This past week has been kind of stressful. We have lived in our house for nearly 20 years and after many years of being on a very low but slightly scary adjustable rate mortgage, we are finally going for a fixed rate refinance. We want to remodel the master bath at the same time we are building a beach house from the ground, well, sand, up. Not sure getting both a new beach house and a new master bath at home is going to happen, but I can dream. Our banker suggested we do all this crazy financing stuff at once and we agreed. Unfortunately, refinancing requires a home appraisal. As I explained to our 21 year-old son, the appraiser is going to tell the banker how much our house is worth if the bank had to sell it tomorrow, for example, if we default on our mortgage. Our son decided that there was no reason for him to clean his room because the appraiser would know that if they had to sell the house, that all his
shit stuff would be removed anyway, so who cares what his room looks like, or his bathroom, or the laundry room (which is also full of his dirty belongings). I explained to him that if the house looks like we don’t care about cleaning it, we probably don’t care about taking care of all those important details that he cannot really see, and he will discount the price. Even if he doesn’t, the kid needs to clean his room for the appraisal. Mom put her foot down.
I know this is going to sound absolutely crazy but… I think I have only been in the lower level of our house (where our son’s room is and that messy laundry room) once since dday. I used to spend a good deal of my time keeping the basement clean, doing everyone’s laundry, changing the boys’ sheets regularly, dusting, vacuuming and then as they got past middle school, I had them clean up after themselves. No matter how clean their environment had been to that point, apparently they didn’t care enough about living in a clean house if they had to clean it themselves. When they were gone on trips, I often snuck down into their rooms and thoroughly cleaned them. They always loved a clean room, but they knew at that point, it was a special treat when I cleaned them. Giving up time with friends in order to clean their room just did not seem much of a priority. I thought certainly at some point their room would get so dirty they would not be able to stand being in there. I was dead wrong. On one of my cleaning sprees, our youngest was maybe 14 years old, I actually found a mini-keg in his bedroom closet, empty of course. We had been out of town and left the then 14 & 16 year old boys by themselves under the stipulation–no parties. Pretty sure they both had a party, or two, or three. It was about that same time that I noticed some pictures on my Facebook feed that The Peacemaker was tagged in of a rather large raging party and the photos were snapped in our kitchen, and his bedroom! Before I could really get a good look at them, they disappeared off Facebook. I was always surprised my boys accepted my FB friend request in the first place. Anyway, we have a really nice lower level. We remodeled it/finished it off about 10 years ago when the boys weren’t yet in high school. We built two bedrooms down there plus completely remodeled the laundry room and their bathroom. We live on a hillside and the rooms on the “lower level” have full-sized windows, doors to the outside, etc… Our son returned from college approximately 2 months before dday. He spent those two months unloading his stuff back into his old room, which I had turned into a beautiful guest room while he was away.
Above (taken with the big camera) is a snippet of what it USED to look like… when the Peacemaker’s room was a guest room 😦
He also made a mess of the laundry room and he likes to enter the house and invite his friends over through that lower level door. Many times we do not even know who is down there (our room is two floors above). As long as he is in school or working, we agreed he can live in our house, however, after dday I just could not bring myself to go down to the lower level and therefore I have done no cleaning down there, no laundry, no nothing. I had my trauma blinders on. Blue Eyes has been on laundry duty since dday. Yesterday afternoon, I went down to the lower level for the first time in more than a year. Blue Eyes and I spent five solid hours cleaning the guest room (used to be the Pragmatist’s room), the room where The Peacemaker “puts up” his numerous friends. OMG, what a huge fucking mess. My allergies are still screaming at me. After realizing this is my house after all, I decided I cannot avoid going down to the lower level any more and the rules are about to get more strict. Mommy is not so incapacitated by grief any more.
Below (taken with the iPhone with limited light, thus not quite as beautiful as it should be) we still do have one guest room as the Pragmatist really has moved out for good (is there an emoji for a happy & sad face at once?)
Wow, so after all that lead in, what I really came here today to say is… while thoroughly cleaning and decluttering the entire house, I found some of my original watercolor paintings from nearly 30 years ago. I found one in “the guest room” downstairs, and I found all my Sumi-e Ink block paintings as well. My husband is somewhat of a minimalist in his style and he also tends to like clean lines in his architecture and his furniture. I, on the other hand, lean towards cottage/bungalow/homey/comfy/cute, and French country. For many years I have tried to marry the two styles together to come up with something that works for both of us. Well, it never actually did work that well, (pretty sure this is NOT an analogy for our marriage?!?) so now, we tend to go more clean and traditional with mid century lines. And everything that I have ever loved that lent itself to cute, cozy, cottage, resides in my decent sized walk in closet. My custom painted birdhouses, my favorite pillows with a toile pattern, my collection of antique china tea cups (started by my Swedish great grandmother), my collection of miniature american pottery vases (started by my grandmother)… all in my closet, and it is really cluttered in there (no way am I posting a picture of it even AFTER cleaning it). What I also found was my other old art case that included my calligraphy supplies and my watercolors. I kept them all these years even though I have not painted a watercolor for decades. I also found all my old Sumi-e paintings from my time in Kyoto in a cardboard tube (makes me think of the Brady Bunch when they are running around the amusement park… ) in my closet behind boxes and boxes of shoes. It was like Christmas in there as I looked at all the shoes I had forgotten about. Anyway… back to Kyoto.
