O Christmas Tree!

Relax and watch oil painting “Christmas Tree” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I finally finished my leftover project from before Christmas! Now you see why I was comparing having this painting on my easel in late January to taking down the Christmas tree late. It literally is a Christmas tree that, in canvas form, was sitting on my easel- which is in the kitchen of this small house- and staring at me every day! So, I thought by the time I got this done, I’d no longer care about it and neither would you, but the video is surprisingly cathartic to watch.

As I see the painting come alive in the magical time lapse fashion, it feels like a story. The music was rather random, but fit the emotion of the art perfectly- at least from the perspective I have at the moment. At first the music and the painting starts off as a pretty little thing, without much story to it. But then the music gets kind of odd and chaotic at the same time my video does too! What was happening during that part is that I was trying out my new tripod and my first attempt was a shambles. My head blocked a lot of the session. So, only parts of that session were usable (not a big deal, it wasn’t that important to skip ahead).

But it feels like the parts of Christmas that don’t live up to expectations, don’t go as planned, or maybe are a total disaster and are completely cut from the holiday. This year, we had plans to cook Cornish hens for Christmas dinner, but the refrigerator in the house we’re renting broke- completely dead. We had no refrigeration for weeks, as the process of getting management to send someone out, then having the repair guys say that it’s dead, and then getting approval for a new refrigerator, and then waiting for delivery people to bring it- well, it all takes time.

So for the entire Christmas week and all the way up to New Year’s, we had no place to thaw out the Cornish hens that were in our personally owned chest freezer we bought the LAST time the refrigerator went out (they repaired it that time but I knew it would simply die again later and I didn’t want to lose all our food again when it did!). The investment in the chest freezer was looking pretty wise, I must say! I froze everything I could, even raw eggs in baggies. Our food loss was very minimal.

We did buy a small refrigerator to get through this ordeal, otherwise we’d have had no refrigeration for the holidays (just the freezer). The mini fridge is too small for thawing Cornish hens, so that carefully laid plan for Christmas dinner fell apart. Because of this, I came up with Plan B, which was better than Plan A and will now be a regular thing, a new family tradition. I went with a Christmas morning breakfast that becomes a brunch as the morning turns into afternoon.

I had purchased a warming server to use over Thanksgiving and I realized it would be perfect for using on Christmas. So, here we have an example of how everything fell into place, but only after the frustration and stress of the broken refrigerator, which brought unpleasant emotions forward. I’m weary of living in a small rental house, but our life circumstances will keep us here for at least another Christmas, probably two.

I’ve had much worse cancellations of Christmas. It would take much more than a broken refrigerator to stop me from celebrating. There was the Christmas when Dad was terminally ill from cancer and I was dropped off at another family’s Christmas gathering while my parents were in the hospital for Dad’s chemo treatment.

I was fifteen years old and I remember feeling such awkwardness and humiliation to be the unexpected guest, sitting there while the family was exchanging presents (a large extended family gathering, most didn’t know who I was). The hosts (the only people I knew, friends of my parents) apparently felt compelled to wrap something up for me, and this was worse than if they didn’t. Or maybe not. That would have been horrible too, if sitting there overlooked and ignored. There was really no way to make things better. While strangers smiled at me while their eyes were filled with pity, I fumbled to unwrap whatever it is that they gave me as a token present. I don’t remember what it was.

Dad was hairless then and vomiting during meals. Mom wanted us to pretend we didn’t notice, so I was expected to eat normally even though vomiting noises were only a few feet away, as Dad was hurling into the kitchen sink while we ate. Nerves of steel, that’s what I had. Sometimes it makes me appear cold and detached, but that’s only how I get through a crisis.

We can never guarantee how we’d act in a situation, but in my own family- the one I’ve built as an adult- we are open and honest. I cannot imagine the dysfunction of expecting my children to eat normally while something that traumatic is happening. That’s just a snippet of course of what it was like to grow up while Dad was dying. Mom’s gone now. Otherwise I’d not feel comfortable saying even this much.

So, that’s Christmas for some of us. There are seasons of grief, dysfunction, anxiety, stress, and feeling alone even around others. I am always mindful of this when Christmas rolls around, and I try to help others see the beauty that I do- Christmas is a time marker. We are only asked to “be”. When we do this, we greet Christmas with the hope of the new year to come, regardless of whether or not the current year was good, bad, or in-between.

