Author Archives: Julie

Clarity

This year I planned to art journal something weekly and write on the blog three times weekly. When I looked back over my goals and saw that intention, I realized that, unlike art journaling, the writing part was not happening.

I find that creating pages in my art journal helps to clarify what is going on inside, sometimes more than written words. These pages from the first week in March are no exception. I realized I was carrying a lot of fear over the next steps to take, which, in turn, was holding me back and keeping me bound.

These images spoke to me. The flowers, sunset, trees, city, words, all of them. The process of trusting my eye and gut brought focus to my mind and joy in the finished product.
Remembering that I wanted to write on the blog three times weekly this year led me to the reality that the only way it will happen is if I just do it. The typewriter, flowers, and words all joined together on this page to gently remind me of that.

These pages brought clarity. I love the way they came together and how they remind me to just keep writing and moving forward.

And also love.

Love in a Cup of Pens

On an ideal morning I rise early, gather my Bible, devotional book, and prayer journal and head for a quiet space to read, think, and reflect. My favorite destination, the TV room couch. The trick lies in rising early enough to get there before it is taken over by a child or pet.

Shuffling out of bed, pouring coffee, hunkering down, I begin my morning reading routine. Sitting across from me is my love, doing his own thing. We are together in the early morning silence. On an ideal morning.

I wonder what it is like from his perspective. I imagine it is not ideal to be interrupted by conversation surrounding the random thoughts that pop into my head. It might not be easy to have me hunker down to begin journaling only to discover I have no pen, a common occurrence. (The need for tissues is another.)

He is always kind and patient with my interruptions and random thoughts.

One morning I felt overwhelmingly loved as I plopped down in my usual space and discovered a full cup of pens waiting for me on the end table. It was such a kind, generous act. I was seen and cared for, and I was grateful.

I have fallen off of my early-morning TV room wagon and cannot seem to climb my way back on. It has been weeks since sitting in my favorite space, and most mornings my mind shifts into overdrive as soon as my eyes open. I think of all the things all at once.

Then I turn off my alarm and fall back asleep.

The pen cup came to mind today. I walked into the TV room to see if it was where I had left it and if there were any pens remaining. Yes, it was, and yes, there were (three of them!).

Maybe I will put my early- morning book stack back in the basket under the coffee table next to the cup of pens. Maybe I will try to rise early, once again, and inhabit that quiet space with my coffee and best friend.

Maybe it is okay to push the reset switch on my early mornings and start over again, cheered on by a sunny cup of pens. Where are you feeling the nudge to push reset, these days, Dear Reader?

Goodbye Gucci Bag

It has been years since I decluttered the Gucci bag given to me by my boyfriend in 1988. Recently, it returned to mind with pangs of sadness and feelings of loss which I write about today.

It came wrapped in a box, the purse in a pouch of its own. I did not realize at the time this was a dust protector to keep the bag nice when not in use. I immediately loved the thought and the gift, though deeper feelings of not deserving it stirred, as well.

Cream colored Gucci dust cover bag with green letters and a drawstring.

I do not know that I was able to trust that the giver found me special or worthy, because I did not believe that of myself. It is a heavy weight to put on a teenage boy over a long distance. It is a heavy weight to carry, that of being nothing special yourself.

Recently my son’s rap music was playing in the car as he drove home from school. I sat in the passenger seat. The line She want this Gucci, she can get it played in addition to all of the other designer clothes, cars, and jewelry she could get.

After cringing the song up a bit by adding my own lines, She want eight kids, she can get it, Toyota Corrolla, hop in it, I told him his father actually bought me a Gucci purse when we were teenagers.

No way. You never had a Gucci.

Um, yes, I did.

There’s no way.

Yes. There really is a way.

This prompted an immediate search on my phone for an image of the small, albeit genuine, Gucci cross body purse that I carried for a season.

Memories flood my mind.

I am standing in the closet of the Green Street house, not a newlywed, not married ten years, yet, looking at my things. I feel lost. I am lost in motherhood, lost in who I am and what I like, and sad that nothing feels right about me.

