Twenty-five years ago today, on a very frigid Friday evening in St. Paul, Graham and I were married in front of friends and family. While it doesn't seem like yesterday, it certainly doesn't feel like twenty-five years. We have built a happy life together. We have three great kids, we have lived in four cities in four states, have had six addresses, and archived a lot of traveling miles, good memories, and are ready for more . Our first wedding dance was a Bon Jovi song, and our secret private vows included the same lyrics, "I'll be there for you". Serendipity....that track is from the album "New Jersey", where we now live. 25 years ago we never would have believed that NJ would become our home.
Silver anniversary! I married a good one. Graham is my best friend, a wonderful man, partner, and father. I always say I'm a lucky girl, and he continues to make me feel that way. I know he doesn't like to be featured on the blog, but I can't pass up celebrating US today. Love you.
Last week I went home to Minnesota for my Grandmother's funeral. While it was definitely tearful, and she will be dearly missed, it was also, in a way, a celebration of her life and how present she was in all our lives. Born in 1913 as Mary Batchelder, grew up in Granite Falls, MN, attended University of Minnesota, married Fallon Kelly in 1935, had four children - Kitty, John (my dad), Anne, and Molly, who gave her 18 grandchildren, and they gave her more than thirty great grandchildren. In the last few weeks I've been filling a journal with stories of her, from my childhood until now. Lots of beautiful, sweet, funny, and sentimental memories. I smile as I think of them even this very minute. I've flipped through photos, both here and at my parents home, and even more memories flooded in. It's hard to think of her not being at the other end of the phone, or opposite me at the dining table, but it was her time, and we are grateful for a full, happy, healthy life she enjoyed.
After the funeral last Friday we had a family dinner with all the relatives (there were alot!) and there was encouraging chatter about sharing stories. You may not know this about me, but I am a total chicken when it comes to standing up in front of a crowd, even if they are loved ones. Several of my cousins got things started and confidently stood up to share a favorite memory or two. This one spoke, then that one. We laughed, we toasted. Dad spoke. Mom spoke. I squirmed in my seat, wondering which story to share, hoping I could muster the courage to join in, and refrain from crying before I finished. I wasn't sure I could do it. But I didn't want to miss the chance to say she mattered. That evening It became a running joke between cousins, as each took a turn, claiming they were the favorite grandchild. When I did leave the safety of my chair at the corner table, I managed to squeak out a few sentences before my throat clenched and the well of tears was ready to burst. I said that we each knew Grandma's qualities, which were many - including hunter, hostess, golfer, great listener, matriarch....but that she also knew everything about US. She *got* us. Each and every one of us, of every age. She knew what we were each about, what we were into, what was going on in our lives, because she was genuinely interested in even the smallest of details. For years she was sending me newspaper clippings of articles I would enjoy, she was the first person to take me to an art museum (Walker Art Center), she gave me my first book of poetry, ..... later she wanted to know what my latest project was, we'd exchange thoughts about books we'd read, she wanted to know what Graham was cooking, where Peter was working, what Sam was doing, what Fallon was studying. It was the same with all my cousins and their families. It occurred to me, after I sat down, that in addition to making the statement that she *got* us, that it was obvious I left out one important observation. I can't get a re-do, so I will finish my thoughts here. I can see now that the reason we each felt like we were the favorite grandchild, was because that was her gift. That connection of feeling important and special is what she gave us, and hopefully she felt in return. What a great life lesson. To make each person in your life - relative or friend, feel like they are your favorite. Thank you Grandma. I will try to live up to your example for the rest of my days.
Here's a small view into her life....
My last photo with her, August 2014. She lived to 102....we were so lucky!
Earlier this year we road tripped home to Minnesota to visit family. On the return trip we detoured through Indiana to see a MotoGP motorcycle race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Graham's plan for the card this year was the perfect illustration of our adventures in 2014.
Have a blessed Christmas.
