My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been
drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!
I often get asked why I like to do tropical art when I live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of the American west. Why don't I portray what I see here? Why am I not like my father, who as a professional western artist, paints cowboys and Indians, dramatic snow-topped mountains, and elk breathing out steam on frosty mornings?
It's a fair question.
I’ll tell you. It's a physical as well as psychological thing. I've got a problem with anything cold. I’m allergic to it. Really. It’s called cold uticaria. If you're interested, check out this link at the Mayo clinic:
So I’ll bet you want to know what happens when I go outside in the winter. Well, from the time I was a wee sprite, whenever I get cold, my fingers and toes swell up like sausages. On top of that, large white hives pop out like spots on mushrooms. Not terribly attractive. I used to think I was allergic to mittens and boots. There's a few other side effects, but this is enough to give you the idea.
The good part is, as soon as I warm up, the hives and swelling leave, just that quick. No harm done.
But the psychological damage is: I don’t like cold. I really don’t like cold. No, I really, REALLY don’t like cold.
So, when I was still a youngster, I read one of my brother’s Tarzan books. It happened to take place in a jungle. And as you all know, in the jungle, you NEVER get cold. It hit me like a category five hurricane: there are people in the world who never have to hide their hands and feet!
Suddenly, I had a new interest. National Geographic became a best friend. Did you know NG has a gazillion articles on tropical places? They have pictures, too—awesome, amazing, world-class pictures.
I’ve learned a lot about Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, the Amazon, and deepest, darkest Africa. And I’d love to learn more.
Since I lived and breathed art, drawing/painting these places was a natural next step.
It was a huge high point in my life when my husband and I went to Hawaii. I shot more rolls of film than I’m willing to admit - lovely, beautiful fodder for hundreds of future art pieces. And in those peices, you can bet the temperature will be balmy, so - even if it's only in my head - my warm hands and toasty toes can smile.
So . . . as Paul Harvey used to say: Now you know the rest of the story.
Memory is a funny thing. For instance, if I ask you what you remember from your early childhood, what is the first thing that pops into your mind?
My guess is either it's something traumatic, or something ultra cool.
I can only remember a few things from when I was a little tot. One memory is just bursting with detail, and I realize now that it was because so many of my senses were affected.
My father is a professional artist (you can check him out by doing a google search on Sheryl Bodily) and would often take one of his children along on his art excursions. I don’t remember the details of this particular transaction, but I remember going to a woman’s home. She was dressed very much like Mrs. Brady from The Brady Bunch – as in very 'seventies' stylish. She had beehive hair, blue eye shadow and a pale pink smile. Yup, she was beautiful. (Yup, I’m very old, aren’t I?)
While my father spoke to her husband, she asked me to sit down. On the end table was a turnstyle poker chip tower, with four lovely stacks of red and white chips. She must have let me, because I remember playing with them for quite a while - taking them out, stacking them on the table, then sliding them back into the tower. She even gave me one, which I kept in my pocket for weeks after.
Then she told me about a secret room upstairs. Nowadays, parents would have cause for concern at a stranger inviting your child alone like that, but back then? Pssh! So upstairs I went with the kind Brady lady and soon stood in front of an Alice in Wonderland door. It was tiny and had a big gold handle.
I opened it and there was a pint-sized corridor that went back and turned. The Brady lady flipped a switch and a light came on. It was a little scary, but I went back, turned and ended up in a little room.
I wish I could recall what was in the room, but I remember how impressed I was. I didn’t stay there long, and Dad and I soon were heading off. But before we left, the Brady lady pressed a small jar of mint jelly in my hands. (I sure hope I thanked her properly.)
The whole ride home, I couldn’t wait to try it, and when I finally did, it was every bit as delicious as I thought it was going to be.
Yup, sight, smell, touch, taste, and jelly and a red poker chip to boot. Now if only I could remember what music was playing . . .
Christmas is just around the corner. Of course we get all the usual reminders, and they seem to come earlier each year. Candy canes appear in grocery store aisles the week after Halloween. Black Friday sales now come as pre-Black Friday sales before Thanksgiving. Yes, commercialism is rampant, and most of us roll our eyes at some point or other.
But then we remember the magic we felt as children. I remember thinking about Santa, and presents, and the holy story. All of them held secrets I wanted to know. How did Santa reach the entire world in one night? Would I get that one present I wanted so badly? And what would it be like if I were alive when Mary and Joseph crossed into Bethlehem?
As I've grown older and learned the North Pole secrets, the holy story has become the greater mystery. What did the shepherds talk about after the angel appeared, and they began their search for a stable and manger that held the newborn baby? How well versed were they in the Messiah scriptures? What did this mean to them?
