The Art of Art

The Art of Art


Art is a many splendored thing. True art can call up in us nostalgia or warmth or amusement or awe or a connection to God; a place of deeper thought.

Art is not just for “artists”. It is for children and soccer moms and ballers and uncles and cat ladies and farmers and business men.

Art is a painting. Art is a poem. Art is a sketch on a paper napkin. Art is wildflowers in a vase. Art is meal served with love. Art is a carefully crafted vintage of wine. Art is a garden tended. Art is dedication and intention.

No one is beneath art. And no one is above it. Whether you are the one creating art or experiencing it, art creates moments where we can burst through the obscurity of humanity and say, “This is who I am; this resonates with me.”

My own love affair with art started at a young age. Like most children, I loved art class and couldn’t get enough of it. My love for art class followed me through high-school darkrooms and ceramics studios and ultimately influenced my decision to study art education at the U of I.

With a BFA in hand, I set off to change the world as an art teacher. Finally, my childhood dream was realized; art class all day, every day.

Except, I wasn’t making art.

Of course, there was the art of teaching, and the creating of art projects with my students. And there was a lot of joy to be found in that. But I found I had been neglecting the very ideals I was working so hard to empower my students with: Make art; find yourself; share it with the world.

As an art teacher I had often quoted the infamous Picasso: “Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” And yet, there I was. A grown up with a box of dried up oil paints.

Art began to feel like a distant relative. A second cousin twice removed. I wondered if my artistic abilities and passions had faded with time.

Like a foreign language once mastered, would art come back to me if I began to speak again? Would I stumble over simple phrases? Would the pen flow freely?

I feel as though I might not be alone in this fear.

Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, there may be a form of art in some aspect of your life you have put aside for a time; Those running shoes sitting undisturbed in your closet, a dusty cello case in the attic, a patient sewing machine in the basement, or beautiful words quietly tucked away inside a box of journals.

For some reason we’ve stopped doing those things that made us feel alive and free. When did we cease trying? It’s been so long that even though we remember the glorious feel of our feet crushing against gravel, we resist the act of putting on the running shoes.

What if I lose my breath? What if I look stupid? What if I fail?

What have you got to lose?

So you lace up. You step outside. And you start moving.

You might get a side cramp in the third block.

You could pop a string or bend a bow.

You may break a needle or two.

You might hear crickets when you share your story.

You might even make a crappy painting (or two), and cry into a glass of wine (or two).

But you might not.

And even if you do falter, (which is the nature of humanity) you have planted a seed. And if you water that seed, it will grow.

Art will grow into something uniquely beautiful that you never would have known had it been left un-nurtured.

That is the art of art.

This past year I’ve been learning how to nurture art back into my life. Slowly, I’m remembering how to capture an impression in time on the pages of an essay, the wonder of nature in a photograph, or a feeling of vibrancy in a watercolor painting. For me, making art again is like coming back to an old friend. It’s familiar and different all at once.

But most of all it’s just good.

the thin pink line

the thin pink line

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That line gets you every time. That single, pink line – almost mocking you.

A feeling of helplessness washes over you; Why did you even think you were pregnant? Why did you waste a test? 

Until there are two.

A thin, pink line timidly takes up residence next to her confident sister. And you stare in disbelief. You try not to get too excited or too scared. How can a second little line have the power to declare something so life-changing?

You are pregnant.

And so you tell your husband and your family, and maybe even a few close friends, because you cannot contain this new truth. You begin to come to terms with it – all the while pushing back a nagging doubt that you can’t trust a thin, pink line; that maybe you had imagined it; that maybe it won’t last.

But you are not going to live in fear, you decide.

Until there is a third, pink line –

circling the toilet bowl; streaming towards the shower drain.

And then the fear grips you like a rock. You lie paralyzed in bed, praying that if you hold still enough and clench your legs together, the bleeding will stop.

And a new truth begins to set in.

You are not pregnant.

Entwined in your grief is a feeling of foolishness –

For imagining life with a new baby.

For wrapping up the test to surprise your husband.

For buying a big sister shirt for your daughter.

For telling your family.

For putting your faith in that faint, pink line.

But you must tell your husband and your family. So you try to put on a brave face because you don’t want to ruin the family vacation. And you hope your daughter forgets that you told her a baby was in your belly – because how do you explain that to a one and a half year old?

And you go to the beach even though your mom suggests you should stay back and rest. You put your feet in the January ocean and you invite the bitter cold.

When your toes become numb you walk in a little further. When you can’t feel your ankles you step further still. You imagine walking out till your waist is covered and then your shoulders and your face.

But you don’t want your husband to think you’re crazy. So you stay right there and try to keep your balance as the waves crash onto you and then pull back from you with equal force.

Like the thrill of new life.

Like the sucking gravity of loss.

Like your own cycle of grief: in and out; in and out.

And for a moment you have a spiritual experience and imagine each wave is cleansing and healing. It seems silly but it helps you feel close to God and find an ounce of peace.

On the flight home you think you see a rainbow in the dense clouds and wonder if that’s God, too.

But you also wonder –

Was it was just a fluke?

Maybe there wasn’t even a baby. 

And when you are finally home you feel foolish for being sentimental and keeping that pregnancy test. Your sweet, protective husband tries to throw it away before you see it – just like he hid the big sister shirt.

You pretend not to see it, but you have to make sure that second, pink line was really there.

It was.

You were pregnant.

And when I say you, I mean me.

Because this happened to me.

But I say you because it’s comforting to imagine that I’m not alone in this.

