Can I just stay here?

I was there . . . just few weeks ago. Can I stay there? I can still feel the gentle breeze, the salty air, the rhythm of the waves . . .

My morning view

One of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen - no filter needed!



I can't believe less then a month ago I was in this paradise. Four days is enough to wind down and I am so grateful I had that opportunity. But it's definitely not enough days to just completely "reset." I think 10 days is the average time to completely unwind, have time to reset and then look forward to actually coming back to reality.

However, alas, I am just grateful I got to go at all. And I went for the first time without my 2-year old son. I honestly didn't know how I would handle it because there was so much anxiety leading up to leaving him with my mom and aunt for 5 days. He was fine and they were absolutely amazing so again, so grateful. But for me! I was so worried also about myself allowing myself to let go completely and not be so worried and just enjoy each moment being there in Paradise.

And guess what? Being in a place like the Bahamas at a resort no less, I did not have a problem letting it all go once I got there. I forgot what it's like to just literally have "nothing to do all day," no plans, nothing. I forgot what it was like to just decide moment by moment where we would lay around (beach? or pool?), the decision were, "Mojito or pina colata now?" Forgot what it's like to be tired . . . and just lay down for a nap - in the middle of the day. Who cares?! Forgot what's it like to have real adult conversations for more than 15 minutes - maybe even . . . . 2 hours? I could concentrate on what everyone was saying not just getting snippets. I also could contribute! And have full, uninterrupted thoughts. We would end up eating late, after all the other families had ripped through the restaurants - 8:00 or 8:30 and then get  back to the hotel after 11 pm. I thought I would be so exhausted from staying up late. But when you combine that with literally laying around all day . . . it works out.

I do wish I could've had more time but again, this post is just a reminder to be grateful for what I got. It was unbelievable. The first real vacation in over 10 years. Yes, I've gone on lots of "trips" but not like this. And this was definitely my ideal vacation. Maybe I'll get to go on one in another 10 years but let's hope that it's sooner than that! :) Thank you Universe!




Coming up for air

© 2016 Kathryn Neale Studio Geez whiz. Been completely MIA for the past 3 months and now finally feeling like I'm coming up for air. Some wonderful things have been happening and it's fun to sit and reflect over the whirlwind of the past several weeks to notice and say thanks to those wonderful things. It's so easy to get caught up in the daily grind of work and feel the sometimes sheer exhaustion of being a mom while trying to do some things for herself.

But to start, would just like to share that I've finished my Yoga Teacher Training two weekends ago from the YogaSix Studio here in St. Louis. YEAH!!! Something I've aspired to and have in the back of my brain for several years now. Even if I don't teach, or teach someday further in the future, it was an amazing experience. And was perfect timing of course.

© 2016 Kathryn Neale - YogaSix Teacher Training 2016

However, even through this experience, it wasn't like everything "fell into place" and all was completely harmonious and smooth sailing. Reflecting back on these months it was, at times, overwhelming. I felt pushed and pulled under like enormous waves were dictating my life. Just to get to the training sessions was always such a struggle. Once I was there of course I was happy to be there and learning what I want to learn about. But it was tough to let go of the motherly guilt of not being around during every weekend and for a full-time working mom, I already have enough guilt in that department not being able to spend every day I could with my little guy. Had to schedule time off work, leave early from work, remember to get food/snacks for every day, try to work around my schedule to make room for required hours outside of those sessions (homework and other classes to take from each studio from certain instructors). Almost didn't make a session because of a nasty snowstorm and with only 2 weekends offered as "breaks," each one either I was sick, my son or my husband was sick. The last week, gearing up for our final Practice Teaching session which is the accumulation of what you've learned over the last 10 weeks, preparing to offer up your very own yoga sequence for an entire 60 minutes, my son got severely sick. I ended up staying up with him through 3 nights before the final session started (Thurs night, Friday all day, Saturday and Sunday all day were the final sessions), instead of being able to practice my teaching sequence. It got rugged. Of course all ended very happily and in spite of it all, I did my very best! I wish I could've given my 100% like some of the other fellow participants.

BUT the rewards were simply awesome. An introduction to the world of yoga, the traditions, the mindsets, the attitudes, the perspective and spiritual foundation that was exactly what I have been yearning for for a long, long time. It fed my soul in ways that I was hoping it would.

Interestingly enough the entire experience was not a complete shock. I didn't have any major epiphany or earth-shattering, life-changing moment, like some of the others shared that they did. Instead, it's been a consistent affirmation of ideas or thoughts that I have learned or been exposed to all these years, a confirmation of my own belief systems and most importantly, a way to structure it that has been missing in my life. I learned new things of course specific to the context of the yogic tradition.

And I feel, like any new and fulfilling, the practice of yoga is not just on the mat but "off the mat." So in that vein, I am leaping into the spring season renewed with a sense of improving my lifestyle, my health choices, my way of living (not just psychically in my space like my studio and/or house, but also feeding my soul spiritually too)! So many times when a person might go through something like this, they might want to throw everything overboard and start new, fresh. I feel like that.

But . . . the most important thing that this entire experience has taught me, is that life is most often not like that. Few people have the privilege, daring or recklessness (depending on how one sees it) to throw everything out and start fresh, a new. And become a brand new person - the person they wish to be. Reflecting now, I see it more like baby steps. It's the baby steps that really do make all the difference in  your life. And to accept where I AM RIGHT NOW. Acceptance is key. It is being honest with yourself, loving yourself and knowing even though you have some ways to go to improve in all areas of your life, you can change today. Everything is change, everything is in flux, it is how we approach each moment that is the key to happiness, fulfilled life perhaps.

Already I'm amazed I even did this and finished it since it literally felt like it dropped in my lap - which is not like me to just do something last minute. Especially now since coordinating and planning around the schedule of a 2 year old is not easy.

I am SO Grateful though that I did accomplish this feat for myself. If anything, it has shown me the path to go to create a self-care plan, to fuel a passion for yoga that I've always wanted to do but never fully committed.

