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Painting our Life's Canvas • by Deb Kennedy

I've been an artist all my life. I've drawn, sketched, written, painted, and played with varied art supplies over my lifetime, even won a city-wide art contest when I was 11.

Creator of my Own World
Family gifts to me were paints and chalks and colored pencils, and I was always introduced as “our little artist”. Yet as much as they tried to understand and support me, my creative mind used to confound and irritate them: Mom never understood why her fourth grader liked rearranging her room so much. When I asked for wallpaper with flowers for my room, she said no because “You'll just get bored with it in a week.” Not to be deterred from my creative vision, I used my allowance to purchase a package of flat tissue paper imprinted with bright flowers - and spent two weeks cutting hundreds of those flowers out. Then I taped them all over my walls to create the effect of wallpaper. I had imagined what it would look like, and no one was going to stop me from making it happen. I was the creator of my own world!

Nothing Good Left
Being creative and making things beautiful was just part of who I was. Until it wasnt. There came a point where things in my life were bad. I mean, really bad. My art business was failing, my family was a wreck, my marriage was crumbling, finances were non-existent, and we had lost every material thing we owned. We were barely surviving and there was nothing good about life left.

On December 11, 2000, the day after a final devastating loss to our family had left us all in shock and pain, pulled us even further apart than we had already been, and threw us into a stunned silence, I had an epiphany.

I was reading a book, innocently immersing myself into the moments and details of someone else's life story so that I could forget the hideous pain of my own, when a grouping of words jumped off the page and into my soul. As I read them, tears sprang to my eyes ... for I was no longer hiding in someone else's story. The words had revealed the truth about my own life. I scrambled for a pen and paper, and wrote them down - and to this day, I still have that wrinkled, torn bit of notebook paper scribbled with words and dotted with tear stains:

“... like a watercolor painting left out in a thunderstorm, all of the color and joy had run out of her life - leaving a lifeless, tattered remnant where such vibrant beauty and energy had existed before ...”

The book I had been reading was titled Home Fires, and the author was Luann Rice*. In her words (typed in one single line in a book that I somehow chose from a library shelf), I found the perfect description of what I then wrote as “my last two days, two months, two years, two decades, two lifetimes. It describes me, defines me, and gives visual form to my deepest feelings in terms that so aptly fit the experience of my life, my art, my heart, in a way that I never could express ... until now”. Everything I had been so carefully hiding was all laid bare in those simple words. Exactly. Vividly. Perfectly. Completely. Empty.

And Then Hope ...
With the revelation of a visual image of my destitute soul, I was devastated. And yet ...just giving form to it strangely gave me hope. For in an artist's world, where there is an empty canvas, there is the dream of creating anew.

My chance for recreation would not come for a very long time, or without further pain and loss. But one day, when I had finally taken the first difficult step toward reclaiming myself, I wrote these words as a completion of the original sentence:

“... so she took up her palette and her brushes, and began to infuse the empty, colorless canvas of her life with all of the beauty and color and vision that she had hidden deep in her soul for so very long ...”

And really, that's what I've done. I recreated myself, my art, my life, and my dreams.

By the grace of God, my own strength, and with the love and devotion of my husband, we have rebuilt our marriage and family over the past eight years. We imagined what we could create, and then we picked up our brushes and painted our life’s canvas with love, joy, happiness, devotion, and dreams. We have built a business based on our artistic talents, discovered our true home, and dedicated ourselves to never losing the color and energy in our relationship and our life again. And of course, we thank the most Creative Artist of them all every day for the blessings we enjoy and the talent He gave us ...

Deb Kennedy is an artist, decorator, and designer. She and her husband of 30 years own Retreat, and sell their furniture & home accessories at vintage shows on the West coast. Deb's personal blog is Hummadeedledee at Also visit and the Retreat Facebook page photo albums here:

* Link to Luanne Rice’s book, Home Fires:


I met for the first time Deb and Bob Kennedy a couple of weeks ago and they are both the kindest and warmest couple I ever met. Still loving each others and making art their therapy and life.
Rita mammabellarte

Deb is the Decorating Queen! and one of the kindest women I have ever met...she held my hand (in cyber space!!) thru the dark night of my soul..
Heart Hugs,

I was in Deb's life when she first won that art contest at age 11 and have been amazed at her talent and heart from then until now! What an incredible artist. God bless she and her wonderful family!

Reprise: March 1, 2012

As I read my own story above, I am brought to tears.

Life could not be more different than where it was when I originally wrote that story in October of 2010. In the past 18 months, everything that we had built and created has been destroyed. I woke up on September 1 when a situation made me very aware of the once again barren and colorless state of my soul, and how much I did not realize about my life.

Since that day, I have been on a journey I never thought I would have to make: alone. My faith and my creativity and the love of those around me sustains me, and I know that the canvas of my life is not finished yet.

[NOTE: The links in the article above to Retreat are no longer working. The business has been closed.]

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