Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One Year Ago, Today

...the world changed.  A brilliant mind was silenced.  A spark went out.  Friends lost a voice of comfort and an ever-ready helping hand.  A dog lost her loving master.  Our children lost their Father.  I lost my best friend, lover, and husband of almost 18 years...

Much has happened in this space between then and now.  I have learned a great deal about myself and others.  There has been a year of heart-breaking firsts, concluding with today -- the last 1st:  the 1st anniversary of this terrible loss. 

I am still standing.  Some days, I am a bit wobbly...  Some days, in spite of all the good that remains, I am inexplicably sad.  Some days, I can feel that immeasurable void that lurks just below the surface rise up and threaten to pull me in again.  Yet, against the backdrop of  loss, change, and other upheaval(s), I remain.  I am so incredibly grateful for all of the love, friendship, comfort, and support that my family and I have received in the past year.

It seems only right and proper to acknowledge all that I am thankful to Kevin for giving me.  A lifetime of gratitude for gifts that were always given so freely (more often than not, accompanied by a bright smile and the twinkling of those baby blue eyes).  His departure was just shy of his 64th birthday and our 18th anniversary.  While I still miss him every day, I am ever-so-thankful for the life that we shared, and all that came with it. 

Here then, in no particular order, are 63 Gratitudes for My Love:
  1. The Love -- always the Love
  2. Sharing & encouraging an inquisitive nature
  3. Ready laugh
    *and the aforementioned smile & twinkle*
  4. Patience
  5. An affinity for acronyms
    *EGBAR, FIDO, MFSP, BFAD and many, many more*
  6. Your brilliant mind 
  7. The gifts of [y]our children
  8. The ease and comfort of true friendship
  9. An appreciation for good Bourbon
  10. Generosity
  11. Acceptance of my family
    *no small feat*
  12. Taking an interest in my interests
  13. Unwavering support
  14. Endless encouragement
  15. The Polish Electric Blanket 
  16. Our odd shorthand
    *comprised of song lyrics, movie lines, and snippets of books we loved*
  17. Our seamless tag-team cooking
  18. Wisdom
  19. Our home
  20. NOT calling Animal Control the day Wito adopted us
  21. Stolen moments
  22. Understanding
  23. Nearly always being the driver
  24. Loving me
    *in spite of the mushroom years*
  25. Tolerance
  26. Living with grace
  27. All the laughter
  28. The gift of "Little Friday"
  29. Good tools
  30. Loving and spoiling Wito
    *and the rest of our menagerie over the years*
  31. Forgiveness
  32. Positivity
    *like nothing I have seen before or since*
  33. Kindness
  34. Living in partnership
  35. Dreaming BIG
  36. Being my haven from Life's storms
  37. Adaptability
    *granted, one of the hardest lessons this Type A had to learn*
  38. Talking with and listening to me
  39. Manning the grill
    *which hasn't been lit since the day before you died*
  40. Teaching me to fly
  41. The gift of creative vision
  42. Security
  43. Time -- 20+ years (!)
  44. Passion
  45. Telling me you loved me (often)
  46. Being a Gentleman
  47. Embracing the bees
  48. Our shared love of reading
  49. Two decades of working together
  50. Accommodating my interests
  51. Speaking well/kindly of me to others (always)
  52. My perpetual "Bride-hood"
  53. A riding mower
    *and years of yard-work*
  54. The Look
  55. Being brave with food
    *in spite of the mushroom years (!)*
  56. Respect 
  57. Helping me find my voice
  58. Making me a better person
  59. The most awesome "Soundtrack of a Life" (ever)
  60.  Dancing with me
    *in public as easily (if not as often) as in the kitchen*
  61. It was quick
  62. You were home
  63. The Love -- ALL the Love

 Later days,

Sunday, February 14, 2016

One Month, One Week, and One Day = One Year

...since time stood still, my life *and the world as I know it* changed forever, and a new journey began.

Funny story:  Valentine's Day, for the past 20 years, has been a veritable 'movable feast' -- I never knew if it was to be a soppy, gooey, flower- bedecked, love-fest OR a "this is nothing but a capitalistic, corporate manipulation" (a.k.a. BULLSH!T holiday).  Aside from keeping me on my toes, it added a certain flair to our already unconventional existence.  It was magical in its own way -- this 'not really knowing'...

