Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Twelve (more) Gifts: #3 A MOVEABLE FEAST

I had been hosting the family for Thanksgiving in our California home ever since Mom got sick, and after she passed away it became a treasured and time-honored tradition. Our California Thanksgivings were wonderful -- besides all the delicious food (traditional fare with a gourmet twist) we had incorporated a whole weekend of annual activities -- going out to movies, spending an afternoon at the beach, shopping in the garment district in downtown Los Angeles, watching home movies, and even shopping in Tijuana! We lived for those Thanksgiving weekends!

But in the monumental year 2000, I delivered a beautiful but stillborn baby girl -- and I felt like a big part of me died with her.

Just a month later we were making plans for Thanksgiving. My heavy heart wondered if there was any way I could pull off dinner for fifteen, let alone the traditional outings and the day-trip to Mexico. My ever-sensitive younger sister somehow knew there was no way I could host a dinner (and multiple houseguests) that year. And she did something extraordinary.

She started researching restaurants in our area, and found a wonderful little spot in Montrose which offered Thanksgiving take-out in boxed dinners. She ordered a full meal for the five of us, and on Thanksgiving Day we picked up our boxes and drove to a shady little picnic area in Monrovia Canyon. We ate our delicious dinner al fresco, to an enchanting backdrop of breezes and birdsongs, then took a short hike along a lovely trail to a waterfall. It was pure heaven. And it in some ways felt more like a real Thanksgiving — or at least the original Thanksgiving — to be dining so simply outdoors.

That moveable feast is a gift of caring and  thoughtfulness I will never forget. I think of it every year with immense gratitude.

Monday, November 11, 2019

No Ordinary Flower

I remember discovering these lovely purple flowers for the first time. I think I was maybe four years old. The little pinkish-purple flowers were growing outside my grandma's kitchen door. I loved the color! I decided to pick a few and take them in to Grandma. She was ingenious at finding just the right vase for every flower-picking treasure. Imagining its perfume to be as lovely as its brilliant color, I got closer, and took a whiff. Peeyoo! What kind of flower is that?!? I was utterly shocked. Why do these flowers stink? Did God make them this way? I ran inside to ask my grandma.

She just laughed. "Those are chives!" she said. "I cut up the stems and sprinkle them on soups or deviled eggs. Take another whiff and imagine them adding extra flavor to something savory." I wasn't entirely convinced, but I took my grandma's word for it. Let's just say it was an acquired taste.

How many metaphorical chives are there in your life? --Things that appear to stink on the surface, until you find out they have a completely different purpose, nothing like your original mindset.

When I saw these lovely chive blossoms growing in the Herb Garden at Hampton Court, they instantly reminded me of my grandma, and I had to take a picture to paint from, to remember them.

Great news! This painting, Fresh Chives, laced with memories of my grandmother, on display in an upcoming show.  (Don't worry -- it's not scratch and sniff!) "Fresh Chives" is part of my latest series, 100 Days in Europe. #16/100 (84 to go!) I'm really excited about this show, called Small Treasures, opening this weekend. I have 24 small paintings in the show. Most are just 4x10 -- I love this new panoramic format! This is one of my most affordable series, ranging in price from $125 to $210, perfect for gift-giving, and a perfect size to tuck anywhere in your home or office and add some color and light.

Now, of course, I love chives. I cook with them all the time. In fact, they appear in my new cookbook (link at left), in the recipe for Hungarian Chicken and Dumplings, and in the recipe for Almond-Crusted Chicken and Nectarine Salad with Buttermilk-Chive dressing.

--My cookbook is on sale at Art Access too. (Because it's also an art book). Not local? Just give them a call. I'm sure they can work something out.

