A Shelter-in-Place Diary
Blog Post 1
Today Is March 28, 2020
Living through a global Pandemic is a strange experience. Humans everywhere are all affected in various ways and we are rapidly learning the "new normal" as it unfolds.
Yesterday, I watched a Instagram video from Elizabeth Gilbert... she was reflecting on a conversation she once had and said something to the effect of this: humans are uncomfortable with change, but we are VERY adaptable. In very little amount of time we adapt. We fear change, we struggle with it, but we can pivot in a moments notice, in a crisis, in a pandemic... to adjust to new rules, new thoughts, new realities.
I really like thinking about that, because I often think about our resiliency and our strength and our ability to endure.
I thought I would blog a bit, share a few thoughts and photos from our first week of "shelter in place" and my second week of social distancing.
In January we spent two days with our Olli class.
Our time together included a power point presentation that gave examples of installation art from various artists around the world. We talked a bit about our individual art practices and our WHY for participating in this particular project. One of the group favorites was this video of an installation by Daniel Wurtzel. Check out the link below, this piece is is beautiful and relaxing...Ballet de Plastique | Daniel WurtzelIn little to no time we became acquainted with our Olli students, we answered their preliminary questions and then set to work. We officially dubbed our participants as "STUDIO ASSISTANTS" and tasked them with hoops. Each hoop came with a corresponding bag of supplies.
On the first day. The studio assistants used glue, yarn and nimble fingers to completely wrap the pre made hoops.
On day two the studio assistants forged ahead on the creating portion. We encouraged each participant to insert their own creative ideas within the parameters we had set. This was exciting for us as artists because both myself and Barbie are highly encouraging and passionate about self expression. Some of our assistants worried that they would "mess up" or "do something wrong".
Barbie and I continued to offer our support and guidance all the while encouraging and boosting their own creative confidence.
It was very important for us that our assistants understand that we were less concerned about the end product they were creating and more invested in the process, the act of creating. We wanted them to explore, troubleshoot, play and take risks. We also wanted them to take ownership over their portion.
We made sure that each participant knew that they were an integral part of this project. THEY were creating the pieces that would later be assembled into our hanging mobile.
Volunteering & Community
One of the key aspects I think about in my art is the intersection between my work and the community. I consider the organizations I participate in, the activities I promote, the artwork I create and so much more when planning out my year. I simply cannot do all of the things I would like to but I do try to volunteer my time and energy when and where I can.
This is a story about one of those projects.
It began with my studio mate, friend and fellow community volunteer Barbie Perry. She approached me about an opportunity that friend and artist, Duffy Armstrong from Olli had presented. This was an idea for Barbie and I to teach a class at the winter workshop sessions that Osher Lifelong Learning Institute conduct. (You can learn about the organization here).
Lucky for us, we had just learned from the programming Librarian at Peoria Public Library, Karla W. that she had just the spot for an art installation. With that we set to work creating the workshop outline, researching, gathering materials, meeting with Karla and preparing. We knew that this would be big project to tackle and would require a balance of time and energy.
Barbie and I agreed to fearlessly dive into this project centered around creating a public art installation.
In one of our initial meetings with Karla W. we discussed measurements, logistics, and timeline. We were able to break the project down into small tasks that could be tackled easily over the several months we had to prepare. This helped to ensure that we were able to still work on our individual art practices.
Our earliest studio sessions involved concept design and execution projections. We knew that the artwork being created need to meet some of our conceptual goals. The library is a community space that while welcoming, is still a very utilitarian space. We wanted to bring soft, airy, feminine and ephemeral qualities to the space. We also had to consider that this piece needed to be achievable with a group of people who may or may not have artistic tendencies. We wanted the experience to be positive and successful as well as educational for our Olli students.
While both Barbie and myself believe in the importance of paying artists for their time and work, we volunteered our efforts in this project, in the same way that Olli runs completely on volunteers. Because we were not working with a budget for the project, we made a goal to spend little to no money on materials and supplies. We worked with items that we had on hand or were given to us.