Ah, all the wonderful questions, and so many people to provide them: the Savior, the angels, the wise men, the inhabitants of Bethlehem - some of which must have noticed the star that night.
It's fun to wonder. And so, each year, I draw a religious Christmas scene and think about it as I do. This year, it was the shepherds making their way into Bethlehem.
This is my rendition. You can see what I thought. A few lights are on in Bethlehem. If someone looks, they will see.
And I have a question for you. What would you think if you had been there?
Yup, December is busy. I sat down last night and made my two week pre-Christmas to-do list. It was long. Very long. There are things to buy, things to do, things I don’t even want to get started on—but better. I was wondering if I'd be able to catch the spirit of Christmas with so much to do.
In the other room, I could hear my husband and kids laughing. So I hurried to print out my list, tack it up, and go join my family.
They were busy decorating the Christmas tree. (Isn’t it awesome to have older children?) What was amazing is, except for my son in Brazil, all of them were home. That almost never happens anymore.
They were pouring through the box of decorations, talking about the ornaments and the memories they held. My daughter proposed putting on some old home videos, so we did. She selected one from long, long ago. I got to see my Brazilian son on video, and although much younger, it was almost like having him there with us.
Is it just me, or do kids grow up overnight? Nothing made it more apparent than the video. They were so small and cute, with chubby cheeks and helium voices—scurrying all over like ants on caffeine.
Everyone stopped decorating and sat down. We laughed, and remembered and our home never felt cozier. Before we knew it, it was ten o’clock, and we’d just had one of those evenings I won't soon forget. I'm so glad I left my list and joined in.
But my list still sits there, taunting me - and it doesn’t matter. I'll get it done, but at least I’ve got the spirit of Christmas now - the right one. The way it came isn't what I expected. That's life. The best moments seem to come hidden inside silly things like traditions and tasks—especially when they're shared.
You want to know one of my favorite modern devices? Yup, you guessed it. A hair dryer. It has multiple uses. Not only does it dry your hair, it brings smiles to your children's faces. At least it does to one of mine.
My son is perpetually cold, so winter mornings aren't the most fun to wake up to. After getting him out of bed, the next hardest thing is prying him off the heater long enough to eat breakfast. He must be related to a lizard, because he can't move until his body temperature reaches volcanic proportions.
One day as I was mulling the problem over, a lightbulb went off. I have a hair dryer. It's hot. I can direct that heat anywhere I want it to go. Bingo.
So the next morning, after rolling said son out of bed, instead of letting him zombie-walk to the heating vent, I directed him into the bathroom and held up the blowdryer with a smile.
If his eyes had been open, I'm sure I'd have received a serious "huh?" look. But instead, I pushed a little button and began waving the heat over him.
You know how a cat wears a purr? Well, within a second, so did my son. And within three minutes, he was toasty pink, wide awake and happily getting ready for school.
Now all I need is a modern device that magically cleans the house and makes dinner.
We really don’t have an inner-city wild dog problem in the U.S. because of a famous person called The Dog Catcher. Yet, it’s surprisingly common elsewhere.
My second oldest son lives in Brazil and has had lots of adventures, especially experiencing the cultural differences. Wild dogs are one of them. They are called ‘street dogs’ there.
In his own words, here is what he saw:
I’ve decided that street dogs are crazy. This week we were waiting at a bus station and there were about three or four street dogs that would force cars to stop in the middle of the street, but staying in front of them. And the rest would bite the tires as the one in front barked. It’s pretty funny to watch, but you always cringe when you see the crazy one trying to make the car stop, putting himself in front of the car.
Now what makes this interesting is my oldest son, who lived in Russia a few years ago, also observed inner-city wild dogs doing strange things. There, they are called ‘metro dogs’ named after their train system. And there’s a reason for that.
He sent this picture. They look pretty comfortable, don’t they?
And here is what he wrote:
One of the metro dogs attacked this girl. He bit her shoe and wouldn’t let go and she was screaming and that lasted for about five minutes. The metro dogs are really smart. Sometimes we see them follow into the metro, get on a train, and they stick up their heads every time they announce the next stop. Sometimes they even transfer lines and sometimes when they get off the train there is a pack of their friends barking at the entrance for them.
Yeah, I know. Pretty crazy. Makes you wonder if those children’s movies about dogs secretly having higher intelligence might have a thread of truth?
I'm feeling extra grateful today. Sometimes things happen that really wake us up to how blessed we are. I'm grateful for little things like toothpaste and heaters. I'm grateful for big things like God, family, friends and home.
I know there's wisdom is just taking a moment to sit still and think. There's so much to be happy about. So today, I'm keeping my blog short and ending with a quote I love:
"We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things but there are times when we stop. We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper." by James Carroll
Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for all the good you do!