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Archive for lettering

sketch journal 070417 . Let Freedom Ring

My country, ’tis of thee,’
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring

~ Samuel Francis Smith (1831)

sketch journal 062717 . Strength of the Ox

It’s a strange day in the Pond when I’m writing about oxen. I’ll start with that. I feel cluttered this week – distracted by so many thoughts, and juggling a growing list of projects and things I want to do with the kids. So, I guess oxen seem to fit right in. When I find myself surrounded by some combination of cluttered activities, cluttered goals, or cluttered thinking, this proverb often floats to the surface. Just a couple of lines from a rich book that stuck some time ago during a meditation. It’s a gentle reminder that brings much needed clarity…

For me, that growing sense of being overtaken by a cluttered spirit starts with the physical environment. I look around and find various buildings sets and racing tracks scattered around the living room. Cups in the sink. Blankets and shoes tossed aside on the floor. The remnant of one of Baby Girl’s craft projects on the table where an Independence Day centerpiece should be. Magazines and books piled up on my desk waiting to inspire me. Cards and prints that need packaging in the studio. Surfaces and spaces. All filled with things out of place. Or things reminding me of something that needs to be done.

Then, it moves to logistics – the thousand responsibilities to juggle in just keeping up. Waiting for Roto-rooter. Waiting for the cable guys. Shuffling to accommodate their maintenance. Juggling meetings. Getting meals together. New client projects. Each sweet little spirit wanting some attention and affirmation – one wanting help with hot glue, one with a tummy ache, one eager to start a new video project. When I look around, I see clothes and toys and mail that need weeding. Not to mention flower beds. Sally needs to go to the vet. My project schedule and supply closet need organizing. We should pull something out of our summer jar today. Someone wants to go swimming. And I might cry because the summer days are halfway gone, now.

And, then the clutter settles into heart matters. It’s a jumble of questions. What are the most important things? Am I spending time on them? How DO I want to spend my days? How am I doing? How are WE doing? A jumble of concerns and hopes and needs. Channeling this heart, who has a perpetual stream of big ideas and a hankering to accomplish them all. Comforting and giving confidence to this heart, who seems to struggle with a nagging fear that won’t let go. Nurturing and capturing the imagination of this heart, who won’t stop growing up, though he’d really like to. How do I manage all the decisions and expectations? How do I filter the influences on them, while preserving the precious spirits inside? How do I juggle the pull between home keeping and growing freelance projects? How do I prioritize my own list of creative pursuits? How do I NOT miss out on this time? Question after question, fueled by a clutter of thoughts and feelings and responsibilities.

That’s when an unlikely proverb about oxen rises to the surface. A gentle reminder of one truth… Life is messy. It just is. All the jobs and responsibilities, the space we create, the things we own, the precious people we love and the dreams we want to chase. They’re messy. The only way to avoid the mess is to avoid the life.

“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean.” Clean, pristine, free of debris and out-of-place fragments. A clean and uncluttered, empty place.

“Much increase comes from the strength of the ox.” It’s a shift in perspective. If the price of clean and neat constraint is emptiness, I don’t want it. I want full! That increase. That fullness. It can’t be achieved when tidiness is the ultimate benchmark. It can’t be experienced when everyone and everything stays in its place. Those narrow constraints of perfection and precision. To embrace the fullness is to embrace the messiness. The clutter. The complicated. The unclear and unkept.

Yes, I can insist on keeping all things tidy. I can reject the unexpected hope or worry or idea or plan in favor of some pristine routine and schedule and kitchen table. I can suck all the life out of our experiences and our time together, our hearts, our home, in service to neat plans, neat feelings and neat rooms. Or I can revel in the ripe energy of the life happening all around me. The friction of each little creative heart and creative pursuit rubbing against each other.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I value an ordered space. I need it. I thrive when I can prioritize what I see all around me with what is beautiful and full of memory and inspiration. So, I’m a big proponent of bringing the spaces we inhabit – where we nurture our family and hearts – to a comfortable place of order. But, I’m learning to balance that order with the freedom to breathe and do and enjoy without holding so tightly to where things ought to be. I hope I’m learning to extend that freedom to my children.

