Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wishes for Megan

Today is my sweet little Megan's 6th birthday.  Oh my, how the years have flown.  Of course our house is filled with glitter, glimmer, and laughter today. Once she headed off to school I played around with this cupcake in my sketchbook using my Twinkling H2O's for a while, thinking about how privileged I am to be her mother.

We have a little tradition in our house, along with gifts, we give wishes to the birthday person, we tell them what our wish for them is on their birthday. So today, as she celebrated at school and my 2yo slept peacefully after his lunchtime meal, I found myself sitting quietly and thinking about my wishes for Megan.  I thought I would share them with you.

Dear Megan,

My wish for you is to know that virtue is strength and the key to peace, to know that many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints on your heart, and remember, in order to handle yourself you need to use your head, but to handle others, use your heart.

My wish for you is to learn from the mistakes of others because you can't live long enough to make them all yourself. Know that if you wish to be like someone else, you waste the person you are, and recognize that a smart person knows what to say, but a wise person knows whether or not to say it.

My wish for you is to live fully and simply in the present moment, free youself to express your ideas and feelings and don't bottle them up inside you, and remember, just as you have the right to live your own life, others have the right to live theirs.

My wish for you is to love who you are, and remember that we are all born into this life with a body which we can choose to love or hate.  Respect who you are, care for yourself, and value your gifts. Know that the answer to life's questions are within us, if only we look and listen with our heart, and trust in our own judgement, we will see them.

And above all, my wish for you it to know that beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are precious works of art. Live your life with integrity my darling girl, so that you may become that precious work of art.

Happy birthday Megan, I love you forever.

xx Mom

Thanks for checking in. xx

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Words To Live By

I am a book lover! I find so much of my inspiration for art and art journaling in other peoples words.  Little quotes of wisdom, passages of logic and common sense, poems of resounding beauty...they often express my state in ways my own words cannot.

Years ago, I was sifting through a table filled with old and discarded books in a thrift shop and found this delicious little hardbound book called "Words To Live By".  It's an anthology of words selected and interpreted by ninety eminent men and women of the first half of the twentieth century.

It is filled with so many pearls of wisdom. When I get stuck for inspiration, or find my focus diluted by everyday stresses and worries, I open the book and start reading.  I always find something in it that connects to how I am feeling.  I then use these quotes, poems, or passages as a way to infuse my creativity, expressing in color and paint the emotions stirred by these words.  So often clarity comes from this exercise.  I find it very calming and helps me process whatever is going on in my life, putting it all into perspective between the pages of my sketchbook.

With this in mind, I've decided to start a little exercise called "Words To Live By".  Occasionally, I will share with you a passage, quote or poem that I find inspiring or moving.  Perhaps you will find a connection to these words also, perhaps they will fuel your own creativity. If so, then I encourage you to take these words and let them infuse your own art making. Then, I ask you to share what you have created...sketchbook pages, art journal pages, ATC's, greeting cards, mixed media projects...whatever you like. Leave a comment on this post with a link back to your photo or blog post. With your permission, I will feature some of your work on Dion Dior & More next week.

So, to begin this exercise here is a quote from the book that connected to me today:

"Can you walk on water? You have done no better than a straw. Can you fly in the air? You have done no better than a bluebottle. Conquer your heart; then you may become somebody."
 ~Ansari of Herat~

By the way, all these pages were done using Twinkling H2O's and LuminArte's new line of Silks Acrylic Glaze. For the flowers, I painted the stamp with "Twinks", then dappled some "Silks" over the images for highlight and depth. For the fern, I swept the "Silks" over the stamp then washed the printed image with "Twinks". The "Silks" acted as a resist to the "Twinks" and the depth and dimention came out beautifully. I then added definition and shading using Pigma Micron pen.  I'll be showing you more ways to use these wonderful LuminArte products in future posts.

Also, don't forget to pop on over to The Blog Guidebook and cast your vote for Dion Dior & More. I'm in the top five and the competition is fierce, and don't forget to mention this on your blog, facebook & twitter.

