The Method In The Madness

 From the time I was very little I have always been artistically creative. I loved to draw and paint and play with play dough and clay. Art class was my favorite class in school and I got merit ribbons at the end of every school year for my achievements and progress. I did not think of it as work or a class in school, it just came naturally and flowed out of me.

 I always said as a little girl, when asked what I would like to be when I grow up, that I would like to be one of three things; an artist, a chef, or a horse breeder. Well, little did I know that I would grow up to marry a chef and that I would indeed find myself as an artist on the path of life. (As for being a horse breeder, well …. I am only 24. It could still happen.)

 When I refered to an “artist”, I meant somebody who creates works for more than recreation, somebody who makes a living as an artist and who’s work is viewed and bought by the public. I believe in some sense we are all artists in our own way. As I grew from a child to a teenager and on into my present adulthood I thought of myself as an artist and figured that even though I was not exhibiting or selling my work, I had still attained my childhood dream. For a time this was completely satisfying. I did not need publicity to define me. I was comfortable in my own ability.

 I still feel this way even though recent circumstances have begun to change. I will always be an artist, with or without outside approval or patronage. However, I’m finding a new and exciting world in the public side of artistry. I am no longer painting to minister to myself, but to others around me. The old saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive” can be applied. I find more enjoyment and fulfillment in somebody else seeing my work and having it speak to them emotionally than I ever did creating it and viewing it myself. I love interpreting my work, thinking about what each painting means to me, but even more so, I love hearing somebody else’s interpretation on the same piece of art. Quite often it is very different from mine and stimulates a whole new thought pattern and feeling when I look at it, as if seeing it again for the first time.

 It is not the money I make because you can’t really put a price on enjoyment and personal satisfaction. The money is only a pleasant by-product, something that helps perpetuate the real purpose of art. The real purpose of art is to create a beautiful and enriched environment. For many artistic objects this is their sole purpose, they can’t really be utilized as much more than decoration yet this does not make them any less wanted, any less important.

 Human beings through out every age have created art. The earliest civilizations and nomadic tribes have developed their creativity through art, from cave paintings, to ancient buildings and statues, to renaissance frescos, to our modern-day world of vastly different styles. The enjoyment and fulfillment of creating beauty is ingrained in every human being. Some of us create the works themselves, others put them together to create a beautiful environment, either way, we all crave beauty in some form and take the steps necessary to attain it.

 I am honored to be able to contribute to the beautifying process by producing works of art that speak to others. I love feed back because that is my real recompense for my labor. It is more important to me than money could ever be, it is more gratifying. A sale excites me because I know my work has touched somebody’s heart and soul and the money funds my effort to reach the next person. It is a cycle of love, emotion, beauty, and the inner drive of creation.  It is the reason I do what I do.

Finding Myself

I am in the process of finding my style as an artist and experimenting with different techniques. You would not believe how hard it is to clear your mind of any idea or preconceived notion of what is acceptable and just paint. Blank canvas, emotion, – paint! I believe it is necessary for me to do this in order to find out who I really am in my art work. I am trying not to worry about the finished out come, what people will think, if I’ll like the finished product, I’m transferring the emotion of the moment onto my canvas and watching it evolve under the brush.

 I have always shied away from “modern art” in the past because my logical inner voice told me there was no picture. However, as I am maturing and growing into my present and future self, I find I can look at a painting for more than just its picture or likeness to a known object or place. I can look at a painting and feel it’s emotion.

 I was in 440  Main yesterday for lunch and before I left, I walked around the restaurant and examined the paintings by a local artist that are for sale on consignment. They are all various degrees of abstract in character. Some of them are identifiable as something familiar – a trio of pears, an oyster on the half shell, wine glasses. They were all beautiful in their own way, but one stood out to me from the rest. I found it almost odd that this painting stood out to me considering my past conceptions. It was large, probably about four feet square, and it was simply streaks of paint applied to the canvas with a knife. There were rough, raised areas, different colors, some blended and others standing out alone, and no picture whatsoever, just paint on canvas. I looked at it and loved it immediately but could not pinpoint why. It was so free, simple and yet complex, soothing and exciting all at the same time. I would hang it on my wall at home if I had several hundred to spend on a painting. I don’t know why, it just spoke to me and I liked it.

 I determined yesterday as I looked at that painting that I wanted to be free too, I wanted to let my emotions flow through the brush and speak to somebody through my work. I realized for the first time with not just my head, but my heart, that there is no “wrong” or “stupid” art. There is only art in many forms. Who hasn’t looked at a child’s drawing and found something to love in its simplicity and unrealistic lines? Children are perhaps the purest of artists because they draw and paint what they feel. They create art with their own interpretation and not in the confines of what society accepts or how the rest of us view perfection. If they have the inkling to make the flower blue and the sky red, that’s what they do.

 I think we should be more like children in the sense that if we feel something, we should let that flow into our work.  Sometimes that will transfer into a tranquil scene, and sometimes it will be angry splashes of bold colors. Either interpretation is acceptable because somewhere there is a person who will see it and it will speak to them personally, and really, that is all we hope for as artists.

"The Earth Without Form, and Void"

A Mental Appendix – Part 2

 Some time ago, I was commissioned by my sister-in-law to paint a custom mirror for my niece’s room in their new house. She asked me to do a princess theme and while I was excited by the challenge, I knew it was a subject matter I had never done and I wasn’t completely sure how to go about it.

 This is where the worry kicked in. To understand the magnitude of the situation, you have to know my personality. I am a list maker, a planner, worrying is so a part of my character it is embedded in the subterranean layers of my very soul. I worry about the smallest things. A bill that we have the money for, and that isn’t due for another ten days, will keep me awake at night if it isn’t paid the day we receive the statement. I am constantly trying to know every thing in advance to plan for a week or month down the road and I think about scenarios that probably would never happen and worry about them happening to me. It is a sickness.

