me…art collector?!

I am now officially an art collector. Oh, I have bought prints and posters over the years. And I confess to owning a Thomas Kincade painting of Venice’s Grand Canal (same light, no flower gardens or english cottages in sight). But I’ve moved up a level now. I have a painting commissioned specifically for me by a professional artist! (I still can’t believe that’s true…)

My new painting by Greg Gutierrez

My new painting by Greg Gutierrez

I participate in a number of on-line artist forums. It is invigorating to see what other artists are doing–whether something I love or things I don’t enjoy, all of it sparks my own creativity. Sometimes I join art swaps or on-going projects. Other times I merely enjoy what others are doing and posting.

A few months ago a bright, cheerful painting was posted. It was from this artist’s “Ward Series.” I was fascinated by the painting…and I was intrigued by the series name. (My mother-in-law’s maiden name was Ward.) I contacted the artist to ask more questions. And I kept looking back at that painting over and over. Every time it made me smile. It made my heart sing!

Eventually, since I had some birthday gift money, I got brave enough to contact Greg Gutierrez and ask how much it would cost for me to buy one of his Ward Series paintings. I was sure it would be far above my means…but was quite excited to find out I was wrong. It took every penny of my birthday money, but, oh how it was worth it!

After receiving my money, Greg bought supplies and started the layers and layers of paint. Color is added even on the sides of the canvas. It takes a few weeks for him to finish these paintings. Greg kept me posted on the process. And finally at the beginning of this week I was told that the package was in the mail.

Detail of Painting--notice it wraps all the way around the sides of the canvas

Detail of Painting–notice it wraps all the way around the sides of the canvas

YAY! I was so excited to rip open the envelope when it arrived this morning. After unwrapping layer after layer of protection, I finally saw the painting made especially for me.

I am now the proud owner of Ward Series #60, by Greg Gutierrez. It hangs right above my desk, where I can look up and enjoy it over and over. Thanks, Greg!

My painting's new home--right above my desk so I see it often!

My painting’s new home–right above my desk so I see it often!

Hmmm…I wonder how long it would take me to save for another painting in the series?!

Take a look HERE at Greg’s on-line gallery and enjoy his colorful, eclectic paintings!


Recipes from Life

I just finished reading “Recipes from the Dump” by Abigail Stone. Written in stream-of-consciousness form, it parodies cooking novels. I’m really not sure why I kept reading about the every day ponderings of a fictional single mom. Her fixation on catching a man got old after a while. The book did, however, challenge me to write a few “recipes” of my own.

For a taste of my life recently, try a few of the following dishes:

This first recipe comes from the first few months of living in a new location, with husband busy at a new job and teenage son far away as a volunteer camp counselor for the summer. Two extremely extroverted people (mother and daughter) who can’t figure out where and how to find new friends resulted in this stew.


(best made on a gray, rainy day, a week of rain is even better)

2 large onions, chopped

3 cups root vegetables, chopped

3 cups sorrel leaves

6 cups chicken broth

3 Tbsp hot sauce

2 cups, coarsely ripped chunks of stale bread

Lightly sauté vegetables in a large kettle: onions to make you cry and root vegetables to remind you of your life having been pulled up by the roots. Stir in sorrel leaves to add bitterness and sorrow to the soup. Pour chicken broth into the kettle and bring to a simmer, letting your fears and doubts seep into all crevices of the soup. Add a burning taste with the hot sauce, enough to bring more tears to your eyes.

Serve in a shallow bowl over chunks of stale bread, memories left over from better days.

Chop Salad

Overgrown Chop Salad

This next recipe is a necessary dish to prepare when you buy a house that has not been well maintained due to degenerative health problems of the previous owner.


2 lines of overgrown hedgerows along the lot lines

1 semi-circle of bushes overwhelming a brick wall

5 trees, out of control

3 predatory woody vines, woven throughout other bushes

House Gutters full of tree seedlings

Spend hours and hours over a number of weeks, chopping out overgrown branches, hedges, brush, and trees. Make a huge pile in the driveway, larger than your vehicles and higher than the eaves on the garage. Scoop handfuls of tree seedlings out of the gutters and toss onto the pile for extra spice. Let rest for a few more days for all the flavors to blend.

Rent a wood chipper and run all the woody branches through the grinder. Don’t forget to wear gloves to protect your hands!

Carefully shovel chopped bits onto exposed dirt areas under the hedgerows to prevent weed growth. Come back inside and enjoy a tall, cold one after all your labors.

