Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Your "dream job"...

So what does it look like?

You know, what does your "dream job" look like?  What does it smell like?  How about the taste?  And the sound?

Mine varies from day-to-day in order to include everything I am supposed to accomplish in this short time period on earth.

My day incorporates a lot of prayer.  Lots of 1:1 time that is built into the day.  Then there's the need for healthy eating and exercise...I usually begin that in the wee hours of morning.  Depending on the day, it is a combination of volunteering and time in the studio.  I work in both traditional and digital formats for my art so I can literally take my studio on the road or settle into my home studio which is perfect on a cold winter's day!  

Then comes the teaching aspect.  I love to teach.  But being tied down 5 days a week like a prisoner with a ball and chain is not my gig.  I loved the college schedule when I taught it for 11 years.  But administration can keep it's ridiculous amounts of paperwork/requirements and other such baloney, thank you very much.  I prefer to focus on the individual and guiding them as best I can at being the best person they can be.

I taste the fresh brewed cup of coffee in the early morning, smell the various outdoor fragrances of the seasons and enjoy the sounds of my family coming and going intermingled with my "fur babies".  

So I'm working on my "plan".  I call it my "exit plan" as I am slowly exiting this current life of work and beginning on the next phase.  I've been at it since the beginning of Summer 2013 and it is progressing rather nicely.

I'm reminded that change takes time and while I may pine for the changes to be immediate, my focus is on 3 1/2 more years.  It's realistic, it's sensible, it's open for modifications due to the unexpected events that are going to occur.  It also allows me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I have a goal, I'm working towards it and it's tangible.  I have specifics built into my plan which focus on how I'm going to work on each area of my ideal workday.  

But it's all guided with prayer.  So I may certainly make plans, but I don't have the final say.  That is up to someone with a heck of a better grasp of what I'm supposed to be doing with my life.  All I have to do is listen and set into motion what I'm supposed to be doing.  A feat easier said then done.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What does your portrait look like?

So there’s a lot of mudslinging going on right now.  There are those who believe they know who is going to hell and who is not.  There are those that believe the only tolerant opinion is their own and if you do not believe what they believe then you are wrong (thus rendering themselves “intolerant”).  There is the media who presents only one side of controversial issues whether it is the side of the majority of viewers or not.  We can note with regards to the persecution of Christians, they won’t even present those stories for public consumption.

In outward appearances, people puff themselves up to look perfect, tolerant, good, holy, pious…you can add your own adjectives.

But the naked reality is that while we may attempt to show ourselves as being clean on the exterior we are all in need of cleaning out our interior lives.  

“…whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.”  (Luke: 12:3)  

Those interior thoughts and emotions, are they negative or positive?  Do you think critically of others?  Do you put yourself first, before others?  What do you REALLY wish for others?  Goodwill?  Or do you wish for “reality” to bite them in the backside? 

God sees your “interior castle” as St. Teresa of Avila refers to your inner-most being.  So when we face Him at the final judgment, you can’t run and hide.  It’s you and Him.  No one is going to be cheering you on with pom-poms, no one is going to be voting for you, no one is going to be cancelling your television show, no one is going to be recommending you for a raise or firing you from your job.  It’s just you and God: the God of mercy and the God of justice.

Pretty scary isn’t it?  So the good, the bad, the ugly will all come to light.  You can’t run from it.  Those “little” white lies you told in high school, those times you cheated on your taxes or on your spouse, those spiteful words you spread about another person, the negative way you made that overweight girl feel, that co-worker you scoffed at when they shared their faith, the movies you watched with immoral behaviors and attitudes being splashed on the screens and you thought it was perfectly fine because it was “only entertainment”.

The list goes on.

We allow darkness and sin to creep into our thoughts and emotions.  It takes control, if we allow it.  One sinful proclivity is all it takes to invite a host of illness into our souls: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride; the seven deadly sins.  There are many dark and mysterious images on earth.  They come in the form of movies, songs, words, art, the atmosphere of our environment.  They creep into our interior castle and take hold like moss, clinging to the walls unless they are scrubbed clean.