And it has also given me such fantastic ideas for how to teach and blend this into my artwork! Perhaps someday I can make the transition into teaching yoga + art workshops. To bring some of the skillfulness of how a yoga teacher might guide through her class, into an art class/workshop. And to more fully integrate yoga/meditation into my own practice to share with others who might be interested. That's super cool too - something I've always wanted to do and now have the certification to do it! :)

Take a deep breath, be grateful for where you are . . . take a baby step.

Can't believe it's November!

Acrylic, gesso paint and charcoal on paper, 24x18, 2012. It's amazing to think it's already November and the holidays are right around the corner. Literally. . .

But with this "turning the corner" here, I've committed myself to taking one more small step in my dream of making it on my own as an artist. And in this day and age, one way is to start your own online store. And I'm not sure why it has taken me this long to take the step but it at this moment, it actually feels quite courageous.

I've picked a couple of pieces of artwork that span almost a decade of work, all of these artworks are very special to me. It's definitely a weird, very weird, relationship - making art. I'm not sure if it's the same as composing music because at least you can always play the same piece or sing it, even if it's different in the moment etc. But it's yours, always. But a piece of artwork comes out and there's an "ending" to it. And then you have to detach and just let it be.

And then another weird aspect of it, is that someone wishes to buy your art and that's kind of weird too - in a wonderful way. But then you suddenly feel the attachment back, knowing you will never see this piece in person again.

But in the end, I still have a lot of pieces that represent a lot of different styles in the past several years and it's more then exciting, it's thrilling to think that some would find homes, to be admired instead of stored away in my basement studio. To think that they might bring some joy into someone's house for years to come, is quite special.

So perhaps this might be good timing to launch since it's the season of gift-giving, perhaps a loved-one would like to own an original piece of art, and I think that's pretty cool.

So without further ado, I submit my store to the world! Launching 20 artworks so far to start, all 40% till December 1st. Please share with anyone you might think would be interested. I also have lots of artwork in similar series still available so if there is something that is in my website but not in the store, please email me for available and price (all pre-2015 work is on sale 40% off) - shipping varies according to piece - katy[at]

You talk about courage and in the light of day it seems prosperous that I would be "nervous" to put my artwork out there. But in the middle of the night, this small step seems tentative but takes courage. Where will these pieces go and who will buy them? It's exciting to find out. Thank you again for all the support! Email me if you need more photos of any piece, etc.

It's September? oops!

IMG_6300It hasn't even really registered that it's almost the end of September and therefore my blog has been empty for couple weeks! Disgraceful. I do (in theory) tell myself I have an "excuse" in that I've completely and totally am redoing my basement/studio space. And that has taken up so much of my "extra" time - I'm still not finished but clearing out MAJOR things like a big, enormous desk in the far end of the area to make room for a much smaller desk so that I can start to video myself painting right across from my computer screen. I've been thinking and re-thinking and envisioning what the space should look like all summer. I had to move a piano  by myself to the other side of the room and all my crap (LOTS and LOTS of it) had to be stored away. It's stuff like all the china, silver and dishes from both my grandmothers I was keeping are all now in neatly packed boxes in my mom's new condo. I also inherited an awesome basement storage shelving unit that now houses all most of my artwork in the unfinished area - not in my studio space anymore.

The idea is to allow for more space for my artwork, to set up a space to video me showing techniques and also to have at least half of the space possibly used for demo workshops and perhaps a lesson or two. I at least need the space set up correctly in order to even offer up any of those ideas I want to do in the near future. So dropping everything and focusing on this enormous task has taken all of my extra time - which we moms with young children don't have! (and rightly so for now). But I'm pleased with my efforts I just didn't realize an entire month has gone by without a single post!

who am I as an artist?

studioIt's interesting I've taken a break so to speak from painting after the 100 Day Project and also because just spent a lovely and super fun week in Boston with my sister-in-law's family. Coming back to reality is always fun. It's also quite interesting to kind of figure out what I would like to blog about. I have a lot of interests even within the arena of "art" and it's been challenging to figure out what to write and what is most interesting for me to keep writing about! It's ironic that in a lot of professions nowadays, if you want to have an online presence, you must have a blog. Well . . . . blog means CONTENT which equals WRITING! It's ironic that the most successful way to reach people is something that you do not do very naturally. I'm a painter. And that's why it was really fun and easy to post what I was doing . . . PAINTING - which is natural to me. What I feel and thinking about and experimenting with, I can just show you through the 100 Day Project for example. So content was fun and relatively easy in that respect.

But I am not a writer. I like pontificating and writing as a way of journaling (very stream of consciousness as my husband calls it). I am not a very good editor of my thoughts. So why the heck would I want to WRITE A BLOG? That has been coming to me lately.

And "what kind of an artist am I" as been in my foremost thoughts now since my future business endeavors fell apart this past February. What I "thought" and "dreamed" and "hoped" was going to happen ended very abruptly. So what now?

I realize that the past decade I've been trying to answer this fundamental questions of "what kind of artist to I want to be?" to "Who am I as an artist NOW?"

I have toiled with tips and tricks but at this moment I'm wondering is that who I am really? I am not really fond of tips and tricks in magazines for example. I know they are very good, quick and engaging ideas or examples or specific projects, etc. But I don't do them. I may fold the corner of my magazine page and want to do them or try out that recipe or actually do that yoga sequence "some day" but I never do.

What really engages me and sticks with me are deeper issues. Why is art such a difficult and challenging subject for most people? In a lot of ways it can be argued that it is similar to the definition of love - so many different meanings, expectations, stereotypes and means different ideas in different contexts that it's almost impossible to define.

And I'm STILL struggling with MY definition of art and how I'm defining myself as an artist.

