Monday, January 25, 2016

On Angels, 1.25.2016

If you have been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I'm not a religious person. But I do have my own, very personal, beliefs about life and death. And one of those beliefs is that when a person leaves this world, they leave behind an energy.  Whether that is their actual, physical energy or an energy left behind in the people they affected while they were here, it doesn't really matter. All I know is that it is one of my truths, as I have personally experienced this phenomenon many times, especially over the last few years. So many times, in fact, that I can't just disregard it, blow it off  and call it "coincidence". But, I never really had another explanation or name for it, until now.

Ten days ago,  close members of our family experienced an unimaginable loss- the loss of their perfect, beautiful, newborn baby boy. I never had the chance or privilege of meeting this little boy, but since the news of his death, his family is all I seem to be able to focus on.  Sister had the best words for what I (and, I'm sure, the rest of my family) was feeling when she told me that her "heart was hurting so much for them". Perfect description. Since that day, by focusing on them and the pain they were experiencing, my problems suddenly seemed silly. Suddenly, I wanted to notice more- I didn't want to miss watching my grandsons play while I scrolled through Instagram feed. Suddenly, I didn't want to just text Little Man, I wanted to call him on the phone and actually hear his voice. Suddenly, I didn't want to put things off- I wanted to get them done. Suddenly, I didn't want to complain about anything- waiting in long lines, being on hold for long periods of time, dealing with unruly teenagers at work, etc.- none of it mattered.  I feel like I've had a shift in my brain and a renewed perspective about what really matters in this world.

Now, how could one little boy, whom I never met, have such an affect on me? The only explanation I have is going back to that energy. That little boy left such an energy behind-in and around all of us- that the only word that comes to mind to define it, and him, is "angel".  And I know that if his short life had such an effect on me, his life will have an exponentially more powerful effect on his parents, his brother and sister, his grandparents, etc. for the rest of their lives. So, today, I have a new way to define this energy and a new definition of "angel". His name is Hunter.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My word(s) for 2016, 1.13.16

As an attempt to start this year off on a positive note and hopefully, keep that positivity going strong all year (and beyond!), I've been carefully considering my word for the year. Last year my word was legacy and, at the time, it felt very appropriate. I was looking forward to a significant birthday at the end of 2015 and "legacy" was a great choice to keep me focused on the choices I made and the legacy that those choices will leave behind. And, looking back on it, I followed through with that thought in mind all year long. I definitely had some breakthrough "Ah-ha" moments regarding my art, this space (and Olive and Ash in general) and my role as a mother. I'm not gonna lie, though, it was a tough year. But, there were many lessons learned, so it's all good. I'm very certain that any negative memories will become, and stay, very distant memories.

 Here is a little mini-review of my 2015 (similar to my post last year):

Best conversation: An hour and a half long phone conversation with Eddie in the Home Depot parking lot in June.

Most memorable moment in pop culture: I honestly can't think of anything memorable as far as pop culture goes. What the heck?! most memorable personal moment(s) of the year is watching Eddie watch his wife walking down the aisle at their wedding and three weeks later, at Baby G's first birthday party, when they announced they were expecting a baby (or two!). And that same day, capturing this moment, releasing balloons for Ruben J.

If I had to pick a photo of the year, this would be it.

Biggest lesson learned this year: Forgiveness is mandatory.

Favorite song this year: Beautiful Boy by John Lennon. Obviously not a new song this year, but newly discovered  ;)  

Best piece of advice I got this year: From my mom, "Time to count your blessings".

Day that I would live over and over:  A sweet, simple day, like this one

So, now, my word for 2016. Well, there are two, because I couldn't choose just one. They are:

                                                    Courage and Compassion

I was going to choose 'forgiveness' but that seemed to carry many negative connotations. Courage and compassion are completely necessary for forgiveness, but feel positive. Pretty good words, I think.

And I also decided on a mantra for the year... "Simply begin again"- chosen after another "ah-ha" moment listening, again, to this.

So, expect some writing about 'courage', 'compassion' and 'simply beginning again' in future blog posts, because they have been heavily on my mind lately and, I think, will be the best guiding words for me in 2016.

I'll leave you with some images of what I've been up to lately. Basically, it's all about organizing my house and getting ready for those two new grandbabies who will be here in 3 weeks. What a great way to start the year! Can't wait to meet you, baby girls!

The making frenzy has begun!

Couldn't pass up these adorable little India-inspired dresses and leggings. So cute!

And, inspired by this, I set up a little home office area in our living room, between two windows. It's still a work in progress, but I'm kinda loving it already. Great place to blog!

Perfect spot for my Kelly Rae print...

...and my new tray (I have a thing for trays-love them!)- a Christmas gift from my mom and dad.

And, now, I'm hoping for more of these:

Yes, a few snow days would be great right now. My studio is in dire need of some TLC and I know there are a few pieces of canvas in there that are waiting patiently for some paint and stitches.

Lots to look forward to and I'm hoping you have the same. Have a great week! Juli

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome to the Second Half, 1.1.16

Wow! Just realized I haven't posted since the 7th of December! Lots and lots going on this time of the year, as I'm sure you all know. Our holiday "schedule" seemed especially disorienting this year, as several of our holiday traditions had to be put to the side for various reasons, one of them being an exact repeat of my dad's health scare from earlier this year. But, he is on the mend again, thank goodness.

And, since I last posted, I had a milestone birthday- 50! At one of our many family gatherings, one of M's cousins came up and wished me a happy birthday and then said, "Welcome to the second half!". My immediate thought was "Oh, crap! It's half over." But, on second thought, it was "Oh, wow! I have another half!" (as I fully envision living like this to age 100 :) ) I am so glad for second thoughts!