 Well, I mused over this mirror for a couple weeks, trying to decide how to execute my endeavor. I found my materials, I decided on a direction to head with the subject matter, and I sat down to paint – finally. Wouldn’t you know, it turned out really well. However, I could not stop worrying there, I began a new worry. Would my client like it? I received an e-mail granting full approval after she saw the pictures I sent. She loved it!

 Well, my next big anxiety was how I would ship it. I did not want it to be damaged and it was an odd size and shape. It wasn’t going to fit into a big padded envelope, but all the boxes I had were either too small or as deep as they were wide. This mirror measured somewhere around 16″ square, but no more than 1″ thick. I would have to get a lot of packing material to take up extra space.

 This dilemma with packing materials was driving me crazy. There sat my finished work staring at me, calling my name every time I glanced over. “Tasia, here I am, I’m still here!” I know my readers are probably laughing right now, but I wasn’t. It was not funny, it was annoying.

 I finally came up with a way to wrap the mirror in plenty of bubble wrap and cut a cardboard box apart. My idea was to make my own super-sturdy, padded mailer. The problem was I didn’t have a big enough box with the right dimension on the sides, so I taped four panels together. I put my precious cargo in the middle and sealed the edges of the cardboard with tape. My package resembled a big square clam.

 Looking at it I was pleased until a new thought struck me. How was I going to get it into the post office by myself? It wasn’t heavy, but it was awkward. There wasn’t really a place to hold onto it easily. The other factors involved were complicating the completion of my task. I would have to go by myself because Josh was at work. If we went on his break, I’d be standing in the post office for at least forty-five minutes as that is a very busy time for that particular post office. I might even make him late in getting back to work. If I did it myself, how was I going to carry this monstrosity in one hand, my baby in the other, and still lug my purse. (My purse often feels like it carries an anvil.) I felt I would surely drop one or the other. To top it all, Faith had just come down with a cold.

 This may not sound like much to you, but for me, it was very intimidating. That simple task had a full eighteen hours of worry put into it. I changed my whole schedule to incorporate it and it’s myriad of possible complications. By the time I dropped my husband off at work and got to the post office I felt like Joan of Arc leading a crusade. I was ready to face a long, toilsome endeavor.

 Here is where the point of my story comes out. As I got out of the car, got the baby, shouldered my purse, clutched the awkward package, and crossed the street in front of traffic, Somebody was watching me. Before I even got to the door, an elderly gentleman came hurrying toward me. My package was proving to be a lot less difficult than I had imagined, but he took it from me with a smile and said,” Here, you let me get that!” He carried my package and opened three doors, let me go ahead of him in line, and even insisted on carrying my package up to the counter for me. I was so over whelmed with thankfulness and kept thanking him heartily. He just smiled and nodded.

 I got in and out of there quicker than I ever have and headed to my car, effectively putting my sick baby through very little discomfort. I heard someone call out for me to have a great day, but I was distracted with getting Faith into her car seat so I didn’t look up right away. When I did he had turned away and headed the opposite direction.

 I sat in my car for several minutes before pulling into traffic and was just so blessed. I was rather ashamed that I had continued to worry knowing that God had taken care of my needs thus far, He would do so again. When I said Somebody was watching me, I didn’t mean that elderly man.

 We get so caught up in our day-to-day tasks and cares that we forget who holds the Universe. We forget that the One who made this planet also sends the sunshine and rain, right when we need them. I have mentioned that our worries are like a mental appendix – what are they for? I wish I could get my troublesome mental appendix removed surgically. I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t. I guess I will just have to work harder to remember the little unexpected blessings in my life and Who sends them.

The Unanswered Prayer

 Growing up, I was something between a girly girl and a tomboy. I liked dresses and make-up and playing house, but I despised pink, loved trying to climb trees even when I got stuck in them, and had dolls but did little more than set them in a row neatly, I didn’t really play with them. I was a strange and awkward child that didn’t really fit into any established category, I know I’ve touched on this before.

 At twelve and thirteen, the opposite sex still disgusted me and sexuality was gross and foreign. Kissing a boy was not on my list of priorities, to put it mildly. I was a bit of a late bloomer, I didn’t hit full-fledged puberty until mid fourteen or fifteen. The whole womanly function scared and intimidated me even though my mom had always been very open and informative. I didn’t even get my curves until eighteen and my body didn’t completely finish until about twenty.

 I had just begun this journey at age fourteen when I went from a complete boy hater to falling hard for a particular guy.In retrospect, my favorite way of viewing life, I watched my older brother, who I was very close to at that time, pursuing a girl. Our relationship seemed to drop off a cliff as he became caught up in his love interest and other aspects of impending manhood. This, of course, was completely natural. However, I was confused by the sudden change and lack of sibling camaraderie. Our whole family had always been very close, very open with each other, and now it seemed like he had all kinds of secrets, a whole world I was not allowed to enter.

 My younger brother and sisters were either too young or flat-out still in the annoying stage where antagonism and teasing was the desired goal, so I was unable to really share my feelings with any of them. I was close with my mom and shared a lot with her, but she was an adult and there was only so much I could say that she “understood”. I realize now that she understood everything, painfully so, but at the time, in that awkward world of warped teenage thinking, nobody really “understood”.

 I began sharing with a couple of my friends. I did not have many, being the introvert I am, and to make things more complicated, we had just uprooted from Colorado to Kentucky. I was starting over yet again. My small circle consisted of two different families at first. I will call the first family the Jones and the second the Fords. Being my brother’s girlfriend was the one girl around my age in the Jones family, that soon took a dead-end turn and I gravitated toward the two Ford girls. The younger one, I’ll call her Alice, was a few months younger than me. I should have been able to hit it off with her but I had always been more mature for my age and my peers and I never could click – we still don’t, not the way I seem to click with those in their thirties and forties.