In a pattern that is familiar, I pick up the thing that is probably the most me, and hence must bear the brunt of my feelings about myself. The Gucci purse goes into the giveaway bag first. When will I ever carry something that small, again? These days the large plastic Peter Rabbit diaper bag is my perpetual fashion statement.

Foreign to me is the idea that this, too, shall pass. I am living forever in the traumatic present which feels as if it will never pass.

Somewhere, someone is blessed with the surprise of a Gucci at a Goodwill store, and I forget about it until my own child challenges the notion that I would ever own something with that brand name.

I watched another Tiding Up over the weekend. We are almost finished with the series. In this one, the husband has a piles of designer shoes, and I wonder his story with them as he works out the decluttering process of choosing what to keep and what to give away.

I think of my single designer bag, the one I look up online occasionally to find that is sells for a couple hundred dollars and is not something I will ever have back. It is a part of my past to handle, grieve, and let go, all in my mind.

I bless the teenage boy who chose the thoughtful gift at a department store for the teenage girl living 1,100 miles away. I bless the girl for her good taste in men and for knowing that he was the one from first smile, even though it would take blood, sweat, and tears to uncover the goodness in them both, together.

I bless the recipient of the Gucci purse then and the one who carries it now. Wherever it landed was the right place, just as the words from Young Thug landed in the right place on the way home from school with my son, the child of mine who I wish I was able to grace with a vintage Gucci cross body.

Maybe it’s a gift that I don’t have to choose!

Let Go

On the heels of my post about order and how I experience the show Tidying Up, I stand in the kitchen set staring into an open metal cabinet full of games. A mashup of titles from Honeybee Tree to Stratego fill the shelves.

Paralyzed, I stand motionless. This is a familiar feeling when entering a place of downsizing and decluttering. Theory enters my mind. Idealism. Memories.

In theory, I can pull out a game a day, week, or another set time with the family to decide if we really enjoy it, or even play it. In fact, on this unexpected snow day, I could gather everyone around for a fun downsizing activity.

Let’s try playing these board games together and see what we want to keep and what we want to get rid of!

Reality quickly enters the equation, and the energy that would take drains me before I mention the idea. How often do we actually play board games together, anyway?

Idealism jumps in with its voice. It might not be long before another generation of littles is running around here. They might like playing Honeybee Tree, and you might have more patience threading the branches through the little holes with them than you did with your own children.

Memories flood as past, present, and future collide. Art Lotto was a favorite of the first generation of littles. Memory was a game I hoped I could enjoy with my littles as much as I enjoyed my mom playing it with me. I know that missing Stratego piece is out here somewhere. If we get more clay then Cranium could be fun to play again like it was around the table of the Green Street house.

Caught in the undertow, trying to swim parallel to the shore, I pick up an item that is clearly to declutter. It is not a game but a dinosaur kit. I am certain we do not need it anymore. Opening it, I remember that my youngest has an overdue dinosaur project. These plaster of paris pieces will fit the bill perfectly.

I pick up a shallow cardboard box being saved to organize things in a drawer (ala Konmarie Method) and call my daughter to the table to assemble the dinosaur.

The process reminds her of another project, a diorama, also due. She runs to her room and brings down something she has saved since first grade.

I’m glad I saved this. It will work perfectly.

The theme is frontier, and she asks about the Lincoln Logs. I find the bin and bring them to the table. It is like Christmas.

Can I take these up to my room when I finish making the log cabin?

Two projects are checked off of the list, courtesy of items we saved for way too long. It is a good thing we did not get rid of that dinosaur kit, the cardboard box, the old school project, and the Lincoln Logs . . . right?

Hence the bind.

Yes, it is a grace to have those things appear when we need them, but can I trust my needs to be met without having to account and project for every possible option and outcome? Can I release feelings of fear and scarcity to make room for possibility and provision?

Can I let things go?

On the way to school the following day, teenage brother sits in the passenger front seat, headphones on. Noticing the dinosaur in his sister’s lap, he recalls when he got the kit on a family vacation one year. He is the one who cast the pieces when he was ten or eleven years old.