Back to the video… the music then changes to a calm, sentimental rhythm. And that’s how I feel about Christmas. As it unfolds, whatever stress and expectations we had start to ease up. When it does, we may feel depleted, depressed, tired, or simply relieved. We may feel content. The pace has shifted. The world is no longer running full speed ahead, pushing us to feel something, pushing us to honor our traditions, pushing us to take time off from our regular routine. Everything’s getting back to normal. It will soon be a new year, and an ordinary day.

It may be then that we truly feel Christmas for the first time, when we see it as a pretty picture, cozy and warm with memories of the past- comforted that the past is behind us and the present is here. There is a moment of reflection, and perhaps a recommitment to our faith . We want to be safe, protected, successful, and loved. We want the same for our loved ones. And that’s what we try to express with our Christmas trees and dessert coffees. The desire for Christmas doesn’t go away when Christmas ends.


Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve!

Watch oil painting “Time” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Are you ready to say goodbye to 2021 tomorrow night at midnight? I think most people are impatient to see these troubled years go. We are reflecting on the past, in the hope that the future will be better. Yet we are all here at this particular time in history for a reason. May we experience the joys regardless of the grief surrounding us, may we see the beauty of time, even when the journey is painful, and may we find healing when we are broken. Here is a blog post that may inspire you to believe in the perfect synchronicity of your individual life and time:

The Beauty of Time The mysterious and miraculous story begins a little way down the page, scroll past the quote in the brown box. Here is the opening paragraph: “When I was Mom’s caregiver, I knew her little apartment inside and out because I was the one who cleaned it. Yet it looked completely different when Mom was no longer in it. That first time I entered the place after she had passed was when the first round of grief attacked me. Her tea cup was still sitting by her chair. It wasn’t right that it should be there if she was never coming back. Yet moving her cup was wrong too…” What unfolds is much more than a coincidence, serendipity. It is a reminder that every life matters, and we never leave or enter this world without our time here divinely connected to a greater picture. Think of each life as paint on a canvas. Separately, we may think we don’t form anything, but together we are a masterpiece. Read this story.


Have a Laugh!

“O Come All Ye Faithful” Natalie (on drums) singing with daughters

You might remember this funny story I shared about a vagrant frog who took up residence in our garage, and my drum set? It was in blog post “LOL! What happened today“. The frog actually got more play time than I did. I finally got the chance to play my drums, but the intention was to only tap out a little rhythm. I was a bit too gleeful for the girls’ attempts to sing while standing right next to me (see the ending of this video especially). 🙂

Next, an update on our Secret Santa chef game. It was my oldest daughter’s turn and she made paninis. They were very good! We greatly enjoyed them and there were no leftovers.

You can see some of the ingredients here: fresh mushrooms, provolone cheese, fresh tomato, deli meat, and Irish butter pressed and melted on ciabatta bread squares

Today’s clip (video at the top of the blog) is from the 45 minute Christmas Show 2021. If you’ve not yet seen the show, I hope you can make time for it. I also hope that you are enjoying lighthearted moments and are making good memories this holiday season. Christmas is now only four days away!

New Painting

Watch oil painting “The Christmas Dance” come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This is one of the new paintings I finished last week for the taping of my 2021 Christmas Show, which features a longer version of this art, as well as a second new painting that I’ll share here soon, and variety show entertainment (singing and dancing). I told the story of this painting during the show. It was inspired by last year’s (Christmas Show 2020) show, when I was dancing with my husband in the final act.

 

There are moments in our lives that feel as if we’re marking something important, and we might not be able to fully name what that is, nor do we recognize what it means, but we know it is important, maybe special, or something that will be significant in the future. This was one of those defining moments, of sensing that life was changing. It was poignant and sadly beautiful. I believe, to some extent, we all share this feeling during these complicated days. May we see the joy through the pain and confusion. May we choose to dance.

 

God bless you and keep you, this day and always. As it is now the week before Christmas, please keep a candle lit inside your soul. Let it shine before others.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Peaceful, Heartfelt

Watch this lighthouse oil painting come to life in 1 minute (time lapse)

This lighthouse art is one of my favorite projects. I’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I love how the music tells the story. Today I’m feeling grateful for what is, accepting of what isn’t, and hopeful for what is yet to come.