 The older girl, who I will call Lisa, was two years older than me, quieter and less out going than Alice, and she just seemed more my style. We seemed to be well on our way to a close friendship and I began letting down my walls. It was nice to have a female friend who I could talk to and be close with as all my other connections had been either much older or of the male gender.

 Everyone in my little circle knew I had a huge crush on this one boy, the oldest boy in the Jones family. My brother’s girlfriend was his younger sister. My family, the Jones’, and the Fords all knew, but everyone thought it was just a crush. After all, I was not quite fifteen, much too young to know anything about true love. They didn’t realize that I already had a strong sence of commitment, I knew that being with some one was a serious thing. I wasn’t applying the laws of dating but of courtship. As far as I was concerned, he was the man I wanted to marry and marriage was serious.

 Even as I write this I have to smile. I didn’t really know anything about Matthew Jones. He was my brother’s age, two years older than me. He was dark-haired with deep brown eyes, quiet, aloof, yet he gave off an air of confidence. I was way too shy to talk to him myself, but I often thought I saw him look my way and give me encouraging glances. Having been a proclaimed boy hater in the recent past, I was embarrassed to admit to anyone at first that I had been smitten.

 At first I think it was my very healthy competitive nature that goaded me into “liking” a boy. My older brother had his own thing going and no time for me and I wanted something like that too. Since I didn’t really see him much and I was too shy to talk to him myself, I relied on the little bit of help I could get from my brother and his girlfriend as go-betweens, but they soon tired of that and focused on their own relationship. I was left to myself.

 Looking back, I know that the person I fell in love with was mostly constructed in my mind and applied to the only accessable boy at the time. (These two families were my parents friends and their children were as acceptable as our sheltered life would allow.) I will to this day hold my ground and tell you with conviction that I was deeply and truly in love, but it was years later that I realized the person I was in love with only existed in my mind. However, at the time, you could not convince me of that.

 I confided my feelings to Lisa, who had known the Jones family for years before I came along, and while she thought me a bit silly, she assured me that was fine with her. Even though she was more his age, she promised she had no feelings for him in that way, that he was like a brother to her. This was great news to me, I had never wanted to encroach on someone else’s territory, and I felt free to dive head in to my feelings and embrace them. I think she secretly liked my brother and hoped that he would return the feeling as nobody thought his relationship was very serious either.

 A few months went by and it became clear that my brother and his girlfriend were definitely an item. Lisa felt snubbed and I think she always thought secretly that she was the obvious choice. She suddenly changed her stance concerning Matthew and complicating things was the fact that Mr. Jones approved of her and didn’t think I was anywhere near the “right girl” for his son. (I think he based this decision on his disapproval for my brother’s relationship with his daughter.)

 Even though I was living in my own world, I still believe that Matthew threw me just enough bones to keep me going. Whether this was because he truly liked me or because he was just basking in the attention still eludes me to this day. At any rate, he did not cave right away under the pressure from his father, but on July 9th, just five days before I turned sixteen, he made his decision.

 I remember that day vividly. It is still stuck in my head all these years later. I remember the hot, sticky feel of the evening summer air, the smell of the humidity and dust of the gravel road, the sound of that diesel truck grumbling up the drive, the pounding of my heart as I watched him get out of the truck. Lisa and I were neighbors and Matthew lived a few miles down the street, but his dad owned property across from us and he only came down this way on the tractor to work the fields or to check on the cattle. It was never in the evening like this, alone, dressed up.

 Those three seconds between him getting out of his truck and heading next door seemed like hours. I stood on my porch and I can’t tell you how I knew, I just knew something big was going to happen. It was the moment of truth. I remember him looking over at me and I could have sworn he had “sorry” written on his face and in his eyes, then he just turned and went on to knock on her door.

 My friend, my confidant – she no longer had a name, it was just “her”. I sat as if in a trance at first for an hour, a huge lump in my throat, swinging on our bench swing, willing it to be a big mistake, a big misunderstanding. It was not, and when I realized the inevitable, I began to cry and did not stop for days.

 Those days seem a blur of tears and not eating. I was already thin from lots of physical activity and a growth spurt, but as I reasoned it must be that I wasn’t thin or pretty enough, I just stopped eating. I was painfully thin and nobody could convince me that it wasn’t good for me. I cried myself to sleep every night, I’m not even kidding, for a year and a half. Only those closest to me, my family, knew that this was much more than a crush. I was a mess.

 That heartache literally defines me as a person today. I am who I am because my best friend started dating my first love. Period. All the things I went through, the emotions, the confusion, my relationship with God being questioned – all of that made me who I am and prepared me for what I would face in the future.

 At about the two-year mark I started getting over him. I had chosen to love them both as my love and my friend. If she was the one who made him happy, that was all that mattered. I only wanted him to be happy. That thought is what got me through and helped me start rebuilding my shattered emotions. Also about that time they got officially engaged. I had gotten to the point where upon hearing that, I was happy and thrilled when she wanted me to be a bridesmaid. Her sister, Alice, and I had gotten a lot closer and we even wrote a song we wanted to sing at the wedding. Everything was good.

 I turned eighteen that summer. I suddenly went from a painfully thin, gangly girl to a woman with curves. My trials had transformed me into a different person than the scared, shy little girl I had been. My brother’s relationship fell apart and he left home, leaving me free to have more of a relationship with his ex and I was at the Jones’ house more. Lisa was caught up in the wedding plans, maybe a bit too caught up. She wanted a bigger wedding, Mr. Jones thought they should have a much smaller affair and it created a lot of tension between those families and especially Matthew and Lisa.I was so happy that I could finally be at peace with the situation that I never saw the blow coming.

 I can’t really go into details. In a nut shell, I suddenly held Matthew’s attention – not just in a fairy tale world in my head, but for real. He began flirting with me when she wasn’t looking. At first I thought it was my imagination and I brushed it off, but when he invited me to go on a date with him while she was dress shopping, I knew there was something wrong. All the feelings I thought I’d gotten over came flooding back. I should have known, I should not have accepted, but I did. All I could think was he realized it was a mistake and had always wanted me all along. I can’t even begin to describe how confused and torn I was.

