Life is just about the best drug available! 

It’s been too long. Returning is like a warm hug when you’ve been lost in the cold. 


Life, thank you. I’m not worthy but I’ll sure as hell give it all. 💗

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Reflecting and Projecting 

Art is my mediation and today I’m looking at the very first watercolor I created. It came to me naturally without the boundaries of formal instruction. That’s not to say that formal learning of techniques isn’t good, it’s essential for progress, but there’s something to be said for creative moments that spring unannounced from your being. 

 Paris ’98 
I did carry on with being unschooled in this artistic medium, and sketched many scenes that caught my eye and spoke to my heart. I also remember vividly this year of being jobless in a foreign city. I was lost and art saved me or found me rather. I stared in the mirror each morning and whispered to myself “so really, who the hell are you without your higher education and your books?” Despondent, once I stopped burying myself in science assignments, projects, and exams, I came up empty. Chris (husband/best friend) was happy and working, and never lost himself. Le sigh.

  
That first year in Paris I turned myself upside down, inside out, insane, and exhausted searching for meaningful work. I wanted the job that would make me sing each morning. Nevermind that I had no work visa. I reasoned that if I got the job, I’d get the visa somehow. A year went by….no job, but my sketching and painting were taking root nicely. 

 Corsica ’98  
 Etais La Sauvin (Steve’s House) ’99  
L’Hirondelle, France ’99

 These sketchers are part of my travel diary. There’s many, but I loved these places the most. They are only second to my precious island; Newfoundland.

Here is the most precious place in the world to me! It was my place when there was nowhere else I could go. It grounded me so that I could dream freely here.

Middle Cove, NL ’02

 My partner Chris asked me to marry him here one cold July evening, five years before I painted this landscape, as we lay on the cliff -pictured in the middle distance here. Star gazing in the grass and wrapped together in love my best friend and lover thought he would like to stay forever with me. I agreed wholeheartedly. It was magical. 
The journey to find myself and silence my ego had begun without much time to blink. Did I enjoy this task that was shoved in my face? No. Was it critical for my true self to emerge? Yes. Was it painful? Most definitely; lots of pain. Have I found myself? Partly. Am I finished with this intimate seduction that my dark side, my ego keeps thrusting on me? No, but I’m so close! So very close.

  

Love, so simple. 

XArby

The road: Well travelled

I started a journey with my partner long ago and could never have imagined where it would take me. I’ve learned that no matter what…I took it, I had no idea where it would go (still don’t), but the most important lectio, lecon, or lesson, which I have yet to master, is to not care where it’s going, only that I’m on it; the road.

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Happy New Year!

St. John’s Newfoundland

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My beautiful hometown, St. John’s Newfoundland. I did this watercolor many, many years ago before a block of Brownstones were built and thus blocked the view of our harbor from the Basilica.

I love this Island because it’s a good place built from the hard work of great people. Not perfect, as no one is perfect (isn’t that truly perfect?), but great all the same. Rugged, wild and free; pure granite, but soft at it’s heart because of the people. I miss you everyday!

I will return again soon and lay my roots deeply in your rocky soil and stay forever.

Mwah!!! Peace and love!!!

Invasion of the body scanners!

Hi all! Sorry for being a neglectful blogger. Life has gone from fast pace to warp speed.

We just returned from vacation! Had an awesome time seeing family and having fun! All was perfect until we had to face Hawaii’s airport security!!! The full body scanners!! I successfully avoided them with my toddler, but my husband and 14 year old child fell victim to this violation of human rights.

Not sure of their safety or effectiveness, highly controversial topics, but instinctually aware that they’re just wrong, I had to watch as my beloved family had to go through one. Nude images of my husband and child were on display for someone’s eyes! Not sure who’s eyes or how this “virtual strip search” of my child and husband protects us, I died a little as a mother and a human this day. I failed as a mother and as a human; I didn’t protect my family, my child and other fellow humans from being raped of their dignity and their rights. Child pornography is illegal but taking nude images of my 14 year old for air travel security purposes is ok? What’s gone wrong with these people???

