Posts Tagged ‘family’

Eleven

Eleven years ago.

Eleven years of days, hours, minutes; some blinking fast like a firefly I can’t catch, some crawling with a glacier’s pace. Eleven years ago, I was given a gift, the greatest, hardest gift. Eleven years now of guidance, growing, learning, changing, crying, praising, heartbreak and happiness. Eleven years ago, a piece of my heart was taken from within me, and placed in the outside world.

I named her Sophie. And though she had that piece of me within her, she became herself, an individual who is independent and fierce. And though she has always been exactly who she is (to me), as she approaches eleven, she struggles to find her place in this big, amazing world. And, as part of my heart, it is my job to help her navigate that path, although I fail regularly and spectacularly. Some days I barely make it to the end, wondering how anyone ever saw fit to place me in charge of another human being. But we’ve made it this far, these eleven years, all the while learning about life, love, heartbreak, and happiness together.

Have you ever laid in the dark of night with your child curled into the crook of your arm? You’re wide awake with a racing mind as she twitches and settles, falling asleep in the safest place she can imagine. Soon, over her even breathing, you are left to watch the terrifying thoughts of night race by, wondering how you will ever be able to lead your tiny human safely from childhood to adulthood, protecting her from the harms of this world, teaching her right from wrong, helping her navigate learning, and friends, and technology, and kindness and decency, and individuality, when you are unsure in any given moment whether you yourself fully understand those things.

Eleven years now, I have thought, and searched for answers, and prayed and cried, and laughed, and felt my heart expand in ways I never could have imagined. It seems impossible that much time has passed since the day I first held my daughter, feeling terrified and elated, refusing to put her in the bassinet and instead letting her fall asleep on my chest, until finally the nurse gently convinced me to let her take Sophie for a few hours so I could sleep.

Sophie's Birth Day

Year One took us from the uncertainty of how to care for a newborn without breaking her, hurting her, or coddling her, through Sophie standing on her own, on her first birthday, ready to step away already and do things her own way.

Eleven years is a gift many don’t get.

I often tell Sophie, in the moments when we are alone, just her and I, don’t forget someday when a memory pops up of us seeing a hawk standing on the ground; or us screaming, upside down, on the biggest, fastest roller coaster we could find; or seeing a rainbow that ends right above our house, that we are the only two people alive that share this memory. It’s an amazing and terrifying thought.

Year Three, and Sophie seems to remember many things, yet I don’t even know how she could. She remembers begging her Daddy not to leave, crying, and feeling like it must be her fault because he left anyway. She remembers watching Hachi with me on the couch, and how we had to pause the movie for ten minutes because we were crying so hard we couldn’t watch it. Crying for the dog who mourned his master, and crying for us because our lives had so drastically changed. She remembers the Orange Juice Incident, as she calls it, which was just Sophie throwing a huge tantrum at bedtime, and me doing the best I could to deal with it.

Sophie With Apple

Eleven years and I have laid awake more nights than I can count, racked with worry and tears, wondering, Am I doing this right? Am I making the right decisions? Will she be okay?

Year Seven, and everything changes again. I meet someone new, someone who has the potential to be that male influence she so desperately seeks out, because despite my efforts, I can never be both Mom and Dad to her no matter how hard I tried. But with new comes change, and this year revealed more to me about how broken we both had been. For much of this year things felt bleak and hopeless, that I had failed and I was submerged, barely above water, dealing with as much change for myself as she was with new routines, personalities, new family members, and opportunities.

Eleven years is a long time to figure things out, but that is a fallacy because you can’t figure it all out when things keep changing. You just hang on and hope for the best and keep getting up every day to face it all again. Some days I am so proud I can’t even speak it. Other days I am so disappointed and crushed I wonder if I will be able to carry on. This child, my child, has been given to me for these eleven years, but she is not mine. She is herself and I have to let her fail even when it slowly kills me inside. I have to stand behind her with my arms outstretched when the very people she trusted and depended on let her fall.

