The Chocolate Karma Goddess is good to me… her name is Robin.

At the end of January, I asked family and friends to send a little love note to Ryan for a secret Valentine’s Day project. The teachers asked us to come in the night before and decorate the 3rd graders’s desks. My wonderful friend in the Springs, who happens to be the mother of Ry’s favorite person in the world, very promptly put a package in the mail. Not only was there a funny love note for Ry, but treats for our whole family. A pile of gummy things and sugary hearts for all. But for me, a decadent bar of chocolate. I know this because she very wisely wrote my name on it giving me full permission to NOT share. Did I mention how wonderful she is?

 I had been hiding all of the love notes in my desk, in my room. The package was too big and so into my closet it went. As I got ready to shove it among my sweaters, I tucked the chocolate bar into my cubby of t-shirts to have as a reward for another day (I know, weird I didn’t inhale it right then and there.) Valentine’s Day came and the surprise was a huge hit. Among all the swirl and chaos of that week, I totally forgot about my secret stash.

This past weekend, I could no longer deny that something had to be done about the amount of paint clothes I had wadded up on my closet floor that were now spilling out into my room. So, I got rid of a bunch that were really more like wearing a canvas. They actually looked pretty cool, but really not so comfy anymore after years of wall finishes and canvases. It was time to give some jeans and t-shirts in my closet a chance to don new colors.

Yesterday, I managed to talk myself into chores for the morning leaving me a couple of hours to paint in the afternoon. I managed to make the main floor almost presentable. A house with three boys, two big dogs that has wall to wall white carpet is a living nightmare.  So when I literally couldn’t take another minute of the mundane vacuuming, dusting and bathroom scrubbing, I went to my closet to pull out a pair of jeans and a T-shirt to christen with paint. As I grabbed an old Coke-a-Cola shirt (another vice.. a bad one, I realize) the chocolate bar came flying out, smacked my knees and landed on my feet.

WHOO HOOO!! I felt that I had won the lottery as I looked down to see my secret stash, that I had completely forgotten about, with its pretty script Dark Chocolate with Caramel waiting for me. So instead of getting dressed and taking it down to the studio with me, as perhaps a normal adult might do,  I sat down right then and there in my underwear and ate it. ALL of it!

THANK YOU ROBIN!!! You are my chocolate karma goddess and I love you for it!

a hug, a bottle of bourbon and the grilling of some kind of meat

Today, I don’t want to focus on one person in particular, but rather the inspiring friendship of two of my favorite people. My husband Chris and his best friend Erik have known each other for 36 years. They grew up in the same small town in Virginia as neighbors. Along with Chris’ brother, Pat, they explored and played in the surrounding woods and fields. To this day, they are like 80-year old men never tiring of telling those stories and adventures with great pride and laughter.

For Chris and Erik, that was just the foundation of a tremendous friendship that has grown and never wavered over the past three decades. They shared fun and innocent childhood years, awkward adolescent years, fun and not so innocent high school years, even more fun and really not so innocent college years,

Erik’s graduation from JMU- 1991

supported one another as their lives took them in different directions, stood by one another as they got married (fortunately to Sandy and me and not to each other), helped each other out with their first homes, have shared 12 years of the joys and responsibility of fatherhood, celebrated each others successes, and listen endlessly when there is disappointment or heartache. They have grown into these renaissance men who live very different lives but share an incredible friendship.

 Chris and Erik at our semi annual 4th of July camping trip. Secret-spot, CO- photo by Ryan Giglio

What strikes me most is the unconditional love and respect they have for one another. It is off the charts. On account of their careers, passions, interests, beliefs and families, they view the world through very different lenses. Even though their politics, religious ideas, and how they fit in the world are contrasting, they don’t allow them to be conflicting. They both have compasses that point due north. They both have a ridiculous work ethic. They both take great pride in their families. They both have a love of nature and the outdoors. And, they both have a respect for the other that they should be so proud of. Not once will you hear the other say a negative word about his friend, ever. They seem to be able to get each other on a level of authenticity that allows only for support and gaining perspective. And after all of these years, the core understanding they have of one another inspires me.

