Love, Gratitude and Labor Day

This long holiday weekend was filled with family, friends and FUN. Many moments have taken root in my mind and will be known from here on out as simply “good times”. As I go about my work today, one memory keeps coming to the forefront. To tell it though, is to tell a little story.

I have two generations in my children; an almost 17-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. It’s challenging when your children’s ages are a wide gap. The teenager is into his electronics and wants to stay up all night. He doesn’t care too much to talk, but when he does have something important on his mind, you bet he wants to talk about it at midnight. The little one wants to play make believe, Minecraft and art and gets tired by 9 p.m. (thank goodness, as does mommy). They rarely play together because their interests are too varied. Sure, they love each other. My son is a caring big brother and watches over his sister who absolutely adores him. But my time as a mother is split between two distinct generations with different levels of needs and wants.

The one common denominator my kids share is that they are home bodies. They love being with their friends, but they both believe every play date (for the littles) and general hang out time (for the teens) should be at our house. This is something my husband and I enjoy. Sure it costs more in food and mess and pure parenting energy, but I know where my kids are, what they’re talking about and what interests them. When they get with their friends having fun, they forget mom and dad are within earshot and we get a glimpse into their world from a different vantage point.

Even the bigs still act like the littles sometimes at the family cabin.

Even the bigs still act like the littles sometimes at the family cabin.

Such was the case this Labor Day weekend at our cabin. We have a separate little mother-in-law house complete with bathroom that we’ve essentially handed over to the teenagers. The littles take over the living room. If the weather is nice, like this last weekend, the grownups get to enjoy the deck all to ourselves. Well, until the littles come looking for a snack, a drink or a hug.

My son has two best buddies who’ve been like my own “spare set” of kids since kindergarten and first grade. I love these boys and have done my fair share of play dates, camping trips and sleepovers. These boys came to the house Friday about noon and didn’t leave until Monday at 4 p.m. Other teenagers came and went in those three days. At one time on Saturday I looked up and there were 10 kids milling between the hang out house and the pool table in my husband’s garage. I made tacos for them and they scarfed the food like a plague of locusts, leaving no crumbs behind.

At the same time the teens were hanging out, my daughter’s best friends — my second set of “spare kids” also spent the long weekend with us and my daughter was beyond happy to have the company.

Feeding our friend's horses is always a fun family activity when at the woods.

Feeding our friend’s horses is always a fun family activity when at the woods.

Sunday evening, my husband and I took a walk around the neighborhood. I put the big kids (son and spares) in charge of the little kids (daughter and spares) and told them to all play tag in the yard. We heard laughter and yelling from children as we were walking up the hill a few streets over. My husband dropped my hand and put it to his ear.

“Is that our kids?”

I cocked my head sideways to listen closely. “Yes,” I said with a big, happy smile. “All six of them.”

I was quiet the rest of the walk, my heart filled with gratitude for my children, my friends’ children who entrust them to our care, our family cabin and holidays in the woods where we gather. There’s no place on earth where I’m more at home or more at peace.

I've loved this little face since he was just a few days old. One of my "spare kids" whom I love as though he's my own.

I’ve loved this little face since he was just a few days old. One of my “spare littles”

Here’s wishing you a week filled with love and gratitude.

JenSig

Summer veggies, yum

FarmersmarketSummer

This past Saturday, hubby and I spent the morning doing one of our favorite summer activities. We spent some time at the local farmer’s market picking out organic vegetables. The little market in Pine, AZ is small but mighty. It’s run by one of my best friend’s partners, and let me tell you this man’s garden is his one true passion. Bill is able to grow vegetables here that, frankly, provoke envy from others in town who’re also into their summer gardens. Diane is an artist and she created all the ambiance to showcase the veggies. Check out her cute chalkboard signs and red bins for color. She’s also hand carved a cute linocut logo and screen printed cotton bags and aprons.

We’ve had Diane and Bill for dinner at our family cabin many times and I’ve learned a lot about the subject, including all the little nuances people love to tell when they have a passion. For me, buying the fruits of Bill’s labor is a little like buying a piece of art from someone who I really like. Whenever we bring them home, I immediately jump onto the internet to look up a fabulous new recipe to experiment with. It’s really fun to know we’re immediately going from garden to table.

This week, we bought sweet little potatoes, leeks, zucchini, carrots and a mix of salad greens. I had pulled out a ham bone from the freezer the night before and decided to cook it down. I had planned to make some lentil soup and use the ham leftovers, but after visiting the farmer’s market, I decided to make potato, leak and ham soup. My family always gobbles this up, so I make it quite often during winter months. This is a recipe I know like the back of my hand. Hubby was so excited about fresh zucchini that he asked me to saute them up immediately for a snack while I was getting the soup ready. You can see them in the photo above.

