I am thrilled to show you a book I illustrated for Klutz, a division of Scholastic. As described in their about section, Klutz creates award-winning, premium activity books for kids and kid-minded adults.
A long time ago, 11 months ago…or was it eleven years ago…or eleven days ago? As Einstein said, “Time is an illusion.”
Back to what I was saying.
11 months ago I had one of my paintings posted as my facebook header. The quote I had painted said:
“Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale.”
-Hans Christian Andersen
The day after my husband died someone who loved me innocently and lovingly commented, “I am so sorry your fairytale ended this way.”
And the comment literally struck my heart as if an arrow had pierced my chest. My stomach sank as I realized once again how my life had been placed upside down.
It reminded me of when I was a little kid and I would lay on the bed with half of my body hanging off looking at the room upside down. I would imagine what it would be like if my room really were upside down. How would I sit in a chair? Will I now be tripping over the ceiling fan every time I run for the phone? It was odd, intriguing, and very uncomfortable--especially towards the end when all the blood went rushing to my head.
That’s what this felt like.
My world was upside down and the blood was rushing to my head.
But I could never straighten it out.
I am still in the same world, the same house, the same room…but even after 11 months I will be caught in a moment where I realize I live in all of this upside down.
When I look back on the beginning it still mystifies me how I understood and knew things that perhaps normal people don’t.
On the car ride home after he died I knew God was going to use me. I knew that this painful, horrible thing was going to be a source of light and demonstration of His love. And it made me sick because the love of my life was worth more than that to me.
I knew when I read the comment that my fairytale was over that it wasn’t. While it made me sob to think that it WAS over, I knew with an almost angry and passionate feeling that it was indeed NOT over. This was merely the halfway point in my fairytale.
Because I am a heroine and this is my story.
I entered into this world on my own and that is how I will end it. All of these people in my life have entered at different points and as such they will exit it. They are the characters that teach me. However brief or lengthy, however minute or profound...
You are all teaching me.
You are all blessing me.
But this journey is mine.
This fairytale is mine. I might not get to write this story, but I damn well get to choose how I react to what happens to me.
This is my story.
And this is what I choose for mine:
My story is full of magic, fantastical beings, and wondrous sights.
I will be kind, courageous, and determined.
I will use my knowledge to help others.
I will use magic to my advantage; to all our advantage.
I will give up who I was in order to become what I was meant to be.
I will be true to myself and listen to my heart.
I will feel and see the power of love again and again.
I will have hope, feel gratitude, and exude joy despite hardships.
I will always have faith that this story will end more beautifully than I could have ever imagined.
Here is the truth about fairytales:
You have your own fairytale.
Your fairytale doesn’t end when someone you love dies or when something ends.
In fact, when someone you love dies your life becomes more magical because they are busy doing things in their invisible cloaks like making feathers rain from the sky and sending butterflies to sit in your hair. Your life is now magnified in blessings because someone you love is making sure you can’t argue it.
If something in your life ends, I promise you something far better or something just as beautiful will take its place. It will not be the same, but it will still be just as precious, worthy, and beautiful.
Heck, your fairytale doesn’t even end when you die.
Because if you are like me you believe that our souls are everlasting and there is no end.
The completion of this life opens the door to heaven.
So there really is such thing as happily ever after.
Don’t ever forget that you are the heroine (or hero) of your story. No matter what happens to you, this is not the end.
Our fairytale in not over.
Today I found myself telling my friend I can time travel.
As a kid (and even now) I have loved any book or movie based on it. I love the idea of time not having to be linear. For as much as I like rules and to follow them, when I disagree with them--I love to the bend them.
Just when you think you have me figured out I will surprise you with my complexities. This is one of them.
As for my new found supernatural ability....
A few months ago I was driving down the freeway and passed the hospital that I had first taken Matt to on the four day process of him dying. And while other times I silently cursed that lone building or simply did my best to ignore it, that day it was different.