When I first decided to be an artist (and I really honestly mean that I did wake up one morning and decide, I'm going to plunge into this art thing), it was a harrowing adventure just to "come out" as an artist. Looking back as a child I realize now that I was always creative. I loved "playing" which meant making up my own imaginative worlds, mostly inspired by the dramatic movies I would watch and then try to act out (musicals were definitely a favorite!). But my entire young and growing into more of an "adult" life, I repeatedly thought "I'm not an artist!" and as I grew older into my high school years I would bombard myself with "well I'm not that kind of artist," - I can't draw like that, I can't paint like that, I'm not good enough! So I'm not an artist. I consider my creative or having a creative drive, but I'm not ambitious. Mostly I can't paint like that! So much so that by college I was a mess of "I can'ts" that drove me practically into hysteria by beginning of my senior year. Then I had my little epiphany on my art abroad but it still didn't take root until 4 years later.

After I had graduated from my first graduate masters program, I rejoined my husband who had moved to Washington DC for an exciting job opportunity. I had been separate from him, living in the rural fields of east Illinois, having this bewildering and eye-opening experience of "becoming a painter!"

I remember going to a barbeque of friend of a friend's and being overwhelmed by this new label I had earned - "an artist." I feel that most people in DC are obsessed with the government (why not? Practically every single person works or is related to someone who works there and either feels the need to be up on politics or it is really truly their passion), does social work, or is a lawyer. All conversations are very serious. And #1 topic of conversation is what you are "doing" currently with your life. So I specifically remember an instance when one girl walks up to me (because I was clearly doing the introvert thing of just staying a bit always quietly eating my cookie and looking awkward as hell), and brightly asking what I do? This was my very first initiation into the real world so to speak, with my new label. I conjured up my courage and exclaimed "I'm an artist." And with that there was a blink, a pause, and a disappointed "oh" from the girl. And then she just turned and walked away. I was a little stunned. Do I have green skin? Am I hideous or something? Do I speak a foreign language? All must have been true to this girl who obviously thought that either she had no idea what else to ask me or that I had nothing of interest to offer up to her. This incident has stayed with me as it clearly illustrates all of these stereotypes we, as a society and culture, have of artists.

Today, after another 4 years of after graduating from a prestigious art program for my MFA, I have finally overcome a lot of the academic aftermath of going through a program where it is also cultivated on what kind of artist you "should" be. I finally feel I've let a lot of that go and embraced more possibilities. And feel like I'm in a good place now because of this space and time away from such an intense period in my life.

Tonight I flipped through one of my journals and found a Manifesto written back at the end of April in response to a B-School assignment. I thought it is very apropos at this moment when I'm trying to put into words what I want this blog essentially to be about. My original purpose!

MANIFESTO (April 28, 2015)

* My purpose is to inspire women to be more creative in their lives, in a more soulful, deeper and richer way. Ultimately using painting and the art creative process as a spiritual practice or journey.

* We, women, are physically and biologically built to be creative, our fundamental purpose is to give life. But in today’s world, this purpose has been broadened and enriched to symbolize so many different forms, a source for living life to the fullest. Everyone is creative. Everyone is creative.

* Seems like there’s so much out there right now that is a “hobby,” or “DIY,” or “1-2-3 craft.” We think being creative is to go from project to project to project. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s fun, easy and less time consuming. And it’s also in the moment and for a purpose. But I feel I can contribute and show that the creative process can be a more enriching tool for a deeper, more soulful self-discovery. It is empowering to think there is a need for deeper, more meaningful messages or communications through art.

It's refreshing to see that my intentions are still pure in this respect. Now I have to figure out HOW I can do this. But for a start, this is definitely the kind of artist I want to be. Definitely the kind of art I want to make and definitely the kind of art process I would love to share.

Why is this summer to hard again?

IMG_3778Taking a moment to breathe right now. Reflecting this summer already almost over since August is literally just days away, I feel like summer hasn't been that great at all. Hardly any time for swimming, laying out in sun or being lazy. Soaking up the deliciousness that summer brings with hot weather, sandals and sweat. Playing golf with my golf-fanatic husband. Nope! Not this year. I could blame it on a lot of major things that are shifting in my life. May brought on some minor depression and frustrations with how things weren't going in my career life left over from February/March where my business plans with a friend blew up in my face and redirecting that ship after more than 2 years has been a challenge to say the least! June brought great trip to Colorado to visit my sister but hard to travel with a 1.5 year old (by MYSELF I might add!). I was exhausted and he was exhausted and sick afterwards.  A week later my father-in-law married a 36-year old woman with 4 kids under 10 which has directly impacted my husband's and mine's lives because we all live here in St. Louis and aren't supportive of this decision! So it's been quite stressful as our relationship with him has dramatically declined. Following this event, only 4 days later, we had a health scare with my sister-in-law (she came out fine but had to go through surgery). And finally June 26th brought the death of my dear dad. All in 3.5 weeks. It's funny how time and life are share such a close-knit relationship. You go weeks, months, years, and then bam, bam, bam in matter of days, life pulls a 180.

July has just been uber fast. I feel a little bit more centered and through it all I realized that having my 100 Day Project was quite therapeutic during this roller coaster spring and summer time. It put art as a priority (even if it only was 30 minutes a day), and now it is crystal clear that I should be working on pursuing my career as an artist (I already feel like I have been) but FULL TIME is the point.

IMG_4614In the beginning of June in Colorado I went to see a physic, had my first tarot card reading. Weather you believe in that sort of thing or not, for me personally, I believe whole-heartedly there is a universal law of Love that is guiding, protecting, caring, encouraging and gently suggesting to each and every one of us what our divine purpose here on earth really is - what major lessons are each of us here to learn. Each one of us has different lessons to learn and I believe guidance came come in any kind of channel to help support our growth.

I was a bit nervous about the tarot reading but the instant we started, the guide almost yelled out "WHOA! You are definitely freaked out right now!!" Suddenly for the first time in months, I felt a huge lift from my mental shoulders because as the reading continued it was very clear that there are going to be a lot of shit happening in my life in the future. And in the past I've had to get balanced and centered BUT I had time for that. For past couple years I've not had any time and in past couple months, things have accelerated where I literally felt like I'm spiraling out of control in a vertigo. In only the first 10 minutes, I felt validated. I wasn't going crazy! She could literally read my energy and she described exactly what I had been feeling for months - a deer in headlights, frustrated, scared, exhausted, feeling like I should figure everything out now. The balance has not been there for a long LONG time.

