Grow Your Artistic Pumpkin Patch (Part 2)

Grow Your Artistic Pumpkin Patch (Part 2)

It’s fall! We made it through Halloween and the leaves are working their way down. We watched the Charlie Brown halloween special and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" with our kids. In my corner of the universe, fall is a time of insane busy-ness, and it's also a time for reflection (when I can squeeze it in).

My kids were born in the fall. Because their births were not easy, my anxiety and existential angst tends to peak in the fall. Simultaneously, we have so much joy celebrating the arrival of both our amazing humans (and who doesn't love cake??) Fall symbolizes the time of year when everything is at it's lightest and darkest all at the same time. 

As the leaves come down we’re reminded of how nature is entering a time of rest and renewal. As people we are often amping up with everything this time of year. Sports, plays, activities, school... they are all at their most exciting in the fall. Then we look forward to the holiday season and the winter. So fall = birth, death, renewal, reflection, warm safety and cold air. 

When life get complicated, I like to bring things back to a place of simplicity as much as I possibly can. Like Linus in the pumpkin patch, I try to carve out some alone time with my “pumpkins” of inspiration. You have to believe in something and surround yourself with the things that give you the courage to move forward, or the faith that the goodness is somewhere out there. This year has been a difficult one to remain inspired. It's hard to keep going creatively forward sometimes. Creativity is sort of the antithesis of consistency, but you can't have one without the other. So during the times when I feel my least consistent and motivated I like to surround myself with what is inspiring me. It grounds me, gives me ideas and keeps me moving forward. 

Two years ago I wrote about my very first Artistic Pumpkin Patch. I thought it was long overdue that I share what's inspiring me now…

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Importance

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Everything has beauty in it… even the darker parts of life.

Recently, I lost my dad. I wrote a bit about that here. There are several moments over the course of the weeks that preceded and followed Dad’s death that will stick with me forever, but there is one in particular that I want to focus on.

Death is such a mixed bag. There’s the grief and the darkness of it, but there are also these quiet moments of clarity and community that really bring the whole notion of our shared humanity full circle. Like most things in life, there are both darkness and light mixed in.

The day that we buried Dad, the service was very small. It was mostly family and just a few people that were close to my parents. One of the men attending was a friend of my dad’s in the later years of his life. I had attended high school with him. I never knew him back then. He was younger than me and I’m sad to say now that in my self-absorbed, teenaged way, I didn’t even notice him. Dad was a member of the Lions Club. As the years went by, I saw a fair amount of this man and his parents as they worked together with my parents on various community service projects.

After high school, I moved far away from my hometown. Even though I came back to visit as much as I could over the years, I was really only around for a few days here and there and only a few times a year. This man and his family, the people of the community, are the people that have been important to my parents in their later years. These are the people that looked out for them and have given them a sense of belonging as their grown children have been far away making their way in the world.

This man’s father manages the cemetery where Dad is resting now. He helped my brother pick out the cemetery plot and arrange the details after Dad passed. On the day of the burial, I watched the quiet, unassuming man, the person I never took notice of in my teenage years, lower my dad’s urn into the ground.

I wish I could convey how that moment impacted me. The simplicity and kindness of it was overwhelming. I was taken by the unassuming nobility and importance of these men in that moment. Here were people quietly and simply taking care of another. Here was one person, part of my parents’ community, gently lowering my father into his final resting place as the rest of my family looked on. It was so simple, but so profound.

We put so much emphasis on so many of the wrong things. We worry about how we look. We fret about what we’re accomplishing. We are self-absorbed and focused on being entertained and “important”.

In that small moment I saw so clearly what IS important.

We are all headed to the same place. Along the way it’s important to remind people that it’s not about what you wear, or how fit you are, or how white your teeth are or how cool your Instagram feed is that defines your importance. It’s how you treat people and how you take care of each other and how you make the people around you feel.

So focus. Focus on on what’s really important and maybe someday someone will afford you the simple, profound honor that this man afforded my father.

I can’t think of much that is more important than that.

© 2018 Krysta Bernhardt. All Rights Reserved.

Dad

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be·nev·o·lent (bəˈnevələnt)

adjective

well meaning and kindly. "a benevolent smile" synonyms: kind, kindly, kindhearted, big-hearted, good-natured, good, benign, compassionate, caring, altruistic, humanitarian, philanthropic 

My dad died.

I'd say it's been a long road, but for us kids it really hasn't been. From our perspective it all happened really fast, but for him I am sure it was a much longer journey than what any of us were let in on. Dad was not someone to over-communicate about things. 

When someone dies you naturally want to focus on the best parts of the person. It seems like the right thing to do. There are so many good parts to my dad, but there were a lot of complicated parts too. He came from a background he never talked much about. He moved around a lot as a kid, which I think solidified his desire to provide one, solid, steady home for his family. His father was not the nicest guy. We never heard all the particulars about that. Dad spared us the details, but from the little we could gather it was pretty clear that his childhood was not all sunshine and roses.

