Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A beautiful(?) mess.

I had an awesome post a couple weeks ago, almost all the way written, complete with pictures and everything, and then it just vanished. I didn't have the heart to stay up and write it all over again. 

I haven't written as much as I had hoped. I've been busy doing, learning, and seeing so many things. The processing and sharing parts have always been the most difficult for me. 

But as I have been quite forced to slow down, it might be a good time for that. 

I'm sitting here in my cave (I've been in the basement for the last two months of my stay and my inner hermit loves it. So when I say the word "cave," I say it with fondness.) with my third giant mug of tea for the day. Norma and I both caught a nasty cold bug in the last half of our time in England, so I am fighting it off with rest, tea, and an overwhelmingly fragrant amount of hippy juice. (I'm a bit of an essential oil freak. Still a bit of a novice, but I'm getting there.) If I could smell right now, I could tell you that my room is a fantastic mixture of clove, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, and peppermint. It's fantastic. 

So sickness, plus probably shin splints and maybe a pulled tendon in my left leg and a pulled tendon in my right foot is what has made me finally chill out a bit. (I think I need to start paying attention to my limits a bit more.) 

I have learned so much about art, God, myself, and just about life in my time here. It has felt like information through a firehose and I have been desperately trying to keep up with it. In the last couple of weeks though, I became really sluggish and withdrawn. My heart wasn't in the painting or in doing anything really, and I felt like my brain was shutting down. Too much to handle. Too much to process. 

I feel like, for the first time, I have really discovered what I am meant for; what I am supposed to "do when I grow up." Anytime someone would ask me, I would say something with art or music, but I don't really know what. But behind the answer would be a sinking feeling that I would never really accomplish that, because I'm not smart or talented enough to actually do anything with it. 

Now I know that it takes perseverance. It takes pushing past incredible fear to learn and be humble. To walk through the stumbling stages where you may have the desire, passion, and talent; but you still have no idea what the hell you are doing and it takes hard work. Hard work that you can't skip over, because with whatever you are learning and want to become great at, you also have to become a person who can be responsible to wield that great talent. 

So many times (let's admit it, all the time) I want to take the easy road. "I want what I want and I want it right now." But no one wants to deal with a spoiled toddler who is good at everything. 

And I don't have to be good at everything. I am made to need people. 
I am terrible at reading maps. Seriously. It's not even funny. I can look at a map and think that I have it totally and logically figured out, but be going in the opposite direction. What is funny, it that I have a fantastic sense of direction as long as I don't look at a map at all. Whatever. 

I hate math. Hate it. Ask me to do anything beyond basic daily arithmetic and I will have to relearn it for the millionth time, and I will feel like I am dying the whole time. 

I really hate anything that makes me have to memorize tiny facts about tiny details and has sooooo many rules. 

Obviously, there are many things that I just have to learn, but I can be ok knowing that there are a plethora of people who are much much better at those things than I am. 

I have been a "right brain thinker" living in and trying to stuff myself into the mold of a left brained world.  I have been making myself feel guilty for not being like everyone else. And that's just silly. 

It's ok for me to be slightly (maybe an understatement) dramatic, and passionate; and to get really, really, really, really, really, excited about color and light and music. To be so moved by surrounding beauty and want to capture it and take part in the creating of it. 

I was moved to tears and was in complete rapture at seeing beautiful works of art in the Musee D'Orsay and the Louvre, seeing some of my hero's artistical journeys, and being amazed at how they were all constantly learning and changing and growing. 

So many times I have hit a road block and thought, "well, that's it, I'm done, I have failed," and have become so caught up in that one thing that I ceased to live. 

This year as I turned the very old(ha!) age of 25, I dealt with so much less of the birthday melancholy that I usually have and realized that I am learning (slowly, with many reminders) to let go of my perfectionistic mentality and accept whatever is in the moment. 
I'm sure I could have accomplished much more by now, but I haven't. 
I can either mope about that or move on. And be better. 
I can let my mistakes inform my current decisions.
I have to change my behavior to get different results.  

I can hit road blocks and work though them with a balance of perseverance and work, and knowing my limitations and resting. 
I can stop beating my fists against a brick wall till I bleed and and then complain that my hands hurt. 

