Tag Archives: art

Abundance and Uncertainty, Gratitude and Surrender

Abundant joy on my wedding day

Abundant joy on my wedding day

Thank you for this life. Thank you for this man. Please come, be with me. I need you to guide me.

My life is full. After years of turning down the volume on life, it’s, now, stuck on 11. There is abundance.

There is Love everywhere: waking up each day, enjoying everyone around me, and working harder than I’ve ever worked before. Love flows through me as I am full. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The South is more lush, now. The honeysuckle and magnolia fill my lungs as I run along the Chattahoochee on warm, sticky mornings. I see the fog reaching out of the water, toward the sky. I pray, again. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

My art, my jewelry, is better than it has ever been as I can more fully focus. No sound, just the quiet and those things that need to come up. I sit with each tiny bead. I focus on one at a time. I work. I am present, open. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

As I say thank you, I still feel the uncertainty, acutely. I tried to deny, ignore, fight, control, and just shut this all down. In the beginning, it was simply too much for me. God wanted to get my attention. I needed to hear. And I do. Still, some days, I have to pray a little harder for help letting go. Sometimes I get on my knees and beg. I visualize being in a horse drawn carriage and handing over the reins. God, here, you take this for me, please.

I don’t know where we are going. It sure is amazing–just beautiful! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Please, you keep leading the way.

A New Home For My Art

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Exciting things are happening and I want to share with you.

In 2010, when I first arrived in Boulder, Colorado I was excited to check out the different galleries on Pearl Street. I walked into Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery and I was impressed. I dreamed that someday my jewelry would be included there. Fast forward a few years, I was finally ready to apply to my first gallery and I picked Boulder Arts & Crafts. Now, as I’ve left Colorado in search for a new place to call home, I’m overjoyed to share that my jewelry has a new home at the Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery. Thank you to Marguerite and all the good folks there at the gallery for choosing to include my art. And a special thank you to Elizabeth Hake for her encouragement and support. It’s an exciting time in my life, for me personally and as an artist. I’m grateful.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

My Story, My Truth, My Art

Me in 1st Grade

Me in 1st Grade

TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with one person’s story of child abuse and may trigger some people.

I’m finally ready to share something really important with you. I was an abused child. In some ways, I’m still that scared little girl, still hiding in the corner of the closet, terrified of people in power. Still afraid to speak, make the abuse worse, disgrace myself, or disgrace those who abused me. But, today, I’m feeling stronger and I’m ready to share my story.

When I was a little girl, my mom hit me with those big thick leather belts with huge metal buckles. She would use both the belt and, intentionally or not, the buckle, leaving welts on my legs, back, butt, and arms. If I got away from her and ran, she’d throw the belt after me. It felt like a war zone. I never knew what would set her off or when it was safe. It never felt safe.

I wasn’t safe at church, either. The preacher’s hellfire and brimstone reached us, through speakers, in the nursery and toddler rooms. I remember hearing that if I didn’t get saved, I might die in a car wreck on the way home and burn in hell for eternity. Even as the preacher called, with “Softly and Tenderly” playing in the background, I never did hear Jesus calling me. Instead, I feared Jesus, the devil, and the preacher. Sure, I did get “saved” when I was six, soon after another young girl, my peer, accepted Jesus Christ in front of the entire congregation. I had to keep up appearances. I hoped it would keep me safe from the preacher and maybe my mom. But not Jesus and not the devil. That was hoping too much. Jesus and the devil knew my thoughts, so I could never feel safe from them.

That fear went to school with me. At the end of each day, my first grade teacher would spank all the students that had not finished their work. I felt so threatened and so completely undone, that I had to be taken out of school. I wouldn’t get off the toilet because I always felt like I had to pee. Staying at my mamaw’s house, I’d sit on a tiny white pot in front of the TV watching Mister Rogers. Mamaw was always kind, always loving — thank goodness for her! Eventually, I got over my pee pot issues and went back to school. But, even now, when I smell my first grade teacher’s perfume or elementary school cleaning products, I feel sick, afraid, and unsafe.

As I got older, my mom stopped using the belt on me, using only her hand. The last time she hit me was when I was a teenager in the car. I said something she didn’t like and she backhanded me. We were on the way to see a therapist to figure out why I was so angry at my mom. I already knew why I was angry. I just couldn’t express it.

I carry my fear with me each and every day, a backpack full of emotion. I’ve felt decades of hurt, guilt, and shame. A little over a year ago, I finally started EMDR therapy to help the traumatized little girl in me. And it really has helped, a lot. I’m getting better, gradually, gratefully.

It has been a painful and powerful journey going from trauma to love. As I recently shared with my therapist, I take care of the little girl Dana by creating my art with tiny fragile beads. It’s peaceful time with her, with little Dana, showing her that it’s ok, safe. It’s quiet, calm, and really gentle in that space, that place of art. She likes it there very much.

As I become stronger, that little girl inside of me is coming out of the darkness, leaving behind the guilt and shame of abuse. I’m shining my light for her as I share my story, my truth, my art.

I want to dedicate this post to my dear friend. It’s safe and I love you. For you, and all of those like us, there is hope, help, and happiness after all. 

Frozen Cage to Triflesphere

Looking out from my first dorm room in Anchorage, AK

Looking out from my first dorm room in Anchorage, AK

Anchorage in the winter is cold, a cold that makes me come undone.  That frozenness and the extended Alaskan darkness, intensified my isolation. It removed me from myself and the rest of the world.