Those things out of place. They’re evidences of activities and games and projects experienced together. They’re the trappings of feeling like you’re at home, where anything goes and speaks and feels. Those logistics. They’re really the easy things. The things with clear expectations. The to-dos that make our home go and my business go. The products of having the freedom to clutch and shift when it’s needed. And, all those heart questions. The cacophony of my own wandering thoughts. They’re what come out when I take the time to stop and look and listen to the other souls around me. They’re the realization that knowing the question is often so much more powerful than knowing the answer.

So, I’m sitting in my studio, typing away on the computer. The Magic School Bus is playing on my tiny television, and Mrs. Frizzle is on her latest field trip. All three children are piled in the room, and I’m struggling to concentrate. Baby Girl has her beanbag heaped in the bay window with pillows and popcorn. Elisha and Travis are sharing the couch with more pillows, kool-aid, and episode commentary. Each one content and insistent that I be involved in the conversation. The work I planned to do isn’t getting done as quickly. But, the work of drawing near. Drawing together. Sharing time and space and the beauty of a messy manger. In this moment, that work seems right on track.

sketch stories . How I Waited on the Rain

I’m just now getting to share this sketch journal entry from our farm trip a few weeks ago. When we’re there, I love to sit out on the deck overlooking our back pasture in the mornings. It’s always been very peaceful to me, and this particular morning, I got to see a little rain storm come through. I’ve seen countless rain showers and even thunderstorms move through Busy Bee over the years, but sometimes the most ordinary moments become extraordinary when you force yourself to stop and take it all in. That morning, I decided to wait it out on the deck rather than running back inside, and it turned out to be a real joy.

letters to my daughter . 060817 Time

Today’s lettering practice is brought to you by two exciting pieces of information…

One, it’s summer. I know that’s old news, but THIS is the week I’m trying to help us settle into some kind of flexible routine with getting client work finished, moving forward with Pond project ideas, achieving a measure of the “lazy, hazy” summer element, AND taking advantage of the blessing of all my kids at home with me for this season. We’ve spent the last two weeks in celebration mode that school is out and spending down time at the farm, and now, we’re home where at least a little bit of routine and intention are needed to keep the balls rolling. This is the second year we’ve chosen not to participate in any kind of summer care-giver program for the kids, and the first year I decided not to fill their time up with various camps. I’ve been feeling through the last semester that they (and I as the mommy/schedule maker/logistics coordinator) needed a break from so  much scheduled and structured activities. I wanted us all to have free time – a concept that seems to be so undervalued in these days of rushing toward achievement after achievement.

So, the big question abounding is time! How do I manage it and capitalize on it all at the same time? Along with feeling like it’s ok to waste it every now and then? I’m still working through those decisions and balancing how and when I focus on work. And when I choose to set it aside. These days are precious. There are only a few years, really, when the concept of “summer vacation” is even possible for all of us in the same way, at the same time, in the same place. And, although I don’t like to think about it, there may be few years when all three of my little ones actually WANT to hang out with Mommy. So, today, I want to be able to say “Yes, I have time.” Even if I feel like I don’t. Even if it means I’m on Illustrator at the crack of dawn or rolling out block printing inks at midnight. When they have time. While we all have this rare and blessed time. I want to say “yes.”

The second bit of excitement sponsoring today’s practice is more of a programming note… my nifty Benks flexible arm iPhone holder arrived this week, and after a squeal of delight, I decided to try it out for overhead videos this morning! I have a small tripod that I sometimes use, but I was looking for something that could get more of a straight-on shot. It clips right onto the desk or table, and you can swivel or position the arm to capture your workspace. I’m still experimenting with making sure the shot is stabilized because I wiggle so much when I’m painting and my work table is showing its age. But, I love how it works, and I see tons of possibilities for this little tool. There it is in my set-up from this morning — cutting open the Amazon box to painting on camera in about 15 minutes (including time for choosing morning tunes!).