I'm pretty sure no one but my mom is still reading (hi mom!),  but I've still got more to verbally vomit. It's good for me, so no offense taken if you have had your fill of all the inner workings of Katina's brain. 

I've been working on living a healthier lifestyle and have lost a lot of weight over the past two years. It has been so great and I have discovered new hobbies and things to love; activities that I always said "I'll do x, or do this more when I've lost this much weight," but I've just been doing them and have had so much fun and have become more myself than ever: hiking, rock climbing, kickboxing, yoga, running, dancing…I just want to keep getting better at these things and add to the list. 
But I have had a hard time recently in focusing on the end goal: being healthy, instead of just getting results. I was so caught up in losing weight and getting stronger and faster at the beginning of my time here that I was pushing past my limits, running through injuries and making them worse and I wasn't eating enough. 
I lost almost 15 pounds in a little under a month and that is waaaay to fast for me. 
I was honestly becoming a bit anorexic, which is kind of hard for me to say. 
What am I afraid of? Like anyone, I want to be wanted and this (my weight), is the obstacle, so if I get rid of that it will solve my problems. Gah. So much misplaced hope. So much pride in my own achievements... And so much thankfulness for injuries that force me to rest and stop to realize what I am striving for. 

We are all works in progress are we not? Struggling to improve and achieve and impress and feeling alone while we do it, only to have the rug pulled out from under our feet and only then do we realize that the image we are working for might not be so important, and the masks we put on aren't quite so comfortable, or that the walls we put up aren't as protective as they are isolating. 

I am a stubborn, proud, insecure, fearful, sometimes careless, sometimes too cautious, creative, spirited, joyful, wild, introspective, adrenaline seeking, independent, innapropriate creature. 

We are unique. We all have strengths. We all have limitations. (I keep using that word. I shy away from saying "weakness." Ugh.)  We all have weaknesses. I have weaknesses. But what's great is that when I am weak, when I allow myself to be weak and vulnerable (gosh that's a scary word), Jesus shows himself to be my strength every time.  I am made to need him. I am made to need people. 

When I let go of all the striving, that is where I find rest. 
That has been one of the major lessons from this time…to abide in Him. The God who loves me.
When everything feels a bit out of control…so dark and unknown, I can rest in him knowing that whatever comes next, it will be out of his love for me. 
Knowing His love has been and will be my greatest adventure. 

I'm hanging onto that as my time here is coming to an end and I could very easily get caught up in the worrying about what I am going to do with this. There has to be purpose in it. I have found that this art thing is something I can do, something I love. I feel the weight of carrying on with it, to improve and grow and keep figuring it out, and not to waste any talent that I have been given. 

But just as coming out here was a step of faith for me, so is going home. I have learned so much, have been blessed to see so many amazing things. It has been a time of much hard work and some hardships, and a time of rest. The rest came because of drawing near to Christ. 
As I am continuing on, I feel I am walking (limping) out with my palms turned up and saying, "here's all I am and what I have, take it and use me for whatever you will!" 

Anyway…Sorry for all the disconnected ramblings…my brain feels like a jumbly-wumbly mess. 
I'm just trying to get some of it out so it's not spinning around so much. Plus, if my messy transparency can help anyone in the same jumbly state, then we're both the better for it. :) 

From a slightly-less-dizzy-but-still-sneezy-and-limpy

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Progress takes time (layer by layer by layer)

There is a point in each drawing and each painting where it is no longer fun. I am looking, looking, erasing, fussing, and stressing. I want to be so much farther along than I am and get everything right the first time, but with watercolor painting and with life it is added to and improved layer by layer. 

For each painting you see there are hours and hours of hard work and frustration. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I am not wasting it. I have rarely pushed myself this hard in anything that I have wanted to learn. 

When I feel I have reached my limits, I have teachers and mentors who either know to have me go off and do something else, or push me past them. I am so thankful. And my brain is so tired! 

I don't know how many times I will have to learn that life is a journey. I can't figure it all out now, I cannot wake up and be Van Gough, Da Vinci, Matisse. 
Guess what? I'm human. Gah. It's a good thing. 

I am having to continually readjust my perspective and view each painting or drawing as a learning experience and not the end all of my achievements and worth. I am figuring out that I have the artist's temperament in full measure!!!