Color Crunch (main dish)

Color Crunch (main dish)

Color Crunch (main dish)

As a main course, consider fixing the following recipe. It can be altered as needed, based on ingredients you have on hand.


1 brick wall (can substitute a sidewalk or driveway)

1 package of new sidewalk chalk in a wide variety of colors

                (my daughter informed me the 4 pack would never do)

2-5 noisy preteen neighbor girls

2-3 bicycles

Wait for sunny weather. This dish doesn’t work well on gray, rainy days.

Mix noisy girls with colorful chalk. Allow them to smear the chalk all over the bricks, making interesting patterns and color mixes. Step back from time to time to enjoy the mess. Add in dancing and MP3 music if desired.

If the mixing process is too noisy for you, consider wearing earplugs or hiding inside. (Pre-teen laughter CAN be loud and rambunctious!)

Add a side of bicycles thrown in the yard where they came to a screeching stop as the gathering started.


Principle Ingredient of Nostalgia Pie

Principle Ingredient of Nostalgia Pie

As you start to make friends and feel more “at home” in your new neighborhood, you might still find some of the following dessert in the back of your frig.


1 crust made of photos, cards, and scrapbook pages

Several text conversations between old friends

2-3 invitations to parties being held in your old stomping grounds on the other side of the country

1-2 phone conversations with old friends

Tears, to bring out the flavors

Dig through packed boxes to uncover mementoes from previous location. Mix together photos, cards and scrapbook pages into a thick crust to hold the pie filling.

Use your phone for text and voice conversations with old friends. Listen to activities you are missing and reminisce about past fun had together.

Receive invitations for events you can not possibly attend, some with expressed regrets for your absence.

Mix filling. Layer on top of crust. Sprinkle with tears. Set aside for flavors to blend. (Warning: gray, rainy days deepen the bitterness and strong flavors of this pie, especially when previous home was in a bright, sunny desert location!)

When you think all traces of this pie are finished, you might well find more pieces buried in the back of your frig…

Finally, as you begin to adjust to your new life in your new home in your new location, consider finishing this meal with a cup of coffee, best shared with a new friend.


Take time to check out the various gathering places in your new town. Share a cup of coffee with the people you find there. Suggested places to visit: local church, home group for said church, women’s group, local swimming pool, variety of neighborhood coffee shops, home-town library branch, and more. In addition to a cup of coffee, share pastries or other treats for extra sweetness.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading these recipes I have been cooking for the past few months. What’s cooking in your life right now?

Seeing More

You know the phenomenon—once you notice something, you suddenly see it everywhere you look. Buy a new (to you) car and the parking lots and roads are filled with that model. See a fashion you would like to try and a zillion others are wearing similar things. Appreciate a certain breed of dog, and that type of dog is frisking along everywhere you go.

In the past few weeks, I have realized anew some fundamentals that affect what I notice in the world around me. Years ago, our middle daughter became interested in raptors (hawks, falcons, eagles, owls, etc.) She has volunteered in a variety of settings to gain experience working with these birds. Because of her interest and because of what we learned from her along the way, our family now notices raptors along the roadways everywhere we travel. We might not know the specific species names, but we enjoy the wonder of seeing the birds perched in trees or on fence posts, or soaring in the air. And the excitement of seeing a hawk swoop to the ground to catch dinner is amazing!

Daughter with a Hawk--at a falconry centre in Yorkshire England

Daughter with a Hawk–at a falconry centre in Yorkshire England

My husband has a private pilot’s license. So for the past 10 years, all of us suddenly notice small planes flying cross country. We see the little green signs with a white airplane on road posts, indicating a nearby airport. We notice runways, even long grassy strips with just a windsock at one end. With a new interest comes new eyes.

Finally, today marks 5 years since the unexpected death of one of our sons. We have become members of a club that no one ever wants to join—parents who walk through the death of a child. Obviously, that has changed us in profound ways. That experience has also given us new eyes. At first, we felt totally alone. We only knew a handful of people who had walked this path before us. Gradually, we realized that there are similarly grieving parents everywhere we go. They are all around us. Unfortunately, we are NOT alone in this journey.

...missing Smiley James...

…missing Smiley James…

Some things that we see more of—new cars or fashions, for example—don’t really need a response. Other things seem to  invite involvement or ask for a response. As we continue to rebuild life without our son, we wonder if and when there might be a role for us to play in reaching out to the “more” that we see in the grieving world.