Since I’m on summer break with my kids right now and not spending much time in my studio, I decided to share some creative cooking. Here’s my own recipe for this yummy soup.

potatosoup

4 cups of diced potatoes

3 leeks, white and bright green parts of the stem

3 carrots (four if they are smaller from the garden like mine were)

1 1/2 cups diced ham

2 tablespoons Better than Bouillon chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons Avocado oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tablespoon dried Herbs de Provence (if you don’t have it, use dried Italian seasoning spices)

salt to taste

4 cups water

1 cup half and half

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 stick butter

Directions:

Put diced carrots into pot with 4 cups water, 1 tablespoon of chicken Better and Bouillon and bring to boil. Cook carrots until they are soft.

Caramelize leeks in a skillet with extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil (I’ve been buying avocado oil at Costco and using more than my EVOO)

Add diced carrots to caramelized leeks and cook until soft

Add cooked carrots and leeks to pot with cooked potatoes

Add diced ham

Make a roux —

place 1/2 stick of butter in a skillet and melt

Add 2 tablespoons of flour to butter and 1 tablespoon of chicken Better and Bouillon and stir until its a thick paste

Add 1 cup half and half to the mixture and stir until its creamy and smooth with no lumps

Add the roux to the potato soup

Add salt to taste

Cover pot and turn to simmer

And just for a little fun, I wanted to share this Ryan Gosling meme that I found on the Internet that relates to my theme. Um, yeah, he can cook for me any time.🙂

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I hope you’re enjoying your summer and getting time to be creative in whatever way your muse inspires.

JenSig

Miss you!

Today is the one year anniversary of my beloved father’s passing. From the moment I woke this morning, I’ve felt him with me. Hanging out just over my shoulder. Teasing me softly like he did when I was a child. Poking me ever so gently in the ribs so I will notice him and come in for a cuddle. My dad wasn’t one to just come out and say, “hey, give me a hug” when he needed one. He was more likely to find a joke or a pun or a silly way to make me stop in my tracks and look at him. Almost like a little boy who pulls the little girl’s ponytail to get her attention.

Jendad

My father was witty and clever, so much so that he always managed to break the shell of this very serious little girl and make her burst into full belly laughter. My husband has a very similar humor, and while he’s very different from my father in a myriad of ways, I think the fact that he can always make me laugh is one of his most endearing qualities.

My father and my husband were/are fun people. While I can definitely have fun, I have to work a little harder at it. I’d rather spend my time getting to know someone for who they are. Their hopes and fears. What do they love? What do they need? These men – these beautiful men — are more likely to make you feel so safe and secure in their presence that you just melt into a naturally relaxed state where fun is simply the best option.

When I jumped onto Facebook this morning, it wanted to show me memories of one year ago today. What I saw were the photos of us in France with our students. While they were truly happy memories, I decided not to re-post them again to my wall today. When my dad passed last year, I wasn’t able to fully take it in because there were some big responsibilities on my shoulders; A dozen women whose dreams were to visit Paris and La Cascade and learn jewelry from Susan. It was an incredible trip, and the distraction of it was divine.

My dad was in hospice for three months before his passing. Even as he grew weak and ready to return home, he knew what he was doing. He made me promise to continue my trip. He and my mother never traveled outside the US in their entire lives, and he was extremely proud that both his daughters have traveled many parts of the world.

What a difference a year makes. Today I am home in my studio. I have the air conditioning turned down low and my studio is spotlessly clean and ready for me to work. As soon as I finish a few things on my computer, I’m planning to put some singer/songwriter music on Spotify and pull out my paints and canvases. My soul wants to do some intuitive abstract painting today and I’m going to listen.

My daughter is at art camp, hubby at work and son at his summer college classes. The house is quiet and my dad is with me. Time to see what my inner creativity wants to do.

JenSig

 

A Mother’s Day First

Mother’s Day is usually a pretty great day for me since I became a mom. I love my kids more than anything and it’s always fun to get my macaroni necklaces and hand drawn cards and lots of hugs and kisses. This Mother’s Day is a new first. It’s the first one in my life where my mother is no longer here.

Don’t get me wrong. She is with me. In spirit. In Love. In my heart. Always and All ways.