I was sorting through my video files to clear space for the Christmas 2021 show I’m starting to film this week (are you looking forward to this year’s show? I hope so!). While sorting, I found this clip of me singing.

I was feeling overwhelmed by something that day and sang this. I no longer remember why, or why I never shared it. I will share it now, as this is my mood for today. God bless and keep you, may His light shine upon you and give you peace, this day and always.

Natalie singing “How Great Thou Art”

Subscribe to this blog

Time and Roses

Watch oil painting “Time” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I shared the story behind this painting in an April blog post called “Beauty of Time”. It was a long post and I shared a photo of my real life roses with you. I’m reminded of that today because here it is November and two of my plants have roses in bloom! It’s late in the season for this, but it’s the Deep South (Georgia, USA), so it’s not that surprising really. I was happy to see the beautiful deep red flowers.

I will probably have a new painting to share tomorrow if my day goes as planned. I finished some sewing projects today and caught up on some other things. I’m tired, so I’ll wrap this up. Good night, dear friends.


They’re Back

Watch this “Geese” oil painting come to life in 1 minute (time lapse)

The geese came back! I thought they were done visiting us for the season, but I looked out and there they were, a small group of them waddling very near our patio. They seemed to be looking in at me, as if curious about what was going on inside the house. I took a short video of one of them waddling away as if shaking his tail feathers with attitude. I used the video as a meme in a text with my daughter. 🙂

If you missed my previous stories and videos about geese, or want to see these again:

Collaborating Artists” (story behind this geese painting)

A Gift for You” (video I took from my backyard)

Something Funny” (a painting about a dreadful game called Goose Tag)


I forgot to tell you!

Watch oil painting “Cardinal at the Cabin” come to life

in about 2 minutes (time lapse)

In my blog post “New Painting- Peaceful Landscape” that I shared with you in June, I said, “I’ll talk about what this painting means to me in a future blog post. For now, I just want to share it and let you let it speak to you.” But I forgot to follow up! I never did tell you what I was thinking when I painted this.

This was a landscape from my own imagination, in which I didn’t look at anything while painting, nor did I plan it out. I intentionally let the art tell the story and evolve, as I listened to music and let myself feel whatever came to my heart. I meant to paint a scene that is warm and inviting, and would appeal to me as a retreat, but that’s not quite what happened.

Instead, it seems that I painted the deeper feelings; the reason why I wanted a special place to retreat to. Because this place doesn’t look relaxing to me. It’s very remote and a bit lonely looking. Quiet, and pretty, yes, but it looks like someone’s missing from that empty rocking chair, as if suddenly taken from their favorite spot and the tea or coffee cup that never got cleared. There’s probably still a last sip in it.

The cardinal is observing the scene, as if he understands and has empathy. The flowers are still in bloom, the fields reach toward a clear blue sky, and the evergreens are as fresh as ever. But the walkway has no feet upon it. The steps are vacant. The rocking chair is not in motion. The last sip will never be drunk. 

Reflecting on those we’ve lost, and realizing the passage of time, and feeling the weight of the dark world upon our shoulders, sometimes it feels as if we need a retreat from the burden of broken dreams and better days that must wait, or may never come at all. But in imagining a retreat, I instead inadvertently, subconsciously, painted the emotions that were driving me to want a retreat. 

Maybe next time I’ll paint the actual retreat, but by the time I finished painting through the feelings I didn’t even know I had, I felt as if I’d already had my retreat. It was me observing the cardinal in the tree, from my vantage point on the other side of the canvas looking in. Seeing the scene through his eyes was enough to restore my spirit for another day. 

Nature goes on uninterrupted. Seasons change. Flowers bloom. Trees grow. Then all of it repeats. There is something comforting in the sameness, and even more comforting is the pattern of change. This (spiritual) season will change. Meanwhile, we can embrace the quiet, the steady stillness, and the cabin that waits for someone to come back. When we are blessed to be here for another day, may we never leave the last sip to grow cold.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Art Imitates Art

Watch this oil painting of a little girl in a tree come to life

in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

When my dad was stationed at an Air Force base in Indiana, he took some college courses toward a degree. One of his electives was a photography class. I was about four years old then, and he used me as his subject for a couple of his assignments. His artistic eye was interesting and those two photos became the best childhood pictures available of me.