Enduring the Alaskan winter, I felt immediate empathy for Minnie, the main character in Trifles. This early feminist, one act play by Susan Glaspell was assigned reading in my Women Dramatists class. In Minnie’s world, it’s below zero, winter, late 19th century. The play opens in her oppressively cold farmhouse kitchen. Her physical environment wasn’t the only cause of cold isolation. Minnie also had an abusive husband, a man who did not know warmth and was not sensitive to his wife or her joy.

Like Minnie, I had been in a relationship where my joy was subjugated. I was trying to take care of his needs instead of my own. I would get up in the middle of the night to give him a ride, buy him things that I couldn’t afford, spend time with him while neglecting relationships with true friends. I was drawn to him for many reasons, some known and some forgotten. My relationship insulated against any warmth that I could have experienced from a true relationship with myself or the few real friends I had. The pressure exerted by that coldness left me shattered like Minnie and her jars of preserves. I was a splintered mess. From the outside in and the inside out, I didn’t know what I was about, and I didn’t feel that I was worthy of anything more. It was painful knowing that, in a matter of months, I was going to be graduating from college and moving into the harshness of the real word. It’s just that my world up to that point had been harder than anything I could have imagined. In that last year alone, I was working a few part time jobs, getting good grades while carrying a full load in school, doing volunteer work, participating in a student organization, suffering from depression, facing another dark, cold winter, while being in a relationship that was supremely unhealthy for me. I didn’t feel a true part of any of it. I didn’t know what it meant to love myself. I felt perpetually wounded. It was like walking barefoot on shards of broken glass each day. I understood the pain of cutting, if not the reality of being a cutter.

It wasn’t just the piercing coldness of Minnie’s world that I related to, I identified with her caged bird. That gentle spirit, Minnie’s little canary, was broken without regard for the joy it gave. To Minnie’s husband, Mr. Wright, it was a nuisance, that bird. Something he would endure no longer; he just couldn’t be bothered. It was his house, his domain, and his will was law. The bird was property, just like Minnie was to him. He had no care for who Minnie was or what she may have wanted for herself.  What did Minnie want for herself when she had been a young girl, singing in the choir? Did she dream? Was she told what she would be? What had she wanted?

It spoke to me. What had I wanted for myself? I was about to graduate from college and I had nothing that I felt was mine. Yes, I was going to get my B.A., but not in a subject I chose, not really. My major was a forced backup, not anything artistic or creative that I wanted. I had worked really hard in school for something that wasn’t me.

In my last semester of college, before and after my Women Dramatists class, I would walk past the art rooms. Glancing in, I would see the students painting, sketching, and sculpting. It was as if I was back in the halls of my high school. Miles away, enough years later, I was again looking in to see what my world could have been. I knew what making art was to me. It was joy. I knew, deep inside of me, that small bit of joy was really my whole world — it was my triflesphere. I just had not yet learned how to be with that warmth and let myself fly. It was still winter and I hadn’t yet left my own cage.

Drag Queens and Me

Latrice Royale -- Fierce Queen

Latrice Royale — Fierce Queen

I know way more than I should about drag queens. And it’s a little curious, since they find joy in being what I resented. For me, they have come to symbolize art through identity and, along the same lines, I have found my identity through art.

Growing up in the South, I never felt like I fit in or had my own identity. When it appeared as if I was the stereotypical southern girl, I was anything but. Being other and trying to pass as “normal” made me feel stifled and anxious. I never felt it was safe to be myself. I was raised to be a certain kind of girl and it was painful if I didn’t fall in line. If I wasn’t wearing enough make up, it became an issue and I was made fun of. I often looked a clowny-girl mess and no amount of makeup or hairspray could hide my insecurity. I was spooked looking in the mirror; I saw my drag doppelgänger, not the real me. I was acting — using a collection of red, white, blue and pink archetypes — with a through-line of fear. I recall not knowing what to do with my hands, an actor not knowing her character. It was painful being somebody else’s version of me.

I wanted to be like my middle school art and music teachers. I wanted to have my special thing, the creative thing that I picked. I settled for the expected activities of cheerleading and dance, but my heart was never in either. I felt as though I didn’t have a voice, so I kept going along like a good girl. I told myself that cheerleading and dance were sort of creative, but I really wanted sketch books and lead, canvases and paint, a pottery wheel and clay, and a full drum set with the big wooden sticks. I wanted to swap my preppy clothes for whatever was comfortable and get paint, clay, and lead all over my apron and even on my clothes just like our cool art teacher. I wanted to do my thing!

In high school, I had mostly given up. I would walk the halls in my cheerleading uniform and go past the art room feeling the pinch of sadness. I envied this one guy, who was especially good at drawing, and I would look to see if he was in art class. I didn’t have a crush on him; I secretly wanted to be him. I wasn’t transgender or anything like that, I just wanted to be the opposite of what I was. I was long over the hyper feminine thing and exhausted from trying to be some ridiculous version of a southern fried girly girl. I wanted to have the strength to stand up and say who I was and finally be myself. I didn’t yet have that strength. I do now.

A few months back (on RuPaul’s Drag Race S4 Reunion), Latrice Royale — truly, one of the best drag queens EVER — read a fan letter from the mother of a bullied girl. In this touching letter, the mom shared how her daughter looked to Latrice as a powerful example of strength and pride. I wish I’d had my own version of Latrice. Her fierceness is inspiring. It takes balls — albeit tucked ones — to be yourself!