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

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.
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, 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 4th

It finally happened... paintbrush in my teacup.
I drank it anyway.
Happy Sunday! 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1st ~ August Break Time!

 August is here,
That means it's time for August Break!
August 1st
My dear friend Edie Kynard  stopped by July's ArtWalk and took video and photos for me!! I was thrilled to see her and her granddaughter, Trevy.
I forgot to take a single photo this night- I greatly appreciate Edie capturing the memories for me.
Photo Credit  Edie Kynard

"Flaunt Your Magic" is  a 36" x 36" piece on cradled birch panel.

My latest Wild Woman brought a Peacock with her.

Is there anything more remarkably beautiful than an peacock?!
The lore and symbolism surrounding this bird fascinates me.
It is said they can consume poisonous snakes and are immune to the venom. It was believed the Peacock turned the poison into the iridescence of their feathers - poison into beauty...

Just sit with that for a moment.

What if we all were that gifted?
What if we were able to transform the  'poisonous' situations and people in our life to something of such profound beauty?

Painting "Flaunt Your Magic"
 was so thrilling, I wasn't ready to be done painting peacocks!
These 4 little pieces are available in my etsy shop. 
I was delighted with how they turned out!
They are 6 x 6 on 1.5" deep canvas, they hang on the wall or sit about on shelves and are just precious!

Use the GRAND OPENING promo code GRAND815 for my Etsy shop, it is active until August 15th, use it at checkout to receive 50% off ANY piece in my Etsy shop!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Artwork from July!

I'm pausing for a moment to share the latest from me studio!
~I will be painting LIVE! this Friday night at the Artwalk in downtown Gainesville.
Underwriting spot appearing on WUFT-TV
My artwork was featured in a short advertisement for the event. How cool is that?!
~I have opened my Etsy Shop !
I am offering a Grand Opening Coupon
use 'GRAND815' at checkout for 50% off!!
Valid through August 15, 2013
Go shop! :)
And check back, I will be adding new work often.
My goal is to totally fund my Serendipity Retreat from art sales.
 It will be my first big solo get away since.. well, ever.
My husband will be taking a vacation from work to hang out with our boys 24/7 and is looking forward to lots of man time...
I will be able to totally relax and enjoy the experience fully knowing they will all be having a great time. I'm grateful David has the ability and is super-dad willing to make the week awesome  while I'm enjoying my retreat!
 24"x48" acrylic paint and inks on canvas
This is the piece I worked on at last months artwalk.
"Found" is 24"x48" on canvas.
I recently finished this HUGE magnolia.
It is 48"x48" on canvas. Photos don't do it justice. I'm incredibly pleased with the way it turned out.
When I'm painting florals I tend to work more from my heart and let flowers be what they want to be. I wanted this piece to look a certain way... you know, be recognizable as the flower I was depicting. I'm very happy with it.
I will have it listed on etsy soon!
I have a 36"x36" Wild Woman on my easel at the moment.  She brought a peacock friend into this painting.
I will have her finished and share with you very soon.
Thank you for dropping by,

Sunday, June 30, 2013


It's been a while since I've made time for my blog!
Here is the short version of the past couple of months:
We are back Home!
I'm feeling great most days.
Lifestyle diet changes resulted in 20+ pounds weight loss. YAY for side effects of a healthy life!
My studio is coming together!!
My creativity is in full swing, and most of the nights I intended to update here I ended up painting instead.
As soon as there was room the boys and I broke in my studio with a super fun messy paint party!
It thrills me beyond words that they love spending time with me here.

Orin helped me paint a background for some of my favorite lyrics that I wanted on the wall.
He loves seeing what he helped with hanging up.

I have a large wall for all of the work I have from my beautiful and talented friends.
This is a piece by the lovely Jessica Brogan.

My elephant corner... It's a thing. I cannot help it.
I am completely in love with elephants.
They continue to show up in my artwork.
At the beginning of June I took a tour of Two Tails Ranch
This is Luke.
He paints.
He totally stole my heart.


I have quotes and lyrics and my favorite sayings all over my space.
Orin helped me paint this background on a box that I received art supplies in.
Paul Simon 'The Boxer'
The first time I heard this song it was a cover by Mumford and Sons. I fell in love with it.
'In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame "I am leaving, I am Leaving" but the fighter still remains.'
But the fighter still remains.
Those words rang true to me and been a mantra these past few months.

Meet Duffy.
The most incredible Alaskan Jack Russell ever.
Doubt me?
Follow @Debsea on Instagram and check out his own hash #duffyontheisland.
I am a super fan of a little white dog.
I have two autographed photos.
Not ashamed.
He and the squirrels get on pretty well and make for an adorable nook.

