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My Art Therapy Journey

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My question today is this: When do you let a thing go?

I just want to know, is there ever a time to give up?  And is giving up -giving up?… or really just letting go? And if it is then the question is less when than “how?”

I didn’t come to this canvas wanting anything but to paint.  It turned into a flower.  But I didn’t think it was good enough so I kept painting.  I wanted more.  Suddenly I became attached.  I was so happy to see a flower on my canvas when I didn’t even try to get it there.  I was ecstatic because for so long I’ve talked about “people who paint flowers” and how I definitely was not one of those people.

There was a part of mE that has always  wanted to paint a flower.

But no flowers would ever come.

It made me sad.

Flowers weren’t for me.

But I like flowers.   Flowers are special.  They make me happy.

“Flowers come from happy people.” (That’s what I thought.)

But I was not a flower person.

Then this flower came to me.  And I wanted it so much, even if it looked like a 5-year-old drew it.  It was still my flower and I loved it.

But then…the paint-parent came out and said it wasn’t right enough, there wasn’t enough “pop,” it wasn’t bright…it wasn’t right. The background had no foreground and blah blah blah, BLAH!  It didn’t look like other people’s flowers at all.  It didn’t even necessarily look alive!  So hopeless.

So I tried to help it out.  I tried to be better.  I tried to make it work…but then….

It died.

But it hadn’t signed a DNR.

So I kept at it.

The following photos are  the journey my flower has gone through and it’s still not done.  In fact, as soon as I get done writing this post I am getting right back to work on it.  I wanted to come here first though and talk about what’s been happening and mark it as part of my journey.  I don’t know where it’s going to go….

Do I stop?  Do I give up?  Today I’m working out how to let go.

I think.  I mean, I guess.

There’s just so much I don’t know right now.

(I have chosen to not digitally enhance any of these…they just have to sit there and deal with it, boo.)

close-up

 

Where I think I should have stopped and maybe just added some black and translucent layer(s) of color. It was going to be titled…”The First Flower of Recovery”

 

close – up

 

Where it all started to go wrong…

 

and even more wrong, haha

 

“Doing Battle”

 

close-up

 

a part of the paint I liked….that didn’t last, lol

 

trying to get my orange to cooperate…We still aren’t talking

 

The “Fuck It” stage…sorry, but it’s true

 

The “I feel this is an exceptional depiction of BOREDOM” phase

 

Up now…the “Trying too hard” period

 

but at least I felt there were some successful elements…and it was good time to experiement

 

When I thought maybe the carnage was over…It wasn’t! 🙂

 

stuff I liked, but it wasn’t likable enough…and I was irritated I could only get 5″ of things to go my way

 

And this is when I came to you with my questioning….How to give up…I mean, let go…yeah, Let Go…that’s so much more therapeutic, lol

Ok, so I know earlier I said I still wasn’t done, but I lied.  I kept painting before finishing this post because all the pictures were taking too long to upload.

And this is where we (me and this damn flower!) stand now.  I don’t really love it.  I feel like it’s so wrong and not doing anything for me.  But I’m learning…just not at the pace I would like to and I think I still just want my first flower back because it was the truest and I should have just chilled out and sat with it a while before destroying it in my haste to make it something it never could be anyway…perfect.

I love you not, flower!!!!

Sometimes I really hate my issues.  Stupid damn fucking issues, AURURRURURURHHHGGGGG!!!!

There.

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I wish I could take credit for my post title…but I found this lovely poem by Wendell Berry tonight, put to music by a band named Crooked Still.  I’m always grateful when someone else can put words (and music along with them is a major bonus) to how I feel.  I’m beginning to feel  “The Peace of Wild Things” in my life.

Everyday, almost all day, I have thought about Life With Light.  This place here…this blog, and what I share within it…my life.   The journey here and the journey of my breath from inside out and in again.  Such a journey to really live, isn’t it?  And then to have your breath out there for others to potentially take into themselves.  Crazy.

**

The photo above is of  a little butterfly pin/brooch I found at an estate sale this weekend.  It’s amazing how things can take you right back in time to a place you thought was dead.  This pin immediately took me to my mother who I remembered had a pin just like this, only in blue (this one is oranges and warm colors.)

