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Archive for June 2015

oh happy day . The Summer Jar

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Friday is here, and I’m finally getting back to my Oh Happy Day! Gratitude Project posting series. I started it as a way to remind myself to make gratitude part of every day, every week. Thornton Wilder wrote that “we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures,” and beginning with gratitude is the best way I know to live aware of how blessed we are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that blessing over the last few weeks as we’ve been finishing up the school year and getting ready for summer. This spring, I devoted some time to thinking through the direction of this blog, and by extension, my business. And, I guess, by further extension, my approach to work and how it integrates with the rest of life. As an artist, so much of creating and exploring new ideas is an on-going process that isn’t necessarily confined by the typical workday. As a single mom, dealing with the loss of my husband and the changes that has brought to our lives, I’ve also grown to understand that for me, it’s very important that what I “do” in my work and how I spend my days creatively be meaningful and inspiring.

As I was thinking through some of my blogging topics and inspiration-focus back in March, I wrote a “creative map” and lots of notes about various aspects of the creative life. For my “living” category, I wanted my thinking, writing and creating to reflect a “quiet, authentic and conscious life” — there is that word “conscious” again. My goals for some of the writing and sharing settled on three things…

  • to talk and “be” about real things
  • to be a good steward of time and blessings
  • to infuse daily life with beauty, creativity and celebration

The concept of being deliberate and conscious in what we’re doing isn’t easy sometimes. Being that “good steward” can be difficult when faced with all the mundane activities required in working, mothering and home-keeping. And, of course, busy-ness can be our enemy as we get stretched and pulled in lots of different directions. We often start to lose the joy in whatever we’re doing and begin checking items off our calendars and to-do lists.

I want to stop that cycle in my life. I want, as Emerson said, to “finish the moment” — each moment — and to make the most of each opportunity represented in that moment. I think I’m particularly more motivated in that commitment as I see my children growing at what seems like an exponential pace at times. As they become more and more independent (and just physically bigger), I find the desire to grab onto each fleeting moment with more of a white-knuckle grip! And, I suppose, summer offers it’s own impetus to slow down. Our schedule slows down, and we have fewer commitments as a family, but how will we use that freedom? I don’t want to get to August and say “where has the summer gone?” We’ve had an unprecedented build-up of excitement anticipating the start of summer, and I’ve been determined to put every effort into taking full advantage of it.

Enter the Summer Jar.

The children and I decided to create a list of things we wanted to do this summer — experiences big and small that would help us have memories and joy to show for the time spent this summer. We decided to put them in a jar that we could pull from to plan for activities or to surprise ourselves with fun experiences. Baby Girl decorated the jar with her special brand of summery illustrations, and we have it front and center on our dining table with a pen and sticky pad ready to add more experience suggestions. We’ve included things like our normal trips to the farm and to the beach, but also things like building our train set and a lego city, getting yogurt or ice cream, going to the library, eating outside on the picnic table, swimming, game nights and more.

None of the activities are earth-shattering, not all of them require “going” somewhere, and most aren’t new experiences. But, the power comes in the intention — the conscious choice of experiencing and “finishing” each moment. I want to recognize the joy and to take time to celebrate it in my heart at the end of each day. I suppose that’s the essence of gratitude. And, I want our summer jar to encourage us to embrace the beauty and wonder in some of those mundane activities that weave our lives together between the other fun experiences. I hope we can have a healthy mix of going and simply being together in those moments of someone sitting in my lap, working together to cook dinner, reading together at bedtime, playing games and sharing the same space.

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We started some of our “summer jar” experiences yesterday with a trip to Denny’s for pancakes for breakfast and a visit to the MSU Library to see the Kinsey Collection on exhibit there. I’ll share more about this remarkable collection of African American art, literature and historical documents in a later post, but today, I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to enjoy it together and have it as one of our memories of the summer of 2015. It is open in Starkville through June 20 at the John Grisham Room of Mitchell Memorial Library, and it’s well worth the time in experiencing some little-seen aspects of our own history.

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On this “Oh Happy Day,” I’m also so, so grateful for the opportunity to build my work life on my own terms with the freedom to organize my days so that these types of experiences with my children are possible. It’s never easy to balance family and work responsibilities, and I’ve become more and more mindful of the blessing I have as freelancer to set my own schedules. It’s a true gift I don’t want to squander or take for granted in these seasons when all my loves are together under the same roof.

Oh Happy Day!

 

grow . Spring Gardening Journal

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Summer may be in full swing, but we’re still basking in the petals and blooms of the spring season in our garden. I love how the light changes through the spring as days begin to stretch out into those long summer afternoons — the “gloaming” when the light seems to dance around. It calls us outside to tend the earth and the delicate growth that’s taking hold. It’s very peaceful to me to sit outside and absorb the colors and textures and light of the garden, so I’ve gradually honed a couple of “sitting” places around the yard. I’ve been doing a lot of sitting and swinging and looking, I thought I would share the view and some of the stages our plants are going through — a spring gardening journal installment. I hope you’ll forgive a huge number of photographs!

