Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How Creating Art Jars Saved Me

I was in the middle of a nasty depression when my daughter decided she wanted to keep a root beer bottle she emptied (February of 2008). I have no idea what possessed her to want to keep it, especially since there wasn't anything special about it other than the color. But her need to keep it couldn't have come at a better time.

My husband had just talked me into getting back into creating arts 'n crafts projects, and her desire to hold onto what appeared to be an ordinary bottle was just what I needed to jumpstart my creativity.

I had just learned about using modeling paste as a way to create texture on a canvas and thought it would work just as well with a bottle so I went out and bought a 16 ounce jar of molding paste and began applying it to the glass bottle. Then I waited for it to dry. After it dried, I added some paint and a sealer.

I can't tell you how much I L-O-V-E-D it—though looking back at it now, it would've been better without the hearts. I remember feeling excited and thinking, "I can't wait to find more bottles like this so that we can make more."

Over the next year and a half, my husband bought whatever he could in the form of glass containers—always looking for odd shapes and sizes. During that timeframe, I must have created over 200 decorative bottles. While I only sold a small handful, I gave the majority of them away. I gave them to the delivery person who went out of his way to deliver my packages through the dead of winter, the bank checker who always made me feel special, the chiropractor who listened when I rambled during our appointments, the teachers who went the extra mile with my kids, strangers who seemed to need a little pick-me-up, charity programs looking for art donations, and of course, family, friends, and neighbors.

The process of getting my hands dirty with the molding paste (and later joint compound) was probably the most therapeutic aspect of creating the art jars. Playing in the molding paste made me feel like a kid again. I got lost in what I was doing and couldn't wait to see how the design turned out once it dried.

Then there was the painting of the jars. At first, I did a horrible job but as I learned to blend colors, dry brush, and use washes, my painting improved—and eventually, people began asking for my art jars because certain ones I showed them spoke to them.

For the first time in a long while, I felt the heavy weight of the world begin to lift and it was freeing! And I began to find myself again… but as wonderful as it was to create those art jars, I cannot deny the fact that I thrived on being able to give them away. As awkward as it was to gift my jars to strangers, I truly believe the act of giving saved me.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

What I've Learned From 23 Years Of Marriage

On August 4, 2013, I celebrated 23 years of marriage to my first, and only, husband. And as embarrassed as I am to admit this, there were moments when I didn't think we were going to make it. Luckily, we both had the good sense to realize that starting over with someone new was simply not an option.

When I met my husband, it was like kismet. It was as though the universe had willed everything into place so that we would meet, and not only meet but lock eyes upon one another. Neither of us were comfortable in dance clubs, but I had a friend who needed a chaperone and he had a friend who needed a wingman… so reluctantly we both went.

After a couple of dances, his friend was ready to leave and he asked for my number. A few days later he called, and we spent the next two weeks getting to know each other over the phone. When we finally went out on our first date, my friend insisted on chaperoning.

He, of course, knew that if he had any chance with me, he'd have to win her heart… so guess where most of his attention went? She, of course, adored him and gave him two thumbs up, but asked that I be cautious.

I can't say that it was love at first sight, but I knew that we "fit" together and that's all that really mattered. Soon we were talking about our futures and how we wanted to spend them together.

We had nothing figured out, we were barely getting by financially, and had no idea what we were even going to be doing with the rest of our lives… but we knew that we had to be doing "it" together so we got married.

We stepped out on a leap of faith and believed that no matter what curveballs life dealt us, we would be able to handle them together. And boy have we had our share of curveballs!

In 23 years of marriage, we have come to realize that fairytale romances don't exist but that doesn't mean you can't have your happily ever after… you just have to be willing to work at it.

Looking back over our marriage, I realize there are six key points that have kept us together:

1. Honesty

Marriage cannot survive without honesty. My husband and I have no secrets. We talk about everything, even when it's an unpleasant topic. He even tells me when girls (women) flirt with him.

2. Laughter

You need to be able to laugh with one another. My husband and I have two completely different styles when it comes to what makes us laugh but we've learned to find some common ground in the comedy department.

3. Forgiveness

Holding onto hurts is a surefire way to destroy your marriage. My husband and I have learned to stop keeping a scorecard.

Spending so much time with another human being is hard. There are bound to be times when you get on each other's nerves, when you lash out in anger and it has absolutely nothing to do with your spouse, or when you take your screw ups out on your spouse.

You may never truly forget the hurt, the disappointment, or the anger you felt, but you need to learn how to let it go, move past it, and believe that the other person is truly remorseful for any pain caused to you.

And if you're the one that caused the pain, you must be willing to acknowledge the pain you've caused because it's hard to forgive someone who doesn't acknowledge the pain he/she caused—not impossible mind you, but definitely harder.

4. Talking

A marriage cannot survive if you aren't friends. Looking back over my marriage, I can honestly say that the most difficult times in our marriage are the times we stopped talking to each other.

No matter how crazy your day is, no matter how tired you are, or how little you feel you have to share, make it a point to spend a half hour every day talking about life outside of the kids and work.

5. Remembrances

Marriage needs good memories. When my husband and I hit a rough patch, our pastor told us to remember the reasons we fell in love with each other in the first place and to think about the good qualities in that person and then cherish those qualities. It wasn't always easy to do, but forcing ourselves to remember the good prevented molehills from turning into mountains.

With the craziness of life, it's easy to forget about the qualities that made you fall in love with your significant other in the first place… and even hard to remember the qualities that keep you married. But it's so very important that you do!

6. Activities

Make new experiences. Looking back over our marriage, I can say, without a doubt, that our marriage was strongest when we shared new experiences together.

Switch between doing something you don't like doing but makes your partner happy (and do it without an attitude of drudgery) and doing something you both like to do.

If I could encourage you to do one thing for yourself, it would be this: Make time for the relationships that matter most to you. Spending time with people you love enriches your life in ways that personal accomplishments never can.

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