As the year 2015 ends and 2016 rolls in,  and as I enter my 'second half' ', I have been thinking about what I've come to know as being true along this 50 year road. So, if you're interested, this is what I know:

1) You must take care of yourself. No, it's not selfish. It just makes sense and it must be a priority.  As I'm sure you know, you only have one body and if you don't take care of it, it will eventually crap out on you. For me, as my kids got older and more independent, I began making the time to get healthier. Reading about nutrition, making the time to exercise on a daily basis and knowing when it's time to visit the doctor has changed my life over the past few years. And because of this, this year, especially, has been a good one as far as my health is concerned. And if my health is good, I'm able to be a better mom, grandma, wife , teacher, etc. I just wish I had made it a priority sooner.

2) You must "Let it be". So, good year for my physical health, not so good for my mental health. This year has been a real test for my mental stability and a few times I've felt like I was losing ground. But, recently, with a little help from this and my mom, I had an ah-ha moment. I realized that if I am wallowing in self pity and whining about the unfairness of life, other people in my life are going to be dragged down with me. And you know what? Whining and wallowing doesn't change a thing, anyway. It won't make people nicer, it won't give you the long or even the equal end of the stick, it won't bring about a 'thank you' or an 'I'm sorry' and it won't suddenly turn a situation from crappy to good. You just have to let it be. Sometimes things just have to work themselves out and it may take a while. Let it be. Letting it be is the only way to get past a tough situation, because very often, whatever has happened has nothing to do with you, so it's out of your control. It's a hard lesson. Can you tell I'm still working through this one?  :)

3) You must live your truth.- Don't live your life according to someone else's rules- whether those "rules" are from your spouse, your parents, your kids or your best friend. For me, getting an education is what gave me the tools to make my own rules and live my own truth. The experience forced me to think outside of my own little world and make connections. Getting an education led me to a career that I love. I believe I am here on this earth to be a mother and being a teacher allows me to extend that role beyond my own kids. It is my truth. Getting an education enabled me to form my own opinions about politics and religion- topics I was really confused about for most of my life. My parents never forced their beliefs on me and my siblings and that left us free to form our own opinions, not just follow their lead and their "rules". My opinions on these topics are definitely not popular opinions, but they are my opinions, formed over many years, through many experiences and after much thought. They are my truth. And knowing them can only be likened to standing on a piece of very solid, unshakeable ground. And that comes in handy sometimes!

4) You must practice gratitude. Over the past four months, I have been to three funerals. In two of those cases,  the people who passed away had committed suicide. The most recent was a woman I have known for many years and I would say that our lives were parallel in many ways. It affected me in a huge way, as I know how it feels to go through many of the things that she had gone through. So, I had a rough few days grappling with this in my head.  I mentioned it to my mom and she responds, "Time to count your blessings". Those words are what it took to get me out of the funk I was in , as I realized how right she was. Practicing gratitude, counting your blessings- whatever you want to call it. It's huge. When things seem to be spinning out of control and it seems like nothing is going your way, stop to remember everything good about your life.  Chances are, it will be a pretty long list.

5) You must live in the moment (words from my 20 year old) and look forward, not backward. Looking backward often involves regret and regret can be poisonous. I know first hand about this. Forgiveness in general is important in life. But forgiving yourself is even more important and probably, for most people, much harder to do. Everybody makes mistakes and some of us are harder on ourselves than others. M and I have had many conversations about this.  And I know, now, through many trials and tribulations, that moving on from the past, forgiving yourself and appreciating what is going on right now and looking forward, optimistically, to the future is the only way to have a peaceful mind.

6) You must hold space for the people in your life. This has been a biggie for me since I've had an empty nest. I wrote about it here, last year, and thought I was succeeding in this area, especially where my kids are concerned. But, I found out that everybody has to be given their own unique level of "holding". The space you are holding for one child might not be the same amount of space needed for another child. Lesson learned (from my child whose motto has always been, since the age of two, "I can do it myself!"). I realize now that the "holding space" concept may take some practice, but it will be well worth the effort.

Wow. That's a heavy list. So, to lighten it up a bit, maybe just remember the words from 95 year old Maia, from the link above, " ...simplicity and work and enjoyment" are the keys to a long, happy life. Good advice, don't you think?

So, that's what I know. For now, at this moment, anyway. I'm sure I'll know a lot more after the second half! And, although I know these things now, it still takes a lot of practice to live them each day, so I am in no way claiming to be an expert on any of it. It's just what I know. That's all :)  I'll leave you with some images from the last few weeks. Happy New Year!
The Kristkindl Markt at Blumenhof was the unofficial start of the holiday season for me. I shared a space with MK Designs and Photography and had a great time.

 It's not Christmas until I spend some time with my mom, dad, brother and sister. It's loud, chaotic and crowded, but so much fun you don't even notice. The highlight of Christmas for me this year is my sister's reaction when she opened the Toot-a-Loop radio I gave her, (original- found on e-bay!) just like the one she had when we were kids. Priceless!

Our humble, little tree.

Christmas at home with my kids and grandkids, minus one, who couldn't make it this year :(

Surprise 50th Birthday party given to me by my kids. Loved every minute of it!

Have the very best start to 2016! I'll be back soon with some "making" posts, updates on my Etsy shop and my new word of the year :) In the meantime, I would love to hear from you! What would your "What I know" list look like? Do you have a word of the year? Thanks for reading!  Juli