Twenty two years ago, on a Sunday, just like today, a beautiful brown eyed baby boy came into the world. His emergence into this life has been a blessing to me every day since.
In the month leading up to his birth, I painted a Peter Rabbit mural on his wall and dreamed about what this new life would be like, hardly believing I was truly about to have a baby.
The week before his birth, I dreamed that I had a rather wet and mad looking cat, complete with a bonnet. The nurses handed him to me like nothing was wrong, at which point my dream ended. But my mom had a dream that he would have dark hair like his namesake, her father- Jack.
When I went into labor, it was a snowy night in Kansas. My water broke at 8 pm and we went to the hospital. My mom was there and my dad drove 9 hours to get to the hospital at 2:30 in the morning. Greg's family was all there and so was my grandmother Wilma.
My mom, who had delivered naturally, was supposed to be my coach for a natural birth, because I did not want an epidural, but as I went into the depths of labor pain, about 6 hours in, she succumbed to empathy pain, saying "Honey, I forgot how bad this is, you'd really better do an epidural before it's too late!"
In near delirium from pain and exhaustion, I had one, which proceeded to numb exactly half of my body. So I suppose I can claim a .05 natural birth experience.
I have been thinking about all of the people there at the time of Jack's birth, and how much has changed in the 22 years from that night to today. It is at once so bittersweet , but also such a beautiful, joyful memory of loved ones together at such a special moment in time. I'm thankful.
And then my beautiful baby boy was born! Dark hair, dark eyes, and the longest eyelashes I've ever seen. He was beautiful and perfect. A precious gift from God. That night he was brought in to nurse, and then taken to the nursery, where they said he "out cried" everyone and the only thing that would calm him through the night was a Patsy Cline cd.
I had no idea what our life would look like, or who he would be, or how we would do this thing called life together. I only knew I loved him from the depths of my soul and could not believe this perfect tiny human was my baby. The first night home I couldn't get him to stop crying. For hours, I just kept nursing him and walking with him. My mom woke up and asked me if I had burped him. Which I did and he promptly stopped crying.
Meeting my firstborn and getting to know him those first few days will forever be etched on my heart. Painting his portrait on his 22nd birthday was cathartic. Each feature known to my soul, the forms, shadows, and lines of that face have been inscribed in my mind's eye since day one. Although somehow it is much harder for me to paint portraits of my children, maybe because my heart knows them so well. Today, Jack is 4 hours away but still my day was flooded with so many memories, so much love and joy of the time surrounding his birth. Of course, my menopausal mind also brings fears and regrets about things I did or didn't do as a parent, and the seismic shift that happens as we transition from parents of children in our home, to parents of young adults living apart from us- topics for another blog.
Fortunately, my rational mind knows that being a parent is filled with All The Things: whispering promises to the beautiful and perfect baby held gently in your arms, followed by the reality lessons; the bumpy and lurching missteps of parenting, the prayers to God for guidance, protection, healing and love to fill in any cracks you may have caused the child he gave to you. And the soaring spirit of hope as a child becomes, and a soul expands, to find his own path in this world.
Being a mom is a beautiful, exhausting, exhilarating and terrifying journey, that I wouldn't trade for the world. Being entrusted with that sacred responsibility has expanded my life, love, and soul for which I am so thankful.
Happy birthday Jack Gregory!
I have a hard time listening to the news anymore. I mean, the world is rough right now. And although there is so much good happening, it's hard to find news about that.
Do you ever think we just take everything so seriously we suck the life out of things? I think we could all do with a big dose of laughter these days, which is probably why my Netflix is primed for the Office and Schitt's Creek reruns.. Life is beautiful and tragic, but it is funny, too. And we humans need a little comic relief everyday.
I have the sacred gift of being able to read the words of my great -grandmother- who wrote about her life in the early 1900's after she and my great-grandfather had married and moved out to Oklahoma after the land run.
She wrote many things, but something in particular that I am so thankful she wrote down, was a day of struggling to get cattle from one side of a ditch and up onto the other. My great grandfather, Shiloh, and his brother tried all day to move the animals, with no luck.
They tried slapping their hind quarters, pushing, finally even pouring dirt in their ears, which apparently was a method used to move cattle in desperation.. Nothing worked. They were bone tired, frustrated, and had no answers.