Sophie & Me

I will catch my Sophie, even when I won’t buy her excuses. I will back her, even if her words cut into me. I will defend her when nobody else will, and I will stand up in the ways I feel are right, even when nobody else agrees with me. I will love her unconditionally when she trips, when she hurts, when she’s lost, and when she’s angry.

I was told, recently, by a person who used to matter greatly to me, that I will never be the parent this person was. It was meant to be an insult, but I took it as a compliment. I will never be the kind of person who abandons my child, disappoints her, changes on her, or leaves her to cry herself to sleep at night wondering why she’s not good enough for me. I will never insult her, put her down, make her feel less than. I will expect her to act right, show respect, take responsibility for her words and actions. I will refuse to put up with any bullshit from her, and will teach her to not take any bullshit from the people around her, even the ones who are supposed to care. I will never make her feel like she has to change herself for me to accept her.

Year eleven, and I tell her, my baby, my big girl, “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you have to hide who you are.” So many times, she’s been asked to act a certain way, be a certain way, say this, don’t say this. Now my job, once again, is shifting so I can help her navigate this rocky path, as I have learned the hard lessons hard way and am better equipped to help her.

“What if I don’t know how to be who I am, Mom?” she asks. “If I make this choice, or that choice, the choices that make me different, will it change how you see me?”

Sophie B&W

Never.

When you were two, when you’re eleven, when you’re twenty, never, Sophie, will you change in my eyes. Because to me, you’ll always and forever be my perfectly imperfect child, the piece of my heart that is fiercer than me, more independent than me, smart, beautiful, talented, funny, frustrating, walking around in this world, blazing the path I was too afraid to blaze. No matter what age, what birthday, I will be able to look at your face and see the brilliant individual person you are and the tiny fierce baby you were and know that they are the very same person, and I will love your faults, and your fears, and your accomplishments and your failures equally.

For eleven years, my heart has had a body and a name, and it’s taken form in the world and I’ve been allowed to watch, and to teach, and to love this piece of my heart named Sophie, and even though it’s supposed to be her birthday, it’s the best gift I’ve ever been given.

 

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Skull Paintings Days 1-25

Skull Paintings Days 1-25

Skull Paintings Days 26-50

Skull Paintings Days 26-50

In January of 2016 I came up with a weird idea. We (Luke & I) had just come from our first court date in our ongoing custody case. We had, not surprisingly, just received the (incredibly detailed, pages-long) bill from Luke’s lawyer. Since basically nothing had been accomplished in the court proceedings (objection . . . objection . . . you get it), they had gone ahead and scheduled 2 MORE full days in court.

Can you imagine the lawyer bill from that?

Not to mention that at the same time, I was dealing with my own separate family legal issue, plus both Luke and I were working, taking care of our family, and trying valiantly to remain positive and relatively normal for our kids’ sake and our sanity.

Stress.

Overwhelm.

Financial pressure.

One day, as I was racking my brain for an idea for a way to help ease some of the burden on us (part time job, yard sale, selling my soul), the artist in me had a thought. “I know! Why don’t I create an art project in the midst of all this turmoil that will put added daily pressure on me to complete paintings, something I have not been able to do consistently for my entire adult life?”

Uhh, let’s try this again. What I meant to type was, “that will help me break through my long standing creative block and hopefully help us in some way with our finances.”

I have struggled against my creative side for many years. To boil it down to the simplest explanation, I longed to be an artist and writer but have fought battles against my own insecurity (you’re not good enough to be an artist) and other people’s (admittedly mostly perceived) expectations of me (You can’t be an artist. It is a neat little hobby, though).

I think, looking back on everything now, that the final piece that sent me over the edge, or to be incredibly cliche: the straw that broke that camel’s back, was when I found out that my writing, art, and social media was being turned in to the opposing side’s lawyer and I was subpoenaed by the opposing side’s lawyer. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together to equal, “This is horseshit! They want to use me against . . . well, me!” What the hell?

So in a big old, “Screw you, I’ll show them,” move, my creative muse finally had enough and kicked me in the shins to get my attention. If they wanted to take my art and creativity and use it against me, let’s give them something good to use!

