Thursday, June 29, 2017

Courage & Art By Jackie

So much time has passed since I last blogged. I never did seek Vivian (see previous post). My gut told me it wasn't the thing I needed to do. Instead, shortly after my last post (February 2016), I graduated from working in an art journal to working on canvas. And less than a month after that, I began selling reproductions of my art. By April 2016, I applied for a business license and officially launched Courage & Art by Jackie.

Life these past 16 months has been a whirlwind to say the least. I joined a very large community of artists on Facebook and have made beautiful connections with artists all over the world. Through one of those connections, I was invited to be a teacher in an collaborative online art course, The Art of Sisterhood. Filming that lesson was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Then after it aired, to see the students' work they produced from my lesson was a whole other level of surreal. The best part is that later in the year, there will be an in-person workshop based on the e-course and once again, I will get to be a teacher. Nervous doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about it.

I also launched a Courage and Art Etsy shop after Christmas 2016. I've been quite pleased with my sales in such a short time.

Overall, I am blessed with love, peace, joy, and light. I lack for nothing. I continue to be grateful for everything...and Courage is still my favorite word.

If you are interested in learning and seeing more, you can follow me on Facebook or find me on Instagram as @courageartjackie.

Here is a little peek at some of my most recent work...

Take care and remember...keep being brave ❤

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Desperately Seeking Vivian

It’s amazing what the subconscious can do. Every single year, as my birthday approaches, something triggers in me. Anxiety, sadness, grief, desperation, excitement, giddiness, enthusiasm, anticipation…all rolled into one. I get antsy with the need to “do something”. That “do something” can be anything – start a project, finish a project, plan a party, make a big purchase, make vacation plans, find my birth-father, find my foster mother…

“Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…time is running out, Jackie. How old is he now? Is he still alive? What was his name again? Oh yes. Bruce. Bruce what though? Does he remember I exist? Did he ever wonder if I was a boy or a girl? Did he ever tell his wife that he conceived a child with someone else? Do his children know they have a sibling? Do I resemble him in any way? Has he ever tried to find me or did he completely erase me from his memory?  Dickhead. Asshole. Jerk. I don’t need to find him. He’s just a sperm donor. Fucker.”

“Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…time is really running out, Jackie. How old was she when I was her foster baby? She was probably a grown woman and I was probably one of many fosters. I bet she wasn’t very nurturing or loving. I bet I was just a source of income for her. Vivian B. from Garden Grove. My dad’s shop was in Garden Grove. My elementary school was in Garden Grove. The stores I frequented with my mom as a little girl were all in Garden Grove. I wonder if I passed by her and never even knew it. She named me Jenny. If I found her, would she remember that baby girl she had in her home for almost two months in 1970?”

When I started this blog on May 1, I wrote this for the section “What is my blog about”: 

What is my story, you ask?

In a nutshell, my story is about losing a mother, gaining a mother, losing a mother again, wishing to be a mother, learning about a mother, becoming a mother, becoming a childless mother, longing to be a mother again, meeting a mother, becoming a mother again, searching for a mother, finding a mother, losing a mother again, meeting another mother, becoming a mother again, and searching for another mother.

It's a mother of a story, as I like to say.  

That last part…”searching for another mother” refers to Vivian. That is the quest I was on in 2014. And then I wasn’t anymore. And now I am again. That’s how it goes. These waves of desperation to know more about my past hit me out of nowhere. And then after a while, I retreat and take a break. Mentally it’s a lot to deal with and it’s exhausting. My mind decides when to search and when to stop and when to start again. As of this morning, I am on the hunt again for Vivian B. from Garden Grove. Last night when I went to bed, I had absolutely zero idea that this is what I would be doing today. That’s how out of nowhere it hits.

Vivian B. where are you? Who are you? Do you remember Baby Jenny? Would you be happy to hear from me? Because I would be so happy to hear from you. You were my second mother and I thank you for taking care of me and giving me food, clothing, and a warm place to sleep before it was time for me to go to my forever mom. No matter what the circumstances were, you did a great thing and I want you to know, you made a difference. I want you to know that baby Jenny turned out okay. She was deeply loved and cherished by the world's greatest mother and she grew up happy and feeling that she mattered.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Use Your Gifts

My story-telling came to a screeching halt last May. It’s been eight months since I last wrote about the trials and tribulations of my 20’s. At this point, I find it really difficult to pick up where I left off. I mean, for me, it’s easy to keep writing since it’s my story; I lived it; I remember it well. But to the handful of readers who were following along, well, I just don’t think they give a rat’s ass to find out whatever did happen to crazy-ass Jackie. And even if they did, how could they just pick up and start reading without feeling lost? It would be like picking up a book you haven’t read in a long time. You have to go back and re-read a couple of chapters to remember what the hell was happening in the story. And who wants to do that with my blog!?

So why did I stop writing? I’ve asked myself this question a lot. I don’t think I have just one answer. It’s complicated. For one, writing about the past stirs up a lot of negative memories for me. It takes me back to those feelings and it brings me down, sometimes for days. So there’s that. 

