Thursday, January 20, 2011

About my sister

Just when all of the new things were due to begin, I got the sad news that my sister, Heather, passed away. She was just 43 years old.

My sisters and I are all spread out: I am here in Colorado, my youngest sister Becky is in Saskatchewan, my middle sister Sandy is in Quebec, and Heather was in our hometown in Ontario. Life circumstances and geography kept us from spending a lot of time together as adults, but we were the four musketeers when we were little.

I was fortunate to be able to travel to her service, and more fortunate that my thoughtful husband was able to come with me. Becky and her husband were able to come too, and we descended on Sandy and her family- though she took it all in stride like she has a houseful every day.

It was the first time I have been back in Canada since I moved here. I still didn't feel ready to go, I didn't want to have to think about the past life that I left behind. And I wish more than anything that I had been making the trip to see Heather while she was still with us.

Heather was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, and through her whole life dealt with a myriad of impediments and health issues as a result. She had excellent doctors at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, and other than a few operations in her childhood, was able to live a pretty normal life until her mid-twenties. Adulthood brought out a host of new physical challenges and seemingly random illnesses.

She married as a young adult and had a wonderful little boy, Dan, who was her pride and joy. That marriage didn't work out as she had hoped and she later married another man who loved her dearly and was a good helpmate to her. They were still married at the time of her death.

Her son Dan, is now a strapping 20 year old man, and a proud member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. It was such a relief to us, his aunts, to know that he is not only in charge of his life, but is happy.

We were just in Ottawa for two days (the other two days were traveling back and forth), and it was busy so I, like many of us when trying to manage our way through a difficult situation, focused on the things that had to be done and the people we had to see, etc. I didn't let myself think too much about what we had lost.

But now I am back at home and normal life resumes. Only it resumes with a little piece missing and that hurts.

I decided to go through my measly pile of old photos (I used to have a lot more, long story) and scan what I have to share with my sisters. I wish I had done it sooner so I could be making Heather a copy too. Years ago I did make her a little scrapbook with photos of the four of us sisters, and her husband told me at her funeral that it was one of her most prized possessions. I don't even remember what photos I used in it- and who knows, if I was making her one of these now, she might be laughing her head off at me for getting old and forgetting that I had already given her those photos... lol

Heather loved to laugh and always had a smile for those she cared about, no matter what she was struggling with at the time. She loved to visit with family, and she loved to sing.

She and I were less than a year apart in age and so only a grade apart. We both sang in the school choir (she was a soprano and I was an alto) and we would come home and teach the younger two sisters the songs and we would sing in harmony. We must have been pretty good, at least for our ages, because my father used to have us sing for visiting family members. Heather is the only one who kept singing in her adult life, she was an enthusiastic member of her church choir.

When she was able to, Heather volunteered her time knitting and crocheting for the homeless, and baked anytime someone in her church lost a loved one. Maybe that is how she managed to stay cheerful despite her disabilities, staying focused on others when she could.

It makes me really sad to see her smiling face in a high school photo and to know I won't see her smile in person again. But I will remember her smiling, and I will be thankful that we had her for the time we did. I will be grateful that she is no longer in pain or struggling with physical constraints.

I will remember her joy in some of my work and be comforted knowing she is now looking over us all.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My New Year starts NOW!

I am very excited to be taking part in a couple of things this year: The Sketchbook Challenge and Brave Girls Soul Restoration.

The Brave Girls course starts on Monday, so I will be back with that as soon as I know more. In the meantime, if you are interested, click on the button to the right, and it will bring you to the site.

The reason the Sketchbook Challenge interests me is because I have been sort of keeping a sketchbook over the past year, starting with my Suzi Blu classes and I love it. This challenge is free, it just started and runs all year. Why not join me? Click on the button on the right for more information

I know that practicing a skill makes it a habit and it also teaches. There is so much I want to learn! I want to try a bunch of different mediums and see what speaks to me the loudest. I want to force myself to experiment without worrying what others will think of my work. I want to live my life as an artist, to see, to think, to DO things mindfully.

For Christmas I received a bunch of new supplies and have only just now opened them up to have a look since my kids were here from January 2nd to the 6th.

My husband got me some vine charcoal in my stocking because I have been very excited to try sketching with it. My daughters got me some oil pastels and watercolors and some sketchbooks.

Our January sketchbook challenge is Highly Prized, and I made a written collage page, listing a bunch of things that I value in my life- that one is not complete yet, I will show it soon.

