And a Cozy New Year
This year was a rough one for me–I hit a stumble. I tripped and fell down a bit. I won’t go into a whole list of sob stories, but as a highlight (lowlight?), the two biggest things have been living with a lot of pain because of spinal deterioration from Ankylosing Spondylitis (which really eats away at your morale). Also, I watched my best hairy baby, Adie, get sick and pass away. I was heartbroken.
Christmas was spent surrounded by family and lots of love, but I also felt Adie’s absence. I spread her ashes near the lake where we used to love canoeing together at my parents’ house.
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, my heart hurt. And as silly as it sounds, I asked the Adie in my mind to help us find a new puppy to love. Before she died, I didn’t know if I’d want another. After she died, there were so many sad spots in the house where she used to be, I needed to fill them. And I knew she could steer us in the right direction.
And it worked! We hadn’t really intended to buy a puppy just yet, but we started casually looking for fun with family, and of all the little pups we looked at, a family breeder had one nearby in Oklahoma that was so pretty and supposed to be a cuddler, so we made a little stop there on our way back home to Texas. Turns out, she was JUST what my heart needed….sweet, and so VERY cuddly and kissy.
We named her Winnie, after a sweet Boston terrier named Winston in a Pixar short called “Feast.” She’s pretty scared of my husband, though, and still needs to get the hang of potty-training, but she’s wonderful. She plays with our boxer, Scout, and cuddles with Myla. She gives me so many kisses and cuddles that my skin is super dry (I’m not complaining though! I love puppy-kisses).
Adie will never go away in my heart. It’s so sweet to see similarities and differences. Winnie lays next to me while I draw, snorts like a piglet, and has terrible gas, like Adie used to. And she likes to be by my side, following me around the house all day. But she loves sweaters and doesn’t like blankets wrapped around her. I got myself a super cute Boston bag for Christmas with a face that looks just like Adie’s. (Later, I even added a little heart on her snooter). I love it. It makes me smile.
And it made me realize how I’ve been trying to comfort myself lately with cozy things. Fuzzy blankets. Warm cardigans. Soft pajamas. I even drew this portrait that Myla added to, filling it with cozy things, snuggling up like a hibernating squirrel.
I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions–I think you can make resolutions ANY day. But I’ve decided to be a little nicer, a little more patient, a little gentler with myself, and work my way outwards. As I shared on Instagram, I sometimes get so caught up in checking on others’ well-being, I forget to check in with myself. I want to surround myself with good actions, with gratitude, with good thoughts, with good words.
Be kind to yourself, and have fun. Celebrate little things. Even if (ESPECIALLYif) it’s just something silly like a pair of Chewbacca jammies to match your daughter’s…
Recently, a reader shared a poem by Hallie Bateman with me that pretty much summed it up:
And I love it. The bit about becoming love instead of pain? The part about cherishing yourself as your mother did when she held you as a baby? So much YES. A little kindness–especially to yourself–goes a long way.
So here’s to not only a happy new year, but a happy new day, a happy new moment–right now.
Open Your Books…
As the holidays draw closer, I’ve been trying to get a clean start of things. Get on top again, get my mind sorted out, and move forward with clean, clear steps.
I’ve been loving these little tiny sketchbooks lately. Although Moleskines are my standard faves, these Ranger Dylusions are fun because of their shape, the little pocket inside, and the fact that I can draw on the covers (although the paper inside is meant more for inkwork and stamping, and doesn’t hold up well to much waterwork). I get the 5″x8″ one, and it’s nice to be able to carry it around and have it with me wherever I go. The binding even has a spot to hold my pen!
But what seals a sketchbook for me is being able to draw on the cover. I used to spend countless hours (pre-child) giving meticulous thought and detail to the front cover of a new sketchbook. I overthought it–I had to be sure it was “exactly right,” as if it determined the future success or failure of the work it would soon have inside.
Now that time is more limited and precious, I’ve had fun letting the daughter draw on them with me. I start with a roughly-drawn simple face, and she adds the rest.