While I was driving next to it, I was also inside.
I was in there.
He was in there.
In some other dimension our two scenarios were side by side, coexisting.
Waiting on test results, staring out the window watching the day slip by, feeding him ice water from a q-tip looking stick with a tiny pink sponge on the end.
I was scared.
Because he was sicker than I had ever imagined and the doctors were puzzled.
Nobody had any answers.
In that 3 second spans of me whizzing past that building I was transported in time and into that stretch of a day.
I can walk into a frozen yogurt place that just cleaned with bleach and want to gag. It sends me silently in my head whirling back to when the nurse walked me back into his hospital room that was permeated with the harsh, cutting smell of it. It makes me look at myself standing above him, rubbing his arm, telling him the reasons why he has to stay…and not knowing whether or not I should tell her he will never open his eyes again.
I spent a lot of those hours in the hospital awake. By his side. In a place where time is of the essence, but all there is to do is wait. I had no patience for reading and nothing was more important than sitting by his side smiling and being his comforter. I was doing my best to be a light of blinding love. Unintentionally, one night I stared at that box full of latex gloves more intently than perhaps anyone has.
I went to the doctor's a month after he passed and the sight of that box of gloves made my teeth start to literally chatter.
So now it is clear to me that the gift I had always fantasized of having is something I can actually do now.
I can time travel.
Sometimes I wish I couldn’t.
This must be what happens when your emotions are stirred. When your senses are shocked. When your life is changed.
The experience rouses your senses and magnifies them, thus making it impossible to forget.
The images do not fade.
The sounds do not muffle.
The smell does not dissipate.
The feeling of his scared hand in your scared hand cannot be forgotten.
And while I know that in time I will learn how to refocus this gift to positive things, sometimes it sends me back to the saddest and scariest days of my life.
This month has been my best yet. I think I am finally getting better at stopping the time travel. When I feel the mind buzzing, force pulling sensations I slowly talk myself down from its vortex.
I hear my sweet angels telling me:
Let it go.
Do not travel here.
Travel to that time you played that corny love song and forced him to slow dance with you in the backyard. Feel his hands around your waist. Feel his scruffy face against your cheek. Feel your hair flying from your neck as he twirls you and you can’t figure out how to twist back so you both end up laughing at your clumsiness. See the glittering stars, his sparkling eyes (albeit rolling eyes). Hear his voice, the hollow sounding music coming from your cell phone speaker, and your children laughing as they ride their noisy tricycles around you. Feel the safety of his arms and the kiss that was lovely but one of many like a field of flowers—so easily dismissed because there were so many, but treasured now as a single flower for its striking beauty.
Feel your heart’s content at the comfort of knowing this love is endless.
Know that it still is.
And as I settle back into Now I have a pile of tissues, but I am thankful because I have more of those kinds of memories to time travel to than ones that include bleach and beeping medical instruments.
These memories have warm sand beneath my feet, pink sunsets, the vibration of music being created by freckled hands I love, and the sound of our babies laughing. These memories are full of so much love they could warm the earth. Surely they could sustain me the rest of my days here--though I know our God is generous and there will never be a need for that.
But how lovely to know.
I am arriving upon the point in my journey where I can choose where I will go in time. When I do travel back to scary or sad times, it will be a choice and I will be visiting to learn something.
When I stop and step back I realize how amazing it is I can do this.
How magical it can be.
I am thankful God gave me eyes to see, hands to feel, ears to hear, and a heart that delights. More than that, for those moments. Most of all, for a timeless, transcendent love.
Because of this,
I can time travel.
This was written 6 weeks prior to the posting date. Writing this was so incredibly healing for me that almost immediately I was able to control my "time traveling." Sometimes I do not even know how I am feeling until I begin to write and the mere act of doing so awakens me in some new aspect.
Thank you for going on this journey with me.
Sometimes when I look back on the past it feels like a beautiful crystal bowl that was dropped and shattered.