Second, I’m writing about real-life, still-living people. Do I write a soft, cushy version of how it went down or do I tell the truth? I’m a truth-teller. It’s hard for me to sugar-coat things. I like to tell it like it was. So if I can’t do that, then I’d rather not do it at all. I mean, I CAN tell it like it was, but then I have to think of the repercussions of doing so. Do I want to risk inviting drama into my life? Is it worth it? Is it necessary? No.

Third, I just didn’t feel like it anymore. I suppose it’s because of reasons 1 and 2 that I haven’t had the energy or desire to write. Instead, I have spent a lot more time doing art. Art is great soul-work for me. I’m using my creativity; it’s meditative and relaxing. And it’s pretty. Who doesn’t want to make pretty things instead of remembering ugly times?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Box of Sadness

Last year I made the decision to embrace a perfectly imperfect Christmas (and I wrote a blog post about it which ironically also happens to be the most chaotic, imperfect post I've ever written). I decided that I was no longer going to allow the expectations of what Christmas is supposed to look like to bring me down. You see, with each passing year, the holidays became increasingly difficult and sad for me. Mostly, I have yearned to have the Christmases I grew up having. I have longed to have my mom with me. I have dreamed of what it would be like to have her and my dad still living in the U.S., in my childhood home. I have imagined Christmas shopping for my baby, Gabriel and Christmas mornings with three children opening gifts, instead of only two.

Every year, since 2000, I have bought an ornament in memory of Gabriel. It’s hard to believe I have 15 now. In 2008, I decorated ornaments in memory of my mom and Jeanne, my birth-mom. In 2011, I bought an ornament in the shape of a paw in memory of my precious Mimi. The ornaments have been a way of making them present in my home for the holidays. I felt like I was honoring them and keeping their memories alive during a time of year that was so difficult for me not to have them around. Every year, putting up the tree has been bittersweet. I’ve enjoyed decorating it as a family but with each memorial ornament I’d put up, I’d feel pain and sorrow for the loved ones I miss so much.

Last year for Gabriel, I ordered a star-shaped ornament by Kelly Rae Roberts that says “Shine Brightly”. All of my Gabriel ornaments are either stars or snowflakes in white or silver. The “Shine Brightly” ornament is lime green and pink. It was part of my attempt at embracing imperfection. I convinced myself that it didn’t matter if the ornament was nothing like all the others. I know it sounds silly, but it was a huge deal to me to break tradition like that! When my Kelly Rae ornament arrived, I was giddy with excitement at how perfectly it depicted the way I have been trying to live my life for the past three years…shining brightly. That ornament made me feel the way I wanted all of my ornaments to make me feel.

When I took down the tree, I decided that I was going to put all of the memorial ornaments together in one box and that it had been the last Christmas I’d use them. During that holiday season, I had realized that I had given the ornaments too much power. Seeing them on the tree made me worse, not better. They didn’t just remind me of who I had lost, they also reminded me to be sad. And I no longer wanted to have a sad Christmas.

Last weekend, we decorated our tree. DJ brought the boxes into the house and we started pulling everything out. The memory that I had placed all of the ornaments together in one box came rushing back. I began to feel anxious. I knew that seeing them would trigger me. I cautiously peeked in box by box until I came across a letter “G” ornament along with the paw ornament. (I had not separated those, I guess.) I felt the tears welling up. “Oh no”, I thought, “Here we go again.” When I found “the box”, I moved it to the side and placed the “G” and the paw in there too. I didn’t go through the box. There was no need to pull them out and see them once again.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Permission To Be Human

Here’s the story:

1.       I drank a lot on the Fourth of July.
2.       I rarely drink excessively.
3.       Two or more cocktails are known to make me pretty hyper-goofy-crazy-wild-funny (Or so I believe. Maybe others see me as stupid-obnoxious-loud-ridiculous-annoying).
4.       I had a blast.
5.       I’m a terrible mother.

I’ve had Shame Gremlins whispering in my ear, all day long…”You are a bad mother. What kind of mom gets intoxicated with her kids around? Good mothers remain in control; aware and alert; sober. Shame on you, Jackie. You fucked up. What are some of those party-goers thinking about you now? What are they saying? Do you have any idea how harshly you are being judged right now?”

All day, I unconvincingly force-fed my mind the self-compassionate remarks I know I am supposed to lovingly tell myself (except mine came out monotone and not loving at all). “You are not a bad mom. You are entitled to let loose once in a while. You didn’t commit a sin. This one incident of ‘bad judgment’ doesn’t make you an irresponsible mother. How often do you do this? NEVER. Why do you care what others might say or think? Your kids aren’t even aware that you were not sober. You weren’t sloppy-falling-over-slurring drunk. You were just happier-crazier-wilder-goofier-funnier than usual. Stop beating yourself up. You didn’t commit a crime. You didn’t hurt anyone or endanger your children. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are not a sinner. You are a good person. It’s okay.”

Everything I read; everything I preach; all of my life’s mottos and mantras…I know I should put them into practice at this very minute. These are the times that I’m supposed to remember to:

Forgive yourself and forgive the past as Iyanla Vanzant suggests.