Art Access230 South 500 West, #125Salt Lake City, UT 84101801-328-0703

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Holding the Sun Hostage

"Holding the Sun Hostage," original watercolor by Jana Winters Parkin, 10 x 14

It was a dark and stormy day. Our bus was held up on a narrow road in the middle of nowhere for 2.5 hours. A motorcyclist rider who was lying in the road after a collision, and no one could traverse the byway until an ambulance arrived. I made half a dozen sketches in my sketchbook while we waited. and waited. and waited. I was suddenly very grateful for healthcare in America, where waiting for an ambulance translates into minutes, not hours. The poor guy on the motorcycle literally could have passed away right there on the pavement. (Fortunately they arrived with a big enough ambulance to transport him to a hospital before that happened!)

Finally we made it to Stonehenge! —Or at least to the point where the buses drop you off, a mile and a half away from Stonehenge. We had been there as a family before. We have great photos of our kids stacked across our shoulders like posts and lintels, in imitation of the giant Stonehenge pillars, memories of our visit there 21 years ago. Yet I was still excited to go back.

When asked if we wanted to wait for a shuttle, or take the footpath to the circle of stones, that was a no-brainer for me! First of all, I'm completely enchanted by footpaths and love to pursue them, beckoned toward wherever they lead. Second, WE'D BEEN SITTING ON A STOPPED BUS FOR 2.5 HOURS! Surprisingly, I was the only one of our group who chose the footpath. 

So I set off on my own, following a light string of strangers down a soggy footpath, up a hill, then cresting across a meadow. Suddenly I desperately wished the rest of my family had come this way! The little  footpath opened alongside a field of rapeseed (the unfortunate British name for Canola), exploding with sunlight!

It was late April in England, and practically every piece of countryside we traversed was covered with these brilliant yellow flowers! Every time I saw them it would take my breath away! And today, on this lonely little footpath, they were all mine for this section of trail. There they were, holding the sun hostage, on a deserted field en route to Stonehenge.

Yes, I made it to the famed circle of prehistoric stones. And yes, I reunited with my family there, who hadn't arrived too far ahead of me. And of course, the rapeseed really was controlling the sun, because once we got to the stones the sky darkened completely. It dumped buckets of rain on us, heightening the sense of mystery surrounding the neolithic wonder! 

But my favorite image of the trip that day was my private showing of yellow rapeseed flowers, a burst of joy holding the sun in its grasp. 

*  *  *  *  *

This is #4 in a series of 100 watercolors based on our 100 days in Europe. See them all by following me on Facebook (Jana Winters Parkin and Jana Parkin Art) and Instagram (@janawparkin and @janaparkinart) and on my art blog ( Look for the hashtag #100daysinEurope. You never know where the next painting will show up!

#100daysinEurope #stonehenge #rapeseed #watercolor 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Watching our kids grappling with a newborn takes me back 27 years...

Suddenly it’s all so vivid. We were that couple proceeding so cautiously home from the hospital with the world’s most precious cargo in his rear-facing car seat.

Once home in our ghetto apartment, with all the help gone, we looked at each other thinking “when are this baby’s parents going to come pick him up?”— unable to quite wrap our brains around the idea that WE were the parents now. 

I remember the first time he awoke in the night, turning on all the lights and practically throwing a party we were so excited to get up and "do the baby thing" — change his diaper and feed him and snuggle him. I also remember how quickly the party died down as he woke several more times that night and the sleep deprivation set in!  

There we were, certain we had the most angelic baby ever born because he slept so sweetly most of the day, only to be jerked awake from our fantasy every 45 minutes all night long because he was experiencing day/night reversal. 

I was the one curling my toes in pain, wondering why no one ever told me that breastfeeding hurt so horribly at first! I remember setting a timer and gritting my teeth while he nursed for the requisite seven minutes per side, until I somehow toughened up, and breastfeeding became one of the sweetest bonding experiences imaginable.

The two of us gave him his first bath, shocked at how slippery a naked baby is as we held onto him for dear life over the bathroom sink, our laughter barely drowning out the ensuing panic.

I remember realizing for the first time, “My parents did all this for me when I was a baby, and I had no idea.”  And then, “Wow! This must be how much my parents loved me!”