I stared at that pin. I picked it up and put it down.  It was sitting with the other jewelry of questionable value on where the cashier sat. Maybe mom wore it a lot or maybe she just wore it during a significant time that had me so closely focused in on it.  It’s imbedded within me.  I picked it up and put it down.  I thought it would fly away.

I walked around the house and picked up other things…and didn’t put them down. 3 grapefruit spoons (they are impossible to find and I love grapefruit!), some old linens (for purposes of the embroidery on them mostly…future projects forever on my mind,) a few decorated styrofoam birds (to place around my studio…inspiration,) and a couple of cases of old tape and reel film (nicely metaphoric for my mixed-media endeavors.)

I don’t know what made me pick up the butterfly and place it back on the cheap portable folding table.  Every other item I picked up and kept… in my head I was thinking about the butterfly I left and then, quickly, “mom.”

I wanted to not want it.  I wanted to walk away.

But I was afraid of making a final decision and leaving with regret.

**

Here’s a photo of the day after.

I’ve been busy in my absence.  I’ve been remarkably present…painting.

My words are so sparse.  They aren’t coming to me like feelings are.

But do you know what makes a painter happy?

Painting!

It’s the wildest thing I’ve known.

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I’m back in business!  At least to some degree.  Yesterday I went to my previously scheduled Monday night sewing class and felt better for it.  I’ve been working on this darned stuffed cat for months.  Of course, I did just successfully thread my sewing machine by myself last week.  Next up: Bobbin Winding?

So proud I learned to thread my own machine!

One step at a time.  That’s what I’m always telling myself.

My awesome (and she really is completely  awesome!) sewing teacher announced to the class last night, while talking about when you’re learning to sew,  you just start at step one and go from there with one new skill at a time…And then continued her announcement with the exception for me here, who started on about step 4.  : )   Whoops.

But I swear when I found this cat pattern I thought it was so cute and it wasn’t that big, and besides, don’t babies play with stuffed animals?  How hard could it be, really?!

So…I toted in this (non-beginner) pattern to my very first sewing class and in the past couple of months have fallen in serious intense like with sewing.  It’s teetering on love, I think.  I’m trying to keep it on the down-low though.  I don’t want to get tooooo excited about it just yet.  My sweet kitty is still not quite done and she might not love me back…?  Oh, I hope she loves me!

If she doesn’t I don’t think I’m going to give up on sewing just yet.  I’ll try a stuffed teddy bear next, maybe.

**

There’s more.

I noticed something else about sewing last night though.  And I think it’s an awareness that has grown from the beginning of my stuffed cat project.   But last night it was all in the right place and came together and YES, definitely this cat is a representation of me.

Maybe not the cat, per say…but the process of this cat becoming a cat…The cat becoming/forming/growing into what/who it is.

I’m sure I’m taking my connection with this stuffed cat a bit too far for some people’s comfort level, but I’m always looking for ways to connect and, more-so, ways to express the way I’m feeling inside.

And last night at the tail-end of my class this is how my cat ended up…

inside-out cat-arms and tail folded inside, detached legs, pins that once held it together still sticking out after sewing the body

Of course, I identify with the pins in the body right now due to my recent surgery…and the stitches. The stitches…of course.   And I watched as my cat’s arms and tail went inside and the “beautiful sides” (my teacher refers to them as the beautiful sides!)  were pinned together before sewing…  I thought to myself, “Yes…just like that.  Nobody can see. what’s in there.”

Inside that’s the way I feel…(but I don’t necessarily feel beautiful in there.)  I am all tucked inside, facing a needle, facing surgery, facing life, facing the unknown.  And nobody can see me.  “Nobody can see that I actually have a face under here…if they could see inside me here they would see my face!”

Now, I know sometimes people see me.  Sometimes people are even there when I’m a bloody mess, all contorted and turned certain ways.  But deeper…deeper hidden and hiding is how I sometimes feel.

Having the surgery and the following restrictions on my mobility and the fears about a repeat emergency surgery happening if I don’t follow the rules…and all my body image issues…and the control, or rather the loss of it….has had me pretty “triggered.”   I’m primed and ready to go.  Anxiety…check.  Depression…check. Body Pain…check.  NO CONTROL NO CONTROL NO CONTROL….checkcheckcheckcheckcheck!!!!

