Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reconnecting as a Family...

Part of getting ready for Christmas has always been decorating a Gingerbread House together as a family. 

I’ve been buying the basic kits ever since the first disastrous year I began the tradition by trying to bake the house pieces from scratch.  If anyone else, beside Martha Stewart, has ever tried to make those kinds of memories for their kids, they will understand why kits are so much safer. There are certain words that children under 5 should never hear Mommy say!

This year, we even found the foil covered cardboard at the Bulk Barn along with an infinite variety of candies.  One of our favourites are the chocolates that look like rocks to make a path with.

Every year, I remind myself that I need less than half a cup of any type of candy... and each time we have leftovers.  The thing about family traditions is that they don’t always come cheap, but they are fun!

This year, we even found a set at Michael’s that let us make some candy mouldings for the house such as the tiny wreath, gingerbread trim and the little welcome mat.  Is that cute or what?

The coolest tip was also how to slice up those sticky mint leaf candies to make trees and bushes.  A keeper for next year, but I won’t use a good pair of scissors!

Because we decorated the house so close to Christmas this year, we didn’t have a week of torture walking past the finished house and trying not to pick off candies where no one would notice.  It has less than 48 hours before the giant rodents in our house began to nibble at it... but that is the second best thing about making our Gingerbread house.

The best thing is just spending time as a family... something I appreciated more this year than ever before!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saying Goodbye...

The past 3 weeks have been a blur of teaching then waiting then crying and traveling.  Now at last I am home again with my family and trying to prepare for Christmas.  I didn’t blog during this time because I just didn’t know how to write my goodbye to my father.  Then I got to speak at his memorial service and wrote this:

My earliest memories of my father were of him singing Scarlet Ribbons or the Lord’s Prayer to me before bed.  I remember the sensation of being lifted WAY up into his arms or onto his shoulders for an eagle’s eye view of the world.  Before Costco or Warehouse type shelving, we never lost Dad in a store because we could always see him over the aisles!

Car trips, especially the long ones to Connecticut were spent learning to sing in 4 part harmony or playing silly word games in a pre DS, DVD and iPod era.  Everyone wanted to make sure that Dad didn’t fall asleep at the wheel, especially  if he’d been out for a delivery the night before!

Dad was a dreamer and an adventurer... full of big ideas and infinite possibilities.  This took him from Montreal to Hawaii to Tulsa... and each time there were new, deep friendships that formed.

Delivering babies was a kind of magic for Dad.  He used to describe the sense of purpose and rightness that he felt each time he held a newborn in his big, gentle hands.  When we were younger, I think we resented the fact that babies didn’t follow a 9-5 schedule.  His beeper could go off at the movies, during your birthday party or even in the middle of church, yet as we grew to have dreams of our own to follow, we understood that a job can be a Calling.

Dad found love more than once in his life... and while it hurt as children to have him leave and move so far away, I know that in the end, our family just got bigger.  Dad was loved by so many of you... Thank you for honouring his memory by being here today.

The last time that I saw Dad, he was still dreaming of possibilities... his smile was still gentle and his eyes still twinkled.

Dad taught all of us some important things- love with all your heart, grab sleep whenever you can, chase your dreams, do what you love, grow older but keep a childlike sense of wonder, try to just live your faith daily(leave being perfect up to God) and no matter what height you are... STAND TALL!

Goodbye Dad!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Taking A Day to Get Stuff Done...

I booked the day off on Subfinder today.  I had Dragon Dreams stuff that needed to be done and just couldn’t wait any longer.  Namely, uploading the new website and deleting all the old files from the server.

A month ago, I went back to my sketchpad and tried to figure out exactly what I needed to have on the site, what could make it more fun and more meaningful to navigate around and how I could get back to that feeling that I had when I first started the adventure of sharing my work with the world.  Back then the Internet was a smaller place and there were fewer people out there to talk to.  The kids I talk to in High School when I am substitute teach are SO much more wired into this cyber world than I ever thought would be possible, that I sometimes wonder about this brave new world out here.  It can be both a challenge and a blessing to reach a world wide audience from my dining room table and the laptop computer.

The one thing I have learned about websites is that they can never be static things.  They must grow and evolve and be interactive for people to have a reason to come back for another visit with you.  This won’t be the last overhaul I do to Dragon Dreams , but for now,just for a little while, I am going to sit back and enjoy the fact that the work is done... and wait to see what everyone thinks.