 There were several weeks of secret rendezvous, none of which were anything more than talking. I wouldn’t even kiss him, I didn’t dare. This was a huge deal to me and I had to know where he stood. He always seemed to dodge the truth and just viewed our talking as a formality. He had other things in mind, but I could not break that easily.

 It all came to a head one night. He picked me up and sneaked me into his room. We talked again, but he made it clear that he needed it to be more. I asked him where he stood on his upcoming marriage. He said he loved her, that he would marry her, but he wanted to have fun with me. That was it. I gathered up the last of my pride before I could give in to weakness. I felt naive and violated and just stupid. Even if his dad had not seen us leave, I doubt I would have taken it any further.

 They were married a month later, on July 9th. For years that day had been like a recurring nightmare for me. I was abruptly cut out of the ceremony and uninvited to the wedding itself, as was my whole family. I don’t know who said what, but it was obvious that someone had told her something. It must have been made to look like all my fault because she didn’t hesitate to marry him. We moved away less than a year later, leaving it all behind.

 It was another year later that I really laid it all to rest for good. I have moved on completely from all that, but it still plays a huge part in being able to explain who I really am, what makes me tick. It is more than five years of my history that took place in what I believe to be the most important years of life. It is definitely worth mentioning.

 They are still married, from what I hear. They have two kids. I have heard negative reports on his character and behavior away from his wife, but I won’t repeat them because I don’t know them to be true for myself. I just know that he was never the man for me. I am a person that needs complete honesty in a relationship, and from my own experience with him, that is not something he holds to.

 I don’t know if he ever had real feelings for me or if he still does, but I will always love him way down deep. He was my first love and I loved him fiercely, enough to try to put myself on the chopping block to make him happy. I don’t consider that a waste because I learned so much from it all. I am a better person today because of him.

 I have not seen him since shortly after his wedding. My family only lives a few miles from him and they have seen him on occasion, but no matter how many times I’ve been in his neck of the woods I have never run in to him. I like to think if I ever did, I would smile to myself, wave a big hello, and only have a feeling of thankfulness that I’m not with him. I would not trade the wonderful, loving man I have today for what I believed Matthew to be. I have somebody I can love fiercely, and he will love me just as fiercely in return. I have honesty, passion, faithfulness. I have a man who loves me for me, not because his daddy thought I would be the better match. I have so much more in three years than I ever did in five.

 I used to pray every day that Matthew Jones would marry me one day. Now I just thank God that my prayers were never answered.

A Mental Appendix

 It is cool and wet outside. The past couple days of beautiful weather gave way to a night of rain and the world is dripping with this evidence. The sky remains cloudy and gray. My sweet hope of Spring is put on the back burner to ponder another day in the future. There will be no yard work or gardening any time soon. I am left inside to occupy with house chores and my growing baby.

 Faith is sitting here as I type, propped in the corner of the couch with a pillow on her lap to keep her from falling forward. She has her little cardboard book, “Baby Night-night”, in front of her where she was toying with it and looking at the bright colors, but she has lost interest and is chewing her fingers and yelling happily, exercising her little voice and making herself known as a person.

 Looking at her, I wish that I could be more like her. The smallest things keep her interested. She can sit for ten minutes at a time and stare at her fingers, amazed that they move on command. I watch her face and can almost read the little thoughts that parade slowly across her mind as she makes the mental connection to her physical functions. It never gets old for her. She smiles to herself and I chuckle at her antics.

 Childhood, what a long ago time. Things were new and interesting. There were no worries associated with the adult world, only pure enjoyment of the simple things in life.

 She is helpless. She can’t get herself a drink or something to eat, she has to be changed when she is messy or wet, she can’t even move around by herself or sit up without help. If I were in this situation on a daily basis I would worry constantly about everything. I already do worry about everything, the things I can control and the things I can’t.

 It seems the older and more capable we get, the more worries we accumulate. You would think it would be the other way around. After all, if I’m able to pay a bill or do a chore, why do I worry about it until it’s done? Why do I worry after it’s finished in anticipation of the next time it must be accomplished? Not all of us are as obsessed as I am with day-to-day tasks, but we all worry from time to time about something. My infant daughter does not.

 Is it a chemical reaction that the immature brain can’t process, or is it just that we learn ,over the years, the art of worrying? I’m not sure. I only know that my baby looks up in complete innocence and does not worry that her bottle is empty, for now she is filled and since she has been satiated automatically in the past, she knows it will be the same when her hunger comes calling again. She does not think about all the factors involved in the process of satisfying her needs. She does not consider the variables in the equation. She only knows the out come, she trusts that it will be the same every time.

 Magically she does not remember the times she cried, and due to circumstances, – a car ride, a forgotten diaper bag on a short trip, the last leg of a chore – her needs were not met exactly when she wanted them to be. She only knows that somehow, someway, they must be met so they will be.

 This pure faith is something I know I once had, but I have long since lost it to growing up. I did not know how precious it was at the time, but I will never attain it again while on this Earth because that is the process of human nature.

 This thought saddens me. Oh, how easy my life would be if it was free from worry! Needless worry, that is. Too many times we worry about things we should not and ignore the things we should be worrying about. My needs have always been met because God is faithful. I have never been without food or shelter or clothes, and many more times I’ve had much more than I need. On the opposite spectrum, I have rarely worried that my Bible lay dormant, or worried about the homeless person I see on the same street corner every other day, or that a starving person in Africa would willingly and gladly pick through my trash can and find more in one day than he has seen in several months.

 There is no quick remedy for worry. You can’t just flip a switch and turn it off, no matter how appealing that sounds. You can only mimic a little child. Think back to the last ten times a need was met. Not a want, but a need, whether simple or more complex. How was it met?