After that initial fury, the idea came into my brain almost completely formed. I counted the days from that date until our next scheduled court date. It came out to roughly 50 days, with a few extra in there to get the project set up. I decided I would paint 50 paintings in 50 days. They would have to be small, because my project rules (that I had just literally made up) were that I had to complete the painting by the end of the day, in order to scan it, post it to my blog, and put it on my socials (Instagram, FB, Twitter and Tumblr). I had read many times that in order to do an artist series, you must have a few criteria that each painting must meet, some constraints that would encourage creativity but also help with focus, so here’s what I came up with:

  1. Each painting had to feature a skull, which led me to start referring to the project as 50 Skulls in 50 days. I chose a skull because I love anything skull-themed, and it seemed that the lawyer was particularly interested in my “artistic” skull fascination to use against me.
  2. Each painting would be 6 inches by 6 inches.
  3. Each painting would be completed and posted by midnight each day of the 50 days.

Once I had my project defined, I went to the art supply store to get my canvases. They had 4 packs of the 6×6 size, and they were on clearance so I bought every one they had. I ended up going home with a total of 32 small canvases. This was it, no turning back now.

Ok, I may have picked up a few more things besides canvas...

Ok, I may have picked up a few more things besides canvas…

I had created a little sketch in my sketchbook of a female skull figure, and since I had (imaginary) time pressure on myself, I decided to go ahead and choose her for my painting subject. Day 1 was completed and posted on February 1, 2016. I named it Skull Lady & the Curtain.

First Skull Sketch

First Skull Sketch

My art desk. This is where I made all 50 paintings

My art desk. This is where I made all 50 paintings

After that, I sat at my desk and completed a skull painting every day for the 50 days, just like I said I would. Every painting was completed and posted by midnight. Pinterest became my new BFF. I found so many ideas and inspiration by searching through Pinterest, I probably could have done 100 paintings or more. I varied my style, my techniques and my materials, but I stuck with my original “rules.” Once I created my skull, I also made some rules for her and stuck with these consistently throughout the project:

  1. She has long black hair
  2. She has green eyes.
  3. Her “bone color” is a mix of metallic blue, parchment and white paint.
  4. She has only bone, so any of her exposed areas would have to be skeleton.
  5. She is vaguely old fashioned, so most of her clothing is from the 1800’s to early 1900’s.

As the 50 days progressed, life didn’t stop. I had just as much to do as before. But I found something strange happening: Mostly, I spent my working hours looking forward to getting home so I could sit down at my desk and create a new painting. I couldn’t wait to look for ideas, rummage through my materials, and start picking out my colors and collage items. Some days I used straight paint, but some days I used paper, dried flowers or insects, metal pieces, gel, ink, glitter, stencils, and anything else that sparked my creativity.

50 days went by in a rush. At times, it seemed my family’s life revolved around “Jaime painting in her office.” The kids would hang out on the steps beside my desk or at the computer desk. Luke would sit on the floor and watch shows on his tablet. I created a Pandora station that I played while I painted and I became slightly obsessed with the songs Pandora was sending my way. If you’re interested, it’s “Prayer in C (Robin Shulz Remix)” radio, with music by Robin Shulz, Halsey, Milky Chance, Lana del Ray, X Ambassadors & Glass Animals, to name a few. Sitting down painting was the highlight of each day. When I reached the end of the painting, (and sometimes I wanted to fuss over portions of each one but I had to firmly tell myself, “That’ll do, pig, that’ll do, because you have to finish this before midnight”), I made sure it was dry (enough) to scan, then I cropped it, adjusted the color, saved the jpeg, uploaded it to the blog, Instagrammed that shit, and sent it to the other socials, and then clicked off my lamp, ticking another day off my list.

There was only one day I messed up, and it was because I had decided to load my painting up with a bunch of heavy gel and metal pieces and the dang thing wasn’t able to dry enough for me to put on the next layers of paint. So I ended up taking a photo of it with my phone, half finished, and sharing the fail instead of the finished piece. The next day, I finished that painting along with the daily one I had scheduled.

