Friday, August 1, 2014

It is August!?




This year has flown by! 
My health has been mostly stable, thank The Lord! The mild flares I have dealt with have been an inconvenience from time to time (there was a week or two my vision kept me from driving) but, otherwise, I feel great and my energy is steady. 
 
~I participated in Tioga Winter Art Fair this March. I had a blast! I will be doing it again next March. Amazing art, great people, cool weather- I don't tolerate the heat any more. 
 
~I have painted a great deal, at home and also at every opportunity I have for painting LIVE!- I love painting at events!


 
~I participated in St. John's River Festival of The Arts in May, what a fantastic weekend!!


 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

"Grace & Flowers" is a 30"x40" original commission painted for a client- her beautiful home is absolutely full of incredible artwork. I am so honored that she asked me to create this custom piece.
 
~I enjoy painting LIVE! during Artwalk Gainesville every month I get a chance!
 
 
 

 
 
These are the pieces I remembered to photograph!
 There have been a few I've missed. 
 
~I have work displayed at Gainesville Lighting Gallery, an amazing shop in Thornebrook Village in Gainesville.
 
~I have had my work in Galleria Lyons, a new super fun gallery in St. Augustine for a couple of months now... wild!
 
~I have been accepted to participate in Spectrum Miami in December.
I am still overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation! I am so honored! It's really a dream come true to be part of such a large event- and just to be in Miami during this art-filled week!!!
Now is the nitty gritty of funding this large of an event. I'm doing my part:prayers, affirmations, staying happy!
And painting up a massive inventory! 

~I also have small juried show I will be participating in this month, I will be August's featured artist for Artwalk Gainesville. I've been invited to be the featured artist at a local restaurant, and display work for a month or two...
~I will be attending Gainesville Fine Art Association meetings...
I am loving the local art community!
 
~My Etsy shop is still open for business!
More will be available there soon... go buy something :)
 
I also hope to blog again before another eight months go by! Yikes!!!
 
This has been the condensed version... when I list all of my art goings on in one place, I am really, really grateful for where I am.
I am surprised at how much I am actually doing and saying Yes! to...  Sometimes I feel like I am not doing enough... Dreaming as big as I am, I ought to be pushing harder ... painting more, getting art in more places.
I'm actually doing way more than I remember!
I am also taking more breaths and painting with the boys more regularly... I had gotten busy and out of that habit. Painting together is grounding and inspiring. It will be happening on the regular again.
 
I am blessed and grateful.
Happy August Everyone!
~Jess
 






Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013

2013
  • I started organizing my home studio space! (1.1.13)
  • I began experiencing double vision at the end of January
  • I was unable to drive February 5 - March 13.
  • Mold remediation - we were out of our house from February-May.
  • I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (2.21.13)
  • 3 day hospitalization
  • David got a promotion at work
  • I cut my hair short as it has ever been.
  • I turned 28.
  • I developed a recognizable, cohesive style to my artwork.
  • June I started painting LIVE! at the Artwalk in Downtown Gainesville.
  • David and I went to New Orleans, Louisiana and saw Mumford & Sons live. It was a dream come true... our brakes went out while we were there and required a $700 break job. The trip was worth every penny.
  • I participated in my first art festival.
  • I won Judges Choice Award and a cash prize at my first art festival.
  • I took a road trip. Met an online friend in real life! Five days away from my family- a creative retreat in Nags Head, North Carolina.
  • I pierced my nose.
  • David's mom passed away.
  • My oldest turned 5, my youngest turned 3.
  • David and I both had the flu. 
  • We had the best holiday season ever.
That is an overview.  

I have had a rough week or so. Realizing I am taking MS into 2014 is like revisiting the day I was diagnosed. For the most part I have rolled with the punches, kept my faith and tried to share the good things in my world and my positive outlook.

But today is January 1, 2014.