However I can no longer touch her. No longer talk to her and hear her voice. No longer hug her, cry on her shoulder or call her just to chat.

This post is for all of you whom I share these thoughts and emotions with. I am your soul sister now because now I know a little bit of what you’re feeling. Here’s a big {{{hug}}} to you on Mother’s Day just because you deserve it.

This is also a day that I am making sure to celebrate ME. I have the most important job in the world – MOM. When my daughter gave me the macaroni heart necklace she made with such care in her first grade class this year, you can bet I gave her and extra big hug. It is my newest favorite piece of jewelry, and I will treasure it. One day when she’s an adult and goes searching for photos of the two of us, she will find this necklace saved for her a safe spot. Hopefully she will save it next to the one her future son or daughter makes for her with the same amount of joy and love. It’s a silly sentimental object, but right now, it’s what I’m holding on to. I wish I had found my macaroni necklaces when we went through my parent’s belongings. I’d wear it with pride layered with my daughter’s.

I decided to go looking through and old backup hard drive of mine with family photos. I found a few of me and mom. I admit I shed a few tears looking at them, but they make me happy. Memories are good. Good memories are better.

Here I am as a baby. My mom was 38 when she had me. Hard to believe when I see this photograph.

Here I am as a baby. My mom was 38 when she had me. Hard to believe when I see this photograph.

 

I don't have any memories of this, however, I've been told my whole life how much I loved it when we went bicycling when the weather was nice in Phoenix.

I don’t have any memories of this, however, I’ve been told my whole life how much I loved it when we went bicycling when the weather was nice in Phoenix.

 

Photo of my mother, myself, my sister, her favorite dog and my grandparents. My grandmother passed away when I was 5 so I never knew her, but my family told me she kept scrapbooks and read constantly and loved art. They tell me I’m a lot like her. I know we both like pie…a lot.

 

Another pic of my mom and me when I was young. I have a devilish little look in my eyes. Wonder what I was thinking? Probably where's my crayons? I want to color on that sidewalk.

Another pic of my mom and me when I was young. I have a devilish little look in my eyes. Wonder what I was thinking? Probably where’s my crayons? I want to color on that sidewalk.

 

Happy Mother's Day Mom. I miss you.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I miss you.

JenSig

Smile baby girl

thegirls

Here’s a familiar week day scenario. My daughter comes from her babysitter’s house and thumps her backpack on the table. I’m in the kitchen chopping vegetables and working on dinner. She immediately starts fishing in her backpack for the day’s papers and hands me semi-wadded messes of important information intermingled with the day’s take home school work. She’s talking a mile a minute because it’s been 10 hours since we’ve seen each other and a lot has happened in her world while we were apart. (Truth be told, a lot has happened in my work day, but hers is more important so we focus on her).

I wipe my hands on a towel, give her a huge hug, take the wad of papers and put them on a counter in the kitchen so I can look at them after dinner. I pull up a kitchen stool and she continues talking about her day while I keep cooking.  Sometimes we talk through the entire dinner prep time, but more than likely she jumps down from the stool and heads to the living room to play on the iPad before dinner. My husband or teenage son has picked her up from the sitters and they disappear until dinner time the moment they walk in the house.

This time before she jumps down from the stool, she heads over to the papers to put the one about school picture day on the top of the pile. She wants to make sure I see it because it’s important. “Mama, I can wear something pretty because it’s school picture day. We don’t have to wear our uniforms!” (The navy collared shirts and blue or khaki pants/skirt uniform causes consternation with my hot pink and sparkles fashionista).

“Awesome. Why don’t you go pick out what you want to wear tomorrow,” I tell her. She bounces off happily, ready to make this important decision independently.

The truth of the matter is I’m not and never have been a fan of the non-creative photos that are done in public schools across the nation. The whole predictable grey mottled background and cookie cutter way of taking school photos nauseate me. It’s one annual ritual I wish we could just skip. To that end, I have never cared what my kids wear for these photos. The chances of me buying them are 1 in 10. I’d rather donate money directly to the school for something useful, like field trips to the museum or science center than purchase or (gasp!) display them in my home.

I’m doing my best to be a good mom though, so I never express these feelings with my kids. We have creative family photos all over our house. I have a real passion for photography, so we have some fun family home decor and they get to see their beautiful faces everywhere (much to my daughter’s delight and my son’s chagrin.)

Fast forward to bedtime. As I’m tucking my daughter into bed, she asks if I can lay next to her so we can snuggle for a few minutes. As I crawl in next to her, I can see her brows knitted in worry.

“What’s going on, love?”