Over the course of our 2 decades together, I received *in no particular order* for Valentine's Day:  kitchen ware (8 Qt. Revere Ware Stockpot + Anchor Hocking measuring cups + Revere Ware kettle); jewelry (matching "fancy-wear" Marcasite/Sterling bracelet & necklace); books, music, more than a wee bit of chocolate decadence, and/or Dinner at Home -- nothing to sneeze at, given that The Man was indeed a Grill Master, and dinner at home usually spoiled me for ordering anything out that I knew was better when we did it together (i.e. Steak, Lobster, Grilled Shrimp, Baked Potatoes *bacon-wrapped!*, BLTs, Chili, Pot Roast/Beef Stew, Fried Egg Sandwiches). 

Occasionally, there were flowers.  Sometimes, we ran away.  Virtually every year there was, at least, a card (unless it was a complete bucking of "the system" -- a.k.a. BULLSH!T holiday -- year).  At the risk of sounding completely shallow, I will admit that the 1st five or six years of this unconventionality was not always received with the most grace in the 'off years.'  However, like so many other aspects of our lives together, it became yet another of "our things."  I didn't really NEED an external reminder, a dedicated holiday, or any particular reason to express (or receive the expression of) our love, because it just WAS.

These days, I live in a state of constant wonderment at the Love that just WAS.  The transformational power of having known such a Love as this continues to sustain me.  I feel as though I walk this earth under a banner that proclaims "I have been LOVED -- Greatly."  It is this knowing, this acknowledgement of something so much greater than the bits & pieces that comprised its whole, that allows me to rise each day and face the world with the absolute surety that LOVE CONQUERS ALL -- it possesses, in a way that no other force bears, the ability to change, empower, revive, uplift, and refashion all that ails us!  To quote the inimitable Patti Digh, "When in doubt, love."

So...  As I brace myself for the 1 year anniversary of my most monumental loss, I pause on this day of hearts and flowers, chocolates and declarations, to remember My True Love -- my North Star -- my complete, trans-formative, all-encompassing LOVE.  While I pause, I hold each of those dear to me nearer to my heart -- hopeful that some form of love such as that with which I have been blessed makes its way into their hearts, lives, dreams, and daily realities.

I am so, SO very fortunate.  Yes, I continue to carry this "blank spot" -- this space which can never be filled with anything or anyone else -- AND, I am also rich beyond measure because of all those who have circled their wagons around me to protect, nurture, and support this wounded heart of mine in the absence of The One who loved me into existence.

Onward & upward,
*with Love & Happiness to all*

 Words of Wisdom for Today:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

...by the numbers

Five days after my last blog post, my beloved husband died.  He was my partner in every sense of the word – life, love, family, work, adventure, happiness, and sorrow.  The common refrain during the days and weeks afterward, as the news was shared and shared again:  “What?!” 
Today was the 5 month anniversary of his totally unexpected departure from a very full life.  Most days, I still feel that all of this is just some horrible mistake – it seems much more like a mere 5 weeks than it could possibly be 5 months *What?!*

This past Sunday was the 17th Sunday since his death as well as what would have been our 18th wedding anniversary.  It would also have marked over 20 years of togetherness…  *What?!*

Tomorrow, Thursday July 23rd, would have been his 64th birthday.

In just over 2 weeks, we will gather together – family, friends, business associates – to celebrate his life.

The “firsts” keep barreling at me – full body blows – I seem unable to be “prepared” for them, even when I see them coming (?)  This may well be the most jarring part of my new reality…  The 1st hummingbird at our red honeysuckle vine was on April 11 – I wrote it down – as if I would need to be able to tell him…

There have been countless cards and electronic messages – each and every one arriving at the perfect time – such beautiful words of love and support, comfort and care.  I am mightily humbled and thoroughly amazed and ever-so-very-appreciative for every syllable.  I thank you all.

One set of hands has held me steady – re-centered me when I wandered off course – reached out, even when I thought I needed to be alone -- provided simple comforts in the worst of this journey.  My mother has been a rock.  I don’t know how I would have made it this far without her.  I love you, Momma!

