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My first formal painting session!

Investing time and $ into this promise to myself, I enrolled and started watercolor painting classes today in Nashville at Centennial Park Arts Center. It is located in one of those buildings you’d miss if you weren’t specifically looking for it, off in a corner of the park. What a wonderful place, though, just perfect!

As you enter, there is a gallery, shaped like a short, very wide T, with lots of windows. The studio I paint in is to the right, down a little hallway. I can tell it’s a special place, just by the energy! I didn’t know a soul, as is often the case when I get into one of these “Lucy, what did you do?” scenarios where I get into something and wonder at my sanity as I take a deep breath and go through the doorway.

It so happened, though, that I found a warm, congenial atmosphere there. Several folks were already engrossed in work, but Hazel King, the instructor and a pistol-of-a-nonaganerian(I looked it up!)-woman greeted me warmly. I noticed that experience was sweetly etched in her face and she had plenty of sparkle and shine still in her eyes. Reminded me of my mom at her elfish, most-mischievous best.

I explained I was new to painting and meekly went to the files to find a reference image to paint and set myself up in a quiet little corner to get to work. I had my original British supplies and a nifty new painting box David had given me for my birthday. It had three drawers and was stocked with watercolor, oil, and acrylic paint supplies, one set to each drawer. And the top lifted up to produce an easel. I had ditched the oil and acrylic supplies, added the british painting supplies for more variety, and the watercolor paper I had bought in the U.K.

Hazel showed me how to line my workstation with old newspaper from a big pile nearby and I promptly got started. It was amusing and educational listening to the rest of the group talk as they worked. At times it would grow quiet, but more often than not, Hazel would pipe in and make an observation on someone’s work. “There’s not any value change in that at all!” she’d bemoan. And “look at that, don’t you see all those colors in that? It ain’t just red, you know!”

“She is hard of hearing and can get very critical at times, but don’t let her discourage you,” Lynne, a friendly 30-something, warned. She had come by to freshen her water and glanced over my work. “Very nice!”

I explained I had never really painted before and she quickly became mentor, friend, and art confidant, showing me how to place dabs of water on paper, fan it around, and create little surprise blotches of beautiful color.

Unfortunately, I’m chairing this major weekend conference in Washington, D.C. next week and with so many details to tie up before heading up there Tuesday, I had to leave class early.

Still, I managed to tap into something, and found an impromptu, easy-flowing style in the iceboat I painted. I was pleased and proudly brought home my work to show David who claimed to be pleased and impressed too.

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I’d paint more but have this national conference to run next week.

Ugh! What a time to turn 50 and start to explore new ground!

Work has been mixed-blessing slow but I have this conference coming up next week which has been keeping me busy. Still, in the early morning hours after David heads to work, I managed to squeeze in an hour and try a couple of “lessons” from these books I have managed to accumulate over the recent past. A couple are from the Goodwill and two were from a visit to David’s home country, England, and reminded me I was dishonest here in my post the other day and apologize sincerely.

You see, I actually did try my hand at painting as an adult once. David and I were visiting his family in Reading, England (BERKS), and spending time with his lovely sister Sally and her family. I managed to let slip that I had always wanted to learn to paint. Coincidentally, her daughter, Kym, was studying art, so we all went to Kew Gardens, took tons of photos, and came back and painted.

I sucked, I mean, REALLY REALLY BAD, but enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere of being huddled around her dining room table with watercolor paints, brushes, cans of water and paper strewn about. Sally is an amazing artist, paints fabulous huge murals and such, and if I could paint just 1/10th as well as her… After that joyous day, we went shopping in town and I picked up a starter paint kit and a few books on watercolor painting. Unfortunately, as often happens when I go on one of these creative tangents, when I got home, I unpacked this stuff, stowed it up in a closet and forgot about it. For like five years. Seriously… It’s been five years since that first fledgeling attempt at painting. So, can you forgive my lapse in memory?

In the first photo above this post, you can see the books I’ve accumulated and have been working from. The second is something I did from one of the books that uses watercolor pencils. It was a lovely scene, and kind of sweet. I’m showing this one because the trial paintings I did using the traditional watercolors are ugly looking. I think I am using way too much water and paint and they look like globs of ugly color.

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I’m 50 and I can do what I want! (Like, take up painting!)

It’s my birthday today and I have promised myself this would be a year to remember and accomplish something amazing. Incredible. And something I’d do alone. Linda, my Tennessee BFF urged me to create my bucket list, something that hadn’t occurred to me before she dragged my unwilling, carm, cozy tush to the county’s outdoor pool to ring in the new year at the annual polar bear plunge.  For the unitiated, January in Nashville and Middle Tennessee is freezing!

It was then that I started giving thought to my bucket list. I’d seen the movie, my first introduction to the concept. And from January to today, I’ve been giving the idea tremendous thought and consideration. I explained to Linda on that frigid day that I was fortunate to have lived some very cool experiences already.  And I listed a few for her

I celebrated my 30th Birthday at the Hotel Martinez in being wined and dined on the Cote d’Azure, on a magnificent Mediterranean beach under the stars in Cannes, France, music from string instruments and accordion wafting into the air with the scent of the fragrant centerpieces and smoke from candles providing the only light, other than stars on that magical night. (That it was a business event did little to detract from it in my eyes).  I spent time with friends and family in a few – not enough – European countries, on beaches in the Caribbean and New York City on lazy summer Sunday afternoons. I’ve met a few music and entertainment celebrities and even addressed a presidential political convention’s caucus, attended presidential debates, and attended a singularly spectacular inaugural ball too.