 I think back to ten minutes ago. My dishwasher light went from “wash” to “clean”. My dishes at this very moment are clean. They are clean because I live in a house with an automatic dishwasher. I live in this house because my husband has a job that supports the rent money required for our living arrangements. He has this particular job because of a string of occurences both good and bad, ultimately leading to Bowling Green, Ky. and this job, but also because of his talent and ability. He has talent and ability because God gave them to him. Ultimately, God meets every need.

 Even for those who don’t believe in an all-powerful God, if you are honest, you will admit that most, if not all, of your true needs are met without much help on your part. For instance, using the same example, my dishes are clean. My dishes are clean not because I washed them, but because of an automatic dishwasher. This dishwasher belongs to a house that I live in because somebody else goes out every day and works and earns money to support me. (I don’t work, I stay home with the baby.) This person does this because we are married and he loves me. I did not go looking for him or seek him out, but we met, we fell in love without meaning to, and he proposed to me. Why he fell in love and proposed to me, of all people, I really don’t know. There were plenty of other eligible girls. Being as I do believe in the all-powerful God, I am obliged to say that ultimately, once again, God is responsible for this turn of events.

 It is not my intention to preach, but what I’m trying to get across is that worries are like an appendix. What exactly are they for? What is going to happen will happen whether we want it to or not, whether we see it in advance or step blindly into it. Either way, life goes on. Worrying does nothing at all.

 This post has stretched out longer than I intended, not in actual length, but the time it has taken me to write in between my daily tasks has kept me coming back every so often to re-read and contemplate my words over and over. I think it is one of those subjects that doesn’t end with a conclusion. It can’t be wrapped in a neat little package and placed in a labeled cubby in my mind. I will continue to worry even as I try to be more child-like and trust that my needs will be met.

Answering the Call

 It never ceases to amaze me how creativity flows from an individual’s soul as if controlled by some other force.

 I have many forms of creative expression that I’m familiar with. I paint, sing, play piano, write poetry and prose, garden, and just create in general when ever the moment presents itself. It just bubbles out of me in whatever form is convenient at the moment. I can’t disobey the call and I can’t force inspiration. I can try, but in either case I end up frustrated and stymied.

 The major form of creativity for me in the past was writing songs and playing my piano. At that time, I was going through a very hard emotional trial in addition to the already awkward years of puberty and young adulthood.  I found music an effective outlet for my emotions. I’ve mentioned before that I’m the type to bottle things up, and when I was fit to burst, I would turn to my music. At first I listened to other peoples’ music, songs that had deep lyrics that I could relate to. Then I began teaching myself to play the piano by ear and soon I was writing my own songs from my own heart. I would shut myself in my room, sit down to fiddle with the keys, and a melody would emerge that pulled at my soul, usually in minors with a soaring chorus. I always kept a notebook and pen handy to write the words that tumbled from my head seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes it would take hours, sometimes only minutes, but I’ve written so many songs that even after forgetting half of them, I could fill several albums with the remainder.

 I don’t really take credit for these songs, many of which have touched some of my listeners to tears. Reading the lyrics I’d just written, almost every time, was like reading something someone else wrote because I could not tell you where they came from. They flowed beautifully and even as I watched them being marked onto the paper, it was almost like an out of body experience, like someone had taken control of my mind and hand. It is hard to explain. I was only a teenage girl. I was no Aristotle, no Homer, just a young, uncertain, ordinary girl. It did not make sence that I had composed such profound and deep words and put them to music resulting in something so heart wrenching.

 I don’t write music very much these days. I no longer have my piano, the one that has seen me through anger and tears, that has helped me express my pain and grief and joy. I have sat down to other pianos since losing mine and while it is nice, it’s just not the same. It’s like starting over with a new friend, having to give them your history and help them understand what makes you tick, when your old friend already knows because they’ve been there with you through it all. Perhaps down the road I will invest in a new “friendship”, but for now, my preferred method of expression is painting.

 Once again, it is as if the brush is controled by another force other than my own as I apply paint to my canvas. I sit down to paint with a very clear idea of what I will do, but somehow the finished picture is completely different from what I’d envisioned. In the past when I felt the subject matter shifting in mid stride I always fought it, trying to bring it back under control and many times I was frustrated and dissatisfied with my picture. Having recently gotten back into painting on a regular basis, I determined to just paint, not fight the inspiration.

 I sat down this evening to a blank canvas. I fully intended to paint a wood stove with a steaming kettle sitting on it, a familiar sight for me growing up. Perhaps some logs of wood by the stove, and a little more realistic feel since I’d been doing so much abstract stuff lately. No sooner had I picked up the brush when a new picture flashed across my mind. I saw golden roses with long thin thorns wrapped around a faceless female figure on a dark background. She was wearing the thorny roses like clothing and there were some other details that remained a bit cloudy, but I knew they would become clearer as I went, so I started brushing on the background. However, a mistake and a blotchy cover up later, I found a tree emerging under my brush. It had a long, skinny trunk and was ghostly bluish-white. Yet another picture, it had abstract qualities and perhaps a little brook…

 My finished picture does not even look like that last idea, but I am pleased and satisfied with my work. My creativity has been indulged and expressed, and I’ve found that for me, that must be done in some form every single day in order for me to stay cheerful and to keep depression at bay.

 I believe the more demons and closeted skeletons a person has, the more often they must indulge their creative outlets. I also believe that every person has a creative side. In one form or another, creativity is part of the human function. Perhaps you haven’t found your form yet, or maybe you have been fighting it instead of letting it flow. Let go and just paint, even if you don’t have a clue what to paint. Or sing at the top of your lungs without being self-conscious of other people listening or being in the right key. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, and even your knees, plant a few seeds and tend them carefully. Watch them grow into a neat little garden full of the things that reflect your personality. Pull out all the stops, create and be creative. I promise you will find it enjoyable, surprising, and it will inspire even more creativity in yourself and the people around you.