The front porch swing is always a treat, and Baby Girl and I sometimes enjoy coloring out there on Saturday morning. It offers a side view of the front garden bed we’ve been working on for several years. This year, I was so excited to see it finally begin to have that “settled in” look. Last year, we added concrete bird bath that I took as a remembrance of my Aunt Betty. The angel child is holding her bowl for the birds while sitting on one of the old pine tree stumps in the bed. Everything has been in a flush of blooms at the same time over the last week or two, and I’ve had a chance to see the vision of that front garden come to life. That joy must be how landscape architects feel all the time!

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Knock-out Roses: They’ve had amazing blooms so far! As I wrote in March, I’ve struggled with them over the last couple of years, but it seems they’ve finally reached their happy place. They have been absolutely beautiful, so I’m holding my breath it continues.

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Lavender: I’ve wanted a border of lavender around the bed for the last year or so to provide a contrast to a full and prolific spread of evergreen vinca. The first variety we used (Blue Scent) did not do well. It was tricky to get the drainage right. So, this year, we found the Silver Anouk variety, and it’s really taken hold so far. It has a newer, less traditional bloom (and a little less showy), but the scent is the same and it seems that the leaves are holding their silvery green color. My mom helped me plant quite a few for the border, and they are starting to meld together.

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Lilies: I’ve had orange daylilies in the front bed for several years, and this year, it’s been neat to see some Easter lilies from 2014 bloom. You know, they never bloom at the “right” time engineered by the nurseries to spread their white petals at Easter. Ours are actually blooming now, and I love that pop of white alongside the green, orange and red!

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Black-eyed Susans: One of my favorite flowers because they have that wild feel, we have them planted in front of the porch beside our swing. Last week we saw tons of blooming clumps on gravel roads near the farm. They bloom slower at our house, but we have one fully opened and some blooms on the way. Last year, they ended up getting really tall like those on the side of the road!

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In the backyard this year, we’ve squeezed a basketball goal the boys got for Christmas onto the patio along with our tables and glider seats. I think we all still have room to do our favorite things 🙂 The patio often serves as an adjunct office during milder days of spring, summer and fall (thank goodness for wifi), and I enjoy being able to look around at pretty blooms. We usually plant Lantana bedding plants in the brick wall that borders the patio. Beyond that, I have some impatiens, begonias and angelonias in pots. The Serenita Angelonia in a mix of pink, purple and white has become a real favorite over the last two years. I love the touch of cool colors mixed in with the reddish color of the other potted plants.

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In the back corner of our backyard, we have another swing installed. I love that area of the yard because it is deep, deep shade. We actually call it the “tree room” because the surrounding treetops merge to provide a roof canopy as we swing. The space feels kind of enclosed by Baby Girls “blue house” and “the little house,” our storage building I had constructed with its own front porch. I’m not sure why we insist on naming everything, but it works.  We have some impatiens hanging back there, but it’s mostly a blur of green around and overhead. Now, if we could only get green grass to grow! Last year, we added a picnic table beside “the little house”, and I’m committed to using it more this summer to take advantage of the shade.

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Grandmother’s Roses: I can’t finish a garden journal entry this time of year without talking about these. This is the second year since we transplanted them from the farm, and they have faithfully bloomed. The blossoms are such a delicate mix of pink and white. You would never guess that they came from the side of our farm road, having been left unattended for a lot of years! They only bloom in spring for a few weeks, and then remain evergreen throughout the year. My next goal for them is to get them planted in the ground and running on a bigger trellis. Right now they are still sitting in the old black plastic pot we dumped them in. I guess I’ve been afraid to bother with a thing that’s working! I’m thinking of an old screen door or a metal structure. We’ll see what happens!

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sketch journal . tuesday 060215

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Last week during our visit to the farm, I had the chance to get back to basics a little with a simple, old-school Strathmore recycled sketchbook and my fave uni-ball vision fine point pens — waterproof, fade-proof and inexpensive! I guess I got the pen and ink doodle bug again. Sometimes inspiration and freshness comes with switching things up a little. That’s one reason why I love summertime. It seems to afford the freedom to change plans more easily. I suppose it lends itself to a little more wild-ness!

June is Here! [printable calendar]

Happy June, friends! We had some very nice down time at the farm last week to begin our summer vacation. Now, I think I’m probably more excited than the kids are that we have a break from school. It gives me the chance to spend more time with my sweet ones, and I’m looking forward to a little bit more of a relaxed work schedule. I’m hoping we can do a little exploring this summer, which I’ll share more about later. I’m also pretty sure, we’ll have our share of lazy, hazy days!

To celebrate the start of summer vacation, I’ve put together a June printable calendar and desktop wallpaper using some watercolor doodles. The printable includes some cut-away artwork to encourage more summer laziness after the month is over. Enjoy!

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PRINTABLE CALENDAR

DESKTOP WALLPAPER

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