It’s not true.  I know I DO have control over myself.  I know that I’m going to be ok in the end.  I know that even if I did have to have surgery again I’m (pretty) sure I’d live through it…even the part that comes after where I can’t get my blood pressure up, walk around,  pick up and play with my daughter and do my projects.

And I also know that I have my attitude at my disposal.  I can choose to stay positive and hopeful at most times.  I can keep the faith.  I can see the bigger picture through anything.  I can do all that!

But then, sometimes…well, sometimes I’m just wrapped up tight inside and it feels like I’m not in my own hands.  Maybe that’s just the place we’re all supposed to be sometimes mid-process of becoming who we are?

And it’s then that I’m really thankful I am a human…and not a stuffed cat after-all.

And I’m completely  made as me. Lovable, huggable me, already!  (Even if I do hide inside sometimes!)

(And I super-super know I am eager to love my creator back…and my creator will not give up on love…because creation doesn’t give up on itself!  I didn’t even plan on that…I’ll have to think about this!)

The end.

No, not the end!  But just the end…for now.

(I wrote this stream-of-consciousness style so I can’t guarantee all of this completely makes sense…have mercy on me! 🙂

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My therapist told me  he was hoping this can be, even if just kind of, like a mini vacation from all my responsibilities.  (We’ve just been talking in sessions about how I need a break and some space in life ; )  I am always wary of what I wish for!!!   If this is vacation, this is a destination in a little corner of hell I do not foresee myself wanting to visit again anytime.  I would finish that sentence up with “anytime soon.” But I’m sure I’m never going to want to return to this place. EVER.

 

 

 

What you see here (above) is an abstraction of a rather large hematoma (except I don’t know if this was actually a hematoma as I’ve read it described…there was no clotting going on.  It was, in fact, profuse internal bleeding!  I think they called it a hematoma so I wouldn’t die on them on-the-spot.) I acquired as a parting gift from a small surgical procedure I had on Thursday.  A couple little blood vessels called arteries! got loose and had their way with me. It required some quick emergency surgery to round-up and zap the boogers into submission, so I’ve been slightly set back on my spastic project line-up!  I’ve basically been in bed lying low since Thursday evening.

And just a little tidbit I learned: If a doctor ever says to you, “This might feel funny and “tickle” a bit, you can be pretty sure it’s going to hurt like hell.  Surgery with the smallest amount of local possible is not really something I was looking to add  to my toolbox of experiences to express in art!

I was told my risk factor for this experience was, out of 100%…. half of a percent. (.5%).

Clearly, proof that I defy the odds.

Let’s have the next defiance be a little more in my favor, can we?

**

I am not a very good mattress dweller.  I’m not supposed to be raising my blood pressure too much for the next week, so I have to stay somewhat detached from all the excitement elsewhere in the house.

But I actually have slept a lot.  Dozing here and there, waking up every once in a while to peruse Pinterest or read an art book or watch an instructional DVD.  And of course, in the evenings, I’m still getting my fix of Breaking Bad!  So it hasn’t actually been all, well…bad.  A mini-vacation after-all, maybe.  Nothing a little Valium can’t complete.

And today I actually found some energy to play around with my new Photoshop App on my iPhone.  I’m not sure if I like it better than Instagram’s  selections, or if I just haven’t figured out how best use different apps  for the effects I want.  I’m definitely in at a pre-K level, doodling and drawing accidental circles and squares and sometimes thinking they’re pretty awesome.

I have NO IDEA what I’m doing!  There is a certain freedom in that, I guess. But the results may be something only a very good mother could love!  Once I’m back on my feet I’m sure I’ll drive myself crazy until I understand all the functions better.

As far as my painting goes…I may be dancing around in the same realm as Photoshop.  I haven’t actually painted in several years.  It used to be my main love.   I’ve actually just come out of a dry spell and if you’re familiar with monsoon seasons, that might give you an idea of where I’m at with my creativity.  It’s coming in humongous downpours, but the drainage system that directs the flow  might not be entirely sufficient. These bursts may lead to some messes before it all starts to sink in and some grass starts to grow and flowers bloom.