The psychic confirmed that it will not be that way for a while - perhaps a year or two. There are MAJOR changes still to come in our lives. But she told me I had to find a way to be OK with this - to be OK with feeling flipped out and know that there are moments of peace and centered-ness, finding some other way to stay balanced. Oh. Ok. I thought, interesting.

Looking back just as the weeks went by after my reading so much already happened right in a row, but the vision that has completely settled inside me for weeks now is razor sharp, crystal clear. And it all has to do with that finality of accepting my role as an artist. Believe or not, even though almost a decade of schooling and being a professional artist, I have struggle with what kind of artist am I I want to be a graphic designer? a web designer? a web consultant? a Marketing consultant? a small business partner owner of a website for creatives? a teacher? a wife? just a mother? All these labels we put on ourselves through our 20's and 30's - it's crazy! But finally, FINALLY, my heart is singing. What kind of artist do I want to be has been the major question of the past 5 years going through graduate school, etc. I did the high-end gallery route and that just didn't suit me - maybe it will eventually cause who knows what will happen. But right now, where I'm at it's not what I want at the moment.

But through it all right now, I can firmly say, I'm fine. I'm totally fine! And accepting this role as been a huge shift in my mental and emotional well being. It's inevitable. That word keeps coming to me. It may not happen now (like as a full-time artist to support my family), but it will happen, because it has to happen. There really isn't anything else I want to do, there isn't anything else I'm supposed to do. This is my "calling" and I feel that now more than ever. And in fact just doing 30 minutes a day of artwork has made me (gasp!) happy! So why struggle and try to be something else.

a mother's love is steadfast and true

LGMother's Day! My entire life I never really ever thought of Mother's Day. We didn't celebrate a lot of holidays in our family. And Mother's Day was just an excuse to go to a nice dinner. Looking back now, I can see that my family growing up has been much more sentimental then my husband's family (who's native language, sarcasm, was an abrupt learning curve for me in my early years of dating my husband). We also made the obvious conclusion that my family has been full of . . . girls. In fact, looking back into my mom's family history, it's quite depressing that most of the men, generation after generation, left their wives and children either from alcohol, depression or just died. The women outlived their husbands, brothers and fathers by decades. I have an older sister, girl cousins, only aunts growing up that I knew and for the past 2 decades, visited my Grandmothers, Grandfathers passed away already. I even have 2 nieces--my sister has 2 girls.

My poor dad, my sister and I joke now, how did he do it?! Without any male influence or camaraderie my entire life, I never knew what that might mean until I met my husband and now look back at over 19 years of my life spent with his family. He has both a brother and a sister, boy and girl cousins, and grew up with a very strong male presence -- his dad was a very involved father, a grandfather he knew and uncles that were just like his dad - all the joking, the stores, the teasing and the sarcastic remarks! It was a rude awakening -- this new male world was full of farts, belches, crude jokes and ruthless sarcastic teasing.

But I knew, that weird mother's intuition, that I would have a son one day. And for the 3 years before I even got pregnant, I felt a boy's presence whenever I thought of becoming a mom. I just knew he was out there and I just needed to pray for the best timing to finally meet him.

But when it was actually "official" that I was pregnant with a boy, it still was a little eerie. My side of the family was ecstatic! A new adventure! But could I really raise a son? I had no mentor, no woman in my family that knew anything about raising a boy. And the one person that I could have related to (my mother-in-law), she passed away two years before. That would've been such a fun experience to hear all of her stories because she was a mother from a girl family too.

Now going back to my side of the family, we don't share a lot of holiday traditions really or make a huge deal of birthdays or whatever. But what we seem to always do is find the most sentimental Hallmark-y that oozes super touch-feeley, gushy and over-the-top romantics that my husband just balks at like a 10 year old "ewwwww!"

So to be perfectly honest, I felt it was always a bit much until . . . I became a mother. Ah . . . I GET IT. TOTALLY and COMPLETELY. Nothing can put into words what it is actually like to be a mom. And nothing can allow me to articulate clearly how much I love my little boy. He is the light of my life, now and forever. It will never change I know that. I know he makes me crazy - even today, he was not the "angel" that is always is, driving me nuts at dinner, throwing spoons, crying, just learning the word, "no! no . . . noooooo . . . . !" But he gives me his "kissy" and now is just learning, "p-e-e-s-e?" melts your heart a million times over.

Therefore, the cards that I've chosen for my own mom I now finally really get. It's the chance to say the un-sayable, to attempt to say how much mothers mean to us - a little more then just "I love you," although that is important to say more too. The depth of love that mothers walk around with in their hearts, the unfailing openness, acceptance and confidence in their children, even in the face of hurt, pain or worry. I never realized when my sister always complained of worrying all the time about her kids (obviously she still does cause the oldest one now is 16, the youngest is 10 - my mom says it never stops!), it takes SO MUCH ENERGY! But even more so, the amount of absolute unconditional love that mothers have is 100x stronger than the worry and pain, takes a lot of energy too but it is worth it - so worth it.

So I must just pause and take this moment to reflect on my life as a new mother (last year was my first year experiencing Mother's Day but my son was about 7 months old, so it was still a big whirl!), and all I feel is such a great privilege to have this special time with my son. It goes by in a blink of an eye. But all I feel is such gratitude, giving me the chance to be his mother.

And just to note, my absolutely unromantic and unsentimental husband pulled a fast one on me last year, giving me two-dozen roses, balloons and an awesome brunch with chocolate strawberries for dessert. I was surprised by the thoroughness of his planning since we don't do anything for each other anymore (I know it's pretty bad actually). But his response to going "overboard" for him was, "Hey. I believe in giving when well deserved, and being a mom is all about going 150% 24/7 - you work your ass off! I think that's worth a rose or two. . . . " That ladies and gentlemen is about as sentimental as my husband will get! But I believe every word of it! :)

To my mom, it is true, the more you grow older, the more you realize your parents are just people to, the more you forgive and the more you understand them, sympathize with them and remark on just how special they are to be your parents now that you understand what they went through for the past 30 years. Sincerely love you and grateful that you are my mom.

