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I am having a very serious love/hate relationship with spring in Minnesota.

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I love how the air has turned warmer and the sun has gotten more powerful. I love how the green has returned and the birds are chirping.

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But I HATE how just when you start to feel happy and warm, it turns cold and dreary again. Unpredictable is an understatement.

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Spring is a devious trickster.

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At least when it’s winter, you know it’s cold out. You’re prepared and you’re ready. You expect the chill and the grey skies. But spring… spring brings you a glorious day of warmth and sunshine and then snatches it away like a bully taking your lunch money. Pulling out that parka again after you’ve already gotten so comfortable in your flip-flops is an acute type of pain, I can assure you.

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So here’s my remedy: focus on the beauty. One thing spring is not short on is beauty.

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I picked up my camera yesterday morning and I walked around my yard hunting for color and life. And believe me, there is so much to be had. The best part about spring is being a witness to this beautiful transformation that happens right before your eyes.

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Tiny pops of color are everywhere and the morning sun dances on the newborn leaves. The trees come to life, there is music in the chirping of the birds, the air is fragranced with delicate flowerbuds… everything is fresh and new. Spring is filled with optimism.

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The deep-down-to-your-soul appreciation for a bright sparkling sunny day can only come from living through a long winter. And I am incredibly grateful for that experience.

Next week it will be exactly one year since we’ve moved to Minneapolis. It’s been such an adventure. There have been ups and there have been downs but through it all we’ve experienced some definite magic as a family. It’s true what they say, the magic only happens outside your comfort zone and we are so glad we took this leap of faith. Cheers Minnesota! You’ve been so good to us!

Click here to read my ponderings on summer, fall and winter in Minnesota. We have loved experiencing all the seasons.

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“Whisper of Magic” 24″x 30″ Mixed Media on Canvas

I find that art is the answer to most things for me. Feeling sad? Make art. Feeling joyful? Make art. Feeling overwhelmed, thrilled, lonely, ecstatic? Make art.

It’s not always easy to drag myself into the studio. It can feel as though that empty canvas is mocking me, daring me to come up with something good. But if I stay devoted and show up to the work, I find that the muse of creation always joins me.

Creation is life for me. They are one and the same. Expression is the only way through. Thank goodness I’ve figured that out. Saved lots of money in therapy.

 

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The loss of music icon Prince has been shocking and upsetting to music lovers everywhere. I’m no exception. It’s that “you don’t know whatcha got ’til it’s gone” feeling. Prince has always been there and it seemed as if he always would be. The loss is monumental and I can’t do it justice, but something has moved me to write about it.

I think it’s because I can’t shake this melancholy feeling. I’m not usually one of those people who feels personally affected by the passing of a celebrity. This one however, has a hit a very personal nerve for me. Maybe it’s because so many of my greatest memories have been tied up with Prince music. Or maybe it’s because I always think of his concert as the best I’ve ever seen. Whatever the reason, I’m sure you feel it too. The Purple One was magic. He affected us all.

I was part of the MTV generation. The first tweens to watch “All music, All the time” and Prince was a huge part of that. Not only were we mesmerized with the music, we were mesmerized by his whole persona: all bedroom eyes and androgynous sex appeal.

My most vivid memory of him was being on a road trip with my parents and “When Doves Cry” was in constant rotation on the radio that summer. The photo above is from that time and I remember feeling like his music made me feel something new. The lyrics wreaked havoc on my pre-teen hormones (“the sweat of your body covers me”) and his style made me wanna put on eyeliner and wear ruffles (hence the outfit and makeup above).

The funny thing is, that feeling he inspires has really never gone away. Even 30 (gulp) years later, I still feel that excitement about him. As you can imagine, when you’re a Prince fan and you move to Minneapolis, the thought of him is front of mind. Every time I pass the music venue First Avenue downtown, I remember the movie Purple Rain. And every time I say “Lake Minnetonka”, I feel the inexplicable need to purify myself in the waters.

A few months after I moved here, a friend of a friend invited me to Paisley Park for one of Prince’s famed all night dance parties. Being sort of a fuddy-duddy these days, the idea of going somewhere at midnight did not at first appeal, but the excitement of potentially seeing Prince outweighed every argument I had.

It was surreal walking into the Paisley Park studios. The motorcycle from Purple Rain sits in the lobby and then you enter into one of two sound stages. On the first stage, a DJ was spinning Prince’s new album and on the second stage, a wildly infectious funk band was playing dance music while the movie “Car Wash” was being projected on the wall.

There was a feeling in the room. Anticipation and excitement, the feeling that the Purple One might step onto the stage at any moment. No one wanted to leave for fear that the minute you walked out, you would miss him. We stayed until 3 am.

Ultimately he never showed up that night but I feel like that experience was a good metaphor for Prince himself. His presence was there. You could feel him. He almost didn’t even need to show up. He was part of the air. Mystical fireworks and magic.

That’s what great art does. It makes you feel something. It becomes a part of you. So much so that when it’s gone you feel its loss deeply.

There will never be another Prince. I for one, feel pretty lucky to have felt his magic.