While you are here on earth, you will draw many conclusions.  You will draw many assumptions.  How about drawing the portrait of you?  What will you look like?  The pencil is the medium which you will draw your life experiences.  You are seated in the ultimate art studio: God’s created world.  By virtue of baptism you are drawing with the interactive and visual language of love.  Love is filled with Light.  The Light of Christ’s love: Lumen Gentium.  Are you drawn to the Light or the darkness?

As with any authentic artistic creations, we sketch, we erase, we start over.  The paper becomes worn, battered, sometimes tattered and torn.  We work on the final image but it will never become a masterpiece here on earth.  Living our authentic lives, our mission on earth is serving others in love.  It means standing up for what is right, truthful, good.  It means you will be persecuted for your beliefs.  It means not being “politically correct” but being “faith-filled”.  It means not compromising on your beliefs when your beliefs are firmly rooted in Christ.  So the drawing of your portrait is imprinted on your soul.  It will forever be a work-in-progress while we reside on earth.

It wasn’t meant to be easy.  It wasn’t meant to put you on the wide path.  You were meant to travel down the right path, the narrow path.  By nature of your free will you were given the choice to pick which path you were going to travel down.

Are you on the right path?  When we are on the right path, we are doing God’s will.  We are cleansing out the interior castle.  We are purifying our inner sanctuary.  When we do so, we invite angels to guide our travels.  When we serve others and put others needs before our own, we further purify our souls.  Think of the things you love most.  Those things that you wish you could do every day.  Those things that we truly love, that please God the most, that feeling of being right at home.  God has a plan for each and every one of us.  Are you following His plan?  Maybe you work well with young people, maybe you are great at organizing things, or perhaps it’s focusing on the family and home.  These choices are forming your portrait. 

You will find the ultimate happiness when you hand it over to God and place your entire life in His hands.  You will be guided (as you always have been, you just may not have been listening intently) in finding what your life’s mission truly is.  This is what will bring you happiness and inner joy.  Yes, you will continue to experience life’s sufferings, challenges and ills, but it is HOW you handle them that will come from God’s guidance.  Suffering cleanses our souls.  Christ suffered greatly on the cross for our sins.  What makes us think we are not supposed to suffer?  But what is greater is that it was because of His love for us, that He suffered on the cross.  So pick up that pencil.

The lines, the shading and values of the pencil marks, it creates a portrait.

What does your portrait look like?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Creative bliss in a busy world

At some point every single day, I slip into a day dream of what my ideal "bliss-filled" day would look like.  I imagine my workouts at the same early morning hour, followed by an immersion in daily Mass at one of my favorite local Catholic churches.  

Some days would include some form of teaching art, but not being tied down to the daily full-time schedule of teaching in a public school setting.  Other days it would vary between two volunteering opportunities with my daughter.  Most definitely it includes spending quality time in my art studio with my pomeranians Princess and Isabella, lavishing them with hugs and kisses all day long.

And as far as "work" goes, it would vary from illustrating a children's book based on bible stories along with colorful animal portraits glorifying God's amazing creatures.  

For many years I maintained several written journals for my art.  While my children were young, I would steal a few minutes here and there to write down my dreams and aspirations.  I would often include snippets of art articles.  I would pine over the artists' works that would inspire me to create and when I read their bios I would discover that they had taken a similar journey and now that their children were older, they could pursue their creative bliss.

I now have joined the ranks of those artists whose children are older and the artist is now able to pursue their dreams, their aspirations.  I am busier than I've ever been: teaching full-time art to high school students; mother to a 19 year old and a 15 year old; wife to an amazing man I've been happily married to for over 20 years; student in theology (along with my husband) for the next 4 years and I'm still the aspiring children's book illustrator and fine artist.  

