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Blessings in Disguise

The holidays are here again and this is my first time not working in a retail store during them since 2010. Before that I also spent most of the holidays working retail going back to when I got my first job in1982. I had become quite a humbug. I worked at a craft store once that started playing Christmas music in August. He said crafter have to start their holiday season early to be ready to ship the things they make on time. It made me feel sorry for the poor schmucks writing magazine articles; they generally have to have things ready six months in advance. Between the season starting earlier every year (war on Christmas? Christmas has eaten Thanksgiving, so retailers have to spend that holiday dealing with people known to have actually killed others in their rush for holiday savings.), with no time off allowed, (family going to spend the holidays with relatives out of town? That’s black out time in retail, no time off requests allowed.) the crowds of angry customers (“What do you mean you’re out of the most popular gift in the country the weekend before Christmas? It’s all my kid wants! Did you say I should take responsibility for shopping so late in the season? Let me talk to your manager!”) and the four versions of “Last Christmas” playing on a loop, it’s enough to turn Santa himself into a humbug! (Santa Claus is a man, Santa Barbara is a woman, San Francisco is a man… Why isn’t it San Claus? And why isn’t there a coastal town named after him in California?) it may sound like I’m complaining alot, but I’m just trying to relay what we deal with.

Where was going with all this? Oh yeah, the first holiday season I’m not working retail.. So instead, I’m raising my children. It’s much harder. As I write this my 3yr old finally fell asleep at about 5am, but woke up. So I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in a while. But it’s much more fulfilling. I get to see them grow and learn, and laugh. I get to show them the magic Christmas. I get to teach them what’s good in the world. I also have to be the one to say “no more candy tonight,” and “get that out of your mouth!” I put on music instead of cartoons (for a while at least). I cook meals they won’t eat. (well, the 3yr old does, his little sister won’t eat meat, and won’t take food from a spoon, so it’s broccoli, spaghetti, and lots of goldfish for her) I get to pick up the mega blocks mega times a day, and clean up the spills and change the diapers. It’s mostly totally worth it.

I also try to make time to paint and write, and work on my spiritual path. I get moments after they’ve gone to sleep, or if my wife isn’t too exhausted from working all day. Sometimes I just read. But I have received real blessings over this last year. I finally realize that I have something to offer. That my work has value. Not just because I’ve spent twenty five years as a seeker; learning to meditate, finding my way on the path. Not just because I got accepted to one of the hardest schools to get into in the world, because it’s the best; did the work, and graduated even though fewer than half the people who attend do. Not just because I’ve learned ancient techniques, few people know, and developed them into a unique style that combines the spiritually authentic, with traditional painting styles to create images with energy that is communicated from the artist to be received directly by the viewer. But because I’m seeing results, in my work and in my life. I’m not perfect, but I have crossed a threshold into a new way of seeing myself and my work. I don’t have to be the best. I just have to be myself. And that has real value.

Your life has real value as well. You don’t have to go to a fancy school, or be rich or famous. Each one of you is amazing. We are made of Love. Remember that.

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Birthday

Ok, gang, it’s my birthday, so I’m going to show you guys all my favorite treasures!

The Force is strong in this one.

That time I filled a chest with treasure, buried in the yard, drew a map and took Gabriel on a treasure hunt the next day.

Adelia  our baby girl!

This is @rosehillenart, the love of my life!

Here’s a newborn Gabriel! (he’s 3 now)

I usually post a picture then share to social media, changing the caption for each picture, erasing the previous caption. I’m going to try just piling the captions on each other to preserve them and you’ll have to try your match up the old captions with their pictures.

aptions with their pictures.

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The Challenge

Raising children is hard. It’s draining in a way that isn’t apparent, no pun intended. It’s not like heavy lifting all day, although there is definitely some of that. It’s the constant attention demanded of you, the rituals you must perform, even if you don’t understand why, (my 3 year old likes to hold the Olvaltine can before I make his chocolate milk… Is he weighing the difference from yesterday, does he just want to feel involved, does he want to shake it, because he doesn’t always? I just know he wants to hold it.) There’s the life threatening situations occurring on a daily basis. They seek them out. Child proof my home? The only child proof home is the one without a child in it. There’s the cleaning up the same toys over and over, the squirmy diaper changes, the endless attempts to get them to eat something. God forbid they eat the same thing twice.
I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ve worked at myriad jobs for thirty years. All day every day. I’ve dealt with problem customers, cooked fast food, worked with complicated machines, and dangerous chemicals. I’ve worked nights, I’ve been the boss, and I’ve been the low man on the totem pole. I’ve worked in creative fields and manual labor. Nothing I’ve done is as difficult as it is to raise children. Nor has any of my various jobs been anywhere near as satisfying.
My children are the most important thing in my life. I love them more than I ever thought was possible. It is an honor and a privilege to be the stay at home daddy. It is the most meaningful endeavor that I have ever undertaken. It is also the most enjoyable. We have fun, we play, we go to the park. We learn together, we draw, we have music. I am so lucky to be in this situation, I can’t be it. But, man, I am tired at the end of the day.
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I’ve Got a Pretty Good Teacher

My new circumstances make clear what I would have told you all along: My main purpose in life is to take care of my family and create. In the past, I have done these things via working full time like every other person who ever lived, but recently, my wife has decided to get a job, so she can get out, be social, allow me to spend more time with the children, giver her a break from being with the children, and show me how it’s done, as far as getting a good job that pays decently.

So now I’m spending time with the kids, but I haven’t had time to create. It’s difficult to do while they’re awake. Whatever daddy is doing, my son wants to do too. It’s awesome and humbling having someone look up to me so much. I honestly don’t remember ever feeling like that about my dad. I was a weird kid though. My mother said so.

Even though I would have told you my main purpose was to take care of my family, now that I’m home more, I feel weird about it. Not working full time makes me feel irresponsible. My kids are exhausting, and I don’t feel like I’m doing much more than being the adult in the room. I feel like I should be taking them to the park, but so far, it’s rained every day. I feel like I should be teaching him things, but he doesn’t pay attention in a teacher, student way; he picks things up. Sometimes he’ll mimick something I do in a way that is so uncanny, that it’s unnerving. I didn’t even realize I did that. (he likes to pretend he’s taking asprin when I do. Do I really take that much?) But he’s too young to make a turkey drawing by tracing his hand.

He loves to draw when I’m drawing, but he doesn’t want to try to actually draw anything, he’s two. I love him with all my heart like I never knew it was possible. He’s teaching me things, too, which is important. I’m learning to help him eat his meals, to make sure he has food to eat in between. I’ve learned I don’t have to have as much privacy when I’m peeing as I had previously believed. He’s learning to use a fork. So it’s a real give and take.

I’m looking forward to really learning how to be a good dad. I think I’m off to a good start. I’ve got a pretty good teacher.

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Gabriel & Adelia

Bath Time!

My fearless 18 month old girl dances every chance she gets. An ad jingle, a sitcom themesong, anything will do. She puts her whole body into it. She’s smart and brave, and loving and kind; she’s assertive and positive and quick to smile and laugh

Here are some of the sketches I’ve done of my children. Mostly they are done from life, or in the few moments I steal at night when I am supposed to have gone to bed. They are, therefore, mostly done quickly. Generally, I start with a sketch with a fountain pen, and then rough in some water soluble, brush tipped markers. Then I blend the markers with wet brush, after which I have to fix all the disasters that causes. The finished product resembles a quick watercolor and that is basically what it is.