I have no memory of this. None. We laugh and remember more of the story together. I express gratitude for the help he provided these many years later. I think of him at the time he got the kit, older brother of three younger sisters and little guy to four teenage siblings.

No one has an easy place in this family!

The projects are back home and sit on the dining room table. I look at them as I write, allowing myself space for things to be out of place while ordering my thoughts. I do not resolve the game cabinet situation.

Honeybee Tree and Stratego are keepers, for now. Memory is not in the cabinet when I go out to take a picture for the post. I must have let that one go already. The others will hold the space as I work through feelings, practice, and grow in my ability to let go.

Bringing Order

As a child I had a fierce longing for order in my world. I wanted a place for everything and everything in its place. The oldest of six children by the time I was 10, my early years were spent trying to manage a lot of toys.

This was difficult, because though I loved playing with little people, wooden blocks, and Duplos, when I outgrew these things there were still younger siblings enjoying them. They would leave pieces strewn about the house. When it was time to clean up, everything came back to me.

Whose toys are these?

They’re Julie’s.

While technically true, it was immensely frustrating. I was the first, and as such they were mine originally. I scurried to try to pick up and bring peace and order to the situation. If only I could get it right.

There was great tension between reality and fantasy. The ideal in my mind could not match what was actually able to happen. This played out while cleaning my room, a space that I shared with several littles.

We had a light blue wooden toy box with a hinged lid. One had to be careful when opening it, because the lid could easily slam shut. Cleaning the room often involved tossing everything into this toy box. When closed, the top doubled a seat. The trick was to get everything flat inside so that the lid would shut all the way. Not easy.

I tried organizing the toys. I sorted them by category, gathered all the pieces of different sets together, and carefully placed them inside the toy box, hoping the propped lid would not come slamming down on me in the process.

My efforts were thwarted by eager younger siblings as they scrambled and dug through and dumped out their newfound favorite things as quickly as I could tidy and sort out and put back. As much as I longed to bring order to the chaos, chaos always prevailed.

There was just so much to manage. So many people with so many things sharing so little space. I remember my mom’s frustration with this, also. She tried making containers out of recycled plastic milk jugs to use for sorting the toys. It was a valiant, hopeful effort.

As a mom myself, I recognize the feeling that if I only had the right bins and boxes to collect items, everything would fall into place, but there is also the piece of teaching children how to pick up after themselves. There were so many children. There still are so many children. There have always been many children.

Instead of calm, orderly space with things tidied and put away, there were toys everywhere, and tension and stress. My dad would say am I the only one that sees XYZ on the floor and I would see it too.

After all, the mess came back to me. I felt like the common denominator of the endless clutter. I would pick things up and hurry to try to put them away, but the cycle was never ending.

I remember having these when I grow up thoughts such as when I grow up there’s gonna be a place for everything and everything in its place or when I grow up I’m not going to have kids to make messes everywhere or when I grow up I’m going to have matching furniture.

Somehow I lost myself between that space and the space of growing up and then ended up just replaying the same story over again and again.

After watching several episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I have still not made it through one with dry eyes. Something always stirs inside causing a tear to escape or a torrent to let loose. These tears prompted me to explore the story with tidiness, or lack thereof, in my life.

I understand the desire for order. I get the feeling of futility that it will never happen. I feel the weight of being a child who does not know what to do with all of the things and the mom who is just trying to do her best with what she has.

I grieve not having had a space and season that was my own to settle into and navigate on my own while learning to adult. I fight the fear that something will happen to the one I love before we have a chance to figure out our life together.

All of these themes present in different episodes and prompt conversations between my love and I in our living room. The bottom line, I have discovered, is that there is no right way other than to learn from the past, to sit with the present, and to move into the future with new knowledge and hope for repair.

I still long to bring order to the chaos. With some new grown-up skills in place and the kind understanding of those in my world, these days, order is catching up.

Charlotte’s Web

I have always loved reading. Earliest memories involve books and trips to the library. I cannot remember learning to read. I just read.

I once told my kindergarten teacher that she was doing it wrong. Clearly I already knew all of the things. I ended up waiting outside in the hall for her to come and talk with me about all of the things that I already knew.