Like this dragon gathering…
These cute little girl-gnomes, building robots and taking care of things…
This amazing xenomorph queen (Myla has a great love of xenomorphs and their whole lifecycle, although she’s never seen the movie) with mutant aliens, a chestburster, and facehugger…
And this fantastic little Harry Potter, complete with other little characters from the movies we love so much…
When I’m really pressed for time and anxious to start a new sketchbook, I turn to my collection of stickers I’ve amassed over the years. I LOVE stickers! Friends send them, I have some of our own artwork. I even got a giant grab bag of mixed retro stickers from a seller on Etsy once.
Sometimes I cover the backs, because they make me smile…
Here’s a glance of the insides, with the pocket, and the spot for the pen that is my favorite feature…
And to look at them makes me smile.
I hear from people all the time, such humbling stories about the struggle of finally getting back into art after a long dry spell, especially after having a child. Maybe it’s not drawing, maybe it’s sculpting, or sewing, or music, or dance.
Whatever it is, maybe it’s time to start fresh. Maybe you don’t have to start at the new year–resolutions can happen today. Open a new book and fill the cover with pretty things that invite you in every time you look at it! And if you do, share it with others, because in my experience, sharing helps. Sharing makes people feel connected, even from miles away.
And here’s to the hopes for a wonderful new year–a new, beautiful blank book for each of you to start decorating…
…And a Happy New Year
The end of the year is here, and for our family, that means a little time with family for Christmas. Since the husband’s deployed, I’m going to count myself lucky enough that we at least have some extended family close enough to visit for the holidays.
The end of the year always gets me thinking a little about the year behind me. This was a bit of a bumpy year for our family, but all told–it really could have been SO MUCH WORSE. I really don’t consider myself an eternal optimist (I call myself an “optimistic pessimist”), but whenever I’m low, I try my hardest to look around for the good things, no matter how small, and if you really take the time to look, they’re all around you. The fact that you’re even breathing is just ONE small gift. It helps to stop and get some perspective on that now and then.
Myla and I have done so many projects and drawings and activities this past year, it wonderful to stop & look at it all over. Sometimes, during my day, I actually stop and look around, and take a minute to enjoy the things around me–paintings we’ve done, sculptures done by friends, artwork from others, cards, books, dolls, toys, and little cutout scraps of paper from Myla’s crafts. I’m grateful for all of it.
This next year, I plan to continue creating. Maybe doing more shows (I’ve got my eye on you, Designer Con!). Maybe doing more custom pieces. Who know what the next year will bring?!
I’ve been flipping through pictures of older portraits I’ve done, and I’m inspired again by some past work–especially in these machine-stitched portraits I used to do. Maybe I’ll do more of those, and offer customs….
In any case, I know it sounds goofy, but I truly am grateful for everything. In the darkest times, in the happiest times, I’m grateful for everything I have, everyone I know, everything I can do. I’m glad for the very good friends I have, even if they’re always far away on the map. I’m glad for the support of my husband, even from thousands of miles away. And I’m glad for YOU! For the fact that you’re even reading this!
I don’t like to set resolutions at the new year (to me, resolutions are for whenever you want to make them)…but I’m looking at a goal this next year of trying to figure out how to maybe have these doodles or sculptures or whatever it is that we do, do some good in the world. I’m not quite sure how. I’m still working on that. There are still a lot of changes to make, and I’m ready to see what sorts of transformations this new year will make.
Being a military family, we’re exposed to so much variety–we have such diversity in our lives that we can celebrate so many types of people around us, no matter what their gender, their politics, their lifestyle, because when you break it down, we’re all just people. (Remember that guy in Muppets Take Manhattan? He said,”peoples is peoples.”)
The important thing is that we CAN be different. We CAN show small kindnesses to one another, despite our differences. I want to make sure we share that, and spread it around a little. You might not be able to change the world all at once, but if you can do some good for someone, that kindness is absolutely contagious.
So I’ll leave you with a little drawing Myla did of our family, in a card she sent to her dad. Here’s wishing you all great things for the new year!!!