Sadly, I won’t be traveling through the USA ever again, or for as long as there are regular use of these body scanners. And I mean ‘every’ person going through security that day was scanned!!! Minus myself with my 3 year old, but that will probably change soon too.

I’m glad to be in our house and we had the best vacation! Well…..minus our detour flying through the US.

Peace and love!!! Lord knows we need a ton of it!! XR

You are “zee wife” and he is “zee worker”

Paris 1998

Notice the title? This is exactly what an astute French woman said to me, while pointing her beautifully manicured finger at Chris, my husband, at Le Mairie de Boulogne Billancourt (town hall of Boulogne Billancourt, France). She was the one woman standing between me and my freedom. I was not a happy wife. I just spent 10 months in Houston without a work visa and the only thing that kept me sane was knowing that I’d get a work visa in Paris! I had envisioned myself working in a posh research lab, maybe at the Currie Institute….ok that might have been an unrealistic fantasy, but the sheer joy of dreaming about the possibilities was the pinnacle of life so far! This was my big chance to finally make something of myself!!

We had just received back our passports with our visas at the Mairie. I had examined my passport and the visa laminated inside it, but it didn’t have the word “travail (work)” on it like my husband’s had. I knew instantly that I had been duped! “Ou est ma carte de travailler (where is my work visa)?” I calmly whispered through my clenched teeth. “Non, c’est une carte de famille (no it’s a family visa)” the French woman sharply stated staring down her nose at me behind her lunettes. “There’s some mistake, I’m suppose to have a work visa!” There was no interpreter there this time to convey my meaning as this woman was obviously confused or deranged!! We were only picking up our visas so we didn’t think we needed an interpreter. I needed more than an interpreter! I’d need a lobotomy if I didn’t get that work visa!!! I blabbed on and on in French and English and back to French trying to tell her there was some mistake. I must have gone over the line…..

Within that span of about 15 minutes max. I was launched into a blinding vortex and my Grandmother’s words screamed in my ears. I was being utterly destroyed within that short period of time, but I see it all now slow motion. All my dignity, independence and all my hopes and dreams for my chance to prove what I could do out here in the big world was being peeled away; like my skin being ripped apart to expose core in that dark cold Mairie. All I could do was seethe in anger as we walked away because otherwise I’d have been washed away in my own tears. The Executioner Lady (as I had nicknamed her because she killed my hopes) spelled out clearly for me what my Nan had tried to tell me nearly a year ago, except this woman said it as if it was the guillotine she was throwing down on me, and in a very bad English accent: “NON!” she exclaimed while pointing and wagging her impatient finger at me, “you are ZEEEE wife and he is ZEEEE worker.” Luckily there was about two inches of plexiglass separating me from her bony neck that I wanted to strangle! That was that. She slammed her window closed.

HEY!!! Did my Nan call you or something??? I was defeated that day.

Flashback to the summer of 1997 just days before our speedy little wedding (no bun in the oven!) when I was having a nice cup of tea at my Nan’s house and talking with her about our upcoming nuptials. Truthfully, I was bitterly complaining about how suddenly old fashioned my husband-to-be was being about marriage etc….imagine! Me taking someone else’s name just because we decided mutually to spend our life together!

Unexpectedly, my Nan stops drying the dishes and looks me straight in the eye and says “Rhonda, your marriage is going to be like the taming of the shrew”. Damn! I never read that piece of Shakespeare!!! I knew I’d regret it someday! I also knew it couldn’t be a complement by the look in her eyes. Well, I wasn’t about to give away the truth that I really had no idea what she meant by that. Besides, my Nan was one of the most loving and caring people I knew, so I wasn’t about to have a hissy-fit and be on the outs with Nan before my wedding.