To my mother-in-law -- God we miss you! But you were to me one of those rare best friends in the end. I wish I had been even more open and honest with you. I wish I could hear your stories now that I am experiencing motherhood. But the time we had together was so very special and you were to me a second mom in so many ways.

To my sister -- you are incredible. I have no idea why your life has been so much more challenging than mine it would seem. But the boundless love and sincere empathy for humanity is astounding. You give of yourself so completely (sometimes without necessary boundaries - that's where I come in! :) but it is truly such an honor to have you as my sister. Your infinite love for your daughters is the foundation of your life and theirs. They know it, even when they seem to go through their challenges too, it is always, always there.

April reflections - renewal springtime

IMG_1985 Thinking of all the people I love in my life right now. My heart goes out to my young niece who is getting extra special love this week. You are so loved. You are so cherished. You are so beautiful. You are so courageous and strong. Going through tough, tough times right now.

Thinking of my dad who has been in the hospital for over two weeks and came home earlier this past week. He is soooo courageous! Ironically, he has major heart issues (all his life) but he has the sweetest, kindest heart of all of us. We LOVE you!

Thinking of how this new year looked so different just three months ago. Letting go of a business that was supposed to happen these last 2.5 years has been very challenging.

And finally, thinking of my extended family through my husband's side. So much change in the past several months - change that none of them (me included) has ever wanted. Change that involves other people that I cannot seem to love or forgive right now because it all is hurting my husband and my sister and brother-in-law. Change that profoundly effects the trajectory of all of our lives.

But love is all that matters in each case--the first two situations, it is easier to love my niece, love my sister, love my dad, etc. Much more difficult to love and think well of the change that so effects us personally in our lives. But it is an opportunity to love more, forgive those and yourself and do the best that we can individually. "We cannot possess another person," as Quinny puts it in the Larkrise to Candleford BBC TV series. But there is a great fundamental shift that's happening in my husband's and mine's life right now, a huge change. Closure. Closure for my business I thought that I would have started by now is finalized this week. Closure for my husband's family. Moving on.

I've been thinking about the word, "renewal" the past couple of weeks, associated so much with springtime. Birds chirping, bunnies hopping, dog-walking, trees budding, finally sunshine and forwarding the clocks are all imagery that we are familiar with around this time. Descriptions like fresh, lovely, bright, cheery, and clean. It coming alive again, waking up after winter time, looking forward with anticipation of summer, good times and a relaxed, sun-drenched atmosphere.

But reflecting where I am right now, my life is far from cheery, bright and fresh (except when in the presence of my 18-month old son!). It has been interesting to look up what springtime means in Chinese medicine because as I read some of the insights, I realize that yes, that sounds more like my own experience right now.

Apparently the element associated with this time is Wood.

The power of Wood is gentle, persistent, and filled with creative potential. It has the power of both being and becoming—of being true to your own nature and becoming more yourself by clearly expressing your inner needs and desires. Wood gently penetrates the earth to bring forth water, the source of all life.  Drawing from our roots, we find the energy to push forward with strength and firmness of purpose, always remaining supple, yielding, and true to our nature.

I love how this passage above implies that growing is hard. We often think of all the new plants and infant buds that just "pop" out overnight and voila! there they are! But no, this is a reminder that for weeks, the growth has been happening slowly, consistently, underneath the earth or within the tree or bush itself, and even though we happen to witness the exact moment the bud bursts forth from it's stem, it took a great deal of energy and work for this to happen.

Then reading about the emotion associated with Wood was eye-opening for me.

The emotion associated with the element of Wood is anger. In its balanced state, anger can be a healthy emotion, for it can be understood as a natural reaction to stress, frustration, or injustice. When expressed with careful control, anger acts like a thunderstorm that clears the air; controlled anger can dispel tension and restore balance. An imbalance in Wood, however, often has the quality of out-of-control anger, and results either in excess or depletion. An excess, or pent-up quality of Wood, expresses itself as “quick to anger,” prone to volatile outbursts, irritability, and the tendency to judge others too quickly or harshly. The converse, deficient Wood, often expresses itself as difficulty dealing with anger at all. Swallowing your anger, you become anxious, irritable, and tend to blame yourself when things go wrong.

I've never really thought about anger being a healthy emotion. It is so often in Western culture, especially among women, it is not a "natural" state at all but one that is unladylike and crude. If we, as women, get angry, we are emotional (which in our culture is a negative association even though the actual definition is simply, "one who appeals to his or her emotions"). It actually can be associated with ugliness--we are ugly women who are angry. And we're told to "simmer down," or asked "Is this your time of the month?" etc.

I certainly have been angry the past couple months and frustrated for sure. I never thought about anger being a healthy emotion that "acts like a thunderstorm that clears the air." I can certainly see why men have more leeway with anger then women do in our culture. My husband's responses to these challenges have certainly been more anger than my "brooding" but it definitely helps to let it go quicker for him. But prolonging anger makes us "quick to judge others harshly, anxiousness, irritable," I have definitely felt those emotions too--for far too long I realize.

And how do you process all this anger this springtime? Amazingly, our body has given us a clue to how to deal with and process all of these emotions in a healthy way. Apparently the organ most associated with this time is the liver. The liver is an amazing organ, essentially performing hundreds of "essential functions, including the formation of blood and the cleansing and filtering of the blood to help the body eliminate toxins and ensure its continued vitality." Cleansing the toxins is an important step in order for us to literally grow, mature and develop like the spring bud. Letting go of old resentments and grudges prevents the natural energy of the liver to function in a healthy way. We have millions of ways to remind us that it is forgiveness that is not for that person or people or event, etc. It is for yourself.

