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Archive for inspired by summer

journey . Summer Days at the Farm

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[so many greens]

My oldest has been talking about memories a lot lately – not necessarily specific ones, but more the concept of having them. And how they’re associated with places. Busy Bee, as we call our family farm land, is one of those places that has instilled memories for me, and it’s always been my goal for my children to have them there as well. We’ve set aside weeks to spend at the farmhouse each year to help build those memories, and it was neat for me to realize again this summer that the memories are taking hold.

We usually take a week of farm fun around Memorial Day to kick off our summer vacation. This year, as we were driving on the gravel road leading to our property, Travis noticed the typical cows in the fields. They are almost always black ones like the ones my dad used to keep. Now my uncle keeps a similar breed on our property. I think what caught Travis’ attention was the unusual red cow in the field. After pointing it out, he commented that it wasn’t like the ones on “our farm.” And then, “See Mommy, we have memories here.” It was a small and unselfconscious declaration taking ownership of one of our places and experiences. And it brought a smile to my face. What joy to have my children enjoy some of the same experiences and build some of the same memories I had as a child!

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[fairy stages?]

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[growing wild all over, but not quite ripe]

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[trumpet vine, somehow this has made it to my yard over the last year]

We spent the week enjoying more of our favorite farm adventures… walking the gravel roads, throwing rocks in the creek, noticing a thousand greens, digging through fallen trees, exploring the woods, finding old animal bones, the tree bench, gathering sticks for a bonfire, s’mores, driving to the “back back” and checking out fences, rocking on the deck, picnics by the barn, discovering blackberries, cooling off with a dvd marathon, sleeping late, and lots of conversations. I try to document our journey with photos and sometimes paintings. This trip, I painted most days on the deck each day, and the kids joined me a couple of times. Maybe that will become another tradition.

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[found cow bones now repurposed to dig in a tree stump]

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[does anyone else see a fish?]

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[my grandmother’s fig tree still producing]

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[old milk barn window with vines]

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[Elisha’s tiger]

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[Maggie’s sun]

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Happy July! [printable calendar]

I can’t believe July is already here! It seems like the summer is speeding by, but we are putting a lot of energy into enjoying every day! I hope you’re marking your summer days with a wonderful mix of laziness and fun activities. My babies are returning from camp today, and we’re heading into a long 4th of July weekend. This month for us will include science camp, a trip to the beach, and probably a little preparation for the start of school in early August – but we don’t want to think about that right now. Today, let’s just enjoy the carefree days of summer for another month!

I’ve put together a July printable calendar that includes some cut-away artwork celebrating the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” You can download the art at the links below. Enjoy your July!

PRINTABLE CALENDAR

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Counting June Days [printable calendar]

Today is our first official day of summer vacation at home in Starkville! We left town the day school let out to spend the week at the farm to celebration the break, and now, we are back home settling into the more relaxed summer routine. I’ve been looking forward to summer vacation for a couple of months, and it feels like I’ve been in a constant state of saying, “we can do that over the summer!” Each year, though, I find myself stunned at just how short the summer is.

In one of my more “mommy’s weird” moments last week, I decided to count how many actual days we have for summer vacation. It’s 71. Seventy-one! Today, that number is 64. They’re already moving fast. As a child, I remember summer being kind of an endless lazy haze. As a parent, I find myself begging time to slow down. I felt like I overcommitted the children last year to camps and activities — all wonderful opportunities, just not the opportunity to be unscheduled. As I began planning for this summer, I determined that we would devote the time this year to togetherness, to captured moments, and to more unscheduled wandering. At the farm last week, I started writing notes in my journal about all the simple, but wonderful fun things we did each day. It was nothing fancy, just things like playing charades, having a picnic, watching our own Scooby Doo marathon, walking to various parts of the pasture, throwing rocks in creeks, and more. I decided I would try to continue writing the memories for each of those 71 summer days.