I loved my Nan. She was better than a mother, like all good nannies, because she could be someone other than my mother. She made me tea and toast, listened to my woes, fed me some more, tucked a blanket around me and let me watch TV and then sent me off home, eventually. When I was much younger and Pepsi was banned by my parents, in large quantities, she let me have as much as I liked. Sally, my Nan, was the smartest woman I knew, and if she said Pepsi was ok, it was. Now I know that she was spoiling me because she loved me more than anything in this world. I loved her too, more than anyone. Still do, even though she’s gone from this world. And in parallel, because I’m a mother now, I know my parents banned things like Pepsi because they loved me more than anything in this world. Funny isn’t it! But parents have to be parents and grandparents can be otherwise, that’s the beauty of having Grandchildren I guess.

Sometimes I wish I had discussed marriage with Nan a bit further, but I figured she wasn’t modern enough to understand. In hindsight, she might have passed on some good advice about how to live equally as husband and wife, not that she lived it, but I learned over time that she was wise beyond her own life’s circumstances. She might have saved me from a few battle wounds whilst fighting the war on marriage equality.

Hey, what can I say? I’m a dreamer and what appears to be “reality” is not my thing; I find it ugly and distressing most of the time. Usually, I live with my head in the clouds, it’s much more entertaining and everyone is happy; funny. Is it so wrong to want equality? For all people regardless of what it is? Live how we want, love who and how we want and accept that we are all here under the same sky just living and dreaming of a good life. Inequality brings doom and disaster to all of us. Well! That was quite a tangent! If you knew what was in my mind, you’d go blind! ha! It overwhelms me most of the time.

Ok….so back to the discussion at hand…

You have just read (if you’re still with me…) a very small sample of writing meant to indicate how much I desire equality between the sexes and especially within a marriage, and yes, I did keep my pre-married family name. The idea that we would not be equal in marriage has been a point of contention for me from day 1 and it’s why marriage scares me to death (even though Chris has truly wanted us to have equality, I think). If I’m honestly divulging the truth here, I’d have to admit that my first thought upon waking – in the most beautiful room in a Victorian Heritage Bed and Breakfast – the morning after our wedding was “what the hell have I done” and then had a complete panic attack, quietly so that Chris couldn’t hear me. However, I must clarify here that I was also taking off to Houston in less than 48 hours to live away with my new husband for, quite possibly, the rest of my life as we didn’t know if we would ever return home to stay. As it turns out we didn’t return home to stay, but I’m getting way ahead of myself. So, please allow me a little wiggle room here for panic post I-DO’s. That said, here I am today, still married and most definitely financially dependent on my husband. Can you imagine then, how much that French woman’s words has bothered me, taunted me and haunted me for years even to this very day. Perhaps writing about it will give me closure and I can let go. Letting go is my trouble.

No other words uttered in my lifetime were ever truer. I am “zee wife” and Chris is “zee worker”. I believed she had cursed me to living a life of marital inequality, not that Chris wants it that way or likes it that way, it just is that way. At the very least, she put into simple yet cutting words what I feared the most; the loss of my independence, of myself and to live a shadowed existence as someone’s wife. What I know now is that it was the first of many lessons in letting go; to give up control and just let it all be….

It was a gift to me not to be able to work. My curse was a gift! I was literally given the time to find myself and really live my dreams, not the dreams I thought would get me the approval and praise I craved, not the kind that proved I was clever enough, but the dreams I had been creating since I knew I existed.

Just a year after our wedding, Chris surprised me with a 2nd honeymoon! All I knew was that I was going to Ajaccio. Not having a clue where that was, I was utterly delighted to see that we were in Corsica!!! I was in heaven and for the first time that year I forgot about not working and my loss of independence and just allowed myself to be happy: This is what came from forgetting who I thought I was and what would make me happy and just enjoyed my gift!

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The beginning of a watercolor life and so much more!

Let’s get creative!!

Ok, so I’m hoping all you creative ladies in my world are interested in sharing your stories of your creative endeavors and traveling/living abroad!! Or both!! Send me your photos and stories via email and I’ll make a post to showcase them.