 

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“Wildfire” 20″x 20″ Mixed Media on Canvas

I have been very busy in the studio. I work every single day even if I only have a short amount of time. My goal is to constantly improve, to make work that is meaningful and to stay true to the inspiration that I feel in my heart and my head. I have found that I am happiest and most content when I am doing what I love. I am a better mother, wife and friend when I give myself this time to express my creativity, it has become an integral part of who I am.

These are the latest pieces I’ve been working on.

As a reminder, my work can now be found at Art Resources Gallery in the IMS Design Center, Minneapolis.

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“Brilliant and Resilien”t 24″x 36” Mixed Media on Canvas

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“Glow Of Longing” 24″x 36″ Mixed Media on Canvas

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“Mist of Remembrance” 24″x 24″ Mixed Media on Canvas

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“Restless Rhapsody” 18″x 24″ Mixed Media on Canvas

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“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” –Anne Frank

I went for a little run in the Minnesota snow today and I remembered something. I remembered telling you that I would check back in with you in February to let you know how we are surviving the Minnesota winter so here I am.

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We are definitely surviving. For the most part, it’s been fun. Don’t get me wrong, Minnesota winter is NO JOKE. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. And by all accounts, it’s been a pretty mild one this year.

I’ll put it like this: winter started off super fun with the first snow and I believe it’s going to end fun with the first signs of spring but there were a couple of moments in between where it was… well… touch and go. There were 3 moments to be exact. I’ll give you the highlights.

  1. That First Time It Dropped Below Zero: I don’t know how many of you have experienced below zero weather but it’s brutal. It takes your breath away. It’s like a slap in the face. Seriously. When we first walked out into below zero weather, we were only going a few feet but it hit me like a ton of bricks. Even after we got inside, it took me like 30 minutes to recover from the stupor I was in. My husband Greg kept asking me if I was okay as if he were afraid I was gonna jump on the next plane to LA. Luckily, we’ve only had a few days where the temp has dropped so low so I think we’re gonna be okay.
  2. That Time My Car Slid Across 3 Traffic Lanes in the Snow: Okay here’s the thing, I probably should have asked someone how to drive in snow before I drove in snow. The snow was coming down so hard I could barely see the cars in front of me and everything was slippery. I was on my way to pick up the kids from school, Greg was out of town and sliding across the road threw me for a loop. It was at this moment that I decided I should call my neighbor and ask him how to drive in snow. Per his advice, I slowed down, left lots of space between me and the cars in front of me and I pumped the brakes when necessary. Now I’ve got it.
  3. That Time I Dropped My Daughter Off To School While She Sobbed Uncontrollably About How Heavy Her Backpack Was: The biggest thing about winter in Minnesota is the gear you need. There’s no easy way about it, you have to gear up before you head out. And for my little California kids, this has been an adjustment. They have to put on coats, gloves and hats while carrying their snow pants and snow boots in their backpack. If you throw some books and a lunchbox in there… we’re talking 20 pounds. So for a little girl who quite frequently wakes up late and on the wrong side of the bed, this can be overwhelming. That morning of crocodile tears taught me that she needs to wear her snow boots to school and buy a hot lunch. Again, live and learn.

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All that being said, here’s the good news: we have added so many fun winter activities to our lives. We have been ice skating, snowmobiling, tubing, sledding and skiing. We have embraced the winter and in so doing, we have learned how to love it. And then there will always be those days where you just bundle up, make some hot chocolate and watch a movie, which is nice too.

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As I was out in the cold weather this morning, I tried to connect with the beauty of it. As the quote above says, being out in nature is a lovely remedy for everything and I could feel my mood instantly lifting.

To sum it up, winter in the far north is not totally easy but there are ways to get your arms around it, roll with it and learn as you go.

And if all else fails, plan to spend your spring break in the Caribbean! Hey we’re not stupid!!!

 

 

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“That’s f@#&ing amazing!”

Those are the words my husband said to me when I told him about an email I had received.

But I should back up and start this story from the beginning.

A new Minneapolis friend of mine (whom I had only met briefly) graciously went out of her way to invite me to a book launch party in November. I had no idea what the book was about but in the interest of getting out there and getting to know her better, I quickly accepted.

It turns out the book was “Infinite Purpose: Care Instructions For Your True Calling” by Liv Lane and Lori Portka. As the program started, I immediately felt that it was no accident I had been invited to this event. It seemed as though the message of the book was speaking directly to me.

I went home and dove into it head first. There’s so much to say about this book but in order to keep this post manageable, I will just speak from my own experience and say that it found me at the exact perfect moment.

At the end of last year, I started to feel ready to move forward with my career as an artist and a teacher. I felt a bit stuck though, being in a new city and not really knowing how to go about getting back to it.

There’s a point in the book where it encourages you to start sharing your truths and dreams. It says for you to imagine “every positive force in the universe coming together in harmony, in your honor, and in service to your mission.”

So I started voicing it a bit. And then I even posted about it on social media hoping that just saying the words would help get some momentum going.

And then I reached out to a few people to tell them I was ready to move forward with my art and to start teaching art journaling again.