Let me know!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Home from Retreat...

It was a wonderful weekend that went by WAY to fast.  We saw old friends, made new ones, spent time stitching and knitting, ate well but not too much, exchanged ornaments,  laughed and cried as well as raised money for the fight against breast cancer.  Dwaggie and Sneaky came along to keep me company in the sleeping bag and I put the dragon pillowcase from one of my favourite Austin store owners (right Ginger?) on my pillow.

Friday night, we arrived up at Camp Wildwood in sleet and slushy snow that made us feel like we were stuck in a snow globe.  Mom and I found an empty cabin (Squirrel A) before Nick drove us up to the main cabin to unload the stitching gear.  We set ourselves up near the back in the room and greeting familiar friends before settling down to stitch.

I’d fully intended to give away the Perforated Paper Castle ornament that I taught in Toronto, but the more people asked to see it and exclaimed over it, the more I decided it needed to stay on MY tree.  Luckily, Jeannie had brought along some colours of perforated paper for me to play with.  Unfortunately, after a full day of teaching, picking up Bethany from volleyball practice, Nick from school and then rushing to get to retreat in bad weather, I forgot the sheets of blank graph paper that I usually bring along with me...

So I made my own.

FIrst, I sketched out the letters for JOY and stitched them in overdyed threads on the white paper.

Then, I flipped the paper over, borrowed a pencil from Mom and began to figure out how to create a geometric snowflake shape around the word.

I am not the most math gifted person, so I had to fudge things a tiny bit near the end, but soon the snowflake shape was designed for me to cut out.

I added a holly button to the front, some braid and beads to catch the lights from the tree.

Then I made my own cording for the top...

and hung it on the tree for the ornament exchange!!

During the weekend,  I also spend time knitting on Bethany’s scarf and raving about Yarn Harlot ’s pattern to people, stitching on 3 projects a little at a time, chatting with folk and not thinking much about any day to day things like cooking, laundry etc.

Erin texted me from the volleyball tournament in Saint John during the day.  They finished in 5th and she has some incredible new bruises from diving across the floor, but it was an odd tournament with 11 teams, so it came down to the win/loss ratio and the missed the playoffs by one more point scored against them than the other team.  Instead of being upset, she is already talking about the 16U tournament next weekend!

This morning, we all woke up fairly early, determined to cram in as much stitching as possible before we all had to head back to reality.  After a short worship service, I worked on an ornament for my step-dad for Christmas. It’s a beaded mandolin from Mill Hill and I think that once all the beads are on it will be incredible!

Mom worked on a little mouse ornament for most of the weekend...

and she managed to take a picture of me stitching too!

After lunch, we had our ornament exchange and I got a beautiful ornament that I will have to take a picture of soon.

We also raffled off 3 baskets of pink donated items and I added in tickets on the models for Wings of Courage and the pillow model from Dancing Dragons.  In all, we raised about $370 for the fight against Breast Cancer... not bad for a small group of determined, passionate stitchers.

All too soon we were saying our goodbyes, hugging and planning for the next retreat!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Getting SO excited about RETREAT!

24 hours from now I will be AWAY!

I really shouldn’t be this gleeful... the rest of the family has to go to Saint John for volleyball on Saturday and the girls sing in church on Sunday, so I will be missing some important stuff.  I will try to look like I am VERY miserable.  They will not see the dragon skipping gleefully on the inside of my head.

There is something incredible about getting away with a bunch of creative women, especially stitcher.  For most of the weekend, I will wander around a huge room where there will be a fire going and little circles of chairs and stitching nests, ott lights and power bars, snack bowls and coffee mugs... and most of all LOTS of stitching projects to look at.

This is one of the only times I stitch OTHER designers’ stuff for MY enjoyment.  You see, when  I stitch my own models, I am REALLY slow and I know how it is going to turn out.  I am such a visual person that I very rarely have something turn out drastically different from what I envisioned. Well, except for the sunburned princess, but I have paid Erica to be quiet about that one.  I probably owe another installment of that hush money soon!

I love getting away to stitch as much or as little as I feel like, get in touch with myself in long journal entries, go for walks, chat with my Mom and other great women, raise money for Breast Cancer and have someone ELSE do all the cooking.

It is a little piece of Heaven and I can’t wait.

I just have to teach High School all day tomorrow.....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Wonderful Time at the CreativFestival...