But for some reason yesterday I felt compelled to use my charcoal and this is what I did. It took a short time, I didn't think- I just did. And I am pretty pleased with my first effort!

Highly prized: Me. Because my husband takes time to tell me every day how important I am to him, and also because I am learning that I need to value myself too, in order to be my best self.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas Art!

So even though we are a whole week into January, I guess I won't really feel like it's the new year until this coming Monday because our holidays were so extended this year.

My eldest daughter and son live in Ottawa, ON, and I just get to see them a couple of times a year. They both currently work in retail and weren't able to come here right on Christmas. They arrived on January 2nd and left yesterday. It was a whirlwind of activity while they were here, as always, but a lot of fun and way too short.

I had asked my kids to make me something for Christmas and the older ones did. They are both self-taught in all of their artistic endeavours, which I find pretty impressive. I would never have had the confidence to even try things without instruction.

Holly likes to draw and paint and made me this to hang in my studio:

I am not even sure what mediums she incorporated, I must remember to ask her next time we chat on the phone. If you click on any of the images, you can see them larger. 

The warrior woman with the antler helmet has a lot going on in it, I love it. The bottom part is a sketch of Holly's hands and a quote from a favourite song of hers. It's a beautiful piece of work! Now to find the perfect place for it in my studio.

My son likes to draw too, but he prefers to write. He writes stories, short novels, he journals, and he writes music (both lyrics and the actual music to be played). His gift to me was a book with the lyrics from a CD he is writing. It isn't finished, it is still a work in progress. It is fun for him and therapeutic too, I bet. Here is a photo of the outside of the book:

And the art he drew on the inside of the cover:

I love that Ben has set himself a goal of this sort and love that he wants to share it with me.

Holly asked for a set of sketching pencils in her stocking, and we got Ben back on the road to creating music.

Chloe received a set of knitting looms and also an origami book/paper so she kept her hands busy all through the vacation. She also made all of her siblings tiny scrapbooks for Christmas.

Heidi least likes to work with her hands- but I think it is a time thing for her, because she certainly seems to enjoy making things once she gets going. She decorated a cigar box for Holly as a Christmas gift and did a really great job, Holly loved it!

I don't know if the girls took photos of their projects before giving them away, but if not, I will ask their siblings to take photos for me.

Today is a quiet, creative day- Holly and Ben are safely back home in Canada, Heidi and Chloe are at school, and I am surrounded by my sketching supplies and am going to spend the afternoon having fun!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

More fun coming right up!

Happy New Year to all of my friends out there in Blogland! I hope you all know how much you all mean to me- how much I look forward to "talking" to you, to being inspired by your work, to having little glimpses into your creative process. I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

My friend Diane, over at My Art Journal, did a post about her blog book- what a wonderful gift from her children! Thank you for sharing that, Diane- I am looking to tie up loose ends and print my various blogs too- though they will all have to end at the beginning of January since we are not done celebrating yet! Here's the web site:

We had our first Christmas on Christmas Day- me, my hubby, my two daughters who live with us, and my two stepsons who live on their own. We had a lovely, albeit very quiet few days.

New Year's Eve was even quieter, with the older of my daughters (living at home) out at a friend's for a good portion of the evening. None of the kids really get too excited about the holidays or anything else here at home anymore. Sigh.

Today, New Year's Day, we joined the neighbors for a little afternoon tea and it was great. Being relatively new here in the neighborhood, I really enjoy getting to know the people who live around us a little better.

Today I re-met a retired high school English teacher who has offered to take on my girls and their various essays/college applications/writing assignments (She needs to keep in practice YAY!), and her daughter, who is a professional photographer who teaches photography and even has some of her work in the Smithsonian!

I have been cooking most of yesterday and today in preparation for our next round of Christmas! My eldest daughter (21), and my son (20) arrive tomorrow and will stay till Thursday morning. Short, but I intend to make it as sweet as possible! I like to have tasty meals cooked ahead of time so that we can eat well without my being chained to the stove while we have company. Mission accomplished- bring it on!

I for one, plan on making this my best year yet, and my plate is already filled with wonderful things: The Sketchbook Challenge which began today and runs all year (click on the box top right); Brave Girls Soul Restoration which begins January 11th (also click on the box top right), the Yoga Journal 21 Day Challenge (, and a number of things on the back burner that will not stay there for another year because of my fear...

Hope you all enjoy the rest of whatever holidays you have with your loved ones, and are gearing up for a fantastic year!