And then it happened.

Literally within two days of each other I received two emails that were to propel me in the right direction. One email telling me that a Minneapolis gallery was interested in my work and another email offering me a place to teach.

Whoah!

Let me just say that I have always been a big believer in fate and I’ve always known that things happen for a reason but this just confirmed it in a monumental way.

So here I am to tell you that you can manifest what you want. It’s completely and totally within your grasp. Setting intentions, talking about them, keeping open to the signs and perhaps even getting this book.

Go out there and do it folks!

 

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Perfumed Memories 24″x 36″ Mixed Media on Canvas

I started the year off with a renewed intention to work on my art every single day. Things have been in full swing and an exciting new opportunity has come my way which I will share as soon as I know more details. Until then, I wanted to post several new pieces at which I have been hard at work. Hope your new year is starting off with a bang as well!

Fire and Water 30"x 40" Mixed Media on Canvas

Fire and Water 30″x 40″ Mixed Media on Canvas

 

Ever Onward 24"x 36" Mixed Media on Canvas

Ever Onward 24″x 36″ Mixed Media on Canvas

 

Silent Volumes 30"x 40" Mixed Media on Canvas

Silent Volumes 30″x 40″ Mixed Media on Canvas

 

Collective Heartbeat 24"x 36" Mixed Media on Canvas

Collective Heartbeat 24″x 36″ Mixed Media on Canvas

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Living in Minnesota has given me such a wonderful new appreciation for Mother Nature. When you’re a visual person and you are surrounded by ever-changing scenery, there is no shortage of inspiration. I wrote about summer’s illumination here and I documented the awakenings of Fall here.

Today I want to talk about Winter.

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There is something silently magical about snow. It’s not like rain which hits you with a crash and a boom and makes its roaring presence known.

Snow comes down in a whisper and you awake to a world transformed. It’s a pristine blanket that wraps you in sparkly light and gives everything a fresh, flawless look.

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This is the time of year that I, like most people, start to think about the year that has passed and start setting intentions for the one ahead. The snow outside has inspired me. Like a fresh page and a clean slate, I’m ready to venture forward.

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A great way to set an intention for the new year is to pick a word that will be your touchstone. I do it every year and my  word for 2016 is “Renew”. This past year has been a year of tremendous change and while it has all been positive, I have found myself a little out of sorts and not quite feeling balanced.

In 2016 I want to renew my commitment to myself, to my family, to my art and to my health. I’m excited for the next chapter.

What are your intentions for 2016? Do you have a word?

 

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“Those paintings remind me of Mom.”

We were sitting in my living room and my brother was looking at three of my paintings that were hanging on the wall. It was so touching to hear him say that because in that very moment I had a huge epiphany.

“Yeah they do look like Mom.” I said. “I think I’m always painting Mom.”

Wow. I have never said those words before but they suddenly were the truest words I’ve ever spoken. I am always painting Mom.

People ask me all the time if my paintings are self-portraits or they ask me who the woman is in my paintings and I never have a good answer. No they are not meant to be self-portraits and I have no idea who she is. But I paint her over and over.

I’ve been thinking about my mother a lot lately. We lost our mother in 1999 to Alzheimer’s disease and she had been suffering with it for about 10 years. So in essence, I lost my Mom when I was 19.

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I had a tricky relationship with her. She was older when she had me and also was a little old-fashioned so I always kinda wished I had a younger, hipper Mom. The Mom who goes shopping with you and gets manicures with you and chit-chats with your friends. But that’s not what I got.

So I was bratty and pulled away from her. I was a moody and sullen teenager and then suddenly she was sick. Maybe that’s the way all teenagers are but the part that is the most difficult for me in retrospect is that I never got to rectify that. I wanted to know her and love her and make it up to her but I couldn’t. She was no longer there. If any of you have experienced Alzheimer’s then you know what I’m talking about. That person is still there, but they are no longer THERE.

It’s only been recently that I’ve come to realize all of this. I have a giant Mom-sized hole in my heart. No one else can fill it. I guess that’s why I paint. I have so much to express and painting is the best way I know how. I wish I could talk to her. Tell her that I’m sorry I was such a crappy teenager who didn’t appreciate her. But I can’t, so I paint.

My mother was a beautiful, spiritual person. I’m told sometimes that I look like her and that makes me proud. I know I have her hands so when I look down right now and see my fingers typing on my laptop I am grateful for the woman that brought me into this world. The woman who sacrificed everything to raise her kids and love them without condition. She was funny and silly but my memories of her are fuzzy.

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Vina Chavez Olguin, my mother in the 40s.

She’s in my heart. I know her spirit dwells within me. I hold tight to that. It’s all I have. And I will continue to feel the spectrum of feelings that come when I think of her. That’s how life goes. Sometimes painful but it’s those gritty parts that make up who we are.

This is a hard post for me to share but I’m realizing more and more that it is only through the sharing of our truth that we are truly able to connect as human beings. My paintings and my writings are my meager offerings to the universe. And as I write this, I realize that it is all part of my healing process. Approximately 26 years of healing and every day is one step forward.