I’ll begin:

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This is a nearly completed crocheted Bonnet for a new-born. It has a vintage look and it’s seamless and worked using a V stitch and a 3-puff stitch beginning with a single double-sided seam at the back. You work it back and forth along the double-sided back seam (not sewed, but made from going back along the first row you make) to create the back first and then the sides and top. I used a hot pink on the front edge (last row) to make it pop! I’ll re-post the completed photo later tonight when I have the ties done.

Now it’s your turn!! GO!

I eagerly await your emails!! XR

Return to Paris

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It was no Eden, but it was close enough. Would my eyes never be drawn to that Tower, ever?
I’m still wondering 14 years later and I don’t live there anymore; sadly.
“Bored in Paris” was a very brief memoir describing my introduction to Europe, and seeing and living in Paris for the first time at the age of 26 years.  I’ll come back to that period in my life as I blog along because it was pivotal in helping me to find the fountain of creativity within myself.
Things were different upon my return; I was two years older and married. Honestly, there is so much to say about the first few weeks of my return to Paris. The words have always just spun around in my head and blinded me, I liken it to being caught in a blizzard, on a frozen lake with nothing visible to orient myself and I’m lost. This is where I always freeze in my writing. I’d like to say literally, because my mind shuts off and there is no way forward, yet, my body keeps moving. Writer’s block I believe? It’s the strangest sensation only because the world keeps moving, the body keeps going and I eat, drink, sleep and talk as if everything is as usual. Still, in the smallest corner of my brain the words are frozen and the Ice Queen is dead and can’t set them free. It’s taken me 15 years to find the right words and they are here for you to read; if you would like to. 
 

Springtime in Paris

Cliche or truly sublime?

Paris was, at it’s best, heavenly, at it’s worst, hell on Earth. Except in Spring when nothing was dark or dreary and Le Metro Face (a term we used to describe the face of thousands of passengers travelling on the trains of Paris’s underground) vanished. Parisians came back to life and smiled regularly…even if le cafe (tiniest coffee on the planet) wasn’t bien chaud (good and hot). The best thing? Art shows bloomed in every museum and gallery and color returned to the old grey Dame. No! Paris in spring is not a tacky cliche, it’s a sublime cliche and as a traveler, it’s the only time to really see the true beauty in all those old stones and it’s people.
There are literally hundreds of art exhibits and artists forever enmeshed in my memory (not the masters!). I roamed every arrondissement-all 20 of them-and saw every attraction that Paris had to offer, except the catacombs – I hate roaming around in the dark below the earth – the smell makes me sick. After only 3 years of living there, I know Paris because I was her stalker. I wanted no secrets between us, so I sat and watched and followed her roads and alleys, obsessed. Even now, if I sit quietly and close my eyes I can go back anywhere. Give me a metro exit, a monument or a landmark and I can describe to you what is there; even what is beyond the derby of the peripherique. It may take a little while, but it’s all still there like imprinting in a new-born duckling.
It’s no surprise to anyone, except me, that I should find my passion for art in Paris. What a gift! It was one of those moments, as I described in “Bored in Paris”, where I was taken completely unaware that I even had talent, let alone the drive to draw, paint, to create a world of my own; my watercolor life, as I now call it. It seems so dreamy doesn’t it? Well, it was , it is, time stands still and all I hear is music. It’s only now that I value it like treasure and I will make a life with it – I want to live the dreams that have been locked away in my mind.
The title is very literal. “My watercolor life” is my life recorded in watercolor sketches. Instead of simply carrying a journal with me everywhere I went, I painted a 15 year journal of places I had visited; some I knew I’d never see again. I wrote a little memoir with each sketch, but it’s the watercolors that tell the stories that my words have failed to convey about my life…a life of following my life partner abroad to strange, beautiful and sometimes ordinary places, and of course a life of following Love: A destination to which is wondrous but in reality is often unreachable, but we keep travelling, hoping to arrive, at the very least, alongside it. There’s so much to tell, so I hope you can sit still together with me just long enough to read it all. 
Here is the first entry in my very first watercolor travel journal….it’s young, amateurish, but shows potential! XR

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Unusually usual

UNUSUALLY USUAL

A life a little unusual.
My life actually.
I wish I could say my childhood was more than ordinary, but it was just that. Was I ordinary? Absolutely not! I’ll never be just that. It is possible to say that it wasn’t a Beaver Clever series; it wasn’t boring or entirely predictable, ok, so that’s alright too.
The details aren’t important, it is the past after all and it doesn’t exist anymore.
 That delights me sometimes…
 What evolves from your past, YOU , is the important thing
about your past.