I arrived home safely despite some VERY bumpy turbulence on the way home and dragged my suitcases to the basement Sunday night before falling into bed.  Unlike some of the wonderful stitchers I spent time with this past weekend, I had the luxury of not having to go to work early Monday morning!  As soon as the kids were on the bus, I went home and crawled back into  bed to catch up on some of the sleep that I missed over the weekend.  Then Nick came home sick from work and hour or so later and I have switched into nurse and mom mode ever since.

What wonderful memories I have!  From getting fabulous ideas from stitchers (I’m already doodling my “muddy” little dragon) to hilarious giggles over chart symbols, the weekend was full of wonderful memories.  I’d also like to thank all the friends (rather than students because that is what you’ve become over the years!) who jumped in to help snip floss, collect class fees and pass things out to make up for Teresa’s hands not being there and having extra things to kit up.  You were my guardian angels and I appreciate the help more than I could ever put into words!

To Karen and Erica who went above and beyond, I owe you more thanks than this dragon has words for.  I would have been totally lost without your support , thoughtful gestures and helping hands.

The photos of the class models (including the two of Teresa’s that I had with me) are up on the website under the secure links we discussed in our classes.  If you have any trouble with the URLs, just e-mail me to double check how they are listed and that way you will have your photo reference to work from.  Remember that if you run into any problems or have questions as you stitch the pieces, I am always just an e-mail away.

Finally, to all those of you who traveled from near and far to share time with me this weekend, I send tired but big dragon hugs to all of you.  You truly are the reason I just can’t walk away from designing things to stitch... you are all far too much fun to spend time with. I’m already planning new things for next fall!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

When You Can’t Control How Life Unfolds...

It’s really late back home.  I don’t sleep well on the road and a warm bath didn’t do much to soothe the jangled nerves, but I’m going to crawl into bed soon.

Today didn’t unfold the way I’d planned and I am worried about Teresa, who should have been here in the hotel room in Toronto giggling with me instead of lying sick in bed at home.  As challenging as it was to have to think about adapting things for the rest of the weekend, I’d still rather be me than be barfing!

It really was the moment of truth today to see if I could put my Inhaling Creativity  explorations into practice.  Funny how sometimes we learn things just in time to really use them!

Now if only I could get all these ideas out of my head so that I can get some sleep!

Get well soon, Teresa!!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Pattern Hoarding and Pre-Toronto Chaos...

There’s something about getting ready for the show in Toronto that makes me feel so alive in a total panicky kind of way.  I usually have dreams about showing up at the wrong room or with the wrong supplies, but there is something so satisfying about watching the kit pieces come together as they take over my living room.  Erin and Bethany have a 5 day Thanksgiving weekend this year since the next 2 days are Curriculum Development days.  Teachers have been given a lot of new course materials to integrate with very little preparation or time to review the materials, so they will be doing some workshops and fine-tuning things. Rather than begrudge the fact that they aren’t in school, I gleefully informed them that they could work for me!  Kit assembly requires many hands and someone to double-check the counting, snipping etc.  Bethany worked for an hour tonight and actually enjoyed herself!  We’ll see how long that enthusiasm holds up when we have to put floss on card!

I didn’t teach this week in order to get everything ready, knowing that I’d want a bit of family time for Thanksgiving, so I actually got time to catch up on e-mail and business stuff, but that also allowed me to discover a disturbing trend.

I really wrestled with the shift my work had to take towards illustration as it became almost impossible for me to do trade shows alone with degenerative disc disease.  I actually shipped a box for Toronto up to  Erica today rather than have too much weight in my suitcase when they asked me to do a book signing for Owen & the Dinosaur in the Kid’s Zone at the CreativFestival.  While I may not be publishing as many patterns, the older designs that I spent 16 years of my life creating are still out there for stitchers to enjoy.

This week, several e-mails from stitchers overseas and in the USA revealed a rumour that “Dragon Dreams is no longer selling to shops”.  When that showed up in two separate e-mails, I was floored!

See this? 

This is just what I keep in my office close at hand in case a shop or distributor needs something quickly. 

I also pay for a self-store every month for all the boxes of printed patterns that used to take over my basement.

Honest... the dragon is NOT hoarding her patterns!