It shattered the day my husband died.
The last 11 years of my life included my love, so every memory somehow includes him. When I pick up each piece to remember it, it is beautiful, somehow even more precious, but its edges are sharp and they hurt.
Sometimes they cut me and I bleed.
And every day I am reminded:
My life is no longer a beautiful crystal bowl.
I did not even know that is what we were creating. When you look at the tiny pieces, the little memories that make up an era of your life it all makes sense how it became complete. But when you are in the midst of making it you don't even realize what you are making. Now don’t assume my bowl was perfect—no, it was not!
But it was mine, and it was lovely.
Its broken fragments are too precious to throw away. How easy it would be to sweep it all up and be done with it. If I didn’t have children I am pretty sure I would leave this town we made our home. This is the place where he grew up, where we fell in love, bought our home, raised our children, and are surrounded by family and friends. And this is also where he is buried.
Right now I still have all those precious, oddly shaped pieces strewn on the floor and I don’t know what to do with them.
Do I shut the door to where they fell and walk away?
Do I pick up the pieces? And hurt myself over and over and over again?
(….when will it stop hurting?)
How do I pick them up and not bleed?
(I am getting better at…so does practice make perfect?)
I know what I want.
I want to string the pieces and hang them in the light and create dancing rainbows around me.
I want my past to bring color and joy and stop cutting me.
I want a new beginning, I want the sun to shine just right through those prisms.
But can I begin again with my past swirling around me?
It is woven so intricately into my life I will never be able to run away.
Being that it is the Christmas season, these pieces are the sharpest. I want to shut the door so badly!!! But I have two sweet faces that count on traditions and normalcy. So for their sake I will have to be brave.
I will have to learn how to balance letting go and holding on.
This will take courage, and all I can do is hope the rainbows will be worth it.
This new art print is now available here.
It's funny, remember when you had just gotten married and people would ask when you were going to have a kid? Or you had just had a baby and they would ask you if you were going to have more?
Well when your husband dies, people can't help but ask, "Do you think you will get married again?"
And of course you shake your head and you think that person is crazy. But after a while the loneliness settles in and the question isn't so abhorrent anymore.
And you realize that our time on this earth should be a life full of love.
When discussing with my friend whether or not she should continue to date somebody the question that was most important to me was:
"Is there magic?"
Because I had that in my marriage. And that is what I would expect if I ever decided to marry again. My Love has set the bar high!
I have been finding that lately I am pleased just to survive. But it shouldn't be that way.
I believe we all should have magic in our lives.
But we need to feel like we are worthy of it or else we won't ever be able to accept it. I have decided to set my standards higher in all areas of my life. And you should too.
So I painted this cloudscape with gold letters to remind me:
"I am worthy of magic."
We all are.
If you follow my Instagram or Facebook you might know that my husband passed away.
I am 29.
My husband died four days after his 35th birthday.
Matt was born with a heart defect and at 9 months old they operated on him. It was a success. But he grew up with a weaker heart than most. He knew one day he would need open heart surgery to replace a valve and to repair the other.
As we prepared for this surgery none of us worried—except him. This kind of surgery is something they do for 70 year olds, not an otherwise healthy 35 year old. And even then a valve replacement and aortic repair only had a 10% mortality rate.
He felt an impending doom that made me sigh and wonder if he was being a tad dramatic. Because considering how sick his heart was, he was a vision of health. The weeks before he looked the way you do when you have a cold. Exhausted and depleted. But there was still pink in his cheeks. A sparkle in his eyes. A teasing tone to his voice.
An extremely simple explanation of what happened is his heart failed before we got the surgery.
The heart stopped doing its job, thus making his vital organs sick, and in turn making his heart fail. Causing him to die.
Just four days after I took him to the ER because he looked like crap. Just two weeks before the heart surgery that would have fixed it all.