Thanks for voting, thanks for participating, and thanks, as always, for checking in. xx

Monday, November 28, 2011

Top Blog 2011 Finalist

Dion Dior & More was recently nominated for The Blog Guidebook's, Top Blog 2011.  To my absolute surprise, and thanks to my incredible band of followers, I have made it into the Final Five. I never expected to make it past round one, let alone to this point and I am humbled by the expression of support and encouragement you have shown me by taking the time to vote.  Of course, being the final round, the voting now heats ups. There are some very impressive blogs in the top five and I am no doubt rubbing shoulders with four highly deserving and very entertaining bloggers. So, I'm going to impose on your time and generosity once again by asking you to cast your vote for me one last time (here). Voting starts sometime today and if I am a winner, then you are a winner too. I will be giving away some of the STUNNING prizes to my loyal blog followers. Leave me a comment to let me know you voted and remember, you can vote from as many different devices as you choose.

Also, if you enjoy reading my blog, then I would be so grateful if you could help me out by mentioning me on your blog, to your facebook friends, and/or your twitter followers.

Hugs xx

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Beyond Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It's the end of the day and harmony and calm has descended upon our house at last.  Children are asleep, hubby is pottering, dishes are done, and thankfully our stomachs are full.

Have you ever doubted that dreams can come true? If you have, then doubt no more.  Yesterday was the final day of the Intensive Eating Program my little T the Brave has had to endure.  Three full weeks of a team of specialists, doctors, psychologists, speech specialists, and physical therapists, skillfully guiding him on a brutal journey to try to get him to eat.  It's hard to believe, the most primal and instinctual of human functions just doesn't work for him.

Perhaps it's five months of having tubes threaded down his airways, through his mouth and nose into his lungs, perhaps it's five months of being fed through a tube, or perhaps it's two years of oxygen lines attached to his face that have fed his aversions to anything coming near his mouth.  Perhaps it's 5 months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and 4 stays in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in the span of 18 months that has fed his attachment to his bottle.  I don't know, but I sure know that if anyone in this world has the right to reject anything oral, including food, then it's Thomas.

Nonetheless, at two and half years old, it's time to eat.  This little guy simply had to find a way past his fears and aversions if he wanted a normal, or near normal crack at life.  A gastric feeding tube has been looming over him for some time now.  His weight was beginning to plateau and a liquid diet of specialty formula just wasn't giving him enough of what he needs anymore.  Two years of Occupational Therapy, desensitizing him and teaching him to hold a spoon has helped, but still he couldn't eat.  It was clear Tommy needed a lot more than that and thanks to the Center for Disabilities and Development at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital, he got it.

Three solid weeks of intensive therapy, with one goal in have Thomas sit at our Thanksgiving table and eat with his family for the first time in his life.  Well, today our humble dream came true.  Thomas can eat now, not like most other kids and certainly not like a regular 2yo, but he can eat.  Not only can he tolerate a spoon of food coming toward his mouth, but he's actually opening his mouth and taking the food voluntarily.  It may not sound like much, hell, every living creature on the planet eats, but to our little family, to this incredibly brave two year old who has fought a battle for life far greater than anyone can imagine, it's a huge deal.  And to sit at our table tonight was pure joy, I wish you all could have been here.

So I'm thankful.  Thankful to the team of medicos and specialists who persevered with their treatment, not only helping Thomas, but holding the hand of his terrified and emotional mother along the way. I'm thankful to the friends, family, and especially my blog followers who stood on the sidelines cheering him (and me) on.  I thankful to my hubby and daughter who bounced along through their days, keeping it real for us every afternoon when we tumbled in the back door after a long and arduous day. And I'm especially thankful for my love of art and my need to create.  It's this that has kept me centered, focused and optimistic.  My art really is my happy place and I'm thankful that I have been able to escape to my sketchbook every evening and reconnect to the courage and calm that I needed to face the next day.

So, this page in my art journal was done bit by bit over the past week, once again using Twinkling H2O's.  I've been working on lots of new pieces for my upcoming workshop and in these pictures you can see how 'twinkly' these paints really are.

Well, thank you to those of you have taken the time to vote for my blog on The Blog Guidebook's Top Blog of 2011, you still have until midnight on the 25th, so click here to vote if you can.  I'm 4th from the bottom and you can vote on multiple devices if you have them. Anyway, I'll leave you with these pics of Thomas enjoying his first Thanksgiving feast.