The paintings I have been doing are on larger sheets of paper so to really see them as they should be I have to get some distance from them. They should be veiwed from at least a few feet away. But when I am so close to it, trying to work in too many details, I get discouraged and want to give up. I have to literally look at the big picture. 

If I step back and see where I started in July and where I am now, the progress is incredible. 
I just need to take each day at a time, be faithful with what I have now, and the progress will come. 
Each days challenges are preparation for whatever the future holds. Artistically and spiritually. 




Just an example of the progression and some of the many layers that go into a painting. 

I'm working on a painting of Mont Saint Micheal right now, so we'll see how that turns out. :/ It has been quite the challenge. 

More to come soon! 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Me, Belgium, and France-y Stuff

Gah. Some day I'll get better at this. I came down with a four day flu virus that wiped me out and yesterday was the first day I felt almost totally well. No puking or cold-like symptoms, thankfully, but immense weakness, feeling faint, dizzy, and shaky; plus I wasn't able to eat much. Hooray for stomach shrinkage! Though I really don't recommend it as a diet. 

I tried to find the balance of resting and getting work done and greatly entertained the masses when I would take resting breaks laying on the floor by the table where I was painting. 

I knew I was all the way better yesterday when I felt I had pent up energy to burn and did an hour of yoga! I went out for a walk tonight and after walking a mile out I was able to (very slowly and carefully) run all but a bit of the way back. We'll see how my foot and leg feel tomorrow and I can hopefully work the intensity back up again. 

Getting sick was yet another thing to remind me of how little control I have and to trust the One who holds all things together. My outward improvements in what I am learning pale so magnificently in comparison to the inward changes that are happening. The Lord has become so near and more precious to me than before. I am so greatful for my time of being pulled away from everything familiar to walk more closely with him. 

Abiding in His love has become the theme of this adventure. 

I left off at Normandy last time, so I'll just give some highlights from the rest of the France trip. 

Mont Saint Michel was probably my favorite sight of the trip. It is a beautiful monastery built at the top of a medieval village out on an island off the coast of France. You can walk to it when the tide is out. We took the bus on the bridge that was built out to it. 

                                     This was my first sighting as we were driving up to it. 


                              It's very touristy in the village below, but fun with all the shops. 

                                              It's still an operational monastery. 


                                                  Look at those two crazy cuties! 



                          This will definitely be one of my favorite places from the whole trip! 

Hans bought a postcard there which he plans to use as a project for me later! I'm excited to improve and come out with a rendering of Mont Saint Michel that I can be proud of. 

The next day we went and saw the Bayeux tapestry, the Bayeux cathedral, and the war memorial museum in Caen. 

                                                The town of Bayeux was lovely

 The Bayeux tapestry is from the 1070s and is almost 230ft long. It tells the events leading to the Norman conquest of England. Notice the charming scene of decapitation, just above. 
You could accuse me of looking it up on Wikipedia just now to remember what it was, but I would vehemently deny it. Of course none of the words from the first sentence were taken and altered from such an article...I cannot imagine why you would think that. 

                                        I never tire of these magnificent structures. 

I got to sit outside and work on quick sketching and perspective. I didn't get anything done worth showing, but it is so much fun to just sit and draw! It's surprising (and a bit intimidating) the amount of people who will slow down to see what you are drawing and stop to talk. I actually got quite a thrill from it, as I remember as a child I used to daydream about being an art student in Europe and sitting in grand, old places and locals speaking to me as they would pass by. 
So strange how life turns out sometimes.  

                      I was just so impressed by this sign's English and word placement. 

                                                    The Caen war museum

They were ahead of their time with the hip lingo, as you'll notice this plane says "Bros" on the side. 

                                                                My kind of ladies. 
                                                Artist sketches from the battlefield 

                             All I could think when I saw this was "are you my mummy?"
                                  (If you don't love Doctor Who, you just won't know.) 


That's all for the first road trip! I have literally (please hear that in Chris Traeger speak) a billion pictures to go through from Switzerland and I haven't even started. 

This week is the flower carpet in the Grand Place and I'm so excited to see it! We might also take a short trip to Brugge so I can work on a painting project there. It'll be my first painting in the field lesson. 