I have collected shells throughout my marriage.
David and I went to the beach on a full moon in October for our first date.
I thought it was time to get them out somehow.
Antique lace and ribbons- this display makes my heart happy!
Speaking of first dates
June 4th we celebrated our 8th anniversary.
This year has proven to be an incredible growing experience for us.
I have never felt more supported and loved.
Facing the suspected MS diagnosis brought our lives into stark relief.
We are living differently.
We love differently.
I am defiantly optimistic. I am going to live my life to the fullest and diligently maintain my body.
No matter how I end. I will always be grateful for MS.
I have learned more about myself, my marriage and the incredible power of the love and support of family and the release of putting a situation totally in God's hands with acceptance.
I am changed. And I am grateful. 

The Wild Women began during this time.
I was off balance constantly.
My distance vision was double with erratic eye movements.
Nothing was under my control.
I painted.
I was exploring dark places in my heart.
Versions of myself at war with each other.
My paradoxes.
This introspection has become a lifestyle.
A habit to listen and grow through things.

A grouping of my Wild Women.
And my favorite quote, by Van gogh.

We adopted two kittens!
The studio is a fun place for them.
Fritzie gets in on the painting sometimes too.
His tail was bright and beautiful for a few days after dragging it through the boys wet paintings.

I painted LIVE! at a local ArtWalk, it was such a fun night.
Three hours of painting.
Chatting with passers by.
They invited me back next month. So exciting.
I took a leap of epic proportions (in my book).
I signed up Serendipity, a retreat in Nags Head, North Carolina!
This was a, heard about it, *gulp* and registered within an hour situation. 
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I'm depending heavily on this.
I put the deposit on a credit card that was already above the zero balance we are comfortable with carrying because of the way this year has gone.
I have been painting my heart out.
I'm committed.
Non. Refundable. Deposit.
I'm going to be present in each moment.
Paint with the boys. Have more of the silly dance parties we have been having.
Focus on following the joy. Positivity.
And sell some of these paintings that I have piling up around here!
I'm working on Paypal buttons.
Accepting credit cards.
"I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of  depths and a great fear of shallow living." ~ Anais Nin
xo. Jess

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Birthday

Today is my 28th birthday.
It is the New Year of me. 
 I have learned a lot the last few months about patience, letting go of the need to be in control, and trusting in God and his timing.
February 21st, (my moms birthday) also the day after a MRI, my neurologist (I have one of those now... but only recently- I met him the week before my MRI) told me that he wanted to start treating me for Multiple Sclerosis.
I am in this limbo period currently. I have what my doctor is pretty certain was an MS flare up. I won't be officially diagnosed until I have another episode, which, I hope is never.
That is the short version.
Oh, and then there is the mold.
A few weeks before the MRI we had a mold inspection done, our house has always had a moisture issue. The inspector said it wasn't a terrible problem, but it did need attention. We are living with my grandparents while things are cleaned and redone.
Carpets have been pulled walls have been repainted ... my studio was disassembled... I cried over that. It's beginning to come back together. It will be a while before we are back in though.
I have managed to keep the paint moving in the midst of everything. Or, maybe painting has kept me moving :)
It has been an intense start to 2013.



This last piece is not quite finished, but, I decided to post it anyway.
I hope all is well with you and yours!
love~ jess

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One Little Word for 2013

See Martha Heatons's  facebook page Mandala Messages for more info on Word of the Year Mandalas!
My mom started creating these amazing mandalas from letters of meaningful words turned into doodles... This one is MINE!
Action is my word to focus on this year.
This is the first year I have ditched resolutions
(which NEVER work for me ... do they work for you??)
for simply a Word of the Year.
One Little Word to focus on.
Rather exciting.
Less overwhelming. 
More possible.
It has already got the year off to a fabulous start!
My brother moved into his own apartment right before Christmas.
David and I decided  we would turn his old room into a place to store craft and school supplies for the boys, but mostly


 I had no idea how much art related STUFF I have!

Make shift ladder.

I still have lots to do.
Last night though, I hooked up scanners and netbooks and laptops and cords looked like booby-traps set up all over the place, but I accomplished things - In My Studio!
I am excited.
Looking forward to a productive 2013!
Have you picked a Word of the Year?
If you have, what are you doing to stay focused? I've heard of having a piece of jewelry made... creating a piece of artwork...
This is my first year participating and I am loving all the things I see others doing!
I will leave you with one of my most favorite poems, lines from it have been jumping around in my head while I was working on this post.
Much love and happiness for you this New Year!

A Psalm of Life
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! — 
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, — act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait. 
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~