I hope you all had a wonderful, love-filled Thanksgiving, wherever you are in the world.  Thanks for checking in. xx

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Artist You Should Know

Robin Cox Walsh is one of my favorite artists and writers. When I first starting blogging it was Robin who so generously helped me navigate some of the technical intricacies of a blog site, and it is Robin who has kept me smiling and laughing on a daily basis with her hilarious anecdotes and her quirky and delicious art. Robin epitomizes the generous and encouraging spirit of the art community and she is definitely an artist you should know. Her blog "Pink House Studio" is a daily must read.

"Oh boy! A ‘guest appearance’ on another blog! I'm so incredibly flattered (and just slightly amazed) to have been asked! LOL

"Being creative is just a natural part of who I am. I can't NOT make stuff. If I don't make something (anything) for a while I get cranky (or so my family tells me!)   I was raised in what I thought was just a normal family. Looking back I now realize that it was an incredibly funny, creative and wonderful family. My father’s avocation was writing and storytelling and my mother was a closet artist. We were always doing something ‘artsy-craftsy’. I thought everybody was like that. I was in awe of my mother’s talent. When I was little we would color together.  She would make intricate plaids and paisleys and I was just slightly jealous! So I guess I've always ‘done art’.   I don't have an art degree but that doesn't stop me!

"I might not be able to draw paisleys but I CAN draw a pretty cool creature! LOL xx

Make sure you stop by Robins blog to say hi. Also, thank you to everyone who voted for "Dion Dior & More" in The Blog Guidebook's "Top Blog for 2011". I have made it through to round two, so voting has opened once again. I would be so grateful if you have the time to pop on over and cast me your vote (click here to vote). Thanks for checking in. xx

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reaching for the Stars

Last week was a long and arduous one for me. It was week two of my toddlers intensive eating therapy in Iowa City.  As if week one wasn't crazy enough, this week felt like a wild roller coaster ride. We started out well, little bits of eating here and there, not so much fussing, but by mid week all hell broke loose.  The specialist told me that a crescendo of resistance and behavior was completely expected at that point, and he needed to go there in order to settle into compliance.  It was going to get worse before it got better.

But I had no idea how much worse. WOW...what a crescendo it was on Wednesday morning. He screamed and fought so hard against food and drink that by the end of the session he was slumped over in his high chair, eyes puffy and swollen, tears streaked down his face, head bobbing on his chest. Too exhausted to even blink.  He'd literally screamed himself out and was sitting there in complete withdrawal, complete servitude.  I don't know what was harder to watch, the fight, or the surrender. Of course I excused myself for a moment and cried my own heart out in the bathroom.

But these people are complete professionals, the best in the business, in fact they are considered amongst the best in the world.  That is why we are making the two hour trek to Iowa City at 5am every morning.  This is all this team does, they work with some of the most challenged and disabled kids in the country, teaching them to eat.  They've seen it all and I have complete confidence that they can help my bubby.

Nonetheless, it was hard to watch. They explained to me that it's critical that there are no reactions to his tantrums and resistance, and even more critical that everyone remain steadfast in the process, no flinching.  It was like a game of mortal 'chicken' between Thomas and the doctors, with me on the sidelines.  All I could think about was little T's spirit, his fight that has kept him alive this far.  Were they going to break it, were they going to change him?  But the reality is that T has no chance at a normal future unless he can learn to eat and drink independently, it's now or never.

By the end of last week he was actually beginning to take food on a regular basis, and to top it all off we spent the week fazing out his bottle and only giving him a cup.  There was no doubt that his overall calorie consumption dropped, along with a little of precious weight, but he is being monitored very closely.  Well, back we went this morning to start week three and I am very pleased to report that he took all his food in all his sessions without the slightest fuss.  In fact he was opening his mouth to each bite, leaning into it and closing his mouth around the spoon.  SUCCESS!!!! Tonight I get to try to feed him a meal at home, just him and me.  I don't know how we'll go, but everyone is confident that we'll both do fine.  I guess we'll see.

So over the weekend, as I sat at my drawing table in my pj's at 4pm in the afternoon, refusing to get dressed, listening to hubby and the kids watch "The Wiggles", I actually allowed myself to indulge in some optimism.  Had we finally turned a corner, were we able to start thinking about doing normal things now that T is learning to eat??  Then my thoughts ran away and I found myself reaching for the stars, thinking of all the places we could go, all the food I could give him, and all the normal things we could start doing. 