Aluminum Boat Ramp poles, Rope, Twine, Glue, Fishing wire, pvc tubing, spray paint, yarn, string, wire, an old book, fabric, packing material, plastic waste, bubble wrap, and garbage bags.
To use these materials to create a mobile that could hang in the skylight area of the main branch of Peoria Public Library. We intended to best utilize the Olli participants to help assemble elements of the project.
We created 10 hoops from PVC tubing, glue and tape. Each hoop was spray painted. We designated materials that would be used for each hoop. During our Olli class we had our students wrap the hoops with yarn and then create interest and texture within the space of each hoop using the provided materials.
It's March and I have a collection of blog drafts that I started and never finished for one reason or other. There was the one I wrote about an exhibition I was in, it had all the info about when and where. Then there was the one I wrote recapping 2019. I have 12 total, they will probably live in the draft bin permanently. I had every intention, but things just fell apart.
Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed. Pulled in all the different directions. I started the year with a clear intention, but somewhere in between then and now I feel like I lost my way.
On one hand I want to recap everything and bring you up to speed. On the other, I just want to begin from here and move forward.
What will actually happen? Probably some messy combination of the two.
Messy is actually a pretty good word for describing me.
So... what has this messy artist lady been up to?
A quick recap...
After moving into my new studio, I rearranged no less than 75 times. (It's part of my process. Constantly shifting and changing. )
I painted a mural in the ladies restroom.
I had my work in a few exhibitions.
I launched my Play! workshops.
I taught a kids class at the Peoria Art Guild.
I joined the advisory team for Peoria Made.
I created a logo for North Art Studios.
I taught an Olli workshop with Barbie Perry, creating a community Art Installation.
I took lots of naps. I went on some trips. Some of my friendships deepened. Some have faded.
I ruined a few paint brushes, broke a few finger nails and wrote a few blog drafts.
Things have been steady.
Things have been slow.
It has all been rather messy, beautiful, chaotic, overwhelming, pleasant, exciting, frustrating, underwhelming, ordinary .... and everything in between.
Now that I've recapped a little of the last year, I'm just going to call this good. Let's begin again okay?
And... to be clear, This probably wont be the last time I drop the ball. It won't be the last time I get overwhelmed or feel disconnected. But I promise to keep going, to keep trying.
I hope you stick around. I'm glad your here.
It has been far too long since I checked into this blog and wrote down my thoughts.
Did you hear about my new studio?
This space is kind of a dream come true. Let me tell you about it.
After we made our decision to stop pursuing family building, I felt a new sense of space open up. I wanted to finally give my art business ideas room to grow and unfold. For so many years, my ideas, projects and art goals had been put on hold or downsized to fit into our lifestyle. The lifestyle that was perpetual fertility treatments, large payments, fluctuating schedules, and yo-yo emotions. It was liberating to shift the focus.
For awhile, I had been dreaming of possibilities. I've got so many ideas; like hosting workshops, offering one on one sessions, owning my own studios, planning large exhibits, installations and so much more.
My friend Misty, (fellow artist) had mentioned that her church was hoping to utilize some unused space, possibly for artists. We chatted about ideas and life goals and I didn't think about it again. Then a few months later, she brought it up again, asking if I knew who she should direct the church leaders to... where they could begin with making contacts with artists. I suggested the Emerging Artist Collective. Blair Clark, and the admins of EAC are always connecting artists to local information and I thought that would be a good place to start.
Time passed, and I ended up becoming an EAC admin myself, along with a few other new admins. One day, Blair let me know that St. Pauls had reached out to her. She was going to tour the space to offer feedback, and had invited Barbie Perry and myself along. At that point Barbie and I had also been dreaming up some ideas for Peoria. Well, the three of us (plus baby J Clark) toured the church and it's space. It was full of possibilities and really interesting. We all had a lot of questions and certainly could see the potential.
Barbie continued the conversation with the church leaders, as she is a total powerhouse of amazingness, and she decided to move in. Before long, Jason (the maintenance man extraordinaire) was finishing her studio. I was feeling like I needed to seriously consider a move but I was hesitant, I had a perfectly lovely studio already.