Before I could even believe it, I was at day 50. In my office, above my computer desk, I had hung up every painting except day 18, which I had sold and mailed out. I found as the days progressed, so did my paintings. I was surprised that I loved all of the paintings, but by the time I reached day 50, my paintings were better executed and more sophisticated than they were in the beginning.

Day 1 Painting

Day 1 Painting

This Is Where We Say Goodbye

Day 50 Painting

After I posted my last painting, there was the obvious feeling of “I did it!” I was really proud of myself. However, an unexpected feeling crept up on me and it shocked the hell out of me. I was . . . sad. Like saying goodbye to a friend who is moving sad, or leaving a job, or letting go of something you’ve been holding on to. I was still proud, and kind of relieved, but mostly sad to see this project end.

I hadn’t expected that.

Now, it’s been several days since the end of my 50 Skulls in 50 Days/Skulls for Macy & AJ Project. This is the part where I have to do two things:

  1. Decide what to do next.
  2. Decide how to keep this project moving.

It’s obvious that I need to keep painting. But it’s also obvious that I need to keep promoting my project so I can find these paintings some new homes. I’m very new at this part of it so, like the rest of this project, I will learn it as I go along.

I do also think I will do some minor tweaks on a few of the paintings. One, my “Vintage Skull Lady” I love…but to me her neck looks like a scorpion tail and it throws off the whole painting for me. I will repaint the neck so it more accurately represents a spine, not a creature from Beetlejuice. Another painting that I felt had an obvious flaw was Day 7, Skull Lady & Candelabra. My proportion is way off, so my skull figure came out very cartoonish. I won’t be happy with that one until I fix that.

Vintage Skull Lady

Vintage Skull Lady: Weird neck

Skull Lady & Candelabra

Skull Lady & Candelabra: Cartoon proportions!

I learned 3 surprising things from doing this project, and I will pass those along here, for those of you who would consider doing a project or tackling a task that seems huge or scary:

  1. I absolutely loved every minute of doing this. I looked forward to it like it was chocolate coated chocolate that I got to eat every day. This was so unexpected to me, because while I have always felt a need to create, more often than not it was an immense struggle. I don’t know if I can pinpoint exactly why this worked when so many times before I had failed, but I think it is the combination of a public deadline plus a loose set of rules to follow. This made the previous hurdle of sitting there wondering “what to paint,” completely disappear. Instead, I sat down every day with the question of, “What is my skull doing today?” and I was off tracking that answer down.
  2. They’re all right, you guys. Those “experts” who say things happen when you attempt to do something big and bold and scary. Things happen! Those experts are experts for a reason, and every time they have written, spoke, podcasted, or YouTubed that advice, what they were really saying was, “If it scares the shit out of you, do it! Do it right now!” Completely, totally, 100% correct, they were. Me before this project: Complete a painting every day? Hahaha, ha ha. Really, that’s hilarious! Me after this project: 50 paintings completed in 50 days? Done. Check mark applied. It’s exactly as Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Big Magic, which I read just a few months ago: Fear is allowed to come along for the ride, but fear is not allowed to touch the radio.
  3. Sometimes when you create something using your heart and soul, it’s really hard to see it end. You can always tell when you’ve gotten to the end of something you HAD to do, because you’re thinking, “Thank God THAT’s over.” But when it’s something you were really excited about and enjoyed and are proud of, the end almost feels like a major letdown! And that’s why people move on to the next project. Let yourself feel that sadness or the unmoored drift, but don’t wallow in it. Get to work creating your next great thing. That’s what I’ll be doing.

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This Is Where We Say Goodbye

This Is Where We Say Goodbye

I made it! 50 skull paintings in 50 days!

If you’re wondering what this daily painting thing is all about, you can check out Day 1 where I explain why I’m doing this project. To purchase a daily skull painting, leave a comment or email me at: jaimeleigh@cox.net. You can also visit my Etsy store. Each painting is 6×6 acrylic on canvas. Completed paintings are sealed, varnished, signed and numbered on the back with my hashtag #skullsformacyandaj. Each painting is $50 plus $7 shipping, payable through PayPal. I carefully package each painting and ship through the USPS. Questions or comments about purchasing, just let me know!