I’m just rolling with the journey…(and trying not to totally roll into the sewer, even though I feel pretty poopy at the moment.)  (Forgive me!)   I’m so out-of-sorts.

Luckily, I do have some comfort in the midst of this wild process.  My old cat, Sammy.

Oh, Sammy-Sammers…Old Faithful I call him.  He’s been through the last decade with me through many storms… divorce, loves, breakups, hospital stays, new marriage, new jobs, loss of jobs, new baby and  too many moves to count.

He stays by my side through everything, even when he’s been cast off and lovingly tossed across the room in a  hormonal moment.  He  always, always loves me.  Or at least he loves how warm and cozy I am to snuggle up against…and my pillow.  But whatever, I’m just going to believe that he loves me because I’m just that cool!  (And definitely not just because I feed him well and keep his water bowl fresh.)

So when I went in the basement to paint (and get started on my new painting class which I’m going to go into more detail about one of these days when I’m feeling like I’m actually more in the process of it) it should have come as no surprise to me that he was my eager mascot.  It was just like old times.  Oh, I do love him!  He’s not really a cat to me, even.  I have known for a long time that he is a reincarnated  superhero especially for me.  ; )

Since I’ve been laid up, and since unidentifiable, abstract photos of large hematomas are not all that bloggable (even though I blogged it anyway) I thought I’d share some photos from earlier in the week when I was a lot more “me”, painting in my studio with my faithful friend, Sammy…until I can get back to my more “normal” self…SOON 🙂

Ps. You’ll see I also have a white cat named Jack.  His nickname is Houdini…He slips into the scene every once in a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life is ever-expanding!  Right before coming here to post I learned I can actually buy an attachable lens for my iPhone!?  What?  Maybe if I get one I can take some pictures from this paleolithic photog cage I’ve kept myself in.

I am excited about this newest discovery, but I’m wondering if it borders on too much of a  “gadget.”  Does anybody know?  I for sure don’t!  Believe me, I am reserving ALL  judgements about everything photography, (maybe indefinitely!) after my rude awakening from my prissy analog attitude I once protected from the digital light!

I have taken a lot of Instagram shots and even though I have 3 more editing apps now I haven’t found the right combination of time and energy to begin using them.   It makes me cringe to know there’s so much more I can play around with, and I’m still not playing as deep there as would like to.

**

The word of the last week has been *BUSY* paired with *Follow-Thru*, and for a happy trio *Patience* has had to sneak in by necessity.   So I’ve been super freaky busy working on my projects, but I can’t say that any single one has made it to completion. (YET.  It will!)

This is actually one of my favorite states to be in. While nothing is yet done, so much is getting done!   Everything is in a frenzy of movement, going somewhere with so much forceful purpose it has no idea where or when it might land.  This is The Beautiful Unknown.

On my porch I have plywood patiently waiting for sanding, paint and assemblage.  In the garage I have wood waiting to be turned into a table for my sewing machine which is waiting to finish up a stuffed cat I started over a month ago, and the front room awaits the crafting supplies (for making art dolls, art journals, cards…) I am moving there from their former residence in the family room. The basement walls quietly wait for the canvas that is waiting for paint….because I’m starting an anticipated painting class I haven’t even had the chance to say anything about!

Everything is so moving and still in my life now.  The tension is killer.  Thrilling!

I know I’m getting closer to the deepest place of creativity when life starts looking and feeling like this. Something is about to pop…My life is 10 months pregnant!

Wish me luck on the delivery!

Gotta fly…the baby (turned toddler) is awake!  And she…does not wait! : )

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It’s not just you.  Or your computer.

I really did change the format/presentation of my blog.

I figured since I was already in construction mode, why not?  I had my circular saw out already today anyway!

First time using the circular saw!

 

As with everything else, I probably won’t get this all figured out immediately, but my goal is to understand how to work within this layout better by tomorrow. (I need to figure out the formatting of pages, widgets, custom options, etc.) This format should offer me more options and it changes the “feel” of things.  I hope it will offer a little more space and make it easier to read and view images.