So, if your local shop is having trouble getting their claws on a design for you, tell them to give me an e-mail.  Only THREE of our 98 published patterns are getting close to being out of print... and they are the least popular of all my designs.  I will happily send them to shops who have customers with specific requests or just thought that a design had gone out of print.

The only thing that I won’t do is sell directly to stitchers.  Call me old-fashioned, but I spent too many years of my life at trade shows building relationships with store owners to suddenly become their competition.  I fully understand that many of the new designers feel the need to have both a retail and a wholesale presence out there.  I chose to head more into the Children’s Book Illustration and teaching.  We all have to decide what is best for our businesses, our families and ourselves... but I’d hate for stitchers to think that I’d taken a torch to all the patterns that I spent so many years creating.  Until those printed patterns run out, they are still IN PRINT.  Trust me...  I will NEVER, EVER run out of StormBringer patterns.  I had to print 3500 to get that printer to take me on and I’ve sold less than 1,000.

I know that some people believe that you are only as fresh as your last piece of work, but I also believe that classics stand the test of time.  I know that every time I read A Wrinkle In Time to my kids!

What brings me a lot of joy right now is getting ready to teach pieces at the CreativFestival.  I was going to keep my 3-D Perforated Paper Castle Ornament under wraps until next week, but I am just so tickled with how it turned out, that I have to show you.

I am NOT the best person at 3 dimensions...  I almost failed sculpture in Fine Arts.  Yet, I wanted to come up with a cool ornament for a tree that wouldn’t require a lot of finishing.  Perforated paper seemed ideal, but I also wanted it to have some SHAPE.  The results were even better than I’d hoped for.

Here is the front...

and here is the back side with the year.

Is is just me or is this too cool??

I can’t wait to get together next weekend with stitchers, friend and other creative people who understand the importance of being Creative in a ready-made world!!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Musings From A Morning Walk...
I was only mildly disappointed that the phone didn’t ring before 7 am with a substitute teaching job this morning.  After all, it is only the second week of school here and not many teachers are sick yet.  I also have plenty to do getting ready for the CreativFestival in Toronto next month, so I had plenty to fill my day.
I did, however, start the morning with an hour’s walk in Mapleton Park which begins at the foot of our street.  At 6’5”, I am less afraid to walk in the park alone than some of my friends during daylight hours. I make a point of not wearing headphones, carrying a cellphone and staying to the main paths.  There are also few people on this planet who can keep up to my long natural stride without breaking into a run, so I truly enjoy walking at MY pace.
I was musing over what I had learned with the Doodle exercise for my Inhaling Creativity blog when it suddenly struck me.  My walks in the woods alone accomplish the same thing for my body that doodling does for my brain!  My lungs are pumping in and out, my feet are moving and I am staying on a fairly wide path, so my brain is able to detach a bit and think things through, just like when I am doodling - the hands are busy playing but the brain gets to wander ever so slightly and creative ideas can spring forth.
I also tend to carry a camera with me in case I see something interesting that will illustrate what I plan to blog about, need to take a reference shot for an illustration or see some colours that I want to find floss equivalents for.  Today’s walk was a bit of all 3.
Paths can be a wonderful metaphor for our lives.  Sometimes, the path we are meant to take can seem so clear that it is almost blinding...
Other times our lives are a blend of shadow and dappled sunshine along the way...
There are also people, events and moments that come into our lives like beacons or some elusive white stag that we chase...
and I also spotten my first Type A personality, overachieving tree trying to be the first one to turn colours!
So the next time you walk down a path, no matter where you are, take a moment to really look at it to see if it mirrors where you are in your life right now or where you would like to be.
But watch out for tree roots and rocks...  I looked pretty silly stumbling when my mind wandered a bit too far!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Fork in the Road...

Today was a wonderful birthday... I got to go play at a fabulous local wool shop today! Heidi not only spins and dyes fibers in the nummiest colours I have ever seen, she also creates incredible images with them. A few of her felted pieces were hanging on display and it was all I could do not to reach up and touch them! She has them hung out of the reach of most people, but I was wearing my 3 inch heels today and had to remind myself over and over “look but don’t touch!” Of course that advice did NOT apply to the yarn I was intent on buying. Best of all, my Mom bought these for me as a birthday present! Wheeee!

Dragon Musings will still remain as a place to blog about what is going on in my life, thoughts about stitching and everything I have always mused about, but today also marks the beginning of 2 new adventures and 2 new blogs if you care to follow me down either path.