Art imitates art, as I needed some references for a children’s book I was writing about my childhood. I “aged” my child self from Dad’s art projects. In his photos I was younger than the age I was in the stories for the book. Fortunately, I didn’t need to get very detailed in likeness, as the paintings were meant to be simple illustrations with bold lines and bright colors. It didn’t matter that Dad’s photos were black and white pictures, or that I needed to make some changes.

This is a case of “Art Imitates Art”, because I was imitating Dad’s unique perspective of a ground level viewpoint of a child sitting in a tree, rather than painting from my own memory of climbing trees and sitting on the branches. The reality is that I was likely only in that tree to stage the photo for Dad. When I climbed trees at the age I was in the story (about me pretending to be a spy by hiding in trees) in the book “Fred”, I climbed scraggly, spindly, tall pine trees from the neglected Christmas tree farm that was behind our house. I’m lucky I never had a serious fall, as those trees were weak and I’d climb them to the top, where the branches would bend and sway precariously under my weight.

A sparse and unhealthy pine tree wouldn’t have made a good oil painting for my story, and surely an adult reading my book aloud to a child would have been thinking, “This tree doesn’t look sturdy enough to hold this child”. Indeed, it probably wasn’t. I gave my guardian angels heavy work throughout my life. I remember my grandma used to complain to my mom, “I don’t know why you let her climb trees. I can’t watch!” Since I was often unsupervised, no one watched as I climbed trees, and I went far enough back into the neglected Christmas tree “forest” (trees planted evenly apart, but overgrown with weeds, brambles, pine needles, and fallen branches) so that I couldn’t be seen by anyone.

Now, that’s a completely different type of story from the one I was telling in the book. So, if art imitated my actual life, the illustration would have come off as slightly dysfunctional, instead of the cheery, fun “little girl in tree” painting that appears in the book. The story is about the creativity of children, and how their natural imagination and playfulness should be respected by teachers, rather than reigned in, controlled, shamed, and snuffed out. It is a story of resilience, of children whose light doesn’t dim, whose creativity outshines the control of others.

Dad’s artistic perspective was a much better representation for the “spy” scene than my own life memory of it. Art Imitates Art. The spy scene was meant to show the imagination of a child, and how adventurous children can be when inspired by their own creative ways to play. My story would have had the opposite effect if I had painted the obvious safety and supervision issues involved in actually allowing a young child to wander alone in an unkempt wooded area full of hazards, to climb trees that looked suspect for bearing the weight of a small animal, let alone a child. Many of the branches were dry, brittle, dead, and close to snapping off. I learned how to find the flexible live branches, although I’d end up covered in pine sap. But anyway, the reader might have been distracted and their adult minds would, and rightfully so, end up on the very path that I was trying to push them out of: reigning in the imagination and creativity of children.

Because, of course I didn’t let my own children wander off unsupervised in unsafe areas to climb weak trees, and I wouldn’t recommend it for any parent to do. So, a bit of embellishment was needed. Instead of an awkward, yet accurate, painting of me in short pants and possibly no shoes on my feet, in a brittle wispy pine tree, with many brown needles and droopy branches, looking like an urchin, I used the idealized version from Dad’s perspective: a healthy tree bursting with autumn color (imagined, as his photo was black and white), a healthy well-dressed girl, supervised, loved, and free to be naturally playful. Art imitates art, and art imitates life… but sometimes life is bettered in the telling through art.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Darkened Woods

Watch this oil painting come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse). And, if you’d like to know what inspired this art, read the story behind it.

Tonight my heart feels heavy, as many things are weighing on me- many of these things are probably weighing on you as well. The spiritual woods of darkness and solitude, where God speaks to us… this is where I need to go. I plan to pray, rest, and read for a while before going to bed. I will pray for YOU. I believe that I don’t need to know who you are, or anything about you. All I need is to feel empathy for anyone who needs prayer, and that’s all of us. May God bless you and keep you, may His face shine upon you and give you peace.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.