Tough times are greeted with a hug, a bottle of bourbon, the grilling of some sort of meat, a supportive shoulder, comic relief (often relating to farts), advice when requested and again another hug. Good times are celebrated with a hug, a bottle of bourbon, the grilling of some sort of meat, heartfelt praise, comedy (often relating to farts) and more kind words and again another hug.

Erik and Chris, Fort Collins, CO 2011

As for many years, Erik’s career right now has him on the other side of oceans. Chris isn’t on Facebook, but whenever Erik posts pictures or videos of one of his grand adventures, Chris comes running to the computer. This past week I watched Chris scroll through pictures of Erik’s latest adventure of a solo back country ski trip in Germany. I could see (and hear as Chris literally talked to the computer) his pride and joy of Erik. He was soaking up glimpses of Erik’s adventure by taking in the gear he used, how very steep the tracks Erik had made were, the breathtaking views and finally a self portrait that put Chris right there with him for a moment. I am sure he came up with a hundred questions to ask him the next time he sees him.

 I have no doubt these two have decades of memories still to be made. Erik will have Chris jumping out of more airplanes and camping at 11,000 feet. Chris will be cooking gourmet meals to enjoy along with a bottle of wine and lots of catching up. These two Virginia boys who have grown into Colorado men will sit decades from now, just like the picture above and tell story after story after story.  Sandy and I are going to need lots of wine!

But when all is said and done, their friendship will truly be a life’s work and a tremendous success. It already is and speaks to their character when my boys acknowledge and know how special it is that  “Dad and Uncle Erik are BEST friends.”

I love you for every snowflake.

I wasn’t planning on sitting down to write about my son Alex, but it seems to be what I need or rather want to do right now instead of chores. I came to the computer to check to see if he had sent an email. Right now, he is down in Denver at a technology conference for three days with 25 other students from his school. And, I miss him.

Alex and I in some ways are very much alike. We wear our hearts on our sleeves, we value and invest a lot in our friendships and family, we are both the oldest of three, and we look a lot alike- much to his dismay. He was a happy baby, an easy and joyful toddler and fun kid. Of course he is still all those things, but adolescence is kicking in and he and I find ourselves in new territory with one another. He is all over the place… and in turn, so am I. Our rhythm together is off… as it should be.

 He is pushing for his independence one second, can’t remember anything the next, and then has a brilliant idea following. Spontaneous bursts of tears are often followed by crazy laughter and soon after a surprisingly quiet and gentle moment with a cousin or younger brother. Honestly, this time can be so frustrating and hilarious at the same time. Trying to guide him well right now is proving to be a much greater challenge than I anticipated at this point. Sometimes I feel like I do well, but more often I find that I am falling on my face as much if not more than he is. It is terrifying. I so need to get this right. The stakes seem higher than ever before.

Last night, sitting by the fire with Ry and Chachi, Chris and I got a glimpse of what life will be like in a handful of years when Alex leaves the coop. Sometimes, we can’t help but go there. A friend recently wrote about sending her eldest daughter off to college and realizing she would pretty much be living life on her own terms. I had a bit of a shockwave hit. How could I possibly teach Alex all that he needs to know to be able to do just that in only 6 more years? But as he sloppily packed his bag Wednesday night and had that wild spark in his eyes from the anticipation of a new adventure, I felt a total calm hit instead. Alex loves and adores going out into the world. His curious nature, his comfort in his own skin, his great attitude and more laid back (sometimes too laid back – don’t get me started.. grrr….Hahaha… grrrrr! See the craziness?) nature, and his strong sense of what is right and wrong gives him all he needs to do to go off, learn, try and have a great experience.

Alex at Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Jenny Kruckeberg

When Alex left the house on Thursday morning, he was really affectionate. I got lots of kisses and hugs. With Alex, I have played the game I love you for every________ in the world for 9 years now. And of course, we are always trying to one up the other.  As he walked out the door, snow was falling and I told him I loved him for every snowflake in the world. He turned and gave me a big and wide-eyed grin, flashed the sign for “I love you” with his hand and then took off running with pure excitement towards Chris’s truck ready to begin his adventure. He didn’t have to say a thing, but he one-upped me in that moment and I think he knew it.

