Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Welcome. Heal. Love. Live.

Acid Neutral Art Project

Title: A Different Kind of Train

Photo credit: Rachael Ellisor
Garza County, Texas
Enriching Music: If Love Was A Train, Michelle Shocked

Howdy y’all! This is the tale about a divorced bride from Austin, TX. When the crap hits the fan in a divorce, you can do two things. You can either wallow in it, and let it slowly consume you like ashes in a fire, or put your big girl panties on wearing a good pair of cowboy boots and dance on the flames retaking control of your life. I chose to do the latter wearing my wedding dress and trouncing across Texas, and a few other places.
I may be the only woman who has the gumption to haul my old wedding dress in the back of my pickup truck in a scented trash bag to take photos at someone else’s family reunion, with drag queens, in front of the Washington Monument, or while climbing a hay bale. But I am not alone in my decision to divorce.
About 69 percent of women are the ones initiating divorce, according to a recent article in The New York Times. ( 

Why do this? 
From the beginning, I envisioned this project as my new "Baby Book." You know, when you have a baby, you write down everything and take pictures, noting the date. First step, first solid food, first time saying, "mama." There are even those embarrassing photos of our babies sitting on the potty for the first time.
  Now, I wasn't going to take a photo of me using the potty for the first time in that dang dress after asking my husband to move out and then filing for divorce, but you get the idea.
  Zeus himself hit me with a lightning bolt one day and gave me the epiphany. The truth is, that for a couple of months, I walked around my house like a caged animal not knowing what to do.
  I worked out, prayed, cried, listened to music, played basketball with my son, wrote so many dang journals I could invest in a paper company and retire. I continued therapy that I affectionately called "torture sessions," in the beginning. None was enough. I needed to find my own way to heal.
  I wallowed and I hated myself for doing it. I didn't want to be sad anymore. I didn't want my children to see me like this.
This is not who I am. But who am I? I was once bubbly, artistic, a writer, a force. I had to find myself again but didn't know how or where to start looking for me again.
  Consumed by my own thoughts of the past, I thought about my wedding dress in the attic sealed and boxed for my daughters to wear. Why would they want to wear a dress from a failed marriage? 

Why keep it?
Yes, why keep it?  

  Then it literally hit me. What if I haul my butt up to the attic, pull that dang dress out and take pictures of me in it as I dance into this new phase of my life? All of a sudden sadness was replaced by excitement. I gathered my kids on the couch and joyfully told them my idea. Just so you know, my kids are well aware that I am a bit on the quirky, artsy side, so they didn't balk at the idea one bit. "OK mom," they said and then scuttled off to text, play video games, and read.
  In the furnace that is known as Texas in July, I hauled that ladder up the stairs to the attic sweating like a pig as I threw that wedding dress box on the floor. I noticed "Acid Neutral" was written on the glitzy gold box. Didn't know what that meant, so thanked God for Google.
Acid Neutral is when the acidity from paper products is removed so wedding dresses don't yellow over time sitting in that box. It creates pH balance. Just like my life moving forward, I am achieving balance. The title of the project is apropos.
       The result is a culmination of photo, song, art, and poetry of an emerging life into the unknown. Just like art, life is all in perspective. You can see a Jackson Pollack as total crap, or you can gaze on it for hours and find meaning in it. You can create new paintings of your own and reinvent yourself with each stroke of a paintbrush on a canvas.
  I have decided to paint in brilliant hues, in life, in rich fulfilling meaning splashed with color. I refuse to let life paint me or leave me blank or muted or devoid of purpose or worth. Besides, what’s fun about being ordinary? It’s just so ordinary.
 I am artistic. I consider myself a solo artist, not divorced. I am moving forward in all the color, glory, and love as the universe intended.
The Photos
    Most photos include the wedding dress I wore 19 years ago down the aisle. After a few times of tugging it on in places like public bathrooms, behind weeds, and in my truck, I noticed the tag, “Forever Yours.” I had to cackle considering I’m keeping the dress and ditching the husband. I bought it off the rack after searching all over Houston, Austin, and Fort Worth to find it in my size.
    Save for a few, most of these photos were taken with my iPhone 5, most of them by my wonderful, intelligent, teenage daughter, who had no photo experience until this project.
  At the beginning, I would direct, tell what poses I wanted, how they should be framed, sunlight, etc. But, halfway through, my daughter took ownership. She is an artist in all senses of the word. All of my children approved their photos and what is written about them.
  They saw all of the photos prior to publication. All have been copyrighted under the Library of Congress. There are about 90 photos in all. A few of them are here. My hope is to help others who are going through this by writing a book or continuing this blog. There seems to be a lot of us gals out there. 

But, we all have the power to make our lives glorious with humor and happiness.
Except for changing the color or size on my iPhone, there aren't any touch ups or alterations of any kind. No photo shopping. 

They are raw, just like life should be.

Title: Give It Up To...

Pecan Gap, Texas

Photo Credit: Rachael Ellisor

Enriching Music: Karma Police, Radiohead; Just Let Go, Sturgilll Simpson

    Climbing hay wearing a wedding dress boosted by my two teens was comical, to say the least. I climbed on shoulders and was pushed up as I scrambled toward the top. It looked akin to a cowboy trying to stay on a bucking bull, except nothing was moving except me, and well, I was wearing a wedding dress.
I was very itchy afterward from dry hay scratches. For several days, I was picking out tufts of hay from the dress.
Hay bales like this hold significance in my life. When I was a kid, there was a hay field behind my house. I remember going out there after the farmers gathered them all together, climbing on them and jumping from one to the other. I’d lie there for hours reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books and pretending I would be a famous writer someday.
    Before harvest time, when the hay was high in rows, my dog Bruno and I would play hide and seek in the fields.

Title: Exit Boy of Summer
Dell Diamond
Round Rock, TX
Photo Credit: Rachael Ellisor
Enriching Music: Take Me Out To The Ballgame; Swing, Trace Adkins
    There are three wads of bubblegum in my mouth. It took me many tries and many splatters of pink gum on my face to get this shot. Think about a cow chewing cud, because that’s pretty much what I looked like. I contemplated calling this photo, “Thankfully not hit in the head during batting practice.”
We've been season ticket holders for all years of the Round Rock Express. I love baseball live. I nursed three babies in this stadium, in bathrooms, and in offices, so I wouldn't miss games. My son's first songs that he memorized were, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and "The National Anthem."
    My aroma therapy is smelling the leather of baseballs. When my son sees me keyed up, he says, “Here mama,” and hands me a baseball. I have baseballs scattered all over the house, in my classroom, and in my truck just to smell them when I get keyed up. When my son goes to a baseball game with his dad, he usually texts me, “I got you another baseball.”
    The Round Rock Express staff was kind enough to open the stadium for me early, so I could take these photos, and so I wouldn't get hit in the head during batting practice.
    It was the last game I attended with my children as a season ticket holder sitting in those seats behind the visitor's dugout. These photos are taken right in front of our seats.
    My son and I played a game of catch that day with my old Harmon Killebrew glove that my father used to play for the Air Force Jets. It is a well-loved glove. I carry it in my truck, so I won't ever miss a game of catch with my son.
     Watching live baseball, to me, is my secular church, except that you get to drink refreshing libations and yell at the ump. I always cheer loudest for the players with the lowest batting averages, much to the chagrin of my children.

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