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Daydreamer Extrordinaire!

I see everything around me and I invent that which I don’t. It’s a curse and a blessing and whether I liked it or not, life shoved me in the mirror and said “now you’ll see yourself, so open your eyes”.  Love, the catalyst for creation, the explosive creative sparks, with a Capital L (It’s a proper noun in my world) pushed me.
I’m a dreamer and an artist, but not for one second do I believe another person makes you be anything. There is no muse, but that’s another story. I arrived at that mirror kicking and screaming.
Lesson? I AM someone, I WAS going to be thrown out into the world – a nomad with no home.  My roots would grow sideways, not down.  
The clock is ticking. Time to go. Time to be…

Houston 1997

Let’s see….June, July, August…engaged, elegant wedding, moved Country, what the hell happened to my life?…CHECK. CHECK. CHECK and CHECK.

To be truthful, it was insane, but the excitement of not having a clue what I was doing or what would become of me was thrilling. I was so overwhelmed with joy that I vomited for a week in Houston. Overwhelming Joy/sustained terror; not much difference according to my body. Both produce the same reflex, stomach purge.
 Chris would leave every morning for work and I’d heave my breakfast up. AH!! The start of a blissful life together forever paired with the smell of half digested bacon and eggs and whatever else hung around from the night before. Now what do I do with myself? 
 First month down. WOOP. All the pleasantries were done and I met some lovely people, and dreadful ones (there’s no other word to describe these poor souls, sorry), but with no work visa where did I belong if it wasn’t at work? The mirror spoke when I glanced in it; “find yourself”. Not wanting to give in to that bully, I got in the car and drove to every museum I could find. No small feat as I had no idea where I was at any point beyond 50m past our complex’s gates. 
Duty calls as a momma, and I must end my story here.
Let me tell you this: Fear became my friend during my early years travelling, and probably still is now. I didn’t know that my life would never be that which I grew up with, or that which anyone in my small (and I mean small like amigurumi at it’s best), close circle of family and friends would know how to relate to, except for a couple of insane ones like me. Fear is the only friend that never betrays me. I like it in a strange way because I know I’m still alive and KICKING! :)) It’s the kick inside!
 
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 I’ll leave you with this photo of the first cardigan I ever knitted and beanie, the latter was what I thought to be an original by me, sadly I found a pattern for this very design a year later! It even had the same title I gave it – the accordion hat! LOL Got to laugh!! We may think we are original, but…..

Bored in Paris

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I never knew I was creative, honestly. The thing about not knowing is just that, you don’t know a thing until you do. When I was very young I liked drawing, painting, writing, doodling, and crafts of many kinds, but seeing myself as an artist was never a part of who I believed I was. That’s youth I guess….not knowing yourself or trusting yourself. That all changed when I was 26 years old; I lived for 3 lovely, and not so lovely months in the City of Lights and Lovers – Paris!

Like every other time I got creative in my past, I discovered my artistic abilities through sheer boredom. The force that drives curiosity led me to my core; that of an artist bursting to tell a story using whatever medium I choose. Unfortunately, I was poor and the only medium I could afford was pencils! Boring graphite!! I bought 3 pencils, 2B, 4B, and HB with a cheap A2 sketch pad, possibly meant for children, but I put my faith in the word “etudiant” meaning adult student and not school children. I’m still not entirely sure that it means adult student, but I still have the original sketch pad that launched a 18 year obsession with art that still consumes me today. Suddenly I felt free again and feeling the pencils in my hand and the pad under my arm, well, I just knew I was on a journey towards me.