Forgiveness. Forgiveness. Forgiveness. That's what I need to be focusing all my energy on so that I can grow more. That is what is the solution to all of this. Again, not for anyone else, but for myself.


proud to be a gatherer

IMG_4092"Gather: To cause to come together; convene.To accumulate (something) gradually by means. To collect into one place; assemble To draw about or bring (one thing) closer to something else To conclude To summon up To attract or be a center of attraction for"

"a person who gathers; 'they were a society of hunters and gatherers.'"

I have so many awesome and insightful memories of my late mother-in-law (who was, hands-down, the most passionate and erudite woman I know, someone who just accumulated a database of random, but useful knowledge in her information brain bank). One interesting tidbit of info she said (I barely remember the context, but it always struck a chord) that somewhere in her findings, she said biologists and anthropologists conclude that men and women still have in their biological makeup, the need to "hunt" and "gather" in their DNA. That might seem quite obvious in some circumstances. Obviously one of the universal and stereotypical complaints of husbands about their wives is that there's way too much "crap" in the house. Uh . . . DUH! WE GATHER, COLLECT, ORGANIZE (well I hardly do actual "organizing" part, but I would say most women are known as excellent organizers!) and SAVE crap too. Yes, there's always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, it seems true enough.

As my mother-in-law and I brainstormed together we realized, yes absolutely, we both are obsessed with gathering stuff! She LOVED all cleaning supplies . . . yet she had a cleaning service come every 2 weeks to clean her house. But anytime we went to The Container Store she couldn't help herself and she would buy all those orange funky sponges or mops that looked like some Sesame Street character designed by some Danish industrial line, and while paying for them at the cash register (and no they weren't "cheap,") she would sheepishly grin at me that they were so "pretty." She also obsessed about shoes - there were 4 closets filled with them. And she was notorious at work for having piles and piles of paper, folders, files, you name it, scattered around her office, but ask her where something was and she would carefully pluck a sheet from the MIDDLE of a 5 inch pile without a blink of an eye and silently hand it to you.

IMG_4096I, on the other hand, am an "artist." I can't help but gather as much crap as possible because 3 years later-- I really will see it as the perfect found Target patterned paper for that art piece I can now use it for-- so I can't help it! Not only gathering supplies, I LOVE books and magazines. Obviously, I tell myself, I'm just fulfilling my creative impulse to fill as many drawers, tubs, boxes and sketchbooks as possible with my images that catch my eye for future projects, piles of torn pages from magazines and books. I can't ever through those away.

I have amassed (no joke!) I believe over 1,238 bookmarks in my firefox browser alone, mostly on art, artists, design, interior design, travel and of course favorite bloggers websites. I have hundreds of images I collect over the internet from favorite artists I like. I also have thousands of random images I keep of my own artwork from over the years, art from museums I've visited, random shots of random things I though pretty, and from every single international trip, I've taken thousands of things I thought were interesting . . . which coming home I asked myself, "wait . . . why did I take a photo of that again?"  I have every single piece of music composed by Beethoven, (obviously LOVE classical music), as well as almost every single DVD series from the past 10 years at least from BBC or PBS British Classic Drama! I'm obsessed with books - but not just the normal romantic or historical fiction kind no -- I always hunt through the art, design, craft and photography sections seeing if there is anything interesting in there. I always start in the magazine sections -- this gives me a clue to what I'm interested in at the moment (like what music you want to listen to sets the mood!). I love the ancient mysteries and New Age section and occasionally skip through the cookbooks to see if there's something interesting that I would love to aspire to cook but pretty much hardly ever do.

But it's not jut STUFF, it's other immaterial things too like ideas, information, stuff to research. I LOVE brainstorming sessions. With my mother-in-law, we were the world's brightest think tank solving all the world's problems over a mountain cookie and twin Starbucks hot chocolate! She routinely watched the daily morning shows, which we realized too are just a smorgasbord of random info pulled together mainly for . . . a woman's audience! She also loved reading every Economist issue front and back as much as a good historical novel about Elizabeth the I.

The worst though is that I'm also quite messy. I have "reminder piles" I call them lying around my house. They could be clothes I need to fold or hang or want to wear in the next couple of days. There could be shoes at the front door, dishes in a pile for putting in the dishwasher, books, random papers, anything lying about that "reminds" me that I need to do something with it. I gather everything and anything! If I don't see it I literally don't remember it. My husband gets uber frustrated with me! He remembers everything . . . in his HEAD. And I cannot remember a thing unless I see it in a pile of stuff that I've gathered together.

IMG_4095This rant also does relate directly back to my artwork and painting process. It's messy but there's a purpose to it. When I work I get everything out at once and work on all pieces of artwork, bouncing around in my "piles" of painting and paints. Gathering different media to collage into. I like having all my paints out, my brushes everything so I can see them and make decisions quickly based on what I see. I always leave everything "out" until I finish all of the paintings. Then I pack everything up at all at once to clean and put things away. That's the way I cook, that's the way I do laundry, that's the way I work on projects. I realize I tend to wait and wait until things pile up and I gather enough stuff to do something with it.

And on top of those things above you may think, "well that sounds like anyone, everyone has their interests, their quirks and their unique habits about acquiring random stuff physical or digital."But the female gatherers are unique -- if you are doubtful, just look at all the fabulous blogging women out there! They "gather" everything and anything that's beautiful, useful, informational, decorative, fashionable, unfashionable, vintage, new, kid-related, cooking-related, crafty, DIY projects, technological, etc. you name it! Thousands of successful and thoughtful blogs on whatever topic is fascinating to them with their own unique spin is an enormous resource out there right now. It's damn impressive actually! And we all eat it up! Why Pinterest is known for being 90% women who are gathering images of everything from travel to weddings to cooking to house paint.

IMG_4093So, yes, we women, have it in our blood pointing to the inevitable factoid that we ARE GATHERERS. I embrace this! It must be because we love learning new things, new ideas and new ways of doing something and then we love sharing it! We communicate, share, learn, share and communicate. It's a fascinating network--we gather for each other, learn from each other and then bring back new insights to the whole. It's a very enriching and healthy process! And the more we learn, share and grow, the smarter we all are.