A Breath of Fresh AIR!

For those of you who live in Ft. Collins, sometimes the air can be thick with smells of agriculture and hops. It is a good reminder though of all the different things going on in and around our great little city. We are a great mix of biologists, brewers, professors, engineers, artists, students, inventors, farmers, retailers, doctors, and entertainers and on and on. To me though, it feels like I am living in a community of big thinkers who value a high quality of life where success is measured in unconventional ways. 

For the past year, I have been volunteering for an organization made up of people who are willing to think outside the box and work hard to create a community that stretches far beyond Ft. Collins’s city limits.   AIR-Arts Incubator of the Rockies is already creating a collaborative community that not only celebrates one’s strengths, but also educates by bringing other perspectives to the table. They have already created a fantastic website that I encourage you to take some time to look over. Click here to take a tour of AIR. It is a place where not only artists/creatives can share their talents and careers but all are welcome; not just individuals but companies as well. AIR wants to create a place for conversations to start. A place where artists can learn the value of good business skills and others can embrace what a creative mind might offer to a project or company. With the knowledge center, opportunity page, regional calendar and air share, AIR is a great resource for ideas, brainstorming and expansion.  But, luckily for us, the AIR website is just the beginning. With SHIFT weekend workshops and EVOLVE classes that offer skills, planning, coaching and networking, I have already seen ideas, projects and careers make great strides as a result. The goal is to get these serving a ten state region along the Rockies.  Eventually, the Carnegie building here will be renovated to host classrooms with streaming capabilities, meeting space, gallery space and a black box theater. I can only begin to imagine the energy and ideas that will generate there. 

From one of the brainstorm easels at the AIR pilot workshop. 

Over the past year, I have met some incredible individuals through AIR. They are passionate, smart, and progressive thinkers who want to make our community and region stronger through collaboration. I so enjoyed my time as part of the curriculum committee and pilot weekends. I sat at a table of people from all sorts of backgrounds and professions. We had piles of ideas surface and debated the pros and cons. It was really interesting. I hope that those conversations will continue out into the community and eventually ramp up again at the AIR building once it opens. I have learned a tremendous amount this past year across a wide range of topics but mostly a lot about myself. For that I am grateful. I can feel my own SHIFT happening and it is exciting. 

Missing the Rothko Room

After I graduated college, I had the good fortune to have a yearlong internship at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. Whenever time allowed, (before heading to one of the two additional jobs I had that year), I would find myself sitting on the single bench in the Rothko Room.  It was always a cherished and meditative moment in time. Sitting in the center of 4 of Rothko’s pieces created a safe place to let my heart and mind have an authentic conversation. The lighting in the room is perfect (and not at all like it is shown in the link) letting the intense colors and layers draw you into his paintings. For me, they would simultaneously evoke memories and inspire dreams. It has been a long time since I have sat in that room, but I can close my eyes and remember what a gift it was during that year to have that space to just be. I truly miss the Rothko Room.

**If you live near Washington or have a trip planned, The Phillips Collection is a tremendous treasure not to be missed. Enjoy!

A Big Mess

My art room is a huge mess. It looks like my three boys have been in there, but they haven’t. I own the entire disarray. I really didn’t have it in me to even attempt to talk myself into cleaning it all up.  It was cold outside and even worse it was gray and overcast.  I just wanted to sit by the fire and not only soak in the heat but the glow. So, I got a big box and filled it with a bunch of stuff to play around with collage and took it upstairs. I got a roaring fire going, then spread out on the floor in front of it, making yet another big mess. It was great sitting there in a rainbow of recycled papers: magazine clippings, old notes, kid’s scribble, tissue paper, maps, stamps. I decided to just jump in and go and see what evolved. I smeared paint across three little canvas boards that I had gotten for the boys. I swirled the papers around me, pulling out whatever caught my eye. Cornstalks, some words, a clock and I began to think about my wicked case of spring fever. I am so ready to work the earth. But today, I worked the papers, modpodge, paints and pastels and created my own little garden of sorts. It was so satisfying to bring spring in.

