It became clear that my '38 Things' list appeared to be one of many things that fell by the proverbial wayside after receiving an email from one of my good friends. The email when something like this: "So I was just reading your blog & saw your 38 things list in the sidebar and none of it is colored in... can I help? It looks so sad... all black & white...I go to the farmer's market every weekend. Do you need to come along? Want me to take you somewhere I know you would want to buy art? I bet you could even but something at the farmer's market to plant in your yard & get two of them out of the way at once..." I have the best friends. We have been good friends for a few years now & she knew that this list was always important to me... so she was prepared to drag me along on her weekend to get some of these things taken care of because she knew that this was something important to me. Such is my life, as I continue to get used to this new normal of being a parent. Things get forgotten. Or are just not taken care of as quickly they were before. But thanks to my friends I feel more cared for than ever.
I have a cold. That's why you get no photo with this post... because who wants to see a photo of crumpled up tissues? Prior to becoming a parent, I would just go to work sick with a cold, knowing I could just pass out on the couch in the afternoon. Clearly this is no longer the case. So there will be sick leave used & a nap in the middle of the day so that I can make sense in the evening on this very important first week back to school for my boys. My best friend calls it "radical self-care"... when you make yourself be still & listen to your body & do what needs to be done to take care of yourself. To be honest, today it feels a little silly to me. I feel like I am being a sissy & should just be at work, sick. Even though nothing really has to be done today. Even though all I want to do is slip between the cool sheets on my bed & put the pillow over my head. This idea of taking care of myself to that I will be well enough to take care of others is a steep learning curve for me. But I am climbing it. I'll be back in a few days, or maybe a few more... when I have something better to show you than my summer cold. See you then.
This is the story of my fairy tale. It was not the one I was
raised to believe in, but it is real and it is true. And it is mine. It is a
fairy tale, because it has a happy ending.
Once upon a time, there were three little boys. Three little
superheroes, who did not even recognize this amazing fact about themselves. They
had no idea that they were superheroes because they had been brave their whole
life. In the same way that the sun can’t know how not to shine, because it is
the sun- and that is what the sun does, these three little boys were brave.
They did not know how not to be. Superheroes usually don’t.
After years of being brave, because there really was no
other choice, they were rescued. I would love to report that everything was
wonderful at this point, but this is a fairy tale, which means that there were bad
guys and good guys…witches and dragons… and a knight in shining armor who
taught them to ride bicycles and a princess who baked them the best cupcakes. So the wee superheroes were rescued and after
more challenges, they were finally safe. They were told that they did not have
to be so brave. Because it was all they knew, letting it go seemed to be an
impossible task. After all, one may learn how to become brave, but when have you ever heard of someone learning how not to be?
So after what seemed like an unending wait, with piles of
paperwork and lots of pushing and epic battles for these boys we did not even
know yet, we found out that we would be the lucky ones. We would be the family
that would get not one, not two, but three boys…and superheroes, at that. We
didn’t even check that box on the many forms we filled out.
In the early days, they showed us many other superpowers
besides the amazing bravery. Not all superpowers are good… but who could blame
them for showing us the worst? They knew that we were outnumbered and they had no reason to trust us. There was
an extended battle over turf and ownership and laws of the kingdom. Finally, slowly, they decided to give in.
Give us a chance. Let us show them that these two new adults could be brave
enough for everyone.
It became clear that we were getting somewhere the first
time we took them to the park that they actually occasionally turned to look
for us- to be sure they could still see us. I would catch one of them looking
at me from the top of the playground equipment, and I would smile and wave. A
slow, unsure smile would creep across his face as he disappeared into the turret.
King of the castle, indeed.
Eventually, hugs were returned warmly, even bestowed on us,
unannounced. There was laughter and joking and games. Random “I love yous”
thrown at us when we least expected it. We caught every single one of them,
turning them over in our hands with wonder and tending to them carefully before
throwing them back.
They may always circle back around, more briefly each time,
to making us prove that we love them. Prove that we will never leave them.
Prove that we won’t let them go. And that’s just fine with us… because we have
a few superpowers of our own.
So that is how our family came to be. It wasn’t easy. And our family most likely
looks much different from yours. It was not the fairy tale that I was raised to believe
in. But it’s mine and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This is what happily ever
after looks like.
One of my (million) worries when considering adoption was
that I wouldn’t feel creative anymore. Not that it was one of the biggest
concerns, but it was always there in the back of my mind. There was about an 8
week break, when we were all trying to find our footing as a family, that I
didn’t feel like painting or have the energy to do anything but try to get to
know my children & keep some semblance of order in the house.
But yes, there was an initial concern over what it might
feel like to have no desire to create anything. It happened once before and
lasted for about a decade- I was honestly afraid it would happen again. Oddly,
quite the opposite happened. I have never had so many creative ideas in my
life. It’s really a good thing that we turned the art studio into a room for
one of the boys, because if I were painting in any sort of dedicated space, the
children might find me buried under a pile of half-finished canvases. As it is,
I have to limit myself to what will fit on my art table. This is probably a
One of the things that have helped foster my continued
creativity has been the willingness to change the way the art-making actually
happens. I do still paint large canvases, especially for commissions, but more
often work on several smaller canvases when I am painting out of my head. It
seems more realistic to paint in smaller blocks of time, & I can’t
accomplish much on a large canvas in half an hour yet I see real progress on a
smaller canvas in the same timeframe.
These are 4x4 and 5x7 canvases, and this process took about
an hour. Most of them have been completed since, but not yet photographed and
edited for prints.
This was so much fun to paint- it reminded me for the hot air balloon festival we went to last summer You can see the photos here & here. In case you wonder about the white in the paintings that always disappears under a layer, it helps me figure out what color to make the actual subject matter of the painting. I can't just paint a red hot air balloon on top of all of the crazy layers of color. So I use a lot of boring white paint. You just usually don't see it in the end result. Prints available in 5x5 and 8x8.
Yes... it is August. I missed the end of July by a day but I have been wringing every last bit of time that I could from July, so I am a day behind. Here are some of the very best things that happened in July:
Going on vacation: We took the boys on our first real family vacation. This is going to have to be a separate blog post, because it really can't be summed up in a couple of sentences. But we all went to the beach, which is one of my favorite places. The art above always reminds me of summertime & the beach, it is by Jane Evershed.
Coming home from vacation: As much as I love going on vacation, I love coming home even more. Knowing I will see Maisy, Ralphie & Ron Burgundy, I get to sleep in my own bed, be in my familiar surroundings... I enjoy vacation, but I enjoy coming home too.
A visit from my best friend: My best friend & her daughter were in town for a week- for one week I got to pretend that they had never moved away. I got to hear a key in the door & look up & see one or both of them strolling in & it made me so happy. Lori & I got to spend an afternoon going to flea markets & I am not sure how they fit everything in the car for the ride home.
A visit from my family: I saw most of my mom's side of the family, most of whom I have not seen in 5 years. I stood on top of a mountain in Hot Springs & watched all of the newest members of the family get to know each other & climb on the same rocks that the generation before them had 20 years ago. It amazes me how our capacity for love grows as families expand. There really is no limit to it. And just being reminded of that fact was enough to make me want to wring a little extra time out of July.