Stepping Away

It has been two months since I last wrote on these pages. I considered labeling this post as “Running Out Of Words”, but the truth is I haven’t. I think maybe I was too sad to share, or that what I felt was far too personal. As I mentioned in a previous blog this was never intended to be such a personal and revealing account of my life. I began it in a search for self fulfillment, a way of forcing myself to tend to my own needs after a lifetime of being everything for everyone else. It has also had unintended consequences, one of those being that some people who read what I write think they know me. Yes, there have been very deep heartfelt thoughts on these pages, and a very personal glimpse into my life, but there is much more to me than what you might read and assume. I also discovered that there are two people “looking” for me on a website that reveals people who are searching for you. I have no way of knowing if it is as I suspect a sales pitch to get me to purchase “Protection”, or if someone has garnered enough information from the web to decide to look further. Either way it creeps me out. One of the names is of a woman, the other a man. I looked them up. The male exists, has a Facebook page, and I have no idea who he is or why he would look me up. Like I said, creepy. The female lives in Florida, and until recently I knew no one living there. That one is unnerving for me, especially in these days of identity theft.

As for my sadness, four months have passed since my Dad passed. There is still an aching hole that will take some time to heal. I think I realize that it never will, because it’s right next to the one that has been there for eight years, the one created by losing my Mom. That post would be titled, “Running Out Of Words”, because sometimes it hurts too much to be crafted into a coherent sentence.

People say, “Life moves on.” and it does. I’m going to be a grandmother. The immense joy that the news brought to my heart is again difficult to put into words. I will of course unfortunately have to be a grandma from the other side of the country, but these days of social media make that a much easier pill to swallow, and I can guarantee that my daughter and son in law will get to know the postman very personally.

Finally there is this, the much promised return to what this was all meant to be about…art. Our dear friends and former Chicago neighbors are themselves relatively new grandparents. Their new joy lives even further than mine, he resides in New Zealand. Our daughters grew up together, and will now be moms within a year of each other. Life does move on. While looking at Facebook I came across a photo on Nicole’s page that stirred something in me that hasn’t been there in some time. It is a photo of her baby and his father. The baby is beyond adorable, the word (as weird as it is) that comes to my mind is “scrumptious”. He is so damn cute I could eat him up, but it was John, and the look of love and tenderness that really spoke to me. I’ve never met John, but that photo speaks volumes, and it gave me something I needed, a reason to paint. Congratulations to Nicole and to John, and thank you for giving me the inspiration I so desperately needed. (It will FINALLY make its way to you. Promised weeks ago, but I found myself hearing the call of “not good enough” yet again. Having to remind myself that it’s not meant to be a Xerox copy, but a piece of art. I’m sending it today in order to shut off the voice in my head before I ruin it!)

In full disclosure I need the art police here to demand that I put down the brush. I’ve retouched this painting six times since I started photographing it…sick, just sick…

So, a return to art, and a return to writing. The first hurdle is behind me. I know it won’t be the only one, but it feels good to begin again. My life moving on.

for nicky


OK, I admit it. I took the photo of the painting no less than a dozen times. Why? Because I started finding fault with it and “fixing” it. Memo to the voice in my head…SHUT UP! Oh no, I hearing it again….I need to fill in John’s beard a little, fix the baby’s hairline, darken the ear on one side, ….help!

Two Of A Kind

Last night I promised the “Natalie” nickname story, but before I get into that I wanted to explain my choice of title and subject for this evening. Two of a kind. As I  explained the other day, as a child I looked just like my dad. Neither of my two children look exactly like me. My son resembles Dan’s family much more than he does mine, although my Dad claims that Brian looks like him. (Of course, because he is handsome. See Natalie story at the bottom of the page, it will explain everything) Brian has my teeth, famously known around here as “Osmond” teeth, they’re big, Osmond big. When I was younger I could do a mean Marie. She and I are only days apart in age, although my face still looks like me. (Just saying..) Jessica is a real mixture of her Dad and I. When she was younger she resembled him more, now I see a lot of myself. I bring this up because the piece I painted tonight is from a photo Jessica took in Ireland. In 2009 my Dad wanted to take all four of his daughters, their husbands, and the eight grandchildren to Ireland.  I didn’t go. Love my family dearly, but me on a bus with my family for ten days would not have been pretty. Fortunately my lovely husband and I were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.  Oh, so sorry, can’t go to Ireland because I’m going to Paris. (Have I mentioned how much I love my husband?)  I had also been to Ireland twice before, and had dreamed of going to Paris my entire life. No question about which trip I was taking. So, while my children were in Ireland with my family, (Ha ha) I was in France with the love of my life. This is where the two of a kind part comes in. I took more than two thousand pictures in France, Jessica wasn’t too far behind in Ireland. Two different countries, two different photographers, the pictures? Interchangeable. We take the same shots the same way. Same angles, same detail shots, same composition. The only difference is that she occasionally allows humans into hers, mine are landscape only. (I even photo-shopped an unfortunate tourist out of one of my pictures, sorry. She really shouldn’t have been wearing those sweat pants.  And, because no one told everyone to get off Monet’s bridge over the water lilies in Giverny….gone, sorry once again)  Jessica is also very artistic, a graphic designer by trade. Beautiful work and I’m not even biased.