Nurture yourself with self-compassion and self-love as Brené Brown recommends.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

50 Things That Make Me Happy

Well, hello there!
It’s been a while. I’m in a blogging slump. Not feeling it really. But I just got a message that sparked my interest. My blogger-friend Louise at Baby Gates Down tagged me to participate in a 50 Things That Make Me Happy post and I want to play!

I believe in signs and this is the fourth time in the last month or so that someone mentions to me making a happiness list or jar or folder. I keep saying “Oh ya, that’s a great idea.” But have I done anything about it? Nope. So I’m taking action this time!

1.       Coffee – I hate waking up. I don’t smile – not even at my children. Coffee is my happiness starter of the day. Every morning, I have two cups of Dunkin Donuts Coffee – my drug of choice. Sometimes I have a third cup in the afternoon. Shh…don’t tell my doctor.

2.       Sleeping – As I stated, I hate waking up. So, obviously the opposite of that is what I love! Sleeping is of my favorite things to do. If I could make it a hobby, I would.

3.       Staying Up Late – I love to sleep, but I don’t like to go to bed early. I’m a pretty happy camper when I get to stay up late at night, all by myself, doing whatever I please – reading, playing on Social Media, art journaling, or watching TV.

4.       Art Journaling – This is happiness at its finest to me. Two years ago, I discovered the therapeutic benefits of keeping an art journal and now I’m addicted. Recently, I spent SIX hours art journaling one day. There’s something very soothing, comforting, and inspiring in unleashing your creativity and artistic abilities. Try it!

5.       Writing – For most of my life, I’ve kept journals. Writing is my best form of therapy. Not just in my journal, but also emails to friends and family, text messages, Facebook posts, and of course blogging. When I write, I release my feelings and thoughts. It stinks to hold stuff in. Don’t do it. Let it out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Healing My Heart Through Connection - #1000Speak


"The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued;
when they can give and receive without judgement;
and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship."

Brené Brown - "The Gifts of Imperfection"

Shameful Confession: When I was in my mid-20’s, a co-worker suffered a miscarriage. No one had known she was pregnant. In fact, she had just recently returned from maternity leave. When I heard the news, I incredulously remarked to another co-worker “Are you serious? She needs to take three days off over a miscarriage??? But she JUST had a baby! What is there to be so upset about?!”

I am utterly ashamed to admit that I acted so insensitively. I’m horrified at my lack of compassion. But I was young, stupid, and clueless. In my ignorant mind, losing a pregnancy or even a baby, was like losing a jacket. If you already had another jacket, then there was nothing really to be so upset about. And if you didn’t own another jacket, you could just get a new one…Until I lost my own baby through miscarriage and suddenly I understood.

It turns out a miscarriage wasn’t just a miscarriage. Maybe for some it is, but for me it was life-shattering. It wasn’t just the loss of a pregnancy. It was the loss of my son; the loss of my dreams for that baby; the loss of my hopes of mothering that tiny bundle; the loss of my plans for the future with that child. I lost a piece of me. The loss was the deepest pain I have ever experienced and I felt the most alone I have ever felt in my life.

As the weeks went by, my friends and loved ones grew tired of my depressive state. They didn’t know what to do with me. They didn’t know what to say to make me “all better” and “back to normal”. Some thought I was seeking drama; thriving on the attention; being difficult; overreacting; not getting over it quickly enough. I felt disconnected from most of the people in my life. They simply didn’t get me.

I knew there were others out there like me. I spent countless hours, night after night, on baby loss websites and message boards where I was able to express my grief with other bereaved mothers.  But the greatest blessing of all came when I discovered Healing Hearts, a local Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Stop Shoulding On Yourself

How many times a day do you “should on yourself”? I do it more times than I can count. I beat myself up for all the things I should be doing – like mundane chores or the bigger stuff – the stuff that we are expected to do or the stuff that feels like the right thing to do – like do a favor for someone or lend someone money or take care of someone’s problems. We put so much pressure on ourselves to live up to our own expectations as well as everyone else’s because we worry about what others will say or think. We fear judgment.

It feels selfish to put ourselves first and do what we actually want to do versus what we think we should do. But the majority of us have been conditioned since birth to “do the right thing” even if it means it’s not what is in your heart. We are taught to sacrifice our own emotional needs in order to please others. We learn early on in life that our needs are not as important as someone else’s. We believe that it is better to look good in someone else’s eyes than to feel good in our own hearts. We are burdened with guilt if we choose to follow what we want to do instead of what we think we should do.

In the book “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Brené Brown addresses the need to set boundaries. She states that it is essential to have boundaries in order to successfully practice acceptance and compassion without resentment. This makes so much sense to me! Think about it…when we do things for others coming from a place of “should”, we end up feeling resentful. We feel used and taken advantage of; we become judgmental. But hey…we did what we should have done; we made ourselves look good on the outside and feel bad on the inside.

It’s not easy to set boundaries and re-train our brains to believe that shoulding on yourself is not the measure of a good person. But believe me when I say, you are not selfish for taking care of your needs, listening to your heart, and following your spirit.