Spring Fever, Mixed media on canvas.

I couldn’t stop and moved onto another board. I found a fun piece of paper that looked like tapestry, then a silhouette of a woman, a butterfly, the definition of honor. I thought of the woman in my life who truly honor who they are. They aren’t afraid to take risks. And even if they are, the risk of not following their passion is greater of the two.  They are sharing their authentic, genuine selves with the world. All of it, the whole mess… and they are beautiful and strong because of it.

Redefined, Mixed media on canvas

And then, as all of my guys came home from their days of school and work, they walked into my giant mess. “Can I do one?” “Can I have this piece of paper?” “Can I help you?” But, homework, basketball practice, reading, baths, dinner and all of that took over.  I think this weekend we will have a marathon Valentine collage making session and see what they come up with, other than another big mess.

After all the running around was done and boys were asleep in bed, I finished up the third and final collage of my day. Ry actually helped me a bit after school pulling out pieces and seeing different images. In it are parts of a thank you note a friend wrote to me. I love the flow of her handwriting. It made me end the day with gratitude to live a place that is so beautiful, so unique and full of wonderful people.
Gratitude for Ft. Collins, Mixed media on canvas by Cat and Ryan Giglio

Magnificent Muse-2 Lori DiPasquale

“Come on,” my friend said with a devilish twinkle in her eye. The van stopped and before I knew it she was unbuckling her toddler daughter from the car seat. We had been out for an evening drive after dinner and a long day of work. As we explored the area, (where we would be staying for the next few months to paint rooms in a grand house) we found ourselves at a very posh Country Club at the end of a beautiful winding road. It was dusk of a lovely summer evening in Minnesota. We wound our way through the dense woods and eventually along side a perfectly manicured golf course. Not at all sure what she was thinking I asked, “where are we going?” She replied with a wonderful and prideful giggle, “to make sand angels!” With her beautiful wide-eyed daughter in hand, we ran across the cool grass and jumped into the recently raked sand trap. We flopped down and while laughing uncontrollably, we swished our arms above our heads and pushed and pulled our legs through the soft sand. Proud and with our mission complete, we admired our masterpieces and then sprinted (as fast as you can while belly laughing) to the rental van.  I will never forget the sunset in the sky, the laughter echoing across the rolling hills of the golf course and later thinking of the smiles (or disgust perhaps) of who ever found our three sand-trap snow angels the next morning. It was pure joy. I will treasure that moment always, as I will my friend, Lori.

For those of you who know me, this beautiful muse is an obvious person for me to write about and a true honor to know. And for those of you, who don’t know Lori DiPasquale yet, be grateful I have introduced her to your life.  She has not only taught me so much about decorative painting techniques, textures and creating beautiful spaces, but she  inspires me in the way she lives her life with tremendous gratitude, a spunky zest and a humble grace that she is completely unaware of.

My sister actually met Lori at a birthday party for a mutual friend. I can’t imagine if that chance meeting hadn’t happened. Soon after, I began working for her. She had a decorative painting business creating finishes that I had never dreamed of before. Her work is stunning. I had the good fortune to have her teach me her secrets of the trade, to get to experiment with products by creating endless sample boards and then to eventually work side by side with her. We glazed, plastered, gilded, stenciled; you name it. Creating skies over living rooms, turning walls in bars to look like red leather, gilding endless feet of crown molding, making walls look like old stone blocks in fancy hotels, painting murals in nurseries, creating fun metallic finishes in corporate offices, marbling columns, taking old furniture and giving it new life, glazing kitchen cabinets and turning floors into conversational pieces. It was hard work but was so much fun. We listened to great music, while leapfrogging over one another to create one consistent hand in a finish. We were a fantastic team and our friendship even better.

At Race for the Cure in 2011. Her love and support are endless.