Doodling Dragons is my new illustrator blog that will be linked to my illustration site as soon as I get all my September updates sent over. As I try to get the attention of children’s book publishers, editors and agents, it helps to have a more focussed message about that particular area of my life that includes doodles and drawings on a regular basis rather than the variety of images I tend to share here.

Inhaling Creativity is a 365 day adventure that begins today about finding more ways to be creative in everything you do so that it is as natural as breathing. For the next year, I am going to be posting about things to get inspired about and then put into practice. I’m not exactly sure where this will lead, but many explorers weren’t sure where they would end up either.

So now you have 3 blogs to follow with one crazy person if you choose. May you find a thread you like to follow...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Provence Life Lesson Number Two:

Age Should Be Appreciated

North Americans fear aging. Countless ads offer products or procedures that will help us turn back the clock to keep us looking and feeling younger. Most people trade in cars or switch houses as soon as things begin to get worn out or cause trouble. Some even do the same with partners... trading in the older model for a younger one. Is it any wonder that our society feels a little bit worried about growing older?

I can already feel it in my bones some mornings, especially my hands. They are stiffer and creakier than they have ever been in my life. The artist worries what would happen if I couldn’t hold a brush or pencil or needle comfortably to create images any more.

My house is the same way. Nick and I have lived here for 17 years, but it was built 21 years ago. The stairs have recently begun to squeak more as we climb them, perhaps done in by the exuberance of my girls as they barrel up and down them with abandon, despite constant reminders from their parents not to “stomp up and down like a herd of elephants”! All the doors but one have been replaced as well as the roof and some of the window seals are starting to go. With a house, there is always something that will need your attention or your money, but there is also the sense of creating a home. Nick and I have lived longer in this house than either of us did anywhere while growing up. It is a place we have built together.

By Provence standards, our house is brand-spanking new! Wandering around villages where some of the buildings could trace a history of a thousand years, it was easy to see why one person I met called us a “cowboy culture”. He meant that North Americans were set in a more frontier mentality because we still had so much wide open space and our buildings were all so very young. We think of something over 100 years old as being “historic”. I saw one farmhouse being refurbished that had been built in the 1400s and was considered a “newer house to remodel compared to some!”

Every hill in Provence seems to have a village perched on it. Far rarer are the villages like Coustellet that are built on the flat plains. These are newer ones, planned out with care like many of our towns in comparison to the cluttered wonder on the hills. Given the history of the Luberon valley area, where huge battles fought during the Crusades caused the fields to “run red with blood”, it makes sense to built up on a hill where you can see an enemy coming.

Safety is provided by building on top of and in many cases almost INTO the hill on which the town or village is built.

Invariably, a church is near the very top of the village, closer to God and worth the climb.

Its bell tower, wrought of iron, is unique in its design and so is the sound of its bell. People used to know which village bell was which by its tolls indicating a call for help, a celebration or a death.

The rest of the village, almost every one we visited, then clusters down and around the church. Buildings rise and tangle with each other, leaning on each other for support to share common walls instead of sitting on individual lots of fenced in land as they do here. There is more of a sense of community with the buildings so close because nothing escapes anyone’s notice. To celebrate a sense of individuality without a huge lawn to mow, each house owner seems to have their own way to decorate the ancient stone with coloured blooms,

create shade for their cats to rest in

or grow potted herbs to add to meals along staircases, in window boxes or on doorsteps.

Any hole in the wall can hold a potted plant to become a thing of beauty.

We watched a grey cat streak in through the hole in this door.

I could only marvel at some of the cracks and spaces I could see in the buildings, imagining all to well how snow and cold would seep into such a space in Moncton.

Instead of a quest to make something look new and “perfect”, Provence seemed to celebrate making things that were old or worn still beautiful and worth appreciating.

This respect for age carried over into the food as well.

We drank a young wine created by a son taking over the winemaking business from his father and resurrecting an older almost extinct grape to make an amazing homage to his father called “À Mon Père” that is the best red wine Nick and I have ever had in our lives. It lived up to all of the memories we had from our last visit. The two bottles that we brought home with us are already gone, used for very special meals with friends, but the taste still lingers on the edges of my tongue.