And so far I'm actually not freaking out about turning a quarter of a century old next week. I've decided (Lord willing) that this year is going to be freaking awesome. 

Ttfn (Ta Ta for now, as tigger likes to say) 

...Katina quickly bounds away 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

What a whirlwind...

The end of this week will mark a month of my being here. Time has flown by! But we have really done so much in the time that it is no surprise. 

I was so bogged down with jet lag the first week, and we were traveling the second and third week with Marcus (Hans and Norma's son), that I haven't really gotten to write much about everything we did or go through any pictures till now. 

First, the Normandy trip.

We did just an overnight trip, but dang these crazy(awesome) people know how to see a lot in a little bit of time. We left super early, so I had my happy morning face on, but I was so excited to road trip to and through France!

  By the way, one of the secrets to morning Katina is bribing her with coffee...don't speak, don't touch, don't hover; just bring very strong coffee and slowly back away. If you try to overload her with information, you will be rewarded with caveman like grunts, growls, and if you get especially annoying (or really lucky, depending how you view things) there will be biting.  And while you're at it, freshly baked pastries are also helpful. I'm just putting this out there for anyone to utilize in the future...

  Still in Belgium. Obviously, we in the states need to ramp up our marketing game. Love this. 

                          Not a very dynamic photo, but I had to capture us driving over the Seine.

                                                                    Bam. France. 

We headed straight for the American war memorial and cemetery. While I was feeling giddy in the car at the thought of being on the beach again, the feeling of solemnity as we were walking into the memorial put my mood in its proper place for the experience. 

I am not a history buff. I don't do well with memorizing facts and dates, but I do love hearing stories of real people, who despite their circumstances choose to live and fight for the good of others instead of preserving their own skin. 


It was actually incredibly moving for me. I have never been super patriotic. I have always associated patriotism with people being closed-minded to other cultures and being waaaaaay to stuck-up, prideful, and pigheaded about "our way being the best way;" people being 'merica this, 'merica that, loud, obnoxious, and mulleted. Haha. 

But in all seriousness, I was filled with a great sense of pride for our soldiers, for how much they gave up for what they believed in. Many were so young and left families to serve and save the world from destruction. 


We watched stories of different individuals who went to fight. 
It really made history come alive for me.

After the museum, you walk out into the cemetery where you see row, after row, after row of white crosses. So much death and so much tragedy. It almost felt wrong for the day to be so beautiful. 



After the cemetery we made the trek down to the beaches. It was hard to imagine it filled with boats, soldiers, and blood because the day was absolutely lovely. 

Even though there is a sense of heaviness with so much violence and death, there is also a sense of...resolution, a settledness, not peace...I can't find the right word, but anyway...they accomplished what they set out to do and there is a silent strength in that. (Or perhaps I am just overthinking and way over-romaticizing it, but it seemed legitimate to me...) 



                                Not gonna lie, I was still pretty giddy about the beach. 

I tossed my shoes off, rolled my pants up, and chased the waves. 
Still managed to get my pants wet...I always go in too far. 

                                              Hans caught me taking pictures. 

                                                         Finding seashells. 

Looking back through these pictures, I am wondering why I left that stupid cardigan on!?! It was warmish, but I guess I was just being lazy. (You were totally wondering the same thing. Admit it.) 

Ok, I was planning to get through both days in one go, but sleep, bed, pillow friends... Calling me...
It's taking longer to blink...
Part 2 tomorrow! 

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Getting lost is good for the soul

I should win an award for getting lost in foreign countries, I think. 
My sense of direction is very hit and miss and my confidence in it is definitely lessening. 
And it hurts my slight sense of feminist pride to admit that I am terrible at reading maps. Even when I have google maps and have a perfect connection, it shows me the way home and I STILL go the OPPOSITE direction. 
Oh well, you are only lost if you really care where you are, right? 

I had been running for exersize in the evening while we were at home (I didn't get any running in in Switzerland, but we walked up soooo many stairs, I think it's ok.) But the night we got back from Switzerland (about a week ago, I think) I ran and pushed myself pretty hard and pulled something in my left shin. That plus I aggravated an injury to my right foot that happened just before I left ABQ. The injuries have sent me to physical therapy for the time being and left me unable to run. I have tried to keep walking a bit, but my temporary doctor says that is not a great idea. 