What things do you see “more” of in your life? Which of these things are just for your enjoyment and which might be inviting a response on your part?

Princess Anna’s Sparkly Birthday

My “baby” daughter, Princess Anna, had a birthday this past weekend.

Anna -- still a Princess, not really my "baby" any more!

Anna — still a Princess, not really my “baby” any more!

Many of you saw my plea on facebook or via email:

Daughter Anna turns 11 on Feb 2nd. We will have a small celebration with the family we are living with in Germany. There will be a big birthday party the following weekend for 2 of the children in this family. Anna understands in her head why we can’t have a big party with lots of guests and gifts for her…but she still gets teary thinking about it. And THAT makes this mama’s heart hurt for her.

So…I want to surprise her during her family “Sparkle Party.” Could you please send me (fb comment, fb message, or email) a short note for Anna, focused on “sparkles” or “glitter” and on how special SHE is? I will type them out, print them, cut them out, and tie each one with sparkly ribbon for her to open all the affirmations on her birthday!

THANK YOU in advance for helping her feel special! (Also, IF you are so inclined, please consider mailing a sparkly card to her for her to get an extra birthday surprise when we get back to Ohio in early March…I will message our address to anyone who wants to do this.)

Anna’s 11th birthday is over—celebrated with lots of SPARKLES! I thought you might like to see photos of four (count ’em, FOUR) days filled with special activities and fun.

Day One–early in the week Anna and I went clothes shopping. She needed new pants and wanted to add some sparkle to her wardrobe. (The shirt in the top photo was from this shopping expedition.)

Searching for a sparkly wardrobe is tons of work

Searching for a sparkly wardrobe is tons of work…

Obviously, we "needed" sweet refreshments to recover from the shopping!

Obviously, we “needed” sweet refreshments to recover from the shopping!

Day Two — My friend took her daughter and Anna for all three of them to get “new ‘do”s. What fun!

Three "New 'Do"s for the "ladies"

“New ‘Do”s for the three “ladies”

Day Three — I took both “big girls” to Bamberg. A day with no responsibilities added to the pleasure of the outing!

We discovered an awesome "pocket playground" where Fairies could vanquish the giant (invisible) spiders.

We discovered an awesome “pocket playground” where Fairy Anna and her friend could vanquish the giant (invisible) spiders.

...and we found an entire fairy village with multiple homes (aka holes) in each tree

…and we found an entire fairy village with multiple homes (aka holes) in each tree.

As we wandered the old part of Bamberg, the girls were Princesses.

As we wandered the old part of Bamberg, the girls were royalty.

We finished the day at an indoor mini water park. (Thanks, Aunt Jan!) Can you find Mermaid Anna?!

We finished the day at an indoor mini water park. (Thanks, Aunt Jan!) Can you find Mermaid Anna?!

Day Four — On Anna’s actual birthday, we continued the annual tradition of taking a photo of Groundhog Anna to record her prediction for Spring’s arrival. I took all 4 kids back to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for a little shopping, some yummy food, and a climb up the medieval walls.

Groundhog Anna in Rothenburg...

Groundhog Anna in Rothenburg…

YAY! No shadow! Spring is on the way...

YAY! No shadow! Spring is on the way…

We visited the Teddy Bear stores and Anna bought a fairy at the "Knights and Fairies" store. (Thanks, Grma June & Grpa Bob!)

We visited the Teddy Bear stores and Anna bought a fairy at the “Knights and Fairies” store. (Thanks, Grma June & Grpa Bob!)

We finished Anna’s SPARKLE celebrations with a little family party at home that evening:

Anna had sparkly decorations and gifts at her birthday dinner.

Anna had sparkly decorations and gifts at her birthday dinner.

We fixed favorite German McDonald's food--Nurnberger sausages, Rosti (potatoes) with applesauce, and some Broccoli to make it healthier!

We fixed favorite German McDonald’s food–Nurnberger sausages, Rosti (potatoes) with applesauce, and some Broccoli to make it healthier!

At 11, "little girl" Anna still delights in sparkly toys...

At 11, “little girl” Anna still delights in sparkly toys…

...and my "one-teen" likes bling, LOTS of bling! (earrings, rings, hair doo-dads, lip-gloss, and more)

…and my “one-teen” likes bling, LOTS of bling! (earrings, rings, hair doo-dads, lip-gloss, and more) (photo taken by Anna’s friend)

At first Anna was bored with the bag filled with little rainbow tied scrolls...but her face lit up when she realized there were 18 different notes celebrating SPARKLE GIRL ANNA! (Thanks, friends and family!)

