What It’s Really All About

Merry Christmas to all!

Now that the frantic shopping has ceased (at least for a day), I thought it was time to reflect on what this holiday truly means. I have a very simple story to tell that will say it all…

As you may or may not know, this blog began as a way to force me to focus on my art for a year. I had spent a lifetime putting the needs of everyone in my life ahead of my creative dreams. It worked for a while, but then life thumbed it’s nose at me and the blog became more about my life’s journey. I have however in the process produced a lot of art, and some that I am quite proud of. I hope to return to its original purpose soon. For today I am posting art, it just isn’t mine.

I have never posted the work of another artist on my blog, until today. Last week my dear friend Theresa asked me to pick her daughter up from school. Emily is six. We had a great time together, we made matching poinsettia bracelets out of felt for both Emily and her mom, and with me handling the hot glue gun, and Emily choosing the silk flowers, we created an angel for her bedroom Christmas tree. We weren’t quite finished when Theresa came to get her. As we continued to work on Emily’s angel Theresa and I talked about the holiday. I mentioned that I wasn’t quite in the spirit, missing Jessica, Dan’s long commute keeping his days away from me quite long, and that because we had packed to move I couldn’t find half of my Christmas decorations. Among them my nativity set. Emily left the room and came back bearing a shoebox she had come out of school with. “You can have this.” I opened the shoe box to find a nativity scene she had created in school. I said, “Oh Honey thank you, but I’m sure your Mommy wants this.” Theresa said, “No, she wants you to have it.” I said that I would put it out every year. Emily cleverly pointed out that it was only paper and might not last. I said not to worry. Amongst the many, many art supplies that I own is a small machine to do lamination. This morning I laminated my nativity scene. I will keep it forever and display it with a warm spot in my heart. That lovely gesture from Emily is what Christmas is all about. No UPC code, no brand-name tag, no fancy wrap. A simple white shoe box filled with love from the heart of a six-year-old. You can’t get a better present than that. I bring you my first guest artist, Emily Navis. Have a Happy Holiday.

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Big Changes Ahead

Back from Fairyland. No time to write in the last two weeks, the weeks and weeks of fairy making have left me with a sore shoulder from crouching over, and a house full of sparkle, but I’m not complaining. I made enough money to finance Christmas. I’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half, and gratitude for the little things is on the top of the list. We packed up this house months ago, packing much of the clutter in order to make the house ready to sell. I haven’t seen much of my “stuff” in months, and the truth is that I’m not missing it so much. (Although when we went to our rented storage space to get the Christmas decorations I was admiring many of my own belongings. I told Dan I’d like to shop my own storage locker.) We are learning to live with less, and since we will be downsizing that’s a good thing.

It’s been a rather strange holiday season so far. Our son moved out this year, and our daughter and son-in-law are happily ensconced in New York. I found myself struggling for a little Christmas spirit. Brian has agreed to spend Christmas Eve in the guest room, and I am so very grateful for that. This will be our first Christmas without Jessica. Sometimes it seems strange that she is so far away. With all the means of communication available we talk a lot, text almost daily, Facebook, Skype, I even sent her some old-fashioned snail mail. I still miss her terribly. There’s nothing like seeing the people you love face to face.

One of the faces I miss very much belongs to my Dad. He is eighty-two now. I haven’t seen him since September of 2013. Our finances being what they are, and his health making it hard for him to travel, we have been be unable to see each other. I talk to him every day, actually several times every day. He is my first call every morning as soon as I wake, and I am the last voice he hears every night before he goes to bed, and sometimes many, many calls in-between. He knows that I will answer when I see it is him. He is having a harder time remembering things, and suffers from much confusion. Lately he has been having episodes of paranoia. I think his days of living alone are through. Dan and I decided this weekend to see if we can move him here with us. The timing seems right, we will be looking for a new home once this one sells, so I will now be looking for a home that we can share with him. I’m not sure if we can work out all the details, but I plan on doing my best to make it happen. My mom has been gone for more than seven years, and my sisters have been incredible in caring for him. I have the luxury of having a talent that allows me to work from home. I hope to move him from Chicago to California. No more long cold winters, and for him the security of having one of his “girls” around all the time. It will be a huge change in our lives, but one that I feel a call to do. It is the least I can do.

Like I said, I’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half. Coming close to losing everything makes you really understand what matters in your life. It’s the people that we love, not the things that we own. Just remember that when you open “stuff” this Christmas.