I asked him what I could do and he said biking would be good, so Hans asked the neighbor if I could borrow a bike, which he graciously provided, and I set off this evening to get some much needed exercise. I had been making so much progress in my running, and the injuries were quite discouraging, but I am determined for nothing to keep me down. I had lost almost 10 pounds so far with the running, so I had to find something to keep me going! 

I found my way to the woods, almost 2 miles away, and I loudly set off into the forest...the neighbor, explained to me that the back brakes are having a bit of trouble, they are stuck next to the wheel and so they make a high pitched squeaking sound, which is fine, I am just really greatful for the bike, but I wasn't quite prepared for how loud it was. So even though I was announcing my coming and going to all the hikers who were seeking peaceful nature walks (sorry, with me there you didn't get it) and all the woodland creatures, I greatly enjoyed myself. 


I wasn't so sure of myself in the beginning. I haven't been on a bike in quite a while, but I got the hang of it. Even though I am very set on trying most adventuresome sports, I haven't been that intrigued by mountain biking, until after tonight when flying down gravel-pathed steep inclines at high speeds and having to brake fast and swerving to avoid imminent demise, I totally get it. 
Love it. Into it. Totally going to do it. 
                                  You try taking selfies while riding a bike. It's not easy. 

Not really sure where I am going with this, but there is really something about getting lost and being ok with it. 

I am learning to let go of so many things and being ok with whatever outcome. 

I am learning to enjoy the journey, not care what people think, and be overcome in rapture at the surrounding scenery. 

So my bike is screaming at everyone in a half mile's something to laugh about. 

So I'm lost in a foreign country...well it will just take me a little longer to find my way home. 

So I, in very Katina form, injured myself and can't keep running and walking to lose weight...I'm going to find something else I can do. And enjoy it.  

Everything has a lesson. Everything has a place and a purpose. There is a season for everything. 

I am learning to enjoy my sometimes loneliness to really figure out who I am and what I want, and more importantly, learn that The Lord is my closest companion. 
He always knows where I am.  He is always looking out for me. 
He is always teaching me and showing me his love for me.

In my getting lost, I got to see the sun gleaming though the dense, green forest; see a tiny deer bounding away at my ear-grating approach; and see The Lord provide a stranger who "just happened" to also be on a bike, who "just happened" to speak fantastic English, and "just happened" to be heading to the exact same town that I was, to lead me in surety on my way home. 


Getting lost can be a fantastic thing. 

I am enjoying this adventure. 

And Belgian beer after an around 15 mile ride is the most refreshing thing ever. 

                                                                 Cheers, friends! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Work it out

I knew coming here would be about so much more than just art; that through all of the challenges I face in re-learning what I have lost and just from being around so much wisdom, that I would grow in immense ways personally and spiritually. 
    Chateau La Hulpe. 5 minutes from the house by car, so I will run there occasionally. 

There have been so many lessons already. 
And today's lessons from church would need a post of its own. I am so thankful for all the ways God is moving in my life and teaching me. Here are just a few:

As you are working on drawing, you have to really see what you are looking at. 
Sounds funny or simple, but it is true. 
You walk past your mailbox every day, but if I asked you to describe it to me in detail I bet you would come up short. I can think that I know the proportions of an object, but if I am just focusing on my idea of what that seashell looks like, instead of constantly checking my work to see what is actually correct, I will be way off.  I have to take the time to look, really look at what I am seeing. 

That applies to life in so many ways. Take the time, be in the moment, stop rushing and notice what you are missing. Am I making up or exaggerating situations in my head, because I'm not carefully considering all sides of an issue? Stop, think, look, see the truth and not what your brain is telling you.
                                                 The forest in the park closest to home. 

In my art lessons, Hans has been asking me what I would grade myself or what I think about how I am doing.  I tend to give myself a lower score than he gives me. He said there is a difference between an emotional grade and a grade according to the criteria of the assignment. I feel like I could do better. I feel like something sucks, but really I did what was required of me. I need to separate how I feel I am doing on a drawing and just do what I am asked to do. 