It's been six years since we began planting roses in remembrance of Shannon. While today's anniversary brings a tear, I am also filled with joy to have been blessed with such a sweet sister. I will never forget your arms wrapping around me when I needed it most, thank you. Here are two of the four walls of roses, and evidence of their rampant growth. I never imagined they'd grow taller than the fence! Reaching toward heaven.....xo
Fifty. Seems like a significant number doesn't it? Half a century. How did that happen? I have to say I loved my forties more than my thirties so I look forward to my fifties. Today I will enjoy being with my family, talking to loved ones, and we will all be remembering Shannon, and the special day we shared for forty years. She was born on my fourth birthday - a most precious gift to all of us. I'm a lucky girl. There are many roses on my table today from the florist - for Mother's Day, and for my birthday....red of course, but also pink. Perhaps the recent rain will prompt my the first rose bush blossom to open in celebration of Shannon, for they were all planted in her memory.
Here is a favorite from the collection of nearly-annual-dock photos. I love that her shoulders are raised in a fit of giggles. I can hear it when I listen really hard. Makes me smile. Happy Birthday to Us. Love you sweet sister.
Today we prep for a roast beef + Yorkshire pudding dinner, and bake breads for the neighbors, then frost a cake for baby Jesus. My large Nativity has a Mary who is holding the baby, so we resort to another infant Jesus who lays in a straw manger, made of plastic, to be set in a ring of candles and sung to Christmas eve. It belonged to the kids so they could play with the Holy Family. We used to make a cardboard stable, and pretended to act out the famous story....with the kings arriving after following the star. There were several years where couldn't locate the plastic Jesus and frantic-ness ensued to get him recovered and placed on the cake in time to celebrate his birthday. I began the tradition when our oldest was just over a year old. Getting gifts on your birthday is something we all grow up with, so it was the perfect way to explain Christmas to our children. So we don't lose Him, plastic baby Jesus spends his non-birthdays in our silverware drawer. He's never far away to visually remind us of His presence.....and today we honor Him as we exchange our presents.
My favorite track from the Very Special Christmas album series is by Stevie Nicks, with guest Robbie Nevil. This is the best video I could find. To see the 'making of', click HERE.
The final report card came in. Fallon's highest marks ever. Pretty good considering some seniors tend to slack off as the year winds down. At college orientation we learned that parents aren't given access to grades. ??? You'd think that signing your name on tuition checks might give you some privileges but it's time to let them fly, and trust that they'll continue to do well and communicate with you. I'll be filing away this last report, with some of the other remarkable items I've saved over the years. Onward we go!
We are so proud of you Fallon - bravo!
Had a great time with family last weekend. Mom and Dad, John and Renee, and my nieces Morgan, Mackenzie, and Meg joined us to celebrate Fallon's graduation. We spent a day at the shore, rode some terrifying rides, got in the ocean, and enjoyed walking the refurbished boardwalk. As the slogan on the airwaves keeps reminding and reassuring us: We are stronger than the storm. There's still alot of work to be done following superstorm Sandy but it was wonderful to see the crowds filling up the beach.
Summer is here! Be well and behave ;)
It was an action-packed weekend! The rain shut down the opening ceremonies Friday night for the Special Olympic Summer Games, but the remainder of the weekend was perfect for the event. Many athletes and their families enjoyed two full days of competition and awards. Thank you to our Piscataway Chiefs coaches, and the hundreds of volunteers who make this such an amazing experience.
It's been quiet here on the blog. I've been active in the studio wrapping up the last phase of an overhaul by clearing up piles, putting things back into drawers or on shelves, and bagging lots of old stuff - unused supplies that will be donated, unwanted clutter that is clogging up the space, and unfinished projects I'm releasing by discarding. It feels good to see the bags fill up by the back door. I've accumulated a small stash of debris that will go in my journal - clippings that I can't part with because they are part of a narrative of my creative journey. While I dislike blocking off time to devote to getting organized, I love the results. More space opens up on my table and in my mind. The process allows me to experience closure. A re-evaluation takes place, and I am clear about the direction I'm heading. I can part with materials that used to hold value because they no longer fit with what I'm interested in doing.