Here's the thing, I am all of those- positive, optimistic and most of the time filled with hope and excitement.
I am also heartbroken.
I am devastated.
I truly believe MS is a message from my body, feedback on how I've treated it. I believe MS has brought my artwork to a new and exciting level. I know my marriage is stronger because of it. I am honestly grateful for this year and the diagnosis.
But, I am also furious.
I want to break things. I want to scream and wail and tear out my hair.
I maintain my stability with anti-inflammatory supplements, a strict diet and emotional work that demands self awareness and attention.
It. Is. Not. Easy.

The times that it catches me off guard are still painful.
- The moment when I think it is just time for glasses and the eye Dr says your eyes are perfect, what other health problems do you have?
- When I am stressing out over something I'm dealing with and my eyes REFUSE to focus. That really is especially terrifying when I am not at home and I have the kids with me.
- When I forget and put on a heavy sweater... I have to dress in layers...  I've overheated and been scared. Yank off clothes, get enough ice water in me, or not be able to make my eyes work....no pressure. 

Absolutely, it is better than the couple of months I spent like a drunk. David catching me when I stumbled, not being able to drive, muscle cramps, spasms, tremors, numbness, brain fog, bone crushing fatigue, double vision, loss of cognitive function... I could not keep up a normal speed conversation.. couldn't find the right word...
Three days in the hospital feeling brutalized. My veins are good veins. I have never had an issue with finding or maintaining a stable vein. My. Body. Physically recoiled from the steroids. They brought in the phlebotomist instructor, even she had to stick me a FEW times.  I looked like a junky with track marks by the time I got out of the hospital.
I looked down the barrel of what I consider a fate worse than death. For the record- if I'm ever on life support past a reasonable length of time- pull. the. plug. Trust me. I want to be let go.

I've thought a lot about the song "Live Like You're Dying". I have changed the way I live. I'm not afraid of dying with my life unlived. I'm afraid of regrets.
I am terrified of one day being... in a wheel chair, in diapers, with a feeding tube, immobile,... any of those and regretting having not done something while I could have. "live like you are dying" is live it up and experience before this physical life comes to an end.... The question I ask myself at night is "If I wake up tomorrow and can't ... have I done what I could today?"
Have I hugged my kids enough?
Did I hold my husband long enough?
Have I told everyone everything I want to say?

How is it ever enough? That is my greatest fear: My cognitive function out living my bodily functions.

Top heart stoppers of my year:
Dr. "My dad had MS and treated it naturally, he lived to be 80 years old- and NEVER was in a wheelchair!" I choked on my own spit. Forget MS. That statement almost did me in.

Eye Dr. "You are doing really well, both of your eyes are pointing in the same direction."


2013 has been a great year.
I mean all of the positivity.
But. To be a whole person- I have to embrace the negativity too.
I am human.
This past year I have lived more grief and fear than ever before. I have also experienced more love, given more love, and had more joy than I ever remember.
This post is about embracing it all.
My whole self.
The parts I am proud to claim and the ones I'm not.

I'm taking all of me into 2014.
And for better or worse, I'm going to live it with all I've got.

 
Read about 2013 from my mom's vantage point here.
 
 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Gift From The Sea



I asked for a gift from the sea.
The thought of taking home a green chunk of sea glass excited me. So I made this request out loud as I  strolled along the seaside. I was still in my pajamas. I had pulled on my big hooded sweater, sandals, made myself a cuppa and was beach combing before dawn. It was the first morning of Serendipity Retreat. I was full of hope and expectations for the weekend.

 
 
 

It wasn't long before I had collected a pocket full of treasures.
I mused over the fact so many of my treasures were just pieces, shards of something larger that didn't exist any more. I thought about that as I gathered. .. they were beautiful, even if they were only broken bits. I felt like I was a collection of broken bits. Nothingness, that somehow, stacked together, made sense.



My heart skipped a beat, when a flash of yellow-green caught my eye.  Could my wished-for piece of sea glass have shown up so soon?
When I looked closer, I realized it was a lifeless butterfly. My mood sank, as I  knelt down to snap a photo. When I got closer, I realized it wasn't yet dead. It's delicate leg extended and retracted in jerky movements. I was heartsick. Grains of sand on its motionless wings sparkled in the early morning sun. I gently scooped it up and carried it to the water's edge.  The sun no longer felt warm at all, the October breeze was colder than a moment before.