So, I have formally decided to embrace this label. It seems a word that has so much potential for me. The possibilities of gathering and then piecing together to see the bigger picture gives my brain ultimate pleasure. I finally realize it now and stop blaming myself for my compulsive behavior. The more I research the web, the more I'm sincerely blown away by the creative worlds I want to be a part of, the people I would love to connect and meet with someday, the ideas that blow my mind and make me inspired, and the stories that touch my soul.

I am PROUD to be a "gatherer," and so should you.

my favorite day

IMG_4078Today ended up being amazing. Another day where my 17-month old stayed home - yesterday was sick with some kind of stomach flu so we definitely took it easy. Today he felt way better but still stayed home to make sure. It ended up being a 77 degree, super squeaky sunny day, blue, cloudless sky. The first real warm sun of spring hinting of summer finally. I took Grant to our favorite park, Queeny, to walk the afternoon away. No schedule. No time commitments. No rush. All the time in the world. Grant immediately fell right asleep to the rhythm of the stroller and the birds chirping. Yummy quiet and solitude. I haven't felt this happy in months. My mind emptied and I finally am feeling the beginnings of a renewal, thawing my heart as well.

The past couple months have been a rollercoaster--a lot of hurt and pain caused by people closest to us. Closed doors have become a regular occurrence. And just in the prime of life where you feel kind of stagnant, the kind of questions unearthing major disturbances in your very core of the big why's - Why is this happening? Why now? What am I missing? Why the hurt? the confusion? How could I have seen this coming? (you never can of course). And how can those that you love hurt you and be so self-centered? (because we are all yearning for our happiness).

IMG_4079Today was bliss. Pure bliss. No work, no customers calling, no "must's," "should's" and "have to do's." No work fires to put out. No stress. No nothing but the luxury of the immediate moment, being grateful for the here and now. No worries but enjoying every precious moment with my little one in the bright sunshine.

I really, really needed this day. Definitely nostalgic in that I wish every day could be this laid back. Of course the response to this is that there's no way you'd appreciate it if every day was like this. But . . . you wonder, wouldn't I?

It truly is a walking meditation. All these ideas flood through me, the renewed inspired thought pours out, trickling, then streaming, then flooding me. But I am not overwhelmed yet with pure adulation for life again. That has slowly seeped out of me these past several months. I find it every day with my son, that has been my life-line. But I realize I have lost that special soul connection to life itself these past months. Lost a little faith in the Universe. Doubtful of Divine Love. These events lately hasn't left me destitute or devastated, but slowly emerging from a new awakening that either I slide into a depressive state, or grasp at these days to find renewal. Slowly re-evaluating my faith in Love, the Universe, and its abundance.

Today I can believe. And I thank the Universe for this precious day. IMG_4080

feelings on time

IMG_2548Everytime I watch one of my favorite British tv series (Larkrise to Candleford is definitely one of my most favorite--I've literally watched the entire series at least 33 times or more!), I am overwhelmed with nostalgia. Living among a small community before the turn of the 20th century, yes life was much slower obviously then today (understatement). Yes, it's a tv show where there is conflict but it resolves. And life could have been harsh among the poorer folks who live in the tiny hamlet of Larkrise compared to the bustling little town of Candleford. But I find myself so torn. Where have those days gone when I was little and I could literally remember when I had nothing, absolutely nothing to do . . . and I got BORED. Remember that word? BORED. Amazing. Yes, I will tell my son someday that I grew up without digital phones, the internet, and special effects. I "remember" when all this phenomenal technology literally changed our lives. I lived through the dot com and where people actually would ask what is "www?" or email? What is that! And I remember when in 2003 Apple came out with the "mini" with black and white screens at first (I still have my original mini!) and all it did was play a list of songs . . . digitally!

It's so sad actually. My kid will not grow up so bored out of his mind that he has to figure out how to entertain himself. I remember days when I would be so bored I would literally just sit outside or stare out the window. I loved storms in the middle of the night and would wake up so excited when a wicked storm would thunder through our neighborhood like a train and watch the thrashing of the trees, bending to the will of powerful invisible wind whistling and rattling my window panes. It gave me a thrill to my bones to witness when I was little.

I would also skip an invitation to the movies to just lay in the middle of our living room when no one but myself was at home. And play my parents massive stereo (cause in the 90's we had massive speakers not small tiny things that hardly weight a pound!) full blast with my favorite classical/choral music, Henry V soundtrack by Patrick Doyle. Man did I love those powerful songs. If I ever felt low or depressed I would lay on the carpet floor and close my eyes and listen intently and also sing along when I felt like it! Then I would cry and cry, the emotions overwhelming me until I finally fell asleep exhausted.

I miss that time, literally. Time would pass slowly, patiently. Never frenzied and hectic. I truly did live in the moment. And I miss that so terribly it actually hurts in my gut. I hate how this past winter has was so hectic I hardly could breathe I felt the weird push and pull between the monotony of everyday life but how rapidly weeks would go by and I felt completely rushed all the time. . . "BEHIND" never catching up! Never!

Candleford is another favorite series of mine with Judi Dench and there would be scenes of letter-writing or reading for hours by candlelight. The time it took to make decisions was respected. Now yes, there were characters who loved each other for decades and finally made a "decision" to get married after years and years wasted. It was too much time. But the depiction of sitting with decisions, letting it percolate, meditate on the right and wrong and each time really trying to make the best decision (whatever that may be) was what the day was made of! An entire DAY or more perhaps, spent on making up one's mind about a particular issue or relationship problem, etc.

And that's definitely what I've felt this past Mercury Retrograde which was such a dousy for me. I felt major decisions taken out of my hands and made "overnight" has been one of the most frustrating processes of me to just sit back, sigh, let out all my immediate emotions over the matter, but settle into making the decision for myself. Time is such a weird mechanism in our lives - ESP our Western lives. We are slaves to the clock. Slaves. Envy those unique souls that can escape it.