In the end, I decided that I could not pass up this opportunity.
My new studio is spacious... it's so big and beautiful. My new studio has the best AC unit. My new studio is flooded with natural light from the wall of windows. My new studio is pet friendly, secure, clean, and affordable. I could go on and on... but here are a few photos.
All of my art supplies fit into this space. I absolutely love it. Barbie and I share a window wall that my brother Austin built. Other artists are in and soon more will be coming. There is still work happening and things that need to be decided on by the group (like a name) but I am so thrilled to be a part of this.
Thankful. Grateful. Beyond Excited.
If you know me in any capacity, then you know. I wear my heart on my sleeve.
I talk openly about personal struggles. I don’t shy away from it. I lean into it.
It’s how I cope, how I find strength, how I process and how I navigate through this life of mine. It’s what I do.
And although it can be uncomfortable and - sometimes - awkward and maybe even at times inappropriate, it’s 100% the most authentic way for me to be.
Fully * Whole –y * Unapologetically * Me
And sometimes… it resonates with other people. They tell me it gives them the space and permission and courage to lean into their own truths, their own pain, their own struggles.
And for me… that’s all I could ever hope for.
To be me and to be a beacon that beckons for you to join me… in the place of being you. Fully * Whole –y * Unapologetically * You
You are Enough
Getting Personal: The way it ended.
Matt (my husband) and I were feeling like everything was falling into place. We started daydreaming about what the baby would be like, what we would need to change about our current life to accommodate the little one. We started discussing our parenting “rules” and what we would do if…
We had so much behind us and we had so much hope that THIS was our time, FINALLY.
We had decided (finally) to pursue a gestational surrogate; we connected with someone who was ideal. Things were falling into place. It was exciting and almost too easy. For the first time in a few years, I felt ONLY joy and hope. I had so much energy. Was this how it was always supposed to feel? I knew that other people who ventured down this path didn’t always have the same successes we were having out of the gate. “This must mean it will work!!!! How could it not work? There is no reason to think it won’t work! This is the best chance we’ve got, best we’ve ever had.” We tackled the research, the to-do list. We talked and had meetings and secured doctors and had evaluations and set dates. It was flying by… easy peasy.
I told our lawyer (yes lawyers have to be involved in these things) that it was so strange to feel only excitement and energy and “good”. That I wasn’t used to things working so smoothly. She encouraged me to savor that feeling, because it would get difficult. “It always does” she said.
This is where the water gets murky. The contract is very important and crucial step in this process. The contract is for our (Intended Parents) protection, the baby’s protection, the gestational surrogate’s protection and her family’s protection. Everyone involved is considered and protected. It is a huge undertaking.
We had all of our research and knowledge but until you are in the contract phase… it’s really hard to imagine all the possible scenarios you need to think through, plan for and wrap your head around. Dealing with lawyers is intimidating… the language and the legality is daunting. The whole process got heavy… fast. And expensive… it’s what we knew… what we had anticipated… but it just felt so…. Big and heavy.
I won’t go into details, because those are for us.
But I will share this. I started to mildly panic. And it only took a short amount of mild panic days for my anxiety to become fully charged and ready to explode.
One night, Matt took Ellie on a walk. During their walk, an email popped up on my phone… from our lawyer. It wasn’t a bad email. It didn’t say anything that was unexpected or outrageous… but it triggered something in me. And I had a panic attack. Irrational Emotional Frantic PANIC…. gripped me. The pressure of everything seemed to crash into me.
It felt like this was the bad news. This was the ball dropping. This was the story our infertility journey always took… “and now for the bad/sad/disappointing/heartbreaking/devastating portion”
To me … it felt like it was.
And I typed a response… a nonsensical response to our lawyer. I hit send.
Then I panicked some more… and typed a second response to our lawyer. I hit send again.
The door opened, and a freezing Matt & Ellie (our dog) walked in… He was talking to me.
I couldn’t hear him. I was panicking. I told him over and over “I am panicking”
He didn’t understand. why was I in a panic? Don’t worry… it’s okay.