When Brian was small he began to paint, he was three. He would watch Wile e Coyote and the Roadrunner and then paint desert scenes. I was thrilled. Then he grew a little and realized we might have something in common (God forbid!) so he quit. I think he spent years denying he actually had a mother. One of the nicest things that has happened with this project is that my son now wants me to teach him how to paint. I’ve waited nearly twenty years to hear that lovely request.  I might also add he has a good eye for photography as well. I’m a proud mother OK?

The “Natalie” story. Here it is… my Dad, as I have stated previously is quite a character. He is also quite narcissistic. He is a good-looking man, even now at eighty he still looks good, and since he sounds like he just got off the boat, (he got off in 1956) his brogue is quite attractive to the ladies. Since I looked like him as a child he gave me the nickname Natalie. No it isn’t my middle name, that is Frances. (I’m named for Jackie Kennedy, middle initial F., last initial A. Get it? J.F.A….J.F.K.? We’re Irish Catholic need I say more?) Natalie is for the beautiful Natalie Wood. Why? Because I looked like my Dad and if he were a woman he would look like Natalie Wood. Really. I wouldn’t lie to you. Slightly twisted, but you have to admit entertaining. By the way, my artistic talent isn’t mine, its his. He told me so. It’s kind of like osmosis, his thoughts, his ideas, my hands, I kid you not.

So in honor of my slightly strange Dad, and because I love him, a little watercolor of his favorite place on Earth, Ireland. Photo by Jessica, painting by Jackie (alias Mom)

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Putting Life In Perspective

I finished my project for today in the late afternoon. I hadn’t taken the time to post either the drawing, nor the accompanying text until now. Just yesterday I had spoken to Dan about the tone of this blog. I feared it was becoming a little “woe is me”, and quite frankly I have no tolerance for whining. I told him I was planning to expand a little on my personal history, and despite my complaints here of feeling as though my artistic gifts were sorely under appreciated (because it’s true),  all of my history and the people in it, make me who I am. That was the plan, and it seems that with this blog the plans I make the day before are rarely the things that happen.

This morning the line of a poem came to my mind. I haven’t said so here before, but I also like to write, and have done so for years. New plan! I was going to take the line, which by mid-morning had become several lines, and write it all down, and then my intention was to in some way illustrate either by paint or pencil the thoughts I was having. I even had some idea of what it should look like in my head, but then I came downstairs and looked at a drawing that I began yesterday. It is of the niece of one of the dearest friends I have ever had. She is four, and in her short history, (which I will not share) she has had much loss and sadness. I put aside the brilliant epiphany of my poem and began to  finish her portrait.  As I sat here this afternoon working, the news of the tornado in Oklahoma appeared in the news feed on Dan’s phone. We turned on the television in time to see the devastated school. In the course of less than a single day the some of what I feel, the self-pity, the feeling of being inadequate, the chip on my shoulder, seem petty.  Sure, I’m entitled to my own human struggles, everyone is. No ones pain is any less than that of another, because pain, its causes, and its individual effects are just that, individual. But when I look at the face of this beautiful child, her history, her future, and the futures that so many children won’t have, I see my struggles in a different perspective. It doesn’t mean I won’t continue to look at the whys and hows of who I am. It just means that maybe I won’t be so hard on myself. That I will continue to grow as an artist, and in the process become a better, and more whole human being.

A little note about my materials. I worked in a grocery store for more years than I care to think of. It was then that I began to draw on the blank side of the bags. I love the look of chalk on brown paper.

So here is Emily, in pastel chalk and pencil.IMG_9710