While I was daydreaming I doodled away at this page of planets, playing with my Twinkling H2O's. I saw a post by Jill Berry on "Geo Paper" and was totally inspired by her design. I didn't follow her tutorial per se, but I loved her idea using circles and lines.  I decided to experiment with wet-on-wet washes using acrylic resists under the very wet Twinks, then I dappled some acrylic paint over the top to add dimension and contrast.  I don't often do abstracts, but sometimes when my brain and heart are full of so much worry and clutter, I can only focus on colors and not form.  Next time you're stressed, turn on some soothing music and give it a try, it really helps.

Wish us luck for week three, and thanks for checking in.  xx

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Truth About "Twinks"

It's no secret that one of my very favorite mediums to use are Twinkling H2O's. I'm always so excited by these spectacular little pots of shimmering watercolors, that every time I get them out (which is often), I'm astounded at the intensity and array of colors. They're so versatile, with more than 200 colors available there's no need to mix them. In fact, this journal page, a quick study of tulips, is done using a very limited palette of only a couple of colors.  I mixed and layered them to create the beautiful shimmering depth in the flowers.  I'll teach you more about this technique in my upcoming workshop for called "Mastering Twinks". It's slotted to run in the new year and details will be announced here and on in the coming weeks.

However, since announcing this workshop, I have received a lot of questions and feedback about how hard Twinks are to get hold of.  I've heard all sorts of rumors about them being discontinued, or that the company who produces them has gone out of business.  Well, let me set the record straight!!! Twinks HAVE NOT been discontinued, in fact, they have recently released 12 new holiday colors to add to their already spectacular line of colors.

I had a conversation with Leslie Ohnstad today, the inventor of Twinkling H2O's. Leslie is as sparkling and vivacious as her gorgeous Twinks, she is a brilliant artist/colorist and is an amazingly generous person. Leslie is thrilled about the new line of Twink colors and was excited to hear about the latest buzz surrounding these paints and my upcoming workshop. 

So, as far as availability of Twinks and where to get them goes, this is what she told me: Leslie sells the entire 200+ library of colors in loose 10 gram pots directly from her Dreaming Color website, along with 24 pc mini-pot sets, which is how I got started with them.  Creative Imaginations sell an assortment of individual large jars, as well as the 6 and 12 pc sets. Joggles sell an assortment of selected colors online only.

If you're new to Twinks and  want to sample some colors but don't know which ones to get, then I suggest you try the kits. If you already have favorites then you can easily purchase individual pots from any of these sites. If you plan on taking my 3-week workshop in the new year, then you'll receive my list of recommended colors that will help get you started. I hope this helps.

Also, thank you to everyone who cast a vote for me in the "The Blog Guidebook" Top Blog of 2011. I am thrilled to be nominated and have been humbled by the support and encouragement I have received. If you haven't had a chance to vote, click on the button on the right, voting for the elimination round closes on Friday.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nominated for Top Blog

I'm off to the hospital shortly for another round of eating torture with my toddler, so I'll keep this post brief (not like me I know). I have been nominated for the Blog Guidebook's Top Blog (WOW!).  So very exciting and being new to blogging this year I'm feeling very blessed. Please click the button in the side bar to your right to vote.  Round one elimination closes on Friday so if you have time, cast me a vote (sorry, I've been dragging my feet).

Thank you so much for your support and encouragement.  Huge hugs. xx

Monday, November 14, 2011

21 Secrets 2012

I'm very excited to announce that I have been asked to join the incredible team of instructors for the 2012 art journaling program "21 Secrets". This is a great honor for me as I will be rubbing shoulders with some very impressive and extremely talented artists and writers.