A Fleeting Moment

 I stand at my back sliding glass door looking out into my little yard. It is a cold morning in early February. I’m still in my pajamas, a hot cup of coffee is in my hand. I sip on it and it warms me not only physically, but emotionally. The baby is cuddling upstairs with her daddy, a sleepy little pair all warm and quiet, wrapped in the big comforter. She’s already had her morning bottle and her diaper changed and she lays content in her little nest by his side, looking intently at her fingers while he dozes. She has just begun discovering that they move and she is the originator of the movement, that fascinates her.

 I am not really missed in that picture of father and daughter communion. I have served my purpose for now and neither of them wish to rise and embrace the morning yet, so I have slipped away down stairs to find a moment of solitude before the day’s demands come calling. It is Sunday. My husband does not have to perform the usual ritual of getting up early and readying himself for yet another rigorous day of restaurant drama as head chef of Bowling Green’s nicest eatery. Today is family day, we will head off to church in a few short hours, have a meal together afterwards, and spend the afternoon catching up on a week’s worth of happenings and napping while we watch Hulu on our laptop.

 I am a morning person, it is my favorite time of day. It is only rivaled by bed time, when I put the baby to sleep, shut down the household, and close my weary eyes on another busy day, knowing it will all begin again soon enough. This particular morning is clear and bright. It looks like it will be nice later. The snow clouds of the last few days are gone and sunlight streams into my kitchen, kissing my face and almost deceiving me into thinking it is warm outside. Only the frozen ground and patchy snow whisper the truth as I gaze into the barren yard.

 I am not thinking about the cold, I’m musing over the coming Spring and the transformation I hope to create in my little gardens. They border the yard, a decorative barrier between the tall wooden fence and the lawn. My yard is not very large, but it is just the right size for me to keep up with. The gardens were planted long before we moved into this house just six short months ago, we arrived at the end of Summer. Other than the trees and ornamental grasses, I know there are day lilies planted. I saw the tell-tale foliage upon first inspection of the yard. They had already bloomed, but I knew them immediately. There is also a little gangly shrub in the corner by the house. I’m quite sure it is an azalea, a spring blooming shrub that comes in several different colors. I don’t know which color this one will be, perhaps a soft blushing pink, or sunny yellow, or blazing orangey-red.

 I was very excited about the yard and gardens when we first looked at the house. I am a gardening enthusiast and have missed working with plants and soil while living in an impersonal string of apartments since beginning married life three years ago. I could not wait to get my hands dirty, quite literally. I was so impatient, I bought some tulip bulbs a few months later and planted them among the grasses and under the trees. They would greet me next Spring with cheery color long before the rest of the world came to life. Now, here Spring was, almost upon us. Only a few weeks separate me from my outdoor pleasures.

 I sip my coffee, savoring its rich flavor, while I search the ground for the first sign of my tulips pushing eagerly from their dark earthen prison. I don’t see them yet, but I’m not completely disappointed. My gardens, like a treasure chest of surprises, reveal the very tips of daffodils. They have a very distinct shoot, different from that of tulips. They push bravely up through the frozen ground and snow, undaunted by the cold and the fact that it is almost a month too early for them to appear. The fairly mild winter must have deceived them into thinking the upper world was more hospitable and inviting.

 I am thrilled at this little surprise. Their brave green points of life are so cheerful in the midst of bare brown muck. I wonder silently if they will be traditional yellow or the more uncommon white and pink. Perhaps a mix. Either way, their unexpected presence is welcome. I picture a beautiful arrangement gracing my kitchen table, mixed with the tulips that undoubtedly lay just beneath the ground, close behind their early bird neighbors. It seems they were privy to the knowledge that Winter was still in residence.

 A familiar cry hurdles down the stairs. It seems my little girl has become bored with Daddy’s idea of a good morning and wants to be rescued. I smile to myself, envisioning her squirming and kicking him into wakefulness. That is her way of trying to make him aware that she has needs that come above his rest. When she fails to satisfactorily rouse him, she goes to plan B, calling for me, knowing that I will get the job done. Daddy knows this too, that’s why he doesn’t hurry to appease her. I finish my last sip of coffee and set my cup down. My solitude has been encroached upon, it is time to start the day.

When the Honeymoon is Over

 Long before I was married or even old enough to get married, I had heard the expression, “Now the honeymoon  is over.” This, of course, refers to the work part of marriage, the part that is left after the bubbly feeling has diminished. For some, this realization will slap them shockingly across the face a mere week or two, or perhaps just a few months after those vows are spoken and the smiles on those memorial photographs brazenly inform the gazer that there will never be a cloud in the sky. Those smiles lie, by the way, hence the expression.

 I think my “honeymoon state” lasted for the whole first year. Sure, we had our moments and our fights, but for the most part life was good. This may be a result of being married so shortly after my husband and I met. Some might say it was a whirlwind romance, but I don’t really agree. I had been prepared for marriage from a very young age, I had been taught that marriage is sacred, that it’s for life, you can’t just quit when a little rough weather blows in. As a daily example, I had my parents who had been married for twenty-four years. They had been through some very hard times and rough places yet stood strong against the odds, and furthermore, I could tell they genuinely loved each.

 My husband and I met in July of 2006 and we were married December 23, 2006. His parents had also been married over twenty years before later getting divorced, so he had a strong belief in marriage, it’s seriousness, and the work that must be put into it. Neither of us had any delusions that it would be all roses and rainbows, but I would be lying if I said we didn’t have stars in our eyes when we looked at each other. He was the wonderful man I had dreamed of for literally years and I was the girl for him. We felt comfortable with each other from day one, and even with a strict policy of honesty that unveiled both the good and the dirty little secrets, we were head over heels for each other.