Other than backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, a dream I’ve had since my teen years, I couldn’t think of anything to go on my bucket list when Linda first mentioned it. And the A.T. dream is still alive – more real then ever given my two sons’ survival skills from serving in the U.S. military. It’s up to me to get fit and name the date and time to head out and we’re going, so they say. The rest of the list is still a work in progress. With one exception.

As my boys were growing up, there must have been a frustrated hands-on artist inside waiting to express itself because every gift-giving opportunity I could find, I’d sneak in an art gift among the requested GI Joes, Tonka Trucks, or XMen figurines that were on my sons’ lists. Rock Tumbler, Pottery Wheel Kit, paint-by-numbers… It never worked, with the two of them preferring more active pursuits like rugby and hockey. The quality time I had hoped for, with the three of us exploring color, texture, theme, expression, morphed into colorful conversations during drive time to and fro practice and games, and me honing my hockey mom (and coach) skills.

So I’m thinking it was fate when, this past summer, we cleared out our sunroom of furniture, donating it to Pete, the younger son, for his first apartment. At the nexus of my 50th birthday was this beautiful, sunny, light, 16 x 20 space beckoning to be appreciated. Where once a massive wraparound sofa sat, lazy boy and coffee table sat, there were blank walls and expansive windows. I don’t know how it started, but I decided it would be the perfect craft room.

First out was this great drafting table I had picked up at a yard sale for ten bucks a couple of years ago. Scraping off dust bunnies and dirt from its former garage corner storage area, I moved it, an old book case, and a vast collection of cookbooks, home decorating and craft books in first, along with a pair of patio chairs we’d intended to toss the next time the city had a junk collection. Next came the craft and sewing supplies I kept tucked away.

It is amazing how a large, empty space can fill so quickly! I was fortunate to score another great and wide bookshelf off a family who had to move their great uncle Sal into an assisted living facility. At $10, I figure the storage offered by this massive, 4 foot wide x 4 shelf unit was well worth the ignomy of driving through town with it strapped to my SUV’s roof rack.

And so it is that today, Sept. 13, 2009, I present, rather than my bucket list, my “fifty-year plan.” A life-changing scheme, I have decided to put my craft room to use as often as possible, in an endeavor to learn to paint. Like my expulsion from piano lessons as a child because after 18 months I never learned to read notes, (TRUE STORY: and to make it worse, the piano teacher was a widow who relied on the tuition from her personal lessons) I imagine it will be tough. You see, when I was a child, I couldn’t draw for beans, except maybe trees. My goal, in this my 50th year, is to learn to paint. Well enough to be able to illustrate a children’s book series I have thought about for a while.  Not right away of course, but down the road. Art and writing, intertwining in my life. What could be better?

It might not sound like much, but believe me, I was never even a doodler either, preferring to make poems and express myself through words. My lifelong BFF Bindy is the artist. In fact, she studied at Parsons and makes a living designing and creating larger-than-life party sets. She who knows me better than anyone else, she who bemoaned my inability to color inside the lines in Miss Hoss’ Kindergarten Class at Alps Road School in Wayne, New Jersey, she knows what a feat this will be and to her I dedicate this journal. Well, her and my hubby David, the most supportive and kind-hearted, sensitive and wonderful husband in the world.  I also have to dedicate this to my sons too, without whom I may have discovered my inner artist decades ago, but who led me on a journey I am far richer for, smelly hockey gear and all! (And whose guide services are eagerly appreciated in advance, once I am ready to hit the Appalachian Trail for serious trekking.)

I have to go now. There’s organizing to accomplish and library books to borrow!

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Mother’s Day

I feel compelled to use this title since this past Mother’s Day, May 11, 2008 was a day that bowled me over with emotions, both good and bad. It was, without a doubt the most extraordinary Mother’s Day of my life and I felt validated as the mother of these two fine young sons of mine like never before. Validated and loved.

David, my husband and I went up north to visit them before my elder son returns to duty with the Marines. He will return to Iraq later this summer with a Marine Reserve Unit out of New York. On the one hand, I am destroyed that he has to go back and tears are always close to the surface when I think about it. On the other hand, I take solace in the fact he’s going there with fellow Marines he already knows and trust.

The weekend’s lows were the thoughts that crept in unasked into my mind like “Will he come back alive?” and “Will this be the last time I get a hug from my son? … the last time I hear his laugh, the last time I see his beautiful face?” I know I can’t allow these thoughts in; can’t permit these feelings to invade and take over my life, but I can’t help it, and I have to wonder: “Is it healthier to completely deny them?”

I take my role as Kris’s and Pete’s Mom very seriously. Always have. I left their dad when they were 5 and 2 and I never looked back, raising the boys alone for several years, even using food stamps and accepting a church charity basket one Easter to get us through. I endured the self-pity, humiliation, resentment, and misery at times, but it was always replaced by the onset of brother-love that I witnessed more often than not which made me happier than anything on earth. Knowing these two young souls were mine to raise and nurture was an awesome responsibility. And I took it very seriously.

I hope I have fostered in them the ability to always love one another and share confidences, look out for and support one another.  Despite the occasional bickering, competition, and finger-pointing, I do see evidence that I succeeded. I consider them my greatest accomplishment in life.

They aren’t always angels. At times, they can be a source of eyerolls and heartaches, but they are mine. Sons, with giant-sized charismatic personalities and beautiful, generous spirits, both. And, yeah, they’ve validated my life like nothing else. David, my husband, who I married when the boys were 8 and 5, is my partner in life and my best friend. I wouldn’t want to live without him, and half the time couldn’t function without him…But the boys? They validate me.