For those of you who don't know, 21 SECRETS is an online, self guided, art journaling workshop that runs for a total of  nine months. Throughout this time, participants will be privy to the secrets of some of the most talented and prolific art journalers and writers around today. From April 2012 to January 2013, participants will dive into different techniques, methods, and approaches to art journaling with instruction and guidance from a family of diverse, passionate, professional artists. 
What is special about this course is that each participant is able to choose the order of the 21 classes they take. Along with pdf's, videos, bonus material and brilliant photos, they will have an active online community to share and grow with.  All information will be available at anytime throughout the course, and you can access each class when you feel ready for it.  Teachers are present within the community throughout the course, and will host periodic live chats so you can connect and have them answer your questions, share more of their insights, and help you along your deeply personal journey.
21 SECRETS, the brain-child of Connie Hozvicka of Dirty Footprints Studio, made it's debut in October of 2010 with a total of 325 participants,by the close of registration in 2011, 21 SECRETS had a total of 845 very willing and courageous participants.  To learn more about the 21 SECRETS instructors for 2012, please go HERE. Registration officially opens on January 2nd, 2012 and is only $59 for the entire 21 programs. Watch this space for registration announcements in the coming months.
For my part, what I will be teaching remains a secret for now, but this is a wonderful opportunity for me to open up my artistic journaling process to you, and share some of my deep dark secrets for inspiration and technique.  Please join me and the 20 other exciting instructors for an inspiring art journaling experience you'll never forget.
And, by the way, this journal page was done using Twinkling H2O's and Ink. Watch this space for information about my online workshop "Mastering Twinks" available through in 2012. 

Thanks for checking in. xx

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Garden Treasures

My attention this week has been completely and unceremoniously turned toward my children, art and blogging have had to take a back seat.  There a moments in our lives when that happens, and I've long since learned to go with the flow rather than rub up against the grain and allow myself to get stressed about it.  Maintaining a positive outlook and balanced perspective are sometimes brutally hard, but as a parent I think it is vital that we "keep it together" at all costs. And I've been diverting every ounce of energy I have this week to keeping it together.

My toddler, who was a 24 micro-preemie, has faced more medical challenges in his tiny little life than most people would face in a lifetime. This week he has been undergoing intensive 'eating' therapy along with extensive developmental testing at the University of Iowa.  He's a miracle to say the least, with a long and interesting history. (All of which is a subject for his Care Page, feel free to check it out.)  He's 2 1/2 and hasn't been able to eat solids for so many reasons, so we're working with a team of specialists in the Center for Disabilities and Development, to try to teach him how to eat.

I never thought this was something you couldn't do, but believe me, there are a more kids out there than you could imagine who have what they call 'feeding difficulties'.  Little Thomas-The-Brave, as he is known, has been fending off a feeding tube for over a year now, and to his credit he has managed to do it using with a bottle filled with Pedisure. But he's loosing the battle and has to learn to eat solid food or else.

So, we're up at 5am every morning and making the long cold two hour trek to Iowa City so he can be ready to go by 8am.  It's been challenging for him, and for me.  Lots of tears, lots of resistance, lots of people and lots of very long days.  The hard part is the pleading, reaching looks he casts at me on the sidelines, little tears streaming down as face, his tiny hand stretching to its limit trying to reach me, and make all this craziness stop.

Of course, I must sit quietly in the background to begin with, not reacting, casting only a token word of encouragement in his direction as this team of experts try to deconstruct his mental aversions and reprogram his brain to not only accept food willingly, but to learn to chew and swallow it.  Some moments have felt overwhelming, and it takes every speck of energy and self control not to burst through the throng of specialists, tear him out of the high chair and wrap him up in my arm, screaming at them all to "LEAVE MY BABY ALONE".  

But I know it's necessary, and by the end of this crushing week, I'm pleased to report that he had voluntarily taken several spoons of creamy soup, a few mouth fulls of squished up carrots, and 6oz of formula from a sippy-cup. Trust's a BIG deal and cause for celebration in our house!!

So last night when we got home and I settled both my children into bed, I sat down with my sketchbook and paints.  This page of little garden treasures was something I did a few weeks ago, using watercolor pencil and ink. With winter well and truly closing its icy grip on our little part of the world, I found myself wanting to go to that happy 'zen' place in nature.  I felt so much better after shutting off for a while, and with a quiet weekend ahead, I hope to re-energize enough to face another full week of hospital visits and intensive eating therapy.

Oh, and by the way...I got home from the hospital on Tuesday night and hubby had started building my studio.  OMG, am I the lucky one?

Thanks so much for checking in. xx