My great grandmother, Margaret Abby, said Shiloh just leaned back and laughed and then his brother joined in and they were slapping their thighs and having a time. She was not impressed, and a little irritated that they found this all funny.. My great grandmother told her husband she didn't find anything funny about the situation they were in, but Shiloh answered her,
" You know, when things get as bad as they can, that's the time to laugh. "
I love that. And they had a lot of bad come their way , but they did always have the laughter too. They passed that down to my grandad, whose laugh and sense of humor always drew people to him. Life was struggle, but they made it through and brought up my grandad and his 8 siblings, who were some of the finest human beings I've ever met.
All of this to say that sometimes we get a little too serious about life. Laughter and a sense of humor is becoming a lost art. We take ourselves too seriously, because life and the world has been pretty serious as of late, but lets not forget that we aren't the first to go through rough times, and some of the best medicine we have for facing hardship is in laughter and good humor with the people around us.
I can get a little too serious about life and about my art. I put pressure on myself, and become judgmental of my work, or wonder what I'm doing exactly. When that happens, I know it's time to let myself have fun with it and just play. Not worrying about anything, except being fully immersed in this moment in time.
That's what art is, after all; reacting to and being in the moment; allowing our spirit to flow freely without getting in the way. Come to think of it, that's really what a good life is all about.
Here's to laughing more in 2022, no matter what. We've got this, together.
Just around the house, early in the morning :: Mary Oliver
Though I have been scorned for it,
let me never be afraid to use the word beautiful.
For within is the shining leaf
and the blossoms of the geranium at the window.
And the eyes of the happy puppy as he wakes.
The colors of the old and beloved afghan lying
by itself, on the couch, in the morning sun.
The hummingbird’s nest perched now in a
corner of the bookshelf, in front of so many
books of so many colors.
The two poached eggs. The buttered toast.
The ream of brand-new paper just opened,
white as a block of snow.
The typewriter humming, ready to go.
This is my latest painting in my musician series, started in October. I'm not sure how many I will do or how long I will be working through this series, I just know that I have enjoyed painting each and every one and hope there will be many more. I love capturing musicians in their flow- it speaks to me on many levels. So for someone who has difficulty sticking with a "theme", this one continues to interest and challenge me, and feels like a celebration of the human spirit. After all, what is art if not a celebration?
Happy new year, everyone! It has been an eventful December in the Gackstatter household, as we have moved from Missouri to Illinois- only 30 miles- and now live on the opposite side of St. Louis.
We moved out of town near a nature preserve and now don't have the sound of busy streets and sirens.
Only birds and the hourly church bells. It's pretty wonderful and I am thankful.
This is a painting from our back window today as it rains and the temperature drops. With this, my first painting in my new studio (out of the garage- woohoo!) AND the first painting of my 31 paintings in 31 days I do yearly with several amazing artists, writers and friends, I wish everyone a much improved and blessed 2022. Love to you all! Gretchen
Do these things to protect yourself against breast cancer
Thinking about October and breast cancer
awareness today- and wearing my favorite homemade
gaudy necklace over my old port scar♥️
I was diagnosed in February 2013 at 41. Er positive
and lymphatic involvement. Partial mast/ chemo/ rads.
Zero family history on either side.
I want to tell you environment does matter. Stress
matters, and the food you eat and products you wear
matter. Today make one change for your health.
My advise is to listen to and know your body-
My nipple was a tiny bit inverted and I had a dream
that I needed to get checked. Do your breast exam
regularly- that is even more important than
Keep track of your vitamin D levels- I was deficient and
most breast cancer patients are when diagnosed.
Take care of your teeth and don't get multiple root
canals. I had 3, and they have found a correlation
between the two.
Don't live in fear of breast cancer. Take action - Pray,
exercise, take care of yourself in high stress situations
( or remove yourself altogether) eat healthy, and
Read more about my friend who helps empower breast cancer survivors here
“But because truly being here is so much; because everything here apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
I've been thinking a lot about what I want to say with my art lately. At first I thought it was all about finding a logo. But as I played with various designs and ideas, I realized I needed to go through this process of "why".