 Our first year of marriage presented very little conflict in our relationship. We had minimal obligations, no house, just an old hand me down car, we both worked so there was enough money to pay the bills and plenty left over to spend on eating out and going out with friends just about every night. We were starting completely from scratch. We thought that some day we would like to have our own house and kids and the white picket fence, so to speak, but for the time being what we had was enough. It didn’t matter that we were living with room-mates in a tiny apartment or that we really didn’t have any possessions or savings, we were crazy about each other, that was all that mattered.

 About six or seven months in, we decided to try to build more of an adult life and less of a college party lifestyle. It was time to think about the future and the first step was getting an apartment of our own. With this came more bills and less money to be frivolous with. Josh took an executive chef position rather than just that of a line cook and I moved from a family diner to a white shirt and long apron job. We were proud of our progress. There were a few more arguments over finances, but again, things were mostly good. We decided we were ready to try for a baby, at least, as ready as we’d ever be. You really are never ready for something like that.

 Just a few months after getting pregnant we took a real drastic plunge and decided we would move across country and start our own business. We knew this was a really big step, but there was some level of naivety. We were stubborn, fighters, independent individuals, how hard could it really be? We had both spent years in the restaurant business, we were the best in our fields and confident enough to say so. We knew how it ran, inside and out. Our place was a small ten table bistro in a small town in Colorado, how could that possibly be unmanageable.

 My goal here is not to tell that particular story, quite frankly, I’m just not ready to relive it tonight and it would probably take several posts from several different angles to tell it. All I will say is that there were things that happened all at once with a snowball effect that gave me my “slap” and indicated that my honeymoon had come to a screeching halt. Some of these things were rookie mistakes on both our part, some of them were unforeseeable, and some of them were crazy once in a lifetime occurences that made you stop and say, “Really?! Come on!!”

 I must note here that Josh and I have always had a very healthy intimate relationship. (To put it as politely as I can.) Maybe even too healthy. There was no lack in physical attraction for us. Even during our busiest and most stressful days running our restaurant when we would be worn to a frazzle, we would find time for intimacy. Not just the physical act, but it was the closeness and the remnant of that starry-eyed love that kept us from completely breaking down. After all, we were getting closer and closer to the birth of our baby and that kept us going emotionally.

 We moved back to Kentucky with defeat and shame lying squarely on our shoulders but we clung to the last shreds of our honeymoon love. That changed with the birth and death of our daughter. I have to say that was more my part than his. In my agony and emptiness I withdrew into myself. I didn’t know how to deal with what I was feeling. At first I was very numb and when he held me I just felt nothing. Those first couple months I panicked at this brand new feeling of nothingness. I felt like I would never feel anything again. Most of that is a blur for me, as I’ve said before, so even though I know you’re wondering how I ended up pregnant again so soon, I can’t really tell you. (Other than the obvious.) I think that in my pain and grief I was desperate to have something from life before the world fell apart and he felt the same, but we both soon found that it was not that easy. Each time, I just felt like I was lying and that was all I could think about, which made things worse, and I couldn’t take it anymore. As our physical relationship went down hill, so did our closeness and the special bond I had marveled at from the first time I met him. It didn’t look good.

 This is where our beliefs and resolve stepped in, where it was time to experience marriage after the honeymoon. Many people look at this stage with dread and fear, they hope it doesn’t happen to them, they try to believe they will be different than those before them, a lot of them get disillusioned when the inevitable happens and throw in the towel. They fail to look at this part as a blessing.

 I am not saying it was easy, but I look back in retrospect at this time as a blessing in disguise. I had always wondered deep down if our marriage was perhaps the result of getting caught up in the moment. We were married so quickly, both of us had a past that influenced our need for each other, we were undeniably attracted to each other in a strong physical way, were we really ment for each other or was our decision overshadowed by other factors?

 My husband stepped up to the plate first, I have to admit. He determined to love me in my crazy state. He held me all the closer because I pushed him away. He held my fragile life together when I could not possibly do it myself. He went back to work when I couldn’t and kept us from being completely destitute in the wake of our destroyed life. He did this for three or four months without any help or support from me. Just as his strength was giving way and the grief really began to hit him, I was able to rise up from my bed of ashes and due to his strength and nurturing, I started to come back to life, slowly at first, but a bit more quickly as he wilted under it all. I took my turn telling him it would be ok, that we would pull through, that things would somehow work out.

 We truly began to heal together with the birth of our daughter Faith. She was like an ointment on our torn and bleeding souls, and still is. She can never replace our daughter Skye, but she fills an emptiness that can’t be explained. Watching her and loving her has turned back the clock, it seems, replenishing what was lost, what I thought we would never regain.

 The honeymoon feel is still gone, but in its place is a new, deeper love. You can’t understand until you’ve been there that this love is so much better than that bubbly, physical love. It is strong and true and dependable. I never have to worry that he doesn’t love me, I’ve seen him love me when he got nothing back. I sometimes remember that starry-eyed feeling and long for it again, but then I kiss him and experience a deeper passion, one tried by the fire. This love lasts well after the physical appearance has become less glamorous. It’s the kind of love that looks at you with no makeup, in your pajamas, baby spit up on your shirt, and hair that needed to be washed half a day ago and still reaches for you as if you were glammed up with a red teddie on. It is the kind of love that will sit on the porch swing with you long after physical intimacy is impossible. It is the love that makes me say, “The honeymoon is over,” with a smile on my face.


 What is love?

 This is a fairly simple question, but the answer is more complicated than any one of us can pinpoint with a few measly words. We have all at one time or another experienced it. We love our parents, our children, our significant others, our family. We love places and things, our pets, certain feelings, and ourselves. We can easily identify love, see the result of love, but what is it?

 Love gives us that bubbly, uncontainable feeling that takes over at times and dictates our actions. If you have ever gotten lost in a kiss or hugged your baby close you know what I’m referring to. Love, however, is more than a mere feeling, it is an action. There are times you have been required to love without that bubbly feeling. Disciplining your child does not mean you don’t love them, on the contrary, it shows that you do in fact love them enough to care. Those blessed souls who visit their loved one in a nursing home well after Alzheimer’s has set in show love without the hope of return. Putting an old and sick pet to sleep to ease their suffering after hope is gone of them recovering is one of the hardest forms of love to give.