Thank you, Micah for holding my hand through this; for grocery shopping, making dinner and changing diapers when I can’t get off the couch.

Thank you to our family for providing us with extra hugs and prayers during our vacation – and calls, texts and emails from afar.

And thank you to my sister, Victoria for taking this photo when I was having a moment in the ocean, which inspired me to sit down and write about it.

Coffee & Clarity

Coffee & Clarity

As I sit at the kitchen table on a rainy, Thursday morning – watching Helena attempt to master the spoon from her high chair – I feel incredibly blessed to be here, sipping my coffee as I slowly wake up.


The reality of this blessing is not lost on me. I know that many of us are off to the mines before our loved ones come out from under covers. Or that a shared breakfast might consist of granola bars on the way to the car.

Our morning alarms are akin to the starting shot of a race. Every day there’s a mad dash to see how quickly you can take a shower/get dressed/do your hair/do your makeup/eat breakfast/feed your family/pack lunches/pack your bags/load up the car/try not so speed.

That’s how my mornings used to go anyway…

After doing some soul searching and re-prioritizing I sprung for a change this school year. I resigned from my full time position teaching art in order to take a part-time teaching job that would give me the flexibility to spend the mornings at home with my daughter.


This career change doesn’t mean I’m now swinging from a hammock eating bonbons every morning (although I have enjoyed toast & Nutella on the couch from time-to-time). In all reality I’m working through (somewhat self-imposed) expectations for both a working mom & stay-at-home mom. I’m finding that a few more hours in the morning doesn’t allow time to check off all house-hold tasks and take Helena to the library for example- so I’m learning to find a balance there.  (I know, veteran moms are like “pshht – I can do that”. Maybe I’ll get there one day…)

From the working-mom perspective I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not the art teacher any more and I don’t have to keep taking on all the responsibilities I did when I was getting paid to be the art teacher. There are plenty of capable teachers at our school, and I don’t have to volunteer for every creative endeavor that comes along.

So while a part time job isn’t quite as glamorous as I’d imagined, I feel so grateful for the peace that accompanies our mornings now. I’m doing my best to cherish the extra snuggles and the leisurely breakfasts because like all things in life, this is just a season.


I do not know what is in store for our family next year. My new position is not guaranteed, and I have not reached tenure in my school district. All this uncertainty is enough to snuff out my new-found sense of calm if I allow it.

Is this new, simpler life sustainable? What if we have more kids? How long can we survive on one-and-a-half incomes? What if I don’t get hired back? What if we have to sell the house? We can’t sell the house…

I often find myself struggling with these thoughts. So I preach right back;

There will always be bills – there will not always be babies. 


So I sip my coffee from a kitchen mug – not a travel mug, not a Starbucks cup – on this rainy, fall morning, and I do my very best to embrace this gift – this season of simplicity.





Weed it out

Weed it out

Tips for your garden and your heart:

I’ve been mulling over a thought this past week. Sometimes little inspirations or philosophical notions hit me like a beam of light from above. (Cue angelic chorus) Whether the light is heavenly, I’m not sure – but the ideas come to me all the same.

Helena and I were sitting on the front walk playing “catch” with our friend’s son. He is two. The ball rolled into the grass and he trotted over to retrieve it. There, along the sidewalk edge – several weeds (I hate to say) caught his attention.

“Want to pick the weed?” he asked, sweetly.

I laughed, out loud. Obviously this kid’s parents had been teaching him about yard maintenance.

I graciously obliged and the three of us began picking weeds along the walkway – some of us more efficiently than others.


I thought, “Awesome! I can babysit and do yard work at the same time!” Yeah right. It lasted a few minutes until he got bored and started running towards the street. Helena went the other way, crawling up our railing-less, concrete porch steps. Awesome.

Don’t worry, I caught them both at the same time with my long, elastic arms.

So when did this inspiration hit me? It was during the two quiet minutes before chaos broke loose. We were making our weed pile on the sidewalk and I noticed the kids were basically just popping the tops off the weeds. Bless their hearts.


Fortunately, I have the benefit of being married to a lumberjack/gardener extraordinaire. So I’ve been schooled in the art of weeding.

Grab the weed by the base. Get down in there. Your fingers are going to get a little dirty. You might need to do a little twisting, rocking – but soon you will feel that root loosening – now pull straight up.


It’s the root that you’re after.


A feeling of satisfaction washed over me as I successfully uprooted that sucker, and I thought, “What other areas of my life need to be weeded?” 

You can go as deep as you want with this analogy:

Weeding in your garden and in your life takes maintenance – or before long it will be overtaken by something you didn’t intend to be there.

You can’t just hack off the tops of your problems – they will just keep coming back.

Weeds are strong and invasive like our vices. Greed, lust, sloth, anger. You didn’t mean to raise a crop of the seven deadly sins, but here you are…

You didn’t mean to eat the whole package of Oreos/Watch the whole season/drink the whole bottle of wine – but you did. (Ok, I did.)

What weeds/vices in your life need to be uprooted?

Or maybe it’s not a vice – maybe it’s something that was good, but has taken over ground meant for more important things. Maybe you need to do a little weeding to bring more balance into your life.

In two weeks I start a new part time job at my school. There were so many things I loved about being an art teacher, so many things I will miss – but at this point in our lives my full-time career was taking up too much precious earth. I want to make room to plant new things with my daughter and with our family.

Weeding is not easy. Sometimes you give up after two minutes. Sometimes you need to get out the shovel.


But keep at it, my friends. We shall overcome!