And the only way I can move on is to know that this was God's plan. That's why Matt didn't get better when thousands of people all over the world prayed. When it comes down to it God could have answered one prayer--my prayer. But he couldn't because this was part of his divine plan. I don't know how it will unfold and sometimes I really don't like it. But until I do understand, I will continue to have faith.
Fast forward one month later. (Because I can’t handle traveling back in time to write how I felt right now).
I was urged by my family to turn one of our bedrooms into an art studio. It is made to be an office. It is the only room with high ceilings, a built in window seat, and pretty glass French doors. We had been using it as a bedroom for one of the kids, but ever since he passed they can't seem to sleep alone. So bunk beds were built and this room was empty...
I struggled between two conflicting emotions:
The first was the need to change everything so I didn’t hurt every time I thought of the way it used to be.
The second was to keep it all the same, to preserve and hold on to the memories.
You see, he always complained about my feminine décor! It was supposed to be OUR house, a place that reflected the two of us. Well, honestly, we never could figure how to do that! For the guy who wanted to live in a sleek, modern apartment in a big city and the girl who wanted to live in a Victorian farmhouse with colored rugs and flowers in vases….there was hardly ever a middle point! So to decorate and change…I could hear him scoff! But on the other hand, I was mad at him!
I told him (aka, talked aloud to myself): “You left me! I get to do whatever I want now. So there!”
In a quiet fury I hung picture after picture of my flowery, feminine paintings.
Up went the lace curtains.
Up went the flowers in jars. (Of course they were fake. He was the only person that could keep plants alive here. )
I already knew what I liked. I had teasingly warned him during discussions in years past, “You think this is girly?! You have no idea what I am capable of!!”
I stood back and admired the first room in eleven years that felt like me. And then I cried. Because no amount of lace or flowers could ever make me feel okay. I would choose him over everything. I dried my eyes, sighed, and looked around. This room made me happy. And if I could have one place that made me feel like that when my world had crumbled, I knew he would be pleased.
As I set up my new desk I knew what it needed: a painting.
Not just any painting though. It needed to be a window, a portal of some sort. From his world to mine. A place we could meet.
I pulled out my largest canvas and all my paints. I started splashing, smearing, and blending.
I felt him by me as I painted. I heard him in my heart say, "Stop. This is it."
And so I named it, “This Must Be the Place” after one of our favorite songs by Talking Heads. A song that always felt so perfectly us, but as I listened to it after he died it shook me to my core with the line:
Love me till my heart stops. Love me till I’m dead.
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
Song by Talking Heads
Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb - born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It's ok I know nothing's wrong... nothing
Hi yo I got plenty of time
Hi yo you got light in your eyes
And you're standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money
Always for love
Cover up and say goodnight... say good night
Home - is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there
I come home - she lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place
I can't tell one from another
Did I find you, or you find me?
There was a time
Before we were born
If someone asks, this where I'll be... where I'll be
We drift in and out
Sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
I'm just an animal looking for a home and
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I'm dead
Eyes that light up
Eyes look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head
I go ooh
I did love him till his heart literally stopped. But my love doesn’t stop there.
I will continue this earthly life. I will raise our sweet children. I will find joy. I know God has plans for me.
And one day when God says it is time, I won’t be afraid, because I know he will be there waiting for me.
And I will know this must be the place.
Here is my new painting I created for my sister on her birthday! Let me tell you--I got lucky in the sister department! She is the kindest, most gentle, patient, and loving soul. I have learned so much from her and I am continually inspired by her spirit.
She had asked me to paint something for her newly remodeled bathroom. She had suggested something with an antique bathtub and my imagination ran away with itself...
She loves mermaids and reading, so that was easy to add. Then putting the mermaid in a room seemed too boring! Then I had to ask myself, "If I were a mermaid, where would I want to be?"
A flower garden, of course!
So that is the story behind the piece. Prints are available in the shop :)
Now if YOU were a mermaid...where would you want to go?
I am a watercolor artist located in Southern California.