Those early days with a newborn were some of the hardest, craziest times and some of the sweetest, most blissful times, all rolled into one. 

And now it’s their turn. They are loving and feeding and diapering and checking for bilirubin and all the things. They are fighting exhaustion, and overcome with love. Parenting is one of the most amazing, humbling, overwhelming, incredible journeys — and they've only just begun.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

This Girl is My Hero.


This girl is my hero. 

I had the privilege of a front row seat this past summer as she worked hard, getting up extra early, on her feet all morning teaching children with special needs. Never mind that she was eight-plus months pregnant, it was 100 degrees outside, and her husband was away on an internship in San Francisco for the summer.  

I watched her hit the gym on a regular basis, research every possible baby contraption, and purchase an online breast-feeding course. I watched her continue to grow and improve daily in preparation for the all-important role she’d be assuming.

But when her husband announced that he was coming home that weekend (a week early),  she burst into tears. That was when I realized just how strenuous it had been for her all summer without him here.

This girl also has an iron will. Not only did her husband return a week earlier than scheduled. On August 27th she decided she was well and truly DONE with being pregnant. And her water broke that afternoon. Right on her due date! The next thing we knew she was checked into the hospital's labor and delivery and issued a blue gown. It was go time!

We dropped by to see how she was doing, and the nurse commented on her great sense of humor as they cranked up the pitocin. We even played a round or two of cards. Then suddenly she asked for her epidural RIGHT NOW (again, with that iron will) and we knew that was our cue to leave.

She labored all through the night, with Austin faithfully by her side, attending to any need he possibly could. Sixteen hours later (after a dutiful and detailed thread of updates all night and morning from Austin) we got word that the our grandson had arrived!

Watching her, I can only say that what she did was positively heroic. It is such an extraordinary feat to bring a brand new human into the world. Even though I did it four times myself, twenty-something years ago, I am still in awe.

Within a couple of hours we were there at the hospital visiting our very first grandchild.  Oh, my heart!

In the days that followed, I have had the enormous privilege of watching our daughter step into the role of Mother. It is so humbling and beautiful to observe her natural nurturing instincts surface, and see her step up to the plate...and knock it right out of the ballpark.  

Through a set of heroic acts she and has made her husband a father, made me a grandmother, made my husband a grandfather,  made my father a great-grandfather....and on and on it goes....


(And if you remember how much your love for your husband grew when he became a father, and you saw him loving and interacting with your children...just you WAIT until he becomes a grandpa! Get ready to swoon!)

Monday, July 23, 2018

In Honor of Those who Paved the Way

     Yesterday I was baking cakes for my husband's birthday and a big family dinner. Waiting for a cake to come out of the oven, I checked my email, and noticed a message from FamilySearch. It said, “You have a pioneer ancestor!” Honestly, my first thought was “Duh!” 

     But then I clicked on the link, because the ancestor they named was John Foster Bennett, my great-grandfather. I was so surprised, and a little curious. I thought he was way too young to be a pioneer. It turned out he was just one year old when he crossed the plains, following a sea voyage from England. It took him and his family 66 days to make the journey. I thought of the empire he eventually built in the Salt Lake Valley, and wondered if his surviving all that hardship as a baby contributed to his later success.

     I scrolled to review the details on his parents, and instead was taken to another pioneer ancestor, Oscar Winters. He is my dad’s great-grandpa. He had gone ahead to build a house for his mother in the Salt Lake Valley, but she died of cholera along the way, and was buried in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska.  Can you imagine Oscar's heartache when he found out his mother didn't survive the journey? Oscar made a second trek a few years later when he went to aid in the rescue of a perishing handcart company.

     I kept scrolling and they kept showing me more and more pioneer ancestors. Many I knew about, and knew their stories well. Others I hadn’t even heard of. 

