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.

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!

If ("when!") I have a budget for magazines

I LOVE LOVE LOVE magazines. I always have been, always will be I expect. It's one of the trait's left to me by my dad since he loved magazines and collected subscriptions. If (or *when!) I have the extra money to buy as many subscriptions as I want, I would love to put the following on my list:


Not particularly sexy cover this issue but this is a rather new magazine published (I believe in NYC) in the last couple years that focuses exclusively on contemporary painting. But of course it's extremely hip and cutting edge, not just focuses on painting but the context of painting within the contemporary art world as well. Which means that the articles and interviews can have a wider interpretation of "painting" across media (which is definitely the trend in the art world today). For decades, and I mean DECADES the discourse around painting is that "painting is DEAD!" especially ever since Greenberg and Pollock exploded onto the abstract stage in the 50's. But this magazine is proof that painting is not dead, it is ever-evolving, challenging and being challenged as it's own media.

So always good to be within context of the times! (And I get overwhelmed with ArtForum which is the "Bible" of contemporary art so I had stopped my subscription after a while. It's just too much extra theory and discourse for me personally!)



The Elephant is such a beautifully constructed magazine that offers up more like a "Bible" too of what's happening in the contemporary art world but also visual culture as well. It's published in London so you definitely get a broader and richer vibe from the European front. There are excellent Studio Visit articles and themes that are current within the art/culture community. Lots of writing but also lots of beautiful artwork. Again not the most flattering of covers this issue (most of Elephant covers are so bright you can't miss them!). but pretty expensive subscription as well.



Flow is such a unique magazine it functions more like a "project-book" then a real magazine format but it's super duper creative and craftsy. It's also a Dutch magazine so again it's cool to get different perspectives about design outside the US. The focus is exploring "small happiness, daily life and the beauty of not always managing to be perfect." The publishers have a love of paper, which is clearly evident since a lot of the pages are printed on different types of paper. Love of illustration, design and also part of the "slow-revolution," exploring themes of "creativity, positive psychology, mindfulness and beauty of imperfection." It's definitely a magazine that is more like a book, requiring you to slow down, look carefully through all the pages and contemplate the design and words. This issue especially I actually might buy because it's sole focus in on mindfulness (which is EVERYWHERE these days isn't it?!).



I absolutely adore this magazine and for a while did continuously buy copies of it and still have all of them in my archival library. It is an extremely sophisticated, beautifully designed magazines that focuses on the textile industry and all thigns related to textiles in the industry. There are cool articles on historical details of lace for example, latest textile designers, fashion and even focus on fiber/textile artist in the art world. It basically has nothing to do with my work EXCEPT I can justify that some of it has pattern which I'm interested in of course. So that is why I justified purchasing copies but in general, I appreciate the look, feel, design and photographs of this gorgeous magazine. I wish I had the money!

IMG_5928 IMG_5927


Since my aesthetic has consistently been drawn to the whatever country style the UK is publishing, I absolutely adore these 2 magazines. I enjoy them for their interior highlights but also because the articles are everything to do with English country life. I am obsessed with England and wish that some day I could buy a small cottage in the middle of Derbyshire or by the sea in like Cornwall (see Poldark recently?!!). I get these magazines to get inspired but also to dream.



Brand new magazine (as of last year or the year before) but absolutely stunning design layout and photography. Same thing as #5 in that totally inspired by British country life. All of the articles are also about the slow revolution - slowing down with reading, with being inspired by nature, by food, by traveling, etc. Not much in the design arena but still would love to catch one of these issues just because and read before a fire with hot tea.



Beautifully printed, this magazine has been out for some time, again another one devoted to the "slow life." Design-wise it's the most sleek, elegant, sophisticated design that evokes to me, more of a book than a magazine layout. I would def want this magazine if I had the money. The articles are also very thoughtful with themes for each magazine.


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.

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.

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.