As we wind down the final weeks of school, I'm feeling a mixture of nostalgia, completion, and pride. There are lots of activities - like tonight, where I accompanied Fallon to the Art Show at the high school. She had several pieces hanging up from her Graphic Design class and her Photographic Design class. The exhibit was amazing - I love seeing the efforts of all the students, and got to thank the teachers for encouraging my daughter's creativity. This Friday is prom, then graduation on the 20th. This precious little thing, who arrived last to complete our family, is gliding right into this milestone with grace and charm and old-soul-wisdom.
The bags below are holding the dresses she'll be wearing to the two events. It's a very special time, made even more exciting as she has registered for her first semester of college classes. I'll be back with prom pics in a few days.
I've been saying it for years....even had a ring made that says it: I'm a Lucky Girl. And now we have one! Yesterday we adopted a little female kitten. She is precious - still very shy and skittish as she gets used to our home, but she is very loving and a cuddler. We are crazy about her already. Her name is Lucky.
I didn't think I would ready for another cat this soon as we are still mourning our Winston. But one day when I was driving in the car, sobbing to myself as I was thinking about him, a black cat ran across the street and I almost hit it. Swerving over to the side of the road I said to myself, 'that was lucky'. And for some reason it felt like a sign that it was time to visit the shelters and see if we might fit with a new friends, and open our hearts and our home to another black cat. It's commonly known that black cats are the hardest to adopt out, maybe because people think they are bad luck? I've only had two cats and they are both black. I guess, like this bowl of jelly beans, the black ones get left behind. Lucky for me, I love the licorice, and I will gladly invite a black cat home. So with the help of the kind ladies of Second Chance for Animals, and the Franklin Township Animal Shelter, we brought home our girl. They think she was born sometime in March 2012, so we are claiming today as her birthday. Fits, right?
I haven't had time to mess around with graphics to create a St.Patrick's Day greeting for you, so I am pulling up the one from 2009. They say you have to make your own luck....done!
A departure from talking about loving art, to talking about the art of loving. On this calendar day when we honor and celebrate those we choose to love, I want to share our sweet boy, who gave us so much joy. It is a sorrowful time for us and I don't mean to bring down the day by sharing this, but want to ackowledge him, and that he matters. Blowing kisses to all of you, especially those who have embraced me at this time to share my grief in an attempt to divide it. Thank you. Loss is painful, but I loved loving him, and always will. I read a quote by Hilary Stantin Zunin, "The risk of love is loss, and the price for loss is grief, but the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love." Here's to us risk-takers, who love loving both people and the creatures who enrich our lives. Happy Valentine's Day.
I'm still wrapping. Are you? I thought I was on a good pace....numerous trips to the post office shipping gift packages and orders, nearly everything on the to-do lists is done but I'm still writing out cards, and still wrapping and baking....and tomorrow is Christmas Eve! No matter how much I try to be organized I am always down to the last minute with holiday preparation. I could ask for help, but that would take away the surprise and sneaky selections I've made as gifts. No, I am happy to be the chief elf. I am lucky to have that role. As I write out each gift tag I think about this great position I'm in to continue making Christmas a magical time - even though our kids are no longer little. It's the lights, the sparkle, the surprises, the LOVE....and tomorrow night at church we will pause, pray, and lift our voices in song. I'm rushing to beat the clock, but I'm grinning through it. As you enter into final-preparation-mode, like the rest of us, think about how lucky you are to be the magic-maker for your family.
I've mentioned this before - one of our family traditions is to collect souvenir spoons on our travels. Brought out each December, it is fun to remember places we've been together as we hang each spoon on the tree. This year we get to add a few new ones. I think this makes at least 6 from England, and now we have two from Italy. One purchased, one stolen (gasp!). If you sift through the box you'll see a newish one from New Orleans, an old one from Traverse City, several from Boston and Minnesota, and a special one from New York when the twin towers were still part of the skyline.
I would ask you to share with me some of your unusual holiday traditions....but you should be wrapping! We will talk about it another time.....for now, I'm raising a glass to toast you, the magic-makers.
