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I first met Dave at Kaldi’s, where we discussed the idea of surprising Jackie with a painting at Christmas. Jackie was not a stranger to me. She had supported me throughout my journeys as an artist and as a cancer patient, and I knew her to be loving and upbeat. But listening to Dave talk about his wife showed me depths of love and admiration that moved me to tears. Throughout our conversation, I struggled to funnel his outpouring of devotion onto paper so I could reference it later.

I loved witnessing Dave’s soft spot for his wife that dwells within his fast-paced businessman exterior. He brought a long list of things he loves about his wife. The coloring of her eyes and skin. The cut of her hair and its rich brown. Her selfless desire to serve others. And the way she gets down on the floor to play with children, entering their world.

Dave said that Jackie is the most generous person he has ever met. She values relationships and invests in people, doing whatever she can to spend time with them. She would drive hours just to be near a friend. He loves that she is loyal and faithful to the people in her life, and that she has the rare ability to read people and situations and understand what is needed below the surface.

Jackie is excellent at supporting people through difficult circumstances, but she also knows how to have fun (even at a ball game when she doesn’t know the rules). She dives into any situation with total enthusiasm. Listening to Dave speak, I could tell he trusts Jackie in way that can only be attained after spending 20 years married to an honest person who follows through with her commitments.

I created this piece to echo Dave’s love for Jackie. The color reflects Jackie’s love of community and family, as well as her rich brown hair and eyes. There was no photographer at this unveiling. No loud celebration. They were about to leave for a big trip, and Dave pulled the painting out from the car, wrapped in a blanket. As Jackie explained, that’s how life and marriage are sometimes. There aren’t always perfect moments. Sometimes you just have to take time in the middle of mass chaos to stop and appreciate one another and the journey you’re on together.

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Love isn’t always red roses and pink hearts. It’s not always tied with a bow and its truth is never fully expressed on birthdays and anniversaries. It has a really ugly side we like to hide because it’s not presentable or packageable.

Sometimes love is Febreezing a room to cover up the stink of the grosser parts of life. Sometimes love means getting caught red-handed so the black streaks of tears running down your face can remind you of the authentic beauty that resides underneath the fake.

Sometimes love means fully committing to loving yourself (or committing to learning to) before you can commit to loving another. It’s the struggle to understand deep down that you’re worth loving, without having to prove it. Sometimes it means not having to love everybody – especially when you want their approval.

Sometimes love is a complicated apology to yourself as you look at your scars and say, “Damn it, how’d you get there? You really suck, but thank you. In the end, you did teach me a lot. ”

Sometimes love has to squeeze between the petty fights, shallow apologies, dirty diapers on the floor, boring days, Facebook addictions, doctors appointments, scraping boogers off walls and those horrible, inescapable toxic farts under the sheets. Sometimes it means spending time apart so the distance can give you both the opportunity to collect new thoughts and experiences to share.

Sometimes love requires no explanation. It just lives in the ordinary cracks of our seemingly seamless lives. Sometimes love looks very attractive, and sometimes it’s just fugly. But in both cases, it’s still love that fills our cracks and glues us together.

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Tom and Lisa are family friends of mine, and Lisa has always dropped hints to Tom about wanting a piece of my art. With Christmas approaching, Tom knew it was time to pull the trigger. As we met for coffee, Tom shared his excitement at the idea of creating a unique piece for Lisa, inspired by their story. They’ve been through many hardships, but have always endured together. Some relationships are torn apart by adversity, but Tom and Lisa’s struggles have bound them closer together. I shared Tom’s enthusiasm for co-creating something that would honor this enduring love. Lisa had visited me in the studio several times so I knew her tastes, and I loved using that knowledge to paint something suited just for her.

Tom shared with me a long list of things he loves about Lisa. She is intensely devoted to the important people in her life, a dedicated mother and loyal friend. Tom and Lisa are wonderfully generous. He stated that if you have the resources, you should give to others, and they live by this belief. Their door is always open and they frequently welcome people into their home, but Lisa also gives to people outside of her personal sphere. Each year she takes a trip to Africa to help serve orphans and others in need. Tom went on about Lisa’s wonderful qualities, but explained they all come from one source – her deep faith in God.

When it came to giving Lisa her painting, Tom wanted to do something private rather than have a big party. So on a Saturday morning, he told Lisa he had bought something for her on Amazon and to expect the UPS man around 10:00. At 10:00 sharp I knocked on the door, and her daughter let me in. Lisa was pleased to see me…but confused as to why I was there and what I was holding. Tom shouted, “Surprise honey!” and confessed that no UPS man was coming. He showed her the Christmas gift he co-created with me and explained how it was inspired by their relationship. Lisa was so surprised and happy to have her own unique painting that she immediately began crying. I’d be lying if I didn’t say we all shed a few tears.

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  1. Take the time, slow down…..something I often feel annoyed with but decreasing the hurry and taking the time is worth every second. These are six ideas that can help “fill your tank”.
  2. Prayer in a quiet alone zone.
  3. Proclaiming positive affirmation out loud. It does not matter if you believe them. Hearing it out loud helps you believe.
  4. Stating an intention to restore your body, mind and soul back to perfect health.
  5. Silencing the stupid records that feed your head the ugly…”I’m not good enough, deserving enough” crap
  6. Scheduling a morning to just be and not do.

The painting “Pathways” portrays taking the time to appreciate the many intersections and connections that lead us in positive directions. I hope to cross paths with you one day.