As I mentioned before, cheese is an entire course in France and you can find everything from young, nippy one to cheese that has surely been aged inside a sweaty sock and buried deep within some well for hundreds of years before being served in tiny chunks to unsuspecting cheese lovers. One such pungent morsel left a smell that seeped under our fingernails and remained there despite much scrubbing with soap. My sister in law was horrified that she might carry that lingering smell on her business trip the next day and have people wonder why her handshake stank!

As an artist, I was also fascinated by the faces of the elders in each village, the ones who had earned their spot on the wall around the town’s fountain or courtyard, who sat in the sunshine waiting for a turn to play pétanque (a form of boules or lawn bowling played throughout Provence), who perched on chairs knitting and discussing those who walked by or sat under the awnings of the cafés sipping on something in the heat. Many of the faces, wrinkled and tanned by the strong sun, reminded me of the apple dolls I always tried to make. The sun and wind had weathered them as they lived their whole lives in this area, watching things change as tourists moved in, discovered the area, bought houses to transform and then left when each summer was over. People in Provence, and all over France for that matter, dressed with more care than most of us here in North America (no sweatpants or sloppy looks), but without trying to look younger. Perhaps it it simply that money is to be spent on other things that creams and potions. Many villagers in the area live on less than $25,000 a year quite well. It is a simpler life and there is less need to fill a house with the latest, fastest, newest things. Tables and other furniture get handed down over generations and they are built to last. A bit worn and loved, smoothed from years and many hands, but sturdier than almost everything in my house!

I came back from Provence with a determination to appreciate age and to embrace its steady march more easily. With a birthday looming just around the corner, I will remind myself every time I look at my girls, who have that boundless energy that takes my breath away, that my years have shaped and sculpted who I have become. By Provence standards, I am still a baby and my house is brand new!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Provence Life Lesson Number One:

Treasure The Moment, Love Where You Are.

The thing about vacations is that they can’t last. To stay on vacation forever would mean that eventually you would take things for granted or get bored. It has rained 5 out of the 7 days that we’ve been back, so it is perfectly natural for me to think longingly about the pool at Roux-Cailloux or the smell of “lavendre”... but then I look at how lush and green my garden is. Each place has its own beauty, each culture has its own food and riches to share and each moment is alive with possibilities.

This shadow captivated us because something about the mountain’s shape causes the heart to appear when the afternoon sunlight hits just right. I am sure that I wasn’t the first to notice or try to capture the beauty of that view, but it was fun to suddenly look up and see the shape there on the hill. A simple moment that would have slipped by if not captured with a camera.

I miss the marketplaces in Provence. Shopping for fresh food was so much more intimate there, even if the selection was more limited. At the big supermarkets this week, I had to look at produce under sterile, plastic wrap or hunt for peaches that weren’t rock hard because they needed to travel so far to reach us. Just over a week ago, I stroked pallets of peaches and baskets of apricots to see which one we would buy, chose sun-warmed tomatoes from the farmer himself and wondered at the variety of colours, textures and smells around me. No wonder they say “good food remember where it comes from”.

Part of savouring the moment is appreciating what a local area has to offer in terms of food that you don’t get back home. For me, my trips to France will forever be tied to the taste of cheese. Cheese is a separate course there, served after the main course but before any dessert. From tiny stalls in marketplaces to glass cases full of incredible variety, there are dozens of flavours and textures to explore. None of these products would travel well and many of them are pasteurized differently from what we eat in North America... but OH! what incredible tastes!! From soft cheese that puddles from the spoon onto a crisp baguette slice to goat cheese coated in black ashes for a smoky taste, each bite touched different taste buds in your mouth. No wonder I am finding it a bit hard to go back to cheddar, mozzarella and cheese strings!

In the cult classic “Buckaroo Banzai”, there is a quote that says “No matter where you go, there you are.” Provence Life Lesson Number One was to appreciate just that. Great memories, experiences or tastes are fun to relive, but you cannot live in the past. Celebrate what can be appreciated right around you and make memories, even on rainy days!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To Everything A Season...

Today, I helped one of my very best friends say goodbye to her mother. I watched Karen and her family share memories of a wonderful lady amid tears, laughter and hugs from old friends. It was a touching reminder that from Death, there is ultimately no Passover. What matters is not how much wealth you have accumulated, how powerful you have become but how many lives you touched while you were here on this planet. Those whom Mary touched with her presence while living will now treasure their memories and carry on.