First, let me wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. There is so much to be thankful for, especially this year as we reflect on all that has happened in our neck of the woods. I am grateful for the walls and roof of our home, with full power restored to cook a turkey and all the trimmings. I am grateful for my family - my parents are arriving soon to celebrate around the table with us. I am grateful for an entire trunk full of memories visiting family and friends in England, and seeing the glorious sites of Venice. I'm a lucky girl.
With all that went on recently I wasn't able to share this news. My latest Somerset Studio column came out November 1st, Make It Your Own: Nutcrackers. I love nutcrackers!!! It finally occured to me to put my own spin on them. If you think you want to try it I recommend shopping Hobby Lobby - they have a wonderful unfinished large nutcracker this season. My store is sold out and they aren't re-ordering :( You could also buy a cheapy one from the dollar store and sand off all the cheesey sequins and add your own handsome bits to it. Here are three of mine...the Royal Guard was described, but the photo was inadvertently left out of the article, so I will share here.
And if you don't want to go full-out with embellishment, you can always just spray paint a solid color. They look cool too.
Again, Happy Thanksgiving! And since tomorrow is 11/22, I have to wish my favorite rock star Hyvää Syntymäpäivää.
Since our theme last weekend was all about suns, moons and stars, I can’t help but rely on celestial terms to attempt a description. It was almost like being on another planet, a mini universe of unique features, that you can visit for just a short time, embrace all there is to offer, then carry the experience forever. With many familiar faces, and some not-yet-known, we embarked on a journey to this place where the environment shifts and the routines of daily life are quickly forgotten. Our destination appeared friendly, inviting, even domestic with its farmhouse, red barn, and fading garden....trees lining the perimeter of the property and colorful fields framing the panoramic view. Valley Ridge may seem no different than scenes from the next country road, or the previous one, but those who arrive know better. All cares of the outside world blur for three days and participants become immersed in discovery, play, and community as they contribute to the collaborative spirit and energy that visably multiplies. It is indeed a privilege to observe the process of creativity that emerges and to witness enthusiastic artists stretch their zones of comfort and ripple wider the rings of friendship. Upon reflection of departing from this enchantment, we realize that the material evidence of what we expressed together on paper is only a portion of what transpired, while the remainder can only be seen with the heart.
Thank you Katherine for being such a gracious hostess, and thank you artists for linking arms with me and each other on this dynamic, remarkable waltz across the stars.
After being productive in the studio, we enjoyed social hour in the community building on Friday, then a spectacular special dinner prepared by our dear friend Jennifer in Katherine's home on Saturday.
They came from near and far. They rose to amazing heights. Truly cool stuff. I love that while we all started out with a planned format and distributed set of images, every artist made it their own. Each nearly-completed journal so personal and unique - exactly what we hope for. I love that my mom comes along each year and is warmly welcomed into the studio - seeing me in the role of instructor and *getting* what it's all about - the passion for putting our hands to work in a way that nudges us forward on our creative paths and ultimately feeds our souls because we choose to plug in and make it happen. As much as I hope to give, I always end up feeling like I am the one who receives. As I said in the introduction circle, Valley Ridge has helped me become who I am....I believe that's a truth for many of us. While Katherine is changing the process of presenting events, I am happy to learn Valley Ridge will be an available space for workshops in the future....because we don't want to stop the momentum.
Until we meet again, *blows kisses*.
My suitcases are packed. One will be marked HEAVY...it's filled with paper, paint, stamps, and lots of punches. Circle punches. I'm really looking forward to this last workshop at Valley Ridge. I know these girls will rock the circles with suns, moons, and their own personal flair to make a unique visual journal. The results will be celebrated, but it is just a small part of what we get from participating in an event like this one. Of course I hope that the 'process' will expand the vision and perspective of each artist as to how to approach art-making in journals, and in general. And I hope that they leave with enthusiasm to keep the momentum going. I do know this: it's impossible to leave unaffected by the experience. That's not a reflection of me...I'm simply the ambassador for creativity on this particular weekend, at this location. When eager creatives gather, and open their hearts and heads to embrace What's Possible, magic happens. We all learn from each other. Discoveries are made and shared and the energy in the studio multiplies. Confidence grows. Efforts validated. Authenticity recognized. Art celebrated. The circles of Friendship widen.