Straight Out Of Dickens

Merry Christmas Eve to all. Quite some time ago I posted about my orphaned paintings, work I started but never finished in fear of being judged. I pledged at the time to rescue some of the orphans and see them through to completion, I did a few, but then I moved on to other things. Today I have rescued an orphan. Consider it to be straight out of Dickens, a rescued orphan. You may also consider it my ghost of Christmas Past. My son is now twenty-three years old. The painting is of him…at eight or nine. It’s obviously been awhile. One could almost hear the cries from my studio, “Please Ma’am, won’t you finish me?” I have made a gift for everyone in my family this holiday season except for Dan. I had something particular in mind for him, but alas time hasn’t allowed me to do what I wanted. This painting was also for Dan. He has been waiting for many, many years to see it finished. Well, Merry Christmas Honey, it’s done. For Christmas Present, I’ll try to knock off something tomorrow, maybe something for myself. Christmas Future? I have been writing about moving ahead with my work. Getting ready to present my stuff to the world. I’ve been writing about it, but I haven’t been doing it. I had a doctor appointment this morning for the mysterious pain in my side. (I’m not dying or anything, graceful girl that I am it seems that in my efforts to stay healthy, when I walk I am not doing it right. I am pulling muscles in my thigh or something…only me. The doctor asked if I stretch before I walk. My reply? “Why would I do anything the right way?”) Back to the future…I began a conversation with a lovely woman who works for the doctor. She likes art, she has a friend who opened a gallery in nearby Escondido. As if it were meant to be.  Just last night when Dan and I walked I spoke of trying to sell my art…do you think maybe someone is trying to tell me something? I need to get there, I need to get somewhere. It’s time, and there’s no time like the present, and wouldn’t be wonderful to think about the future and feel cheery and bright.

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Sun Kissed Trees

They’re here, the snowmen. It took me roughly two hours to arrange them, there are far too many, and it seems like an awful lot of work for the amount of time that they are out, but I do love my snowmen. In particular, as I mentioned last night, things my kids make are always my favorites.  The collection was never meant to get this large. I had intended only to collect vintage snowmen, but you know how it is. People think that you want any snowman and they begin to buy them for you. Then thanks to my Catholic brain, I feel too guilty to not put them out. You never know when someone might fly in from Chicago to make sure that the gift they gave me ten years ago is still on display.

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An embroidery project from Brian in the third grade.

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And a reverse glass painting Jessica did at home with me at about age six.IMG_3219

The entire display. We have an old built-in from Chicago that we bought at a salvage yard and restored. It makes a perfect snowman display case.

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All this Christmas decorating doesn’t give me a lot of extra time for art, but I was in the mood to draw tonight. There have been some particularly beautiful sunrises in the last few days, and I wanted to recreate one. I was looking to do something soft so I decided on pastel chalk. I didn’t want to do a complete landscape. I love the way that the morning sun kisses the tops of the trees. 12 18

Feeling Merry and Bright

Dare I say it? I’m feeling just a little merry, as in Christmas. We went out today to get our tree. It’s really sort of a non event for us. We don’t have little ones who are excited. There is also the fact that as we chose our tree I was taking photos in the garden center at Home Depot to torture my sisters with. (Come to think of it that made it worth the trip.) I knew it was snowing in Chicago and it was eighty-four here. The temperature also affects the way I feel. When you grow up in the Midwest you want a white Christmas. The only snow I see here is on the tops of the mountains which are more than an hour away. I’m not complaining. I’m getting older, and I am getting to the age where every injury I have sustained in my life is tapping me on the shoulder to say, “Ha, forgot about me didn’t you?” I hurt in multitudes of places depending on the day. I can only imagine what some nice icy weather would do to me. I think I miss the idea of a white Christmas more than anything else. Didn’t I say I was merry? Doesn’t sound like it, but I am, really I am.

There is also this, before we moved to California we cut down our own tree. Our home was outside the city and we lived only a few minutes from a tree farm. I have fond memories of going with the kids in the cold picking our tree, coming back to the house and drinking something hot, and decorating the tree. The experience isn’t quite as picturesque at the home improvement store when I’m too warm to wear a jacket, but once the tree is in the house, and the boxes of ornaments come out, I’m in full holiday mode. I am a very sentimental woman, I remember nearly every ornament and when we got it. My favorites of course are the goofy ones that the kids made, and one that my mother in law made. It is in the tradition of the old German ornaments made with cotton and cloth with the exception of a cut out from a photo of Jessica’s face. It was really cute when it was new, but as the years have gone by it has gotten really creepy looking. I make sure to put it front and center. The tree wouldn’t be complete without creepy Baby Jessica.  Every year I am also reminded of an ornament I made a very long time ago. It was in the third grade. When I was a kid there weren’t many of the current safety regulations in place. We created an ornament with a Styrofoam ball, toothpicks, paint, and glitter. I remember mine was orange. We had to stick the toothpicks all around this ball, dunk it in paint, and then again in glitter. It wasn’t an ornament, it was a deadly weapon. Like a giant porcupine ball, or some Medieval instrument of torture. (Possibly a craft idea inspired by the Inquisition?)  I can’t imagine a school these days allowing kids to make anything close to it.  Of course once the ornaments come out, the snowmen come out. I’ve mentioned my dirty little collecting secret before. I haven’t taken them out of the boxes quite yet, they are awaiting my attention in the morning. (Photo tomorrow night)