Time to work on striving for creative bliss.  So I've resurrected the art journal.  I have reorganized my art studio to provide more room to create along with a desk area for my husband to do his work.  My daughter slips in and out, sometimes taking up residence on the love seat along with Isabella while Princess lies at my feet.  My son joins us across the way at the family computer, maintaining a safe fighting distance while he pummels dragons and evil creatures in the variety of computer games he plays.

My next step is to set tangible, achievable goals for my art studio.  Since I can't increase the number of hours in a day, I will have to eliminate some of the world's busy-ness from my schedule.  By setting the goals, it will eliminate those things that are truly time wasters...i.e. too much time on social networks, too much time spent on school work that is get the picture.

So the journey picks up where I left off.  I hope you join me by finding YOUR bliss!  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Culture of Mediocrity

What has become of our society?

I mean, come on.  At the age of 19 I was working 3 jobs and going to school full-time.  I was supporting myself.  If I failed a college class it was MY fault.  NOT the professor’s.  If I lost my job, it was MY fault…not my employer’s.  I didn’t have a cell phone or a laptop.  I had a wall phone, a pad of paper with a pencil and a sense of responsibility.

So what do I see in people, 26 years later?  I see “helicopter parents” rescuing their children from experiencing anything “bad”.  I see students who couldn’t be bothered with doing homework assignments or putting their best effort into projects, because they need their “down time”.  I hear the whining of students who think they know everything and that they “aren’t learning anything new” as high school students.  They know it all and they think life will be so much easier once they get out of high school: when they can do what THEY want to do. 

And I laugh.  I laugh at the ignorance and the naiveté.  I laugh at the wisdom I’ve gained over the years and how this younger generation thinks they have it all figured out. 

NEWSFLASH: Guess what sweetie, I thought that too.

Then reality showed up one day and smacked me upside the head, in the form of bills that had to be paid; a job that didn’t pay quite enough; a rejection letter, no make that SEVERAL rejection letters from art competitions; being sick and not being able to “call in” or I’d lose my job; getting dumped by the guy I thought was “the one”; flunking a class that cost me over $4000 to retake. 

Yeah, life was “so much easier”.  I was young, dumb and wrong.

You don’t get anywhere in life without hard work.  Yes, you will have to “suck it up and deal with it”.  Sorry sweetheart, but that’s reality.  Like it or not.  The current entitlement bubble is going to burst and when it does, many young people will be in for a very rude awakening. 

I will feel “really bad” when you have less time for social networking.  I will feel “sorry” for you when you won’t be able to get that latest electronic gadget.  GASP!  I will be in shock when you will actually have to work 40+ hours a week.   I will be “totally surprised” when you are told: “no, you’re not special”.

Let me repeat that last part….YOU’RE NOT SPECIAL!

The younger generation has chosen to be lazy and accept mediocrity as the norm.  You see, each and every morning we make a choice to get up and be the best version of ourselves, to work to our fullest potential or to slide into the comfort zone of mediocrity.  For many, the choice they make is to do the least amount possible to just get by.  It’s a life of mediocrity.  It’s an acceptance of being “less than”.

I was created to be so much more.  I refuse to ever settle for being mediocre.  I didn’t settle for that at 19 and I don’t settle for that now.  Through a healthy dose of trying to be better than I have been, I push myself and strive for excellence in all that I do. 

It’s called DETERMINATION, PERSEVERANCE and MOTIVATION.  It’s available for everyone. 

…Especially those suffering from mediocrity.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Ok, I’m going to be a little bit cynical here. 

Once again, we have one specific day to show our gratitude, our thanks for all that we have. 

It’s what I frequently call those “Hallmark” holidays…you know the ones…Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.  Those holidays that forces our society to head to the stores to buy those obligatory flowers, candy, presents, the list is endless.  We get more wrapped up in the WHAT we are buying versus WHO we are wishing to show our appreciation for.