I was teary-eyed, thinking about all the little pieces of us that die along the way, the dreams that never take flight, the hopes that never make it, the whispers of longing that aren't even acknowledged. How different I was from the girl I had been ten years ago. I laid the lovely yellow-green butterfly in the water's edge and watched the waves carry her away.

I was deflated as I headed back to the main house. The sand felt deeper and I curled myself tighter against the encroaching cold. Everything about this trip had fallen together serendipitously, and I had gotten my hopes up. But I was still me. Dinner was delicious however, and the company of beautiful, soulful women lifted my spirits and I soon forgot my butterfly funeral.

The next day, during a beach assignment, I wrote a wish in the sand, at the edge of the tide, and let the waves wash it away. I didn't really put much into it. While some of the exercises in the class moved me, this one felt empty and  left me melancholy. I scratched out my wish and moved away from the group. I wandered far enough that the waves muffled the happy voices behind me. I took a few deep breaths and said hello to the sadness that was a cold weight in my stomach. I embraced it and sank into it.  My eyes were stinging with tears when something caught my attention. It was yellow-green.


I circled around the little dune that sheltered the spot of color.  It was the yellow sulfur. But it couldn't be the same butterfly, could it? My eyes darted around the beach as I wondered if Nags Head was a sacred place for butterflies to come to die. But, no. I had been on the island two days and not seen any other butterflies. This was the same butterfly. I had photos of it from the day before and it was unmistakable.

I had to remind myself to breath. My hands shook as I remembered the things I contemplated and consciously let go of the day before, when I watched as the ocean swept her away... the dreams, the little pieces of my heart, un-jaded innocence, and the belief in magic.

It had all come back. Specifically to me. With stilled wings, she had flown back into my life.   Hope and excitement rippled and bubbled through me as I floated back to the house. I was no longer cold.

As I joined my class, the story spilled out along with tears. There was a collective gasp when I  finally opened my cupped hands and revealed the perfectly intact insect in the most stunning shade of my favorite color- lime green.

I realized, in awe, what an elaborate gift the sea had given me. It was much greater than what I had the courage to ask for. It mirrored my life. What initially looks like heartbreak and devastation is just
a path to pure and certain magic.



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mumford & Sons ... The rest of the story

September 16, 2013. New Orleans, Louisiana.

This is a follow up post ... read the beginning of the story
here.



 
 
It was better than I had imagined. The heat and energy of the crowd was off set just enough by the breeze coming off of the Missisipi river. The sun went down as the opening bands wrapped up.

Then Mumford & Sons took the stage. I was touching elbows with 3-5 people and we were all drenched in sweat. I closed my eyes and felt the bass reverberate through my body. I stood with thousands and sang along with the sound tract of my year. I stopped for a moment and was completely still just feeling, absorbing. The charge of the crowd. The voices, the horns ..oh, the horns! LIVE! I was singing the songs that helped me hold onto the last shred of my sanity and my hope at 4am in a dark and miserably lonely hopital room.

In that moment, with the music flowing through me I remembered how miserable I felt, the steroids, the metalic taste in my mouth, the insomnia, the thirst that couldn't be quenched. My skin crawling. And so much fear. And I remembered how the music saved me. It grieved with me in the horror of all of it all. They sang about sight, vision and hope and it stirred my soul. Their music reached my teriffied heart when nothing else could. The bass. The horns. The banjo. Somehow they played on the different layers of my life. The heartbeat of the drum. The high strung, sometimes frantic banjo, the hope of the horns. The steady strum of guitar. It's like they pulled my entire life together and set it to a melody that I was able to fall into step with.  And keep moving.

 

My mind remembered. My body remembered. I relaxed and let the music shake the fear, grief and terror from my cells and the breeze carried my darkness away.