Many whom I love and respect tell me that I am doing great.  I cling daily to this notion of what I am as ‘great’ – ever aware of the abysmal chaos lurking below.  If what I am doing is ‘great,’ may God help those having worser days!

I am forever changed.   

Onward & Upward.
 - penny

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Feelin' Lucky!

Greetings!  I hope that yours has been a most fortuitous St. Patrick's Day.  Here in HoCo, we seem to have sent winter packing by driving straight on into Summer!?  It was 84 degrees here, today!

Regardless the weather, I am feeling more than a little lucky!  Granted, this is pretty much my normal state -- heck, I could recycle this title with numbered tags -- there's no telling how many there would be by the end of the year.  *hmmm...  *

The past week was another in the seemingly unending "Buffet of Blessings" that I regularly observe, bobbing along on the ebb and flow that is life here on the Acre.  It bundled together several of my most favorite things between book-ends of creativity -- it doesn't get much better than that, eh?

Picture Perfect
...a wee folded tome
We begin with a quick trip up the road to Jerry's Artarama - Raleigh, NC; on Sunday (03/08) visitors found me happily folding books at the entryway.  A few folks stepped up to play along.  I do so love sharing my love of paper and all the wonderful things that one can do with it!  The "Try Me" project was a lovely, wee modular Origami book -- little warm-up for my 1st workshop of the year.  *fun, Fun, FUN!*  After amazing the natives with my paper wizardry, I enjoyed a sunny, afternoon visit with The Mother -- complete with steaming mugs of tea and bird-song.

The Same Again
...as folded by a visitor to my demonstration
Thursday (03/12) was the General Meeting of the Carolina Mixed Media Art Guild for this month.  WOW -- we had a loaded agenda!  The evening was packed with all sorts of mixed media merriments:  new opportunities on the horizon, fabulous Member Artists' work on display, beautiful works entering the world as part of an international Call for Art, and a marvelous Demo from C. Mitchell on the wonders of various acrylic mediums!  If you are in the area, you really owe it to yourself to pay us a visit.  We have a LARGE time, and there is SO much going on throughout the year -- your membership is well worth the cost.  *...and I am not the slightest bit biased toward this group of amazing artists!  Nope, not one bit!*

A Trio of Minis
...the fruits of my labors, folding with the younguns
Friday (03/13) was not the least bit scary for me as it marked my return to the beautiful campus of North Raleigh Christian Academy.  For the 4th *or 5th (?)* year, I proudly served as one of the Demonstrating Artists at the annual ASCI Arts Festival.  It is so exciting to share something I love (the making of books as an art form) with a younger group of creatives, and see the "spark" as the pieces of the puzzle come together, and they get the magic behind the form.  This event always concludes with a wonderful luncheon at a nearby eatery for the Artists/Instructors who shared their skills at the event.  It is one of the markers of Spring, for me!  *the weather is no help in tracking the seasons in this part of the country!*

Sandwiched between these two lucky bits was a most loverly visit and late night nibbles & sips with two wild and crazy artist friends I don't get to see nearly enough of.  How sweet the company of friends after a evening of shared joys?  ...and how much sweeter still the anticipation of a day doing what you love to do in the company of others on the happy road of creative living?

Sunday (03/15) afternoon, The Man and I enjoyed a Clint Eastwood movie marathon.  I took advantage of the chill Sunday at home to indulge in a little creative play.  I have finally played with my Pan Pastels, and I can definitely see what all the hub-bub is about!  I tested a few ideas that I had in mind for a quick project and was very pleased with the results.

Pan Pastels -- The Test-Drive
...3 colors, blended through the stencil - sealed with a shimmer
using Color Bloom Spray
- shadows added w/ marker
I ticked off one more of my ToDos for today with a quick trip to the Pack & Ship for Global Postage, and the mailing of 11 loverly pieces of Mail Art -- who knew Global Postage Stamps were so pretty?  I'll just tease you with the stamps, for now -- photos of the individual works themselves will be along, soon!

Beautiful & Round
...Global postage is a perfect finishing touch
 SO!  That ought to be enough to hold you, for now!  I'll see you back here again, soon!

Onward & Upward!