“Mama, I don’t like picture day at school because I have to smile,” she says.

My heart sinks a little. I know the reason she’s saying this is because she hasn’t had any front teeth since she was two years old. It’s our fault. She screamed and wiggled and fought getting her teeth brushed so we didn’t do as good of a job as we should have and she developed “baby bottle teeth” and they had to be removed. Yes, her adult teeth will come in, but she’s not had teeth for so long that she doesn’t even know what it’s like. She’s been teased about it, and it makes her sad and want to hide this part of herself that she feels ashamed about.

I kiss her on the top of her head and then look into her eyes. “You listen to me honey. YOU are beautiful. YOU are divine. YOU are gorgeous. You are a million and one amazing things, least of which are smart and kind and loving. You are a friend to everyone. When picture day comes tomorrow and the photographer tells you to smile, I want you to give him the biggest and brightest 10,000 watt smile that you have inside of you. YOU let that inner beauty of yours SHINE because you are perfect just the way you are.”

She flashes me a huge smile and me and then hugs me tighter than she has in a while. For a moment, my heart leaps right out the top of my head. Yes, good mama moment. Important mama moment. Success!!!

Here’s a little secret of my own. I have a crooked smile that I’ve often felt ashamed about it. I’ve also done a tight-lipped grin for important publicity photos, like when I was at F+W shooting my DVDs/digital downloads. I didn’t want strangers to look at me and my creative work/products and think less of me or judge me because I don’t have a perfect row of pearly whites. Sometimes when I do selfies with my artist friends at the retreats and events, I’ll keep my crooked smile to myself so it doesn’t show up in their social media news feeds.

However, this little girl of mine is proving to be one of my most valuable life teachers. Being her mama makes me face my own fears and insecurities. Trying to raise a strong, smart, beautiful woman makes me realize that when I’m talking to her, I’m often telling my childhood self the things I most needed to hear, and, wow, these moments can be most empowering and healing.

I hope my daughter takes this lesson to heart and follows through. I promise, if I open that photo package and I see her proudly showing her gums and letting her inner beauty shine, I will buy the entire thing and hand them out to every family member and close girlfriend I have. Boring background and cookie cutter pose be damned!

And next time — hopefully every time — I see that cell phone camera coming my way, I’ll remember to light it up with my crooked smile and inner beauty as well.

Smile baby girl, you’re perfect just the way you are!

JenSig

 

 

Studio purge and re-organization

I know I’ve talked about this a lot in the past. Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while are probably thinking, what??? This again??? Isn’t she always reorganizing that studio?

Ok, so here’s my dirty little secret. Yes, I seem to always be re-organizing my studio because I talk a lot about it but I never, ever get the job fully accomplished. I get on a tangent where I just can’t take it any longer and uncover a top layer of stuff. I try (and I mean really, really try) to set aside hours and days to go through my studio with the absolutely sincerest intent to purge, clean and organize. I get myself into the mental game, roll my sleeves up and start working. The ugly truth is that the problem is a few layers deep so I run out of steam and never finish. My schedule gets busy and I keep going, working and making until every surface is full and I’m down to a 6 inch by 6 inch square.

StudioPurge1

And here’s the even crazier part of this. When I develop my classes, I like to teach a linear, techniques-based process with a finished project. That means that I have an idea, I create art samples, I reverse engineer what I made to ensure that I can teach it as it makes sense during the flow of a class and not how I make it in my studio. I take photos. write a description, gather supplies for my kits, keep all the art supplies and materials for the workshop in a big box until I’m ready to kit and ship before an event. What I’m trying to say is when it comes to my teaching (and even my publishing), I am sooooooo dang organized!

I’ve been thinking long and hard lately, wondering how both sides of me can co-exist. It feels almost Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at times. I’ve also been thinking about how my studio turned into such a mess when we’ve only moved back to Phoenix 4 1/2 years ago. There are many answers to this. The simplest being that we moved back right during the crazy wonderful growth of ICE Resin. We moved back and I set up my studio in two days and we grew. I remember clearly one year where I was on a plane 17 times for either a teaching or PR gig or a sales meeting. I truly didn’t have the time to correctly organize my studio to begin with, and I definitely did not have the time to put things away.

You know what’s awesome now? Life has re-organized again with the changes and I find myself having time to stop, think, catch up on sleep, take some deep breaths, rekindle friendships, snuggle my daughter and stay in touch with my husband and teenage son. I didn’t get as much down time as I had hoped for last year, as life presented other opportunities of looking after for my parents their final year. Nonetheless, I feel beyond blessed.