My face cramped from my ear to ear grin. My gratitude brought me to tears. God is so good. I thanked him for my health. For the GIFT of the concert tickets. For my family. My chidren were at home safe and well taken care of. MY life. THIS life.  I stood in awe of it all. Overwhelming gratitude enveloped me and felt like a promise. All we have is the NOW. In that moment, no matter what the next held, everything was perfect.

I got my t-shirt. :)



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mumford & Sons

The Gentlemen of The Road Tour is making a stop 45 mins from me this weekend.
I found this out the weekend we moved into my Grandmothers house. It was February and we were afraid (and hoping) my debilitating, neurological issues were to blame on the small patch of mold that I cleaned a short time before.
We had no clue what we were looking at. Mold is nothing to be taken lightly. We were afraid to know how extensive the clean up might be. If the little bit of mold I cleaned was responsible for the symptoms I was suffering, I wasn't sure I would ever feel safe moving home again!
I could not justify spending a couple hundred dollars on concert tickets that, to be honest I didn't know if I would be alive to see.

Because, if it wasn't mold... then,  what was it?

My mind of course went to the worst case scenario I could imagine.
My paternal grandmother died of brain cancer.
During this time of not knowing I was begging God constantly to just please, let me see my kids grow up. At least a little more. The helpless, nauseating terror was constant and inescapable. The worst part was watching the effects it had on my family. Seeing them trying hard for me. All of us working to keep the boys lives from being disrupted. I would catch a wave of that familiar terror wash over my moms face. Then there were the lingering hugs from my dad. David held me while I cried. We all were in a surreal existence waiting for our- my- opponent to be named. Waiting was agony. Worse than that, I believed fully in the term "scared to death" not just in the sense frightened suddenly and a heart stopped, but  that cold terror ought to be capable of leaching away the life force and leaving nothing in its wake.
I have never been so relieved as I was when I heard that my doctor wanted to begin treating me for Multiple Sclerosis. There were no tumors. I didn't need brain surgery. It will take me until the end of a VERY long life to say thank you as many times as I have said please.

The relief was extremely short lived.
 
"So I hit my low, little did I know
That would not be the end..."
~Holland Road

I spent the last three days of February in the hospital on intravenous steroids.  I resisted the idea, but my Dr. said it might help the odds of a full recovery.

I might not recover fully??


I was twenty-seven years old with a husband and two boys under five... I wasn't functioning well. I wasn't driving. I was not confident being alone with the kids, I was afraid of falling. I couldn't trust my balance, my footing was unsure. Once I started getting off balance, I couldn't step quickly and right myself, I had to hope that there was something within reach to grab and steady myself. I managed not to every actually hit the floor. I came close. One night when I was carrying my two year old to the bathroom. Absolutely terrified me.
I might not fully recover?

Multiple Sclerosis literally means "many scars"... Brain damage. Scarring. Progressive. God give me strength.
I'm not sure if it was the steroids, being in a hospital, away from my snuggle buddies (co-sleeping isn't only for comforting the kids), beginning to attempt to get my brain around what exactly MS was... I hardly slept. I listened to Mumford & Sons constantly on my ear pods. My ears were sore from what sleeping I did- wearing the headphones. Their lyrics sang me through so much emotion.  

I spent the entire hospital stay looking for the tiniest bit of improvement. My poor nerves. And my veins hated the steroids. I can remember, it felt like acid. Steroids raised my blood sugar, they gave me insulin. It was a nightmare.  I just wanted to wake up.  

"give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light cause oh they gave me such a fright
but I will hold on with all of my might just promise me that we'll be alright" 
~ ghosts that we knew.

I began researching MS. Time since diagnosis and level of mobility were opening statements or signatures in the forums... I never in a million years expected to be dealing with anything like this!
I'm the "health nut" among my friends.
How long would I be mobile?!
Would I be attending the boys sporting events via wheelchair?Would homeschooling even be possible?
Multiple Sclerosis is hereditary. 
I was devastated.
I felt like my husband and sons had been dealt a bad hand.
Bought a lemon.
They. Deserved. A. Refund.
It was such a helpless guilt. I felt like they would be better without me. I couldn't imagine watching my mom deal with a debilitating disease, slowly, or not so slowly loosing control. One of my great grandmothers had Alzheimer's. Diseases like these are torturous to the family of the person diagnosed. 
 