Somehow Dad pulled himself out of the chaos. He put himself through college. He worked and paid for it himself and it took him eight years of night school to get his degree. He met and married my mom and together they moved to a small town, raised 5 compassionate, thinking, humans, built the family home, supported the mother-in-law, and gave and gave and gave to their community.

Dad was quiet, but he had a work ethic and he was a giver. When I think of him, I think of him endlessly working on our house and yard. I think of him changing his own oil and muffler. I remember him in his plaid work shirts mowing our enormous lawn with a push mower and having to lie down on the living room floor for a half an hour between the front and back lawns to rest. I think of him on a ladder outside my bedroom window early on a Saturday morning uttering profanities under his breath at the pieces of siding he would be working to replace. I can hear him bursting into my room on any given weekend morning and saying enthusiastically “Hey! You want a project?” before making me rake up all the wet leaves or pick up all the sticks from the ginormous yard. I remember him lugging sound equipment to every possible venue to record or provide sound engineering for church services, vocal performances, community events and every single orchestra concert I was ever in. I remember him turning on the 6:00 nightly news during dinner every night, and watching the 11:00 news in his PJs at the foot of his bed before going to sleep. When no one knew where he was, he’d more than likely be in his warm basement workshop working on wiring, or stamp collecting or paying bills or whatever other quiet projects he had that helped him escape the chaos of a 5 child household.

Some of my favorite memories of Dad from the time after I left home were of the things he and Mom decided to do during their retirement. He sang with the local choral society. He performed with the community theater in their “Old Time Radio” shows. One time in college, my then boyfriend (now husband) and I drove overnight from Philadelphia because my mom let it slip that Dad was performing in the community theater production of Big River. He had exactly two lines in the first scene of the second act. But it was so fun to see Dad, coming out to do his two lines and knowing he’d just done that show because he felt like it. Afterward we went back home and had his favorite dessert before we headed back to the city: ice cream floats with cherry soda.

As a kid, Dad took me to the YMCA Indian Princess meetings and to their camp one summer. He picked me up from dance classes (late many times because he had to stop at Sears to pick something up on the way). He donated many, many pints of blood and volunteered with the Lions Club for decades. When we visited home as adults he roped us into pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, helping put new roofs on at the camp for the blind and generally just pitching in with whatever the Lions needed while we were in town. Dad. Worked. Hard. He worked hard at his job. He worked hard to keep a roof over our heads. He worked hard to make sure every one of us went to college.

On the day Dad passed, my sister and I dropped everything and drove the 4 hours home to be with Mom. It was a strange day of getting the news, being there for Mom, figuring out what comes after death and collecting his things from his hospital room to take home and lay out on the bed.

It’s weird after someone dies. There’s the shock and the quiet and the subsequent busy days of “making arrangements” that have to be made. There’s not very much time to process everything in the way you’d necessarily like to. For me, I kept looking for signs of Dad… in his things, in his hospital room, in the old house… and Dad was nowhere, but everywhere all at the same time. Every piece of everything in that old house is a piece of Dad.

As I existed through that very first day with no Dad, one word kept repeating in my mind over and over:

Benevolence.

I think that word came to me because that was my dad. He was a complicated guy from a complicated background with complicated ways of communicating, but he was kind, well meaning and compassionate. He was someone who never shied away from taking care of the people he loved in the best ways he knew how (even if we didn’t always understand them), or from giving something to his community in any way he could.

I want to leave you with a list of some things I learned from my Dad. Because when someone is no longer with you, it’s best to look for the lessons. It helps make a just little sense of the loss.

Here goes:

  • Floats are always best with cherry soda.

  • Green olives are the best olives.

  • Even if you can’t play the Moonlight Sonata particularly well, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

  • Thin mints are the only candy that’s really worth it.

  • When overwhelm strikes, it’s good to have a warm, quiet corner of the basement to retreat to.

  • Documenting everything runs in our bloodline.

  • When your family wants to order out, it’s best to tell them every possible special deal and exactly what they should order off the menu.

  • Having a working map in your head of every road east of the Mississippi comes in handy, especially when giving directions to someone who is just about to walk out the door. Then make sure to tell them the best places to eat on any trip they plan to take.

  • When you wire all the outlets so that the top one on every socket in the room goes on and off with the light switch, it really messes your kids up when they go out into the world and suddenly realize NO WHERE ELSE in the world is wired that way.

  • Total cereal is a healthy way to start every day (but it still tastes like eating cardboard).

  • When the dogs get in a fight, remember to bring your towel with you when you run out of the shower to stop them.

  • When the kids leave the bathroom light on one too many times, just wire the door so that the light goes off every time it opens.

  • Installing an intercom system in your house is great in theory, but when no one can understand a damn thing that’s being said over it, you’ll probably still have to run around the house gathering everyone for dinner.

  • Never forget to put the parking break on in the car when you live on a hill.  When you forget, the car will most likely roll down the driveway, down the hill and into the ditch across the street.

  • When the local prison has an escaped prisoner who fits your general description, it’s best not to work outside in your garden while the helicopters circle overhead.

