Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

The light has been really beautiful lately ... blue skies and golden light. In spite of hurricane and snowstorm, there are still leaves clinging to the trees (a lovely example of resilience) and some of them are glowing gold and red in the late fall sunshine.

Today is the day to be Thankful, and as we made our plans to gather with friends and planned the food to be prepared, I thought about what it means to be thankful. Grateful. For me it means taking stock of what I have, right now, instead of always looking to the past or future - both of which I find myself falling into now and then. Instead of only thinking about where I want to be, what I want to have achieved, what I want to be doing in the future, the kind of person I want to be, what I don't have right now, where things fall short. It means being thankful for what is there today, right now. For the little things. For the big hugs. For the journeys taken and the life lived. For the friends and family, even if they are far away. Just deep breath in and being Thankful.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving today. And to those of you not celebrating, wishing you much to be Thankful for today.

   (Turkey by Lexi)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Today ...

Today ...

I am missing my broken-lens-by-accident-sorry-Mommy camera and waiting anxiously for a replacement to come in the mail. I am using my old camera which just is not the same. But then it has made me appreciate my broken one even more and i will be ever so happy to have it all nice-and-shiny-as-new again when the new lens arrives. I hope i ordered the right one.

Lexi had no school today and so we baked blueberry muffins and played with paper. We made paper crowns when her friend came to play and I made a tree which has grown into a forest. Inspired by these paper trees (and what a gorgeous magazine too) I am making them for the ABC Cakes winter window which is all pink, green and white this year. I have had more fun than i expected i would, and they are surprisingly easy to make. Scrapbook paper is still one of my favorite toys.

The same magazine had an advert for Jolie Marche's Etsy shop and I am totally in love with these cushions. I want to order almost all of them. I think I do not have that much space. But how I love them. Maybe I have space for one. Or two. For one day when i have a guest room ... 

I hung this painting up while I decide if I like it or not. And if it's finished. Not such a good photo - that camera thing. Just playing with paint after Flora's course. Light hearted. Nothing too serious or labored. 

I phoned my Mom who is back in South Africa - and how I miss having her here. It's hard. This living across the ocean so far away. I know some of you reading this will understand exactly what i mean. It takes time, the tearing away of the closeness and settling back into the norm again, and special as the time together is, it's so fleeting and always the lingering sadness of knowing it's ending soon and that one of us is climbing onto a plane to fly away. Back home. Although for me my heart is still there. So it's very very complicated. We have been talking about whether or not we should be going back. To be THERE for our family. When they need us we are far away. We cannot shoulder the day to day burdens and lend a hand where it's needed. All we can be is a voice over a long distance phone line and it's just not the same thing as saying 
'Hey, come over for coffee. I'll take care of that for you. Don't worry about it, we'll be there tomorrow to sort that out for you. I'll come with you. I can do it. I can be there. What time.' 
But we are here and it's home too and we have so many things which influence our decisions. Always all of that.

These are some photos of the last day we had together here before she left ... walking at Muscoot Farm in the sunshine before her very long flight home.

I read these lovely words (A blessing) and wanted to share them too.

And that is my 'today'. Hope yours is holding light and love.


Monday, November 12, 2012

A little inspiration ...

Some of the things which have inspired me these past few weeks ...


i cannot stop listening to this song by Mindy Gledhill. I always seem to have one album i play over and over for a series of paintings or just for playing in my studio over a few weeks, and right now it's Anchor, the album this song comes from. i love this video too.


I found Canadian artist Dominique Fortin via Pinterest and her work is just beautiful ... her use of mixed media, the paint and photography ... and also the fairy tale - magical quality of her pieces .. haunting and beautiful all at once. Have a look at her portfolio.


A few weeks ago, I took Lexi and my mom to the NY Botannical Gardens and we were so excited to see these stunning sculptures by Manolo Valdes. A complete surprise, we just happened to be there ... and we were so glad we got to see these. 'Butterflies' (below) was the first one we saw, and definitely my favorite. They were positioned all around the gardens - incredibly beautiful.

Here's wishing you a little inspiration today. 


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thoughts while baking ...

I've been feeling a little rattled of late. OK, a lot. Part of writing here, for me, is making sure that i stay honest and don't write happy flowery when actually there is more going on. Not trying to make it all look perfect or like my life is running exactly as it should. Because we all have ups and downs and it's part of the journey to figure our way through all of that and to let it shape our choices and the way we go.

One of the reasons we wanted to move to Texas earlier in the year was partly because we needed a new adventure, a change of scene. But for me it was also to leave New York. There's something about being here that makes me feel like there's an invisible weight on my shoulders. I might feel it somewhere else too, but for me, here, it's at its heaviest ever. I have been trying to figure out what it's all about for me and i am realizing that it's because this place is so driven and huge - it's New York for goodness sake. It's not a small beach town or a place not on the map. It's New York. And it's reputation is there for a reason. It is the place of ambition and drive and being your best. Always pushing for more, wanting more. It's not just about the size of your house or the kind of job you do, which is pressure enough and most of us come across that sometimes. Here it's also about being your best all the time. Which in itself is not a bad thing - striving to better ourselves, wanting more for ourselves in the sense of more experience, more living fully, more of the good stuff. More balance. A way to contribute and also grow ourselves. 