I stayed up late reading The Happy Hollisters chapter books by the light shining through the crack of my bedroom door. The Humpty Dumpty nightlight was a second source of illumination for my late night reading binges.

This is an image of the nightlight that I found on Etsy.

Charlotte’s Web was my favorite childhood book. A copy greeted me in the room of the AirBnb where I stayed the first weekend of Certificate 2 training in February, 2018. Other than a few random magazines scattered over the surface of a dresser, it was the only reading material present.

I received this as a sign of care to come. Bringing a story of the young girl inside, this book sighting reminded me that she was seen and that she mattered. Memories came flooding back, and I knew that I wanted to write more about them.

A year passed. Words fell dormant. Writing for myself became a challenge met with resistance. The one-year anniversary of that solo road trip to Geneva, Illinois, prompted me to revisit feelings that stirred when I saw my favorite childhood book that weekend.

What made Charlotte’s Web so special to me as a child? Why did I have several copies scattered across bookshelves in my home, saved from the days when I hoped my children would find and read and love it as much as I did? A recent book declutter allowed me to release all of the paperback copies and save only my favorite hardcover.

Charlotte’s Web is the first book that drew me in as a reader.

From the beginning when Fern wrestles the ax from her father to save the runt of the litter, I was hooked. Fern and her talking animals offered a safe place of escape and imagination.

Charlotte’s Web is the first book that showed me possibilities.


Who knew that a piglet could drink from a bottle like a newborn baby? Who knew that a spider could write words so cleverly in her web? Who knew that she could be bloodthirsty, yet kind? Who knew that baby spiders could make silk balloons and float away?

Charlotte’s Web is the first book that stirred my emotions.

I felt a lump in my throat and a tightness in my chest when Charlotte was left behind at the fairground, her egg sac tucked into Templeton’s mouth with a feeling worse than caramel candy. I felt panic with Wilbur as Charlotte’s babies began floating away, leaving him behind.

Charlotte’s Web is the first book that made me cry.

I did not cry when she died and was left behind at the fairground, though that was sad. I sobbed when I finished the last paragraph.

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

Charllotte’s Web, E.B. White, 184

My little girl heart broke with those lines. I read them over and over grieving the loss of a kind, courageous spider. I think I also grieved the end of the book and saying goodbye to all of the characters who had become like friends. These words offered a catalyst for unwept tears, and I indulged them deliciously.

Charlotte’s Web will forever be the first book that allowed me to feel, and for that I am grateful. What about you, Dear Readers? What is a childhood book that you loved or that stands out to you in a special way? Do share!

March Snow

March snow evokes memories
Of a 22 year old woman
Waking to a heap of it on the back deck of her two-story apartment

Look at this!

Her husband excitedly calls to her
in the early morning hours
Snow is not expected, this third day of March

I think my water just broke!

She is not sure, though it is her second pregnancy
Standing in the small living room
Water running down her leg, she hopes that is what it is

The baby is coming today!

Unesxpected
Birth is not on the radar, yet
This is early for her, for them

Get the midwife!

Chains on tires
Driving through deep snow through back country roads
The Mennonite midwife is retrieved

I’m glad we planned this at home!

She hurries up and waits
The day is long
Baby two is full of surprises

It’s a boy!

Birthed into her room
5:30 in the evening
Sisters and husband present to help

What’s wrong with him!

Skinny arms and legs
Lusty cries, annoyed at being disturbed from warm slumber
All she can see is that he is too small

Nothing is wrong!

This is normal
Seven pounds four ounces is a good size for a newborn
Two pounds smaller than her firstborn seems tiny to her

He is perfect!

She dresses him in a terrycloth sleeper
He swims in it
So small

Welcome, Baby Boy!

Hunkering down for the night
Mother and baby snuggle together
Beginning a new chapter of life.

February Art Journal Pages

One of my goals this year is to art journal something weekly. I did not think I was doing well with this until I looked back over these pages. I discovered that I created something each week this month.

I share them here to encourage you to do something, even if it does not seem like much. I feel at a standstill these days (maybe you will notice that in some of my work), but looking back I see movement that pushes me forward.