He read the email that triggered me. He saw nothing wrong with the email. (Bless his level headed soul, I love this man)
He reassured me that it was fine, we could email her a response in the morning. I could now stop panicking.
So I told him (still panicking but a little less intensely) “No I emailed already, twice… omg I was panicked. It doesn’t make sense. Our lawyer will think I am losing my mind. What have I done? Can you email her? Tell her I panicked? Fix it please?”
He was (rightfully) upset with me for having responded twice… without first consulting him. And to be honest I think he was kind of upset with me for panicking. When you live with someone who has anxiety or depression… or both… it affects you too, and sometimes, you get upset, sometimes you just wish they didn’t have these things. I get it. It is valid. It makes sense. But when you are the person with all the feelings going haywire… it hurts. I could sense his frustration and anger… which of course… made me panic even more.
I didn’t sleep much that night.
The next day I cried a lot. I cried at the lawyer’s kindness in her response to my two emails. I cried because I felt like I was unraveling. I cried and I thought. And then I went to my studio. And I started to paint.
I needed to get that panic out. I needed to release it.
That felt right.
Our long road through infertility taught me to recognize the moments I need to stop and take care of myself. The moments when only painting or singing or writing or breathing will do. The moments when my body needs to have a way to get everything I am feeling…out.
I am so grateful for the gift of self-expression, for my art, my voice, my creativity. It is so healing.
Over the course of the next few weeks this became my pattern. I never quite panicked the same way I did that first night. But I felt it. I knew I needed to start examining the “what if” possibilities.
What if we don’t move forward?
I told myself over and over… hold on loosely. Life is not full of guarantees.
What if we do move forward?
What will it take? What will be shed? What things will die so that this new chapter can spring to life?
And as the panic ebbed and flowed, as the emails bounced back and forth, as deadlines came and went, as negotiations unfolded, as I created & moved studios & signed up for big scary new challenges,
as life continued …
I started to recognize three things.
That felt powerful.
And then, in every fiber of my being… I knew we would be done. I wrote in my journal that night. This is the beginning of the end. I see us choosing to be done suffering. To be done clawing at this door of unrealized dreams. I see us. I see the life we have and the life we’ve created and it is enough.
It took a few days to work through our decision. We cautiously gave each other the space to process and feel everything. And then one night it felt like the right moment to call it.
“If we keep going… it could break us”
“Yeah, I like our life now, it’s a good life”
“I’m so ready for this to NOT be the focus of our energy”
“This has been a part of our whole married life, I just want to be us… to enjoy being us”
“It would’ve been nice if it worked a long time ago”
“It was a really hard road wasn’t it”
“It’s okay if we stop"
So that's what we did.
We choose to stop.
A surrender to what is and has been out of our control.
We are Enough.
It's been a week and a half since we made our decision. A few days ago we went public with it, and I wanted to come here... and share a little more. How it all unfolded there at the end. How I took my grief / panic / anxiety and poured it into this work seen above.
I'm not sure what the future holds. But I am ready.
and thank you
Thank you for your words of encouragement, your prayers, your hugs and tears and hope. It has been a very long journey.
my facebook/instagram post:
We’ve always been us. You, Me
I want to write a million words about the journey we have walked together. But words can only capture a small piece. Some things can only be said through art, or tears, or music, or hugs.
I choose to keep fighting for us. To enjoy the moments we have, together.
Last week, Matt and I made the decision to stop our pursuit of having a child/children.
Our road through infertility was long. It was painful on every single level. My heart broke a thousand times.
We fought hard, but it was time to lay down our armor and surrender. I never imagined that after 8.5 years we would choose to be childfree, I never thought that this would be our resolution. But the path led us to moments that brought everything into focus. Moments where I knew ... if we kept clawing at this door, if we continued our efforts of prying open the door to a future we thought we would always have... if we kept at it, it would break us.
And in every fiber of my being I knew, we had arrived at our resolution.