After celebrating 20 years with Nick in Provence, I cannot image what John is going through after losing his wife of 62 years, but he spoke so beautifully today. There are some who say that such a loss would be unbearable, but I think of the famous quote “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Goodbye Mary... we will help watch over your family for you now that you are gone.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Celebrating Twenty Years...

Twenty years ago to the day, I married my best friend. I had known him since I was 17 and dated him for almost 5 years before we married. When I walked down the aisle and saw the expression on his face, I knew that our adventures together were just beginning. After all this time, he has forgiven me for forgetting his wedding ring in the back of the limo and still jokes that we was married to our minister for about 20 minutes (our minister slipped off his own ring for me to use and it only went down to Nick´s knuckle) instead of me.
We have had our ups and downs like other couples. We have supported each other through career setbacks and changes, challenges and triumphs. Together, we have raised two amazing daughters. As much as we love them, we are also painfully aware of how little time we have left with them under our own roof. Already they are growing into young women who will head off on adventures of their own in such a short time. Funny how I thought those sleepless nights would never end when they were little children. Being here in France with my niece and nephew (who are 8 and 4) is like taking a step back in time to 6 years ago when my girls were that age. It is wonderfully exhausting. I watch my husband toss them around the pool and smile. Although there may be a few more grey hairs on his head, he has lost none of the youthful enthusiasm that makes me call him Tigger in the first place.
So many of our friends have divorced already that we are now considered to be an old married couple by today´s standards. I think of my grandparents who still teased each other after more than 45 years together and hope that we will have as long to treasure each other´s company. However many years we have left together, I will try never to take them for granted. This day, this moment in the blazing sun of Provence, with the cicaidas buzzing and a gentle breeze blowing, I know that I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful partner to share this adventure called life with.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Being Happy In Your Own Skin...

Nothing is harder on an artist or crafter than not being able to use their hands!

I overdid it a bit spreading 4 yards of mulch around our property before we leave on vacation today over the past 3 weeks, working like a fiend on the few non-rainy days we had. In the process, I gave myself a nasty case of tennis elbow (shouldn’t that be mulch elbow since I don’t play tennis?). In order for it to heal, I’ve had to do little or no drawing, stitching, gaming, knitting, typing or anything involving my right hand for the past week. Aaaargh!

Though Erin reminds me that the same thing happened when I shoveled all the gravel a few years ago right before my back went out, I found myself wallowing in worries and fears about my body being less invincible than I think... and how that affects my ability to be creative. I am less afraid of growing old than I am of getting something like arthritis that will cripple my hands... but this is the only body I live in, so I will just have to learn how to pace myself.

All I am taking to France is two sketchbooks. I plan to draw for the sheer joy of it and give my hands a break from everything else they do to fill my days.

Here’s what I meant to blog about last weekend when my hands couldn’t type...

The death of Michael Jackson and all the video tributes has made for some very interesting discussions in our household. Neither of my kids are very familiar with his music or videos and had certainly never seen pictures of what he looked like as a young man before the endless rounds of plastic surgery.

The French have a wonderful expression “etre bien dans sa peau” which basically means that you are comfortable in your own skin and happy with who you are.

Erin wore 3 inch heels to her Grade 8 graduation to have fun with her height since she knew that she’d be the tallest one there anyway. Some of her classmates had “dissed” her choice of dress as not being fancy enough when she described it to them (this is a grade 8 graduation for pete’s sake!) or told her that she didn’t know how to dress up from her jocky everyday school look... and BOY, did she prove them wrong! Why go for “pretty” when you can go for statuesque and stunning?

Nick was heartbroken that his school ceremonies were on the same night, but he bought a corsage for her and posed in our front hallway with her before she put on her heels to be taller than him.

When she strode across that stage to accept her award certificate, all I could think of was how proud her 6’3” great grandmother would have been! She always put her fingernails between my shoulder blades if she caught me slouching and told me to be proud of my height. I am sure that she is the reason I up straight and have great posture to this day.

There are many things about ourselves that we can change and quite a few that we cannot.
What matters is that each of us try to learn to “be well in our own skin”, to love who we are as unique creations and to take care of our bodies both inside and out.

I remember my own high school years and know that it will have challenging moments for Erin as well... but I am so glad that she is learning to have fun with the inches she has been given and celebrate them. To paraphrase the words of She-Hulk in her classic graphic novel “I’m 6’7” and green. People are going to stare anyway, so I might as well wear what I like!”