Tree trimming in our house usually starts with Vince Guaraldi and the music from Charlie Brown Christmas. It sets the tone perfectly. Dan really likes Charlie Brown Christmas so a few years ago I made him a Charlie Brown tree and painted an ornament red for him to hang from it. I also painted a few ornaments for him as a gift.  They will have to suffice as my art project for the day. I spent the morning creating my Dad’s five Irish fairies. (Much thanks to my cousin Lorna in Ireland for giving me the correct spelling of Merry Christmas in Gaelic.) One of the things I truly love about the artistic abilities I have is that when I want to make something special for someone, I have the skill to do so. It makes me very happy…I mean merry.12 17 (3)

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12 17 (2)And finally, a few Irish fairies.

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Rantings Of A Not Quite Hypocondriac

Dear Grocery Store Owners,

I am deathly allergic to those hideous scented pine cones that you insist on placing at the entrances of your establishment. The detergent aisle is bad enough, its like running a gauntlet for me. I have to try to get through the aisle picking up cleaning products while holding my breath. Does it ever occur to you that you may be asphyxiating the general public? Or maybe that’s the plan. Get them coming in the door, hit them with overwhelmingly intoxicating fragrance in order to dull brain cells so that they don’t notice that the mayonnaise jar is six ounces smaller but still costs the same, or that they will think the ever so slightly smaller box of corn flakes is an optical illusion. (I realize that the store owners themselves are not resizing the products, but they do have something to do with pricing) I’m just asking if it is possible to limit the “festive holiday aroma” to one door so I don’t need my inhaler by the time I hit the produce section.

…Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. I am admittedly guilty of ruining my own respiratory system with art materials, however between the pine cones of Christmas and the Star Gazer Lilies of Easter, I can barely walk in the store. Don’t get me started on the guerrilla warfare of the mall kiosks that sell perfume and hand lotion. Random people popping out as I walk by trying to slather me with some scented concoction. This is what Christmas shopping does to me. I get annoyed, and that is never good.

The funny thing is that what got me started tonight was a pleasant memory, so let’s go down that route instead. I’m not feeling great today, actually haven’t been for a couple of weeks. I went to the doctor today to get some test results, and you know because I am Irish that prior to my visit I was getting my affairs in order. You know the usual stuff you think about before you get test results, like how will my family go on without me? Who will remind Dan and Brian that we need milk and toilet paper? And of course my worst fear, how much will my family curse me after I’m gone because I have so much crap that they will have to dispose of? Good news, I’m not dying, yet. No actual answers for some unexplained pain, and I don’t get a follow-up doctor appointment for another two weeks, which will fill my days with thoughts of probable diseases. I’ll bet Dan is overjoyed.Wait, wasn’t I talking about a good memory? Yes, it’s this. I miss my Mom. She died six and a half years ago. I particularly miss her when I don’t feel well. She was an avid reader of the Star and Enquirer and probably could have added to my list of suggested diseases. Actually I think we all pretty much want to talk to our mothers when we don’t feel well. Moms just make things better, at least mine did. When we didn’t feel well my Mom made us tea and toast. A hot cup of tea with milk and a spoonful of sugar with a slice of hot buttered toast. It’s still my go to for a not so great day. It reminds me of her, it comforts me. It isn’t of course a substitute for a little motherly sympathy, but it makes me think of her and that always makes things a little better.

I was lazy today. Too much crafting, too much self-imposed worry, too much intoxicating pine cone. A simple little watercolor. I need to get back in the swing of things.IMG_3128

Twas Two Weeks Before…

Today was my show. The one I worked so hard for, the one I lost sleep over, the one I neglected this project for. I received several texts from friends and family, all asking the same, “How did it go?” It was a bust. Flat out terrible. There simply were no customers, and those that did come, the same people who would pay $15 for twenty cent piece of plastic at the gift store, turned their noses up at my under-priced items. One even tried to bargain me down. Needless to say I had a lot of time to kill. I used it to write this:

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas

I’ve been trapped in my house,

not a surface sans glitter

including my spouse.