And that's only one reason why I love my British tv series! I guess it's always good to be reminded of what was seemingly lost, to realize in that moment, you have always had it. Perhaps I should relish in my time spent even writing this post. Reflection is precious.

spring is here finally!

IMG_3724Today was exactly what I needed. The second day in a row here in St. Louis above 60 degrees. After a stretch of bitter cold for the past 5-6 weeks, obviously this is such a relief to know that spring is probably here - if not right around the corner. I was able to at least write in my journal for 15 minutes this afternoon and finally took my son on a walk at the local park. It's definiately not "beautiful" yet -- everything is still very brown with no promise of the new green peeking through the forests. The ponds still have ice frozen on them and the ground is extremely muddy and gray. BUt it didn't matter at all. Those few moments of reflection, space to think and try to gain a sense of centerness and newness. Spring . . . there's a reason why so many artists and musicians have been so inspired by this special season. New beginnings. Damn. New beginnings doesn't always bring this sweet, beauty of promise. Sometimes new beginnings are raw, gritty, vulnerable and scary.

Following a new year, it always feels like there is such optimistic, so much promise and expectation that this will be the best year of your life. I felt I needed that space to stop and reflect and I did. I realized, quite pessimistically, that last year was not great. Set aside the greatest achievement of my life (which is no small thing whatsoever!), the birth of my son and taking care of him in those precious first months of his life, everything else in my life was full of frustration, hurt and disappointment. I honestly felt realigning my thinking would help position me to embrace this coming year as "different."

Boy was I about to be rocked to my core just days after I thought I had hit some ground! In a matter of 2 weeks, my business aspirations, with one of my good friends that we had been "working on" for over 2 years, completely unraveled before my eyes. And I felt completely out of control the entire time--like I was on some roller-coaster and couldn't get off. My emotions overwhelmed me. It wasn't my decision - nothing had been my decision, I felt it was all her decision and her family's. It was extremely bewildering and I still am working through feeling hurt. But in this process--because it is a process--I am facing some core beliefs and weaknesses about myself that I have either ignored, or been in denial or perhaps did not see. And I am seeing myself face to face.

New beginnings. It sometimes is not pretty at all. Especially when you feel yourself most vulnerable. My husband, we have been together since we were 16 and we are facing another "new beginning" moment in our lives as well. Long talks and discussions between us over weeks and weeks, have peeled back many layers, revealing some truths but mostly shaking questions: are we still supposed to grow together? Is there enough love between us to get past these seemingly great obstacles to see what's more important about our lives? Or is there not? Do we feel like we missed out? Made the right choices? We are so different in our interests, can we grow older together and feel like we are still a part of each other's lives? Are we just together because we now have a son? Did we both "settle?"

Questions, questions, questions. I don't have answers at all right now. And that's ok. Right now, I just have these precious moments with my son to enjoy and a day like this - perhaps not a "perfect" day yet by any means--the breezes are still cool, the sun not warm enough, the scenery not pretty enough, still very much wintery. But the promise is there. I hold to that promise. And hope that I have the courage to become who I very much want to be.

new beginning

IMG_0018_2I hardly have any words to say what has happened over the past few days. (The aftermath of one hell of a Mercury Retrograde!!!). Your'e on a path, or you think you are on a path—you dream big, even huge sometimes and in your mind you can go to places you never dreamed of. But the reality is hard. You wait, wait, wait, wait and more waiting. You become bogged down by inertia, self-doubt and uber frustration. And you can stuff as many “positivisms” in your head to get you up out of the frustration but it pulls you back down in the muck—like black tar you can’t get rid of. And then after it all seems to be possibly put back in place and you have a high of “this is happening! this could happen! this could really be real - it feels great,”—suddenly there’s the last straw that broke the camel’s back and it completely crumbles, falls apart and unravels before your very eyes. And you think, “what the hell happened?" Over the past two years, one of my closest friends and I were trying to build a company together online. It was to be the foundation of a great partnership and it had a lot of high hopes. We envisioned big, then bigger, then even bigger until it became too scary. And it doesn’t wasn’t meant to be—at least right now in this form. And circumstances changed.

There are no hard feelings so to speak after this aftermath but we definitely both feel like we’ve gone through the ringer. I told my husband through tears of disbelief it’s like breaking up in a relationship! You plan and plan and plan your future together . . . and then one day without warning, one of the partner’s says this isn’t working and I’m done!

BUT. In the wake of a seeming crappy situation, the core ideas we shared are still gold. And if I can brush off the appearance of mud and wipe off and examine what I already know I have inside myself, I can see that this is just a realignment. The core ideas of our business was always to find a way to support a creative community and BE CREATIVE OURSELVES.

And after so much waiting and waiting and waiting on things to happen and get going, what has been crystal clear to me is that you can’t wait on anyone — YOU have to put your head down and DO THE WORK. YOURSELF. Rely on no one else but YOU. And if YOU have a passion, if YOU have a vision, if YOU have a feeling that you have a gift to give, then YOU have to DO IT. Step by step by step.

It seems SO freakin obvious. But you never learn until you go through it. I’m sick of waiting. I’m sick of waiting on other people who haven’t delivered and said they would and they never did. I’m scared to go out on my own. I loved the partnership and support. But this is awful wasting away thinking that you’ve done nothing and you feel like you have so much potential.

We both have learned a great deal — and most of it is what not to do, which is still extremely valuable. But now, with as little risk as possible, I start my own future one step at a time.

I’m a painter. I know I’m a painter, and I’m good at it. But I haven’t painted in almost 2 years since my son was born and efforts to start this business took priority. SO this blog post if of course for myself —get back in that studio and PAINT!! Find the time and paint! Even if it’s just 30 minutes at a time. And do the work. The work will pay off. The work will show promise and find opportunities. But it has to be the work otherwise you have nothing but ideas and dreams.

A new beginning.