"Well, I came home
Like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust
Which we've known
Will blow away with this new sun"
~ i will wait

Mom and David conspired on the day I finally lost my composure fully and David took me to Saint Augustine overnight. He was wonderful. He reassured me of how much he loved me, that we were in this together and that he meant his vows. But, heaven help me. I didn't want "in sickness and in health" to be put to the test in year seven! In my mind I saw us living out our moderately healthy lives, maybe loosing a gallbladder along the way, or dealing with a car wreck or something else insignificant. My brain entertained the things I considered acceptable. MS wasn't part of the plan. Or acceptable.

"And I still believe though there's cracks you'll see
When I'm on my knees I'll still believe,
And when I've hit the ground, neither lost nor found,
If you'll believe in me, I'll still believe"
~Holland Road
 
During this time I threw myself headlong into the emotions. I sat with the heartbreak and devastation, honored the grief and eventually the rage. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. It is also healing. It relieves my symptoms. Body based emotional work has proven to be more valuable than my supplements.

"So lead me back
Turn south from that place
And close my eyes to my recent disgrace
Cause you know my call
And we'll share my all
And our children come, they will hear me roar
So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me that we'll be alright"
~Ghosts That We Knew

Slowly my vision and balance returned, sometime after I got home and finished my 10 days of oral steroids.  I am back to my scrappy self. Taking everything a day at a time. I have had a couple of weeks since the first episode that I wasn't able to drive because of my vision. It cleared up with gentle attention for my symptoms and plenty of focusing on my emotional response to my physical symptoms. Things didn't get as bad as the original flare up.  I still do emotional work. Sitting with the emotions I used to ignore or stuff on a mental shelf for another day. I am adhering to a strict diet outlined by a woman who has kept all of her MS symptoms in complete remission for nearly 20 years. I am living in gratitude and saying "no" when I need to. And daring to say "yes" even when I'm afraid.

"Stars hide your fires
These here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so I'll be found
With my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul"
~Roll Away Your Stone

Mumford & Sons is the sound track to this year for me. The lyrics speak to me and  have brought me to tears. So many of their songs talk about sight and eyes ...
David promised me that we would take a road trip next year when tour dates were announced. He knows how heartbroken I was that I wasn't able to get tickets with them so close to home... and I was the reason we missed out. If I hadn't been sick, we would have bought tickets immediately.

Fast forward to last month.
David called me from work to ask how I felt about going to see Mumford & Sons in concert.
In Louisiana. In September.
Someone GAVE him tickets.
WE. WERE. G I V E N. TICKETS.
To Mumford & Sons. In a state where we have friends to stay with near by.
I have dealt with the hardest, most emotional, gut wrenching situation of my life with Mumford & Sons in my ears....
It's pure magic.
I am in awe. Total AWE. 
"Thank You" falls so miserably short of what my heart has to say to the person who - didn't know all of the history- and gifted us with this experience.

This weekend Mumford & Sons will be in Saint Augustine ... Monday night I will be watching them perform in Louisiana.

"So leave that click in my head And I wont remember the words that you said You brought me out from the cold Now how I long, I long to grow old." ~ Hopeless Wanderer


September 16. 2013.
I am going to get a t-shirt.
  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11

 
 
 
"It's You"
11" x 14" acrylic on canvas
 
Available here!
 
My Etsy Grand Opening Sale continues until August 15th!
Pop over and take a look, I've added a few 'flashback' pieces from years ago.
 
I hope August is treating you well.
The light is shifting here, shadows are longer and the light feels different, more golden?
Whatever it is makes me breath deeper and it feels like a promise that fall is right around the corner. 
 I want to listen to John Denver. 
And my grandfather.
 
love to all, 
jess