Why do I paint? At the most fundamental level? The conversations it has spurred, and your perceptive insight, have helped me to distill the essence of my work into words. It has taken listening intently to your feedback, and much reflection on my part, for me to discover what my soul already knew was at the heart of my work, but needed a little help from my friends to find the words and representation for it.
And what I found is that the "spark" that drives what comes out subconsciously, literally spilling out onto my paper is, in a word - or four- the celebration of human spirit. Words that encompass so much, yet within them are the deeper, profound things that drive what I want to say through my work:
These are words that you said describe my work, and a few that came to me in thinking about the ideas that drive what I do:
Grace, courage, light, passion, intellect, faith, dignity, love, gratitude, hope, fortitude, humility, triumph, strength, holiness, imagination, brokenness, power, healing, joy, forgiveness, transcendence, beauty, and wonder . What an incredible gift you gave me!
We all have our stories. Some told, some untold. We have all experienced all of these words in some form or other. All of us have made terrible mistakes and have regrets, we all have sinned, we all experience triumph, pain, brokenness, love and beauty . And we all have more grit and courage inside than we give ourselves credit for. Each of us has a soul with a door to God who will give us abundant grace, forgiveness and hope when we have run out..
Our day to day struggles in this life become trivial in the context of WHY we are here. The miracle is that we are here at all -together- at this moment in space and time. We are so blessed to accompany one another on our journey- celebrating when the good things, extraordinary moments and abundant gifts in life come our way. And helping each other to grow and heal- loving and sharing grace with our fellow travelers through the treacherous terrain and storms in life.
There is profound beauty in having others who love us through the beautiful, as well as the painful, times.
This love for one another is what makes us human. This journey together on a spinning, light and dark-filled planet in the midst of an incomprehensible universe. Love that makes our lives worthwhile on earth.
Our walk with God though our world reveals that we are tied together as one human family. Woven together with crude humanness and sacred spirit - Not just in our own time, but throughout history. We are descended from an ancient spiral of DNA , with a little stardust, and a sacred soul, that connects us to each other and to our maker.
And we are not a mistake or an accident. We are here on purpose- at this time, in these individual circumstances we find ourselves in- to discover our soul's true purpose. And as we walk together through life and help one another find our way home in communion with God, we are connected simultaneously to our ancestors and our descendants.
It is why I write and why I paint - to watch and reflect what is beautifully revealed and renewed on our journey under the sun every day , connecting our souls, and thanking God through it all.
Thank you for the opportunity to celebrate and share all of it- with you.
Just a prayer today.
The chaos and confusion in the world seems reflected in my life and lives of a lot of friends and loved ones at the moment.
It's a fight some days not to lose hope and give in to the loudness of the world, the despair, regret, and pain around us.
I try to remember on days like today that there is a reason I am here in this time, in these circumstances, and I do know where my strength comes from.
I am choosing today- this moment- to allow God's peace, sovereignty and love to sustain me, instead of leaning into the anxiety.
I choose to be thankful for the people who make up the fabric of my life, for love, for grace.
I choose to forgive myself and others.
I choose to believe like Abraham-against all hope- that God has the power to do what he has promised. Strengthened in faith when I feel like falling down.
I am learning that trusting is not expecting a certain outcome, it is learning to let go of the outcome I expect and stand rooted where I am in this moment.
Praying for peace, healing and grace for you today.
Lets help each other take our next best step forward.
Romans 4: 18-21-
"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be" Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead- since he was about a hundred years old- and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God. but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
I painted a door this morning after reading this- I honestly didn't feel like painting, but did it anyway. It's a door opening to the promises God has made to us. It's our choice to believe and walk through to see what God has in store for our lives as we walk the path he has created uniquely for us. We can trust him. Really trust. We can wait expectantly and know that he is working everything out for good in our lives as we rest and believe him.
I'm choosing today to believe and keep a steadfast hope, even when things look bleak and impossible.
Thanks for reading. If it resonates with you, hang in there, have hope, and know you are loved!
"If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don't hesitate. Give in to it.
There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.
We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left.
Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world.
It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that's often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don't be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb."
-Mary Oliver - " Don't Hesitate"
Click to see more watercolor flowers in my art gallery