If you want to read more about our story regarding the custody case, here’s a link to our GoFundMe page (click the button).

And, as always, I would love to hear any comments! Thanks for stopping by and I will see you tomorrow!

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Geisha Skull Lady

Geisha Skull Lady

Just one day left until 50! I said I would paint 50 skull paintings in 50 days, and believe it or not, I did it!

If you’re wondering what this daily painting thing is all about, you can check out Day 1 where I explain why I’m doing this project. To purchase a daily skull painting, leave a comment or email me at: jaimeleigh@cox.net. You can also visit my Etsy store. Each painting is 6×6 acrylic on canvas. Completed paintings are sealed, varnished, signed and numbered on the back with my hashtag #skullsformacyandaj. Each painting is $50 plus $7 shipping, payable through PayPal. I carefully package each painting and ship through the USPS. Questions or comments about purchasing, just let me know!

If you want to read more about our story regarding the custody case, here’s a link to our GoFundMe page (click the button).

And, as always, I would love to hear any comments! Thanks for stopping by and I will see you tomorrow!

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Skull Lady Blue

Skull Lady Blue

If you’re wondering what this daily painting thing is all about, you can check out Day 1 where I explain why I’m doing this project. To purchase a daily skull painting, leave a comment or email me at: jaimeleigh@cox.net. You can also visit my Etsy store. Each painting is 6×6 acrylic on canvas. Completed paintings are sealed, varnished, signed and numbered on the back with my hashtag #skullsformacyandaj. Each painting is $50 plus $7 shipping, payable through PayPal. I carefully package each painting and ship through the USPS. Questions or comments about purchasing, just let me know!

If you want to read more about our story regarding the custody case, here’s a link to our GoFundMe page (click the button).

And, as always, I would love to hear any comments! Thanks for stopping by and I will see you tomorrow!

http___signatures.mylivesignature.com_54492_292_28ECA84CB8C634F9AC8CB860B63B2A62

Regency Skull Lady

Regency Skull Lady

If you’re wondering what this daily painting thing is all about, you can check out Day 1 where I explain why I’m doing this project. To purchase a daily skull painting, leave a comment or email me at: jaimeleigh@cox.net. You can also visit my Etsy store. Each painting is 6×6 acrylic on canvas. Completed paintings are sealed, varnished, signed and numbered on the back with my hashtag #skullsformacyandaj. Each painting is $50 plus $7 shipping, payable through PayPal. I carefully package each painting and ship through the USPS. Questions or comments about purchasing, just let me know!

If you want to read more about our story regarding the custody case, here’s a link to our GoFundMe page (click the button).

And, as always, I would love to hear any comments! Thanks for stopping by and I will see you tomorrow!

http___signatures.mylivesignature.com_54492_292_28ECA84CB8C634F9AC8CB860B63B2A62

Skull Lady & Feather

Skull Lady & Feather

The quote on the painting is from Sweeney Todd: “Life is for the alive, my dear.”

If you’re wondering what this daily painting thing is all about, you can check out Day 1 where I explain why I’m doing this project. To purchase a daily skull painting, leave a comment or email me at: jaimeleigh@cox.net. You can also visit my Etsy store. Each painting is 6×6 acrylic on canvas. Completed paintings are sealed, varnished, signed and numbered on the back with my hashtag #skullsformacyandaj. Each painting is $50 plus $7 shipping, payable through PayPal. I carefully package each painting and ship through the USPS. Questions or comments about purchasing, just let me know!

If you want to read more about our story regarding the custody case, here’s a link to our GoFundMe page (click the button).

And, as always, I would love to hear any comments! Thanks for stopping by and I will see you tomorrow!

http___signatures.mylivesignature.com_54492_292_28ECA84CB8C634F9AC8CB860B63B2A62