At first Anna was bored with the bag filled with little rainbow tied scrolls…but her face lit up when she realized there were 18 different notes celebrating SPARKLE GIRL ANNA! (Thanks, friends and family!)

And everyone enjoyed their first (??!!) banana splits for dessert---Happy 11th Birthday, Anna Bananas!

And everyone enjoyed their first (??!!) banana splits for dessert—Happy 11th Birthday, Anna Bananas!

(THANKS to all who helped make this a very special birthday celebration for Anna. Hopefully, these sparkly memories will help her joyfully celebrate her friends at their birthday party this weekend…)

Where is the “Real Me”?

I am usually the one behind the camera; the one taking photos of everyone and everything; the one capturing the memories of this moment and of that event. Oh, I try to hand my camera to someone else occasionally so that I’m in a few of the photos in the family scrapbooks. And my older daughters sometimes catch me in unguarded moments and snap a picture or two.

Candid photo taken by daughter Celia Emmelhainz

Candid photo taken by daughter Celia Emmelhainz

I’ve become friends with a woman who started writing a blog as she approached her 50th birthday. Today she is putting the finishing touches on a photography project she started during that year. And she has become a professional photographer. I absolutely LOVE her work. Somehow she makes magic with her camera and shows the beauty of each person she “shoots.” (I’ve suggested before that you visit her photography website HERE.)

Jo captures beauty with her camera...

Jo captures beauty with her camera…

Last summer I celebrated my own 50th birthday by taking a trip to London to visit my sister. Among other things, I emailed my friend and asked about a photography session. As the date drew closer, I realized I was worrying…stressing…not sure I was ready for this. After all, my place is BEHIND the camera, right?

Worrying...about being the "model"

Worrying…about being the “model”

I spent time pondering why I was so uncomfortable having my photo taken. I realized that part of the issue was being disappointed when I look in a mirror…or look at a photo of myself. After all, I have wrinkles. I have thin hair. I have lots of extra padding (lots and lots of extra). That’s not the “real me,” the one I think of when I think of who I am. What happened to the beautiful, slender, young girl I used to be? Where did she go?

The "Real Me" was just waiting to be recognized!

The “Real Me” was just waiting to be recognized!

So, with a bit of fear and trembling, I met my friend. We enjoyed getting to know each other better in person. I met her husband. We had dinner together. I spent the night in her lovely extra bedroom. And in the morning, we headed out to the surrounding countryside.

Beautiful countryside...

Beautiful countryside…

...and a peaceful old church.

…and a peaceful old church.

It was actually far less painful than my dreadings. We laughed. We talked. We got a little silly together. And she took photos…LOTS of photos. I stopped thinking about how I might look and just enjoyed the time with my friend.

Having fun...

Having fun…

Getting serious...

Getting serious…

...with a smirk or two thrown in for good measure!

…with a smirk or two thrown in for good measure!

And somehow, when I got the photos back from her, she had done it again. She made magic with her camera. I look at the pictures and see a beautiful, mature woman. And in the process of being brave enough to trust this friend to capture the “real me” in photos, I received a marvelous gift. I now have reminders to smile at the woman I see in the mirror.

The Magic: Beauty Revealed!

The Magic: Beauty Revealed!

Thanks, Jo. You helped me reach for the magic and be able to truly celebrate who I am at this stage of life! You released my inner beauty and made it visible each time I look in the mirror.

PS—check out this blog post by my friend, Jo Blackwell. In it, she challenges each of us to see the beauty within us. And she includes a variety of photos she has taken of beautiful women (including ME!!)

Photo Credits: 1st photo taken by daughter Celia Emmelhainz, all other photos taken by Jo Blackwell.


Most of you know that I’m a list-loving gal. Making lists helps me clear my brain; helps me think, and plan, and organize. Once they are made, I don’t necessarily have to follow the lists. It is the making of them that is significant.

For those who have followed this blog for the past year and a half (really? It’s been that long?!!), you have seen my lists of things to do. You read my plans for a “personal year of jubilee” leading up to my 50th birthday. You heard some of my resolutions and listened to my ramblings about “what’s next.”JILL EMMELHAINZ-0008

As this year ended, I tried to join some friends in looking back over 2012. The idea was to answer questions and capture the highs and the lows of the past year. Somehow, I just couldn’t get motivated to do that pondering.