It would have been nice to get pregnant on our own. It would have been nice to have one of the five rounds of IVF result in a baby. It would have been nice if that little heartbeat we heard had stayed around longer than 8 weeks.
It would have been nice.
That’s not the story that unfolded for us.
You don’t know how far this journey will take you... or where the road will lead. You don’t know when you first embark, if it will work or if you will survive.
I know now, that I am enough, our small family is enough, our love is enough.
I’m so ready for life beyond infertility. For the adventures we have ahead.
I’m so thankful for this painful, treacherous road... it taught me this:
Be who you are, love her, love love love, make things, it’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to take care of yourself, breathe, you matter, you are enough & this wont last forever.
Today Ellie only wanted to be outside.
She waited patiently for our walk and when the walk was rather short she seemed to ask for me to let her into the backyard. I knew it was probably our only chance for her to have some good outdoor time this week, but I also was feeling very productive and energized. My to-do list was getting tackled. It was warm-ish a nice 30*F and not too windy, so I let her out to explore the yard.
I noticed she wasn't running into the small patch of shoveled lawn. She wasn't sniffing the branches. She wasn't rooting around underneath the deck. She just was being still.
For several minutes I watched her sitting on the edge of the deck.
And it moved me.
It was as if my sweet little pup was sending me a reminder. To stop and be.
To go outside when the weather is warm enough and take it in.
Breathe. Listen. Be Still.
So I bundled up and took her to the walking trail.
Together we walked on the snowy path.
Breathing in the fresh crisp air.
Listening to the wind rustle through the branches.
Hearing the winter bird songs.
Our steps muffled and our gait slow.
We took it all in. Stopping to smell or snap a photo.
On our way back my glasses grew misty. It was raining or snowing. Just little tiny specs of water. Ellie's fur had collected mini snowballs and her sweater was damp. My cheeks were rosy, and my body warm.
For a moment we stopped. I took a deep breath in, just as a Blue Heron took flight. He had been resting in a small pool of water nearby. Iced over at the edges the water was still moving, creating the most tranquil sound. A moment to be still within.
For the remainder of the walk my brain was at work, creative sparks and ideas were bubbling to the surface. It was as if our walk on the snowy trail path had pulled these thoughts together and brought them to life.
Work will wait.
The world is calling us to come outside and breathe deep. If only for a few moments.
it will be the thing your work needs.
My friend and fellow artist lent me a book recently, ART/WORK
I am reading it slowly and deliberately.
It is helpful in so many ways.
the other day I began working on something that I really had no idea about. Something that you would learn about in art school, but since I didn't go to art school, I had no base knowledge but reading this book brought it up.
And THAT has me thinking...
The more I have jumped into my art career, the more I have learned.
There are things that would've scared me and stopped me in my tracks if I knew about them all when I started out.
and as I write that,
I find it more true than ever.
Personally, professionally, across the board. LIFE.
so much of life is
jumping in and learning as you go.
There are things we don't even know yet. Things that may stop us in our tracks if we do.
so we don't know.
a list of things I didn't know until I learned...
So we begin
I am beginning this year craving a sense of calm.
I have sat here, trying to force a blog post, which is very annoying. So I am going to stop doing that and write you a something else.
was I even hearing the rain
my mind was cluttered
but that did not stop me
from adding to the pile
filling up the space with extra noise
so much noise
the to do's and should do's and have done and need to do's
my eyes settled on the view
just beyond the window from where I sat
it was raining
it was raining
it was raining
I've always loved the rain (I thought)
I'm going to sit and watch the rain (I thought)
I'm going to enjoy it, because it sounds so peaceful.
so I sat
and I watched
but the noise in my head
was too loud
the to do's and should do's and have done and need to do's
it was raining
it was raining
it was raining
later... when the sun came out
I found myself asking
was I even hearing the rain?
It is so important for me to pause and reflect back on all of the happenings. Let's remember 2018 before it leaves us.
This year I really enjoyed creating so many different pieces. I loved mixing medias and trying new things. Earrings were a hit, embroidery has also been a fun new addition.
All of this and so much more.
I love using words to connect with my fellow humans.