As we have been talking about my tendency towards perfectionism in art and really everything, he has asked me to notice the way that I talk to myself(inner dialogue wise…I'm not crazy…well only a little), and I have been amazed at how much I talk myself down. I think that most of my thoughts about myself are negative and it has been serious brain-hurting work to start changing that. 
Instead of thinking, "I'm terrible at this," think "I'm getting better than I was yesterday." 
Seriously, most of the time I think I am doing horribly, both Hans and Norma will come and praise my work. Chill out, Katina…
So, day by day, I am coming closer to having a correct view of myself, which is pretty exciting!
                                                               Hoeilaart town hall

I've been running too, which is quite a change from the yoga, kickboxing, and hiking that I have been doing. I have a love/hate relationship with it right now, but it is just another lesson in perseverance. And seriously, with all the delicious beer, chocolate, and waffels around, I had better do something or I am going to lose all the progress I have made! (Though I haven't had a waffel yet and that needs to be remedied very soon.) So I'm starting out slowly, but I am excited to see where I'm at when I leave. 


In other news, jet lag is slowly getting better and I'm not waking up every hour and finally giving up and getting out of bed before the crack of dawn.  
Also, some super exciting things:
Hans and Norma's son got here today and we are all headed to Normandy on Wednesday for a couple days. We are going to see some war memorials and then hopefully see Mont Saint Michel after that (which is what I am really excited about). Seriously…France!!!

We will come back home for a couple days and then drive through Luxembourg and France to Hans' hometown in Switzerland for a week for his birthday! I'm going to Switzerland, guys!!! So, seriously I'm getting to do a lot more traveling than I ever thought and am going to enjoy every minute of it. I am just required to take my sketchbook everywhere, which is totally fine with me! 


I can't believe I haven't even been here a whole week yet. I'm excited about all the time I have left! 

Love to all! 
And even though I'm having loads of fun, know you are missed.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Jet lag, carbonnade, and the North Sea

I made it! I pushed through the anxiety of preparation, to the determination of travel, to the exhaustion of looooong flights, to the sigh of relief of finally making it to Brussels. 

The Lord was looking out for me from the beginning as I left my brand new iPad at the security checkpoint in Albuquerque and didn't even realize it until the girl that was behind me brought it over to me while I was reassembling all my things. Thank God for kind strangers!!! 

I slept almost the whole way to Atlanta; just woke up for the coffee service and then went right back to sleep (very Katina of me, I might say).  I had strange dreams that I was back at work since I was near the back and one of the flight attendants that kept talking looked a bit and sounded a lot like my old district manager from Starbucks. 

My long layover in Atlanta was made entertaining by people watching and enjoyng a flamboyant server say, "welcome to freshens!" every two minutes. It's funny what I find entertaining when I am sleep deprived. 

The flight was long and restless, but I finally made it at 8:30am Belgian time, which totally threw me off. After getting settled and a quick tour of the house I went into a 10 hour sleep coma. I wasn't planning on it, but I think I needed it badly. 

I woke up around 8pm and then Norma took me out to the garden to pick lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, radishes, and chives for a salad; then raspberries and strawberries for dessert. She also cooked a Swiss sausage and potatoes for me. It was the freshest meal I have ever had! What a delight to pick your own dinner from the garden! 

I went to to bed again happy, full, and utterly spoiled! (Norma says "that's the whole point!") 

   Hans knocked on my door this morning with fresh Swiss coffee! Probably the best I have ever had!

Today was Norma's birthday so we had a fun full day. We drove out to Nieuwpoort to have lunch with Norma's friend Astrid (who was a delight and a blessing). 
I got to try a staple Belgian dish at Feu D'or called "vlaamse carbonnade." It was fantastic. Similar to beef stew, but slow cooked in Belgian beer with caramelized onions and other goodness. Find a recipe and try it, it will change your life. 
I also tried shrimp that actually looked like shrimp for the first time. I pulled the tail off and picked the meat out and everything. I did ok until I found a pregnant one with all the eggs attached. Hans got a some great pictures of my reaction to that! But I have to admit I am pretty proud of myself for trying it.
  My new motto is "try anything (most things. Ha!) once"! 


After lunch we braved the high winds to walk down to the beach so I could stick my feet in the North Sea! I loved it even though the weather was crazy. 



Tomorrow we get down to business with the artwork and I could not be more excited for everything to come! I feel abundantly blessed and it's only been two days! 

Stay tuned for more excitement...