Words of Wisdom for Today:
Good night, and good luck.
                         - Edward R. Murrow

Photo Notes:  
All photos taken with the standard camera app on the Samsung Galaxy S4. 
All editing (crop, color adjust, etc.) completed in IrfanView

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Winter (so far...)

We're not known for particularly harsh winter weather, here in eastern NC.  Mother Nature has decided to pull out all the stops this year, apparently!  A mere three weeks ago, we wandered the waterfront in Hilton Head, SC in nothing more than shirt sleeves!  We had the chance to visit with dear friends we hardly ever see, and reveled in the beautiful weather for our visit.  It was great fun, and as is always the case when spending time with those we love:  not nearly long enough.  'Already looking forward to next time!

A Weekend in Hilton Head, SC
...and a good time was had by all!
All in a Days Work
photo transfer on canvas panel w/ brass hardware
Also at the end of January, I had a piece of new work go to a new home as part of the "Ocracoke Through Your Eyes" Art Auction to benefit our friends at The Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum on Ocracoke Island, here in NC.  I was thrilled to take part as a donating artist, this year; I have high hopes of doing the same again and being there for the event, next year!  My fellow ReMe partners and a handful of other local artist buddies donated work for the event which was proclaimed a rousing success by end the of the evening.  When you are next in the area, please do stop by the OPS Museum for a visit!  They do a wonderful job and preserving and sharing the rich and varied history of Ocracoke.

Productive Tranquility
...the view from the "corner office"

Jean, Jodi, and I managed to nail down a full weekend *minus a wee afternoon of antique/thrift/hardware romping* to do some long-range planning for ReMe Retreats.  This made for a lovely change of pace, as we normally fit this in amongst all of our other responsibilities -- it was ever-so-lovely to have more than a few hours to hammer out some of our ideas, set new goals, and plan even more REmarkable wonders for those attending our events -- and there will be wonders!  Many thanks to our dearest Mary N. (of Mary's Funky Fish) for the lakeside hospitality!  *cough...  CAW!

The Long View
...2015 - a work in perpetual progress
*WHAM!*  Then wee, li'l February was fully upon us -- and good googley-moogley, has it boogied on by?!  I had envisioned this month as the proverbial "calm before the storm" -- socked in at the homestead for all manner of preparatory, top-secret, behind-the-scenes goodness taking place prior to the arrival of what promises to be a very merry spring, indeed...  Weeelllllll -- not so much (?)  Don't get me wrong:  things are happening!  ...just not the epic quantity of things that I had feverishly imagined would happen during that idyllic week between Christmas and New Year's when the allure of a vast new year and a shockingly blank calendar were before me! 
*shocker, that -- right!?  weeellll -- not so much!  HA*

A Jaunty Visitor
Winter Storm #1 - February 17, 2015
ANYway...  weather has been a factor, as has a bizarre stomach malady *but I'll spare you that particular [non]delight!*  I suppose, if one isn't paying close enough attention, time does fly indeed!  Hard to believe as we look out on the fluffy blanket of snow that accumulated during the day today that just last week the view was of a different sparkle altogether!  Yeppers -- ICE *ice, baby!*  
It makes for lovely photos, but it also makes for treacherous stairs.  I have discovered in a rather uncomfortable manner that it is also dangerous to be out and about during the thaw!  Trust me when I tell you that large, slushy gobs of ice pack a wallop when they are descending rapidly from the tall, tall pines that surround our driveway.  #liveandlearn

Today's view, as captured by
my own Sky King.  Enjoy!

Onward & Upward,

Words of Wisdom for Today:
Words ought to be a little wild
for they are the assaults of thought
on the unthinking.

                         - John Maynard Keynes

Sunday, January 4, 2015

About The Word...

Did you have "a Word" for the year, last year?  I did -- last year was the 2nd time I participated actively in this practice.  I have written (and written, and written) about my disdain for the notion of Resolution(s) for the new year. I feel that, alternately, having a set Word (or intention) does indeed have an impact.  My word was "Question" and it provided ample opportunity to up my mindfulness quotient!

...as my bracelet appears to be in hiding,
this piece (also by Amy Smith) is a perfect illustration!