 

In other construction news… I was able to follow through on getting one step closer to completing my current build project…the rolling storage cart!  I am afraid I might become addicted to cutting wood.  I really loved working with the cut-off saw, but these power tools have a way with me!  I’m all over the circular saw now, and I hear there will be access to a jigsaw soon!  The possibilities really are endless.

 

Using a power tool makes me feel strong,capable and effective which are all feelings I like.  Using them also conveniently has the side-effect of  helping me make cool and useful things!  I like building.  I like things that function–Most of all when that “thing”…is ME! : )

 

My Saw and Me : )

 

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I’ve been pretty busy, but not too busy to think about Life With Light.  In fact, I guess I’ve partly been busy because so much of my attention has turned to this “life with light.”    Sometimes the days just seem to slip away…and the day becomes more like an inhabited friendly oasis rather than the harsh desert island I’ve been accustomed to in the past.

My Friendly Oasis on Wednesday

This week me and one of my best friends began a woodworking/building project together!  You can see there are 2 sanding blocks there.  We “turned our doing dials up a notch” ala Home Depot, lol.  My friend gave me that line 🙂  She always makes me laugh.  She’s the kind of friend I can laugh with and cry with in the same day…or even within the same minute.  I count myself pretty lucky, fortunate, blessed… (take your mix n’ match of the assortment,) to have her in my life.  We’ve known each other since we were kids…have been in each other’s weddings…that kind of friends.   We’ve been through a lot together, even during times we were apart, often living sort of seemingly parallel lives.

So I have this to share…a great big burst of light in my my life if you ask me!

This week we bonded over the cut-off saw in my garage…

We got as far as sanding and painting these boards which I was pretty proud of!  I’m hoping to work on the completion sometime this weekend.  The weather outside looks good, so as long as the weather indoors stays as calm then I will hopefully have a storage cart on wheels by the time Monday rolls around…complete with victory pics to share!  (Crossing fingers, toes, and a few hairs.)

**

If you’ve been reading my blog you’ll probably remember me talking about my euphoric discovery of Instagram  and my reformation of the repugnance I once had for digital photography.  You won’t believe what I’ve uncovered now!   I am forever humbled.  My former repugnance is regrettable.

Another thing that has had me busy this week is this!

The Art of iPhoneography: A Guide to Mobile Creativity

And!

iPhone Obsessed: Photo Editing Experiments with Apps

And I was even more humbled when I learned there are even people who consider themselves to be  iPhoneography Purists!?  iPhone purists!  I never knew!

I am SO SLOW.

My husband laughed at me because he tried to get me into digital when we were dating, but I would have nothing of it.  I’m too embarrassed to even admit to the things I said about “lowly digital.” LOL.  And now I’m begging him to go to Photoshop World with me!  I have had to swallow some pretty big words and eat a lot of humble pie.

I haven’t actually even had the chance to experiment with any new apps.  I was thinking Instagram was the schizz, but I guess there’s more out there to explore. haha.

It’s a bit hard to not have all the time in the world to traverse all these extraordinary ventures.   These discoveries have  kept my mind going at a good speed, which is necessary because I apparently I have a lot of catching up to do.  But when it comes to all this newfangled stuff  I have to approach my discoveries more as a section-hike and not a thru-hike for now…(hiker lingo)  Oh…and just to think of all the photos that could be unearthed on this hike!

I cannot wait to dig into digital and see how I can pal around with it in the area of art therapy!

Patience will be a personal challenge on this one.

**

And an update on the rest of life…well, what is the rest of life anyway?

What if the rest of life was just like all the above…happy to be alive?

What if…something to think about.

And maybe something to feel.

It is scary to unravel in the light.

Light means awareness and awareness means seeing what was once in the dark.  Sometimes things in the dark, once revealed, are not so scary anymore.  Like the classic monster in the bedroom…that isn’t.  But sometimes there really is a monster in the bedroom.

More children’s books should probably talk about this so it can help us grow into adults that can face reality.

Monsters exist…and not just in the dark.

Sometimes the light in the room is flipped on and the monster is real and tries to eat you alive.

This particular revelation of the light is dark…I don’t mean for it to be dark, but I’m scared and angry at the monsters.

It is beyond-words scary to come to life sometimes.