Life moves forward and things change.  It took our careers in different paths, but our friendship only grew stronger.  Lori became a massage therapist wanting to nurture her healing and giving qualities. Her strong hands, intuitive nature, and generous spirit make her excellent at this. (She really needs a drool bucket under her table!)  For those of you in Colorado Springs, you can learn more about and get in touch with Lori about her massage practice here at Springs Natural Medicine. And don’t worry; she still is creating amazing finishes too.

We talked endlessly about creating and expressing ourselves through art. The finishes are a creative challenge and when done well, give an aesthetic to spaces that really set a tone or highlight a style. But, this is done for the client, not one’s self-expression. We both set to canvas work, checking in with one another here and there. It was sporadic at best for me, but Lori really moved forward with her art career. She has been part of the Pikes Peak Studio Tour for years now and is gearing up for some group and solo shows later this year. Her work has evolved to her favorite medium of encaustics. They are layer upon layer of color infused with emotion and depth. They grab your attention across a room. And, as you get up close, you get lost in the textures, color use, and hidden words or images buried in her pieces, which are often done on recycled materials. And, I am fortunate to have my own little collection in my home. Click here to see more of her work at DiPasquale Designs

A Spacious Life. (inspired by my Gaga’s book) Lori DiPasquale. Encaustic on recycled wood.

Lori has given me so much and there is no way to capture how infectious her passions are. Her knowledge and love of gardening, her tremendous yoga practice, her spiritual journey, her dedication to her daughters, her endless giving to her friends and community, her thirst for always wanting to gain more knowledge and soak up the essence of what she finds interesting and beautiful. I have hundreds of memories in my heart and head that I will cherish my life long.  I treasure our friendship tremendously and will be ever grateful for her influence. Perhaps, I will sneak up to the local country club later today and make a sand trap angel. Go give it a try. It is so much fun!


Summer Fire

Summer Fire, Oil on Linen

Last summer the Colorado skies weren’t their gorgeous and magnificent blue. Instead, they were gray, red, yellow and thick with smoke. There were intense fires across the state and it was a surreal environment. Friends were evacuated, hundreds and hundreds of homes were lost and lives forever changed, animals were moved and many died, rivers turned black from ash; it was devastating. But it seems, there is always a silver lining (easier said by me, who didn’t lose a thing); firefighters were celebrated, communities were strengthened, and the human spirit while tested, for the most part shone bright. Interesting conversations and brainstorms of water, population, and environment all surfaced in a tangible way. And the sunsets, the bittersweet sunsets, they were ever so stunning. My son, Alex, said one evening that the sun looked like a giant “cutie” (the mini oranges often in his lunchbox) hanging in the sky. The shades of ochre washed across the clouds of smoke, creating a luminous, almost Italianate effect across our earth. It was really quite beautiful. I love painting different skies. So here was a great opportunity to try to represent one I had never seen before. And, to try to capture beauty and devastation all at once on a canvas is a great challenge.

Prints available at Art for Conservation by Fine Print, Inc.   Summer Fire Prints

Original -$525 (framed)

Lots of Chocolate

I am feeling the “wampus” today. This has been a roller coaster of a week. Up and down, and side to side. It is hard to find footing today. Even yoga this morning was mostly over taken by my spinning mind.  I am sitting here with the most delicious tea I got in Denver a few weeks ago and I really just want to curl up and take a nap, but I am not tired.

What is it?….
…… Is it winter? Is it the piles of laundry that never end? Is it the homeless person I pass every morning on my way to take Charlie to school? Is it my adolescent son who can’t seem to walk from one end of the room to the other only to forget what he set off to do only 15 seconds before? Is it that time is going too fast and too slowly all at once? Is it that time for a converstation with my husband is so rare? Is it the guilt of painting while so many other things “should” be taken care of? Is it that I do too much for my boys or not perhaps not enough? Is it the thought of infinity that I find overwhelming?  Is it the list of phone calls I have to make? Is it that the music I am listening to is so beautiful? Is it the unfinished house projects haunting me? Is it the horrible dream I had last night? 
Welcome to my crazy mind. Or perhaps, run fast and far…. really far!!! I am off to eat chocolate… a lot of it!!