I wrote about this page here.
This was created after a strategic planning meeting day at Cross Keys Equine Therapy.
This is a Valentine’s themed page created with the gold heart from my box of candy and the card from my love.
This latest page gives me much to ponder, as I created it with images that spoke to me and am curious about how they all came together.

As February comes to a close and March steps up, I look forward to what is coming my way. I am not sure that that is, exactly, but that is part of the fun! What are you looking forward to, Dear Reader? Do share!

Book Stack

It was a beautiful morning for a walk. I seized it instantly, grabbing a lone My Little Pony library book waiting to be returned, and headed out the door.

I love being able to walk to the library almost as much as I love using the online account feature to check for titles and place holds. I knew there were several books waiting for me. I did not know which ones. Library book grab bag for the win!

Halfway to my destination, I realized I had forgotten a library card. I did not think it would matter. The account could be looked up online. Walking dogless, another treat, I thought and pondered and cleared my head, or at least swept things around up there.

I am growing well-acquainted with the self-service book hold shelf. I know exactly where my spot is there at the top. Three books were banded together, waiting.

Carrying them to my favorite librarian, I asked if she could look up my account. She said, Yes, you can check up to three books without your card. I had the magic number in hand.

We smiled and made small talk about the weather while bar codes were scanned and entered. She walked my books down the counter, bypassing the electronic sensor.

Heading home I stopped to take an artistic photo, laughing inside at the eclectic nature of my book titles. I have a theory about them that I am pondering for another day.

Waiting to cross the street where the duck nests, I noticed a friendly face waving from a car. Two other drivers stopped at their respective signs and flagged me to pass. We all exchanged smiles and waves, and I was reminded again of why I love my little corner of the world.

I am not the little girl I was with endless hours to hide and read. Sometimes I am ambitious and my reading ideas are bigger than my reading reality. I think I can make a dent, though. I am trying to reach for a book instead of my phone when I have a few minutes free.

I look forward to reading Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, Dopesick by Beth Macy, and to spending a bit of Morning and Evening with Charles Spurgeon.

We will see what happens to the book stack.

How about you, Dear Reader? What are YOU reading these days? What should I add to my queue? Do tell in the comments!!!

Water and Manna

Yesterday I woke with overwhelm and anxiety. Some of it stemmed from the eight kid factor, a common theme in my story. Other was from an over-responsible, irrational carrying of the weight of the world, not mine to bear.

Naming the feelings to the one lying next to me and releasing what was not mine to carry back to the one who holds the world in his hands helped. I still felt grief. Sometimes there is just sadness over all that is broken, and I weep.

Reading Exodus 16 and 17 brought me to water from a rock and manna from heaven. God’s people were being led the long way through the wilderness to prepare them to enter the promised land. This journey brought supernatural provision.

I was reminded of daily sustenance provided to me, physically, spiritually, emotionally as I walk with others (any myself) the long way through the wilderness. I felt gratitude and confidence to move forward in the day.

That feeling lasted all of an hour, before reality struck in the form of unexpected bills and adult responsibilities. Things that I am responsible for.

Fear rose in my core and erupted in the form of anger. I lashed out in frustration over all that feels too muchyet continues. Gratitude fell away replaced by entitlement and expectation. Confidence gave way to doubt and insecurity.

It felt unfair to be losing my grounding, even as others depended on me for theirs. I had an appointment to keep, a visit to make, kids to pick up from school, volunteer responsibilities, more work to do.

I did the next thing, because someone needed me to. This found me in a waiting room without any of my usual comforts. I had my art journal in a tote bag but no books to read or markers to draw with or writing instruments to use.

Nearby was a basket of books. I pulled out Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon and out of curiosity opened to February 4, morning. Would God meet me here? In stunned silence I read this.

On a coffee table covered with magazines was a coloring book and package of Crayola Twistable crayons. Picking up the crayons I took out my art journal and began drawing water from a rock and manna from heaven. I focused on this quote,

He has opened the rock to supply thee, and fed thee with manna that came down from heaven.

It was such grace to be reminded of daily provision, to feel seen, and to create. I felt a settling in my soul and a rest in my spirit.

Water and manna.