We may fall into that trap with Thanksgiving: the turkey, stuffing and Aunt Martha’s sweet potato casserole.  Everything must be perfect.  A “Martha Stewart” moment or all is lost.  Then Uncle Fred has an issue with cousin Gertrude, the insults fly, Grandma is flinging threats at both.

Or maybe it’s forgoing the dinner in lieu of the shopping deals.  The stores that must make their sales quota in the span of what is now an entire week.  I’m all for capitalistic ventures, for small businesses to prosper and grow.  But at what cost?

Is this what we have to be thankful for?   Do you really need more “stuff”? 

Take a serious look at what you are truly thankful for.  If it’s the “things” in your life, maybe it’s time to reassess.

Maybe it really is about Martha, Fred, Gertrude and Grandma.  But not about the “things” they bring to the table, it’s just having THEM at the table.  Arguments and all!  For we may not be able to put a price tag on the value of that person in our lives, until they are no longer with us. 

For it is then,  that we realize they were priceless.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Love one another as I have loved you...

So I just completed a letter to a friend.  Now we often shoot off emails or post on a social media site a quick note or message and we think nothing of it.

But this letter is different.

It's actually going through the mail.  For I cannot write to my friend via social media or email.  Anyone who knows me personally will agree that I detest talking on the phone and I am a procrastinator when it comes to actually having to mail anything via USPS!

However writing to my friend Robert is different.  For in writing to Robert I must shun the human weakness to judge him.  I must strip away my human weakness to push him aside.  He is a "reject" according to secular standards.  Now granted, he has made choices that led him down the path of life to be "rejected".  But as stated by Pope Francis, "Who am I to judge?"

Are we not all sinners?  Do we reject God's love when we do things that go against His very desire for us?  Yet guess who is always waiting for us, waiting for us to seek His forgiveness, His warm embrace?

The man pictured with (soon-to-be Saint) Blessed John Paul II is Mehmet Ali Agca.  He is the man who shot (then) Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981.  The Pope visited him in December 1981 where the two spoke privately.

We are called to forgive our enemies.  We are called to love our neighbor.  We are called to love one another as Christ has loved us.  Yes, some days it may seem impossible.  But if Blessed John Paul II could forgive the man that tried to kill him, who am I to judge those around me for the transgressions and sins in their lives when I myself am a sinner as well?

So I will mail my letter to Robert in the morning.  

In a few days it will be received by a young man waiting for his life to end...on death row.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Woman's Vocation is to Love and to Nurture

I imagine a world where all women embrace their true vocation.  

We have an understanding of one possible vocation as seen through art history: Venus of Willendorf; Bottecelli's Birth of Venus; Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding; numerous Annunciation paintings; Raphael's Madonna paintings; Kauffmann's Cornelia Presenting Her Children as Her Treasures.  

All of these possess a common theme: motherhood.

Not all women have been called to motherhood though: "For blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled, who has not entered into a sinful union; she will have fruit when God examines souls." Wisdom 3:13

“A woman’s vocation is to love and to nurture.  Understanding this, we can see that abortion is the crime par excellence of our decadent and sad century.  Not only does it sin against God, against the Child Jesus, against the sacredness of human life, but it kills one of the most noble and tender qualities rooted in the female heart: the vocation to protect what is weak.”   Alice Von Hildebrand

Wouldn't it stand to reason that if a woman finds herself not wanting the unborn child in her womb, she ought to live up to her vocation "to love and to nurture" and offer that child to another who is unable to bring forth children in her own womb, yet is called to the vocation of motherhood?  For while the pregnant woman may not want the unborn child, there are those who would step forward to open their loving arms and nurture that child as their own flesh and blood.

The vocation of all women is to love and to nurture, to protect those who are weak.  The vocation which has been engraved upon her heart is rooted in love.  God is Love.

Abortion is rooted in hatred: a hatred for love, a hatred for the weak, a hatred for what is tender and most noble.  

These beautiful twins are Love.