In that spirit, I put together a little printable calendar for June called “What I Did This June.” Instead of the traditional calendar layout, it has a place to write at least one memorable or ordinary thing for each day. I hope you enjoy the chance to capture your moments!

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD

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letters to my daughter . 042816

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Every day it gets harder to wait for summer. It’s harder to take tests. Harder to sit still. Harder to wake up early. Harder to have your time always scheduled. Sometimes I think we just have to declare an afternoon of summer even though it’s not quite here yet!

 

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!

 

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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summer of water . wednesday 070910

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photo essay . In Full Bloom

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I love the clarity of the light this time of year. Sunny afternoons so often produce such saturated color. The Sasanqua Camellia on the corner of our house is in full bloom now. Back in the spring, I wrestled with it (in some gravity-defying ladder acrobatics) to prune down branches that were above the roof. Now those limbs are filled with pink blossoms in varies stages of exposing their yellow centers. Even the spent and wind-blown petals on the walk surrounding the trunk seem alive with fuchsia and hot pink. Enjoy a glimpse, and I hope your Monday is filled with bloom…

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photo essay . At the Speed of Summer

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Is anyone else in shock that summer vacation is over? My kiddos begin school tomorrow, and this year, all three are in “big school.” Our lazy, hazy days of summer have been filled with fun activities, swimming, yard work, relaxed schedules and our own brand of daily celebrations. Never is there another time when relaxing activities move so fast!

One of those week-long celebrations was our second annual trip to Gulf Shores, AL for plenty of sun and waves. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an amusement park, but we were actually able to spend a couple of evenings at one in Gulf Shores. I had almost forgotten how alive they are with sights and sounds and movement. In between bumper boat showers, go cart races and carnival rides, I took a few snaps. Most of them have some blurred elements, as I tried to capture what you couldn’t possibly grab hold of… Life at the speed of summer. Enjoy!

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photo essay 052413 . Translucence

I’m away from home with my children, and if you follow Plop much, you know that means you can expect several photo posts. I usually enjoy the companionship of my Canon and a few iPhone photo apps along with my kids when we’re out and about. I love to capture memories with them and also the scenes that inspire me.

On Friday, we were preparing to leave home for a week, and it was also the official first day of summer vacation. Summer vacation!! We’ve been anticipating it with a lot of fervor in the last few weeks, and the trip to the farm we’re enjoying has been dubbed the official kick-off of summer around the Montgomery parts. So, when we also noticed some of the first few magnolia blooms of the season appearing on the lower branches of our tree in the front yard, I took it as a signal and added confirmation that this year’s summer vacation would indeed be sublime. Much needed this year.

I decided to get a few quick photographs of the magnolias with my Hipstamatic iPhone app to remember the first blooms. It was around 9:00 a.m. and not a cloud in the sky — yes, perfect conditions for the kick-off of summer vacation. Conditions for a great photo — not necessarily. The morning light in May on a cloudless day can be so strong that it bleaches the wonder right out of images. BUT, I decided to try letting the magnolia bloom offer me it’s own shade and took a shot (actually, multiple shots) from the underside. Given that the sun also prevented me from really seeing the iPhone screen, it was kind of a leap of faith.

The images turned out to be a really neat reminder to me of why I love Mississippi’s signature bloom, and why I love the summer. I love the translucence of the velvety white petals, how they reveal the light behind them and the delicate stamens they are holding. And I love the translucence of the summer season where everything seems overlapped with strong light, strong scents, long days, hard play, relaxed schedules and the satisfaction of days completely absorbed. I know these days will be fleeting, just like the delicate bloom I photographed — this one will likely be withered to multiple shades of brown by the time we return home. But, I’ve been looking forward to this summer vacation more than in other years, and I intend to enjoy each moment of it with my three little partners in crime.

I hope you enjoy the photos too. And the long days of summer we kick off this Memorial Day weekend. May you relish every bloom.

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