 

sketch stories . How we came to have our Summer Jar

With the arrival of summer vacation, we’ve placed our Summer Jar on the coffee table. For the last several years, we’ve used the jar to inspire fun activities to help us make the most of our summer days. The summer jar “things” are really just ordinary. Yes, some are fun trips to take or experiences we want to repeat. But, some things are just things we do at home. Some things nobody would understand but us. But, when we look back at the end of our short 75 days of summer vacation, I hope the Summer Jar “things” will help us know we’ve had a summer. And we’ve lived it. And loved during it. We tend to rush. And, sometime we need reminders to slow down. To enjoy one another. To find joy. And to capture each moment fully.

For me, along with Summer Jar, part of my desire for the summer is to recapture some of my own creative spirit that’s been germinating over the last few months. I want to pursue some new ideas, some new media, and some new and more unfiltered ways of sharing thoughts… of telling stories. Today’s “sketch story” is a small glimpse.  I don’t have a grand plan. I don’t know if I can really explain what I want to do, and if I could, I would need way more space than what I have here. So, I’ve decided to embrace the sprit of wonder and curiosity and real thought, and just go with whatever comes next. I hope to infuse this blog space with an even more authentic glimpse of my heart and creative pursuits. So, you may begin to see some changes and experiments. I hope you’ll take these steps with me, and that they’ll perhaps offer some inspiration in chasing your own dreams and ideas.

letters to my children . 052317

Woo Hoo! Summer is here. We finished up the school year today, and I’m so proud of my little ones. You made it!! Let’s celebrate!

sketch journal 052217 . Summer Begins

Our summer vacation begins officially on Wednesday afternoon when the school year ends, and we can hardly wait! I’m very excited to have my children home with me for unscheduled time. The summer is usually a crazy balancing act of enjoying family activities and keeping up with freelance work for this short season of play and fun. 75 days. That’s how much time we have before another school year begins and they continue the inevitable rush to growing up. But, for summer, we all seem to stand still and just enjoy each other. I’m determined to take advantage of every minute — even those minutes when we are doing nothing special. Last year, in my daily journal, I wrote the number of days remaining in our summer vacation in the corner of each day’s box. It was a bittersweet discipline of watching these precious free days with everyone together, and recording our adventures. This  morning as I added the countdown numbers to this week, I was reminded of this favorite quote from Thornon Wilder… “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” Here’s to a summer of seeing and soaking up treasures!

letters to my children . 050117

To my babies. To all our babies…

Today is hard. It may even be very hard. So hard you are tired of it. Very tired. You may be hurt. Or confused. Or afraid. You may not think there’s an end to what you face. But, there will be. You may not think you can make it. But, you can. You CAN. You may not believe you are strong enough. But, you are. You may not believe you’re worth it. But, you are.  You may not think there’s a shred of hope. But, there is. There IS. Today, you may not believe there’s a way through this struggle in front of you. But we can find one. Together. You may not feel brave. But, a day will come when you are. Another day will come. Give that day a chance. Just a small chance. Today is hard. Very hard. So hard you give up on it. Just, please. Please. Don’t give up on tomorrow.

sketch journal . 042617

I’ve been nurturing the salvia around my studio bay window through the Spring, especially as we’ve started getting some days in the 80s. I’m trying to discipline myself to take note of the small, daily moments of beauty!

letters to my daughter . 042017

I hate it when I see Baby Girl shy away from finishing something or decide to put an activity aside because she’s told herself that it isn’t perfect or that some part of it is “messed up.” Not long ago, she was telling me about one of her ideas for an art project, and somewhere in the conversation I heard that self-doubt creep in… “I know it won’t be perfect, but…” That but, which relegates her amazing thoughts to something less than the unique and wonderful creations they are. I told her, as I have to tell myself almost everyday. Perfect is boring. The more interesting pursuit is toward what makes each of use so incredibly unique and special in this world. It’s a good reminder again today.

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