There are no stockings

hanging anywhere,

I’ve been too busy crafting

stuck in my chair.

My cats are all merry

stealing fairy heads.

Why play with their toys

when they can chase my supplies instead?

With no shopping done

and nothing to wrap,

what I need for Christmas

is a really long nap.

My show was today

not sure what’s the matter,

I was hoping and praying

for a wallet that’s fatter.

It’s near the end of the day

and still no cash.

I’m still hoping and praying

for a last-minute shopper dash.

I see lots of people

go to and fro,

but no one seems to want to spend any dough.

I’m running low on Holiday cheer,

we haven’t hit bottom yet is my greatest fear.

Maybe I need some kind of magic trick,

or maybe I should have just called in sick.

There truly is no one person to blame.

I’ve done enough of these shows

to know some are lame.

I’m in a funk I don’t want to be in.

I’m trying to smile but don’t know where to begin.

What I really want is to sit down and bawl,

but I know that won’t help anything at all.

I guess there’s no use in asking why?

Why can’t I get someone to buy?

I guess you all know that I’m feeling blue,

but you’d feel the same if you were sitting here too.

My empty wallet is mathematical proof

2013 has thrown me for a loop.

2014 for you I am bound

to search for the luck that needs to be found.

I’m gearing up for the new year, I’m no pussy-foot.

Bad karma behind me where it needs to be put!

I will promote myself where I have a knack,

art that was learned off the beaten track.

I didn’t succeed with all of those fairies!

Despite my prayer of the Hail Mary.

It’s a Catholic thing as you all must know

to ask for a favor in times of woe.

I won’t give in, I won’t retreat,

instead I need to get back up on my feet.

Its time to load up my pickup the Chevy

I was hoping to leave with boxes much less heavy.

You may think that I’m feeling sorry for myself.

I think it might be the same for yourself

if you wanted to get ahead,

but you kept falling backwards instead.

I’m off to etsy to do some work

on my own little personal merc.

There is no one more than me that knows

that selling on-line does more than these shows.

Just a few more words until your dismissal.

New items tomorrow at the nine o’clock whistle.

Sunday shopping for a fairy or sprite

can be just the thing to make your Holiday bright.

Merry Christmas to all,

here’s my etsy site.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/jackiez59?ref=si_shop

From a very worn out and disappointed me, there isn’t anything new for you to see. But in the spirit of not giving up, an older acrylic from my kitchen. The fridge will be up and running tomorrow with new work.

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Silence Is Golden

At the risk of sounding like Scrooge, it’s that time of year when we are all placed on hold and force-fed the torture that is known as Christmas Carols. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like many of the songs that we are all familiar with, I just don’t want to be fed some hideous version of Jingle Bells blasting in my ear as I wait on hold for what seems like an eternity. I know the purpose of the hold music is to give the illusion that someone will be right with us. (Ha! They are never right with us!) Silence might give the impression that we are being ignored. I like silence, particularly instead of those dogs barking out supposed Christmas cheer. It’s like musical baby-sitting. “Must play awful music so baby doesn’t get restless.” I’m a grown up, if I want music while I wait I will play some. Years ago I worked in a grocery store. (The recently deceased Dominick’s of Chicago…R.I.P….Good Luck to all those who will be looking for a new job, you know I feel your pain.) I worked in customer service. We were instructed to say, “Happy Holidays, Dominick’s, ______speaking.” No Merry Christmas, we might offend those who were not of the Christian faith, or who didn’t celebrate. I’m fine with that as well, let’s include everyone, but what about the non believers, or people of other faith waiting on hold? No Happy Hanukkah song? Kwanza? Anything? At the end of my wait time I was left with a holiday gift, an ear worm, you know those lovely songs that get stuck in your head all day? Merry Christmas to me, Ho Ho Ho.

It is now later in the day, several hours later in fact. Dan took Brian and I out to dinner at a Greek restaurant. A Greek restaurant that played Christmas carols. Help me please.

There is also this late-breaking bit of news. The show that I had been working towards, the one I’ve been killing myself to prepare for, is not going to happen. It must be my day for music. This time it’s the old song “It Never Rains In Southern California”. Guess what? It does, and particularly when I have a scheduled outdoor show. That’s right, tomorrow’s predicted forecast is 50 degrees with a ninety percent chance of rain. Somebody somewhere isn’t liking me. The show wasn’t technically cancelled, they are waiting until morning to decide, but it has been less than six months since I had pneumonia. I just can’t risk it. The extended forecast for Temecula is for sun and 67 degrees on the fourteenth. That is when my second show is scheduled. That is the one I’ll be at…if Someone, Somewhere will take pity on me.