  • Right before you leave the house is always the BEST time to think of a last minute “quick project” that needs to happen right before you go.

  • When someone has an injury, even a serious one, it’s best to “wash it off so we can have a look at it”. Unless the person passes out. Then it’s best to get them to the ER -  ASAP.

  • Giving cats and dogs really cute names like “Scrooch Pooch” and “Puss E. Cat” does nothing to stop them from “piddling” on the carpet.

  • No matter how many times you quiz your kids on “which composer is this” with your classical tunes, chances are they aren’t ever going to get it right.

  • Never watch a movie all the way through when you can sleep or pace the room instead.

  • When you’re confused, the best thing to say in any situation is “What the Sam Hill is this?” or if you’re really under duress “What the Hell is this?” will do.

  • Shorts are for the weak.

  • So are expiration dates.

  • Judge Judy forever.

  • Work hard, do your best and keep working.

  • Take care of your people.

  • Love your grandkids.

  • Build your home with love.

We’ll miss you Dad.

What I learned in my down time.

What I learned in my down time.

It's pretty rare that I have down time. I am a bit of an obsessive worker bee. I often feel like if I'm not being productive, I'm not being. And the world is so crazy these days. If you're not careful, life becomes a never-ending stream of dings and beeps and "have-to-do's" and constant shifts and interruptions. From texts to social media to work to, well... EVERYTHING. The problem is that  in all of the hurry and scurry you begin to lose yourself and all the joy in your life…

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Hypocrisy 101

Hypocrisy 101

I've heard the word "hypocrite" thrown around a lot lately. What exactly is a hypocrite anyway? According to Merrian-Webster a hypocrite is:
A person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.

or

A person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.

We are all on crazy high-alert these days for hypocrisy in all it's many forms. It's so fun to throw stones right now isn't it? It feels vindicating to point out EVERYONE ELSE'S hypocrisy and sit on our moral high horses knowing that we ourselves are untouchable. There is so much hypocrisy OUT THERE and so much of it makes us SO MAD!!!

So all this has got me thinking about the hypocrisy in my own life. When all is said and done, we each have to look at ourselves in the mirror every day and account for our behavior - so I decided to account for some of mine. I spend a lot of time with myself so I figured I'd be a good person to start with. Since I am tired of reading about and watching all of my friends tear each other down for their hypocrisy (assumed or actual), I thought I’d go ahead and pick apart some of my own for your entertainment…

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Just. So. Much.

Just. So. Much.

It's the end of the school year. Most parents are at their wit's end by this time year and I'm no different. So I'll start by saying that this is not an essay complaining about the end of the school year. I am simply mentioning it because for me right now this time of year is functioning as a metaphor for my life as a whole. Sometimes life feels overwhelming and while I don't want to turn into the constantly-complaining-snarky-mommy-life-blogger-human, life lately has felt like everything is just. so. much. It's so easy to fall into dark state of overwhelm... so I want to put it out there that it’s ok to acknowledge that sometimes, even when your overall life is good and you are truly thankful, things sometimes are still just... hard…

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Happy Birthday to Me (Who were you? Who are you? Who will you be?)

Happy Birthday to Me (Who were you? Who are you? Who will you be?)

Ok, so that title could totally be a Dr. Suess poem about mid-life. I'd write it, but I'm not a poet. not even close. 

This week is my birth week. (Happy Birthday to me!) I'm pleased to say that I've lived another adventurous year on this Earth. I'm older than I ever imagined I could possibly be when I was a young kid. I'm 42! So young yet so old. 

Mid-life is a funny time. You have lived enough life to have some perspective of how much time has passed and also how little time is left. You've had friends and family members come and go. It’s a time to evaluate the choices you’ve made and really take a long look at where you're headed…

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Life Transitions Can Really Suck (or not)

Life Transitions Can Really Suck (or not)

Life is full of transitions. 

Sometimes they're so gradual you don't even know they're happening. One day you wake up and suddenly you realize everything is different and you can't remember the last time you did this or that. You've moved to a new phase and you don't know when it happened. Other transitions are so abrupt they take your breath away. Things turn on a dime and there you are - struggling to define your new normal...

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Life Fuels Art Fuels Art Fuels Life

Life Fuels Art Fuels Art Fuels Life

I love art. A lot. I have so many artistic things I want to accomplish. I have goals. My goals often seem elusive so much of the time. They are tiny and in the far distant future somewhere. There are so many stumbling blocks, messy splotches and "stuff" cluttering life up. It's far too easy to fall into a cycle of complaining about everything that is just not getting done...

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Not Just a Day at the Museum

Not Just a Day at the Museum

I went to the natural history museum yesterday with my kids. We have always loved museum days. Sometimes we’ve taken sketch books, or the big dinosaur book to study. We haven’t really been able to go spend the day there like we used to in almost a year because the kids are older now and they are a lot busier. We just don’t have the free days to go into the city like we did the past few years. 

Yesterday as I watched my kids make their way around the museum… I was struck. Everything was totally different...

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