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When Critchett returned to the Bay Area, a serendipitous project put her back in touch with a former colleague, artist Mark Pauline. Their relationship blossomed, and the two were married in 2003.

With a child on the way, Critchett's arc turned toward Petaluma, "This has always been home," she said.

The family settled into a modest house, close enough for Pauline to bike back and forth to his studio. "We are able to live a flexible lifestyle here," said Critchett. "My son, Jake Eddie, goes to the same elementary school I went to. It's a great base for us, and allows Mark and I to pursue our professional goals and still have a close-knit family life."

Critchett is ramping up for the first anniversary of The Bay Lights this March. The sculpture has become so popular there is a push to continue the display beyond the original two-year time span. "The challenge now is to obtain permission and secure the funds, as the project is privately financed," she said.

Not one to shy away from complex tasks, she quotes songstress Billie Holliday, "The difficult I'll do right now, the impossible may take a little while."

(Dyann Espinosa can be reached at argus@arguscourier.com)