Tonight, something for the object of my current obsession, John’s apartment. To begin with I picked up a really cool table and chair a neighbor doesn’t want. That is a redo for next week. For tonight my most popular project on this blog, burnt glue on cardboard. As I mentioned the other day, John is a chef. I took a piece of 11×14 cardboard from the back of a pad of drawing paper, printed out some stencil font, spent a good 45 minutes cutting out the letters, applied, then burnt the glue, and in the end buffed it out with a little pewter acrylic paint. I’m going to frame it out tomorrow when it has had enough time to dry completely. It is the first of several art projects I have in mind.IMG_2758

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Rekindling A Memory

 

I have wonderful memories of Chicago at Christmas, both from my own childhood, as well as my children’s. My favorite activity was always looking at the holiday windows of Marshall Field’s. There were other stores that had displays, but Field’s was always the best. We didn’t go down every year when I was a kid, but we did do it enough that I remember it well. With my own children I made it a yearly event. We would bundle up against the cold Chicago wind, and walk down State Street looking at the windows, hearing the Christmas Carols played overhead. Marvelous mechanical puppets moving on tracks working a little Holiday magic. Afterwards we would take the kids to the seventh floor to the Crystal Palace for ice cream. Yes, ice cream. Despite the cold and the wind, and often times snow, the day wasn’t complete without ice cream. The Crystal Palace was made to look like an old-time ice cream parlor. The hot fudge was delicious. (Recipe anyone?) Unfortunately, as it seems it is the way of the world these days, Marshall Field’s is gone. It is now Macy’s to the great horror of many of us who remember just how special a trip to Marshall Field’s was. The Crystal Palace is gone as well. I haven’t lived in Chicago for a little over ten years. I don’t know whether or not Macy’s has continued the tradition of the windows. I hope so. What led me down memory lane today? My fairies. I know you are probably sick of them about now, but what started out as a fairly simple ornament many, many years ago, has evolved into art for me. I still make the ornaments, but they are much more elaborate than in the beginning. In the last few weeks as I’ve been creating them I have been taking them a step further. I’ve been creating little vignettes. The artist fairy with her branch easel, the teacher with the real tree bark chalkboard, the sewing fairy sitting on her spool of thread with her “toothpick needle”. Today I took it even further. I had two pieces of Manzanita wood branches. It’s a beautiful shrub or small tree, the branches are really interesting, twisted, gnarly, very sculptural. I actually purchased them to use in displaying the fairies a few years ago, but I never used them. I’ve been eying them for a few weeks now. I had an idea that came to fruition today. My “Fairy Playground”, a vignette of fairies at play. The elf riding the bird, the mother and her baby in his seed pod stroller, the white fairy on her swing of flowery vines, and the blue fairy and her elfin pal picking berries. I’m not sure if the pictures will convey just how enchanting it is. When I was finished and sat back to look at my handiwork I was reminded of Marshall Field’s marvelous windows. My elves and fairies don’t move, they aren’t puppets, but there is definitely something magical about them. The backdrop is my work, a painting I created when I was nineteen.  So tonight again, fairies.IMG_2666

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It’s A Woman’s Perogative…

Before I begin, I know I was stressing over not getting to my art because I was doing my other art, but I changed my mind today. I didn’t stop my fairy making today in order to move on to my “fine art” because quite frankly I was having too much fun. There is a lot of tedious process in the making of my ornaments, and that sometimes can weigh on me, but today was great. That is because today I began to get creative. Of course the entire process is creative, but once I really get into making the fairies my imagination starts kick into overdrive. My friend Theresa requested a special order today, something religious…Hello Holy Family (check out the Baby Jesus, he has hair!) Then I began to look at my supplies and think of other ways to play with them. A fairy swinging on a snowy pine cone. A couple of newlywed fairies sharing a moment on a log. A fairy riding on the back of a bird. It’s only the beginning. I have more ideas swimming around in my head than I probably have time for. I’ll be back to my fine art tomorrow since I will be out of the house, therefore sans glue gun. I think I was in a funk and the monotony of what I was doing was getting to me a little, OK a lot. I’m sure in a few days from now, and a few back aches from now, I may feel like whining again, but I won’t. Time to gear up for that “holiday spirit” we are all supposed to have. I’m working on it. There may be a break in Dan’s search for the elusive job. We need lots of prayers and good karma sent our way. It’s been a long few months and I can’t think of a better way to kick off the holiday season than a little good news.

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IMG_2372I’m open to suggestion if anyone has any “fairy” ideas! Feel free to send them my way!

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