I think it helps *if like me, you have not done this regularly* to have extra reinforcement at the beginning.  For me, it came in the form of a customized piece of jewelry from fellow artist and friend Amy Smith.  For the first portion of last year, I wore my Word almost daily.  It was always near by or directly in my line of sight.  I was reminded *beautifully...  colorfully...  artfully...* of this desire, and I feel that it helped the notion 'take hold.'
Painted & Stitched
Canvas Cuff by Amy Smith

At times, to Question was simple and straightforward:  "WHY!?"  alternately, "Why NOT?"  However, when applied most rightfully, in more difficult situations (i.e. moments of frustration, anger, sadness, regret, etc.) it proved an effective tool in dealing with less pleasant matters in the moment.  It served as a virtual "Pause" button, inviting me to step back, for just a minute, and look more closely at the "Why... ?" of the things that were itching my mind or pulling on my heart.  Which, in turn, allowed me to quite regularly lay down pointless burdens before they taxed my finite resources.  Unlike the noble Oyster, we mere mortals do not produce fine treasures when we fester over the grains of sand that sometimes rub us the wrong way.  We produce irritated bellies and unquiet minds.  We sometimes produce a snapping, snarling presence that can appear to be overreacting to the situation at hand.  Hardly moments to treasure, eh?

Having embraced the notion/intent of Question for a year, I feel that I have come away more aware of things that can be troublesome for me.  I feel lighter in spirit for having taken the time to question my responses and answer for them honestly, even if I answer to no one but myself.  I would like to think that there has also been a benefit to others of my Questioning -- that I have emerged more fully present in the various roles I fulfill from day to day.  Perhaps this is so, or maybe this is yet to be seen...

This year, my word/intention is to Observe.  On first glance, this may seem a passive intention.  That is not my take on it, though...  In the spirit of mindfulness, I desire to Observe more fully -- to actively receive more random moments of beauty and tenderness -- to note *and to propagate* more of that which fosters joy and bliss, and less of that which weighs the mind with useless worry -- to see opportunities as they present themselves, and scoop them up like the gifts that they are rather than to relegate them to the dustbin of "one day..." -- to mindfully revel in the daily blessings that are heaped upon me, and take not for granted that I bear a responsibility to nurture and maintain them.
observe \əb-ˈzərv\
: to watch and sometimes also listen to
(someone or something) carefully
: to see and notice (someone or something)
: to make a comment about something you notice

What about you?  Do you have a Word for the year?  Is this a practice that you find beneficial, or is there something else that works for you?  I'd love to hear about it!  Leave me a comment, and we can continue the discussion.  There's always this:

Onward & Upward!

Words of wisdom for today:
"Be glad today.  Tomorrow may bring tears.
Be brave today.  The darkest night will pass.
And golden rays will usher in the dawn
                                      - Sarah Knowles Bolton

Image Credits:
   Clearer Focus:  Taken w/ Samsung Galaxy S4, standard camera app

   Painted & Stitched Canvas Cuff:  Amy Smith Designs  
   Bespectacled & Observe:  The Graphics Fairy

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

I wish for you -- for us all -- a New Year full of health, happiness, and creativity!  ...as I stand here, on the threshold of this vast New Year, I am bolstered by the wonderments and accomplishments and failures of the year just passed.

Wait!  What!?  Did I just say I was bolstered by the FAILURES?!?  ...yep, Yep, YEP!

You see, while I am most thankful and immensely grateful for the successes of 2014 -- and they were many (!) -- I am begrudgingly thankful and nearly as grateful for the failures of '14 as well.  Without them, how would I set new goals?  How would I know that "No." is often just another way of saying "Not yet."?  How do I grow stronger without the occasional set-back to increase my versatility?  ...my resilience?  ...my sheer, incontrovertible desire to make/be/do/create more?

So...  I will embrace this bright, shiny New Year and all it holds in store:  the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the desired, the unexpected.  I welcome all of it, and I look forward to sharing it with you!

Over the course of this month, I will gear up for the rapidly unfolding new year, and savor the flavors of the year that has just slipped over the horizon line.  I very much like the idea of moving forward while looking back, just like old Janus -- his youthful visage full of the promise of things to come, and his aged one a reminder of that which has been enjoyed, overcome, and moved to the past.

Onward & Upward!

Words of wisdom for today:

"The highest form of human intelligence
is to observe yourself without judgement.

                                    - Jiddu Krishnamurti