Monday, October 6, 2014

Tell God Your Plans

There's a funny saying out there.  It goes, "The best way to make God laugh?  Tell him your plans."

We all have ideas on what direction our life is going to take us, and then, things unexpectedly change.  I started this Blog only hoping to share a few fun art tips and info about being a commercial artist.  This was never meant to be a place for me to share personal information, or talk about "deep" subjects.  However, for once, I'm going to share a little bit of personal information, publicly, in hopes it can help someone else out there.

2013 was a pretty miserable year for me.  I lost two friends to cancer.  One was my dear friend Brett.  We had a very unique friendship going on since 1999.  The guy drove me completely crazy sometimes.  Yet he could also be generous, thoughtful, and loyal, and in the end, those were the traits I chose to care about.  It turns out you can accept someone exactly for who they are, as they are, and love them anyway.  I never would have learned that lesson without him.  He passed about a year ago, in August of 2013.
Brett (on left, in white t-shirt) in typical "party on" pose.
The other loss was Ann, only a few months later.   Ann was a strong and vibrant woman who valiantly fought breast cancer for years.  She was a true inspiration.  A teacher, a horse lover, who embraced life and embodied the spirit of the word "survivor".  She will be dearly missed by a wide circle of friends.
Ann on her favorite place - atop a horse.
A trail ride we took together in Hawaii, 2012.
Ann did everything right, lived her life well.  That is the horror of cancer.  It often does not matter how you live your life.  It is not a punishment that only happens to "bad" people.  While of course there are some risk factors that can hurry things along, at the end of the day it seems very random who is struck by cancer, and who is not?

I knew I was clinically depressed for most of 2013.  I have had issues with depression before, so I knew I was not in any kind of "danger zone" (as in, I was not suicidal) and this was mourning a bad situation.  I did not seek treatment.  Yet I spent most of the year wading around in a bit of a daze, not really feeling the same vigor that I'd felt before these losses.

So I thought for certain 2014 was destined to be better.

The first ominous sign of 2014 was the loss of my wonderful companion Amigo, at age 15, in January 2014.  Best dog I'd ever had.  I thought to myself, OK, this is getting ridiculous.  My life is starting to sound like a country western song here.
I entered Amigo in a dog show in Tucson once, just for fun!
He was such a great dog.  Loved him so much.
Definitely time for some fun.  I headed out end of February for Breyer's "Big Easy Bash".  I got to dress up for a fancy dinner, won a fabulous Raffle model off the table, and did I mention there was free wine at the bar?  I had a blast!
A rare chance to wear something besides paint clothes.
The event was followed up with me looking way less glamorous the rest of the week, as I painted in the Breyer factory.  Dirty as factory painting is, it still has that "Willy Wonka" dreamlike feeling.  (You mean I can paint any Breyer any color that I want?!?)  A few of the creations that I did turned out really great.  I can't share the colors or ideas yet, but I can say that a couple ideas are being looked at for possible Breyerfest 2015 special runs.
Painting at the factory in NJ.  Models in progress edited out. ;) 
We also had some meetings at Breyer, lots of fun projects were discussed, which led to one of the busiest years I've had for commercial work!  It has been nonstop, for months.  Sculpting, painting, brainstorming new ideas.

I came home from my trip back there, excited about all the work that laid ahead for this year.  Then, my mom announced that while I was out of town that week, they had found a lump.  She had a biopsy scheduled.  Wait - what?  Well, when I left, she'd had this rash, and suddenly, in just the week while I was gone, a lymph node in her neck had ballooned several times original size.  She went in for surgery.  A few weeks later, we had the answer.

Now, my own Mom had cancer.
Me with my Mom in Hawaii, in 2011.
This is where things are going to veer in a non-art related tangent, so what I'm going to do is make a new post, later, about dealing with the cancer and its treatment.  And hobby friends, this post hopefully won't ever be anything you'll want or need to read about in depth, because if you do, then it would mean you or someone you care about are dealing with cancer, which I wouldn't wish upon anybody.  (Let me save those details for a special post.  Most of you here for the plastic horses will probably want to skip.)

All of May and June were filled with uncertainty as my Mom underwent chemotherapy and radiation.  Again, I will elaborate on this more, for those who are interested, in a different post.  During this whole process, I was also trying to keep up with one of the busiest commercial work years I've ever had.  This is where your skills as an artist are really tested.  It's easy to be creative when you're in the mood and inspired.  But when your mind is swirling with uncertainty it's a real challenge.

There were bumps along the way.  At times, my work was coming along excruciatingly slow, due to stress and sleepless nights, and an inability to focus.  My mom had her ups and downs.   While she was exceptionally strong throughout, she was hospitalized at the end of her chemo treatments, as her body was finding it all just a bit much to deal with.  And it's not over, she is still suffering from side effects, some of which are permanent.

However, here's a bit of good news.  Her 90 day scan came out clear, and she and my stepfather celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary at the end of September.  The simple renewal of vows was held at the same resort where they met so many years ago.  The ceremony was beautiful.  The same pastor who had married them the first time around is still here in Phoenix and was able to do the renewal.  Held at sunset on a balcony overlooking the pool, surrounded by family and close friends.  It was wonderful.  
(This is where there should be a photo of my parents at the ceremony.)
I don't know how my parents feel about me posting?
But, I made cupcakes so here's a pic of those instead!
Life is not a storybook, and we can't ever predict the future.  However, if you closed the cover at that moment, you could definitely say this story had a happy ending.  I may have lost two friends to cancer last year, but today, my Mom is a survivor.  And for now, that's good enough.