What a year.


2015 – What a year.

At the end of 2014, Donald accepted a job at Amazon in Seattle and we prepared to make the biggest move of our lives, literally and figuratively.

Donald’s father, John, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer some time ago, but it was finally taking its toll on him. By the time Donald had moved to Seattle in January, John was in hospice care. I remained in Jacksonville to pack up the house and get it ready to rent. I continued to work and help John, the Cowarts in general, and my parents (my father has Parkinson’s). I broke when one of my cats started to show signs of thyroid cancer.

John died on February 22, 2015.

I moved to Seattle in March. Donald and I flew back to Jacksonville for John’s service and to inter his ashes. Donald was sick and the flying only made it worse. After all this, we decided to upgrade to first class on the flight home. Worth every penny.

I worked from home in our new apartment. The transition from 1,500 square feet to 630 was not too bad, but when that becomes your entire world, it does something to you. I had a really hard time adjusting to not knowing anyone in our immediate surroundings. My main connection to friends was via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

I did have some friends in the general area, and I visited them occasionally. But I felt like I was imposing or intruding. I valued them too much, and in my effort to keep from abusing their generosity, I somehow ended up losing them by October.

By April/May I had kind of reached my limit. I started drawing again just to have something creative I could do. We had purchased 2 sets of Copic markers at Emerald City Comic Con, and I started using them in earnest. In June, I found a studio that I could afford. I made glass pendants and started working on an idea I had for fine art.

Slowly, I have made new friends. Lisa, in Everett; Ryan, owner of the coffee shop; Jeff and Ellen, pastors at Seattle First Presbyterian.

Through all this, I tried to manage my depression, loneliness, creative needs and goals, personal finances (job), selling my pendants, etc. I was probably drowning and just didn’t realize it.

I had a wonderful visit with my daughter in August. It was so nice to have her here – to be active, out and about, and socializing.

I found out that I was accepted as a volunteer for Desert Bus for Hope (charity fundraising event). Something I had wanted to do since 2011. I was so excited. I would get to meet people, do something important, make new friends and meet online friends.

Then October hit. It started with spraining my ankle at a friend’s home in Portland and ended with losing friendships over something in which I truly believe I am the innocent party. I have low self-esteem, I acknowledge my faults, my supposed faults, and the faults others put on me, but my integrity is one thing that I shouldn’t have to defend with friends.

I was recovering from this when I went to Victoria, BC for Desert Bus. It was so great to finally meet everyone involved and to be hands-on raising money to help children in hospitals around the world. But I brought a lot of baggage with me to the party. Somehow, I felt lonelier than I had ever felt in my life. I felt so disconnected. I cried in my hotel room every night. It was not what I had hoped.

And yet, it was. I did make friends. It will take time and effort to develop these friendships. I love the Desert Bus crew and I love what they do so selflessly.

When I got home, I was just drained.

December rolled around and I found myself with a little extra money. I signed up for a beginning jewelry class at Pratt Fine Arts. I help my daughter buy plane tickets so she could spend Christmas and New Year’s with us in Seattle.

Maggie’s visit was just what I needed. Not a lot of sight seeing, just hanging out and being a family. Jewelry class is just great. I am really excited about what I am going to do and learn. I feel like I have a new direction, in general, and specifically about my creative endeavors. I’ve been more involved in church. I think things are picking up for me, on the inside.

Ever since I started working with Bullseye glass in 2009, I have teased Donald about moving to the Pacific Northwest. October 2014, I was taking a Bullseye class in New York. My friends in class urged me to move to Portland and I was all for it. I woke up in the middle of the night with this really strong, good feeling about really moving out there. I called Donald and when he said, “Let’s do it” I was surprised and elated. I felt like this was going to be the right move at the right time. That it would be a really good thing for us.

It has been. Through the good and the bad, even when I was in my most depressed state, I couldn’t shake that feeling of rightness. And yesterday, when another odd, but hurtful thing happened, I eventually realized that I am really grateful for those friends who are now not friends. I can forgive them. Because without them I wouldn’t be here.

2016-01-19 12.11.35 OlympicsBallard


After posting this, I realized I should also highlight some of the really good things that happened.

Like taking the Bullseye jewelry class and spending a week with my friend Kym last April. She lives in Brisbane and we originally met in the New York class in October 2014. We email & video call regularly. I love her creative and practical ways. She’s a treasure.

Seattle First Presbyterian Church. I’m not the best example of a christian, and I’ve been put off of church for quite a while now, but these people have given me a safe place to be.

My lunches with Lisa. We met via Facebook and then we met in person. She’s a wonderful person who takes me as I am and as she can. We share a passion for glass. She’s a great listener.

I have a great little studio and I can create beautiful metal jewelry at Pratt.

Maggie’s visits. We explored some of the places in the area like Whidbey Island and the Seattle Aquarium. I also got to take her to Bullseye where we lucked out and got a tour of the factory.

My visit with my childhood friends Valerie and Kris. Valerie used to live in Seattle, and her family still has a summer cabin over on Bainbridge Island and we were able to spend the day over at that lovely little slice of heaven. Kris was here on a trip and made time to visit me at my studio. I love my friends.

My illustrations. I had not ever really illustrated before, even though I knew it was in me. I love making my fanciful images.

Most of all, Donald. He has been so amazing. He loves me and believes in me so completely. He also keeps me grounded when I’m flying off or falling off the deep end. He’s the best part of it all.