In July 2003 I prepared a handful of projects for With one Palette, found in Somerset Studio Jan/Feb 2004. I look at this album and cannot believe it's been nine years...tucked inside the front cover is a Sun-themed soundtrack, which started me off as I collected tracks for the Synchroncity workshop playlist. Thanks to my media device I am able to present over 50 songs and I'm not limited to what will squeeze onto a cd. So that has changed, but my use of favorite images and default colors has not evolved much. I'm fine with that - I think it's not a bad thing to have go-to crutches in our process - not to rehash but to stretch how we use them.
A new Sun song on the list, reminds me of this past summer. Energizing and fun....
And an old favorite. It actually will be a New Moon on Monday.
See you next week. *waves*
The class of 2012 has left the building. Proud families and friends cheered and waved. There is so much to reflect on as we turn the page on high school for Sam and usher Fallon into becoming a senior, where we will do it all over again next year. The calendar keeps speeding by, and we are rolling with it as best as we can.
Lots of activities filled the weekend with my parents visiting....we went to the shore, only to be met by a random raging storm. The boardwalk emptied out and we had great seats for a fun lunch and a lightning show over the ocean. No swiming or amusement rides but the salt-water taffy is always good. Then we spent a day walking around the stunning campus of Princeton. The Art Museum had a special exhibit of the college's Gothic Revival architecture - pages of beautiful renderings and plans for the construction of the famous university were on display. On another day we camped out in Brooklyn for the flea market and Renegade Craft Fair. Pilss of cool stuff - fun to walk among like-minded people with appreciation for handmade goods. It was fun to be near the water and see the Manhattan view from the other side....and it's always nice to spend time with family.
We survived the heat and are bracing for next round. I'm wrist-deep in a very fun project, chasing another deadline. I'll be back when I'm done. I'll pass out the popsicles. What's your favorite flavor? Mine's cherry.
I am so filled with pride, and gratitude after a very incredible weekend at the summer games. On the global scale it was amazing to see the entire production beginning with the Opening Ceremonies, followed by two full days of sporting events, with lots of extracurricular activities for teams and families. There were literally hundreds of volunteers who offered their help and hearts to host these summer games. It looked effortless which is a tribute to the preparation and dedication of the amazing Special Olympics organization. They were depended upon, and delivered, the tasks of staging, escorting, directing, supporting, congratulating, awarding, and many other important roles.
On the local level I am touched by, and impressed by our coach, his parents, and his team of assistant coaches. We are blessed to have these individuals in our lives as they care about our kids, and believe in encouraging and celebrating their abilities. Many hours have been spent planning, practicing, and preparing for this event. This weekend wasn't just a commitment of showing up at the track - it was much much more. Each athlete was required to spend the weekend in the campus dorms with their coaches and chaperones. For many of us it was the first time letting go of our child for an overnight away from family. Imagine handling that? There was alot of responsibility placed on their shoulders as they managed everything morning through night - bedtime, dressing, showering, eating, travelling, and finally, performing. I'm certain I can speak for all the families of our team when I say we are never going to forget what our coaches have done, and what a gift it was to participate in such a memorable event.
And we're off! Heading down to the Summer Games for Special Olympics New Jersey. The Law Enforcement Torch Run began early this morning, winding its way through the state, meeting hundreds of runners in many townships, then arriving to light the cauldron tonight at the opening ceremonies where we will watch our team parade into the stadium. We are so excited! Pray for sunshine. LOTS of photos to follow.
It couldn't have been more perfect. A handsome young man and a pretty young girl going to their high school prom. They didn't know it, but their moms were sitting nearby watching all the dates parade in, then enjoyed a few hours in the lobby restaurant getting updates via text message from the guardian angels on the inside. From a distance they looked like every other couple, but we know it was much bigger than that. These are memories we will cherish always - as a family. How cute are they?
Peter couldn't be with us to see Sam and Brianna as he had to work but he got to see the tuxedo'd Sam before the carriage turned back into a pumpkin. His prom was three years ago, photos HERE.