The above photo was taken at the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove outside Kyoto, Japan. When I lived in Kyoto in 1987, Blue Eyes and I visited Arashimaya. It is a beautiful place. The photo is not mine and there wasn’t a source on the website I pulled this from, but I have dozens of similar shots in a photo album somewhere. I was too lazy to go find one of my own and scan it, mostly because I am EXHAUSTED from cleaning. Most of the actual photos I post on my blog are mine. If they are recent, I have taken them either with my iPhone, or my Nikon D300 camera, which once you put a lens on it, is incredibly heavy and after suffering tendinitis in my right elbow, sometimes the Nikon is too heavy to lug with me everywhere. It does take amazing photos, but I have found that I kinda like my iPhone camera too.
I painted this watercolor (that I found yesterday in the guest room) of a lady crossing the Arashiyama bridge holding a red umbrella. I had very little experience when I painted this and the poor thing has sustained some damage over the past 28 years as it was never framed. It also makes me laugh when I look at it because it feels so controlled, so rigid (like me in some respects, especially in my late teens, early 20’s), and the perspective of the lady crossing the bridge is funky. It looks like she is walking on the railing, ha. Many times I have thought about just tossing the thing, but my husband always loved it, and now my older son seems to have taken a liking (thus having it stashed away in his old bedroom). If it has lasted this long, I may as well keep it.
During my time in Kyoto, I attended a Sumi-e (ink wash) painting class at the Kyoto Cultural Center in Gion. The class was taught in Japanese and all the students were Japanese, except me. At the time I had very little Japanese language expertise, very little!!! I was also at least 30 years younger than most in the class and up to 50 years younger than some. They welcomed me with open arms and I became somewhat of a commodity. They liked to practice their very limited English with me/on me? They were shocked and surprised if I spoke even one word of Japanese and they were astonished that I could use a Sumi-e brush (not sure they have a lot of faith in general in Americans). I learned to love the Japanese and their culture. My passion for art and painting grew while I lived in Japan. I was stressed out because with working and Konpas (after work drinking parties), Blue Eyes was gone from our apartment up to 16 hours a day on the weekdays. I filled my time with teaching English and taking classes. I took Japanese language classes, painting, and Ikebana, traditional Japanese flower arranging. I also met a high school senior (at Baskin Robbins, ha) who wanted me to help her with her English for an upcoming exam and in turn, she would take me to all the shrines, and temples, and castles, etc… and explain the history and all the details in English. I jumped at the chance. As I start back to painting, even though I am not painting watercolor anymore, I still remember with such fond memories all my Kyoto experiences. Maybe I will go back to all my old photos and paint all those shrines and castles in acrylics. Or maybe I shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself.
I purchased a canvas a couple days ago and I plan to paint something for my mother for mother’s day. My mother will be out of town on Sunday, so I actually have a few additional days. I would love to get it painted and framed before I give it to her later next week. Not sure if I will be able to accomplish a finished product I am proud of, but in the meantime, I am remembering back all those years ago to my sweet Japanese Sumi-e instructor and all his kind words and votes of confidence as I muddled through with the old traditional Japanese brushes and blocks of ink. For some reason, I am still a little scared to pick up my new acrylic paints and brushes and paint something, but I figure if an awkward 23 year-old can stand up in front of 20 people who don’t know or understand her culture, and don’t speak her language and show her simple ink wash paintings, a battered and emotionally bruised almost 52 year old can paint something for her mother that shows how much she cherishes the woman that gave her life and gave her everything good, and wise, and strong.
The Sumi-e painting is somewhat unforgiving in that it is like watercolor… you need to know what you are going to paint before you paint it. Not a lot of room for error. Also, the Sumi-e painting is done in simple single strokes really utilizing the brush for shapes and shadowing and depth, and it is done on extremely thin and vulnerable paper. I am surprised these paintings have lasted this many years. The painting for my mother will be in the style I was painting at the plein air workshop: lots of paint, lots of color, much more forgiving, but that could be my downfall. The more chances I have to fix my perceived mistakes, the more difficult it is. I tend to overthink, and overwork. I hope to have something to share by next week.
In case you couldn’t tell as I blabber along here, this is all part of my own therapy and personal growth. Sharing my art is not easy for me. Although I love to write and am pretty open with my emotions and opinions, I am not really an exhibitionist. I share these rather personal moments because I think it is good for me. When I was a teen, I used to tole paint. It is a style of painting that entails painting American folk art designs traditionally on wood or metal. I never painted because I thought I was good at it. I painted because, as an awkward adolescent, painting soothed me, it grounded me, it made me smile, and it was a hobby I loved. My mother has kept everything I tole painted. My sister begs for every oil painting I produce. My husband and artist son adore my watercolors. It is such a warm feeling to have the people you love appreciate something you create. I am smiling right now.
I am not an artist.
I am a woman who loves to paint.
Getting back in touch with activities I love to do helps me feel more connected to myself and to the world around me and helps me not to recede back into that place where I want to hide from everyone and everything.
Thanks for joining me on my journey. Below are a few of the Sumi-e paintings I found from all those years ago…
Above and Below: Bamboo, inspired by Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Below: Cherry Blossoms on a very old tree branch
Above: Morning Glory Below: Vegetables
Above: Hydrangea Below: Bird Eating Pomegranate