 I believe that true love is unselfish. Love without the hope of return is the greatest thing we will ever do. These actions are not usually heralded on the front page of the news and more often than not they go unnoticed by everyone, even the recipient of the gift. Nobody but that lonely soldier on night patrol really knows how much he loves his country. We may hear a second hand rendition, but we are not there in his shoes, in that place at that time feeling what he feels, standing bravely between unseen danger  and his country. Even those who have gone through the same situation cannot feel his particular fear, have his unique anxieties and thoughts.

 Nobody thinks about the young teenage mother who gives her baby up for adoption as a hero. The baby who she loved enough to bring into the world, despite fear and guilt, knowing she could not possibly give the kind of care and provision the life needed. Even with pressure from parents and friends to take the easy way out, she carries the child for nine long, hard months, undergoing the hardship of physical, emotional, and social stress. She finally goes through the labor process, and while that is incredibly hard, the hardest yet is still to come as she places that baby into the arms of a couple she barely knows, fulfilling for them a dream they probably couldn’t attain on their own.

 Love is that volunteer in Port au Prince, Haiti, working day and night to sort through not only the lives that were lost, but the many more that survived and must go on. Finding the lost and scattered families of the deceased to give the same news over and over again, ” I’m sorry, we found your mother’s body…” or “we found your brother’s body…” or perhaps the worst, “we found your child’s body…”, sitting with them as they weep uncontrollably and those little shreds of hope are wrenced wickedly from them, the very last thing they had in the wake of the destruction of their home, place of work, and very life. Trying to comfort these torn and broken souls is impossible, but ultimately the closure that is given is far better than the agony of waiting and wondering, so that unselfish volunteer presses forward, hoping and praying every second that the next person they must find will somehow receive better news than the last. That is love.

 On this day, the biggest day for displays of love and affection, let’s remember those who have very little to celebrate, those who can’t even celebrate their love for another. Say a prayer for the un-sung heros who continue to love without return, who selflessly give themselves to somebody else out of love. Forget for a few minutes who is supposed to give you a card or a gift and thank God for the One who can comfort when we can’t, who gave His life out of love for us, Jesus Christ. Thank God for true love.

 Happy Valentine’s Day.

Who I Am

 I am an honest person and very open in the sence that if you ask, I will tell you. Throughout my life I have come up against relationship after relationship being lost or broken mostly due to moving a lot, but also because human beings have a tendancy to grow at different rates both emotionally and spiritually. As I moved from one mile stone to the next, I found the faces around me changing too. Sometimes this was a positive thing, but quite often it was upsetting. All the time and energy I had spent in building those relationships was gone in an instant like a sandcastle standing against the incoming tide.

 I combatted this, at first, with trying to move quickly and build as fast as I could before the inevitable happened so I could have more time in the relationship itself. I would volunteer information, trust anyone, try to make a connection that was forced and usually didn’t fit very well. Naturally this wore me out very quickly. I found more knives in my back than I could count from people I thought were my friends. I began to go the opposite route, I became extremely withdrawn and didn’t let anyone in.

 This second path led me to a very lonely and dark state. For a couple years I struggled with trust and people in general, I began to shut out even the ones closest to me, like my mom. I fell into a pattern of self pity that rose like a wall around me. Nobody understood me, nobody  could possibly know what I was going through.

 I still build walls sometimes to deal with conflicts. I will give anybody a chance, but once I’ve been wronged in some way, chances are that person will never regain my trust completely. There are a very few exceptions to that rule and they will remain unidentified, they know who they are. My point is that for the most part I’ve found a happy medium between one extreme and the other. As harsh as it sounds, I just don’t allow myself to care. I don’t allow myself to care what people think of me, I am what I am and the fact that I know I’m trying to grow as a person is enough. I have dealt with inaccurate perception of my character, motive, ideas, you name it. I have dealt with it on both spectrums, and somebody who views me as more wonderful and angelic than I am is in the same wrong as somebody who misunderstands me or my actions.

 I have found that I’m horrible at bargain hunting. I am a “what you see is what you get” person and I find the game of bargaining frivolous. If you are going to let an item go at $10, what is the point of marking it up to $15? To see if you can get a higher price for it. However, your customer knows that it is marked up and you will come down on the price. He will make an offer, you will counter, he’ll offer again, and you both will finally agree on a price, the $10 you wanted in the first place and the $10 he was prepared to spend when he started. Much like the bargaining game, a lot of people have met me and expected to eventually see more or less of what they saw on first impression. When I continue to display the same traits most of them get disillusioned and lose interest. I have learned that many people are shallow and in a relationship for what it can give them, not for what they can give.

 I mostly keep things to myself now. This blog and some of my other online accounts such as Facebook seem like a grave contradiction to this statement. You have to understand how I think to understand that my online world is impersonal. I don’t have to meet my readers in person everyday, in most cases, and know that they are smiling at me, but talking behind my back. If the material I come up with online does not interest you, you may simply stop reading it or looking at it and nobody gets their feelings hurt.

 This is who I am, plain and simple. There are no hidden corners, no false fronts, just me. If there is something you would like to ask or say, do so. I will answer you honestly. In person, I will rarely volunteer information. That is the reason I started this blog and I have my Facebook account. I feel like I’ve led a life  and had experiences that others can learn from or draw upon for inspiration. If that is not you, please don’t waste your time reading one more post.

 This blog is for my true friends, or friends to be, who wish to understand what makes me the person I am. If what I write touches you then I’m so glad and everything I’ve been through is worth it. If you find only something to criticise, then your opinion just doesn’t count. I’m sorry if that’s harsh, but I have wasted enough of my life trying to explain myself to people who just don’t get it.