Friday, November 11, 2016

A Poison Arrow

I am saddened and heartbroken this week. The results of the election was like a gut punch from which I haven't been able to catch my breath. Seeking solace in like minded people through social media has not helped. Seeking answers to WHY to those who helped bring this about has definitely not helped. So I write. I've dived into NanoWrimo with a shiny new idea. My characters have been leading me on a merry adventure. But then I return to reality, and once again I find it hard to breath and darkness invades. So I write this in hopes of helping push the darkness away.

A poison arrow has been shot into the heart of America. You all know the archer.

I am battling the poison as it darkens my thoughts, emotions, and days, striving to turn my heart from love, joy, and laughter to anger, pain, sorrow, hatred, and fear. I mourn not only for the wrong person winning in a "quirky" electoral system, but for the people who have sided with him and let his poison do its work to darken their hearts, to bring out hatred toward others who are different from them, to feel free to express that hatred so openly with no compassion or empathy, fueled by the blowings of a giant wind bag.

The poison is spreading and America is on the brink. I fear we are no longer a land of tolerance, a place of peace, solace against the storm, a bright light in the dark night, a haven for the downtrodden and weary and oppressed. And don't forget on Veteran's Day that many soldiers have fought and died  in many wars for our sanctuary of freedom. We are supposed to be a land of hope. A melting pot. A land of opportunity. The Mother of Exiles is weeping. I am weeping.

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
A poem by Emma Lazarus, graven on a tablet

within the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands.

Traci Van Wagoner, Statue of LIberty art
© Traci Van Wagoner

Many of us are suffering, barely able to buy groceries and pay rent. We all need jobs. We all need health care. We need our children to be educated, to learn not just math, science, English, but art, music, and tolerance. Empathy for one another. For all.


Empathy is the antidote to the poison. Empathy, my friends, my enemies, my fellow human beings. Fight the poison coursing through our veins. Purge the hate, the anger, the ignorance. Laugh. Share a smile with another. Play a game with a stranger. Get to know someone who is different from you. Try to understand someone else who comes from a different culture and background. Walk in their shoes, my mom always told me. We all need love, to feel welcome, to be happy, to have a home.

We are all human beings living on a small blue marble amidst a mighty large Universe. We are but small beings who should be celebrating life, love, and happiness. We should be laughing side by side at the wonders that lay around us, and we should be striving to keep our beautiful blue marble safe for us all to continue living and laughing and loving for generations.

Fight the poison coursing through our veins. Purge the hate. Let go of the anger. Laugh and love a little every day. It will get easier with practice, I promise.

I drag myself out of the depths, and I have pulled the arrow from my heart. Now, I seek to purge the poison, to learn, to get involved, to help people open their eyes. Please join me in the sharing of what is truly important. Do not close the golden door. Open your hearts, your minds, your arms. Purge the poison.

Live, laugh, love and learn.

As I finish writing this, my heart has filled with hope for a brighter future for human beings across the globe.



All these reasons and more is why I have signed several letters and petitions to join the fight against the archer of the poison arrow. Here are a couple links to get involved:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Once Upon a Crepé Paper Ball

crepe paper ball art by Traci Van Wagoner
'Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, Dad is busy hiding a gift for each one of us in the green thing, closets, corners, cubbies, nooks and crannies.

Sleigh Riding Digital Art by Traci Van Wagoner
The sun begins to set and our breath turns frosty, it's time to head for home. We gather together from our activities of the day -- ice skating, sleigh riding, tubing, and last minute shopping -- all out of the house so Dad can do his thing.

Christmas lights on, turkey in the oven, and a crackling fire in the wooden stove, we sit in a circle all ten of us, Mom, Dad, three older brothers, one older sister, and three younger sisters. Excitement hangs heavy in the air. Sitting in front of Dad is a colorful crepé paper ball that holds, oh, so many possibilities.

We settle down into an excited silence, and with a twinkle in his eye, Dad begins. We start with a prayer, helping us all to remember that Christmas is about more than just gifts and shopping and decorations. The evening's party is a birthday celebration for Christ after all. And the rolling begins!

Traci Van Wagoner illustration
Dad gives the ball a nudge to his right and the evening festivities are on! Interspersed in the wound crepé paper are notes with Dad's silly rhymes. As each person rolls the ball in front of them, they hold their breath hoping to see a note fall out. If you get a note when the ball is in front of you, you get to read Dad's silly rhyme.

Each person gets two notes that apply to them.

Traci Van Wagoner illustrationTraci Van Wagoner illustration

One note instructs one of us to show off our talents with singing, playing the guitar, playing the piano, telling a story, or reading a story. The other note, we need to figure out what Dad's rhyming clues mean and search the house for our hidden present. With gusto we each get our turn to open the first present of the holiday. Who cares that it's always pajamas? Our Christmas pjs. Everything is right with the world. With a silly rhyme and a twinkle in his eye Dad turns the evening into a magical adventure.
Art by Traci Van Wagoner
Family Christmas Sing Along while Waiting for Papa to Come Home

Traci Van Wagoner illustration 
The last note of the evening is for Mom. We settle into a comfortable family snuggle with Christmas lights sparkling and our hearts filled with the joy of family and the Christmas spirit, and Mom takes us back. Back to Bethlehem on a cold winter night when there was no room at the inn. She reads the Christmas Story from the Bible and brings a tear or two around the room with her tender reading. My dear Mom who embodies everything that is good in this world.

Santa Mug Color Pencil Art by Traci Van WagonerOnce the ball has been unwound, a pile of crepe´ paper lay in front of us, and a paper maché ball is revealed. All the notes have been read, presents opened, songs sang, stories told,
thanks given, now we get to bust open the paper maché ball filled with little toys and candies. Yeah!

Then we move to the kitchen for snacks and eggnog mixed in a the big punch bowl with 7-up which we drink in our own personalized Santa mugs. Cheers!

Before it's too late and before Santa can come, we put on our new jammies and Mom tucks us into bed while Dad is off doing, who knows what? ;)

As our tired eyes close, we listen to a record with a reading of The Night Before Christmas and fall asleep to sugar plum fairies dancing in our heads.


The Santa Mug illustration leads me to another Christmas tradition -- drawing on brown paper packages. That will be the next in my series of posts about Christmas traditions. Come back next week for more holiday fun.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your holiday traditions. Do you have something special you do for yourself or do with family or friends every year for the holidays? It's a great time to reconnect, even with a traditional Christmas card.

Thanks ever so much for stopping by. I would love to learn about your holiday traditions. Please feel free to share in the comments below.


A special thanks goes out to Paperless Post who offered some inspiration and a nudge for me to create this post and helped me to dive into the spirit of Christmas with their Christmas cards.


Some of my favorite Christmas books (okay I'm biased because I illustrated them) but as it turns out, they are both about Christmas traditions. Check them out and let me know what you think. I hope both will become traditional Christmas reads in your home.

Art by Traci Van WagonerArt by Traci Van Wagoner 

You can get cards and much more with my Christmas Sing Along art and other fun holiday art in my Zazzle Holiday Store. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Booker T. Bear Adventures

Coming Soon!
Booker T. Bear, Let's Go Series Books 1-4
Presented by The Library Store
Written by Jen "Jellyfish"M.M.
Illustrated by Kurt Keller and Traci Van Wagoner

My partner and I have had a wonderful time this year adventuring around the world with Booker T. Bear and his dragonfly friend Dahlya, seeing new places, learning new big words, and trying fun new snacks. We illustrated four books in the series as well as the images for the website which will be live soon. The first book will be available in December. I'll post more details when I get them as to where and when you can buy these fun books. Stay tuned!