blossoms (in relation to the title of this blog)?….well, absolutely nothing really, other than each friendship grows in it’s own unique way.  Some are beautiful, nearing perfection.  Some have thorns, but we see the beauty in its complexity.  Others are complicated and may not last long, but we remember the beauty that it held while it blossomed.The meeting of someone may seem insignificant, but when a friendship evolves, there is truly something beautiful that is to be treasured.  I am always striving to be a better person, a better mother, a better partner, a better friend.  I’m not perfect, but I love with all my heart and hold each of my friends near and dear to my heart.

My question to anyone out there reading this…what have you done lately to cultivate your friendships?  Perhaps a phone call, or text, scheduling a get-together, even if only for a brief moment to connect.  I highly recommend you reach out to someone.  Don’t let the passage of time allow you to feel embarrassed for not connecting sooner.  Better late than never.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed with daily life and the struggles that come with it, but there is much joy and fulfillment in connecting with the friends (and family) in our life.  Don’t delay, as we are never promised tomorrow.

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were too afraid to have and the decisions we waited too long to make.”  – Unknown Author

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.

 

 

 

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.

New Beginning

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New Beginning

This is a commissioned painting that I did for a young woman that I watched grow up from a young girl into a beautiful (inside and out) woman.  She is now a mother of the most adorable little baby girl, now one year old.  I enjoy painting wedding pictures, as they are so precious; full of excitement of a new journey through life together, and wonderment of what’s to come.

I have been married (and soon to be divorced) twice now.  It is not how I had envisioned my life, and there are times where I can’t help but think, “what is wrong with me”.  What could I have done differently…what could I have said that may have changed the course of the life of me and my partner.  In my limited wisdom from both age and experience, I now believe that there are a million answers to those questions.  I wasn’t perfect, my partner wasn’t perfect, and ultimately, not one person, but in fact, both are to blame for the untimely demise of our relationship.  Hindsight is always 20/20, and that’s because we often see what we refused to see when we were together with that person.  It’s always easier to blame the other person, but the truth is, in my humble opinion, that there is always some blame on both parties.  I won’t go into the details of how my marriages dissolved, but as a wiser person, who truly tries to learn from my experiences, I think that in both cases, we simply grew apart.  We “allowed” ourselves to grow apart.  It’s tragic and sad, especially when there are children are involved.  But, one must hope that they can pick up the pieces, learn from the past, and continue their journey into the future.  That’s what I have done, and I have to say that I am happier than I have ever been.  I have a wonderful man that has been in my life for the last nearly three years, and because we have both been married, I believe that we don’t have unrealistic expectations or fantasies about what a relationship should be.  We have taken our experiences to heart, and  together, we appreciate the relationship that we have, still appreciating our previous experiences.

I went into my first marriage very young (just turned 19) and had unrealistic expectation of what marriage would be.  I was still very much a child, so I was literally growing-up as I was first experiencing my role as a wife.  Not the best combination to ensure a lasting marriage.  Top that off with the loss of a child, parents (on both side) and other stressful situations, and you have the perfect recipe for a failed marriage.  Sure, if I could go back, I would change many things, but on the other hand, I may not have changed a thing, as it led me to where I am today.  I am happy, in love, doing what I love (watercolor painting).  I have beautiful, happy, adult children, and grandchildren.  I have many blessings in my life and I truly wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

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.