But i am feeling like here, it's all about competition and the focus can so easily go wrong. Parents wanting to out do each other. In the birthday parties they throw, in showing how well they parent. It's silently running in the background the whole time. If you are working and a parent, you should also be able to fit in some charity work or be sitting on a board, and juggling school commitments and helping here and there with a million other causes. You should be busy all the time, never stopping to rest. If you're a stay-at-home mom you should also be proving what a good citizen you are. You should have a full resume of activities and causes and things to make you look successful and important. It's all about being busy, being recognized, fighting your cause of choice and being visible for the work you are doing. I feel like it's one gigantic competition to succeed and achieve and to be able to list those achievements for everyone to see. I have finally figured out that this stuff is sitting on me like a ton of lead. Because i can never be enough here, do enough here. No matter what i am doing, it's never enough - this competitive drive runs through so many social interactions and friendships here, it's part of life. The always having to prove one's worth. Having to list a successful career (not), a good college attended, a business one started (not), a beautiful house (not), good connections (not), people one knows (not) ... the list is endless. And then on top of that we should put in the time and effort to look beautiful and groomed and smiley and friendly and the kind of person everyone gravitates toward (not). I was a fool to think it would be any different - a place attracts a certain kind of person and this place stands for success and ambition so of course, even in the suburbs, I am going to encounter the same things. But i don't fit in and i haven't so far. And i have finally realized that i probably never will, no matter how long i live here for. 

There's a beautiful book called Hope for the Flowers which i read years and years ago and just remembered recently because it's simple and very relevant for me. At some point it should be enough - all that we have. It should be enough to pursue our own happiness and what that means for each of us, and that it means different things to each of us should be ok too. It should be ok to make different choices. To not live in a mansion or have a swanky career. To not be going to gala events or sit on a board. To not be constantly having to prove how successful, competent, grown up, responsible, multi tasking, thoughtful, caring and socially aware we are. To just be ourselves. For me right now it's being able to be at home with my kids, doing a few little things on the side. Not yet a home owner. Not yet sorted and rooted and all grown up. Not possessing a suit or liking high heels. I gave up work and a career i was growing, to be at home with my kids. It was one of the hardest choices i ever made but since I did, and since we moved countries in order for me to be able to be at home, can that not be enough sometimes ? Maybe for a little bit ? Do i also have to be studying and furthering myself and feeling guilty for not giving back and contributing to a million causes ? For not being famous or well recognized or for having a huge following on my blog or publishing a book, having work good enough to sell. Whatever it is, I am always falling short. Sometimes we are doing quiet inside stuff that no one else can see, sometimes we have our own little battles we are fighting. Sometimes raising a family is enough work for me and I am all tired out by the end of the day. I am so exhausted inside right now, always feeling inadequate like this. Quietly in the corner. There is something wrong with this picture.

It's a painful realization for me, that this has been going on the whole time we have lived here, for me, and that for others it might feel totally different but for me, this is not good. But it is good to recognize it for what it is, and to be able to write it out. I'm not sure what to do about it just yet, but one step at a time.

Last night i was thinking about all of this. I was baking cookies for a tag sale tomorrow and I was thinking about the beautiful home of a friend i fetched Lexi from, after a playdate, and about everyone else's successful careers and how much they are doing. I was tearing myself to pieces in my head as i was rolling out the dough and lifting out the shapes. Thinking about all of this and how i constantly fall into this trap of comparing myself (i know, insert the broken record sound here!) ... but that's what we do when we are grappling with something, we wrestle it to the ground and we try to get on top of it all. At least i do.

As i rolled and cut shapes in the dining room my son rushed past me playing football down the passage beside me. I could hear my mother's voice reading to Lexi on the couch. Outside it was dark and the lamps cast warm circles in the room where they snuggled on the couch together. Dido was playing and reminded me of England. Pizza had been ordered and i did not need to be cooking. And i realized that this is all i need, right here around me. And tomorrow my mom has to fly back to South Africa and I will be grieving all over again at the hole she will leave when she goes, but for now, for today, everything I need is right here.


Saturday, November 3, 2012


I was going to post about Fall. How beautiful the leaves are when they turn golden red. How Lexi's school went to make apple cider and there were scarecrows standing on the lawn. How I love this time of year with all the festivities of pumpkin picking and apples and the air turning cold. How lovely it is to have my mom with us.

And then along came Sandy and nothing I wanted to write seemed at all relevant - only frivolous in the wake of the devastation and disruption here. Families all around us with no power and no heating, still, days after the storm, and it's getting colder here now. There is more rain on the way they say, and I think of everyone already under sand and without electricity. Trees are still down, power lines dangling across the road. Schools have been closed all week and gas lines stretch further than the eye can see. I drove past one yesterday that had at least 300 cars in it. We were so lucky in the storm and I really am grateful, if not a little guilty too. Those of us who kept power feel like we aren't really on the ground and suffering along with everyone else, grateful as we are, it's a strange place to be. We have been hunkering down and staying in a lot over the past week, and the news has been on almost all the time. War vets and mothers choked up or in tears - people have lost everything. Roads covered in sand so deep they are using snow ploughs to dig out a path to drive along. Houses gone or completely shifted off their foundations. The devastation is unbelievable.

And yet through it all I am amazed by the sense of community, the infrastructure running in the background doing its best to get people back on power and back up and running. Shelters, emergency services, news reporters, neighbors. People standing on a street corner in Staten island handing out warm food they prepared themselves. I am upset beyond words at how a time like this can be used for scaremongering and a complete lack of sensitivity by some, it beggars belief. But I turn to all the strength and optimism around me as I watch power being restored (albeit slowly) to parts of lower Manhattan and New Jersey, to friends close by. Schools go back on Monday and all any of us want is for things to go back to a semblance of normal.

Here's to being hopeful and appreciating the strength we have within our communities, here and everywhere else.

Hoping you and your families are warm and safe as you read this today.