I have travelled in the dark.  I guess I battled fear  in the dark sometimes  too, but I could look at the beasts lurking around me and tell myself they weren’t real.  They were just my imagination playing tricks on me…just a shadow that couldn’t hurt me.

I sometimes find reality to  be unappealing now that I’m learning the truth.  But I guess the greatness of light is that reality can be changed into something better.

There are also good things….good feelings.  Gifts.  Flowers. Laughter.  Love.

And still, always there can be Hope when the feelings don’t feel so good.

I just think it’s important to say that sometimes it’s not all rosy.  There is a lot that makes me want to shut my eyes again and say, “I’m not here.  I’m not here.  I’m not here and neither are the monsters.”  Oh, but to believe the lies.

They are there.  Here.  Me, the “monsters,” my life….it all has existed through all this time.

*

Yesterday I walked into the kitchen with my toddler, preparing to make her breakfast.  I flipped on the light and…  This is what started off my day.

I am rewriting the story, or in this case…maybe the song.

It was not so Itsy Bitsy.

It also did not go up the spout again.

 

Over the weekend my Baby became a Toddler.  She’s still not quite “toddling,” but we’ve made the one-year mark.  It’s exciting and humbling.  It makes me nostalgic for my older daughter who will turn 14 this fall.  Though, it is hard to not be washed in fear.  I look at other families, especially younger ones just starting out with their baby or young children and sometimes my heart wants to stop.  I don’t really know why.  I don’t know if it takes me to the hindsight wisdom I have now about a time when I was so young (a teenager)  and unknowing–when I had no idea what was to come for me as a mother– or if I am feeling vulnerable for them…because they look so innocent.  Parents.  Hearts just right out there in front.

I don’t think I look innocent.

But I’m not really sure what I look like anymore.

I have no idea what life will throw my way. I am  doing my best to be the parent my toddler (with her own unique personality and set of traits, much different from her sister’s)  needs me to be.  I don’t think I look-or feel-innocent, but I so often am scared of not knowing enough.

I am constantly searching myself out, asking, “Have I learned what I need to know from my mistakes?”

It’s scarier to be pretty sure I probably don’t even know all the mistakes I have made yet.

Time is a teller.

Is there any parent out there who can’t look back and see even just one mistake they might have made in raising a child?  If there is, I’m sure that person will come find me here to tell me, lol.  Never fails, huh.  (Falls under the class of “Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to.”)

Anyway, we survived the first birthday party.  A party my older daughter never received.  (I was a Jehovah’s Witness then.)

I feel like I am always living in alternate universes.  Especially as a married woman and parent now in this new place.  Memories free-flow around and through me.  I live in an ocean of memories and most of them are not very pleasant.  I work hard to make new ones.  Sometimes I think I actually work too hard at that and stress myself out even more.  And then is the memory I worked so hard to make good any good?

But as I was saying, we’ve made it this far.

This year we celebrated with friends…a pretty rockin’ way to get the ball rollin’.  Right?

But my older daughter was with her dad.  So even this birthday is tinged with sadness.  It’s a long story only a mini-series could tell.

I’m going to trust that if I keep living life with light will take care of this for all of us.

I’ve been savoring  my latest set of Instagrams.  It seems like so much has happened in just a couple of days, even though when I look around not much has changed.

Except for my mantle.  Yes, my mantle is looking different these days!

My mantle now holds a vase with Roses of Different Color!

And, I think you can be assured it’s not because I am wearing rose-colored glasses, either.

Just take a look at these beauts!

Yesterday my husband ran an errand to the store and came back with these!!!

No arguing, no disharmony, not even a “discussion” precluded these babies!  No ladies (and gents) my husband bought me flowers because….because HE DID.  And he gets full credit.

Now, I didn’t used to think I was the type of girl to get all giddy over flowers, but turns out…I kinda am.  Especially when they’re tie dye, and especially when I know it means my husband is listening and paying attention.  And something grabbed his attention at the store when I wasn’t with him and he thought of me!

So I’m a little sweet on these flowers, and sweet on him.

Self-Portrait with Roses  : )

So not too much commentary today, although it feels like there’s a ton to share.  It will have to wait because I am stopping to smell my tie-die roses!  And I invite you to sit-a-spell and smell them with me!