And as the new year loomed, I tried to get excited about making new lists; lists to give direction and focus to 2013. Usually I find such list-making to be invigorating. But, again, I was totally unmotivated to do that type of pondering. (I know, I know…I must be ill…no lists?! How could that be??)

At first I thought it was because of the traveling I wrote about last week. After all, wandering in Europe with 2 of my daughters is compelling. And living with friends in Germany for a few months is exciting.

But eventually, I realized my hesitation at list-making was something more than not being a focus of time and attention. I realized that God has been trying to call me in a still, small voice.JILL EMMELHAINZ-0047

I haven’t wanted to hear what He is calling me toward. It was easier to ignore that quiet voice and strain to hear a roaring thunder of clear direction. As a friend likes to say “first-born have to be in control” and I’m definitely a first-born. And I like to be DOING, keeping busy, helping others, exploring my surroundings, trying new things, pursuing dreams, encouraging others to do the same.

My call for this year? My “one word” for 2013?


I am challenged to live a life full of “being” this year. Active living, not just sitting around; but focused on “being” rather than “doing.”

I will keep you posted on how I do with this great-big-challenging-task…

(Photos taken by my friend and professional photographer, Jo Blackwell. See her website HERE. Specific wording of “be-living” came from a blog post by Ann Voskamp which can be found HERE.)

Lessons in Procrastination

I have always heard that procrastination is a bad thing. Sometimes I beat myself up about this character flaw. Other times I just laugh about being an adrenaline junkie and needing a looming deadline to kick into high gear.

Early this summer I realized it was time to jump through the hoops and get our 15 year old son his driving learner’s permit. I knew the process with our older kids—walk into the license bureau, pick up study materials, have the teen take the written test, sign up for driving school somewhere in the neighborhood.

But that was back in Ohio—a very civilized, generally-has-its-act-together state. Now we live in a remote area of New Mexico. Things work differently here…

I discovered that walking into the license bureau was ahead of myself. My son needed to be signed up for drivers ed since he is still under 18. So, I went back home and researched online driving schools. I found an affordable one, but when I tried to sign up our son, I discovered I was (again) ahead of myself. He had to be registered as a homeschooled student with the State so I could give his registration number. I tried that process, but didn’t get a number. In frustration, I gave up.

Over the next few months, I regularly added these tasks to my to-do list. And I regularly ignored them, working on other projects instead. Our son was busy with other things and didn’t hassle me about the lack of progress in getting his learner’s permit…but I beat myself up about it.

I avoided it and avoided it and avoided it. Eventually, this fall, I decided I just HAD to sit down and do whatever it took to get him that permit. And now, 2 online homeschool registrations (does this mean the state thinks there are 3 JLE’s being homeschooled out here this year?!), one form mailed to the Transportation Department, one on-line school registration, and two (count ‘em, TWO) more trips to the license bureau later…he has those temps!

And…when he was asked if he wanted to be an organ donor, it suddenly came crashing in on me why I had procrastinated so long. Yes, I often put things off. Yes, I hate red tape and inefficient bureaucracies. But this time, that wasn’t really the cause. There was a lesson to be learned behind the procrastination. Something to be faced…

I realized this teen’s older brother had proudly gotten his temps 5 years ago. Once I explained what being an organ donor was, that son felt it was OBVIOUS that everyone should say yes to being a donor. And then just a few weeks before he could take the driving test and get his license, that son died unexpectedly. And, yes, we donated as many parts of that body he no longer needed.

But…but…but…I really didn’t want to face the idea that my current 15 year old is almost the same age as his brother was then. (Actually, on Sept 12 this son is now older than his brother will ever be…) I didn’t want to explain organ donation again. I didn’t want to look forward to the big day of another teen earning a full-fledged driver’s license…and never reach that day.


Maybe next time I repeatedly put something off, I will look behind the procrastination. Perhaps there will be another lesson to learn, another hurdle to cross, something else to sort through. Perhaps procrastination is NOT always a character flaw…but is a sign of a wounded heart.

(PS—as I was putting off writing this blog post, I found a really good book about procrastination on the “new books” section of the library—it’s a quick, encouraging read. Go find it…now…not later!!

quick encouraging read…

The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing*   by John Perry        *or, getting things done by putting them off)

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