     The final tally? (Which may not be final at all) I have 20 pioneer ancestors, at least one from every single bloodline. As I read each name, looked at each face, and reviewed the dates, along with some details of their journey, I was overcome with emotion. My heart expanded with love and appreciation. So many have sacrificed so much so that we can be where we are right now. I was flooded with a powerful sense of connection and gratitude that spilled into tears and sobs

     I imagine these amazing people, stalwart examples of courage and commitment, would roll their eyes a little if they saw us continuing to don pioneer bonnets and march around in celebration of their hardships and journeys. Instead, I find it most fitting to walk in the company of others and find joy in the journey, to notice others in distress and run to their aid, to practice tolerance of those with differing views and beliefs rather than turn them away. 
     I think it's important to add that whether you came from this sort of pioneer stock doesn't matter at all. If your ancestors fled a foreign country to escape persecution, they are pioneers. If they immigrated here or anywhere with hope for the future, and more faith than fear, they are pioneers. If they were the first to join the church in their family, their town or their country, they are pioneers. If you yourself did any of these things, you are a pioneer.  And I salute you.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Neal A. Maxwell on Patriotism

When I was a young girl, I grew up about a block away from this amazing man. And I can't begin to describe the amount of influence this genuine disciple had on my growing intellect, as well as my young heart and fledgling faith. It was an extraordinary opportunity to experience the way he lived in the day-to-day, not just at the pulpit. He walked the walked, served with deep, deliberate compassion, and inspired as much through his simplest actions as he did through his eloquent sermons.

For example, I heard how gently and affably he responded when a zealous troop of scouts found his suits freshly delivered from the dry cleaners on his front porch, and assumed they were placed there for the neighborhood Deseret Industries Drive (basically the Utah version of Goodwill) and hauled them away! (Yes, he eventually got them back.)  I saw him jog over with a plate of brownies on a Saturday morning for a missionary farewell, just like any other good neighbor might have done. I watched as he and his wife, Colleen, reached out to a family on the fringes of the ward and invite them over to dinner to form a friendship. I received kindly personal letters from him on my mission, simply signed, "Neal." I often observed tears streaming down his cheeks as he sang the sacrament hymns about our wounded Savior. All had an enormous impact on me. I think I can honestly say that I see the image of Christ in his loving face, more than in the countenance of anyone I've ever met.

A couple of times this week (leading up to Independence Day), I took the opportunity to relisten to "Our Need for True Patriotism," a devotional he gave on July 4, 1993 — a full twenty-five years ago — and was amazed by how prescient it was and relevant it still is today.

Here are a few choice nuggets I transcribed:

 Today, we cannot seem to see beyond the political moment, let alone “beyond the years.” By contrast, James Wilson, one of our founding fathers, urged the delegates to the constitutional convention of 1787 to “look beyond their own time and constituencies to the needs of generations yet unborn.” They did it! and all succeeding generations were blessed. Patriotism which sees beyond the years leaves legacies to rising generations.... It leaves a clean turf, not the debris of a selfish society.

More than we realize, our whole society really rests on the capacity of its citizens to give what is called “obedience to the unenforceable.” We do this by complying willingly with the law, and behaving voluntarily according to time-tested standards… In contrast, widespread and sustained lack of self-control will bring either severe external controls, or anarchy.

The quality of self-control is best grown in healthy family gardens…Healthy families are the first places we learn to balance rights and responsibilities, and to take turns.

Instead of increasing brotherhood, there is increasing separatism in America. There is even rising racism. There is also a decrease in the respect among our citizens for each other.

George Washington’s biographer wrote: “In all history few men who possessed unassailable power have used that power so gently and self-effacingly for what their best instincts told them was the welfare of their neighbors and all mankind.”As one thinks about Washington and power, it reminds us that power is most safe with those…who are not in love with power.

Perhaps you can see why he remains one of my spiritual and intellectual heroes!
There is no transcription available, but you can listen to the devotional in its entirety here:
I think you too will see how timely his counsel is for today's political arena and society at large.