StudioPurge2

This table was at the end of first day of the professional organizer. It took a while to get down to this! To be fair we worked on a giant cabinet and cleared it before we tackled the work table.

Their deaths have also been a wake up call to me in many ways. It’s been said death of a loved one makes you face your own immortality, and that’s probably so. What it has made me face is simply what I call my “stuff” — my physical belongings, as well as my own beliefs that stem from everything from the way I was raised to cultural influences to how I view my life through my own private lens.  Various business and life coaches I’ve admired for a while all mention that physical clutter equals mental clutter. I looked around my studio, aimed a looking glass to my head and simply said, “Jen, Enough!”

Right before the Tucson show I spent two full days purging. I donated and tossed with reckless abandon. Oh, it felt goooood. Then I had to pack my teaching supplies, stop mid-stream and go to Tucson. I lost a little wind in my sail for a couple of weeks afterwards. When I tried to find the fire within to start again, all I felt was overwhelm. I decided that I needed professional help — not the therapist kind, but the professional organizer kind. I did some research, discovered Melissa of New Day Organizing in Phoenix and made an appointment.  She’s been here one time and helped me start with a big cabinet where I knew 90% could be tossed, recycled or donated. We worked for 4 solid hours, side by side, hair in ponytails, wearing tennis shoes and work out clothes and hustled.

We made a list of things to accomplish before my next appointment. I got 80% of it finished (and some help from my amazing friend Trish). She comes again today and I’m ready for another round.

Studioprogresday3

I shared my little adventure as it was first happening on my Facebook business page. I was surprised (ok maybe not-surprised because this is an issue for us mixed-media folks!)  how many comments I received on the whole clean, purge, organize one’s craft space. Lots of great questions. Lots of cheering me on. A few peeps horrified by the thought of an organizer touching their art supplies.

I plan to share my process in this little journey of mine. Yep, I’ll show you the good, the bad, the downright ugly. I’ll also show you the end result, which I guarantee will not be a picture perfect magazine-worthy space. I absolutely want to be inspired when I walk into my studio, but this is my life. It’s where I go to discover myself and how I feel about things. It’s the space I need to give voice to my art. It’s where I ask questions so I can teach others what I discover and know to be true. My studio will always have a little bit of chaos because unruly and wild is more interesting.

I hope you stay with me on this new little side journey. I have some fun things planned. Keep your fingers crossed for me that between myself, Trish and Melissa that I’ll do the hustle and cross the finish line.

Also, if you have any questions of the process, be sure to comment here on my blog or over on my Facebook business page. I’m enjoying these brief little chats.

JenSig

 

Dream state and grief

LoveheaderLR

 

I  was dreaming about my mother, the last REM sleep before morning. I often have vivid, saturated, full-color dreams right before I wake up. In my dream my mother and I were sitting across from each other, holding hands and talking. I have no recollection of the words we were saying, just the feeling of pure love. It seemed to last for hours and seconds simultaneously. I have no idea how long my dream was in real time, but I could literally feel myself waking up from dream state to daily life and I felt this urgency to hang onto her. She gave me a strong, full body hug and then poof! She dissipated, like feathery smoke. I opened my eyes and grief hit full force, first thing in the morning.

My friends ask me how I’m doing. 99% of the time I’m just fine, doing my thing and generally feeling grateful for my abundant blessings. However, that 1% comes on like a tsunami and it stops me, out of nowhere, and I crumple for two minutes or five minutes as loss washes through and over me.

After I recover, I write about it. It’s the only way I truly know how to release the sensitivities I was born with. Physically writing the words helps me process. It allows me to stop, feel, think, make sense of and then let go.

Many people stuff their emotions or simply ignore their discontent. Others go for a run or walk to clear their heads. Many of us make art, which I do as well, but the process is always a longer, slower one than when I write.

What I’m learning is that grief is wide and deep. Of all the human emotions, it’s the most demanding. I have no idea which “stage of grief” I’m actually in. I honestly do not care because I  need to face them all. What I do know for sure this morning is that I would give anything to go back to bed, recreate that REM state and “see” her again. Unfortunately, as the minutes tick by she’s further and further away from me, exactly like Jan 14th when Hospice called to tell me she died. Yes, I know she’s always in my heart. But you have to understand, just a few hours ago I was touching her.

But I am awake. It’s Saturday and I have a full schedule with my daughter. A birthday party, “family” dinner with my best friend and all our kids. I take a deep breath because my life calls.

JenSig